Mike Trout Breaks The Bank

Well, Bryce Harper’s time atop the baseball world in terms of total contract value and annual contract return lasted about 2 weeks.  Compared to the historical span of MLB, two weeks seems like a minute and a half.  Mike Trout just signed a 12-year deal with the LA Angels worth a total of $430M eclipsing the total value of Harper’s contract by a cool $100M.  Some folks are trying to portray Bryce Harper as some sort of “loser” as a result of Trout’s new contract.  That is a new fad in sports commentary today; every event has to generate winners and losers.  Somehow, I find it difficult to paint Bryce Harper as a loser here since he is in possession of a guaranteed $330M contract.

[As a point of reference, there are 8 countries/territories according to United Nations’ stats whose annual GDP is less than $330M.  That is not “per capita GDP”; that is TOTAL GDP.]

If someone demanded that I find a loser – or losers – as a result of the Angels/Mike Trout accord, here is my pick:

  • Scott Boras

Until this week, the common wisdom was that Scott Boras could squeeze the most money out of MLB owners and that he was the master negotiator.  His tactic of holding his clients out until the last moment was regarded as his signature move and it almost always landed an eye-popping deal.  As of this morning, Scott Boras himself is in second place on the “big-money list” and the tactic that got Mike Trout his deal is the antithesis of everything that Boras has done in any of his negotiations.  Mike Trout had two years left on his current deal; if Scott Boras had been his agent, the chances that Trout would have even begun to negotiate an extension would have been zero.

Until yesterday when I learned that Mike Trout’s agent is Craig Landis, I would not have known Craig Landis nor his occupation any more than I could tell you how Ish Kabibble rose to “fame”.  [Google is your friend…].  Landis surely comes out as a golden boy as a result of this deal.

Let me shift gears here and talk about a situation where there is a real “loser”.  About a week ago, I wrote here that the LA Lakers are a certified mess.  Since then, it has only gotten worse.  NBA pundits have tried to boil it down to reveal the essence of the hot mess and some of the potentially guilty parties include:

  • LeBron James:  He is the best player in the world, but he brings drama and distractions with him wherever he goes, and the young Lakers’ core players are unable to deal with all of that.  James is aloof and has demonstrated he does not respect his teammates and their performance continues in decline.  This is a part of the problem.
  • Luke Walton:  He may have had a great run in Golden State when Steve Kerr was out recovering from surgery, but the Warriors were on cruise control so his “coaching cred” was inflated beyond reality.  He was not prepared to deal with the sturm und drang surrounding this team in this season.  This is a minor part of the problem.
  • Team injuries:  Of course, playing without LeBron James for almost 20 games did not help the Lakers – – but when James returned to the lineup and the Lakers on the brink of playoff eligibility, the team stunk out the joint and faded into oblivion.  This is an excuse not an element of the Lakers’ problems.

I think there has not been nearly enough critical commentary aimed at the Lakers’ front office.  Indeed, the front office there took some flak over the abortive trade negotiations involving Anthony Davis where just about every player on the team was reported to be in one or more of the trade offers put on the table by the Lakers.  As the story goes, the young Lakers mentioned in those trade rumors were disheartened by those reports; I guess they did not feel loved; pardon me while I wipe away a tear shed in their honor.

However, the problem goes beyond that single incident – – even though it surely appears as if the Pelicans played the Lakers like a fiddle throughout that “negotiation”.  I think the problem is rooted in the roster that was put together by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka last summer in the wake of their acquisition of LeBron James in free agency.

Let me go through a few bullet points regarding what Johnson and Palinka and what the failed to do last summer:

  • They did not sign free agent Paul George.  He chose to stay in OKC rather than go to LA and play with LeBron.  Perhaps that was foretelling…?
  • They did not trade for Kawaii Leonard.  In fairness, maybe they never had a shot to make a trade there since Greg Popovich was motivated to trade Leonard outside of the Western Conference.
  • They ignored “Boogie” Cousins and let him go to Golden State.  Reports say that Cousins is playing there on a 1-year deal worth $5.3M.
  • They were not involved in the movement of either Jimmy Butler or Kristaps Porzingas or Tobias Harris in mid-season.  Instead they signed a bunch of guys to 1-year deals so that the Lakers can be active in free-agency this summer.  Compare the players they did not sign or try to trade for with the guys they did sign to include Michael Beasley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stevenson.  Shameful…

Looking back, the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball ahead of Jason Tatum in the draft.  If you re-do that draft, the only person on the planet taking Lonzo Ball ahead of Jason Tatum would be LaVar Ball.

LeBron James, Luke Walton and “the injury bug” can absorb some of the deflected blame for the sorry state of the LA Lakers.  Nevertheless, I think Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are the root causes of the problems there.  At least a half-dozen quality NBA players will be free agents this summer; the Lakers’ front office needs to get two of them to choose the Lakers as their new “home”.

Finally, since I began today with Mike Trout’s record setting contract, let me close with a Tweet from Brad Dickson about Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets:

“Brooklyn Nets guard wants to spend $100 million building a fully functional Iron Man suit. And they ask why so many ex-pro athletes go broke.”

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



The NCAA Takes On Sports Betting



After yesterday’s frivolity, it’s time for something different…

For years, sports gambling was as welcome a topic at an NCAA gathering as Beelzebub.  NCAA support was important in the original creation and passage of PASPA and no sports entity was more fervent than the NCAA in defending PASPA until the Supreme Court figuratively called a technical foul on PASPA for being unconstitutional.  The NCAA was also a primary motive force behind a bill introduced by then-Senator John McCain in 2001 that would have banned wagering on collegiate sports everywhere including Nevada; that bill never got a floor vote in the Congress.  Now, the NCAA has tried to plant its pivot foot and change directions – – so to speak.  Here is what Dr. Mark Emmert had to say at a recent NCAA convocation:

“Sports wagering is going to have a dramatic impact on everything we do in college sports; it’s going to threaten the integrity of college sports in many ways unless we are willing to act boldly and strongly.”

I’ll give Dr. Emmert points for recognizing reality.  However, if there were ever a human institution with a lesser history of “acting boldly and strongly” than the NCAA, it does not come quickly to mind.  FIFA and the IOC might be candidates here…  So, what does the leader of the NCAA consider bold and strong action?  Be sure you are sitting down as you read this; I don’t want to shock you into a fugue state.  The NCAA is going to form a new group- within the NCAA structure whose mission will be to figure out:

  • “… how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”

If there were a Richter Scale for boldness and strength, this would register at about 0.2.  Even when sports betting was illegal in just about every State in the Union, wouldn’t you think the NCAA would have some sort of internal entity paying attention to all those issues?  Did game integrity and expansion of educational efforts become important issues only after the Supreme court struck down PASPA?  Bull-cookies!

  • Memo to Dr. Emmert:
  • You and your minions in Indianapolis need not expend a lot of effort on “monitoring betting activity”.  The sportsbooks that take the wagers are doing it for you and have done it despite you for decades.
  • The fact that you list as two separate items things like “monitor betting activity” and “protecting game integrity” indicates clearly that you do not understand that those two things go hand-in-hand. By monitoring betting activity, you will gain insight as to threats to the integrity of your games.

Let me short-circuit some of the rhetorical posturing here.  If you held a referendum asking who favored “pure competition” versus “corrupted game outcomes”, I think “pure competition” would be the clear winner.  The NCAA has demonstrated over the 109 years of its existence that it is neither a “nimble” nor an “agile” organization.  The NCAA is ill-equipped to be the focal point for a massive data stream that may or may not contain information regarding “game integrity”.  If there is a role for college athletic departments in this matter outside the efforts of the sportsbooks themselves who will act quickly for their own financial benefit, then the most logical place to look is elsewhere in the colleges and universities that abut the athletic departments.  If schools think that the NCAA in Indianapolis is their first line of defense against point-shaving/game-fixing, they need to recognize that the NCAA equivalent to the Maginot Line in this battle.  When they get pronouncements and guidance from Indianapolis, it should come with this warning:

  • Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…

For the record, last year’s NCAA Tournament created a handle of approximately $300M in Nevada.  This year, 8 states will offer wagering on the 67 games in the tournament.  I saw one estimate that said this year’s total handle in the US will be $750M.  That is a lot of cheese to attract and tempt some rats – – and the NCAA is not the house cat I want to protect my cheese.

Switching gears…  One of the NFL free agent signings that drew attention was Landon Collins leaving the Giants and signing on with the Skins.  He got a big contract number so that he and his agent can bask in the glory of that total contract value even though he has only a minuscule chance of ever seeing all that money.  However, that chatter paled into insignificance in the DC area sports radio orbit the minute that Landon Collins said that his childhood hero was Sean Taylor and that he would like to wear Taylor’s number “21” when he took the field as a Skin.  You might have thought that Collins had suggested putting aluminum siding on the Lincoln Memorial.

Let me summarize a few of the general reactions that callers had to Landon Collins’ statement:

  1. Sean Taylor was the greatest safety in the history of the NFL.  Landon Collins cannot carry his jockstrap.  How dare he suggest that he should wear #21.  [Sean Taylor was a big-hitting headhunter of a safety who gave up loads of yards when he went for the “big hit” and missed.]
  2. Landon Collins is a nice player, but he never won anything with the Giants.  Maybe if he takes the Skins to the Super Bowl, he might be worthy to wear #21.  [Sean Taylor played 3.5 seasons for the Skins.  I must have been in a coma the year Taylor’s team made it to the Super Bowl.]
  3. Hundreds of Skins’ fans at every game wear #21 with Taylor’s name on it.  It would be confusing and insulting to those fans who are there to honor Taylor’s memory.  [Anyone confused by such a situation is dumb enough to believe that “bacteria” are the rear door entrances to cafeterias.]

Finally, I got an email recently from #2 son with a fun fact he ran across regarding the Washington Federals of the old USFL:

“In 1984, the Federals offered free T-shirts to the first 10,000 fans through the turnstiles for a game against the Oklahoma Outlaws. Only 6,075 showed up.”

Those shirts may be collectables today.  Unless they were all shipped off to West Africa the way the NFL gets rid of the shirts it makes up to honor as champions the losing teams in the Super Bowl.

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



What’s In A Name?

While every sports radio station is inundated today with complaints about who got into the tournament and who did not – – or alternatively who got seeded 10th as opposed to some other team who got seeded 8th – – I choose to ignore all that bluster for two simple reasons:

  1. Griping about any of that stuff will change exactly nothing.
  2. It is obviously not all that important because by tomorrow morning the only thing anyone will be gassing about is how to avoid getting one’s bracket busted on Thursday.

In this little backwater of the Internet, I like to use the day after Selection Sunday to have some fun with the team mascots and the names of some of the players who will participate in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

[Aside:  Everyone here knows that I have little positive to say about the NCAA.  However, they do organize and run the single best annual sports event on the calendar starting this week.  What they provide between now and the Championship Game on 8 April justifies their existence.  Without it, I would be joining any group of folks with torches and pitchforks that might come together to storm the NCAA HQs in Indianapolis.]

In this year’s field, mascots of the “feline persuasion” are all over the place:

  • Abilene Christian Wildcats
  • Auburn Tigers
  • Georgia St. Panthers
  • Houston Cougars
  • LSU Tigers
  • Kansas State Wildcats
  • Kentucky Wildcats
  • Prairie View Panthers
  • Vermont Catamounts
  • Villanova Wildcats

Not to worry, canines are well represented too…

  • Gardner-Webb Bulldogs
  • Gonzaga Bulldogs
  • Mississippi St. Bulldogs
  • Nevada Wolfpack
  • Northeastern Huskies
  • Washington Huskies
  • Wofford Terriers
  • Yale Bulldogs

Six of the mascots are aggressive categories of Homo sapiens:

  • Colgate Raiders
  • Michigan St. Spartans
  • Northern Kentucky Vikings
  • Seton Hall Pirates
  • Texas Tech Red Raiders
  • Virginia Cavaliers

There are multiple ursine mascots this year:

  • Baylor Bears
  • Belmont Bruins
  • Cincinnati Bearcats (or … do they belong with the felines above?)
  • Montana Grizzlies

The biological genus, Aquila, has three representatives in the field:

  • Liberty Eagles
  • Marquette Golden Eagles
  • NC Central Eagles

And of course, there are always a few unique mascots that have no ties to any others:

  • Goldy the Gopher  – – Minnesota
  • Otto the Orange   – – Syracuse
  • Peter the Anteater  – – UC Irvine

The placement of teams in the brackets by the Selection Committee allows for some ”mascot themed” Final Fours such as:

All dogs:

  • Gardner Webb, Mississippi St. Nevada Wofford

All cats:

  • Kansas St., Kentucky, LSU, Vermont

All birds:

  • Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, Oregon.

All “States”:

  • Florida St., Kansas St., Mississippi St. New Mexico St.  [If this happens look for Allstate Insurance commercials…]

The Final Four will be in Minneapolis this year.  That being the case, here is the Final Four where the teams would have the shortest trip to the games:

  • Iowa St., Marquette, Minnesota, Wisconsin

And for the sake of symmetry, here is the Final Four with the longest travel distances for the participating schools – – and their supporters:

  • Abilene Christian, Arizona St.  UCF UC Irvine

But enough with mascots and Final Fours, the focus needs to be on the players; they are the ones who will make this year’s tournament exciting.  As usual, I have scanned – – note I did not say “examined thoroughly” – – the rosters of the schools involved and I have found some interesting player names.  The first category of interesting names is a player with a name that might indicate what that player might do for the rest of his life after his college basketball career is over.  The NCAA likes to tell us that players are preparing to “go pro” in fields other than what we see them doing on TV.  So, here are some possibilities:

  • Jack Salt  UVA:  Sailor
  • Preston Cook  Auburn:  Chef
  • PJ Horne  Va Tech:  Musician
  • Joey Baker  Duke:  Obvious
  • Jack Beach  Gonzaga:  Surfer
  • Jordan Poole  Michigan:  Billiards pro
  • Jordan Bone  Tennessee:  orthopedic surgeon  – – or butcher – – or both?
  • Admiral Schofield  Tennessee:  US Naval officer
  • DJ Burns  Tennessee:  Arsonist?
  • Isaiah Livers  Michigan:  Foie gras importer
  • Phil Booth  Villanova:  Toll collector
  • Javonte Smart  LSU :  Professor of philosophy
  • Skylar Mays  LSU:  Airline pilot
  • Marshall Graves  LSU:  Mortician
  • Aundre Hyatt  LSU:  Hotel manager
  • Cedric Alley Jr.  Houston:  Professional bowler
  • Trent Forrest  Florida St.:  Lumberjack
  • Anthony Polite  Florida State:  Miss Manners’ protégé
  • Aaron Wheeler  Purdue:  Interstate trucker
  • Trey Porter  Nevada:  Longshoreman
  • Cartier Diarra  Kansas State:  Watchmaker
  • Nigel Shadd  Kansas State:  Fishing guide
  • Ty Outlaw  Va Tech:  US Marshall
  • Aleem Ford  Wisconsin:  Automotive engineer
  • Storm Murphy Wofford:  Weatherman  Channel 7
  • Mitchel Storm  Mississippi St.  Weatherman  Channel 11
  • Elijah Childs  Bradley:  Obstetrician
  • Dana Batt  Colgate:  Baseball player
  • Brendan Newton  Liberty:  Fig grower
  • Drew McDonald  Northern Kentucky:  Farmer
  • Cameron Lard  Iowa St.  Meatpacker
  • Aaron Carver  Old Dominion  Butcher
  • Rashann London  NC Central  Travel agent
  • Mario Kegler  Baylor  Professional bowler
  • Klay Stall  Utah St.  Horse trainer
  • Abel Porter  Utah St.  Sherpa
  • Anthony Lamb  Vermont  Shepherd
  • Bailey Patella  Vermont  Knee surgeon
  • Max Hazzard  UC Irvine  Insurance agent
  • Amir Coffey  Minnesota  Barista
  • Michael Hurt  Minnesota  Physical therapist

This next group of players has what I call “mirror image names”.  If you put the last name first, it still sounds like a normal name:

  • Markus Howard  Marquette
  • Walker Miller  UNC
  • Kyle Alexander  Tennessee
  • Zach Kent  Tennessee
  • Cassius Winston  Mich St.
  • Aaron Henry  Michigan St. [You surely recognize his mirror image name.]
  • Connor George  Mich St.
  • Jonny David  Kentucky
  • Reid Travis  Kentucky
  • Will Miles  Florida State
  • Lindsey Drew  Nevada
  • Dean Wade  Kansas State
  • Alex Michael  Wofford
  • Jordan Roland  Northeastern
  • Brendan Paul Syracuse
  • Frank Howard  Syracuse
  • Hunt Conroy  Minnesota
  • Brandon Courtney  St. Louis

The “ultimate” mirror image name in this year’s field – – and perhaps in any year’s field – – would have to be:

  • Bol Bol  Oregon  [Yes, he is Manute’s son.]

An artist needs to have many different hues on his palette to create whatever image is in his mind.  Here are players in this year’s tournament whose names might inspire such an artist:

  • Coby White  UNC
  • Jack White  Duke
  • Fabian White, Jr.  Houston
  • Paul White  Oregon
  • Leaky Black  UNC
  • Anthony Green  Northeastern
  • Dominic Green  Washington
  • Gerald Grey Jr. Northern Kentucky
  • Barry Brown K-State
  • Gabe Brown  Mich St.
  • Jordan Brown  Nevada
  • Darrell Brown  Bradley
  • Bryce Brown  Auburn

[Aside:  Bonus points here should go to Bryce Brown (Auburn) since Auburn is also a color.]

If anyone chose to do so, they could find an “All-Presidents Team” among the players in the field this year:

  • Kennedy Kincaid  Gardner Webb
  • Howard Washington  Syracuse
  • PJ Washington  Kentucky
  • Chris Taylor  Northern Kentucky
  • Quinn Taylor  Utah St.
  • Quinn Clinton  St. Mary’s
  • Jorday Ford  St. Mary’s
  • Tyler Jones  Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Jazz Johnson  Nevada
  • Taishaun Johnson  Prairie View
  • Prentiss Nixon  Iowa St.
  • Reagan Lundeen  Washington

Players with names that are clear Biblical references are sprinkled everywhere in the brackets:

  • Zion Williamson  Duke
  • Zion Griffin  Iowa St.
  • Isaiah Wilkins  Va Tech
  • Isaiah Bigelow  Wofford
  • Isaiah Still  Iona
  • Isaiah Ross  Iona
  • Elijah Cuffee, Jr. Liberty
  • Elijah  Elliott  Kansas
  • Elijah Thomas  St. Mary’s
  • Elijah Hardy  Washington
  • Noah Dickerson  Washington
  • Noah Neubauer  Washington
  • Jonah Geron  Washington
  • Ceasar DeJesus  UCF
  • Micah Potter  Wisconsin
  • Messiah Jones  Wofford
  • Christian Turner  Gardner Webb
  • Christian James  Oklahoma
  • Solomon Young  Iowa St.
  • Solomon Ruddell  UC Irvine

Lots of players bring alliterative names to the tournament:

  • Adrian Autry  Syracuse
  • Barry Brown  K-State
  • Brennan Besser  Duke
  • Paul Pennington  Gonzaga
  • Jeremy Jones  Gonzaga
  • David DeJulius  Michigan
  • Jalen Johnson  Tennessee
  • Braden Burke  Mich State
  • Matt Mooney  Texas Tech
  • Darius Days  LSU
  • Courtese Cooper  LSU
  • Breaon Brady  Houston
  • Wyatt Wilkes  Florida State
  • Kyle King  Purdue
  • Sasha Stefanovic  Purdue
  • Makol Mawien  Kansas State
  • Mike McGuirl  Kansas State
  • Devon Dotson  Kansas
  • Kobe King  Wisconsin
  • Michael Manning, Jr.  Wofford
  • Brendan Bailey  Marquette
  • Justin Jenifer  Cincinnati
  • Luqman Lundy  Bradley
  • Bolden Brace  Northeastern
  • Oscar Okeke  Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Obim Okeke  Baylor
  • Payton Pritchard  Oregon
  • Kur Kuath  Oklahoma
  • Chris Clerkley  Georgia St.
  • Trevor Thompson  Arizona St.
  • Harrison Hookfin  Ohio St.
  • Michael Mayernick  Belmont
  • Eddy Egun  Montana
  • Kelby Kramer  Montana

In the category of alliterative names, however, there has to be special mention for two players whose alliterative name is also alliterative with their school:

  • Matt McQuaid  Mich St.
  • Brock Bertram  Buffalo

[Aside:  I continue to look for a “grand-slam” alliterative name such as Tom Terrific  Texas Tech or Ivan Iola  Illinois Institute or  Carl Carlson  College of Charleston.  No luck yet…]

This last assemblage of players’ names is offered here only because there are copy editors at newspapers all over the US who are fervently hoping that none of these players becomes the focal point of a major story that they need to edit.  So, as a tribute to those copy editors and the work they do, consider these players:

  • Mamadi Diakite  UVA
  • Ignas Brazdkeikis  Michigan
  • Saddiq  Bey  Villanova
  • Francesco Badocchi  UVA
  • Norense Odiase  Texas Tech
  • Mfiondu Kabengele  Florida State
  • Nisré Zouzoua  Nevada
  • Goodnews Kpegeol  Kansas State
  • Ochai Agbaji  Kansas
  • Wabissa Bede  Va Tech
  • Chuma Okeke  Auburn
  • Mamoudou Diarra  Cincannati
  • Eliel Nsoseme  Cincinnati
  • Nnamdi Van Dulm  N. Dakota State
  • Nadi Beciri  Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Dominik Olejniczak  Ole Miss
  • Paschal Chukwu  Syracuse
  • Bourama Sidibe  Syracuse
  • Jethro Tshisumpa  Mississippi St.
  • Ivan Aurrecoechea  New Mexico St.
  • Kalu Ezikpe  Old Dominion
  • Ernest Aflakpui  Temple
  • Sedee Keita  St. John’s
  • Roche Grootfaam  Utah St.
  • Neemias Queta  Utah St.
  • Yuat Alok  UCF
  • Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia  UCF
  • Luguentz Dort  Arizona St.
  • Sandro Mamukelashvili  Seton Hall
  • Yagizhan Selcuk  Montana
  • Gorjok Gak  Florida
  • Miye Oni  Yale

Finally,  Tim Kaine is an assistant coach at Murray St.; no, he is not the same guy that ran for Veep in 2016.  And, Ky Feldman is on the team at Syracuse; how did John Calipari miss out on Ky for Kentucky?  However, the most interesting names I could find in this tournament field belong to:

  • Tommy Falls  Montana – – and – –
  • Ty Hands  Florida St.

Both of their names are complete sentences.

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




Great Minds – – – And All That Stuff

Today I ran across a blog item by Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World-Herald.  In the piece, he decides which activites are “Real Sports” and which ones are “Not Real Sports“.  You can read it here; it is worth your time and effort.


Back in 2001, I took a shot at something similar writing about what activities were sports and what participants were athletes.    You can read – or reread if you have been around here that long – my take on this subject here.

What Is A Sport – Who Is An Athlete?

If this were a high school English class, you would have to “Compare and Contrast”.  Fortunately for all of us, this is not a high school English class…

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



Beware The Ides Of March…

The Ides of March are upon us.  Julius Caesar departed this world on this date 2063 years ago.  Seems like only yesterday…

Speaking of yesterday, I mentioned the competitive imbalance in MLB and there were some comments offered by readers on that topic.  In addition, I got an email from a reader who chose to give me his idea in that channel; the idea there is sufficiently innovative that I want to present it here so everyone can see it:

“My idea for mixing things up is to align the divisions by pay roll.  So, if for example the five highest salaried rosters in 2018 were the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and Angels, that’s your top division for 2019. Playoffs would involve divisions 1, 3 and 5 in one half, 2, 4 and 6 in the other.  And no division would get more than two teams into the playoffs.  Adjust the schedules accordingly, with some deference to rivalries like Dodgers/Giants, Cardinals/Cubs.

“While it’s likely one of the top salaried teams would make it to the world series, that’s no different from the way things are now.  And it’s arguably better.  The way things are now Dodgers v. Sox or Yankees a definite possibility, almost every year.  And the wild card single game elimination would be wide open.  Consider that in 2018 the Phillies were for sure in the bottom tier.  Tampa Bay may have been there too.  But in a single elimination game either one would have had a real shot with Aaron Nola or Blake Snell pitching.

“And if baseball really wanted to go off the deep end, there could be an automatic move between divisions like in soccer. Finish first in division 2, move up to division 1.  Finish last in division 1, drop down to division 2.  But while in any one year there may be a few teams who recognize going in they have no shot at the postseason, at least there won’t be a dozen like the past few years.”

Any baseball purist who finished reading those 3 paragraphs probably needs the paddles of a defibrillator across his chest about now.  I think these ideas have merit and could be an interesting way to introduce novelty to the MLB regular season.

Over in the world of college football, recall that Kansas fired head coach David Beatty in mid-season last year but allowed him to finish the season on the sidelines coaching the team.  His contract called for him to receive a $3M buyout unless his firing was “for cause”.  At the time the AD said that the reason for the firing was lack of success on the field, so Beatty expected his $3M.  That is where the story gets dicey; Beatty just filed a lawsuit against Kansas seeking his $3M payment.

  • Kansas officials say that in the process of exit interviews with assistant coaches and staff, they learned about some potential NCAA violations committed by the team on Beatty’s watch and they did some investigating and then contacted the NCAA.  Kansas says they have put the $3M in escrow awaiting the outcome of the investigation and any NCAA action.  [Aside:  If payment is pending an NCAA decision, that could mean the money will still be in escrow when David Beatty’s great-granddaughter starts collecting social Security.]
  • Beatty’s suit claims that Kansas is merely looking for any way possible to avoid making the payment.  Thu suit says that Kansas is looking for “something” to hang around his neck – – such as “a dead hooker in [his] closet”.
  • This one might get interesting…

And speaking of hookers, I read a report about a week ago – – and did not record where I found it so I cannot cite it here – – that Robert Kraft’s arrest for solicitation of prostitution should not have any effect on his eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The argument there was that the bylaws that direct the Hall of Fame voters thinking and consideration specifically say that the voters should ignore any off-the-field stuff – either positive or negative.  [Since I have never been part of the nomination/election processes here, I take that statement to be factual; I have no experience to confirm it or deny it.]

Here is my problem with that argument:

  • Robert Kraft would enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a “contributor”.  He would join a list of folks who owned teams or were NFL Commissioners or were successful GMs.  A few of these folks also played the game (Dan Reeves and Jim Finks come to mind) but most of them never strapped on a helmet for an NFL game.
  • Ergo, the only reason Robert Kraft MIGHT be considered for the Hall of Fame is because of his “off-the-field activities/deeds”.  Hmmm…

[For the record, while I think the allegations against Kraft are super-sleazy, I do not think they should condemn him to eternal damnation even if proven to be true.  When I think of other team owners who have been elected to the Hall of Fame, I would have to say that Kraft’s teams’ accomplishments are commensurate with the standard those other owners represent.]

Brad Rock had this comment about Robert Kraft’s arrest in the Deseret News a couple of weeks ago.  It captures well my general sense of the gravity of the matter:

“Patriots owner Robert Kraft pleaded not guilty to charges of soliciting a prostitute.

“But he did plead guilty to wearing a colored shirt with a white collar 30 years after they went out of style.”

Finally, let me close with another observation by Brad Rock right around the NBA trade deadline:

“In a four-day span, former Portland teammates Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin were part of four organizations: Portland, Cleveland, Houston and Indiana.

“But the worst news is they’re expected to be waived.

“On the bright side, they’re now part of one more organization: the Delta Diamond Medallion club.”

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



It’s Pi Day…

Happy Pi Day.  One of the local supermarkets here has a sale today where you can buy a pie for $3.14.  I like apple pie, please…

MLB and the MLBPA have reached some agreements on some rule changes.  No, these are not going to be changes to the sacred rules that govern on-field play; any change along those lines would demand a convocation of important figures and august leaders equivalent to the Diet of Worms.  However, it is significant that they did reach agreement on some things because in the recent past – – and in the distant past – – MLB and the MLBPA would not agree that night came after day or vice versa.

  • The optimist sees all of this as a sign that the two sides know they will each need to compromise on issues when the new CBA must be hammered out in 2 years.
  • The pessimist sees all of this as the spending of a few small things the two sides can agree on meaning there are fewer seed crystals for an agreement later.
  • The pragmatist sees this as a set of small steps in a positive direction.

I like the first area of agreement a lot.  Starting now, there will be a single trade deadline – – July 31.  There will be no waiver-trades in August.  Frankly, if they moved this back until July 1 it would be fine with me.  Too many teams throw in the towel too early in the season rendering too many teams and games less than important in the final weeks of the regular season.  I understand that the job of a GM just got a bit harder because final decisions on making a playoff run must be backed up a month and because a significant injury in August cannot be addressed with a trade.  System depth just got more important to contending teams.

Another rule change involves a change in the voting process to select the All-Star Game participants.  It too will be implemented this year; it involves a two-step voting process; in the grand scheme, this just does not matter.

Next year, the major league roster will expand to 26 players and will limit teams to 13 pitchers.  In addition, the September rosters will only expand to 28 teams with a maximum of 14 pitchers.  That too is a step in the right direction – but does not go far enough.

Here is why MLB and the MLBPA need to stop finding ways to disagree with one another.  The 2019 season is about to begin in 2 weeks – not counting an opening game in Tokyo between the A’s and Mariners.  There are 30 teams in MLB, and I want to set a very low standard for teams to achieve in order to be successful in the eyes of their fans.  Here is the standard:

  • My team will play .500 baseball for the 2019 season.

As Derrick Coleman would say about that level of expectation, “Whoop-di-damned-doo!”  However, even with that low a standard, I think that fans of at least 40% of MLB teams would be happy to see that outcome for 2019.  Of course, there must be teams with losing records in order for there to be teams with winning records that go to the playoffs and the World Series.  But it takes more than a .500 record to be a playoff team – – absent a stunningly unusual set of season circumstances – – and I think these teams will begin play in April with zero expectation that they will even win 81 games let alone the 90 game or so that the top teams will win.  Here is my list of thirteen “little-to-no-hope teams:

  1. Blue Jays
  2. D-Backs
  3. Orioles
  4. Mariners
  5. Marlins
  6. Padres
  7. Pirates
  8. Rangers
  9. Reds
  10. Royals
  11. Tigers
  12. Twins
  13. White Sox

[Aside:  If you twisted my arm, I could add the Giants to this list thereby covering 47% of MLB teams.]

[Second Aside:  Note that four of the five teams in the AL Central are on my list above.  That should make for a real nail-biter of a race in that division.]

Granted, this is not as unbalanced as the NBA; but it is not an ideal set-up.  Not meaning to pick on the Mariners or their fans, but when the ceremonial first pitch is thrown in Tokyo for that opening game in about a week, what percentage of the Mariner fanbase is seriously considering that game to be the first step toward this year’s playoffs?

When MLB and the MLBPA sit down to negotiate the next CBA – and they better start soon – they are going to focus on “economic issues” involving distribution of league revenues and alleged collusion to limit salaries for aging players and the economic effect(s) of the luxury tax and revenue sharing in MLB.  Of course, those will be contentious issues and it will take time to find avenues of compromise.  However, I think that the two sides also need to address bridging the gap that exists between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in MLB.

Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“Plungers: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s request that sportsbooks in Nevada and other states refrain from taking bets on spring training games was shrugged off by the gambling industry. As it should have been. But think about it. Who is throwing money at Grapefruit and Cactus League games? People who need help, most likely.”

I agree with Professor Molinaro here; betting on Spring Training games – and/or NFL Exhibition games – is not remotely interesting to me.  But Commissioner Manfred is off-base asking sportsbooks to take those games off the board.  It is almost as if Manfred thinks that by doing so, people will refrain from betting on Spring training games.  If he does believe that, he needs to be introduced to a few local bookmakers; those entrepreneurs will take action on Spring Training baseball or junior league curling if there is sufficient demand.  It is not as if the sportsbooks are creating the marketplace.

Finally, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times related to baseball and wagering:

“Yankee Stadium could soon host sports betting if New York legislators pass pending legislation.

“If the Reds covet a parlor of their own, ‘The Rose Garden’ has a nice ring to it.”

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



Movement Around the NFL…

The opening acts of NFL free agency are not “sustainable” – to use a word currently in vogue.  There may be an important signing with an eye-popping dollar total we have not seen yet; there may be a big trade out there that has not come to fruition.  But it is unlikely that we will have as many big movements in such a short time period until next year when NFL free agency begins.  To me, the most interesting thing to observe is the wide variety of prices paid by teams to acquire big-play wide receivers.

  1. Most expensive WR:  Odell Beckham Jr. went from the Giants to the Browns.  The cost to the Browns was a 1st round pick this year (17th overall) plus a 3rd round pick this year plus Jabrill Peppers a good young defensive back.
  2. Next-most expensive WR:  Antonio Brown went from the Steelers to the Raiders.  The cost to the Raiders was a 3rd round pick and a 5th round pick this year.
  3. Bargain-basement WR:  DeSean Jackson went from the Bucs to the Eagles.  The cost to the Eagles was a 6th round pick this year – – but they also get a 7th round pick next year in addition to Jackson.

I think we would all agree that Jackson is the least valuable of those three WRs at this point in his career; he will be 33 in December.  However, he did lead the entire NFL last year in yards per catch at 18.9 yards per catch.  The cost to the Eagles to acquire him and to give the team a legitimate deep threat was trivial – – unless you want to fantasize that the 6th round pick sent to the Bucs is going to turn into the 2019 iteration of 6th round pick Tom Brady.

If you compare Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., you are looking at two of the top five or six WRs in the league.  Brown will be 31 when the season starts; Beckham will be 27 in November.  Brown has caught 100+ passes in each of the past 6 seasons and led the NFL in TD receptions last year with 15; Beckham has enviable stats but not ones that are equivalent Browns.  In that light compare the costs and implications:

  • Did the Giants fleece the Browns?  Or, did the Steelers take a yard-sale price in their deal just to get Brown out of town and out of their division?
  • Are the Browns playing a long game acquiring offensive assets to add to Baker Mayfield thereby justifying the cost?  Or, are the Raiders in something of a “win-now mode” acquiring the older WR of the two?

People will argue about who get the best deal here and which team lost out here; those arguments will extend at least until the teams finish the 2019 season.  However, the disparity of “prices” paid for WRs in the early flurry of free agency does raise an interesting question:

  • What is the market value for some of the remaining WRs who are free agents?  Here are a few possibilities:  Randall Cobb, Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate…

The fact that these three accomplished WRs moved around with draft picks used mainly as the currency for their acquisition leads me to cite an observation made by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“Reality check: I hope Kyler Murray turns out to be as impactful as his biggest fans imagine. The NFL can’t have too many good quarterbacks. But I find it funny when his Heisman Trophy is cited as proof that he’s got the goods. Come on now, you could wallpaper your house with the press clippings of Heisman quarterbacks who bombed out in the pros. Two words: Gino Torretta. Two more: Danny Wuerffel. Must I go on?”

Oh, but you should go on; the list of Heisman QBs who failed to make the jump to the NFL with any impact is a long one:

  1. Steve Spurrier (1966)
  2. Gary Beban (1968)
  3. Pat Sullivan (1971)
  4. Andre Ware (1989)
  5. Ty Detmer (1990)
  6. Chris Weinke (2000)
  7. Eric Crouch (2001)
  8. Jason White (2003)
  9. Matt Leinart (2004)
  10. Troy Smith (2006)
  11. Tim Tebow (2007)
  12. Johnny Manziel (2012)

More interesting to me is the list of great NFL QBs who failed to win the Heisman Trophy such as:

  1. Troy Aikman
  2. Terry Bradshaw
  3. Len Dawson
  4. John Elway
  5. Brett Favre
  6. Dan Fouts
  7. Jim Kelly
  8. Dan Marino
  9. Joe Montana
  10. Warren Moon
  11. Bart Starr
  12. John Unitas
  13. Steve Young

I’m sure I left someone off this list who belongs here…

Finally, since today was all about NFL happenings, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald from soon after the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade in Boston last month:

“A thrown can of beer hit Rob Gronkowski in the head during the Patriots’ championship parade. Alternate punchlines: A) He didn’t feel a thing. B) That’s terrible. What a waste of beer!”

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



Proposed NFL Rule Changes

The “football news frenzy” of the day is focused on what free agent signed with which team and who got traded where.  That sort of stuff will sort itself out over the next 3 months as teams prepare to begin training camp in July, but there are more imminent NFL happenings that should be considered.  Teams have made proposals to the NFL’s Competition Committee regarding rule changes they would like the Committee to consider for 2019; those findings by the Competition Committee will be presented to the NFL owners at one of their convocations which will happen two weeks from now.

Each of the teams fills out a questionnaire at the end of the season related to things like rules and player safety and technology that may or may not be used during a game.  Those questionnaires are part of the agenda building process for the Competition Committee for consideration.  The protocol then is that the Committee recommends rule changes and the owners either approve or disapprove.

According to reports, here are some of the things that teams wanted the Competition Committee to chew upon:

  • KC Chiefs:

The Chiefs want both teams to get a possession in OT even if the first offensive team scores a TD.  [After the outcome of this year’s AFC Championship Game, I am not remotely surprised at this suggestion.]

The Chiefs want the OT coin toss eliminated and the coin toss at the beginning of the game to prevail.  Not sure why this is a step forward, but it does not seem like a step backward either.

The Chiefs want all overtimes eliminated in Exhibition Games.  So obviously a good idea, I wonder why it has not already been written in stone,

  • Denver Broncos:

The Broncos want to eliminate onside kicks.  Similar to the AAF rule, the Broncos want a team that wants to try an onside kick to have the ball at its own 35 in a 4th adn15 situation.  Convert and the ball is theirs; miss the conversion and the ball goes over.  Should it be 4th and 10 or 4th and 12 or 4th and 15?  That is something for the data crunchers to deal with.  I have no problem with the concept here.

The Broncos want all fourth down or goal line plays that are spotted short of the line to gain would be subject to automatic review. Similarly, the Broncos are also proposing that all extra point and two-point conversion attempts be subject to review.  That sounds like a lot of mandatory reviewing.  Is this a solution in search of a problem?

  • Washington Redskins:

The Skins want anything and everything to be reviewable by the officials.  Under the Skins’ proposal, all plays that occur during a game could potentially be subjected to a coaches’ challenge or review by the officiating department in the instant replay system.   I think this is overkill.

The Skins also want personal foul calls to be reviewable.  This seems like a subset of the suggestion above.  If the above rule change were implemented, plays could be reviewed, and personal fouls not originally called might be imposed by the review process.

  • Philadelphia Eagles:

The Eagles want any scoring play or any turnover that is negated by a penalty to be subject to an automatic replay review.  Those are potentially game changing plays; reviewing them to be sure the penalty call is correct is not a bad idea – – and there just aren’t that many of these sorts of plays in a typical game.

In addition to those team-specific recommendations to the competition Committee, the reports say that the Eagles, Panthers, Rams and Seahawks all want the rules to permit coaches to challenge “player-safety related fouls” called on the field or not called on the field.  This sounds good – – but I wonder what the scope of “player-safety related fouls” might be.

Here is the Curmudgeon Central Rule that should have been implemented as soon as the NFL had enough cameras in the stadium to consider implementing instant replay for anything:

  • Whenever there is a fight or an altercation that leads to a flag or flags being thrown, replay should be used to determine the player that started the altercation and his team should be the one penalized – – unless the retaliation by the other team exceeds the original provocation.

Time to move from reality/practicality/rationality to the part of the world inhabited by José Canseco.  Earlier this week, Canseco used a Tweet to accuse A-Rod of cheating on his fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, with Canseco’s ex-wife.  Minutes after that Tweet “hit the streets”, Canseco put out another one to challenge A-Rod to a boxing match or an MMA match “anytime you want” – – apparently as a way for Canseco to defend Jennifer Lopez’ honor.  I guess I am glad that he suggested boxing or MMA to settle this matter and stopped short of suggesting they reinstitute dueling with pistols at 10 paces…

About a month ago, a Notre Dame WR, Javon McKinley, was arrested on battery and alcohol misdemeanor charges.  There were two charges of battery related to McKinley allegedly punching two campus police officers.  [Aside:  Getting into a fight whilst intoxicated is never a good idea; getting into a fight with two police officers whilst intoxicated is a really bad idea.]  McKinley is suspended from the team pending resolution of all this stuff…

Finally, we are in that part of the sports calendar when the TV promos for the upcoming Masters golf tournament happen daily.  Ergo, consider this comment from Lee Trevino who briefly boycotted the Masters tournament for several years in the 1970s:

“Golf is a game invented by the same people who think music comes out of a bagpipe.”

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



Rest In Peace, Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins died late last week of congestive heart failure.  He was the last living member of my personal Mount Rushmore of sportswriters/columnists from my youth.  Those four are now somewhere in the cosmos assessing who among the current crop of writers might someday be considered to have similar stature.  My personal Mount Rushmore – – in alphabetical order because I really do not want to have to rank these four gentlemen:

  • Frank Deford
  • Sandy Grady
  • Dan Jenkins
  • Jim Murray

I never met Dan Jenkins; I wish I had been so privileged.  Dan Jenkins was more than a great sportswriter who was informative and entertaining simultaneously; Dan Jenkins was a great writer – – period – – and exclamation point.  He was part of the “glory days” of Sports Illustrated and his coverage of college football in SI back in the 60s and 70s was must read material whenever it appeared in the magazine.  However, his writings on golf were even better.

Please understand… I do not play golf; I do not follow golf; I do not have much interest in watching golf on television except for the occasional major tournament.  [Aside:  Dan Jenkins is the person who came up with the word “majors” to describe the 4 annual tournaments that are covered by that word.  Technically, Bobby Jones never won a “major” because Dan Jenkins had not yet designated any tournaments as such.]  Notwithstanding my “who gives a rat’s ass” feelings about golf, Dan Jenkins’ writings on golf were mesmerizing and commanded my interest.  He was a scratch golfer who was captain of his college golf team and he played practice rounds with Ben Hogan in Texas back in the 40s and 50s.  When he wrote about golf, his words came from someone who knew the game; but the words were more than that.

When he wrote about golf, his words generated interest – maybe even excitement – about the subject in at least one mind that otherwise did not care about golf.  His golf novels e.g. The Franchise Babe and Dead Solid Perfect were entertaining because of the implausible plot and Jenkins’ signature style which was utterly PC-bashing.  [Aside:  Dan Jenkins was anti-PC long before political correctness advanced to its current hugely annoying state.]  But it went beyond that.  One of his books was a compendium of golf columns he had written for Sports Illustrated and for Golf Digest.  He called this compilation, Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate.  This non-golfer read it end-to-end over a rainy long weekend and loved every word of it.

That last sentence leads me to suggest to every reader here that having a few paperback copies of Jenkins’ novels on hand for the occurrence of rainy three-day weekends would be a great idea.  Every one of those novels can be consumed in such a timeframe and every one of them will brighten up such a weekend.  His first novel was Semi-Tough; it was an instant success and was eventually made into a movie.  [Aside:  In his memoir, Frank Deford said that Dan Jenkins took a leave of absence to write Semi-Tough and that he wrote the novel in three weeks; the editing took longer than the writing.  That is beyond amazing.]   Many of the characters in Semi-Tough appear in subsequent novels; Jenkins creates a fictional world involving sports in general and these characters float about in that world.  Semi-Tough inspired a sequel titled Life Its Ownself.  Most sequels do not come close to living up to the work that inspired the sequel in the first place; Life Its Ownself toes that mark; it can stand on its own as a great read depending on Semi-Tough mainly for the backgrounds of many of its characters.

My personal favorite novel was You Gotta Play Hurt which is a recounting of a year in the life of an experienced and irreverent sports columnist who travels the world to cover specific events and write about them.  The protagonist is named Jim Tom Pinch; it is not difficult to figure out who the real-world inspiration for Jim Tom Pinch might be.

There is a scene in Semi-Tough that stands out in my mind.  Every year when the Super Bowl rolls around, I think of this scene.  It was written in 1972 when the pageantry of the Super Bowl was in ascension and it intended to satirize what all of that might become.  The setting for the scene is a Super Bowl game in the future between the NY Giants and the “dog-assed NY Jets”.  In the scene, the Giants’ coach, Shoat Cooper, is explaining to the Giants’ players that the timing of the Super Bowl game will be different from regular games because of the pageantry – and because there had been a major earthquake in China which could cause the network to cut in and do some news broadcasting simultaneous with the telecast of the game.

I want to present here that scene in its entirety.  Remember, this hyperbole intended to satirize what the Super Bowl pageantry might become from the point of view of 1972; it was not far off the mark for what would become Super Bowl reality.

  • [WARNING:  There is politically incorrect text to follow and some words/phrases that were much more commonplace and acceptable in 1972 than they are today.  If you are easily offended by such language, stop reading here.  In fact, if you are easily offended by such language, you probably should not be reading many of the rants posted here.]

            “In the serious part of the squad meeting, Shoat Cooper explained to us what the drill would be for Sunday, in terms of what time everything would occur.

“Shoat said we would start getting our ankles taped at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.  Those that needed special braces and pads taped on, he said, ought to get to the taping room thirty minutes earlier.

“He said he hoped everybody on the team could have breakfast together at nine in the Señor Sombrero Café on the second floor.

“He said we would leave for the Los Angeles Coliseum about ten-thirty.  It would be about eleven-fifteen when we got there, he said, and that would give us plenty of time.  ‘To get frisky for them piss ants,’ he said.

“The kickoff wasn’t until one-fifteen, he pointed out.  It had been set back fifteen minutes by CBS, he said in order for the network to finish up a news special it was doing on some kind of earthquake that wiped out several thousand chinks somewhere yesterday…

”… Shoat said that both the offense and the defense would be introduced, on both teams, for television before the game.  He said we should line up under the goal post that would be appointed to us and carry our hats under our arms when we trotted out to our own forty-five yard line and faced the dog-assed Jets for the ‘Star Spangled Banner’.

“That would be the last thing we would do before the kickoff, Shoat said.  Therefore, he said this would come after we had warmed up and then gone back into the dressing room and crapped and peed and drank some more Dexi-coffee.  Them what needed it like the interior linemen.

“’A little spiked coffee never hurt nobody’s incentive,’ Shoat said.  ‘Especially them lard butts who have to play down in that trench where the men are.’

“Shoat said we might have a long time to lay around the dressing room after we warmed up because the National Football League had a fairly lavish pregame show planned.

“Shoat said he understood that the both the pregame show and the halftime show would have a patriotic flavor.

“’That can’t be anything but good for football,’ he said.

“According to Shoat, here’s what was going to happen before the game:

“Several hundred trained birds – all painted red white and blue – would be released from cages somewhere and they would fly over the Coliseum in the formation of an American flag.

“As the red, white and blue birds flew over, Boke Kellum, the Western TV star, would recite the Declaration of Independence.

“Next would be somebody dressed up like Mickey Mouse and somebody else dressed up like Donald Duck joining the actress Camille Virl in singing ‘God Bless America.’

“And right in the middle of the singing, here would come this Air Force cargo plane to let loose 50 sky divers who would come dropping into the coliseum.

“Each skydiver would be dressed up in the regional costume of a state, and he would land in the coliseum in the order in when his state became a United State.

“When all this got cleaned up, Shoat said, United States Senator Pete Rozelle, the ex-commissioner of the NFL who invented the Super Bowl, would be driven around the stadium in the car that won last year’s Indianapolis 500.  At the wheel would be Lt. Commander Flip Slammer, the fifteenth astronaut to walk on the moon.

“Riding along behind the Indy car, Shoat said, would be two men on horses.  One would be Commissioner Bob Cameron on Lurking Funk, the thoroughbred which won last year’s Kentucky Derby.  And on the other horse, Podna (the horse Boke Kellum pretends to ride in his TV series) would be the current president of CBS, a guy named Woody Snider.

“Finally, Shoat said, the teams would be introduced and two thousand crippled and maimed soldiers on crutches and in wheel chairs and on stretchers would render the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’

“Shoat told us the halftime was like to run forty-five minutes.  It would be a long one at any rate, “which might be a good thing if we got some scabs to heal up,” he said.

“The length of the halftime, Shoat said, would depend on whether CBS would decide to interrupt the Super Bowl telecast with a special news report on the earthquake which might still be killing chinks with its fires and floods and tidal waves.

“’I never knowed a dead chink, more or less, to be more important than a football game,’ Shoat said.  ‘But maybe if a whole gunnysack of ‘em got wiped out, it’s news.’

“Shoat said it was too bad we would all have to miss it but the Super Bowl halftime show was going to be even more spectacular than the pregame show.

“He said there would be a water ballet in the world’s largest inflatable swimming pool, a Spanish fiesta, a Hawaiian luau, a parade stressing the history of the armored tank, a sing-off between the glee clubs of all the military academies and an actual World War I dogfight in the sky with the Red Baron’s plane getting blown to pieces.

“The final event of the halftime, he said, would be an induction into the pro football Hall of Fame of about twenty stud hosses out of the past including our own Tucker Frederickson, the vice president of DDD and F.  United States Senator Pete Rozelle would preside, Shoat said, along with Camille Virl, the actress, and Jack Whitaker, the CBS announcer.  When the induction ceremony was over, Shoat said, Rozelle, Whitaker and Camille Virl would lead the inductees in singing a parody on the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ which was written by somebody in the league office.  The title of it, he said, was “The Game Goes Marching On,’ and he understood it might make some people cry.

“Shoat said CBS hoped the whole stadium would join in the singing since all 92,000 people would have been given a printed copy of the lyrics.

“The last thing in the halftime would be some more birds.  While the stadium was singing this song, Shoat said, several thousand more painted-up birds would be released and they would fly in such a way overhead that the likeness of Vince Lombardi, the great old coach, would appear.

“That was all that was discussed at the meeting.”

I have read that passage at least a dozen times in the past and it still brought a smile to my face as I typed the words here.  I really hope you similarly enjoyed it

Finally, let me close with a couple of memorable quips/observations attributed to Dan Jenkins:

“Here’s all I know about Dubai: It’s one of those somewhere-over-there places where they make sand.”

And …

“I quickly discovered that trying to go play golf while living in Manhattan was about as easy as trying to grab a taxi while standing out in front of Saks Fifth Avenue in the freezing rain on the last shopping day before Christmas.”

And …

“The golf ball has no sense at all, which is why it has to be given stern lectures constantly, especially during the act of putting.”

Rest in peace – – and Godspeed – – Dan Jenkins…


Yet More Bryce Harper News

Silly me.  I thought that when Bryce Harper finally signed a contract with an MLB team, he would cease to be the “headline of the day” until such time as he actually did something on a baseball field that affected the outcome of an actual baseball game.  Actually, Harper followed up the news of his signing with two stories that made headlines.  The first story came from the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas; they posted the odds for players to win the MVPs and the Cy Youngs in both leagues.  Harper led the way in the National League.  Let me list the players with the lowest odds in all of these categories and offer a couple of comments:


  • Bryce Harper PHI 7-1
  • Nolan Arenado COR 8-1
  • Paul Goldschmidt STL 10-1
  • Kris Bryant CHC 12-1
  • Manny Machado SDP 15-1


  • Mike Trout LAA 3-1
  • Mookie Betts BOS 4-1
  • Aaron Judge NYY 10-1
  • Alex Bregman HOU 12-1
  • Jose Ramirez CLE 15-1

NL Cy Young:

  • Max Scherzer WAS 5-2
  • Jacob deGrom NYM 7-2
  • Aaron Nola PHI 7-1
  • Clayton Kershaw LAD 12-1
  • Noah Syndergaard NYM 15-1

AL Cy Young:

  • Cory Kluber CLE 7-2
  • Chris Sale BOS 4-1
  • Luis Severino NYY 7-1
  • Justin Verlander HOU 12-1
  • Carlos Carrasco CLE 15-1

A few comments about these listings.

  1. The odds-on Mike Trout dropped to 2-1 the day after they were posted when someone bet $4000 on Trout to win the Award at 3-1 odds.  Money does move the line…
  2. The Westgate Sportsbook oddsmaker said the reason Harper was the clear favorite in the National League was that he would be playing in a “Little League park” and that he should post huge numbers there.  The dimensions of the stadium in Philly and Washington are very similar so I am not sure I understand that sentiment.
  3. That is an awfully big jump in odds from Mookie Betts at 4-1 down to Aaron Judge at 10-1.
  4. I think Clayton Kershaw’s days as a Cy Young Award caliber pitcher are in the past; he will still be a good pitcher but not to that level.
  5. The Indians have two pitchers in the “Top 5” regarding the AL Cy Young Award plus Trevor Bauer as a starter.  Not a bad rotation at all…

And then, Bryce Harper got himself involved in a kerfuffle with the management of the LA Angels when he said he would like for Mike Trout to come and join him in Philly when Trout’s contract is up with the Angels.  People want to know if that is tampering which poses some interesting questions:

  • Can “tampering” apply to players as opposed to teams and team management?
  • How would tampering rules apply to players if the players involved were brothers?  Or father and son?
  • If Harper had privately called Mike Trout such that no one knew about it until months after the fact, does that make the alleged tampering less severe or more severe?

As I understand the rules in baseball regarding tampering, the punishment is a fine.  Bryce Harper just signed a deal that guarantees him $330M.  Leading up to this contract, my estimate is that Harper made $50M; I could be off by 10% there.  Nevertheless, there is no reasonable fine that MLB might levy that would have any meaningful adverse effect on Bryce Harper’s exchequer.

Moving on …  The NY Post reported that Jason Witten will leave ESPN and the Monday Night Football booth to return to the Dallas Cowboys and play tight end once again.  I thought Witten had promise as a TV analyst, but he did not grow into the job very much as the season rolled on; many commentators were highly critical of his performance and they have rejoiced at this news.  The question for ESPN now is where will they go with an announcing team for MNF?

  • The word is that ESPN covets Peyton Manning in the booth.  I think he would be interesting to listen to during a game, but I think he might demand that he never have to call a game where Eli was playing – – and ESPN is not really able to offer such a “guarantee”.  [Aside:  That is not “inside info”; that is just a sense that I get when I listen to the two brothers talk about one another.]
  • There is work for ESPN to do over the summer.  Joe Tessitore has to exhale and do some calming down between plays.  Every 6-yard run off tackle is not worthy of hyperventilation.
  • Booger McFarland might become a top-shelf analyst; he is knowledgeable and casually funny.  However, ESPN must put the “Boogermobile” in the garage and lock the door on that baby.  Booger needs to be in the booth interacting with his broadcasting partner(s).

If I were the ESPN decision maker here, I would look at the football folks already on TV in various places and here would be my order of preference:

  1. Louis Riddick:  Measured, rational, intelligent commentary.  He is “anti-bombastic”.
  2. Deion Sanders:  Colorful, entertaining, candid.  A latter-day Howard Cosell?  Maybe not that outrageous…
  3. Steve Young:  Cerebral, analytical and candid.

Finally, here is a comment on college football recruiting from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel:

“In the span of a week, FSU has lost two big-time football recruits — not to Alabama, Ohio State or Georgia but to MARYLAND! This is like losing a ‘Battle of the Bands’ to Insane Clown Posse.”

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