Schedule Disruption …

I will definitely be off the air Monday May 20 and Tuesday May 21.

There is a possibility – – not quite a probability – – that I will find time to write on Wednesday May 22.  As of now, I would count that as another “dark day”.

Next Thursday, May 23, is a travel day so there will not be a rant then.

The plan is to be back on the air on Friday May 24.

See everyone then …

 

 

The NFL Schedule – First Impressions

With as much fanfare as the law allows, the full NFL schedule for the 2024 season is now available to more than the “insiders”; there are neither secrets nor mysteries.  [Aside:  I believe it was Henry Kissinger who said that the difference between a secret and a mystery is that somewhere, someone knew the truth behind a secret.]  In any event, I took time yesterday to look over the complete schedule and compiled some comments regarding things that jumped out at me.  Here is what I was looking for:

  • Stretches of games against teams that project to be very good or not-so-good.
  • Stretches of home games or road games
  • You get the idea …

For the purposes of this “schedule analysis” I do not worry about “revenge games” or “prodigal son returning home” games.  That is a finer-grained analysis.  So, here are some schedule observations based on a quick look at various team schedules.  I have listed them alphabetically so that no one tries to discern any sort of “hidden agenda” herein:

  • Bills:  The Bills have a 3-game road trip in the early part of the schedule and those are never easy things for teams to negotiate.  To make matters worse, those three games are against the Ravens, Texans and Jets.  Later in the season, the Bills have another 4-game stretch that should be no fun playing the Chiefs, Niners, Rams and Lions in succession.
  • Cards:  The Cards open up with a gauntlet of 8 games against 6 potentially very good teams – – Bills, Rams, Lions, Commanders, Niners, Packers, Dolphins, Chargers.  As the calendar turns to the first week in November, the Cards could be 2-6 – – or worse.
  • Chargers:  The tail end of the 2024 season looks to be pillow-soft with the final four games against the Bucs, Broncos, Pats and Raiders.  The Pats game is on the road likely in weather conditions unlike anything in LA and the final game is in Las Vegas.  Nonetheless, the Chargers might just be able to put together a 4-game win streak to end the season.
  • Colts:  In horse race handicapping terms, the Colts look like closers; they could be dominant starting around December 1 when the schedule has them playing the Pats, Broncos, Titans, Giants and Jags – – with a BYE Week thrown in there between the Pats game and the Broncos game.
  • Eagles:  The Eagles fell apart at the end of last season but this year they will finish the regular season with four of their last five games at home – – and the road game is against the Commanders – – not expected to be a great team in 2024.
  • Falcons:  Kirk Cousins and his new colleagues begin the season against the Steelers, Eagles and Chiefs before hitting a soft spot in the next month or so.  After a couple dicey games, the Falcons close out the season against potentially weak sisters such as Raiders, Giants, Commanders and Panthers.
  • Jets:  The Jets’ schedule looks relatively soft until Thanksgiving but then they close out 2024 with Dolphins, Jags, Rams, Bills, Dolphins in a five-game parade of teams that were good last year and project to be good this year.
  • Lions:  They have an early BYE Week this year in Week 5 and that is often earlier than ideal.  And once they return from that week off, they get to play the Cowboys, Vikes, Titans, Packers, Texans and Jags in the next 6 weeks.
  • Raiders:  Look out for the five-game stretch of game between October 13 and November 17.  The Raiders get to play the Steelers, Rams, Chiefs, Bengals and Dolphins in that time span.  The good scheduling news for Raiders’ fans is the end of the season, the Raiders are at home for three of their final four games and none of those final four opponents made the playoffs last season (Falcons, Saints, Jags, Chargers).
  • Ravens:  The Ravens’ early season schedule is challenging to say the least.  Their first five games are against the Chiefs, Raiders, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals.  So, you might suspect that the end-of-season would be soft – – but you would be wrong.  The final three opponents for the Ravens are the Steelers, Texans and Browns.
  • Seahawks:  From 22 September until 17 November, the Seahawks will face Dolphins, Lions, Giants, Niners (on a short week), Falcons, Bills, Rams, Niners (again).  Woof …!
  • Vikes:  In the month between November 17 and December 16, the Vikes have five very winnable games (Titans, Bears, Cards, Falcons, Bears again).  The bad news here is that the 9 games preceding this soft spot in the schedule are not going to be a walk in the park.

If I did not mention your favorite team here, please do not consider it a snub.  All that omission means is that when I looked at other teams’ schedules, I did not see things that jumped out at me.

And with the release of the full NFL schedule, fanboys all over the country can now commence their residence in fantastical worlds wherein their team goes undefeated in the regular season and then sweeps clean through the Super Bowl never having an opponent within a TD of their heroes.  It happens every year…

Finally, let me close today with this observation about schedules by humorist, Garrison Keeler:

“I’m not busy… a woman with three children under the age of 10 wouldn’t think my schedule looked so busy.

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

 

 

Coaches – – Past, Present And Future

The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay has hired Doug Gottlieb to be their new head basketball coach.  Gottlieb was an excellent point guard in college at Oklahoma St. but has no head coaching experience at this level of the game.  That is not what makes this story interesting; what makes it interesting is that Doug Gottlieb hosts a syndicated daily sports talk radio on show on FOX Sports Radio and he intends to continue that program in addition to doing the coaching job.

I have never hosted a sports radio program, nor have I ever tried to coach a Division 1 college basketball team; so, this observation is purely speculative:

  • Each one of those jobs seems like a full-time job to me.

Gottlieb is confident he can do both jobs at the same time, yet seemed to acknowledge that scheduling and focus could be a challenge:

“In terms of the mental gymnastics of doing it, I know I can do it.  I just have to prove I can do it.”

Coaching basketball is something Gottlieb has done outside the college ranks.  He was the head coach of two US teams that played in the Maccabiah Games and won the Gold Medals there.  It will be interesting to see how all of this works out.  Gottlieb is taking over a team that went 18-14 last year; so, he is not inheriting a program that needs a total tear-down/rebuild.

Switching gears but staying on the subject of basketball coaches …  The Lakers continue their search for a new head coach after the team let Darvin Ham go once the Lakers were eliminated from this year’s playoffs.  Whoever gets the job will be the seventh head coach of the Lakers since Phil Jackson left town in 2011; it is not a job that has offered a lot of longevity/stability lately.

The team brought in Mike Krzyzewski as a consultant to help with the search.  Obviously, Coach K brings plenty of basketball wisdom to the position but in the end the choice of the new coach in LA will hinge on the acquiescence – if not the specific approval – of LeBron James.  Moreover, James’ agreement with the coaching choice might hinge on the Lakers willingness and their ability to acquire the services of his son, Bronny James.

One of the rumored candidates for the Lakers’ job – – allegedly someone LeBron James might approve of – – is JJ Redick.  The fact that Redick played for Coach K at Duke has led to speculations/rumors that in turn have generated amazing contrivances in the minds of speculation specialists.  Redick had a long career in the NBA spanning 15 seasons and 6 teams but like Doug Gottlieb above, he has no head coaching experience at anything like the NBA level.  Then again, neither did Steve Kerr…

Moving on …  Yesterday, I recounted some of the accomplishments of Ted Williams as a young baseball player in the 1940s.  Around mid-day, I went to check my emails and saw one from the “reader in Houston”.  Those missives area always interesting and here is his addendum to my comments about Ted Williams yesterday:

“Baseball Reference in its bio section for deceased players lists where they are buried, such as Buried: Fallbrook Masonic Cemetery, Fallbrook CA for Duke Snider.

“For Ted, it says: Buried: Frozen.”

Count that as something new that you learned today; I have it chalked up for yesterday.

One last item for today …  Peyton Manning recently appeared on Pat McAfee’s show and revealed that Bill Belichick would be on every one of the ManningCasts next season.  Here is how Peyton dropped that news:

“I said, ‘Bill, we want you to come on. Look, we’d love to go behind the ropes on the defensive side as to kind of what the Eagles are going to have to do to stop Patrick Mahomes, right? And if you ever run out of things to say, just make fun of Eli, right? That’s always sort of a time-filler, and Bill doesn’t like Eli.  We all know that – two Super Bowls – so it’s just a match made in heaven.”

I think this is good news for fans who tune into the alternate broadcasts of MNF games.  Notwithstanding his reputation as a monosyllabic interviewee, Bill Belichick is smart and he can be funny; in addition, he is a defensive minded observer of the game who can complement the commentary of the two main characters who were both QBs and see the game from the offensive side of the game.

In addition to appearing on those ManningCasts, Belichick is slated to do a weekly appearance on Pat McAfee’s program.  I will probably miss those appearances and his commentary there because I have basically already tired of McAfee and his histrionics.

Finally, since today has involved comments about coaches past, present and future, let me close with a couple of observations by coaches:

“Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes before you get fired.”  [Lou Holtz]

And …

“Really, coaching is simplicity. It’s getting players to play better than they think that they can.”  [Tom Landry]

And …

“When I have the urge to get back to coaching, I lie down and wait until it passes.”  [Hank Stram]

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

 

 

Youthful Impact

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that the NBA needed to find a new “face of the league” because the old guard of Lebron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were indeed getting old.  At least for the moment, the face of professional basketball in the US is in the WNBA and not the NBA; her name is Caitlin Clark.  She is the player who is most easily recognized in a crowd – – say at an airport – – and she is creating demand for her games.

Clark made her debut in a real WNBA game last night against the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, CT, a village within the town of Montville, CT.  It is home to the Mohegan Sun casino and the WNBA team, and it sits about 90 miles from Boston and about 120 miles from NYC.  The Connecticut Sun play their home games in a 9000-seat arena and for last night’s opening game against Caitlin Clark and her Indiana Fever teammates:

  • The arena was sold out – – AND – –
  • Tickets on the secondary market were going for $700 apiece.
  • That was the Connecticut Sun’s first sellout in 20 years.

About a week ago, Clark and the Fever played their first WNBA Exhibition Game in Dallas against the Dallas Wings.  That Exhibition Game was also a sellout.  Tomorrow night, the Fever will play their first home game of the year and Clark’s inaugural game for the franchise.  The Fever’s home arena seats 18,000 fans; of course, it is sold out.  Moreover, if you want to get a seat on the secondary market, here are some options:

  • Courtside at floor level = $2,379
  • Lower-level side court Row 2 = $609
  • Nosebleed seats = $99 to $129

Folks, this is for a regular season WNBA game and the only reason this game has drawn this level of attention is Caitlin Clark.  For the moment, she is the face of basketball in the US of A.

Years ago, Nike did an ad with Mark McGwire, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.  An attractive young woman pays no attention to the pitchers with McGwire on the scene blasting out batting practice moon shots leading to the observation that.

“Chicks dig the long ball.”

Well, Caitlin Clark also “digs the long ball” so to speak as she scores with 25–30-foot jump shots.  I would not be surprised if Nike came up with a reprise of that line incorporating Caitlin Clark in the ad.  Or perhaps a theme like:

  • Chicks dig the long ball – – Caitlin Clark sinks the long ball.

Moving on, but staying with basketball …  The Oklahoma City Thunder are the second youngest team in the NBA and they are demanding attention in the playoffs despite their youthful status.  The Thunder dispatched the Pelicans with a 4-0 sweep in Round 1 and are now tied 2-2 in the second round with the Dallas Mavericks. Their “Big 3” are all under 26 years old so it is reasonable to project that they still have room to grow their games, and they are starting from a good statistical place.  In the 2023/2024regular season:

  • The Thunder led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage.
  • The Thunder led the NBA in turnovers forced on defense.
  • The Thunder led the NBA in shots blocked.
  • The Thunder finished second in point differential.
  • The Thunder finished tied for second in points allowed.

The only team younger than the Thunder is the Spurs.  The Thunder won 57 games last season and the Spurs won 22.

Switching gears …  The youthfulness of the Thunder reminded me of another “youngster” who burst onto the scene in a different sport.  I have said here before that the best hitter in baseball that I saw personally was Ted Williams and I recall that he made an instant impression on MLB upon his arrival.

Williams’ first season with the Red Sox was in 1939.  In his rookie season, he batted .327 and posted an OPS of 1.045 at the age of 20.  He led the league in total bases (344) and in RBIs (145).

In his second season, Williams batted .344 and posted an OPS of 1.036.  He led the league in runs scored (134) and in on-base percentage (.442).

His third season was 1941.  All he did that year was to hit .406 with an OPS of 1.287.  Those stats were not all singles; Williams led MLB that year in homeruns (37).

His fourth season, he hit “only” .356 and led MLB in runs scored (141), homeruns (36) and RBIs (137).

Then came three years in the military during World War II but upon his return to baseball in 1946, he won the MVP award and led the major leagues in OPS once again at 1.164.

In 1947 at the ripe old age of 28, all he did was to win the Triple Crown in the AL.

Ted Williams played until he was 41 years old in 1960.  He still holds the all-time career record for on-base percentage at .482.  In a total of 9,792 plate appearances, he reached base almost half the time.

Finally, much of today has been about young sports stars and their accomplishments; so, I will close with this note from Quentin Crisp about youth itself.”

“The young always have the same problem-how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.”

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

 

 

The NFL In The News

The NFL has mastered the art of headline grabbing.  Once the Draft has happened and the “grades” for every team have been assigned and analyzed, there is little if any “NFL news” to be had until minicamps in June.

“Not so fast, my friend!”  [Hat Tip:  Lee Corso.]

The NFL schedule for the 2024 regular season has probably been known to the NFL execs for weeks now, but the league uses the release of that schedule as a headline grabber in mid-May.  Not only do they release the schedule with fanfare; they do it in dribs and drabs to get the league in the news and in the headlines on multiple days.

  1. All the way back in February, we learned that the league would play its first game in South America (Sao Paulo, Brazil) on the Friday of opening weekend.
  2. Days after that, we found out the Eagles would play in that game – – but the opponent was “TBD” at the time.
  3. Later, the league announced that the Packers would be the Eagles’ opponent in that game.
  4. Last week, there was some “mystery”/”confusion” about when the full schedule would be released – – as if there were still some loose ends still in need of closure.
  5. That “mystery” was unwound when insiders learned that the schedule will be released this week.
  6. Within the last week, news “leaked” that the Super Bowl Champions (Chiefs) would open their season at home against the Ravens in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
  7. Yesterday, we learned that in the opening weekend, the Cowboys would go to Cleveland to play the Browns and that game would be Tom Brady’s first game on FOX as a color analyst for an NFL game.

There are seven headline manipulations by the NFL derived from something that is rather mundane – – the release of next season’s schedule – – and still the full schedule has not been “revealed” – – and will not be until later this week when it will grab headlines once again.  Indeed, the league has mastered the art or headline grabbing…

Next up …  The NFL has also been quietly paring down the NFL Network.  The daily opening show, Good Morning Football has been “on hiatus” for a couple of months now – – ostensibly to accommodate a change in the venue of the studio from which the show will originate.  The schedule for its return has been this week to coincide with the release of the 2024 schedule and there has been no announcement that those plans have changed.  Upon its return, the show will also be syndicated to run on FOX-owned local channels so the program will be getting expanded exposure once it comes back.

All is not so good news for NFLN, however.  Its later daily program, Total Access, has been scrapped and its final show will be this Friday.  Michael Irvin was one of the analysts who appeared on Total Access and other NFLN programming, but he has been let go by the network recently.  About a month ago, the network dropped a whole bunch of on-air folks along with production and promotion people.  The network is clearly in a state of flux; if the intent of all the personnel changes and schedule shuffling is to cut back on the network costs, I wonder if the exclusive NFLN coverage of all 65 Exhibition Games will continue.  Yes, those games provide lots of filler for airtime in August; but the cost of creating that content is significant.  There is more to come here …

Moving on …  The Detroit Lions had been a sorry-assed franchise for about 3 decades but have returned to relevance under Dan Campbell since he took over the team in 2021.  Last year, the Lions made it to the NFC Championship Game and only lost to the Niners by a field goal.  In winning two playoff games to make it to that NFC Championship Game, the Lions earned their first playoff victories since 1991.  That success obviously energized the Lions’ fanbase and the results carried over to this off-season.

  • The Lions have sold out their inventory of season tickets as of last week.
  • The team set aside some seats to be sold as “single game” tickets which will be offered for sale once the full NFL schedule is released later this week.
  • The Lions raised ticket prices by an average of 30% for this season – – and still the season ticket inventory sold out or was renewed in only a couple of months.

It has been a long time since there was anything near this level of enthusiasm around the league relative to the Lions.  In fact, during the interim between the Lions playoff win in 1991 and last season, the team had worked its way through twelve head coaches.  Dan Campbell is clearly not on any sort of “hot seat” in Detroit and the team just signed QB, Jared Goff to a 4-year contract potentially worth up to $212M with $100M guaranteed at signing.  Indeed, things are looking up in Detroit…

Finally, since I mentioned headline grabbing above, let me close with one of my favorite all-time headlines; it was so outrageous that I actually thought about clicking to see what the story was about:

“Transgender woman loses bid to sue ex for throwing out her surgically removed testicles.”

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

 

 

Three Unrelated Items Today …

Today will be a game of hopscotch around the sports world …

Ippei Mizuhara will plead guilty to “fraud charges” as a result of him transferring about $15M out of Shohei Ohani’s account(s) to a bookie to settle gambling losses incurred by Mizuhara.  I am sure that the Dodgers’ brass and the MLB execs hope this is the final chapter in this mess and that there is not another cinder block ready to drop on the scene.  And even though I am not a conspiracy theorist, this story just does not hold together in my mind.  For me to believe that Mizuhara’s action was totally on his own, I also must believe:

  1. Over about a three-year period, Ohtani never noticed the missing funds from his account(s).
  2. Ohtani’s agent never noticed that his client’s account(s) were short a sizeable amount of money.
  3. Ohtani’s financial advisors – – and his tax preparers too – – never saw any shortage(s).
  4. The bank handling Ohtani’s money on deposit was allegedly duped by Mizuhara more than a dozen times as he pretended to be Ohtani thereby gaining access to the account’s funds.

Of course, those four things may indeed have happened – – but the fact that Ohtani has not fired his agent and his financial people seems to indicate that he does not believe they were asleep at the switch there.  Moreover, I bet that the bank involved here will not use any of those duping incidents in their advertising for new accounts.

In this morning’s Washington Post, there is a report by Gus Garcia-Roberts linking the alleged bookie who was on the receiving end of Ohtani’s money – – allegedly again sent by Mizuhara alone and undetected – – and the bookie’s involvement with some Las Vegas casinos that might be just a tad “shady”.  Here is a link to that report.

Color me skeptical here…

Next up …  The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are pulling up stakes and moving to Salt Lake City.  The Coyotes have been problematic for the NHL almost since their “birth” in 1996 when the Winnipeg Jets moved southwest.  In 2009, the NHL had to take over the franchise because it had not gained a strong foothold in the Phoenix area; the team’s owner at the time declared bankruptcy and turned the team over to the league; things were bleak.

A Canadian billionaire sought to buy the team out of bankruptcy, but the NHL blocked the sale because he was going to move the team to “southern Ontario” which was a euphemism for Hamilton, Ontario and the longstanding franchise in Toronto did not appreciate that idea even slightly.  That kept the team in Arizona and the simple fact of the matter is that Arizona is not a hotbed of hockey for simple climatological considerations.

The team has been trying to get a new arena – – primarily at public expense – – for years now and every time there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel of those negotiations, that light turns out to be a gorilla with a flashlight.  And so, the NHL has now decided to let the Coyotes be reorganized as a team in Salt Lake City, Utah and a naming process is underway.  [Aside:  Of the names reportedly under consideration, my preference would be the “Utah Yeti” due to its alliterative nature.  But no one involved with the NHL has or will ask my opinion.]

On one hand, the NHL has finally recognized after more than 25 years that the Phoenix/Tempe AZ area is not “Hockeytown USA”.  On the other hand, they have approved the movement of the team to another region in the country that does not appear to have any “hockey history”.  Well, at least there are winter sports and winter sports enthusiasts in Salt Lake City…

Last item for today …  A week ago, I pointed out that four of the five QBs taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft are no longer with the team that took them originally and that none of the four returned anything of significant value to the teams that traded them away.  I have said before that scouting for prospects in pro sports is a difficult undertaking and that drafting and scouting are nowhere near a science.  Perhaps it is an “art”; certainly, it is a “crapshoot”.  And here are two other data points that indicates the lack of scientific predictability for drafting:

  1. In that same 2021 NFL Draft, 32 players were taken in the first round of the Draft.  Only 18 of those 32 first round draftees had their fifth-year contract options exercised by the teams that took them originally.   Only 56% of the first-round picks were deemed to be worth “keeping around” for a fifth year on the team.
  2. By the way, these data are not “cherry-picked”.  In the 2020 NFL Draft, only 12 of the 32 first round picks (37.5%) had their fifth-years options exercised by the team that took them originally.

Finally, since I declared myself “skeptical” above, let me close with this cautionary observation about skepticism by George Santayana:

“Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.”

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

 

 

Meathead Of The Month?

Sports entities and many publications that focus on sports like to issue awards.  Some are very specific and narrow – – such as the Heisman Trophy given to THE best college football player of the year.  Others are such qualified awards as to make one glance at the announcement and move on quickly – – such as the “Best AFC Offensive Player of the Week Who Wears an Odd Numbered Jersey”.  [Aside:  The Issuers of this award would need to have world-class mathematicians on hand to adjudicate if the number ZERO is odd or even.  Just in case …]

I would like to propose today the winner of the “Meathead of the Month” award for his accumulated meatheadedness over the past couple of months.  He is too young to call it a “Lifetime Achievement Award”, but it is possible that he has demonstrated a lifetime of meatheadedness for your typical sports fan.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

  • Rashee Rice – – WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Let me get some good stuff about M. Rice on the table here:

  • In his rookie year with the Chiefs, Rice – – a second round pick in 2023 – – emerged as one of the best WRs on the team who made some big plays for the Chiefs in the latter parts of 2023.
  • He caught 79 passes last year accounting for 938 yards (11.9 yards per catch) and 7 TDs.

Everything was cool until late March when Rice and friends were allegedly racing on some Dallas streets and got into a car crash.  Not a big deal – – until you consider that Rice was driving a rented Lamborghini allegedly traveling at 119 mph and to put a cherry on top of that silliness, he and some of his buds – – allegedly again – – simply walked away from the scene of the accident.  I cannot find any reporting related to the authorities charging him and others with “leaving the scene”, so all of this is still up in the air.

Rice seemed to respond to this situation like an adult; he said he would make everyone involved here whole which sounds like the antithesis of a Meathead.  A couple of civil lawsuits have been filed based on that incident probably to hold him to his word of making everyone whole.  And while he still faces multiple driving charges stemming from this silliness, he is “out and about” on a $40,000 bond.

The “apparent adult” that I alluded to above seems to have been at home and napping while Rice was out and about with some friends earlier this week.  Sometime after midnight at a “high-end nightclub” in Miami, Rice got into a confrontation with a photographer and Rice allegedly struck the photographer causing injuries to the photographer’s face which required treatment at a Miami hospital.   Not cool and definitely not smart …

It seems to me like an open and shut case that Rashee Rice violated the NFL’s tidy Personal Conduct Policy meaning he is open to a suspension in the tribunal of Roger Goodell.  On top of the various reckless vehicle charges and possibly leaving the scene of an accident you may now add charges just for good measure which could involve jail time; Rice is now potentially involved in an assault/battery situation which can involve time in the hoosegow.

Here is an indicator of how good the Chiefs think Rice can become:

  • The Chiefs have not suspended him or disciplined him in any way using the dodge that they want “the criminal system to run its course.”
  • If Rice were a practice squad player who coaches thought might some day be a fourth WR on the team, he would have been cut weeks ago.

I give you Rashee Rice – – Meathead of the Month.

Switching gears …Every sports fan who tunes in to watch games on TV knows about the “Announcers’ Jinx”.  The most common occurrence is in basketball where Joe Flabeetz is about to shoot a free throw and the announcer says:

  • Flabeetz is a 92% shooter from the line; he is 7 for 7 tonight and has made his last 19 straight free throw attempts.

At least half the time – – or so it seems – -, Joe Flabeetz will clank that free throw attempt as badly as a scrub on a 12-year-old recreation league player might.  Play-by-play guys and color analysts chortle over such a “Jinx” but fans know that it seems to be a real thing.

I bring this up because of a situation that took place on MLB Network earlier this week.  The Dodgers were taking on the Marlins; the Marlins stink and the Dodgers were starting their rookie sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto.  The MLB TV talking head, Greg Amsinger, said:

  • There was a no-hitter alert in effect for the Dodgers/Marlins game even before the first pitch was thrown.

That “no-hitter alert” lasted exactly one pitch.  The Marlins’ leadoff hitter, Jazz Chisholm, swung at the first pitch and hit it over the wall in right-center field.  So, was that an “Announcer’s Jinx” or was that a “message from the baseball gods” to MLB TV pundits to cool their jets a bit?  You make the call…

Finally, in the TV sitcom, All In the Family, Archie Bunker called is son-in-law a meathead all the time and once offered this pearl of wisdom:

“I’d say that the Meathead probably got magnesia and forgot where his mouth was.”

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

 

 

Five Young QBs…

Yesterday, the CFL suspended Chad Kelly – – last year’s MVP in the CFL – – for all of the pre-season and for a minimum of 9 games in the regular season.  This action comes after an investigation into charges by a female assistant strength coach related to “gender violence”.  The league has a specific Gender-Based Violence Policy and a third-party investigation must have given the league sufficient evidence to get the league to impose this suspension.

Chad Kelly – – the nephew of former Bill’s QB, Jim Kelly – – is no stranger to discipline for improper behavior.  According to Wikipedia:

  • In 2014 he was dismissed from the football team at Clemson for conduct detrimental to the team.
  • He was drafted by the Broncos in 2016 and was released by the Broncos in 2018 following his arrest on charges of “criminal trespassing”.  He pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served a short NFL suspension for violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.
  • Now the CFL suspension …

Chad Kelly is 30 years old.  He obviously has talent as a QB as witnessed by his NCAA and CFL stats, but it would not be a stretch to say that he has squandered much of that talent.  His uncle – – Jim Kelly – – has said that Chad is a better athlete than Jim Kelly was.  I have no idea if that is a fact or if that is just an expression of family pride.  However, if any QB at any level of the game is compared to Jim Kelly, that is indeed high praise for that other QB; few would deny that Jim Kelly is properly enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here is part of a statement by CFL Commissioner, Randy Ambrosie as it relates to this suspension:

“Players are the ambassadors of our great game. They are expected to be leaders in the locker room and role models in the community. It was important that we performed our due diligence to properly review this matter from all points of view. That in-depth investigation found that Mr. Kelly unequivocally violated the CFL’s Gender-based Violence Policy.

“Mr. Kelly’s suspension is the direct result of his behaviour. The addition of mandatory counselling focuses on his need for self-reflection and understanding of his actions. He must take full advantage of this opportunity for personal betterment in order to return to the CFL.”

The Toronto Argonauts will be without Kelly’s services at QB through the first nine games of the CFL season.  [Aside:  The CFL regular season is 18 games.]  The statement by Commissioner Ambrosie regarding the counseling and Kelly’s need for “personal betterment” leaves the door open for additional sanctions.  At age 30, this would seem to be a crossroads in Kelly’s football career.  As Yogi Berra might say, he has come to a fork in the road – – and now he is going to take it.

Moving on – – with a somewhat awkward segue …  Four young NFL QBs may also be at or near a crossroads in their football careers for totally different reasons.  None of the four young NFL QBs have been accused of any sort of nefarious behavior but all four have been accused of not living up to expectations – – and that can be just as devastating to a career as an off-field “incident”.  The four QBs I am referring to are the four QBs taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft after Trevor Lawrence was taken with the overall #1 pick.  None of these four young QBs has had their fifth-year contract option picked up and none of these four young QBs is still with the team that took them in 2021:

  1. Zach Wilson:  Taken with the second pick, Wilson found himself in a difficult NFL situation.  The Jets’ OL was substandard, and his pass-catching corps was similarly less talented than other teams.  He had a defensive-oriented coach and the added pressure of producing for the fans in NYC.  Wilson was traded to the Broncos for a bag of beans.
  2. Trey Lance:  Taken with the third pick – – for which the Niners traded up to acquire – – Lance was outplayed in practice and then on the field by Brock Purdy who was taken dead last in the 2022 NFL Draft.  He was traded to the Cowboys where he is currently listed as their #3 QB.
  3. Justin Fields:  Taken with the eleventh pick- – for which the Bears traded up to acquire – – Fields found himself in a situation similar to Zach Wilson.  The Bears’ OL was a mess, and he had no outstanding playmakers.  He was traded to the Steelers where he will compete with Russell Wilson for playing time there.  The Bears got a meager return in the trade.
  4. Mac Jones:  Taken with the fifteenth pick, Jones began his career with the Pats in an excellent fashion leading the team to a 10-7 record and a playoff slot.  Not bad for a kid who merely had to follow in the footsteps of Tom Brady …  However, the next two seasons were not kind to Jones, he started 25 games in those two seasons and posted a record of 8-17 before being replaced as the starter by Bailey Zappe.  He was traded to the Jags this year for a bag of donut holes.

Finally, today has been about football QBs who have not fully expressed their talents on the gridiron.  So, let me close with this statement by President Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not:  nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not:  unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not:  the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

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

 

 

The NBA And The UFL Today …

The defending champion Denver Nuggets are in deep trouble in this year’s second round of the NBA playoffs.  It’s not just that they lost last night or that they are now down 2-0 in this series against the Timberwolves despite playing both games at home.  The champs have a bleak reality to face:

  • One of Denver’s stars – – Jamal Murray – – is either injured or totally discombobulated.  He shot 3 for 18 from the floor in last night’s loss and struggled to get open.
  • The Nuggets’ bench was basically AWOL in last night’s game.  Other than Justin Holiday who hit a bunch of 3-point shots, the rest of the Denver subs scored a total of 10 points and grabbed a total of 7 rebounds in a combined 41 minutes on the floor.
  • The Nuggets managed to score only 80 points in last night’s loss despite the fact that the Wolves’ best defender, Rudy Gobert, sat out the game.

The Nuggets have – arguably – the best player on Planet Earth on the team in Nikola Jockic; so, it may be premature to count them out.  However, the Nuggets looked like a beat up Chevy last night and the Wolves looked like a Ferrari.

Switching gears and sports …  I have not watched an entire UFL game so far this year, but I have watched parts of several games.  From those bits and pieces, I have a few generic observations to share:

  1. The quality of the play is not quite at the level of games involving the elite college teams.  I suspect that “deficiency” is not due to a lack of talent on the field; I suspect it is because the UFL teams have had much less time practicing and playing together than top-shelf college teams have.
  2. The UFL defenses are ahead of the UFL offenses.  Half of the league teams average fewer than 20 points per game; one team averages only 14 points per game and that team is not winless in its 6 games.  To some degree, football fans have been conditioned by the NFL to expect to see explosive offense; if the UFL is going to capture a significant part of that audience, it needs more offense.
  3. Attendance is spotty at best.  Some of the games I have seen take place in “full-sized football stadiums” meaning the sparsity of the crowd is magnified.  The team in St. Louis – – the Battlehawks – – leads the UFL in average attendance in the first six weeks of the season; the Battlehawks draw about 35,000 fans per game which is outstanding for the young league.  However, the other seven teams average only about 10,000 fans per game and that is bad for the league in two ways.  That means seven teams do not generate a ton of “gate revenue” and that means that any televised action in those seven venues makes it clear to viewers that this product is not “the in thing.”

Both FOX and ESPN have equity stakes in the UFL.  That does not mean the league cannot possibly face insolvency, but it does mean that there are some deep pockets involved in ownership that could allow the league time to set down roots.  But from a TV perspective, the UFL has to find ways to get more people in the stadiums to convince a few viewers to come out and spend a springtime afternoon taking in a UFL game in person.  I have often mocked weeknight MAC games for their lack of attendance and interest; some of the crowd shots for UFL games show even sparser attendance.  There have been field goal attempts shown where the caption on a still screen shot could easily be:

“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”  [Hat Tip: C.C. Moore]

Here is an idea for the league to consider.  It is not a new idea; it has been done before.

  • The UFL should consider “wallpapering the house”.  It should throw a celebratory party at the venue of its network televised games and then anyone who attends the party can see the game FREE.
  • If all the league can expect is 10,000 paying fans at a game, it might be better in the long term for the league to forego that chunk of ticket revenue today in order to try to create “juice” for the league games that then translates to larger game attendance and larger TV audiences.

Just a thought…

I don’t want to give the impression here that all is gloom and doom with the UFL in its inaugural season.  Actually, some of the data show that the UFL is pretty healthy:

  • The televised games average audiences of more than 800,000 viewers.  That is a larger audience that SVP gets for the late-night SportsCenter; that is a significantly larger audience than First Take or Get up! draws; that is more than double the audience for Pardon the Interruption.
  • The league following on social media sounds impressive to someone like me who is not heavily involved in social media.  The UFL has more than 4 million followers over the spectrum of social media networks – – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.

Finally, Ambrose Bierce lived and wrote in the latter part of the 19th Century, but this observation might have some resonance today:

“The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.”

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

 

 

This, That And The Other Thing …

One of the older sports debate topics is to identify those sports records that will never be broken.  Obviously, all of them could be broken someday, but there are a few that appear to be unassailable as of today:

  • Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak
  • Wilt Chamberlain’s 100- point NBA game
  • Boston Celtics’ eight consecutive NBA Championships
  • Cy Young’s 749 complete games
  • Emmitt Smith’s 18,355 career rushing yards

I am beginning to think there is another one to consider for this list:

  • Secretariat’s time of 1:59 1/5 for the Kentucky Derby.

They ran the Derby last Saturday and folks are almost euphoric about the three-horse photo finish to the race.  Indeed, it was a tight call; the separation between the winner and the horse that finished third was merely a head.  But lost in the euphoria of the photo-finish and the long-shot odds for the winner, Mystik Dan, is the fact that this was a slow race.  Mystik Dan ran the 1 ¼ miles in 2:03 1/5.  Here is an inexact but good approximation of how that relates to Secretariat’s time in the Derby 51 years ago:

  • Race handicappers believe that every fifth of a second in time difference equals one length in distance difference.
  • Using that equivalence, Mystik Dan and the two horses that were right there at the wire with him would have finished 20 lengths behind Secretariat.

Moving on …  As the baseball season settles in, I noticed a report on a new dining option named “The Renegade” offered by the Pirates at PNC Park.  Here is the description:

  • A foot-long hot dog topped with 8 pierogies, pot roast, onions and pickles.

That sounds like dinner for two not a snack to munch on as you watch a game, but with just a bit of searching thanks to Google, one can encounter some other outrageous ballpark offerings:

  • Arizona D-Backs:  They too start with a foot-long hot dog and top it with smoked bacon, ranch beans mustard, mayo and pico de gallo.  This one is called the “XL Sonoran Hot Dog”.
  • Atlanta Braves:  Order up a “Fielder’s Catch” and you will come to appreciate the expression that nothing exceeds like excess.  Take a deep breath and contemplate two lobster tails, three fried oysters on a hard roll topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and peach remoulade.  As if that were not enough, it comes with sweet potato fries on the side.
  • Colorado Rockies:  They serve up a 20-ounce piece of beef still on the rib bone.  It comes with bread and a side salad.  They call it the “Dino Rib” and I am trying to figure out how one might eat this while watching a game on the field.  Surely, they don’t expect you to slice that beef with a plastic knife…
  • Detroit Tigers:  They have taken pierogies in a different direction with their “Grilled Cheese Slider”.  This menu item consists of a pierogi on a slider roll with sauerkraut, cheese sauce and a slice of melted Velveeta cheese.
  • NY Mets:  Start with a half-pound burger and top it with lobster salad, lobster/cheese fondue and put all of that on a fennel brioche bun.  The interesting thing here is the name of this concoction; they call it the “Championship Burger” which seems out of place at a Mets’ game, no?

Just scanning those six culinary items makes me want to grab a Rolaid …

Switching gears …  In an interview proximal to the NFL Draft, Roger Goodell said that he thought it would be a good idea to add an 18th game to the regular season and cancel out one of the Exhibition Games that lead up to the season.  The reason that is a “good idea” is that it would increase revenue by adding another week or so of real games to the media packages; in fact, played properly it might add two weeks.

  • Start the season on Labor Day Weekend not the next weekend.
  • Add in a second bye week for each team to ameliorate – not eliminate – wear and tear on players’ bodies
  • Move the Super Bowl back to the third Sunday in February.

Hear me out.  If the NFL does not want to “infringe on Labor Day” for some reason, then that “added week” could be made up by eliminating the two-week gap between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl.  The loser in that decision is the newly minted flag-football game.  Ho hum…

AND by pushing the Super Bowl back a week, the NFL gives its fans something that many of the fans have wanted – – a day off after the Super Bowl to accommodate food and drink excesses at parties on Super Bowl Sunday.  The third Monday in February is already a Federal Holiday and that would give lots of fans what they want – – at no cost to the league.

Finally, since I mentioned baseball food offerings above that could be categorized as “gluttonous”, let me close with this remark by author, Peter De Vries:

“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.”

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