Signs Of the Apocalypse…?

Not too long ago, I mentioned rumors that the NFL was “thinking about” moving Super Bowl Media Day to primetime. Well, that was more than just a rumor; that was inside info. Yesterday, the NFL made this announcement:

“We are excited to enhance an annual event and provide a unique experience for more fans in both the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide, while continuing to provide access to the Super Bowl teams for media from around the world. By elevating the event to prime time, fans across the country can experience even more of the excitement of Super Bowl leading up to the game.”

I wish to make the following declarative statement in response to this announcement:

    I never watched Media Day when it was on when the sun was in the sky. I shall not watch Media Day with the moon in the sky. Anyone who spends money to sit in the stands and watch that nonsense should be committed.

Executives in companies often make monumental blunders. I would hope this is a blunder for the NFL similar in magnitude to the blunders that produced:

    The Edsel
    New Coke

While those two blunders have to be at or near the top of any such list, I suggest that there is an executive somewhere in the advertising department of Doctor’s Associates Inc. who has seriously blundered or has had a couple of decisions run into a storm of bad luck. Doctor’s Associates Inc. owns and operates Subway restaurants. Consider two of the spokespersons for that chain of restaurants:

    Jared Fogle – now plea bargaining charges of kiddie porn
    RG3 – well, the drama never stops with him

Since the company is “Doctor’s Associates” maybe they can come up with a cutesy ad campaign using a “reincarnated” Doctor Mengele. That would complete the trifecta for them…

Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot. I am in complete accord with his thinking here:

Quick hit: As we get closer to another NFL season, the same rules apply: I’m still not interested in your fantasy football team.

I am interested, however in the results of a study done by the consulting firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas which estimate that the cost to US employers of Fantasy Football will be $16B this year. That figure comes from estimates of time spent during the work day by employees tending to their teams or communicating with others about their teams in place of doing productive work. While that sounds like a lot of money to me, the conclusion of the study is that employers ought not to “crack down” here because, in reality, this amounts only to the loss of about 1 hour per week per employee. John Challenger, the CEO of the firm doing this study, explained it this way:

“We need distractions during the day, whether it’s checking Facebook, scanning Twitter, buying something at, or managing one’s fantasy football team. It may seem counter-intuitive, but those short periods of being unproductive help workers be more productive in the long run. They also help boost morale, lower turnover and keep our creative juices flowing.”

I think this kind of situation creates a new cottage industry. Since I do not engage in Fantasy Football, that means that I do not devote one hour of my workweek to this sort of on-the-job-downtime. I ought to be able to monetize that by selling my unused “fantasy hour” to someone else who plays Fantasy Football and thinks he/she needs another hour during the week in order to make the playoffs this year. Let the bidding for my “downtime hour” begin…

By the way, if this idea ever catches hold, I might actually become interested in your fantasy football team.

Draft Kings – one of those websites that offers daily/weekly fantasy leagues – has just signed a partnership agreement with the Dallas Cowboys. The agreement will give the company a branded fantasy sports lounge inside AT&T stadium and “access to Cowboys’ fans as part of the team’s digital, TV and radio networks”. In part, that translates into Draft Kings being able to offer its customers things like tickets to Cowboys’ games and VIP events in that fantasy sports lounge.

Forbes estimates that 56 million people play fantasy sports and that the fantasy football portion of the market here was worth about $70B in 2013. I mention those numbers to show that if the revenue stream is big enough the NFL and its teams are willing and eager to wade in that stream – even though the deals they set up are deals with companies that facilitate gambling on the NFL product. Please do not forget this the next time you hear Roger Goodell whine on about the “integrity of the game”.

The Gay Softball World Series will happen for the first time next year in Austin Texas. The organizers expect about 5000 folks to attend the event and Austin is happy to host them. I wonder:

    Must one be gay to participate in the Gay Softball World Series? That would not seem to be very inclusive if it were the case.

    If one has to be gay to participate, what is the test that confers eligibility on a player?

    If one need not be gay to participate, then what makes this the Gay softball World Series?

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this to say about the break-up between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals:

“Sad story: The Harlem Globetrotters are disbanding their stooge team, the Washington Generals. Those guys really aren’t qualified for any other occupation, except playing for the Sacramento Kings. With the breakup of the Washington Generals, Colin Powell and David Petraeus are free agents.”

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

A Stadium In Need Of Replacement…

I do not advocate spending taxpayer money on stadiums/arenas for sports teams or sporting events like the Olympics. Having said that, The Coliseum in Oakland makes a cogent case for the need for a new stadium there. That facility famously backed up raw sewage into the locker rooms more than once; last night part of the left field wall fell down after an outfielder bumped into it tracking down a base hit. The game was delayed while a grounds crew went onto the field and reassembled the left field wall.

Folks, this facility is not the home of some bottom-feeding minor league team; the game last night that was delayed while people reassembled the freaking wall was a game between the Oakland A’s and the LA Angels. As a point of reference, the Oakland Raiders will also play 8 games in this venue over the next 4 months. This facility is an embarrassment to Oakland – not an easy status to accomplish – and it needs either serious renovation or replacement. Or, the alternative would be for both of those teams to go somewhere else.

The Oakland Coliseum – currently called the Coliseum – is not in significantly better condition than the Roman Coliseum.

While on the subject of baseball, it certainly appears that the Chicago Cubs are poised to shed their ”identity” as lovable losers over the next couple of years. The Cubs are playoff bound this year barring a catastrophic collapse and they are a team of young players who project to improve in the near future. The only quibble you might have with that last statement is that their starting rotation is not full of young pitchers. However, I would counter that Dan Harren at age 34 is the only “old-timer” in the group; the starters may not be “Young Turks”, but they are not “geezers” either.

A small part of the improvement for the Cubbies comes from a trade made by Cubs’ GM, Theo Epstein at the trade deadline last year. He sent starter Jeff Samardija to the A’s along with starter Jason Hammel to acquire Addison Russell and two other prospects. Hammel turned out to be a “rental” for the A’s because he went back to the Cubs as a free agent over the winter. Russell has been a fixture at second base for the Cubs at age 21 while the A’s gleaned three players who have been OK for them this year in exchange for Samardija over the winter. In all of that shuffling, Addison Russell looks to be most valuable asset.

Oh, and by the way, acquiring Joe Maddon over the winter to run the club on the field was another good move by Epstein. Maddon has shown in the past that he can get a young team to believe that they can win now and not necessarily have to wait for the future to arrive. He seems to be doing just that with the Cubs again this year.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this item in a recent column:

“DEBATABLE: I don’t know what to think about the calls – often from big-league players – for protective netting down the first- and third-base lines. Is MLB leaving its fans at too great a risk from laser-like foul balls, inviting serious injury or worse? Or are people overreacting to rare, but publicized incidents? Would extending the netting detract from the fan experience? Maybe. But some of the most coveted seats are behind the home plate screen. An alternative: Big-league clubs could make every game ‘Fan Batting Helmet Night.’”

This is another debate where there seems to be little likelihood of changing the minds of the partisans on either side of the argument. The problem with the “debate” here is that the incidents are indeed rare but at the same time some of the incidents are extremely severe. It is sort of like flying on an airplane. They do not crash very often – but when they do the results are horrible and the crash is covered 24/7 on CNN for at least a week to assure that the maximum number of people are exposed to the possibility of this rare but horrific circumstance.

I would like to suggest however an underlying problem in baseball parks that can only serve to make these rare occurrences slightly more commonplace. If you go to a ballpark these days – or if you look past the players on the field to watch some of the fans in the seats when you watch a game on TV – you will see a significant fraction of the fans sitting in those “vulnerable seats” who are not paying even the slightest bit of attention to the game. At any given time, there are hundreds of fans who are intently focused on their telephones or their tablets. Here is something that is not debatable:

    If a fan is not looking at the game when a foul ball or a broken bat heads in his/her direction, that fan is significantly less likely to be able to get out of the way of the flying object heading his/her way.

This is not intended to be a diatribe about how cellphones have ruined society. This is an observation that some people can be so focused on checking their e-mail and texting and posting photos on social media that they are virtually oblivious to things going on around them. Moreover, if they go into the state of oblivion at a baseball game, they increase their risk of injury from things headed into the stands. Netting down the first and third base lines will cut down the number of flying objects that make it to the stands but it will only serve to make the intersection of a line drive and the skull of a fan more rare; it will not make such an intersection less severe.

A more effective solution would be to jam the signals of all cell phones and tablets inside the stadium so that people cannot bury their faces into a small screen to chat with their friends who did not care enough about this game to join that fan in attendance. The chances of that happening are about as likely as professional synchronized swimming becoming America’s #1 sport.

Finally, here is an observation by Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“I’m having withdrawal with the Little League World Series coming to an end. When does ESPN televise the T-Ball World Series?”

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