Wagering On This Year’s Super Bowl Game

Since Friday September 4,2015 – ignoring those Fridays when I was traveling – it has been the order of the day to write some form of Mythical Picks. Not today. This is the weekend of the Pro Bowl and I would just as soon wager on turtle racing as compared to the Pro Bowl. I will not watch the game for any longer than the time it might take to go grazing through the channels while it is on. Moreover, I seriously think that anyone who bets on the outcome of the Pro Bowl is someone who needs to find treatment for a gambling addiction.

There will be Mythical Picks next Friday before the Super Bowl game and there will be wagers galore made on that game all over the country and the world. In fact, there is an estimate out there from the AGA that the total amount of money that will be bet in the US alone on the Super Bowl this year will be $4.2B. The American Gaming Association (AGA) is a trade association to promote gaming and to lobby for legislation and regulations that favor gaming. I say that to acknowledge that the AGA could have a motive behind any of its pronouncements.

Nonetheless, their $4.2B estimate of the wagering on Super Bowl 50 comes with some other numbers.

    The amount of money this year wagered legally will be in line with the amount of money wagered legally last year on the Super Bowl. That number will be on the order of $115M.

    The amount of money that will be wagered “extra-legally” will be about $4.1B.

    More than 95% of the money estimated to be “on the line” for this year’s Super Bowl will be done illegally.

Here is a statement from the CEO of the AGA:

“Just like football, sports betting has never been more popular than it is today. The casino gaming industry is leading the conversation around a new approach to sports betting that enhances consumer protections, strengthens the integrity of games and recognizes fans’ desire for greater engagement with sports.”

That is the politically correct way of saying that the AGA would love to have Federal legislation that would make more of that “illegal action” come their way in a Federally sanctioned way. I am a consistent proponent of legalizing and regulating sports betting; I do not try to hide that. I think the AGA has two significant points here that they will probably not make because it would be politically incorrect to do so.

    First, the laws on the books to forbid sports betting are a sham. If their estimate of $4.1B being wagered “illegally” is even close to correct, then you have only two conclusions to draw:

      Either it is too easy to skirt the laws on the books – or –

      The law enforcers are not competent enough to enforce those laws.

    I suspect most folks would choose the first of these alternatives over the second.

    Second, if $4.1B is on the line, there is a lot of potentially taxable revenue involved there which is slipping through the taxable income filters in times when most government entities could use some extra revenues.

For more information about how the AGA came up with these estimates, here is a link.

Whenever legalized sports betting comes up, the people who put on the games raise the bugaboo of game-fixing and point-shaving. They never seem to address the possibility that those things are ongoing under their noses currently in the absence of legalized sports betting. I do not want to get too deep into epistemology here but when they climb onto their high horses this is what I wish someone would press them on:

    Do you know that “the integrity of the game” as it stands today is absolute because if it is not absolute than it is not “integrity”?

    When they hem and haw about that and try to tell you that the integrity of the game is beyond reproach, then ask them how they know that to be the case?

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment relative to recent suggestions and investigations of match-fixing in the world of tennis:

“There are allegations of match-fixing in professional tennis. The new Wimbledon executive director, Vince McMahon, vehemently denied the charges.”

I cite that observation here for two reasons. First I think it is very clever. Second, “vehement denials” with regard to the existence of match-fixing/point-shaving are not evidence that it is not ongoing.

Finally, let me close here with one more observation from Brad Dickson:

“Fifteen-year-old Romanian basketball sensation Robert Bobroczky stands 7-foot-6 and weighs 184 pounds. He was unable to turn pro after he blew away the night before the draft.”

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

Money … Money … Money …

Everything associated with the Super Bowl comes with a huge price tag – or a huge revenue stream depending on whether you are the buyer or the seller in the transaction. Folks who wish to place an advertisement on the Super Bowl game itself will pay an average of $4.8M for a 30-second spot during the action this year. It was not always exactly that way; here is a summary of how the costs associated with Super Bowl advertising have grown:

    Average Cost for 30 seconds in Super Bowl 1: $40K
    Average Cost for 30 seconds in Super Bowl 50: $4.8M

    1973: First year average cost for 30 seconds reached $100K
    1985: First year average cost for 30 seconds reached $500K
    1995: First year average cost for 30 seconds reached $1M
    2000: First year average cost for 30 seconds reached $2M
    2009: First year average cost for 30 seconds reached $3M
    2013: First year average cost for 30 seconds reached $4M

      [Note: In 2015 – just 2 years since the cost climbed past $4M per 30 seconds – the average cost is poised to rise to more than $5M very soon.]

Those numbers and trends should lead you to conclude that the total revenues taken in by the networks who televise the Super Bowl games has been a significant amount of money; and you would be right is drawing that conclusion. Ad Age estimates that the total amount of money spent by advertisers on Super Bowl game ads since the start is in the range of $4.8B. This year’s revenue alone is estimated at $377M and if that is the income from the game it would be more advertising revenue than the Super Bowl games generated in all of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s combined.

As you watch the ads a week and a half from now, realize that each advertiser is spending – on average – $3.02 to get their message across to every viewer. I will be attending a Super Bowl watching event with a relatively standard roster of attendance; there will likely be 16 of us watching – or pretending to watch – the game. That means that every time an advertisement comes on, the sponsor is spending almost $50 to pitch us in that one room with regard to the virtues of his/her product. I do not know about the environment where you watch the Super Bowl, but I really think that is $50 flushed down an advertising commode…

If you want even more data on Super Bowl advertising and the history of same, here is a link.

All of us who watch the game on TV are going to pay for all that advertising in the form of prices for whatever products we buy that may have been sponsors for a portion of the game. There are immutable laws of physics; there is also an immutable law of marketing:

    The consumer pays all of the costs of getting the product to the marketplace plus a percentage of that cost that will serve as “profit” for the producer.

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald recently that seems appropriate at this point because it has to do with the number of potential viewers of the Super Bowl game on TV:

“WQAM-560 may go after and pay big for Dolphins radio rights, unaware that most folks nowadays own televisions.”

However, the viewers are not the only folks who will wind up paying a price for goods/services associated with the Super Bowl. Think about the fans who just have to find a way to go to the game and see it for themselves. In terms of a drain on their total assets, they would almost certainly be better off being robbed at gunpoint for everything they have in their pockets. Consider some of this information:

    Hotels in San Francisco – where all of the social events prior to the game itself will happen – will charge room rates 98% higher than normal for next weekend.

Yes, other cities have experienced hotel room rate increases for Super Bowl weekend but nothing near these levels:

    Phoenix (2015): Room rates up 34%
    New Jersey (2014): Room rates up 18%
    New Orleans (2013): Room rates up 15%

Now, if you think that the increases in hotel room rates are outrageous, consider the package deals offered to fans in Carolina and/or Denver who just have to go and personally see their heroes play in this game:

    $180 per person: Ticket to the team’s tailgate party for 3 hours featuring wine, beer and food plus a few former players mingling in the crowd who might or might not be willing to sign an autograph. That’s it; to see the game, you need to get yourself to a TV set somewhere…

    $6175 per person from Charlotte ($5855 per person from Denver): This gets you to the team tailgate party above plus a ticket to the game plus round trip airfare (coach) from wherever you happen to live.

    $5800 – 6100 per person: Three- night package (land only, you provide the airfare or other transit costs to and from SF) including three nights at a hotel, the tailgate party and a ticket to the game.

      If you live in Charlotte and want the three-night package plus airfare to and from the game, add $1200

      If you live in Denver and want the three-night package plus airfare to and from the game add $900.

    All of the “tickets to the game” cited above are basically “nosebleed seats”; these are the cheap seats for the game. If you want to upgrade your tickets to the game, here are the add-on costs per person:

      Upgrade to “Upper Level Premium” adds $750
      Upgrade to “Lower Level End Zone” adds $1000
      Upgrade to “Lower Level Sideline” adds $2000
      Upgrade to “Club Level Sideline” adds $3000
      Upgrade to “Club Level Premium” adds $4000.

As noted above, I will be joining friends for a traditional game-watching experience. How about you?

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock’s column, Rock On, in the Deseret News:

“Conan O’Brien on a report claiming New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spent over $82,000 on food at NFL games: ‘Hey, both of those games went into overtime.’ ”

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

The “Blake Griffin Incident”

The hot topic of conversation for most of yesterday was the “Blake Griffin Incident”. Up until late yesterday, what we knew was that Griffin and an equipment manager for the Clippers – turns out he is the assistant equipment manager – got into an “altercation” at a restaurant in Toronto. That altercation – more commonly known as a fistfight – caused the equipment manager to have facial injuries and caused Griffin to break a bone in his hand – presumably from punching the other guy. For quite a while, that was all we knew; for quite a while, that did not stop folks on sports radio and TV from dissecting the situation despite the meager understanding they had.

What we now know is not all that much more. The assistant equipment manager is named Matias Testi; he and Griffin have been friends and have taken vacations together; the situation began in a restaurant where the two men “traded insults” leading to physical action; Testi left the restaurant and Griffin followed him and hit him again outside the restaurant. Griffin underwent surgery for a spiral fracture to a bone in his hand and will be out 4-6 weeks. Basically, we do not know a whole lot more now than we did yesterday.

The Clippers have issued a statement – no surprise there – saying that this is regrettable and that this sort of thing should never happen and etc. Griffin also issued a statement – no surprise there – saying that he regrets “the way I handled myself towards someone I care about’ and that he is sorry to have created a distraction.

Recall that earlier this season Josh Smith got into a “heated altercation” with one of the Clippers’ assistant coaches. Now, the Clippers get to deal with this hot mess. So here is the question:

    Is that the kind of organization that Steve Ballmer expected to have when he paid $2B to acquire it?

Elsewhere in the NBA, the Cavaliers fired coach David Blatt and replaced him with Tyronn Lue. When Blatt got his pink slip, the Cavaliers had the best record in the Eastern Conference (30-11) and his record over a season-and-a-half was a not-shabby-at-all 83-40. By the way, his team was 14-6 in the playoffs last year without Kyrie Irving for all of those games and without Kevin Love for many of them. I guess the thinking here is that a coach with that much talent on his team ought to win at least 2 out of every 3 games which is what Blatt’s Cavaliers did.

According to various NBA insiders, Blatt did not have Lebron James’ respect and that there was unrest in other parts of the Cavaliers’ locker room. If those reports are true, it would seem to contradict the old sports adage:

    Winning cures everything.

Tyronn Lue says that he will hold Lebron James “accountable” for his actions the same as he will for everyone else on the team. James says that he will have to exert leadership to get the Cavaliers to be as good as James knows they can be. In the aftermath of a coaching change, that is pretty standard stuff. However, my guess is that there is a reality underneath the early choruses of Cumbaya:

    Lebron James is going to continue to play the way he has played all of his career and so long as the coaching from the bench comes in the tone of “suggesting” all will be fine. If Tyronn Lue thinks that he is going to change the way Lebron James plays basketball, he will be one of the shortest tenured coaches in NBA history.

    I find James’ statements about “leadership” very interesting because it certainly seems to someone on the outside looking in that common denominator for his actions is to fail to get along with any of his coaches.

The MLB free agent season is drawing to a close; pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training in about 3 weeks; most of the big-name free agents have determined where they will ply their trade next year. Nevertheless, there are still 2 free agent pitchers that have not found a home; neither would cost a team a huge annual salary nor would either demand a long-term deal. Both had disappointing-at-best seasons in 2015 but one need not have an elephant’s memory to recall a time when they were both dominant pitchers.

    Doug Fister: In 2014, his ERA was 2.41and he had a strikeout to walks ratio of 4.1. Last year, his ERA ballooned to 4.19 – the highest of his career – and his strikeout to walks ratio dropped to 2.6. He lost his starting job with the Nats in mid-season. Fister will be 32 years old next week. I cannot believe that every team in MLB who thinks they just might have a chance to “do something special” next year has 5 starting pitchers on the roster who are so solidly entrenched that Doug Fister would be an unreasonable luxury to have around.

    Tim Lincecum: In 2015, his season was cut short with hip surgery; obviously, any team interested in signing him would need a clean bill of health from their medical mavens. Lincecum has been an innings-eater for all of his career from 2008 to 2013, he started 32 or more games in each season. His career ERA is 3.61 and he will turn 32 next June. In his younger years, he was a power pitcher; now he will likely need to “reinvent himself” on the mound. Like Doug Fister, I am surprised that no team has found room for him on their Spring Training roster.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News indicating that Phillies’ fans are getting themselves ready for the start of the baseball season in the City of Brotherly Love:

“National newscasters, in Philadelphia to cover Winter Storm Jonas, were pelted with snowballs.

“Residents say it was a nice change of pace from throwing beer cups and water bottles at the Phillies’ games.”

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

Clipboard Items Today…

I am going to hop around from item to item today in an effort to clear some stuff off my clipboard. I will begin with something pointed out to me by a friend and a long-term reader of these rants. One may point one’s Internet browser to walmart.com and order a casket. Oh, but it would not be just any ordinary run-of-the-mill casket. You can order one tricked out with the logo of the deceased’s favorite MLB team; if you follow this link, you will see the casket that might be the final resting place of a NY Yankees’ fan.

If you spend just a moment gazing at that page, you will see that Walmart will also ship other sorts of themed caskets and even cremation urns. I have never shopped for caskets or urns but I have to say that until the moment I saw what is on the end of that link above, I never would have thought of Walmart as a potential purveyor. I am not shocked to learn that MLB would license its logo and its teams’ logos to a casket manufacturer; after all, that is the last opportunity they will have to generate any revenue from the fan who will inhabit the product.

Since the subject of the moment is baseball, let me turn to another baseball item on my clipboard. The Toronto Blue Jays and third baseman, Josh Donaldson, are headed to arbitration as of this morning. Understand, in the world of baseball arbitration, the arbitrator cannot “split the difference”; he/she must pick one of the two numbers on the table. Often – actually I would say usually – the “team offer” and the “player asking price” are pretty far apart and the degree of separation of the two figures tends to drive the sides to an 11th hour settlement at a middle ground figure because each side recognizes that they have a lot to lose in the arbitration hearing.

Not so much in Josh Donaldson’s case. If reports are accurate, the Blue Jays have offered Donaldson a one-year deal worth $11.35M. Last year, Donaldson made just over $3M so this is a hefty raise after an outstanding season. Donaldson’s asking price is $11.8M; the difference between the two numbers is “only” $450K. I say “only” because I would love to see that amount of money show up tomorrow in my checking account; it is not a trivial amount for us ordinary folk. Nonetheless, from the Blue Jays perspective, the difference here is less than 4% more than what they offered in the first place.

The arbitration process is adversarial. The team puts itself in the position of explaining to the arbitrator why the player is not worth as much as he is asking. It is hard to imagine how that sort of proceeding leads to extended goodwill between the player and the team – and after all, the contract in question is only a one-year deal. I wish I understood what the dynamic was here that prevents either side from agreeing to a “split-the-difference” agreement at $11.575M.

I was watching the NFL Conference Championship Games this weekend with some neighbors and one asked me if I thought RG3 would be signed by another NFL team. I said I was sure he would get a shot somewhere but I did not know where. My neighbor said that it was a shame how much the Skins gave up to draft RG3 because it hurt the team. Well, that is what happens when you make a trade; usually one side of the trade makes out much better than the other side and it is often difficult to make that assessment at the time the deal is under negotiation. However, that comment got me thinking about the draft in 2012 – the year RG3 entered the NFL. At the top of that draft, there were some hits and some big misses:

    #1 Andrew Luck: He will be very good for a long time.
    #2 RG3: He had one really good year and then nothing more.
    #3 Trent Richardson: He was awful; his next stop might be the Arena League.
    #4 Matt Kalil: Very good offensive lineman
    #5 Justin Blackmon: Two drug suspensions, now under indefinite suspension.
    #6 Morris Claiborne: Underwhelming for a pick this high
    #7 Mark Barron: Traded for a 4th round and a 6th round pick.
    #8 Ryan Tannehill: Jury is still out.
    #9 Luke Kuechly: A certified star
    #10 Stephon Gilmore: Solid CB for the Bills.

Just in case you needed a reminder that the NFL Draft – or the draft in any other professional sport for that matter – is an art and not a science, just look at the career arcs for what teams thought were the ten most valuable players in the draft in that year.

Here is an item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Hoops du jour: You’re probably on to something if you get the sense that there aren’t any really good men’s college basketball teams this season. Even the highly ranked ones are having trouble winning on the road. Now that the secret is getting out, I fully expect the game’s mouthpieces to peddle the line about ‘parity,’ the time-honored euphemism to explain mediocrity.”

I agree that there are no great teams out there this year; I would not ascribe the situation to “parity”; I would prefer to think that no coach was able to recruit and retain a roster that is good enough to dominate its opponents. Maybe the incoming freshman class this year is not a great crop of players; that happens from time to time. The reason(s) for the lack of a great team remain a mystery to me.

The question in my mind is what this lack of dominant teams does to the upcoming men’s basketball tournament. There are probably a dozen teams who might actually put together a six-game winning streak and win it all. That is far more than one might anticipate in a more typical college basketball season. Does the increase in serious contenders make the tournament more interesting/exciting than usual or not?

My preference is for there to be a few dominant teams separated geographically to the extent that they never play one another until they meet in the tournament. In those situations, I like to follow the progress of those teams throughout the final weeks of February and in early March to try to figure out which one might prevail if they play each other in the tournament. I doubt that sort of situation will obtain this year and so I will have to “spread my interest” over a wider field of candidates this year. It is not my preference, but I am sure it will turn out to be entertaining.

Finally, in this year’s Super Bowl game, the Panthers’ coach will be Ron Rivera; he got the job when he was hired to replace John Fox in Carolina. The Broncos’ coach will be Gary Kubiak; he got the job when he was hired to replace John Fox in Denver. John Fox is now the coach of the Chicago Bears. Might a coaching change there be the Bears’ path to a Super Bowl?

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

Super Bowl Business Matters…

The participants in Super Bowl 50 are set; the oddsmakers in Vegas opened the betting line with the Panthers as a 4.5-point favorite over the Broncos. And with that, I have given you the salient information pertaining to the next and final NFL game other than injuries that occur over the next two weeks. I point that out because today marks the start of the Football Silliness Season; there are two weeks of time and space to fill and only one game to talk about – because no one wants to talk about the Pro Bowl. Think about it this way:

    In the regular season, there are 12-16 games spread one week apart.

    In the playoffs there are 2 or 4 games spread one week apart.

    Now we have 1 game with 2 weeks of time and space to fill.

Sadly, that time and space will be filled with minutiae – because there will be nothing else available. I will attempt to avoid any commentary on the Super Bowl game – other than about the business aspects of it – until I do the final Mythical Picks for this NFL season in 11 days. Would that other outlets would try to do the same…

Here is are two “business items” related to the upcoming Super Bowl game in Santa Clara. The first one comes from a note in Dwight Perry’s Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times:

“From the You Just Can’t Make Up Stuff Like This file comes word that the NFL — you know, the league with the $44 million-a-year commissioner — is seeking 500 unpaid volunteers to help assemble the stage for the Super Bowl halftime show.”

Over and above the “$44 million-a-year commissioner”, the NFL is a business entity that has $11-12B in annual revenue whose goal is to have annual revenue in the $25B range in the next 10 years. There is no scenario in this universe wherein the NFL can “cry poor” in 2016. And they are asking for unpaid volunteers… Let that one wash over you for just a moment.

Here is the really sad part; the NFL is going to get those volunteers; they are going to get hundreds of people to show up and do work for them without shelling out a dime. Let me do a little math here.

    It might take those 500 folks a total of 3 days – I cannot imagine it would take more but I will cover that possibility later on.

    Let us assume that the 500 folks put in 10 hours each day to assemble the stage.

    That means there are 15,000 person-hours involved here.

    At $10 per hour, the NFL would incur a labor cost of $150K

    Assume the NFL provides a nice catered lunch for the 3 days and you can increase the cost to the league by $50K.

As a benchmark, three days of labor to put the stage together would cost the league about $200K. For a $12B business entity, this cost does not make it past the rounding error on the annual Earnings Statement. And by the way, if you doubled the costs here because the stage assembly takes a whole lot more time than I guessed, you still would not make it to the rounding error status…

The NFL is audacious asking for this free labor; the volunteers who give them that free labor are enablers who encourage the NFL to be as anti-social as they are.

Here is another business-related aspect related to the Super Bowl from the Silicon Valley Business Journal:

“A budget analyst report shows that the City of San Francisco will pay $4.8 million to host the celebration the week leading up to Super Bowl 50, while Santa Clara will see all of its hosting costs covered by the NFL’s Host Committee.”

For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of the Bay Area, the game will happen in Santa Clara where the Niners’ new stadium is. Santa Clara is about 50 miles SSE of San Francisco. The majority of the “events” related to the Super Bowl over the next two weeks will take place in San Francisco. According to reports, Santa Clara will have its costs for public safety, fire and emergency medical services reimbursed while SF will foot its own bills.

The only conclusion I can draw here is this:

    The folks who represented Santa Clara in their negotiations with the NFL were a lot more skilled than the folks who represented San Francisco.

Here is a link to an article that will give you all the gory details in these deals.

Finally, the Super Bowl halftime show will feature a group called Coldplay whom I would not know from Hotwork. Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald about another rock group performing at a different sporting event.

“Duran Duran will perform at the tennis Miami Open on Key Biscayne. Which would be exciting if this were, like, the 1985 Miami Open.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 1/24/16

These picks will need to be brief. I am preparing for the Snowmageddon heading toward the Washington DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area. For those who live in more northerly climes, a foot of snow here is a paralyzing event; it could take three days to dig out from it. The forecast for this snow event is for two feet – or more in some spots. This is not a “hunker down event”; this is a “hibernation event”.

Last week’s Mythical Picks were blah. The record was 2-2-0 meaning that the season record now stands at 130-121-5. There were no Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games so that record remains at 17-17-1.

The “Best Pick” last week taking the Patriots minus 4.5 points and watching the Chiefs dawdle at the end in their attempt to catch up. They did not.

The “Worst Pick” of the week was taking Green Bay/Arizona to go OVER 49.5 points. Even with a TD in overtime, the game stayed UNDER.

Undaunted, I shall move ahead to the game for this week. Obviously, no one should consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game this weekend in the event that the real wager involves real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:

    You probably think that former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, left that post to become the CEO at Starbucks.

General Comments:

The big NFL news from last week is that the Rams will move to LA perhaps to be joined there by the Chargers leaving the Raiders in a dilapidated stadium in a downscale location for the moment. There is much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in St. Louis and in parts of the State of Missouri over this move. As a fan of the NFL who has no particular affection for or animus toward the Rams as a franchise, I think there is an ironic twist to all of this.

How did St. Louis and Missouri attract the Rams? They offered the owner of the team a brand new stadium with lots of new amenities where she (Georgia Frontiere owned the Rams at the time.) could make more money than she could playing in an outdated stadium in LA. Fast forward to 2016 and the situation is almost exactly reversed except in this case the current Rams owner will build the new modern stadium as part of a much larger development effort he has underway in LA and he will make more money by moving the team than by staying put. Plus ça change; plus ça même chose…

This should be a cautionary tale for cities and states who borrow large amounts of money against future tax receipts to build stadiums for billionaire team owners. In the case of St. Louis, the city – and probably to some extent the State too – is now on the hook to continue to pay the interest and eventually to return the principle on the municipal bonds floated to build the stadium in St. Louis. There will, however be significantly diminished revenue from that stadium leaving the officials there two less-than-wonderful choices:

    They can default on the bonds leaving the bondholders in the lurch but that will affect their credit rating in a negative way meaning that future borrowings will come at higher interest rates.

    They can make the interest payments and the return of principle out of taxpayer funds in the “General Treasury” – or whatever they call it in that part of the country. That means those dollars will not be available for other things that might be important to the community at large because there is a fundamental principle at work here:

      In science, we talk about the Law of Conservation of Matter. In most everyday processes, matter is neither created nor destroyed; it takes a hydrogen bomb to destroy a bit of matter to turn it into a lot of energy.

      In economics, there must be a name for the law that says you cannot spend the same dollar twice. In the situation at hand, if the city spends tax revenue on bond interest, those are dollars than cannot be spent on schools or road or …

There was plenty of commentary last week about Blair Walsh – the Vikes’ kicker who missed that chip-shot field goal at the end of the game allowing the Seahawks to advance to the next round. Here are two of the better comments on that event:

“Blair Walsh gets all the blame for shanking that 27-yard field-goal attempt, costing the Vikings a playoff win. But what about the holder, who failed to spin the laces away from Walsh? ‘It’s not easy being a placekick holder. A lot of odd and crazy things can happen in the heat of the moment,’ said former kick-holder Lucy van Pelt.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]


“The Minnesota Vikings lost their playoff game when their kicker missed a 27-yard field goal. The kicker is now in an undisclosed location, waiting to meet with Sean Penn.” [Jimmy Fallon, the Tonight Show]

I enjoyed the way Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts did the Patriots/Chiefs game. There were no histrionics; there was pointed commentary when they chose to mention a missed call by the game officials; in the argot of the day, they let the game come to them. Would that more announcing teams would do the same.

Tom Brady was 28-42 in the game for 302 yards and 2 TDs. Of those 28 completions, 17 were made by Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Perhaps that is a measure of the degree to which the Pats’ offense is diminished when either or both of those two players is sidelined. Speaking of Gronkowski, there reports that he had a back injury during the week and that he had to have his knee drained or shot up or whatever. He was “questionable” for the game. Looking at the way he played and ran around and hit people last weekend, I am left with only two possibilities:

    That shot he took in the knee was some kind of powerful – or –

    He somehow slipped off undetected on a trip to Lourdes the night before the game and got back just in time to dress for the game.

The stats from this game demonstrate two things:

    The Pats’ defense was the essence of “bend but don’t break”. The Chiefs ran off 83 offensive plays in the game and 51 of those plays (61%) were in Patriots’ territory; nonetheless, the Pats only gave up 2 TDs and the last one was in the final 2 minutes of the game.

    The Pats offense was extremely efficient too. They ran 56 plays for 340 yards (more than 6 yards on average per offensive snap). Part of that offensive efficiency comes from the way the OL played. The Chiefs averaged 2.9 sacks per game this year; last week they recorded exactly zero sacks.

The game was also very clean; the first penalty flag appeared at 11:36 of the second quarter (that penalty was declined) and for both teams there was a total of 11 penalties for 64 yards. The Buffalo Bills call 11 penalties for 64 yards an excellent game.

With regard to the Packers/Cardinals game, what was the more improbable occurrence:

    A. The tipped pass to Michael Floyd that gave the Cards a TD – or –

    B. Aaron Rodgers second Hail Mary completion for a TD this season?

    You make the call…

The Cardinals won this game in spite of Carson Palmer and not because of him. One of his two TD passes was a tipped pass that could just as easily have been a Pick Six going the other way and the threw 2 INTs in the game. Palmer has had a great season; he should get some votes for MVP; nevertheless, this game was not nearly his finest hour.

There were more than a few “non-calls” on pass interference/illegal contact during the game. The calls were ignored for both teams so you can say that the officials were consistent in their calls – consistently incorrect that is. Then came the coin flip fiasco for overtime; you could probably use that footage as part of a Marx Brothers movie.

Two questions that came to mind from that game:

    Did Jeff Janis have a breakout game or was this his 15 minutes of fame? Janis is a former 7th round draft pick in 2014 who caught 2 passes this season and only 4 passes for his entire career. In this game he caught 7 passes for 145 yards and 2 TDs.

    What should I say to all of the folks who suggested that the Cards should dump Larry Fitzgerald at various times over the past 2 seasons? All he did this year was catch 109 passes in 16 regular season games and then catch 8 more for 176 yards and the winning TD here.

People often talk about “negative body clock games” for West Coast teams that have to fly to the East Coast and play a game starting at 1:00 PM. The players’ biological clocks are telling them it is only 10:00 AM and some players/teams do not adjust to that very well. Perhaps that is the explanation for the lethargic first half played by the Seahawks last week? In any event the Panthers ran away to a 31-0 halftime lead and then held on to win 31-24. People quickly pointed out that the Panthers had “blown” large early leads in other games this year – the Giants game being the prime example – and such observations as criticism. The critics seem to fail to realize a fundamental fact here:

    In order to “squander” or “blow” a 31-point lead, you have to play such that you are leading by 31 points at some point in the game. Bottom-feeders and even average teams probably never led by 31 points in a game so they never had the “opportunity” to squander one.

The difference in this game was pretty simple; the Panthers were able to run the ball and the Seahawks were not. The Panthers ran the ball 41 times out of 64 offensive plays and controlled the tempo and the clock. The Seahawks only ran the ball 12 times.

Given that this was a playoff game and that the Panthers had a pretty good inkling that they would be hosting a playoff game for a while now, that field was in pretty bad condition. The Panthers should not be proud of their showing in that dimension.

Prior to the game, Bob Molinaro had this observation about Cam Newton in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Seeing the field: More evidence this season of Cam Newton’s growing maturity as a quarterback: He has 24 TD passes and zero interceptions in the red zone.”

The Broncos/Steelers game was hard fought and defense-oriented from start to finish. The Broncos had the best defense in the NFL; it was no surprise that they showed up and played well. The Steelers’ defense had not been nearly so highly regarded this year so did they play a bad game or did the Broncos’ offense play poorly? I think it was the Steelers’ defense playing well that produced what we saw last week.

Third down was not kind to either team last week. The Broncos were 3 for 15 on third down conversions; that pretty much stinks and usually will cost a team a victory. However, the Steelers were even worse; they were 2 for 12 on third down conversions last week.

Concerning Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury, if Rob Gronkowski possibly visited Lourdes to make his miraculous recovery, then perhaps Roethlisberger got a shot of Pixie Dust from Tinker Bell in his shoulder. Here is what I saw in that game; he threw the ball long; he threw the ball hard; he was hit and sacked on his right shoulder and continued to throw the ball long and throw the ball hard. “Nuff said…

The fumble recovery by the Broncos that led to the winning TD drive happened with 9:52 left in the game. As important as the TD was, equally important was that the drive took 6:52 seconds. When the Steelers got the ball back there were only 3 minutes left to play in the game and the Steelers were down 2 scores.

I have one final “General Comment” regarding last week’s games and it relates to the CBS studio show that accompanies the CBS games:

    Am I the only one who – after a season of suspending judgment – thinks that CBS studio analyst Bart Scott is as useful as a toaster to a scuba diver? Maybe he is speaking in Klingon and my translator is not working. Other than that, CBS needs to find someone else to sit on the set and pontificate.

The Games:

(Sun. 3:00 PM EST) New England -3 at Denver (44.5): Here is an interesting fact I ran across earlier this week but I did not note where I found it so I cannot cite the source:

    The last time there was an AFC Championship Game that did not have either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in it was back in 2011.

Bill Belichick has lost more playoff games (9) in his coaching career than Gary Kubiak has coached in (5). Of course, Belichick has also won 23 playoff games over his coaching career. For me, this game breaks down easily; the Broncos have the better defense (about 65 yards per game better) and the Pats have the better offense (20 yards per game better and 7 points per game better). The thing is that the Pats’ defense may not be as good as the Broncos’ defense, but it is still awfully good. I think this is a defensive game; I like the game to stay UNDER.

(Sun. 6:45 PM EST) Arizona at Carolina – 3 (47.5): Both coaches bring .500 playoff records to this contest (Ron Rivera is 2-2; Bruce Arians is 1-1). Arizona is in its second NFC Championship Game; they won the last time they were here but that was a home game. Carolina has been in the NFC Championship Game 4 times but this is the first time they have been at home for one. Bottom line:

    I think Carolina is the better team so I like the Panthers to win and cover.

    In addition, both of these teams can score; in terms of points per game they rank #1 and #2 in the NFL this season. I like this game to go OVER.

Finally, here is an observation from last weekend by Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Mel Kiper’s first mock draft for ESPN has Dolphins selecting Clemson DE Shaq Lawson eighth overall. Mel will have 45 more mocks with 45 other guesses.”

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

NFL Coaching Changes – An Assessment

Now that it is official that the Eagles have hired Doug Pederson as their next head coach, the NFL game of Coaches Musical Chairs is over for the 2016 season – barring some unforeseen happening such as a video catching of one of the league’s head coaches in flagrante delicto with a chicken or a household pet. So, let me do a quick rundown of the seven teams that changed coaches here:

    Browns: Did the team pull the plug on Mike Pettine too soon? Possibly. Has Hue Jackson been a successful offensive coordinator in Cincy? Absolutely. More important for the Browns will be the effectiveness of baseball stats maven, Paul DePodesta as a decision maker in the Front Office.

    Bucs: I am not the biggest Lovie Smith fan on the planet but he did triple the number of wins by the Bucs last year as compared to 2014. It seemed as if he was on the right track. The Bucs’ justification here is that Dirk Koetter would have been hired by some other team and that it was Koetter – not Smith – who was responsible for the play of Jameis Winston. If true, the question now is this:

      Will Koetter as Head Coach have the same influence on Winston and his continued development as he putatively had as the Offensive Coordinator?

    Dolphins: Losing Joe Philbin in mid-season neither helped nor hurt the team; losing Dan Campbell at the end of the season was not a huge loss. Adam Gase is credited with guiding the Broncos offense under Tim Tebow to a playoff win and with upgrading Jay Cutler’s play in Chicago this year. Let me just say that I think the jury is out on the magnitude of those accomplishments; for example, the Bears ranked 21st in total offense in the NFL last season On the plus side, Gase does not have a hard act to follow.

    Eagles: Pederson is an Andy Reid disciple. Three years ago, the Eagles fired Reid who took Pederson with him to KC; now the Eagles have hired Pederson. Is this an admission that they should not have fired Andy Reid in the first place? Here is what Eagles’ owner had to say about Pederson when they announced his hiring:

    “We are excited to introduce Doug Pederson as our new head coach. Doug is a strategic thinker, a compelling leader and communicator, and someone who truly knows how to get the best out of his players. All of these factors were what initially attracted us to Doug and we believe that he is the right man to help us achieve our ultimate goal.”

    So, how did you not recognize all of this “wonderfulness” 3 years ago?

    Giants: Given the tone of Tom Coughlin’s departing remarks, I do not think that he was the one who decided it was time for him to leave the Giants. If that is indeed the case, I am trying to recall a situation where a coach was fired after a decade on the job where he won 2 Super Bowls. Lombardi, Noll, Shula, Walsh and Gibbs were not fired; Jimmy Johnson was fired after 2 Super Bowl wins but he had not been in Dallas for a decade. Moreover, Jerry Jones made that blunderous decision; so there’s that… The good news here – I guess – is that the Giants promoted Ben McAdoo from within.

    Niners: Jim Tomsula may be the nicest person in the world but he was underwhelming as a Head Coach. I think Chip Kelly showed in Philly that he has some serious deficiencies when it comes to building and selecting a roster. I think he also showed that he has an offensive system that can work. Remember, he won 10 games with Nick Foles at QB and 10 games the next year with Mark Sanchez playing more than a few games. This is the most interesting coaching change of them all as far as I am concerned because it has the potential for huge success and for flaming disaster.

    Titans: I do not think the Titans lost a great coach when they fired Ken Whisenhunt. At the same time, I do not think they hired a great coach in Mike Mularkey. This is Mularkey’s 3rd shot at the head job; in his previous stints with the Bills and Jags, his coaching record is 18-39. The Titans will draft #1 overall this year; they drafted #2 overall last year; the bar for “improvement in 2016” is not set high at all.

While those teams were playing Coaches Musical Chairs, the Lions decided to keep Jim Caldwell on in the head coaching position. During the previous season, the Lions fired all sorts of other folks in positions of authority – GM, team president, offensive coordinator. Hey, they probably also fired the guy in charge of painting the logos on the field for game day. But they kept Jim Caldwell and declared that he was the “right man for the job”. From my perspective, the “right man for the job” of coaching the Lions is the guy who is able to convince Calvin Johnson to come back to the Lions and play next year and forget all that talk about retirement.

It is very much in vogue today to offer up “trigger warnings” to sensitive young souls who might feel uneasy simply at the mention of something unpleasant that may have happened in the past. Well, here is a trigger warning for Lions’ fans:

    If Calvin Johnson actually retires from the NFL at age 30, prepare yourselves for a “flashback” to the retirement of Barry Sanders at age 31.

    Both men were great players; both men had gas left in the tank; both men are Hall of Fame quality players; both men spent their entire career with the Lions; both men decided to cash in early.

The Lions could not afford to lose Barry Sanders almost 20 years ago; the Lions cannot afford to lose Calvin Johnson now.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News that will allow me to close on a lighter note today:

“A referee at a Toledo-Central Michigan football contest stopped the game to shush the band and cheerleaders.

“After which he was immediately offered a job as a commentator on the Golf Channel.”

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

Looking Back At College Football Bowl Games

“Spinning the message” is not limited to political operatives and political campaigns – although those folks have made spinning into an art form. Even in sports, folks find it necessary to provide “spin” to events. Consider the now mercifully ended college football bowl season. Some folks like to say that more people paid attention to the games this year than in any year in the past; they neglect to mention that there were more games this year than in previous years. Let me try to be factual here; in order to do that, I have to reveal my fundamental biases with regard to college football bowl games:

    There are too many bowl games which leads to the inevitable result that too many mediocre teams are participating in bowl games.

    After watching a full season of college football, I really am not interested in another game that pairs the fifth place finisher in the AAC against the sixth place finisher in the Sun Belt Conference. By late December, I just do not care about that game.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald seemingly shares my biases with regard to the plethora college football bowl games. I will share some of his commentary as I move along here:

“There’s a new type of fantasy football. This is when the NCAA fantasizes that anybody still cares after 40 college football bowl games.”

The reality of all this is that ESPN owns and operates many of the games and it owns the broadcast rights to most of the ones that it does not own and operate. ESPN does this because it needs programming; do not delude yourself that there is even a hint of altruism involved here. Here is another comment from Brad Dickson:

“We’re now at the point in college football bowl season when the ‘E’ in ESPN stands for ‘Enough!’ ”

The fact of the matter is that there were 11 college football bowl games before Christmas last year.

    Only three of those games had a measurable rating on TV.

    One of those three games with a measurable TV rating, was Utah vs BYU which is a huge rivalry game every year so it had an interest angle that no other bowl game had.

    Other than the Utah/BYU game which drew 3.675M viewers, not a single one of the pre-Christmas games drew more than 2.335M viewers.

    Moreover, eight of the eleven pre-Christmas bowl games drew fewer than 2.0M viewers.

A full listing of the games and the TV ratings and the number of viewers can be found here. From this compilation of data, we can see that “business picked up” after Christmas probably because folks had more leisure time on their hands after the Holiday and because more of the games involved “better than average teams”.

Nevertheless, if one happened to be grazing through the cable TV channels and came across one of the “lesser bowl games”, it was not difficult to see tons of empty seats in the stands at the game. Do not make a mistake and think that TV is the wrong yardstick to use with regard to measuring interest in these games; folks do not go out of their way to attend them either. The average attendance at all 40 bowl games was reportedly 43,817 and if that number seems astronomically high to you because you saw the early bowl games on TV and could almost count the house, that number is based on the officially released attendance figures. Officially released attendance figures might possibly include the number of tickets given to a local supermarket to give away with a purchase of more than $10 – whether or not the recipient used them to go to the game or used them to light the kindling under the Yule Log. Nonetheless, that average figure is a 2% decline from last year. Here is a link to a report summarizing attendance figures at the bowl games this year. Once again, Brad Dickson:

“Very popular this year: videos of ecstatic kids opening Christmas gifts and finding bowl tickets. My favorite was a kid who received tickets to the Quick Lane Bowl and asked if he could return them and get socks.”

In terms of fan interest, there are certainly a dozen – and perhaps as many as 18 – bowl games that can draw a sizeable TV audience and fill a reasonably sized football stadium to 80% capacity or higher. As for the other games, here is Brad Dickson on the subject one last time:

“I wouldn’t say attendance at the Foster Farms Bowl was not good, but even Foster didn’t show up.”

It is dangerous to compare a bowl game this year with the same game last year as a measure of “fan interest”. Such comparisons are alluring but simplistic. Consider one example only:

    The Fiesta Bowl this year had a 6.2 TV rating which was up 35% from the TV rating for the Fiesta Bowl game last year. Impressive, right? Shows strong increasing interest, right?

    Fiesta Bowl this year was a game between Notre Dame and Ohio State.

    Fiesta Bowl last year was a game between Arizona and Boise St.

    Meaning no offense whatsoever to fans of Arizona and Boise St., can anyone say with a straight face that either school commands anywhere close to the same degree of national attention as either Notre Dame or Ohio St.?

Finally, since Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald provided such a large fraction of the insight here today, let me close with another of his observations – this time about NFL football:

“Jilted St. Louis Rams fans sent owner Stan Kroenke a ‘huge pile of feces.’ I’m thinking this may be a subtle sign that not all fans are thrilled with the team’s move to Los Angeles.

“You know what the Rams typically call a huge pile of feces? The game plan.”

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

Pro Football Hall Of Fame Finalists – 2016

These are the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2016 in alphabetical order:

    Morten Andersen
    Steve Atwater
    Don Coryell
    Terrell Davis
    Tony Dungy
    Brett Favre
    Alan Faneca
    Kevin Greene
    Marvin Harrison
    Joe Jacoby
    Edgerrin James
    John Lynch
    Terrell Owens
    Orlando Pace
    Kurt Warner

The selection rules and procedures to winnow down the finalists to the inductees are outlined here. The maximum number of inductees in a year is held to eight or less. If I had a vote – which I most assuredly do not – here are the six folks I would put in the hall of Fame:

    Don Coryell: Of the two coaches in this list, I think Coryell was the innovator who more affected the game of football.

    Terrell Davis: A knee injury before the days when surgery could rebuild a knee shortened his career; nonetheless his brief career was very good including one season (1998) where he gained 2008 yards rushing.

    Brett Favre: Simply a no brainer…

    Alan Faneca: He was an outstanding offensive guard.

    Terrell Owens: He was hardly a role model or a wonderful teammate in the locker room, but one cannot deny his on-the-field talents.

    Orlando Pace: He was the best left tackle in the league for about a 5 or 6 years.

Please note that I would not be offended by any of those 15 candidates making it into the Hall of Fame. They all bring legitimate credentials to the party.

When the Niners hired Chip Kelly, the reports said that Kelly’s contract was for 4 years and $24M; I assume those reports are accurate and for the moment, I will consider that he will make $6M in each year of that contract. The Niners will also be paying Jim Tomsula not to coach the Niners for a while; if reports are correct, the Niners owe Tomsula $10.2M over the next 3 years. That means the Niners are going to spend $28.2M on “head coaches” between now and the end of 2018. That is a whole lot of money to spend on “coaching” and a skeptic might say:

    Tomsula was a dumb hire in the first place since he had never been even a coordinator before getting the head coaching job in SF.

    Kelly comes in with big question marks given the ill-will he and more than a few of the Eagles’ present and former players have for one another.

Let me be clear; I am not a “Chip Kelly hater.” His offensive system worked at Oregon and it seemed to work in the first two years in Philly with QBs that were not “ideal” for his system. His skills as a GM/personnel maven and his interpersonal skills may be called into question, but the idea that he might now have Colin Kaepernick available and healthy to run his offense has to be allowed to play out. Kaepernick brings exactly the opposite set of skills to the table as did Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford.

    Kaepernick is a QB who can make a defense play all phases of a read-option offense. He is a dangerous runner and he can throw the ball on the move.

    Neither Foles, Sanchez nor Bradford fit that description well.

    On the other hand, Foles, Sanchez and Bradford have a degree of “pocket presence” and the ability to make multiple reads quickly. Those two things are important in Kelly’s combination-route passing game.

    Kaepernick has yet to demonstrate that he is better than average at “reading defenses”.

The Kelly/Kaepernick experiment will be interesting to observe – assuming that is that Kelly has not already decided and agreed with the Niners’ front office “braintrust” to ditch Kaepernick and draft a QB – like Paxton Lynch in the first round of this year’s draft…

The Niners’ success under Kelly is going to require an upgrade to more than just the offense. Kelly’s system when it is working at high efficiency still requires the defensive unit to be on the field for more than half the game. The Niners defense ranked 29th in the NFL last year in yards per game and 27th in the NFL in yards allowed per play by the opponent. If that defense is going to have to be on the field for lots of time every game, that defense needs an upgrade in talent and in depth.

Yesterday, I talked about Jerry Jones and his fascination with Johnny Manziel as a possible backup QB for the Cowboys. The Cowboys had another “problem” in 2015 that led to a 4-12 record. Dez Bryant sat out all of the team’s off-season workouts and OTAs while in contract negotiations; then he broke his foot in Game 1; he came back in time for a “playoff push” indicating that Jerry Jones was living in a fantasy world in November 2015. The problem was that Bryant was terrible. Yes, I agree; he had sub-standard QBs throwing him the ball. That does not negate the fact that he only caught 31 passes for the year.

I mention that because after the regular season was over, Bryant and the Cowboys announced that he would undergo another surgery on his foot and ankle; the consequence of that surgery is that he will not be able to do any “football stuff” until about the time training camp starts in July. That means a second consecutive year without time and effort to work with Tony Romo/Johnny Manziel/whomever the backup QB will be and – most likely – a gradual inclusion of Bryant into the passing game during the exhibition season.

Finally, some words of wisdom from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Former NFL running back John Riggins is out with his own line of beer, called the 4th & 1 Pilsner.

“Now comes the hard part: getting Sandra Day O’Connor to give it her two thumbs up.”

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