It’s Leap Day…

And a Happy Leap Day to all…

FIFA has elected a new President – to replace Sepp Blatter who has resigned and has subsequently been banned from any soccer related activities for a bunch of years. I do not want anyone to get the impression that I believe that Blatter was the one who “invented” corruption and bribery as a way of life in FIFA; I do mean to intimate that he and a few of his cronies seem to have raised bribery and corruption to an art form. In any event, the new FIFA President will be Gianni Infantino. So the question would seem to be this:

    Has FIFA “turned the corner”/”turned over a new leaf”/”decided to go in a different direction” as a result of this change of leadership?

Frankly, I think the answer is a very direct and disconcerting one:

    We do not have enough information to make a rational judgment yet. We might wish for a better form of sports governance here, but we just do not know yet.

Infantino won on the second ballot at a FIFA convocation because no candidate got the required two-thirds of the votes cast on the first ballot. Among a few other things, here is what Infantino said during his campaign for the presidency he would want to do with FIFA as its leader:

    Expand the World Cup tournament from 32 teams to 40 teams: I am ambivalent about this idea for the simple reason that it is hugely unlikely that any of the teams added to the tournament – the “33rd through 40th best teams” – is actually going to make any difference in who the ultimate winner might be. On the other hand, more teams/players get to participate…

    Will push for term limits on FIFA Presidents: Presidential terms are 4 years; Infantino wants to limit anyone to 3 terms in office. If he can get this proposal through the byzantine rule-making processes of FIFA, it would probably be a good thing.

    Will publish the salaries of all FIFA executives: Given the squalid financial history of FIFA and its execs/cronies, anything that even hints at transparency has to be a big plus. Can he actually accomplish this? We will know rather shortly…

Infantino also wants to distribute more revenues to the member states. He says that the way he will do that in a fiscally responsible manner is that he will grow the revenue coming into the organization. He cites his successes in doing this for European soccer. If he can grow the revenue, then sending more of it to the individual national organizations is a good idea – – so long as there is some mechanism to assure that the national organizations are using the added monies to grow the game in their home countries instead of pocketing the money for themselves. Why would I think such a dark thought here? After all, those national organization officials are all ones who have aspired to be FIFA HQS execs someday – – with all of the pork and under-the-table bennies that came with such positions for a long period of time…

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald has this note in his blog last weekend; it will give you an idea of the current into which Gianni Infantino swims:

“SOCCER: Corruption-plagued FIFA selects a new president: Gianni Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer, was elected on the second ballot this week to succeed disgraced and ousted Sepp Blatter. Infantino immediately thanked all of the voters who’d accepted his bribes. Oh I’m just kidding! Probably.”

A report in the LA Times late last week said that the San Diego Chargers were seeking a new stadium in San Diego in the downtown area. The paper reported this with a straight face and in a serious tone; it quoted a spokesthing for the Chargers:

“We believe that a downtown multi-use facility will attract broad support from throughout our entire community,”

Pardon me while I yawn here. The Chargers have been seeking a new stadium in San Diego for at least 10 years now and any time the local politicians even hint that they might be interested in doing a deal, the politicians want the stadium to be in a geographical area that is near the current stadium and not in downtown. This position by the Chargers and this position by the local pols is not new and therefore is not news. Here is something about as close to a “litmus test” as one might get with regard to this situation:

    A “downtown site” would require a tax increase and local ordinances require tax increases of this sort/magnitude to be approved in a referendum by two-thirds of the votes cast.

    That is a high hurdle indeed – but the Chargers want it on the ballot in November.

    Good luck to the Chargers on that front.

    Not to worry though, the team has until about Feb 2017 to decide if it will join with Stan Kronke as the “junior partners”/”tenants” in Kronke’s mega-stadium in LA.

Not to pour cold water on the Chargers hopes here but this is what the Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, had to say about a downtown venue:

“Most experts we’ve talked to have concluded that building a stadium downtown — on land not owned by either the city or the Chargers — would increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and take years longer to complete.”

I never pretend to be a “political pundit” here, but that statement does not indicate to me that the mayor and “his people” will be energetically pushing for that funding referendum come November…

Finally, here is another comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald relative to a story that commanded too much attention last week:

“Cleveland star Kyrie Irving bitten by bed bugs: Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was bitten by five bed bugs while staying at a posh Hilton hotel. Hilton apologized and immediately instituted a new policy that stringently places a three bed-bug maximum in all of its rooms worldwide.”

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

NFL Free Agency Fast Approaching…

With the NFL Combine seeming to dominate the sports news about now, I think it is as important to notice what teams are doing with regard to creating cap space for the NFL free agency orgy that will commence in about 2 weeks. Drafting is still months away; teams are going to be making changes to their rosters in that intervening time and those changes could affect significantly how they approach the draft.

The biggest splash in the “create cap space” world came from the now-LA Rams when they cut 3 significant players:

    Tight end, Jared Cook: 2016 would have been the 4th year of a 5-year deal he signed with the Rams for $35M.

    Linebacker, James Laurinaitis: 2016 would have been the 4th year of a 5-year deal he signed with the Rams for $41.5M

    Defensive end,Chris Long: 2016 would have been the final year of a 4-year contract he signed with the Rams for $50M.

Reports say that these three cuts create $23M in cap space for the Rams and when added to carry-over cap room they will give the Rams a total of almost $52M in cap space to work with. That would seem to indicate that the Rams will be significant players in free agency this offseason and I would suggest that one of the first things that the team needs to address is the replacement of these three competent and productive players. I would be shocked if any of them are out-of-work next season.

The Jets have also released Antonio Cromartie after only one season down on his contract. The Jets “reunited” their defensive backfield pairing Cromartie and Darrelle Revis at the CB position. Cromartie did not have a season that lived up to his prior standards of performance and the Jets decided to “go in a different direction”.

I am not going to pretend to have analyzed all 32 NFL teams to see what high-priced vets they might jettison to create cap space nor will I pretend to know all of the ins and outs of cap space calculations – I think gravity waves have something to do with those cap space numbers but I’m not sure – but from general reading, I think there are 4 veteran players who are likely to find themselves out looking for a new gig in a couple of weeks. In alphabetical order:

    Dwayne Bowe: The Browns signed him only last year to a 2-year deal for $12.6M. For that signing, the Browns got 5 receptions and 57 yards in 7 games. He was not injured for the other 9 games; he was simply not activated for them. Only the Browns…

    Victor Cruz: I know he is young and he was very productive when he was healthy. However, over the past 2 seasons he has only been on the field for a total of 6 games. I believe the Giants can create $10M in cap room if they release him.

    Robert Griffin III: If the Skins keep him, they owe him $16.5M and he carries a cap number that might not allow the Skins to keep Kirk Cousins too. Count this one as a no-brainer.

    Mario Williams: Reports say he is unhappy in Buffalo and he had a mediocre season in 2015. My calculation says his cap number is just over $13M. Williams can still play, but I suspect it might not be in Buffalo in 2016.

Now, as the Rams and all the other teams finalize their strategy and tactics for the free agency season, I would like to offer two observations:

    1. Twice in recent times, teams have stormed the bastions and signed prize free agents to HUGE deals in the moments after the opening of free agency. It was almost like the crack of dawn on the first day of rifle season for deer hunting; you can read the want ads in the light of the muzzle flashes. The Skins once signed Albert Haynesworth that way and we know how that turned out. Last year, the Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh in a similar burst of enthusiasm; Suh was not nearly the flop that Haynesworth was in Washington, but he was hardly a difference maker either.

    Teams might want to curb their enthusiasm for the splashy signing that will win the team the “Press Conference of the Month Award”. Playoff berths are not determined in March…

    2. The running back position has been devalued in recent times in the NFL. Free agent running backs by definition have some mileage on them and that could make some GMs wary. There may be some relative bargains out there at that position – – or – – one of these years the pendulum will swing back to normal for running backs. Might it be this year…?

Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune had this comment with regard to the Bears’ recent personnel pronouncements:

“Bears general manager Ryan Pace said letting receiver Alshon Jeffery hit free agency remains an option. A stupid option. But an option nonetheless.”

Finally, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this observation about free-agency as it applies to baseball. I think he is right on target here and would add that his commentary applies to the NFL equally well:

“Not so fast: Conventional wisdom has it that, after signing [Jason] Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey, the Cubs have bought a championship. Kind of like we thought the Nationals did last year.”

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

Another Surprise In The English Premier League

Recently, I wrote about the surprising presence of Leicester City at the top of the Barclay’s Premier League table ahead of teams with far more recognizable names here in the US such as Manchester United or Liverpool or Chelsea or Arsenal. I focused so much on the presence of Leicester City in first place that I had not noticed that Aston Villa was very solidly in last place – a full 7 points behind Sunderland which is in 19th place. The teams that finish 18th through 20th in the Premier League get relegated for next year to the next lower level of competition; barring a humongous reversal of form, Aston Villa will be downgraded to the Champions League next season.

If you look at the table, you can see that Aston Villa has only won 3 games out of 26 starts this year along with 7 ties. They have only scored 20 goals in 26 games and have a goal differential for the season of minus-26; not so surprisingly, that is the worst goal differential in the league.

So, things are looking bleak for Aston Villa – a team that has been in the Premier League for as long as I have been tracking the league from afar on a sporadic basis. I cannot sit here and tell you how or why this monstrously bad season has come to be in Birmingham where Aston Villa resides. However, this morning I can tell you that as bad as things looked a week ago, they cannot be looking any better now.

Last weekend, Aston Villa had a “Bye Week” in the sense that it had no scheduled game because it was a week set aside for FA Cup matches and Aston Villa had been eliminated from that tournament a while ago. So, the team scheduled what I would call an “internal friendly”. Aston Villa played its own Under-21 developmental team. By analogy, this would be like the NY Yankees taking on their AA affiliate, the Trenton Thunder.

You guessed it; the Under-21 team won the game. Oh, but it is even worse than that. The Under-21 team beat the “varsity squad” by a score of 3-0. That is about the same as the Thunder beating the Yankees by 11-0. Here is a link to an article in a British paper about what the paper calls “an embarrassing encounter”.

In other soccer news – much more uplifting than focusing on the failures of Aston Villa – soccer organizations here in the US just picked up a new sponsor. Tag Heuer – manufacturer of fine Swiss watches – has signed on to be a “long-term partner” with US Soccer, Major League Soccer and the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) which manages the referee programs in soccer leagues in the US and Canada. This is an important partnership for soccer here because Tag Heuer represents a very upscale brand.

Of course, the announcement of this wide ranging long-term partnership was filled with management-speak platitudes. Looking through the fog of platitudinous claptrap, Tag Heuer is associated with the Bundesliga in Germany and has Cristiano Ronaldo as a “Brand Ambassador”. Look, I am not professing to be a soccer maven nor am I a marketing guru, but it sure seems to me that US Soccer and MLS are moving into a higher “social circle” than they had before with this new deal.

About a week ago, reported that the NCAA will consider this Spring the idea of putting NCAA events in Las Vegas. According to the report, the “NCAA events” in question are not things like Athletic Directors’ meetings or plenary sessions to figure out ways to make the NCAA rulebook even less intelligible than it is today.

    [Aside: A former colleague once said that the NCAA Rulebook was written in no known language.]

No, the report said that the “protectors of amateurism in and integrity of intercollegiate sports” will consider putting championship events in Las Vegas including NCAA Tournament games and perhaps – one day – a Final Four weekend. The moment those words were typed in that order, Walter Byers and Dr. Myles Brand both felt a shudder run down their spines wherever they may be in cosmos or the spirit realm. The NCAA has – for as long as I can remember – refused to put any of its events in Nevada let alone Las Vegas because the state allows and even encourages wagering on college sporting events. NCAA president, Mark Emmert said that he expects a “robust discussion” about changing the policy regarding events in Nevada at the Spring meeting of the NCAA Council.

Since the momentum for this idea comes from the Mountain West Conference – as opposed to say the Big 10 or the SEC – I would not be surprised to learn that the action taken by the NCAA Council was to have their “robust discussion” and then to create a special committee to investigate secondary ramifications and other important factors that will need to be understood before any final decision could be made. What the Council will not do is any of the following:

    1. Make a final decision on the matter after their “robust discussion”.

    2. Call the action of sending this idea to a committee for further study what it really is, Kicking the Can Down the Road.

    3. Put the director of any of the major sportsbooks in Nevada on this committee as subject matter expert.

Nevertheless, this is a step in what I think is a good and proper direction. To demonstrate how enthusiastic I am about this, allow me to present to you wisdom preferred by others in times past:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Mao Tze-tung.


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with going to the airport and taking off your shoes.” Bernie Lincicome

Finally, here is a comment regarding gambling activities in another part of the country from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“Gulfstream in Hallandale opened its winter meet on Saturday. You know Gulfstream. It’s where you’ll find a casino, dining, shopping, entertainment and, time permitting, horse racing”

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

Not Much Interesting Over There…

There are lots of recurring sports “stories” that I try to convince you to ignore simply because the “stories” come from low-grade ore in terms of important “news content”. Spring Training reports, Super Bowl Media Day shenanigans, mock drafts months in advance of the real thing and any report labeled as “Bracketology” fall in that category. There may be a nugget of news in a whole pile of such reporting, but it will be hidden in amongst a ton of dross. Today, I would like to add one more segment of annual sports reporting that you can comfortably ignore – or skim very lightly at best:

    Stories leading up to the NFL Combine

The Combine as an event is over-reported; but at least, the over-reporting has to do with athletic accomplishments that may have a bearing on the future careers of NFL aspirants. However, reports appearing now regarding who will or will not throw at the Combine or who will skip the 40-yard dash are little more than space fillers. If the outcomes from the Combine are important information for you, be sure to check in to see who ran how fast and who jumped how high after they actually do that. Until the Combine is over, find something else to ponder…

The Combine leads up to the Draft. Now the Draft is important to NFL teams and therefore the fans of those teams. Lots of people pour lots of mental energy into psyching out the players and the teams and “The Draft”. I get that; I do that too. Nevertheless, do not lose site of the fact that the Draft is an art and not a science. Even though teams seek to quantify the physical attributes of potential draftees, the actual selections rarely turn out to perform in ways that verify that the #1 pick was better than the #2 pick who was similarly better than the #3 pick … and so on. I know this is changing sports on you, but this observation from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot focuses directly on the uncertain nature of the draft:

“Swing and miss: Rumors that the Timberwolves were trying to trade Ricky Rubio this week recalled the 2009 NBA Draft, when Minnesota used the fifth and sixth picks to take Rubio and guard Jonny Flynn, who is out of the league. And they passed up Steph Curry in the process.”

Given the vagaries and uncertainties of the Draft, why impute any value into reports that may or may not turn out to be valid regarding who might or might not do what at the Combine leading up to the Draft? had a report last week that Verne Lundquist will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Sports Emmy Award Ceremony. It would be difficult to make a case that Lundquist is not worthy of such an honor. I can recall hearing him do play-by-play for both college and pro football, provide “whispered commentary” on the Masters, and I loved listening to him and his long-time partner – Bill Raftery – doing college basketball games. Last year, Lundquist was paired with Jim Spanarkel for March Madness and that worked very well too.

Congratulations to Verne Lundquist for this award. It is well-deserved…

I wonder if – in a former incarnation – Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones was Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town in Omaha. Boys Town was an orphanage; it is now a center for “troubled youth”; one of the foundations of faith that drove Father Flanagan was that every boy could become a good and productive adult if as a boy he had a loving/nurturing home and access to education. I can take Jerry Jones’ actions over the past several years and map them onto that sort of “foundation of faith” that motivated Father Flanagan. Briefly:

    The Cowboys had T.O. on the squad for 3 years.

    Dez Bryant needed and got “chaperones” early in his career. Even today, most of Bryant’s tirades involving his own teammates are handled in a very low-key manner.

    Greg Hardy signed on after he was convicted of domestic violence – a conviction overturned later on appeal.

    Randy Gregory flunked a drug test at the Combine. How dumb – or anti-social – must one be to do that? The Cowboys drafted him because he can rush the passer.

    Johnny Manziel is likely going to be a free agent very soon and Jerry Jones has said that he thinks Manziel would be a strong candidate to be Tony Romo’s understudy and potentially the Cowboys’ QB in the future.

Father Flanagan lives on in Dallas…

The Randy Gregory situation is a timely one. Last week, the NFL announced that Gregory would be suspended for 4-games at the start of next season for violations of the NFL substance-abuse policy. Now unless there is some part of the current NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement that I do not know about, here is what has to have happened:

    Gregory’s failed drug test at the Combine put him in the NFL substance-abuse monitoring program. That engenders more frequent tests; on-demand tests and random tests.

    To earn a 4-game suspension, a player would need to fail 3 of those monitoring tests – or simply refuse to participate in the counseling activities that are also part of the substance-abuse program.

    Assuming that Gregory did not punch-out a counsellor – that would have made news if he had! – it means he got caught with drugs in his system 3 times between the Draft last year and February of this year. That is 3 times in 7 months when he has to know he is on the radar for frequent testing.

    There were reports after the Draft last year that Gregory would have a security detail assigned to him to help him stay on the straight and narrow. As noted above, the Cowboys had done this sort of thing with Dez Bryant in the past so that reporting did not light up the Internet. And still, he will miss the first 4 games of the 2016 season…

Here are the bottom lines on all of this as they relate to the Cowboys as a team and Jerry Jones as the owner-GM of the team:

    1. Jones needs to go to the private security firm that he hired to help Gregory stay out of trouble and get a rebate.

    2. If Jones thinks about signing Manziel, he might want to think about putting one of those chips in Manziel that allows the team to geolocate him at all times. A night on the town with Manziel and Gregory as “running buddies” would be unlikely to end well.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald in the wake of the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory:

“After the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning called Cam Newton ‘extremely humble’ in defeat. Then Manning went on to refer to Terrell Owens as ‘reserved’ and Bill Belichick as ‘exuding warmth’.”

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

All Baseball Today…

Spring Training has begun; pitchers and catchers have reported; seamheads are ramping up to their 6 months of euphoria. There was actually an unusual story coming out of Arizona this year; it seems that some of the Cubbies’ younger players gathered there on their own about a week in advance of the start of “formal Spring Training” and began working out amongst themselves. That does not happen often – if ever; moreover, it prompted Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon to say that he did not want his players “getting ahead of themselves” and that he really preferred if they would just calm down and go with the team program. I said the story was unusual; it is not often that a manager or a coach worries about his team working and practicing too much…

Having cited that unusual story coming out of Spring Trailing – or actually prior to Spring Training to be completely accurate – my suspicion is that it will be the only unusual story we will see/hear/read in the next 6 weeks. I will exempt the “unusual catastrophic injury” from this statement because injury stories are – almost by definition – unusual and worthy of being called news. Other than that, we have already begun to see the standard fodder of Spring Training reporting with the various breathless stories about how fat Pablo Sandoval seems to be. Folks, that is not news; Kung Fu Panda has been fat for the entirety of his MLB career.

Coverage of Spring Training is sort of a time-extended version of the 2-week hype that the NFL commands in the time between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl. There is not nearly enough real news to report to fill 6 weeks of newspapers/magazines/blogs/ talk shows/sports centers but that simple fact need not stand in the way of hyperventilating reporting from and about Spring Training.

As I tried to do in the 2 intervening weeks of the NFL season prior to the Super Bowl, I will try to avoid the not-surprising run-of-the-mill Spring Training stories. Moreover, I would like to suggest to readers here that there are indeed interesting Spring Training stories you might want to pay attention to – – if they were ever to be reported.

    The REAL stories of Spring Training are mundane and often do not have happy endings. Spring Training is about making an MLB roster; who starts the season in the majors and who does not. Clayton Kershaw need not worry; Giancarlo Stanton need not worry; Kris Bryant need not worry; folks similar to them need not worry about anything other than a calamitous injury.

    The REAL stories concern the borderline players – maybe 5 or 6 guys at the most in each camp juking for 2 or maybe 3 roster spots. Some are rookies; some are vets looking for one more year in the bigs; some are players coming back from serious injuries and folks do not know if they can play even a little bit. Folks, those are the stories of Spring Training and you will not hear much of anything about any of them – other than Pollyanna Pieces – until sometime around March 28th.

Staying with baseball, there is a story from Yahoo!Sports that says an MLB agent, Bart Hernandez, has been arrested subsequent to an indictment by a Federal grand jury on charges of human trafficking.

    Whoa! Time out!

When I hear the term, “human trafficking”, my mind enters the realm of sex slavery or forced labor or indentured servitude that never ends. If Bart Henderson did any of those things, I would be happy to report that he is serving a VERY long sentence in the hoosegow. However, reading into the details seems to indicate something else.

What Henderson is accused of doing is to “smuggle” a Cuban outfielder – Leonys Martin – into the US such that martin could sign a deal with the Seattle Mariners. Let me be clear here:

    I am not an expert on immigration law other than being able to know how to spell it.

    I do not want to build a wall between the US and Mexico nor do I want to build a seawall between the US and Cuba.

    I do not know Bart Henderson from Bart Simpson nor do I know Leonys Martin from Rowan and Martin.

With all of that out in the open, even if Bart Henderson did what he is indicted for, that is not exactly the horrific commission of what I associate with the term “human trafficking”. To be sure, the indictment says that Hernandez represents other Cuban-born players who seek a career in MLB; the indictment suggests that the Leonys Martin situation is not a stand-alone event. Even if I were to buy into the wording the indictment that Hernandez “did willingly … and knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with [other indicted folks] … to commit an offense against the United States”, I still think that what he might have done there is about a light-year below “human trafficking for sex slavery” on the scale of scumbag human endeavors.

If Hernandez broke the law, he should be punished for that act. I have no problem with that outcome if the prosecution can prove it in a court of law. Until then, I will regard Bart Hernandez as someone who is about to stand trial in a Federal Court who stands accused of something that has a label that might be a tad misleading.

OK, let’s do this rant entirely on baseball… had a report recently that said the MLBPA and MLB might be bargaining over a draft lottery for MLB similar to the concept used in the NBA. The current CBA expires on Dec 1, 2016; the preliminaries for the kabuki dances that dominate the early approaches to negotiations are about to begin; nonetheless, this is a surprising topic. The MLBPA seems to be OK with this given the commentary offered by MLBPA head honcho, Tony Clark:

“It will be beneficial to look at that and not look at it in a vacuum but appreciate whatever it is that we attempt to negotiate there or propose there, that it ties into the other moving pieces and doesn’t create an imbalance.”

The report says that there is an “increasing concern in baseball” about the concept of tanking and that concern has created the environment that allows for this sort of discussion to take place. Fine, I have no real interest in creating any incentive for teams to “tank”. However, let me point out ever so gently to the folks at the MLBPA and in MLB, the NBA draft lottery has hardly been an effective tool to prevent/minimize tanking. If my calculations are correct, the Philadelphia 76ers are now in the midst of their 4th consecutive year of tanking with no relief for their fans in sight.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald regarding a truly significant issue that MLB needs to deal with:

“Baseball finally is cracking down on domestic abuse. Now if they’d only get to flagrant cup-adjusting.”

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

Back And Forth And…

I had an e-mail exchange over the weekend with a former colleague and a long-time reader of these rants. In one of his notes, he said that he has been waiting to read my opinion(s) on the latest “revelations” about Peyton Manning as reported in the NY Daily News. Let me take this moment to explain to him – and anyone else – why I think this matter is not particularly worthy of comment.

First of all, the report that I read in the NY Daily News contained nothing much new; virtually everything there had been reported more than 10 years ago and it seemed as if the only “new” event was an interview with the attorney representing the woman who accuses Manning of some disgusting behavior back when he was at Tennessee. After I read the report, my thinking was along the lines of “Hi! Ho!”

However, since the story seems to have gained some traction – to the point where an old friend asked about it specifically – let me be more specific in my commentary.

    1. This is a 20-year old “he said/she said” situation. I was not present when the alleged disgusting behavior happened or did not happen. No new evidence surfaced to trigger the latest “reporting”. This is not akin to the Ray Rice affair where subsequently we came to see “indisputable video evidence” of what went down in that elevator. Since I have no idea what happened or did not happen about 20 years ago, I really have nothing to add to the matter. And, if I may be so bold, neither does the NY Daily News

    2. I understand that this is the “Era of the Hot Take”. A fundamental axiom of this ERA seems to be that expression of moral outrage is perfectly appropriate even in situations where there is no rational/objective basis for said outrage. I prefer a much more robust “wait-and-see” approach…

    3. Absent new information, all I could add here would be to “take sides” and vent my spleen against whichever side I had chosen against. At best, I would be spinning the facts presented in the most recent reporting without knowing if indeed they are facts or fancy. Boiled down to that, my conclusion is that you all have better things to do with your time than to read more conjecture on the matter. And so, until there are more facts available about what did or did not happen 20-years ago, I shall revert to my previous stance. “Hi! Ho!”

Regardless of whether any new information surfaces to does not surface here, this is a matter for the court of public opinion and not a prosecutor; unless I missed some major reporting in the past, there were never any charges brought in the matter. As I have said many time in the past, the court of public opinion does not need incontrovertible evidence to reach its conclusions and there are consequences for people who find themselves squarely on the wrong side of the court of public opinion. The latest case in point to demonstrate that would be Manny Pacquiao. Nike terminated its contract/relationship with Pacquaio after Pacquiao made comments about gay marriages saying that people who participated in such rituals were “worse than animals”.

I am not going to do a “Hot Take” here on the subject of gay marriage nor am I about to try to conflate this matter into a First Amendment Issue. What happened here is that Manny Pacquiao expressed his opinion; Nike determined that his statements would be harmful to their business interests and terminated their relationship with him. That is all there is to the matter; any attempt to make it into something more substantial is not much more than trying to pump sunshine up someone’s butt. There is no real reason to do that, and as soon as you turn off the “pump” there is no lasting effect.

I think it was last Friday that I read a note that the NY Knicks signed Jimmer Fredette to a 10-day contract. It had been quite a while since I had thought about Jimmer Fredette; I did not know he was still playing professional basketball until that story which told me he had been playing in the D-League this year. On Saturday, I tuned in to watch the Oklahoma/West Virginia game and my “Jimmer Fredette synapses” fired off…

Buddy Hield was clearly the star player on the court in the Oklahoma/West Virginia game; he scored 29 points and the Sooners won in a walk. Hield has done this sort of thing before during this season and he will deservedly get a lot of support as the Player of the Year – or whatever they are calling that award these days. Nevertheless, in the second half of that game, I began to wonder if Buddy Hield is the latter-day Jimmer Fredette – who was also the Player of the Year when he was in his final year of college. I am talking here about Hield from the perspective of an NBA team and an NBA career. Nothing I say here intends to detract one iota from his value and his accomplishments as a college player:

    He scored 29 points on Saturday. At least 8 and perhaps 10 of those points came on breakaway layups.

    He scored 29 points on Saturday. About 12 and perhaps 15 of those points came on wide open “catch-and-shoot” jump shots.

Hield is fast and given an open shot he can/will drain it. The question is how often he will be able to use those assets in the NBA to score. He is faster than anyone on the West Virginia team; is he faster than the majority of NBA guards? I don’t know… He will not get nearly as many open/uncontested jump shots in the NBA. Defenders there are bigger and faster than anyone West Virginia could put on the floor.

What I did not see was his ability to take the ball and create his own scoring opportunities against tight defensive coverage. Now, if he can do that too, he will be a very productive NBA player. If he cannot, he just might be the 2016 version of Jimmer Fredette because everything I said about Hield in the past couple of paragraphs is true of Fredette too. It will be interesting to see what the NBA scouts and GMs think here…

Finally, the Daytona 500 happened; it ended in a photo finish; however, since two drivers did not get into a fight after the race to set up a blood-feud for the rest of the season, I wonder if the NASCAR mavens are happy with the outcome. Just as pro-‘rassling lives and dies with the energy created by their “blood-feuds”, so too does NASCAR interest ascend when such things exist – either in reality or in perception. And that brings to mind a comment from humorist Dave Barry many years ago about auto racing in general:

“Auto racing is boring except when a car is going at least 172 miles per hour upside down.”

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

Cleveland Browns Rebooting – Again…

When someone achieves financial success to the point that they have enough scratch to buy an NFL franchise, I suspect that they have lost the ability to sit back and see themselves used as a punching bag or held up as a laughingstock. If my suspicion is correct, I think Jimmy Haslem – Browns’ owner for the last 4 or so years – has already tired of being labeled as meddlesome, incompetent, impatient … You get the idea. I doubt that anyone buys into the NFL with the “secret ambition” to be lumped in with Danny Boy Snyder as an owner.

Haslem’s time in the owners’ box in Cleveland has not exactly been uplifting.

    Since 2012, the Browns have not had a winning season.

    Cumulative record since then has been 19-45

    Hue Jackson will start next season as the 3rd head coach since 2012.

The Browns do have loyal fans and here is what Haslem had to say to those fans who have supported the Browns through thin and thinner times over the last 16 seasons:

“We are devoted to making significant improvements and giving you a team that you can be proud of for years to come. We greatly respect and appreciate your unmatched dedication to the Browns, especially during home games in 2016 that will feature our AFC North rivals, along with premier matchups against the Cowboys, Patriots and Giants.”

Were I to deconstruct that comment, I would quickly point out that “making significant improvements” over last season’s 3-13 record is hardly a Herculean task. Last year saw the Browns win 2 home games – over the Titans and the Niners both of whom finished last in their divisions. But hey, the Browns have a new coach and probably a new QB and so hope springs eternal…

Then there is the business side of owning a franchise. The Browns have an “unofficial mascot”; it is a mastiff named Swagger. If an organization would like to have Swagger “make an appearance” such that the organization can align itself with the team or with the slogan, “Be A Dog”, that the team uses to attract fans to buy seats in the Dawg Pound at the stadium, that will cost $800. Jimmy Haslem referred to “unmatched dedication” regarding Browns’ fans in that quotation above; I might suggest that anyone paying $800 to have a dog “make an appearance” demonstrates “unmitigated stupidity”. Then again, I am not a Browns’ fan…

Before leaving the Cleveland Browns in the rear view mirror this morning, let me resurrect an old “art form” that I have not used here in a while. It is time for a Quick Quiz:

    Consider the career arc of (at least for the moment) Browns’ QB, Johnny Manziel. Which former NFL QB also taken in the first round had a career arc that most resembles Manziel’s?

      A. Ryan Leaf
      B. Todd Marinovich
      C. Art Schlichter

    1000 words or less; answers are due by Monday noon…

The Browns had the second worst record in the league last year; they draft second in a few months; their fans are being sold hope and promises and “improvements’. At the other end of the scale, the Carolina Panthers had the best record in the league and will draft next to last in the first round as the losers of the Super Bowl game. Their fans felt euphoria during the season and the playoffs and now their fans will need to dig deeper into their pockets for tickets next year. According to, the Panthers will raise the prices on two-thirds of the seats in Charlotte between $5 and $12 per seat. According to that report, that sets the price of non-premium seats in the stadium between $48 and $195 per seat per game. Such is the price of backing a winner in the NFL…

Season tickets are expensive for NFL games and season tickets are expensive for MLB games too. The Texas Rangers have an interesting promotion going on regarding 2016 season tickets; it is called “Swing for Your Seats”. Here is the deal:

    Fans can go to the Rangers’ stadium tomorrow (2/20/16) and plunk down a 25% deposit on a full-season or a half-season ticket plan. The balance on that “contract” is due on 4 March – – – unless…

    Those fans will have the opportunity to take three swings to hit a home run out of the park. If anyone does that, then the ticket package they just put their deposit on is free for 2016.

    The pitcher for this event will be a pitching machine; the hitters will be in the normal batter’s box.

I wonder what the Rangers might do if Barry Bonds were to show up with his credit card to buy a season ticket under this plan…

Much was made of Governor John Bel Edwards’ recent statement to the people of Louisiana that the budget situation in Louisiana might require the cancellation of LSU football in the Fall. I particularly liked Dwight Perry’s view on the matter in the Seattle Times:

“Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards says LSU football could be eliminated if the state can’t fix its budget mess.

“Coincidence? Edwards just went into hiding with Sean Penn.”

Finally, one more observation from Dwight Perry to close things out for the week:

“Why isn’t Tennessee point guard Kevin Punter on the football team?”

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

Bill Simmons Returning…

The NY Times reports that Bill Simmons will be launching his new website in April. The name of the new site will be The Ringer and supposedly Simmons is hiring a bunch of folks who wrote for Grantland before ESPN shuttered that site. If indeed Simmons is trying to get his new venture started on a vector that directs it toward the same end as Grantland, then I shall be looking for the launch of the new site and will likely be a frequent visitor. I very much enjoyed the sports aspect of Grantland because it afforded the writers there the opportunity to present their “arguments” in sufficient space and with sufficient detail to be thorough. I hope The Ringer does the same.

About a month ago, ESPN’s Outside the Lines did a piece on the link(s) between major sports enterprises in the US and Daily Fantasy sports websites. Those “partnerships” had been known for a while but the report last month from OTL pointed to new ties between sports leagues and gambling enterprises. Here is a brief summary:

    MLB – already a minority owner of – signed a deal with a British company, Sport Integrity Monitor, for the stated purpose of keeping an eye on the betting lines for MLB games. The idea is to look for oddities there which could point to “fixed games”. Who can be against that? Well, it also turns out that Sport Integrity Monitor is not a stand-alone enterprise. It’s parent company sets betting lines for bookmakers in Asia and Europe. Hmmm…

    The NBA owns a portion of With that minority ownership stake, the NBA is also a part owner of NumberFire which is a company that offers fans, fantasy players and other bettors advanced analytical looks at players and games. Oh, NumberFire also makes betting “suggestions” on various games including NBA games. Hmmm…

    The NFL is a part owner of SportRadar US which is a subsidiary of SportRadar – a Swiss entity. This parent company provides real time stats and suggests in-game odds to bookmakers and some of its clients allegedly are offshore Internet sports books that provide outlet for illegal Internet sports gambling in the US. Hmmm…

    Three individuals who also have an ownership stake in SportRadar US reportedly are Mark Cuban, Michael Jordan and Ted Leonsis. All three own an NBA franchise; Leonsis also owns an NHL franchise. Hmmm…

I mention this because these three US sports leagues vigorously oppose the effort(s) by the State of New Jersey to offer sports wagering in the Atlantic city casinos and at NJ racetracks. They assert loudly and continuously that gambling threatens the “integrity of their games”. However, none of these leagues has any qualms about doing business with Daily Fantasy websites or these other business entities whose total existence depends on gambling activities related to the games put on by these leagues. I think these leagues operate on this basis:

    They think that the Hippocratic Oath is what they take to absolve themselves from the hypocrisy they spout on this subject on a daily basis.

In recent weeks, we have heard about the possibility of fixed matches in tennis and a report that a top player was offered a six-figure sum to “take a dive” in a specific match. Those allegations are under investigation and have not been proven as yet, but there is an interesting linkage to the deals I mentioned above. SportRadar – the parent company of the entity that the NFL bought in to – has a 5-year deal with the International Tennis Federation whereby the ITF gets $70M in exchange for SportRadar’s “exclusive access to live match data”. Hmmm…

Consider these two comments from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald as a cynical view of the “integrity of the game”:

“A website compiled a list of sports that aren’t corrupt. It included darts, toe wrestling, wife carrying and cheese rolling. That sounds suspiciously like the ESPN2 weeknight lineup. “

And …

“There are allegations of match-fixing in professional tennis. You look at pro tennis. Football. Major League Baseball. Boxing. Soccer. Soon, our cleanest event will be the Tour de France.”

While the major sports endeavors in the US wring their hands about the dangers they face from gambling, they rarely have to deal with life and death matters. Yes, baseball umpire, John McSherry, suffered a fatal “cardiac event” on the field on Opening Day 20 years ago. Yes, Chuck Hughes (WR, Detroit Lions) had a heart attack and died on the field during a game in the early 1970s. However, none of the US leagues had to deal with anything like what happened recently in a soccer match in Argentina.

According to a report in The Guardian, César Flores was the referee in a soccer game in Córdoba province – a region in north-central Argentina about halfway between Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. At some point in the game, Flores issued a red card to a player and sent the player off the pitch. The player – not identified in the report I read – evidently went to his equipment bag, took out a gun, returned to the field and shot Flores three times killing him there on the pitch. Another player in the game, Walter Zárate, was also injured in this event but survived. Police were still looking for the assailant at the time of the report I read, but here was a statement from the police that I think may be one of the greatest examples of understatement in history:

“It all happened during the football match. We don’t know [exactly what took place], but it appears the player was angry, fetched a gun and killed him.”

Angry? I should say so…

Finally, staying in the world of soccer, here is an observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Fort Lauderdale Strikers signed Kleberson, one of those one-name players. But shouldn’t that be an honorarium for only great players? ‘Kleberson’ sounds like a guy working at a deli.”

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

Meanderings Of My Mind…

When the Niners hired Chip Kelly about a month ago, I said that the team roster builder(s) needed to focus on defense. Even when Kelly’s offense is running on all 8 cylinders and putting points on the scoreboard, they tend to do it quickly and that means the defense has to be on the field for a lot of minutes in every game. Lots of minutes of defensive exposure tends to equate to the need for a core of really good players on defense plus depth on the defensive side of the ball even before there are any injuries. Neither the presence of “really good players on defense” nor great depth of talent on the defensive side of the ball were apparent last season. In fact, I suspect that is the reason that Mike Vrabel turned down the offer to be the Niners’ defensive coordinator to stay with the Texans as the linebacker coach.

The Niners subsequently hired Jim O’Neil to be the defensive coordinator; O’Neil spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns; how that became a gigantic plus on one’s coaching résumé is surely not clear to me. I do not pretend to know all of the coordinators in the NFL to the point that I could recite their strengths and weaknesses; I do know, however, how to look up stats that give me an indicator of how the units under various coordinators performed on the field on Sundays. Consider:

    In 2014, the Browns defense under Jim O’Neil ranked 9th in the NFL in points allowed (21.1 points per game) and 32nd in the NFL in run defense (141.6 yards per game). So, of course, the team built on that bend-but-don’t-break sort of defense and improved the run defense in 2015 – right?

    In 2015, the Browns’ defense ranked 30th in the NFL giving up “only” 128.4 yards per game leading to the Browns ranking 27th in the NFL in total defense. Oh, by the way, the Browns scoring defense fell to 29th in the NFL allowing 27.0 points per game in 2015.

I do not want to make too great a leap of logic here, but it certainly seems to me as if the Browns’ defense over the past 2 season has not been “coached-up” in any sort of way that I might label as “superior”. The challenge in San Francisco now is for this guy to take a Niners’ defensive unit that is hardly spectacular and to “coach them up” to the point that they can keep the Niners in games even when that defensive unit is likely to be on the field for 35-37 minutes per game. Good luck to him and to Niners’ fans with that…

I often quote items from Brad Rock in the Deseret News in these rants. In his short biographical sketch on the paper’s website, it proclaims that Professor Rock teaches sports writing at the university level (University of Utah). Way back in the dim recesses of history, I too taught chemistry classes at the university level. [Aside:Before anyone asks; yes, that was after the time when chemists had abandoned the search for the Philosopher’s Stone.] I mention this because I have some experience in crafting final exams for students and I want to present here a final exam that Professor Rock might use in one of his sports writing classes – if he dares to become known as the most mean-spirited troglodyte west of Denver. This would be a take-home exam given to the students on Friday and to be handed in on Monday before noon. It consists of two parts:

    Background: There have been multiple dozens of reports and opinion pieces written about Johnny Manziel and his various anti-social behaviors going back to his days at Texas A&M. The student should read a sufficient number of these pieces to feel comfortable with proceeding through this assignment.

    Part 1: You work for an NFL team and your main responsibility is to keep the news emanating from that team in a positive channel. Your team has just signed Johnny Manziel with all of his baggage and all of his as yet unrealized potential to a 3-year contract for $15M plus incentives. Reports that alluded to your team even considering such a move generated more than a bit of negative sentiment in the city and among the fanbase. Your owner and GM are about to hold a press conference to announce this deal. Your owner wants to be able to explain in his statement why none of the things that happened in the past with regard to Manziel should cause any concern among the citizenry of the city or the fanbase for the team. He is certain that this is a great decision for the team and remember that his decisions are unappealable.

    Write his prepared statement. It should not take longer than 15 minutes for him to deliver.

    Part 2: As soon as the owner stops talking and takes a breath, there will be a flood of questions from the floor for him and for the team’s GM. Based on your research of what has gone before and what has happened in your local community as this signing has moved along parallel to the “rumor mill”, prepare the responses for the “Top 25 Questions” that you anticipate will come at your owner and your GM after listening to 15 minutes of your “deathless prose”.

Students of sports writing surely need to learn to write to a deadline. In this case, the deadline is 72 hours away instead of 4 hours away; nonetheless, the deadline is a real one and the consequences of standing “your owner” up in front of a potentially hostile set of questions with inadequate answers is the antithesis of “career enhancing” for the employee. This could be a good exercise for the students. It could also get Professor Rock named as the “Most Sadistic Professor on Campus”.

Finally, let me close with something far less threatening and far more entertaining comment from Brad Rock of the Deseret News:

“A new basketball league is set to launch, next summer, called the Champions League. It will be comprised of retired NBA players.

“Among those reportedly in line to play are Rasheed Wallace, Brandon Roy, Al Harrington and Keyon Dooling.

“Organizers are also reportedly starting a NASCAR 64-and-over circuit, in which drivers spend the whole race with their turn blinkers on.”

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

NFL Preseason Predictions – The Post Mortem

Back on September 8, 2015, I crawled out on a limb and predicted the outcome of the NFL regular season. After previous attempts to do just that, you would have thought that I had learned my lesson. Obviously, I had not. Everything seemed so clear back then. But now, as is the tradition here when I do not have a computer crash and a website hacking to destroy the previous record, I present the post mortem on those predictions.

Here is a link to the original predictions in case you want to verify my comments here:

I will go along division-by-division and assign myself a grade for each one. At the end, I will calculate my “Grade Point Average” and hope that it is good enough to figuratively keep me eligible if I were an NCAA “student-athlete”.

I should also mention here that unlike a lot of millennials who do not recognize the possibility that one might get a grade below an “A-minus” for anything, I went to school at a time where grades of “A” through “F” were in play and were used accordingly. Just a foreshadowing here, there will be a “full spectrum” of grades included here.

At the outset of my predictions, I mentioned 5 coaches that I thought were on a hot-seat prior to the kickoff in the first game. With regard to that prognostication:

    Two of the five were fired in mid-season (Joe Philbin and Ken Whisenhunt)

    One of the five was fired in January. (Lovie Smith)

    Two of the five are still in their positions. (Gus Bradley and Jay Gruden)

I also said that there were 2 coaches who would feel plenty of fan pressure and/or media pressure should their teams under-perform regarding expectations. With regard to that prognostication:

    Both teams under-performed and both coaches were fired. (Tom Coughlin and Chip Kelly).

With regard to the identification of coaches who might be looking forward to “job insecurity”, I noted 7 coaches. Of the seven, five were fired and one (Jay Gruden) surely will continue on as the Skins’ coach since the Skins are the reigning NFC East champions. I will call the Coaching Hot Seat Grade a “B-plus”.

In the AFC East, I had the Patriots winning the division (not exactly a bold pick). However, in addition, I predicted the Pats would have a 12-4 record which is exactly how they ended the season. After that, my crystal ball needed a bit of Windex to provide clearer vision.

    I thought the Dolphins would finish second at 10-6; they finished last at 6-10. In my defense, I did say then that the Dolphins’ OL would have to improve significantly in 2015 from its sorry performance in 2014 to achieve the 10-6 record I foresaw. The Dolphins’ OL in 2015 was not improved much if at all.

    I had the Bills in 3rd place at 9-7; they finished in 3rd place at 8-8. Not bad…

    I had the Jets last with a 4-12 record; they finished 2nd at 10-6. Not so good.

Overall, the AFC East Grade is a “C”.

In the AFC North, two teams finished exactly where I predicted they would. If that sounds like a weak endorsement, it is. Here are how the predictions turned out:

    I picked the Ravens to win the division with a record of 11-5; the Ravens finished 5-11. Ravens’ fans can point to a plethora of season-ending injuries to explain the team’s under-achievement. All I can point to is a hugely incorrect prediction here.

    I picked the Steelers to finish second in the division with a record of 8-8; the Steelers did finish second with a record of 10-6. I did say that the Steelers would need to win with offense this year (they did) and that the presence of Antonio Brown would be a major factor in their success (he most definitely was).

    I picked the Bengals to finish third in the division with a record of 8-8; the Bengals won the division with a record of 12-4. Ooops… I thought the Bengals’ defense would not be up to the task of getting the team into the playoffs. Mea culpa…

    I picked the Browns to finish last in the division with a record of 5-11 (another bold prediction on my part); the Browns did finish last with a sorry-assed 3-13 record. I did point out that in 2014 the Browns’ weakness was their run defense; it was the worst in the NFL. Well, in 2015, the improvement was only minimal; the Browns run defense was ranked 30th in the NFL.

Overall the AFC North Grade is a “C-minus”.

In the AFC South, I predicted the final record for 3 of the 4 teams exactly.

    I picked the Colts to win the division with an 11-5 record; the Colts finished second at 8-8. In my defense, I did note that the Colts’ OL allowed too many hits on Andrew Luck and indeed it cost Luck the ability to play for almost half the season. Moreover, I did say that the Colts DL had to find a way to get pressure on the QB; that was hardly a strength of the team this year.

    I picked the Texans to finish second with a 9-7 record; the Texans finished at 9-7 but that was good enough to win the division.

    I picked the Jags to finish third in the division with a 5-11 record; indeed, the Jags finished third with a 5-11 record.

    I picked the Titans to finish last in the division with a 3-13 record; indeed, the Titans finished last with a 3-13 record.

Overall the AFC South Grade is an “A“.

In the AFC West, I only missed badly on one team and came within one game of the actual records on the other three. Here are how the predictions turned out:

    I picked the Broncos to win the division with an 11-5 record; the Broncos won the division with a 12-4 record.

    I picked the Chiefs to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Chiefs finished second with an 11-5 record.

    I picked the Chargers to finish third in the division with an 8-8 record; the Chargers folded like a cheap lawn chair, finished last with a 4-12 record.

    I picked the Raiders to finish last in the division with a 6-10 record; the Raiders finished third with a 7-9 record.

Overall, The AFC West Grade is a “B-plus”.

I must say that as I begin to look at the NFC predictions, I have a sense that my overall “Grade Point Average” this year might grant me symbolic NCAA eligibility. However, one should never assume that past performance is any indicator of future performance…

In the NFC West, there must have been a lot of static on my “Psychic Hotline” back in September 2015. If I were to be very generous here, I would say that not many of my predictions were spot-on; if I were to be more critical, I would say that all of these predictions were pretty bad.

    I picked the Seahawks to win the division with a 12-4 record; the Seahawks finished second with a 10-6 record. Compounding the error, I cited the addition of Jimmy Graham as a big deal; Graham was mediocre at best for the Seahawks. On the bright side, I specifically said that rookie Tyler Lockett was “a steal in the draft” for the Seahawks. I suspect that every team would want their third-round pick to play so well as a rookie.

    I picked the Rams to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Rams finished third with a 7-9 record.

    I picked the Niners to finish third in the division with a 7-9 record; the Niners finished last with a 5-11 record.

    I picked the Cardinals to finish last in the division with a 7-9 record; the Cards won the division with a 13-3 record. Here is what I said about this prediction at the time:

    “The Cards won 11 games last year but only outscored opponents by 11 points. That is called getting a whole lot of lucky bounces of the ball – and footballs are of a shape where the results of bounces can be very random.

    “So, I have to decide if the Cards are going to win 13 games this year because they have their #1 QB back and that will lead to more points and more wins – OR – will the Cards regress to the mean in terms of having the ball bounce their way.

    “I choose the latter outcome here.”

    Oh well…

Overall the NFC West Grade is an “F”.

In the NFC South, disaster struck my predictions once again. Let me urge you to hold your nose as you read through the predictions:

    I picked the Saints to win the division with 9-7 record; the Saints finished third with a 7-9 record. In my “analysis”, I thought that the Saints’ pass defense would be improved in 2015. That was hardly the case; the Saints finished 31st in the NFL in pass defense giving up 397.2 yards per game. Yuck…

    I picked the Panthers to finish second in the division with the same 9-7 record; the Panthers won the division handily with a 15-1 record. ‘Nuff said…

    I picked the Falcons to finish third in the division with a 7-9 record; the Falcons finished second with an 8-8 record.

    I picked the Bucs to finish last in the division with a 4-12 record; the Bucs finished last with a 6-10 record.

Overall the NFC South Grade is an “F”.

In the NFC North, the predictions were a lot better than they were in the last two divisions. I recognize that I did not set the bar very high here; in fact, an amoeba might have difficulty doing the limbo beneath that bar. Here are how the predictions turned out:

    I picked the Packers to win the division with an 11-5 record; the Packers finished second with a 10-6 record. On the plus side here, I began my comments on the Packers by saying that the loss of Jordy Nelson was a “big deal” and that any other injuries to WRs would result in Aaron Rodgers throwing to a bunch of “JV players”. That kinda/sorta happened…

    I picked the Vikings to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Vikes finished first with an 11-5 record. I attributed the improvement in the Vikings to improved play from Teddy Bridgewater and the return of Adrian Peterson. That kinda/sorta happened too…

    I picked the Lions to finish third in the division with a 6-10 record; the Lions finished third with a 7-9 record. I predicted a calamitous drop for the Lions from 11-5 in 2014 based on star defensive players going elsewhere. The drop happened and the Lions’ defense was not nearly as good in 2015…

    I picked the Bears to finish last in the division with a 4-12 record; the Bears finished last with a 6-10 record. I just thought the Bears were going to be worse than they were last year…

Overall the NFC North Grade is a “B-plus”.

In the NFC East my predictions came directly from Bizarro World where everything is backwards including the name of the planet, Htrae. Earlier, I suggested you hold your nose while reading the predictions; here I would urge you to stifle your giggle response:

    I picked the Cowboys to win the division with a 12-4 record; the Cowboys – to use Jerry Jones’ metaphor – wound up looking up and seeing nothing but ass; their record was 4-12. The record is exactly the opposite of my prediction. Yes, I could claim that injuries to the starting QB and the lead WR led to the horrible season. However, I will not do that because injuries are part of the game and if it happened to the Cowboys, then that should not affect my predictions with regard to the rest of the division. Hah!

    I picked the Eagles to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Eagles finished second but with a 7-9 record. In my defense, I did say that what the Eagles needed to do was to improve on defense; they did not; the Eagles ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Bleah!

    I picked the Giants to finish third in the division with a 6-10 record; the Giants finished third with a 6-10 record. Here was my “bottom line” for the Giants in 2015:

    “Last year their defense was horrible – which is pretty much what their defense was two years ago.

    “If it doesn’t get a LOT better this year, the Giants will be mired in this level of mediocrity.”

    Well, the Giants’ defense in 2015 was the worst in the NFL giving up 420.3 yards per game. Yuck!

    I picked the Skins to finish last in the division with a 3-12 record; the Skins won the division with a 9-7 record. Yowza!

Overall, the NFC East Grade is an “F”.

Summing up the individual grades, we have:

    3 Grades of “F” producing 0 grade points.
    1 Grade of “C-minus” producing 1.6 grade points
    1 Grade of “C” producing 2.0 grade points
    3 Grades of “B-plus” producing 10.2 grade points
    1 grade of “A” producing 4.0 grade points.

That result is 17.8 grade points in 9 “courses” for a season GPA of 1.98. Looks like I will need a summer course or two to raise my average to eligibility standards. I know; I can take that physics course where the emphasis is on gravity. What I do is sit in a chair and prevent the chair from soaring up to the ceiling. If I am successful in that endeavor, I get an “A” as someone who has mastered gravity. Where do I sign up…?

Finally, let me put all this “Grade Point Averaging” into context with a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“A World-Herald fan poll gave the Husker football recruiting class a grade of “B.” C’mon, these people are not professional analysts. They lack the training to rank recruits, which consists of … well, it includes … OK, the fans have spoken.”

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