Tax Day…

To commemorate this year’s Tax Day, let me begin this morning with a comment from Mark Twain:

“Only difference between a taxidermist and the tax man is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”

I think we can fairly surmise that Mark Twain would be in favor of “tax cutting” were he alive and able to vote in this year’s elections…

Recently, I mentioned the apparently last-ditch efforts in San Diego to seek approval from voters there to build a new stadium for the Chargers lest the team pick up and move north to Los Angeles. Obviously, that collection of issues would generate angst among the folks in SoCal as people take sides on the issues. However, there are two events that will play out in SoCal this summer on which very few people should disagree. This will be the last summer for:

    1. Vin Scully in Los Angeles broadcasting LA Dodgers’ games.

    2. Dick Enberg in San Diego broadcasting SD Padres’ games.

Both men are retiring at the end of this year after long and illustrious careers. Scully started with the Dodgers back in Brooklyn in 1950 as part of a three-man team to do Dodgers’ games that included Red Barber and Ernie Harwell. There you have a broadcasting trifecta of greatness. Just about every baseball fan knows about Scully and has heard Scully; I think there are elements of Enberg’s “backstory” that many folks do not know and I find them interesting:

    Enberg had the call for the Ohio State/Cincinnati NCAA basketball championship game in 1961. That was the game that had Oscar Robertson on one side and Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried and Bob Knight.

    Enberg was not regularly on the air until the late 60s. He earned a PhD in Health Science from the University of Indiana and was as an Assistant Professor before going into broadcasting full time.

Lots of people will write paeans to both of these men as their departures from the airwaves become imminent. I want to say something about Vin Scully that may not be mentioned and it is something that I have come to appreciate a lot.

    I have never heard Vin Scully refer to the Dodgers – or any other team on the field in front of him – in the first person. He never says “we”; he always says “they” or “the Dodgers” or “the team”.

Far too many broadcasters today – particularly color commentators – use the first person and it is annoying and inappropriate. Broadcasters are there to tell the listeners/viewers what is happening; they are not supposed to be fanboys. Vin Scully has been on the air for 66 years now. I surely have not heard every one of his broadcasts, but I have never heard him lapse into “fanboy-mode” and that is something I greatly appreciate.

Let me stay in SoCal for one more moment here… The euphoria of Kobe Bryant’s final game where he scored 60 points in a victory needs to tone down a bit so that we can look at reality for a moment. The LA Lakers’ franchise is a mess. How big a mess? Consider:

    Over the past 2 years, the Lakers’ cumulative record is 48-116.

    Over the past 2 seasons, the Sacramento Kings’ cumulative record is 62-102. The Lakers are 14 games behind the Kings and just about everyone thinks the Kings are about as good as puddle of pig puke.

    Over the past 2 seasons, the Sixers’ cumulative record is 28-136. That is a whole lot worse than the Lakers’ record but remember, the Sixers were not even trying to win most of the time.

The Lakers were a benchmark team in the NBA from the 1976/77 season through 20012/13. In that 37-year time span, the Lakers won 10 NBA Championships and only missed the playoffs 2 times. And now, this is the level to which the Lakers have fallen…

Well, since I mentioned the Sacramento Kings just above, the team just fired George Karl after his first full season with the team. The last time the Kings made the NBA playoffs was in 2006; when the Kings hire Karl’s replacement, that person will be the 9th coach of the team since the last playoff appearance.

Shed no tears for George Karl. In a sense, this firing is a reprieve for him. He no longer has to deal with the dysfunctional roster and an owner who seems to model his ownership behavior after Danny Boy Snyder. Karl got a 4-year deal from the Kings back in Feb 2015 when he took over the job in mid-season; he has two-and-a-half years of salary still to go on that contract…

The NFL schedule is out and lots of folks are pointing to “key games” among the 256 contests on the schedule. I shall resist the temptation to make a list of the “Top Ten Most Anticipated Contests for 2016” or anything like that. I shall also resist any temptation to click on any website link that even sounds like that. However, let me point out something from the schedule:

    Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. The NFL will play 14 games on Saturday, December 24 that week and 2 games on Christmas Day. The Christmas Day schedule is:

      Baltimore at Pittsburgh (4:30 PM EST)
      Denver at KC (8:30 EST)

    New Year’s Day is also a Sunday for this NFL season. The NFL will end its season with all 16 games on Sunday that week. There will be no Monday night game on 2 January.

Finally, since I mentioned dysfunctional NBA teams above, consider this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Toymaker Mattel is out $3M after unwittingly wiring funds to cyber-thieves in China.

“Which is not dissimilar to the Nets paying Joe Johnson $25M for this season.”

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

Whither The Oakland Raiders?

News seems to be heating up with regard to the possibility that the Oakland Raiders might move to Las Vegas. A recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, would be in Las Vegas at the end of April to meet with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee regarding the potential for an NFL caliber stadium in Las Vegas. Let me be clear about this:

    I have no idea whatsoever with regard to the stature and/or the importance of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee so I have no idea if this meeting is completely pro forma or if this is critically important.

According to the report in the Review-Journal linked above, whatever recommendations this Committee makes this summer will not be binding on anyone but I assume that its recommendations will carry some sort of weight. If not, then one needs to question why the Committee exists in the first place and why any NFL owner would take the time to meet with its members.

Las Vegas developers would propose to build a 65,000 seat stadium at a site near McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas near the top end of The Strip. I am surely not any kind of “real estate mogul” with any kind of useful insight into the Las Vegas market, but I can offer this observation:

    From my visits to Las Vegas and traveling to and from the airport there, I think there is ample room to put a stadium where these folks say they want to put it.

    By the way, I believe the proposed site for the stadium would be within walking distance of the Pinball Hall of Fame. That should be a positive consideration for this Committee…

The Raiders do need a new venue; the Coliseum in Oakland is a dump – and I say that knowing that some dumps around the world might take offense at being lumped into the same category as the Oakland Coliseum. Moreover, the Raiders’ lease with the city to use the Coliseum ran out at the end of last season; and in order to play there again this year, the lease costs for the team went up by $925K. That may not be a “killer amount” for an NFL team, but any increase in rent for a facility that suffers from random sewage backups into the locker room areas is problematic. The lease extension signed by the Raiders gives them two 1-year options to extend the lease for the 2017 and/or the 2018 seasons if they have to.

The NFL has seemingly kept an “open mind” with regard to Mark Davis’ interactions and meetings with Las Vegas movers and shakers. You could look at that in two ways:

    1. The NFL has quietly come to grips with the reality that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas is no more a threat to the “integrity of the game” than is the presence of illegal gambling in every other NFL city.

    2. The NFL is allowing Davis to do this to keep the pressure on the folks in San Diego to find a way to build a new stadium for the Chargers there. After all, if the Raiders can move to a city that was not on the radar at the previous owners’ meetings, surely the Chargers can pick up and go to LA where they can be part of the Stan Kroenke real estate development extravaganza.

With regard to his current thinking on those sportsbooks – those dens of iniquity – that the NFL has sought to avoid in the past at all costs, here is Roger Goodell’s more recent commentary:

“[The sportsbooks] are things we’d have to deal with. We would have to understand the impact on us. Each owner would have a vote; it would be a factor many owners would have to balance; the league would have to balance.”

And …

“Relocations are always, as you know and we experienced it this January, one, painful, but two, subject to 32 teams’ view about it. They each make their own decision on that. That would be a factor that I think many owners would have to balance, the league would have to balance, but until we got a hard proposal that really put that in front of us, we’d have to understand what the ramifications of that are.”

A “relocation” for the Raiders might be more “painful” than it was for the Rams or potentially for the Chargers. The Rams paid the NFL more than $600M for the privilege of picking up and moving from St. Louis to LA. Stan Kroenke could handle that because his net worth is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $7B and his wife is the niece of the late Sam Walton who founded a company you may have heard of – – Wal Mart. Let’s just say she does not need to count pennies…

Raiders’ owner Mark Davis has no such access to those sorts of funds. If estimates of his net worth are accurate, he could not pony up $600M because he does not have it. And that presents a hurdle for Davis and for the other owners in the NFL. They will surely want their relocation fee paid; Davis will not get a free ride here. However, they may be leery of him taking on a partner with deep pockets if that partner happened to be a casino owner/operator. The league as an entity and the owners individually may be coming to a point where legalized gambling is not seen as the demon it once was but I really wonder if they are ready to have a casino owner as part of their exclusive club.

The Raiders’ fans in Oakland are caught in most uncompromising position. Their team plays in a venue that needs a $400M upgrade just to be classified as “woefully sub-standard”. At the same time, the city is in no financial state that would allow even a reckless custodian of the public coffers to spend something north of a billion dollars to build a new stadium for the Raiders. In San Diego, people talk about the absence of “political will” to spend tax revenue on a stadium for the Chargers. In Oakland, it is simpler than that; the tax revenue base simply is not there. Absent a “manna from Heaven” situation, the Raiders need to move out of Oakland. Maybe that is in the very near term; maybe it is in the intermediate term. But the team needs to move and the fans in Oakland need to deal with that reality.

Here is another comment from The Commish that adds some gravitas to Mark Davis’ flirtations with cities other than Las Vegas:

“There are several cities that have a tremendous interest in the Raiders. I’m hopeful also that Oakland will be one of those and that we can avoid any relocation to start with. Those are ultimately decisions about where they go and the impact that the potential gambling that we’d have to deal with. We’d have to understand it, we’d have to understand what the impact is on us and ultimately each owner would have a vote on that.”

Translation: You folks in St. Louis/San Antonio/Tidewater, VA/Birmingham who might want an NFL team in your area can start to dig deep into your pockets. If you do, we will keep your phone numbers on our speed-dial list.

Obviously, nothing has been decided yet and the NFL has not yet begun to put the squeeze on the cities that might want to have the Raiders as their own in the future. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that the Raiders are a franchise that is “in play” for any city that Is willing to spend the money to bring the team to its area. Most importantly, the reason that the Raiders are ‘in play” is that the cost of maintaining an NFL franchise is not an insignificant sum for a city these days. And Oakland is not a city with anywhere near the financial reserves to be able to afford such “team maintenance costs” without having to do some painful “other things” like close libraries, curtail transportation costs, keep police and fire departments funded at appropriate levels, … you get the idea.

Now if you think that the Raiders’ situation is complicated enough as it is and that there are too many balls in the air for now, just consider that the NFL could someday decide to expand to 36 teams. If that is the case, then international venues come into play and all sorts of other manipulative factors will become paramount. The fat lady has not yet sung; in fact, the fat lady may not be in the building yet warming up her pipes for her song.

Stay tuned…

Finally, in a previous incarnation, the Raiders took pride in populating the roster with some players who had a few anti-social tendencies. However, Al Davis is no longer among us orchestrating that sort of roster-mix. But if he were, he might take a close look at the person described here by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Kentucky fullback William Collins faces charges after police caught him and another guy walking down the street carrying a parking meter. He was actually preparing for another weird NFL combine event — the two-man parking meter shuttle.”

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

Money, Money, Money…

Low probability events happen every day. According to a report in the Washington Post yesterday, the NCAA has issued a moratorium on approvals for any new college football bowl games for the next 3 years. The NCAA came down in favor of restraint and against incremental revenue. That is a low probability event.

I was unaware that three cities had applied for NCAA approval to stage additional bowl games and that the approval process was proceeding apace. Those cities are:

    Austin, Texas
    Charleston, S. Carolina
    Myrtle Beach, S. Carolina

Obviously, Kalispell Montana failed to get its paperwork into NCAA HQs in time for that round of approvals…

Last year, there were 40 college football bowl games requiring 80 participating teams. Not surprisingly, there were not enough teams who were “bowl eligible” according to the rules the NCAA had established and they had to figure a way to let 3 “ineligible teams” take the field. Let me be clear, the hurdle the NCAA established for “bowl eligibility” is not a daunting one; all a team needs to do is break even for the season with a 6-6 record. Last year, 3 teams played in bowl games even though they were 5-7 for the season.

The NCAA has a task force that will – nominally – make recommendations to the Football Oversight Committee by June of this year with regard to “reforming the postseason”. Even in the announcement of the existence of this task force, there is every indication that the NCAA mavens do not recognize the fundamental flaw in their postseason architecture. The task force will also determine “what should qualify as a deserving team and how a 5-7 team should be placed in a bowl game if necessary.”

What that statement of objectives for the task force means is that the NCAA does not recognize that teams with a 6-6 record are not “deserving teams” and only get to go to a bowl game because there is a glut of them out there. In any event, we will have to wait until June to see if the great black monolith from 2001 A Space Odyssey makes an appearance at any of the task force meetings and alters the course of human evolution/thinking amongst those toilers. I suspect that is what it will take for them to recognize that the “correct answer” to the problem here is to reduce the number of bowl games from 40 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-24.

    Not gonna happen…

Clearly, cutting back on the number of bowl games will cut into the revenue streams for college athletics and that is why this is not gonna happen. However, do not mistakenly conclude that the NCAA and the conferences and the athletic departments are destitute and running on fumes. Concurrently with the work of this task force which ought to recommend a cutback here, the NCAA has agreed with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to extend the contract for television rights to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The reason you did not know that the existing contract was about to expire and therefore negotiations for a new one were underway is that the existing contract was nowhere near expiration. In fact, the current deal would not have expired until 2024; the current contract calls for the NCAA to receive an average of “only” $771M per year from the networks. ($10.8B over a 14-year period).

The contract extension adds another 8 years to the deal taking it out to 2032 and those additional 8 years will bring in an average of $1.1B. I am well-aware that there are lots of member institutions out there to share in the bounty here, but no matter how you slice it, this is a whole lot of cheese.

Speaking of the intersection of sports and money, the San Diego Chargers have proposed a way for them to get a new stadium in San Diego – keeping the team there “permanently”. The facility would have 65,000 seats and it would be municipally owned; the Chargers propose an oversight entity for the stadium that would maintain the stadium and run the venue for any non-NFL events that might take place there. Let me just say that there is nothing revolutionary about such a concept.

The way the Chargers propose to pay for all of this is for the NFL to kick in $300M and for the Chargers to pony up $350M. Over and above that the local government entities would pick up the tab. For the moment, the idea is for the city/county to raise its Transient Occupancy Tax – us normal folk would call it a hotel/motel tax – by 4%. Also contained in this proposal is the use of some Transient Occupancy Tax money to build a new convention center for the city.

This all sounds reasonable except for a few details:

    1. The site proposed by the Chargers is one that the city fathers have rejected more than once in the past.

    2. The hotel/motel owners and operators in the city have been dead set against any increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax every time funding for a new stadium has been discussed.

    3. There seems not to be a consensus in San Diego that the city needs a new convention center.

In any event, the Chargers want to put this question to the voters in a referendum. Stay tuned for posturing and positioning on that issue…

Finally, in keeping with the theme of college football bowl games and TV money and the like, consider this observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The College Football Playoff committee has altered the 2016 playoff schedule. This after we learned last year that Americans would rather spend New Year’s Eve with their face planted in a bowl of dip than watch a football game.”

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

Coaches News/Rumors… reports this morning on a rumor that Washington Wizards’ coach, Randy Wittman will be fired at the end of the season. Since this is a local team for me, I get to see them play more times than I do any other team. Here is my assessment of this rumor:

    The Wizards made it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs last year and some pundits thought that the Wizards would be the team in the East that would challenge the Cavaliers for supremacy there. That was pie-in-the-sky and not analytical thinking.

    The Wizards will not make the playoffs at all this year. Other teams have had worse seasons but the Wizards may be the most disappointing team in the NBA.

    The problem is the roster and not the coach. Unless of course you believe that the team’s failure to play defense for the entire season is the coach’s fault. The basis for the disappointment this season is bad defense – and bad defense means the roster is not capable of playing good defense or refuses to work on defense. The coach is only marginally responsible there.

    Another problem with the roster has to do with things other than physical skill;

      John Wall continues to declare that he is one of the elite point guards in the NBA – top 5 if he is doing the evaluation. He is not.

      Bradley Beal is a good shooting guard who gets hurt twice a season and misses a dozen games at a time.

      Their two centers could easily be named Slow and Slower.

I do not want anyone to think that I put Randy Wittman in the same category with the great coaches in the NBA today and in the past. He is better than average and not much more. However, I do not care who the team might get to replace him, the “new coach” is not going to win the NBA East with that roster.

Speaking of coaching rumors, another one floating out there is that the Phoenix Suns will try to hire Jay Wright away from Villanova once the NBA season is over. I am not Jay Wright’s accountant nor do I know Jay Wright’s accountant so the best thing I can do here is to take a wild guess at what he earns at Villanova. Given that basketball is the “big dog” in the Villanova athletic department and that Wright has been there a while, I will GUESS that he makes about $2.5M as the coach and then adds some pocket change on top of that for things like motivational speaking and/or a local radio program and/or stuff like that. The added stuff probably does not amount to much so let me GUESS that his total income is $2.6M.

NBA coaches make between $2M a year and $10M a year. Coaches for bad teams (Sixers) and first time head coaches are obviously at the bottom of the ladder. Experienced coaches seem to start at the $3M per year level. Billy Donovan left Florida last year to take over the Oklahoma City Thunder and reports say that he makes $6M per year; Brad Stevens jumped from Butler to the Boston Celtics several years ago and reports say that he now makes $3.6M per year.

Looking purely at the numbers, Jay Wright could take down a nice pay raise going to the NBA off his NCAA Tournament championship about a week ago. But I wonder if “the numbers” are the critical factor in this decision. After all, if my GUESS above is off by 20% to the high side, Jay Wright and his family are in no danger of dining at soup kitchens anytime in the near future. Consider:

    Jay Wright has “Philadelphia roots”. His family lived in suburban Philly and he graduated from high school there.

    He was an assistant coach at Villanova and at Drexel from 1986 through 1992.

    He has been the head coach at Villanova since 2001.

I am sure that an NBA team could make him a financial offer that he could not refuse. After all, reports say that Doc Rivers makes $10M per year in LA to coach the Clippers and that Greg Popovich makes $11M per year to coach the Spurs. However, the Suns were reportedly paying Jeff Hornacek $2M per year prior to firing him back in January setting in motion the rumor that they might go after Jay Wright. [Aside: Recall that Hornacek was the runner-up Coach of the Year in the NBA the year before he was fired and the suns were paying him $2M per year.] That datum does not suggest that Wright will be swept off his feet financially by the Suns.

Moreover, Jay Wright can pretty much run his basketball program at Villanova however he wants to run it. In addition to the NCAA Championship the team just won, Wright’s cumulative record at Villanova is a gaudy 354-157 – a winning percentage of .693. With the Suns, he will need to run the basketball program in concert with a GM (Ryan McDonough) and a majority owner (Robert Sarver). I do not know a whole lot about Ryan McDonough but I do know that Robert Sarver has a history of meddling with the franchise and has gone off the rails with his comments in the past. Google Sarver’s name with “millennials” and see what I mean.

If I were advising Jay Wright – and you may be certain that he will not seek my advice or read this rant and take it to heart – I would tell him to listen to any NBA offer that any team might want to put in front of him. However, if the offer comes from a troubled franchise (Kings, Sixers, Suns, Wolves, Nets, etc.), be sure the annual salary is at least double what you are making now and that the contract is guaranteed in total for at least 5 years. Even then, I would suggest it would come down to a family decision involving the preferences of wife and kids. [Aside again: Jay Wright’s wife is a Villanova grad.]

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another member of the coaching fraternity:

“Jim Harbaugh made an appearance at the Sweet 16. At the current rate of appearances and sightings, I fully expect Harbaugh to show up in photos sent back by the Mars rover.”

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

Unlucky Sevens…

The number “7” was not lucky for two golfers in The Masters over the weekend. On Thursday, Ernie Els putted “7” times on his first hole in the tournament. On Sunday, Jordan Speith had the lead going into the 12th hole and proceeded to shoot a “7” on the hole and it cost him the tournament. Greg Cote put the Ernie Els “accomplishment” into perspective with this comment in the Miami Herald:

“Ernie Els 7-putted the first green at The Masters. There’s a phrase for that in golf: ‘Greg Cote.’”

The Internet is awash with mockery of the Jordan Speith debacle. One needs only to use Google to find plenty of it if anyone is interested.

While I am at it, here are three more comments from Greg Cote last weekend to bring you up- to speed on happenings in the world of tennis:

“Recently (I’m serious) the No. 75-ranked Hurricanes men’s tennis team hosted No. 41 North Carolina State. Um, is it possible college tennis might wanna tap the brakes on how many teams it ranks?”

And …

“Novak Djokovic won the Miami Open but Serena Williams did not. For once, women’s tennis is less predictable.”

And …

“The 24th-ranked men’s tennis player is an American named Jack Sock. He’s a shoe-in.”

Last week, the NFL organized and ran its “Personal Finance Camp” and 28 players (current and former) participated. This is the second time the league has done this; the “camp” is a 4-day event focusing on financial education. Given the stats that so many retired athletes face bankruptcy within 10 years of retirement, this sort of activity would seem to be very important and that is why I was surprised that only 28 players – along with some wives/significant others – were availing themselves of this opportunity.

The seminar – for lack of a better word – was organized by NFL Player Engagement in conjunction with TD Ameritrade and the University of Miami School of Business. Given that the goal here is to provide players with the knowledge they need to maintain financial security in the long term – after Father Time calls a halt to their playing careers – having access to professionals in academia and in the world of investing seems like a good idea to me.

Earlier this year, there was a Business Academy organized by NFL Player Engagement with cooperation from the University of Michigan. Similarly, the goal there was to educate players with regard to the world of business and business opportunities. Reports said that “more than 40” players and wives took part in those sessions.

Two things surprise me here:

    1. NFL Player Engagement is an organization/activity that exists under the banner of the league. I would have thought that this would be an activity high on the priority list for the NFLPA.

    2. There were about 1700 active players on rosters at the end of the 2015 NFL season and when you include retired players, the number of folks who might choose to participate swells to several thousand. So, how come there were so few participants?

If you are interested, here is a link to NFL Player Engagement and the various programs that they present. Until about a week ago, I did not know this entity existed.

As the baseball season begins to hit its stride, I guess it is time to take note of a few of the culinary options one might have at various ballparks this year. Here are two beauties you can get at Progressive Field in Cleveland should you choose to take in an Indians game this year:

    The Fat Italian: This is a very large sandwich that contains ham, salami, capicola, pepperoni, and hot sausage and then gets topped with provolone cheese, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers and mayo.

    The Spaghetti & Meatball Pizza: I guess the folks who concocted this bad boy thought that there were insufficient carbs in an ordinary pizza and to remedy that shortcoming they put pasta on top of the pizza dough.

If you do not have plans to visit Cleveland this summer but you think you might find yourself in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, consider this item offered by the Texas Rangers.

    The Wicked Pig: Start with a Hawaiian roll and pile onto it some pulled pork, bacon, split sausages, prosciutto and ham to give you a variety of pig meat products. That is all topped with barbecue sauce and cole slaw. Naturally, it comes with a side of pork rinds.

Finally, here is a note from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the local minor league baseball team, the Storm Chasers:

“Auditions to sing the national anthem at Storm Chasers games were held at Oak View Mall in front of 11 judges. There are only nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, right? Just checking.”

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

Sports Hash…

Today is going to be a jumble of issues – a regular sports hash. About a week ago, the US Women’s National Soccer Team hired Jeffrey Kessler and he filed on their behalf a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking equal pay for equal work for those women. In the majority of sports situations, I would look askance at such a complaint because there is – I believe – a measure that tilts the equality away from women in most cases:

    The comparable men’s sport to which the comparison must be made brings in more revenue than does the women’s version of that sport. Pay is tied to work and work output to be sure but it ought also to be tied to the value of the results of the work – namely revenue in the case of sports.

In the case of soccer in the US, the Women’s National Team is more successful on the field than is the Men’s National Team and – even more importantly – according to reports, the Women’s National Team brings in more revenue to the US Soccer mavens than does the Men’s National Team. Jeffrey Kessler is not just some lawyer the women found by perusing the Yellow Pages; he is a formidable figure in the field of labor law and anti-trust law. I really hope he wins this case; the US Women’s National Soccer Team deserves to win.

In another area of gender equality, the IOC recently announced that they have been successful in increasing the number of women representatives on various IOC Commissions. IOC President, Thomas Bach, said that women participation is now greater than 33%; that may not sound like “equality” but it is a significant increase. Buried in his statements/announcements however was the fact that the composition of the IOC Ethics Committee [snicker] remains unchanged. The last thing they need on that committee is a fresh pair of eyes and a new set of motor neurons … no matter what combination of X and Y chromosomes might come with those eyes/motor neurons.

Over the past several weeks, there have been various reports saying that Tim Tebow is considering running for public office or that he is intrigued by the idea of running for public office or – – you get the idea. When I look at the caliber of the 535 incumbents in the US Congress and add all of the folks who sought to run for the Presidential nominations this year, I just shrug my shoulders and think that it would be difficult for Tim Tebow to lower the efficacy of that mélange of folks. Therefore, in the spirit of constructive suggestion, allow me to offer some unsolicited advice to Tim Tebow:

    Be sure you choose to RUN for public office. You will probably be less likely to succeed if you try to PASS your way into office.

A UNC fan has started a petition at This petition seeks to nullify Villanova’s win in the final game last Monday night on the basis of poor/biased officiating. As of this morning, 2600 folks have signed onto this petition. Here is the link to that petition in case you want to sign on.

By the way, even if this petition were to gain 2 million signatures, the message I would have for the originator and all of the signatories is very simple:

    Good luck getting the NCAA to pay attention for even a nanosecond…

The NFL will implement a new rule this Fall that would automatically eject any player guilty of 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a single game. Coaches do not like the rule; I think it will not amount to much since it is rare for there to be two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game let alone 2 on the same player. However, the rule that might have a much greater effect on player safety would be a rule that links ejection to personal foul penalties. Consider one of these scenarios:

    If a player commits two personal fouls of any variety in a single game, he is ejected from that game immediately. If this happens in the first half of said game, he may play in the next game. If this happens in the second half of said game, he will sit out the rest of the game and the first half of the next game.

    A player is allowed 4 personal foul penalties in a season. Upon commission of the 5th personal foul, he is ejected from that game and will be suspended for the next game. For each personal foul beyond the 5th one, he will be immediately ejected and suspended also.

Speaking of the NFL and obliquely about player safety in the NFL, consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Isn’t it rich: If timing is everything, what are we to make of this? While the New York Times writes, and the NFL denies, the league under-reported the number of player concussions over the years, Roger Goodell will be honored next week with the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program Leadership in Sports Health, Safety and Research Award. Is this somebody’s idea of satire?”

Meanwhile, I think it is fair to say that Greg Cote of the Miami Herald is not particularly impressed with the news that the Cleveland Browns signed RG3 as their QB for next year.

“This just in. The Cleveland Browns are giving a tryout to Ryan Leaf and the late Otto Graham.”

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding player names:

“A British man — with a little help from his good friend alcohol — has changed his name from Simon Smith to Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

“He says it hasn’t affected his job.

“’My work speaks for itself … people keep hiring me,’ he told the BBC.

“Somewhere Metta World Peace is thinking: ‘Maybe if I changed my name to Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad …’”

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

Follow-Up From Yesterday…

As soon as I finished saying yesterday that perhaps one should not be hasty in proclaiming the Villanova/UNC game as “the best final game in history”, I figured that I would get snarky comments about being older than dirt and complaining that kids were always on my lawn. Indeed, I was tempted to try to forestall some of them by announcing that I had changed locales for yesterday’s rant from Curmudgeon Central to Geezer Gulch. What I did not expect was to get an e-mail from the reader in Houston who is my font of knowledge on sports history and sports gambling. I have never met him, but from comments he has made over time, I figure that he and I are “of a similar age” and that he has a better memory – and database – than I do.

Here is the text of his message to me:

“Was the UNC/Villanova Final Game on Monday night the best NCAA final Game ever?”

“You hit the nail right on the head when you wrote, ‘Do not allow the folks who produce sports talk radio or the ‘splashy’ ESPN TV shows to make you think that anything that happened before 1980 never really happened.’

“It’s a shame that hardly anybody alive saw or remembers the 1950 game at MSG between unranked CCNY and #1 Bradley. Actually CCNY had beaten Bradley the week before in the NIT Final also at MSG. (CCNY was a last minute invite.) In those 3 weeks, CCNY beat #12 San Francisco, #3 Kentucky, #6 Duquesne, and #1 Bradley. Then in the 8-team NCAA, they beat #2 Ohio State, #5 NC State, and #1 Bradley again.

“The 1953 NCAA Final saw Indiana beat Kansas by a point in KC. Kansas missed three shots in the last 10 seconds to win it. (Dean Smith was a benchwarmer for KU.)

“You mentioned the 1957 classic in KC between Kansas and NC.

“In 1959, California beat WVU by a point on a Darrell Inhoff tip-in followed by him blocking Jerry West’s attempted winner.

“In 1961, Cincy beat undefeated defending champ OSU (with four future NBAers and Bobby Knight – Lucas, Havlicek, and Knight are Hall of Famers) in OT.

“In 1963, Loyola came from 15 down with 14 minutes left to beat two-time defending champ Cincy on a Vic Rouse tip-in. That was the first Championship Game in which a majority of starters (7) were black. Eat your heart out Texas Western.

“But since those games weren’t on National TV, were not part of what we now know as “March Madness”, etc., it’s like they never happened except maybe to fans of the respective schools/teams.

“As far as recent best games go, how about Duke-Butler, which ended with Haywood missing the three-pointer to end the game. Butler was a 7.5 point dog. In 1999, UConn was a 9.5 point dog to Duke and they won, as the biggest point spread dog winner in an NCAA Final. When a big dog wins, it has to be up there as a “best” game nominee.”

So, as great as the Villanova/UNC game was on Monday night, keep in mind that plenty of NCAA final games have been excellent games and have gone down to the final play.

Allow me one more “follow-up comment” concerning the dominance of the UConn women’s basketball team and how that helps/hurts the sport of women’s college basketball. The UConn women won their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament championship on Tuesday night beating Syracuse by 31 points. I do not know what the final line on that game was, but at one point on Monday, I happened to see that the line was UConn – 26. So, if you had money on the game, it was “close” down to the end; if you did not have money on the game, the outcome was not in doubt for most of the contest.

In a blockbuster investigative report over in the world of business news, the revelation of the “Panama Papers” is that lots of rich people in the world use lots of shady dealings to avoid paying lots of taxes in lots of countries in the world. I sort of suspected those kinds of things were ongoing but the details provided here go far beyond what I had “imagined’. And let me be clear, I do not pretend for even a moment that I understand all of the intricacies that these shady deals involved themselves with. What I did notice was that there was a part of the Panama Papers’ revelations that intersected with the sports world and as soon as I read it my reaction was:

      Isn’t that special…? [/The Church Lady]

According to The Guardian, the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, is “mentioned” in the Panama Papers. Infantino is the man selected to take over from Sepp Blatter and the other rascals who raised the corruption levels of FIFA to such heights that FIFA actually challenged the IOC as the Sleaziest Organization on the Planet – in the category of “Non-Political Parties” of course. Infantino, the former head of UEFA, was portrayed as IOC’s reformer, its White Knight, its moral compass, its …

Here are three paragraphs from The Guardian report:

“Files seen by the Guardian will raise questions about the role Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, played in deals that were concluded when he was director of legal services at Uefa, European football’s governing body.

“According to records, Uefa concluded offshore deals with one of the indicted figures at the heart of an alleged “World Cup of fraud” despite previously insisting it had no dealings with any of them.

“The emergence of the contracts from 2003 and 2006, which were co-signed by Infantino, link Uefa for the first time to one of the companies involved in the huge unfolding scandal that has brought down former Fifa president Sepp Blatter.”

If Infantino was the guy that the soccer mavens elevated to clean up the giant puddle of cat-vomit left behind by Blatter and company, then either the soccer mavens are easily fooled or the level of corruption in the sport goes down to the lowest levels imaginable and there is no intention to reform the sport at all. Let me recommend that you read this report in its entirety.

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

“Somebody check on LeBron James, make sure he’s OK. It’s been almost a week since he’s said or done anything to call attention to himself.”

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

Remembering History…

Far too much time and “intellectual energy” was spent yesterday pondering the questions:

    Was the ending of the UNC/Villanova game on Monday night the best ending to an NCAA Final Game ever?

    Was the UNC/Villanova Final Game on Monday night the best NCAA final Game ever?

Back when I was working for a living, a colleague and I used to lament something we called the “tyranny of the inbox”. What we meant was that we could allow ourselves to be so caught up in the issues/” crises” of the moment that we lost perspective on what was far more important in the long term. My colleague and I used to remind each other that we needed to step back from the issues that were “immediate” once in a while lest we lose track of the issues that were truly important. It is in that spirit that I offer this observation…

Monday’s UNC/Villanova game was a great game; the outcome was always in doubt and the teams played well. Neither team played in a way that it was out there to lose the game. Nevertheless, to say that the game itself or the eventual outcome was significantly “better” than these games is a stretch:

    NC State beating “Phi Slamma Jamma” on a dunk with no time remaining on the game clock.

    Villanova beating Georgetown by shooting about 88% from the floor for an entire game.

    St Joe’s beating Utah in quadruple OT in the consolation game in 1961.

And in a game that far too many of the sports talk radio hosts are waaay too young to remember:

    In 1957, UNC played Kansas in the NCAA Final Game. UNC earned a slot in the game with a triple OT win over Michigan State. The Final Game went to Triple OT and UNC won by a score of 54-53.

    If you want drama and a game decided by the slimmest of margins, you have to consider that Final Game as the prototype by which any future games might be measured.

    I watched that game on a small screen black-and-white TV

Do not allow the folks who produce sports talk radio or the “splashy” ESPN TV shows to make you think that anything that happened before 1980 never really happened. Those long-ago games did happen and some of them produced equally exciting endings as the one we all witnessed on Monday night of this week. I do not mean to detract in even the slightest way from Villanova’s win or Kris Jenkins’ shot – – but there is a long-term context to the NCAA Tournament that must be considered when affixing superlative labels such as “greatest” or “best” or …

I suspect that I may get myself in hot water with this next commentary – – but that has never deterred me in the past. Consider these two recent jury verdicts:

    Erin Andrews got a $55M judgement in her case against Marriot because a jury decided that Marriot made it easy for a demented stalker to get a room next to hers where he could take videos of her in the nude which then found their way onto the Internet.

      For the record, I think the “videographer” in the case is a slimeball when/if he ever achieves the acme of his human potential.

    “Hulk Hogan” got a $115M judgment in his case against Gawker for a sex tape that they publicized involving “Hogan” and the wife of a former friend of his who set up/endorsed the sexual encounter and recorded the “event” without the consent of either party to the sexual acts.

      For the record, the person who arranged this assignation and then covertly recorded it is the “real” bad person here. The folks who put the recording on the Internet seeking profits from its publication took an economic gamble that seems not have paid off for now.

Once more for the record, I have NOT viewed either of the tapes that were part of the evidence in these matters. Both of them involve private matters that I believe are none of my damned business. Therefore, I cannot – and will not – comment on any particulars involved in either court case.

On the surface, both Erin Andrews and “Hulk Hogan” deserved to win the suits they brought in court to my mind. Were I on the jury in either case, I am virtually certain that is how I would have voted. If a person – man or woman – is in a hotel room and is dressing himself/herself, that person should be relatively certain that their dressing behaviors are not being surreptitiously recorded so that others might “peek in”. If two adults are engaged in a consensual sexual act, they too should be relatively certain that their activities are not being recorded for a future sharing with “whomever” on the Internet.

And now that I have made my position on both cases rather clear, I find it interesting that there seems to be a “pay disparity” between male victims and female victims here.

    The “male victim” here – “Hulk Hogan” received a judgment that is 110% more than the “female victim” – Erin Andrews received.

    Judge for yourself which victim was more improperly violated. I cannot make myself think that either of them was “violated” twice as much as the other was…

Finally, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“NBA referee Joey (Uncle Fester) Crawford is retiring. Divest in technical fouls. They’ll plummet.”

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

A Great NCAA Final Game…

Yes, the NCAA Championship game was decided with a buzzer-beater; and when a game ends that way, it has to be listed among the “great games” just because of the drama involved. Last night’s game was a great game from start to finish; the outcome was always in doubt; the teams played efficiently and effectively; the crowd was definitely into the game; the announcing team did not detract from the game nor did it over-dramatize an excellent contest.

When I was growing up, we had a neighbor who loved baseball and liked football. But he hated basketball. He characterized it as a bunch of guys running and jumping in their underwear. No one could change his mind on the subject. Well, my old neighbor would not have liked last night’s game between UNC and Villanova and I suspect that if you watched it and did not like it, then you too just do not like basketball.

In the NBA, the Warriors are chasing history with the potential to win 73 games this season. If they do that, they will be the winningest regular season team ever and that has created a lot of “discussion” seeking to compare this year’s Warriors with the 1995/96 Chicago Bulls who won 72 games that season. After the first such “discussion”, my interest in that topic wanes significantly. I just do not get emotionally involved in comparisons of teams or athletes from different eras because in the end there is nothing that remotely comes close to a definitive test to whatever hypothesis is offered. I did however run across one comparison between the Warriors and the Bulls that may explain the greatness of the two squads as well as anything else:

    The 1995/96 Bulls had Luc Longley at center. Longley is from Melbourne, Australia.

    The 2015/16 Warriors have Andrew Bogut at center. Bogut is from Melbourne, Australia.

So, there…

Rabid fans of teams around the world will go to great lengths to show everyone their level of fandom. They will dress up their children or pets in team gear; they will travel immense distances to see their team play; they will brave outrageous weather conditions to be “at the game”. And, sometimes, rabid fans contemplate meaningless actions/protests.

The New England Patriots have a lot of rabid fans and the team has rewarded that rabid fanbase with more than a little success over the past 15 years or so. Now according to reports, some of the rabid Patriots’ fans are contemplating an action that will take them ‘round the bend.

    To protest the NFL’s confiscation of the Pats’ first round draft pick this year stemming from the Deflategate mess a year ago, some Pats’ fans have tried to organize a boycott of the televised NFL Draft for the first round. The plan is to wait until the first round is over and then to tune into the programming for the subsequent selections.

In case anyone cares, I do not think that the Patriots should lose any draft picks here for a variety of reasons that I will not bother to list here because I do not want to resurrect the Deflategate debate yet again. I think the NFL acted in haste and I think the NFL is more concerned about saving face at the moment than it is about doing the right thing and putting the entire mess behind it. By saying that, you might imagine that I would be one with the folks planning this boycott/protest. Let me channel Lee Corso here for a moment:

      “Not so fast, my friend.”

The first two words that jumped to my mind when I heard about the planned boycott were “feckless” and “impotent”. A boycott – in order to be effective – must deny some sort of economic or social benefit to the entity that is the target of the boycott. As soon as you recognize that the NFL – and Roger Goodell as its personification in this case – is the target, you will recognize the fecklessness of such an action. The NFL will lose nothing based on this proposed action. Now that you recognize that the NFL will not suffer at all, you can see why the proposed action is impotent because it is feckless.

I read a report last week about a baseball trade rumor. Normally, you have to wait until the end of April before stories about baseball trades start to populate the Internet so I was interested to see what this one was about. Here was the rumor:

    Red Sox trade Pablo Sandoval to the Padres for James Shields.

That is an interesting deal to contemplate. Sandoval is one of the few players in MLB that would make his team happy if only he would “hit his weight”. He has $75M left on his contract (assuming a club buyout in 2020); absent that buyout, the total remaining on the deal is $87M. There are also minor incentives in the contract but none of them involve him staying under a pre-ordained weight limit. Sandoval’s contract is bloated and his physique is bloated; instead of calling him “The Panda”, Sox fans should start to refer to him as “Bloated Squared”.

James Shields is a 34-year old pitcher who will make $21M per year in 2016, 17 and 18. Then the Padres have a $2M buyout option in 2019 or they can keep Shields then at age 37 for $16M. So Shields would cost the Padres either $65M or $79M. As a point of reference, the Padres’ opening day roster will earn a total of $99.3M for 2016; James Shields accounts for 21% of the team payroll. Like Sandoval, Shields has a bloated contract; unlike Sandoval, James Shields is not fat.

As I said, that trade is worth contemplating even if it never progresses one millimeter beyond where it is right now…

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Man U star Wayne Rooney, sitting in the front row at a WWE event in Manchester, floored 6-foot-7 Wade Barrett with a right-hand slap after the rassler walked up and taunted him.

“Rasslin’ judges scored the flop a 9.3, but it rated only a 3.7 in soccer circles.”

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

Basketball Today…

Neither of Saturday night’s Tournament semi-final games even resembled a “nail-biter”. The fact that the outcomes were not in doubt for a significant portion of the second half allowed for watching for some of the smaller aspects of the games. For example:

    As I wrote in an earlier rant, I would be very concerned as an NBA scout about Buddy Hield’s ability to “get his own shot”.

    Syracuse guard, Malachi Richardson, had no need to inform his bench that “they can’t guard me” as he did in the game against Virginia. The UNC defenders were on him like a sleeping bag.

    Jim Boeheim has grown calm in his advanced years. Twenty years ago, he would have pitched a fit on the sidelines if his Final Four team played the way they did Saturday night. This year, he just took in what was happening in front of him as “reality”.

The spread for tonight’s final game is UNC – 2.5 points with an OVER/UNDER of 149.5. I think tonight’s game will be more competitive than either of Saturday’s games but if I had to make a pick, I would take the game to go OVER.

Moving up a notch on the basketball ladder, the Hall of Fame inductees for 2016 were announced over the weekend. Heading the class in my mind are – in alphabetical order:

    Zelmo Beaty
    Darryl Garretson
    Allen Iverson
    Tom Izzo
    Shaquille O’Neal

There are other inductees about whom I have no significant reaction one way of the other. And then there is Yao Ming…

I understand that Yao Ming is a semi-deity in China and that the NBA is all in to cultivate the “China market”. Now if that is the basis for Yao Ming’s placement in the Hall of Fame, I have no difficulty whatsoever; after all, they are also inducting Jerry Reisndorf as the Chicago Bulls owner and I have no idea what makes him a significantly greater owner than another dozen owners except that he signed Michael Jordan and watched MJ go out and win 6 NBA championships.

What would bother me a lot is for Yao Ming to be in the Hall of Fame for his on-the-court accomplishments in the NBA because the fact is that those accomplishments were sparse indeed. Granted, he had several very productive seasons and it was a series of injuries that limited the length of his career. Nevertheless, as a player, I do not think of him as “one of the all-time greats”.

I suspect that someone may look at my list of 5 people with whom I have no problem getting into the Hall of Fame and wonder how I can have Zelmo Beaty on that list after my Yao Ming comments. My first response would be to say that Zelmo Beaty had the great misfortune to be born at a time that made him play in the NBA at the same time as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond and Walt Bellamy. Back then, the NBA only had 12 teams meaning that Beaty took the court against an outstanding opponent about 30% of the time. Oh, and back then, the NBA played man-to-man defense exclusively.

Let me stay with basketball today and suggest that the suits in the NBA exec suites have to breathe a sigh of relief when they look at the standings in the Western Conference and see that the LA Clippers are going to be in the playoffs. Were that not the case, the NBA would face a set of playoffs where all four of their teams in the two largest TV markets (NYC and LA) would be sitting home waiting for the draft lottery to happen. The other three teams in those huge TV markets have been a hot mess this year.

The Lakers created their own “relevance” this year despite being a team with a record of 16-60 as of this morning. The Lakers have been on a barnstorming tour with the “Kobe Bryant Farewell Ceremonies” as their calling card. As that got old and tired, the team then gave us the Deangelo Russell/Swaggy P prank video operetta. At least the Lakers provided drama – and they could still have a very high draft pick in June unless they get pushed out of the top 3 teams whereby their pick would go to the Sixers.

The two teams in NYC are a different story. Those teams stink and there is just about nothing you can point to that might lead you to believe that they are going to do anything other than stink for at least next year and probably several years to come. Both the Knicks and the Nets will end the season with losing records; in fact, the Nets will have to win four of their last 5 games just to get to the 25-win mark for the season. But it gets even worse for the Knicks and Nets…

    As a result of previous trades, neither the Knicks nor the Nets will have a first round draft pick this year. Even worse, those first round picks belong to Eastern Conference rivals (Raptors and Celtics) who are ahead of the Knicks and Nets in the standings and ahead of the NY teams in the building process.

    Let me put that into stark terms here:

      Help is NOT on the way.

Knicks’ and Nets’ fans have reason to be disconsolate these days. However, I want to offer them something to cling to as they go through the agonizing steps on the way back to basketball relevance for their favorite teams.

    Only 90 miles to the south, the fans in Philly are in an even worse state as they try to discern even modest improvements in the Sixers.

    Things may look bleak for NBA fans in NYC – but imagine how dark and bleak things are in Philadelphia.

Finally, here is an item from Bob Molinaro in a column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot. He nailed this comment:

“Duh: A new research paper about big-time football and men’s basketball finds little correlation between a coach’s career advancement and the academic success of his players. Now that’s what I call a scoop.”

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