Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/3/16

Welcome back to the world of Mythical Picks. For the benefit of new readers that have come on board since last Fall, let me tell you what these weekly features will be about. They are formulaic to a large extent. My intention is to write a “weekly thing” that is focused on college football – and on the wagering aspects related to college football. [Aside: I cannot promise that I will not miss a week for the season; I will try not to but sometimes life intervenes …] And that point makes me offer the following declarations:

    I make “Picks” in these rants. They are called “Mythical Picks” because I do NOT and would NOT wager real money on all of the “Picks” that I offer here.

    I am completely in favor of legalized wagering on sporting events like college football. Having said that, I do NOT advocate illegal gambling in any form.

    Even in the situation where one would have access to totally legal gambling on college football games – e.g. you live within walking distance of The Strip in Las Vegas – you should not wager on tens or dozens of games per week. Money management is as important an aspect of gambling as is “picking”.

    Here is my rule of thumb for making a real wager on a college – or professional – football game. I am not saying this is the only rule to follow nor am I saying it is the best rule to follow. It is the one that I follow:

      I bet on games where I think the line is off by at least 3 points in one direction – and preferably by 4 points.

I will make a lot of Mythical Picks on various games every week and I will begin each week with a summary of how I did on the previous week. Last season, I made Mythical Picks for 212 college football games; the final record for the season was 106-101-5. Here is what that means:

    I was right more times than I was wrong.

    Had I made the same wager on all 212 games, I would have been a loser given the vig that I would have to have laid to make the wagers.

    The lesson from that is that one should only make real wagers on fewer games than you think you have a minor opinion about.

Now, before we go further into the process here, let me be sure that everyone understands what is to follow. No one with an IQ equal to or greater than his/her shoe size would even consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this week where said wager involves real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that would fall into this category:

    You are dumb enough to believe that a microscope is one-millionth of a bottle of mouthwash.

General Comments:

In this section of these rants, I will typically do two things:

    1. I will track the progress of the Division III Linfield College football team through the season. The reason for this is that the last time Linfield had a losing record in football was in 1956. It is the longest streak of winning seasons for any team in any major sport in North America. I did not attend Linfield; no one in my family attended Linfield; I visited the campus once just to see their stadium and take some pictures. I track this because I want Linfield to continue their “streak”.

    2. I also make “General Comments” about college football here.

Linfield college does not play this weekend; they begin their schedule on September 10; therefore, my comments regarding their progress toward a winning season this week are finished right now.

So, now let me make a few comments regarding the state of college football as most fans know the sport. I think that the College Football Playoff system has had a most positive influence on the sport for one very simple reason:

    The Selection Committee who determine which 4 teams ultimately get to compete for the College Football Championship at the end of the year have made it clear – and have backed up their words with actions – that “strength of schedule” matters.

    Hallelujah and thanks be to The Selection Committee for this.

That action by The Selection Committee has prodded some of the “big-time” schools in many of the “power conferences” to look at their scheduling prior to conference play and to upgrade it just a bit. The opening week card this year is straight-up evidence to support that assertion and every college football fan should stand and toast The Selection Committee with a “Hear! Hear!” sometime this weekend.

In previous years, there might have been two – or at most three – out-of-conference games on the card where the two teams involved might be of similar quality. Opening weekend often gave the college football fan an overdose of:

    Geno’s Barber College at Enormous State University – 45 (52)

Some folks may think games like that represent “betting opportunities” and maybe they actually do. However, for fans who are not going to bet on such a game, the contest itself is uninteresting at best. Even if you are a passionate alum of Enormous State, can you really be excited about the second half of the game if the score is 38-0 at halftime?

As you will see later in this piece, the opening week schedule for the 2016 season is very different. There are plenty of real games involving real teams playing each other. Thank you to The Selection Committee…

There is one game in particular this weekend I want to talk about here. On 3 September (that would be Saturday this week) Oklahoma travels to Houston to play the Cougars. That game can put multiple ripples into the pond of college football. Consider:

    1. The Big 12 is looking to expand. The city of Houston is an attractive place for the Big 12 to be simply because of the population of Houston (estimated at 2.2 million by the US Census Bureau). Oklahoma is one of the “big dogs” in the current incarnation of the Big 12.

    2. Last year, Houston finished the year with a 13-1 record; and in their bowl game, they beat Florida State handily by 2 touchdowns. The only loss came on the road at UConn. Houston did not play the most difficult schedule in the country by any means last year simply because they were in the American Athletic Conference which is hardly over-burdened with top-shelf football teams. Nonetheless, they were 13-1 and they beat Florida State handily and no one thinks Florida State is the equivalent of the Florida Asthmatics Institute.

    3. Look at the schedule for Houston this year. IF – and it is a big IF – they find a way to beat Oklahoma this week, it is POSSIBLE that they will finish the season undefeated at 13-0 and if that happens, what might The Selection Committee do with them when it comes to naming the four teams that play for the College Football Championship?

    4. This is an early-season game between one team with a 70-year pedigree in college football against an upstart team. But it is a game that you should not ignore if you think there is a chance that an “upstart team” might someday make it into the Gang of Four competing for the College Football Championship. Larry Culpepper would likely approve…

The sidebar to a win by Houston here has to do with its potential invitation to join the Big 12. Will Oklahoma be willing to admit a team to the league that just beat it? Do they have enough influence among the other schools essentially to “blackball” Houston if they feel vindictive about such a potential loss? That game has meaning on various levels – and it is not even the best game of the weekend by a longshot.

I did a small measure of research about the upgrading of out-of-conference schedules by some of the big-time schools in the power conferences. The results were mixed – but trending is what I perceive to be a positive direction:

    Kudos to:

      Wisconsin and LSU – they are playing each other
      Ohio State and Oklahoma – they are playing each other
      Michigan State and Notre Dame – they are playing each other
      Michigan State (again) and BYU – they are playing each other
      Alabama and USC – they are playing each other
      Ole Miss and Florida State – they are playing each other
      Auburn and Clemson – they are playing each other
      Texas A&M and UCLA – they are playing each other
      K-State and Stanford – they are playing each other
      Texas and Notre Dame (again) – they are playing each other
      TCU and Arkansas – they are playing each other
      Arizona and BYU (again) – they are playing each other

    Disrespect to:

      Michigan will play Hawaii, UCF and Colorado out-of-conference and all at home no less.

      Maryland will play Howard, Fla Atlantic and UCF out-of-conference

      Kentucky will play So Miss, New Mexico St. Austin Peay and Louisville out-of-conference.

      You get the idea here – there are loads of schools that have not yet gotten the memo that upgrading the out-of-conference schedule is trending.

There has already been one college football game; the NCAA seems to be copying the NFL’s move to take their game to other countries. Cal opened the season playing Hawaii – – in Australia. Cal won the game 51-31 and a couple of the stats from the game are sort of interesting:

    Cal lost Jared Goff at QB for this season since Goff was the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Not to worry, Goff’s replacement – Davis Webb – threw for 441 yards in his first game under center. Do you get the idea that Cal has a potent offensive system?

    In that same game, Hawaii ran up a total offense of 482 yards. Do you get the idea that Cal did not do much recruiting for defensive players?

The Ponderosa Games:

About 25 years ago, I started to track games that had big spreads to see if favorites could still cover large numbers at a reasonable rate. What I learned was that in most seasons, the guys who set the lines are very good at coming close to the outcomes. In most seasons, the favorites cover just about half the time and the dogs cover about half the time. I track this because I find it interesting; it is not a “betting system”.

Last year was an unusual year for Ponderosa Games. The favorites covered at an inordinately low rate. The final tally was 38-49-1 for favorites covering.

I call them Ponderosa Games because The Ponderosa was the large ranch owned by the Cartwrights on the old TV western, Bonanza. The Ponderosa was a “big spread”; these games have “big spreads”; get it?

Since this is my creation, I get to make the rules. My definition of a Ponderosa Game is very simple:

    The spread has to be 24 points or more.

So, this week we have 9 Ponderosa Games. Please note that the huge favorite is at home in every case; one of the sad features of college football is that when big schools schedule patsies, they do so in a way that makes the patsy do the traveling.

Charlotte at Louisville – 40 (59.5): This line has been relatively stable all week.

Hawaii at Michigan – 40 (54.5): I wonder if Hawaii flew directly from Australia to Michigan for this game or if they stopped off in Hawaii so the players might – you know – go to a class or two.

Miami (Oh) at Iowa – 30 (52): This spread opened at 30 and has been dropping.

Bowling Green at Ohio St – 28 (64): The Total Line opened at 56 and has shot up by 8 points. Bettors must think Urban Meyer is going to run it up this week. He wouldn’t do that, would he?

S. Alabama at Mississippi St – 28 (54): This spread opened at 33.5; it is down 5.5 points. The Total Line opened at 58.5; it is down 4.5 points.

La Tech at Arkansas – 26 (52): This spread opened at 20.5; it is up 5.5 points. The Total Line opened at 56.5; it is down 4.5 points.

UMass at Florida – 36.5 (50): I could understand UMass scheduling a game in Gainesville in late November just to get out of the cold weather. But why they are in Gainesville for a football game that looks to be an organized ass-kicking in August is beyond me.

Rutgers at Washington – 26.5 (54.5): Lots of air miles to play a football game that does not look like it will be interesting after about the first 20 minutes…

Fresno St at Nebraska – 28 (62): Only about half the air miles compared to the game above to play a game that looks like it will not be interesting after about the first 20 minutes.

The SHOE Tournament:

This section will demonstrate the difference between most sports commentators and the commentary you get coming out of Curmudgeon Central. Everyone loves to argue about who is “really” the best team in the country; I enjoy that sort of debate too. However, I also would love to know who is the worst team in the country. And, I came up with a way to do that without any polls; I would love to determine the worst team in the country on the field.

My idea is The SHOE Tournament. At the end of the season a Selection Committee – I would be happy to do this by myself if no one else is interested – will pick a field of 8 bad football teams and seed them from #1 (the perceived worst team) through #8. Then the teams play 4 games according to the seedings and – here is the twist – the winner gets to go home and the loser has to continue to play. Finally, we would have the loser of the final game and we would have the worst team of the year.

Why do I call it the SHOE Tournament? Because the team that “loses out” and is the worst team of the year is dubbed:

    The Steaming Heap Of Excrement – The SHOE Team.

There is one caveat here. I think that early season polls for football – and basketball – teams are beyond meaningless. Therefore, in order to be something short of hypocritical here, I will not even begin ranking teams that are in consideration for the SHOE tournament until at least mid-October when the candidate teams will have shown their ineptitude on the field and not merely on paper.

Games of Interest:

Games of interest might be ones that have interesting wagering angles or they might be ones involving two really good teams – or two really bad ones. Or, a game might just be interesting to me for some inexplicable and irrelevant reason. If anyone is looking for some sort of pattern to these games of interest, I suggest that you will find a yeti before you find a pattern here.

By the way, times mentioned here are EDT…

(Thurs Nite) Tulane at Wake Forest – 17 (43.5): Wake Forest was hardly a juggernaut last year but they do return plenty of starting players. Have they improved or have they merely gotten a year older? Tulane was a bad team last year and they have a new head coach who arrived there via Georgia Southern. Purely a hunch; I’ll take Tulane plus the points here because this looks to be a low scoring game and that is a fat line.

(Thurs Nite) South Carolina at Vandy – 4.5 (42.5): The total line opened at 46.5 and has fallen steadily to this level. S. Carolina had a good defense last year and should hold Vandy in check. S. Carolina had a mediocre offense last year and they have a new coach and a new system this year. I like this game to stay UNDER.

(Thurs Nite) Oregon St. at Minnesota – 13 (55.5): Neither team is an “aerial threat” unless one of them recruited a complete unknown to play QB and secretly signed Usain Bolt to play WR. I see this as a grind-it-out game between two middle-of-the-pack (at best) teams in their respective conferences. I like Oregon state plus the points here and I like the game to stay UNDER.

(Fri Nite) Army at Temple – 16 (46.5): Temple won 10 games and went to a bowl game last year. Army was a bad team. I think this year will be much the same for both schools. I like Temple to win and cover here.

(Fri Nite) Kansas St at Stanford – 15.5 (48.5): I think both teams will put good offenses on the field this year so I think that Total Line is awfully low. I like this game to go OVER.

(Sat Morning) Georgia Tech – 3 vs Boston College (44) Game is in Dublin, Ireland: Both coaches love to run the football and sometimes Georgia Tech gets its running game into a rhythm and rolls over the opponent. BC will play tough defense so that steamrollering is not likely to happen. BC will also likely play one of the most tepid offenses in college football this year. Just for giggles, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

(Sat Afternoon) Missouri at W. Virginia – 10 (50): Mizzou had a bad year last year and changed the coaching staff. That does not auger well for this year. West Virginia is a good offensive team. I like West Virginia to win and cover here.

(Sat Nite) New Mexico St at UTEP – 9.5 (60): These are two bad teams playing each other. Unless you are an alum of one of these schools or have a blood relative playing on one of the teams, do not waste your time watching this. Moreover, if you even think of placing a wager on this game, get yourself to a 12-Step Program immediately.

(Sat Nite) SMU – 9.5 at North Texas (68.5): Ditto the comments directly above…

(Sat Nite) Clemson – 7 at Auburn (62.5): Clemson lost a bunch of players from their defense to the early rounds of the NFL Draft in April. One question for the Tigers is whether they can replace that many very good defenders in short order. Clemson did not lose Deshaun Watson at QB, however, and that means their offense will be high-powered. Auburn had a down year last season finishing the regular season at 6-6 with two of the wins coming at the expense of Jacksonville State (Division 1-AA) and Idaho (a really bad team). I think they are over-matched here even at home. I like Clemson to win and cover.

(Sat Afternoon) UCLA at Texas A&M – 3 (53.5): Last year, the Aggies morphed from a let-it-fly offensive team in the Johnny Football years to a solid defensive team that did not make the offense feel the pressure to score a TD on every possession. I suspect that will continue to be the case in College Station this year. If I am correct, that should keep this game as a low scoring one so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

(Sat Afternoon) LSU – 10 vs Wisconsin (44.5) Game is in Lambeau Field in Green Bay: Both teams here live by running the football; both defenses will need to be ready to stop power running from beginning to end. I love LSU running back, Leonard Fournette and I give the edge to LSU even this far from home against a good team. But that line looks awfully fat. I’ll take Wisconsin plus the points.

(Sat Afternoon) UNC vs Georgia – 2.5 (56) Game is at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta: Georgia has Nick Chubb back at RB after surgery and rehab on a bad knee injury from early last year. Georgia also has a new coaching staff. I think UNC will be a good team this year but I like Georgia even more. For no particular reason, I’ll take Georgia and lay the points.

(Sat Afternoon) Oklahoma – 12 at Houston (68): See comments above about why this is an interesting game and a potentially important game. I think this game will light up the scoreboard; I doubt either defense will put the clamps on the opposing offense. I like the game to go OVER. Now I would really like to see Houston win the game outright to stir things up for the rest of the season with regard to rankings and things like that. However, let this be a lesson; you do not wager with your emotions. I can find Houston on the money line at +395 – – but I am not going to make that pick.

(Sat Nite) USC vs Alabama – 11.5 (53.5) Game is in Arlington Texas at the “Jerry Dome”: Alabama lost defensive stars to the NFL Draft in April as they do every season. And if this year is like any other year since Nick Saban took over there, they will have defenders who will be coveted by NFL teams come next April. USC has good athletes on its side of the ball to be sure – – but I do not see USC scoring a whole lot here. I like this game to stay UNDER.

(Sat Nite) BYU at Arizona – 1 (60.5): This game should be in the middle of the 2nd quarter when the USC/Alabama game ends. Consider it the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae for dessert. Purely a hunch, I’ll take BYU plus the point here.

(Sun Nite) Notre Dame – 3.5 at Texas (60): These teams played last year in South Bend and Texas got their lunches handed to them; I suspect that the coaches may have mentioned that a time or two during the pre-season preparation for this game. This game will be closer than last year but I still like Notre Dame to win and cover.

(Mon Nite) Ole Miss vs Florida State – 4 (57) Game is in Orlando, FL: The game will take place in Camping World Stadium which only sounds as if it should be located in the middle of Disney World. Actually, football fans know this venue better as The Citrus Bowl except that it has been massively renovated. I like Florida State this year; I’ll take them here to win and cover.

For new readers, this is an example of what you can expect most every week during the college football season. [Aside: By the way there will be an NFL flavor of Mythical Picks too once the Exhibition Season is over.] I hope you come along for the ride.

Finally, here is a comment from former Purdue head coach, Alex Agase, about why he did not spend a lot of time recruiting in California:

“Any kid who would leave that wonderful weather to come here is too dumb to play for us.”

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

The Hope Solo Suspension

Julie Foudy played in 4 Women’s World Cup Tournaments – winning two of them – with the US Women’s National Team. She is in the National Soccer Hall of Fame and she has been a reporter/commentator with ESPN for about 10 years now. When it comes to soccer – and particularly women’s soccer – she is very much like the old E.F. Hutton commercials. You remember them:

    In a noisy restaurant setting two people are sitting at the table and one is telling the other about some stock tip he just got. Then the other person says, “Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton and E.F. Hutton says …”

    At that point, the entire restaurant is silent and all the other diners are leaning toward the E. F. Hutton client to hear what comes next.

    The slogan was:

    “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

So, when I heard Julie Foudy say that the US Women’s National Team will likely move on without Hope Solo even after her 6-month suspension is over, I had to take note of that and wonder if this would be one of the rare situations in sport where talent is set aside because of some personal/character/controversial incident. Hope Solo is 35 years old; I believe that the next Women’s World Cup will be held in the summer of 2019 when Solo will be 38 years old.
There is no denying that at age 35, she is still a top-shelf talent as a goalkeeper and I have no basis for projecting what her capacity in that job might be three years hence. However, if Julie Foudy’s declaration is on target, then the folks who run the US Women’s National Team need to start to find Solo’s replacement very quickly.

The US Women’s National Team is a dominant presence in the world of women’s soccer and the position of goalkeeper is hugely important to the success of any soccer team. Hope Solo has been with the Women’s National Team since 2000; she holds the US record for the most shutouts by a goalkeeper; at one point she was the goalkeeper for a string of 55 games where the team went undefeated. Replacing the talent will be difficult; the soccer mavens ought to start now. Are there any standout women’s goalkeepers playing collegiate soccer these days? I surely do not have an answer to that but I sure hope the soccer mavens do…

Here is Bob Molinaro’s position on the Hope Solo situation and suspension from his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Life sentence: Though no fan of Hope Solo, I don’t think U.S. Soccer should have suspended her for six months – a period of time, incidentally, when the U.S. plays no significant games – after she called the Swedish soccer players “cowards.” It’s not a free speech issue with me. I just think that it’s punishment enough for the boorish goalkeeper that she has to go through life as Hope Solo.”

Here is another item from Bob Molinaro’s column last week:

“In passing: The Washington Nationals have a pitching prospect on the Hagerstown Suns by the name of Joan Baez.”

Since the Nats are in the National League, that would mean that Joan Baez would have to hit for himself should he make it to the majors. And that would mean that he would need “walk-up music”. So, what might his namesake – the musician – provide as possible choices:

    Diamonds and Rust – – after all he is a pitcher not a position player

    No Expectations – – after all he is a pitcher and not a position player

    Oh, Happy Day – – for his first plate appearance in MLB

    East Virginia – – after all, that is where Washington DC is

The Hagerstown Suns are in the South Atlantic League which is A level minor league baseball. Baez is only 21 years old; and so far this year, he has an ERA of 4.08 in 114.2 innings pitched. That may not look overly impressive but he does have 115 strikeouts with only 57 walks. That says to me that he is still worth the coaching effort that a pitching coach has to do to develop a young arm.

I have commented on the need for MLB to find ways to increase the pace of play and have offered suggestions to accomplish some of that in the past. Not nearly as frequently have I mentioned the most annoying pace of play by some of the PGA Tour golfers. I think I might be able to build an entire Lego city in the time it takes some of them to line up a chip shot that will land on the green. It is maddening.

I ran across a report recently about how one amateur golfer came to address the slow pace of play of others on the course with him. Lee Johnson and his wife caught up to the foursome ahead of them and asked to play through. The foursome said no. So what did Johnson do?

According to the police in Payson, UT, a fight broke out between Johnson and someone – some ones – in the foursome and officials from the club house had to come out and break up the fight and restore order. What the club house officials did not do, however, was to convince the foursome to let Johnson and his wife play through.

Later in the round, Johnson and his wife again caught up to part of the foursome ahead and obviously they were still playing slower than Johnson thought they should. Once again, Johnson asked to play through; once again, the request was denied. This time, Johnson took out a pocket knife and stabbed one of the slow players in the group ahead of him. Johnson was “wrestled to the ground” by the other golfer in the foursome present at the time.

The injury from the knife was not life threatening; he was taken to a local hospital and the injury was described as “a small cut”. Johnson was arrested; his wife was not arrested since she was not part of the attack.

    [Aside: That left the foursome one short and it left Mrs. Johnson playing alone. I wonder if she just joined the foursome to help alleviate the course blockage that must have occurred as the police were called to the scene. No report on that…]

I do not want to advocate golfer-on-golfer violence, but perhaps the PGA Tour officials might find a way to use this event as a way to speed thing sup a bit?

Finally, since I have quoted Bob Molinaro twice above, let me go for the trifecta here with one more of his observations:

“Time zone issues: If you think NBC’s tape-delayed coverage from Brazil was annoying, remember that the next three Olympics are in Korea, Japan and China.”

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

A Tempest In A Spittoon

With the college football season set to begin later this week, I had intended on using today to make some general comments about the upcoming season. Then, two things happened in the NFL that made me change my mind – so college football needs to go on the bottom shelf for the moment.

The first thing that happened was that Colin Kaepernick sat down during the playing of the national anthem prior to an exhibition game. He is a backup QB and this was an exhibition game so that act was not exactly something of a magnitude that we might equate to events such as:

    The Battle of Hastings in 1066
    The Spanish Inquisition in 1480
    The Declaration of Independence in 1776
    VE Day in World War II in 1945.

Nonetheless, there has arisen a furor over that event that is totally out of proportion to the event itself. This is even louder than the recent “affront” that Gabby Douglass paid to the national anthem when she “failed to put her hand on her heart” during its playing in honor of her achievements in the Olympics. She did nothing wrong and Colin Kaepernick did nothing wrong. The reason that some super-patriots are so offended today is based in the document they purport to know and love so much – – The Constitution of the United States.

People like to point to the 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights as the foundation and the codification of what US society is. Usually, they are right to do so – until they fail to see that their outrage and scorn at a behavior such as Colin Kaepernick’s is a logical consequence of the Bill of Rights.

    The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech (expression) particularly when that speech (expression) focuses on political matters.

    Here is something else the First Amendment guarantees:

      Every single American with an IQ larger than his/her belt size will someday hear, see or read something they find offensive. Some other person is going to express an opinion that is fundamentally contrary to someone else’s opinion; it has to happen; it is NOT a reason for vitriol.

I do not agree with Colin Kaepernick on this inconsequential matter. When I am at a game and they play the national anthem, I stand; I remove my hat, I look at the flag during the rendition. I do not sing the song or hum along; I just look at the flag. That is what I do; that does not mean that is what you have to do.

This is a tempest in a spittoon. All of the actors in this drama to include Colin Kaepernick, other NFL players, reporters who keep this “story” alive and folks on social media who have little of substance to add to this subject need to take a deep breath and put this matter into perspective with other US and world problems.

To give you an idea of the import I put on all of this, let me pose a question:

    Which is the greater affront to the US and/or its national anthem:

      A. Colin Kaepernick sitting quietly on a bench during its playing – or –

      B. The abject mutilation of the score of the song by those who sing it with their own “artistic flair”?

    My answer is “B” – and it is not even close…

The other NFL event of the weekend was the injury to Tony Romo in a meaningless exhibition game. He will be unable to play for about 6 – 10 weeks according to doctors due to a fractured vertebra. Last year, the Cowboys were 1-11 in games that Romo could not start; his return to action was assumed to be a fact by the Cowboys who did not sign a backup QB after Kellen Moore went down with a leg injury in a previous meaningless exhibition game. For the moment, that leaves the Cowboys in the hands of Dak Prescott – a rookie who has looked like a Hall of Fame player so far in the meaningless exhibition games he has appeared in. I never profess to have mind-reading skills and even if I did, I doubt that I would try to read Jerry Jones’ mind. However, it does seem to me that GM Jerry Jones has to be looking around to see how to make some chicken salad out of this chicken s __ t.

Here is a possible suggestion:

    Put Tony Romo in the injured reserve list as a player who can return to action once he heals. I believe each team is allowed one such designation. A player on that list cannot practice for a minimum of 6 weeks and cannot play in a real game for a minimum of 8 weeks after being put on that list. The Cowboys should wait until the day before the regular season starts to make that designation so that Romo’s return to action would be 8 full weeks into the season and there would be no temptation to “rush him back to the field.”

    Simultaneously, the Cowboys need to get another QB – if for no other reason than Dak Prescott might also get hurt. With Romo and Kellen Moore “on the shelf”, the backup to Prescott is Jamiell Showers who was with the Cowboys for the 2015 season but never saw the field on game day.

    Trading for a QB might be expensive for the Cowboys since other teams ought to recognize that the cowboys are in a pickle here. So, are there any free agents out there who might help out? Off the top of my head, here are some of the possibilities – and none are particularly appealing.

      Jimmy Claussen: Teams keep giving him workouts.
      Matt Flynn: Hey, he is vertical and taking nourishment.
      Tim Tebow: Hey, he has won a playoff game as an NFL QB.
      Charlie Whitehurst: A classic caretaker backup QB.
      Michael Vick: Hey, he started 3 games last year and went 2-1.

    One other route to obtaining another QB for the roster is to wait and see who gets cut by other teams as they get down to a 53-man roster. If you believe the rumors, here are some possibilities:

      Mark Sanchez may be a “cap casualty” in Denver.

      Brandon Weeden is “on the bubble” in Houston; might the Cowboys and Weeden enact a reunion in Dallas this year?

      The Jets have 4 QBs on the roster and one almost surely has to go. My guess is that it will be either Bryce Petty or Geno Smith.

Lots of folks have thought that the Cowboys would be a contender in the NFC East this year. If Tony Romo cannot play for the first 8-10 weeks of the season, Dallas’ fortunes will rest with a rookie QB and/or one of the retreads listed above. The Cowboys are now officially the most mysterious team in the NFL for 2016.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News from a couple of months ago:

“BYU had a great day, last Saturday and an awful one at the same time.
Three teams (men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s rugby) played for national championships.

“All three lost.

“After which Susan Lucci was overheard saying, ‘It can get worse.’”

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

Can’t Tell The Players Without A Scorecard …

When I was in college in Philly back in the 60s, my best friend/classmate’s father had access to “passes” to the Phillies’ games. All we had to do was to show the pass and pay the “tax” which was 25-cents and we got good seats at the games. We saw a LOT of baseball games in the summers back then.

There was one vendor by the gate we had to enter that was selling copies of the Philadelphia Daily News. That tabloid paper would print a scorecard on the back page for the “Stadium Edition” so you could buy the paper AND keep score. This vendor would always intone in a very loud voice:

“You can’t tell the players without this scorecard…”

That is the feeling I have when I look at what ESPN has done with the cast of its NFL pregame shows – on Sundays, Sunday nights and for Monday Night Football. While the other networks are more or less stability mode, ESPN is behaving like Hercules when given the task of cleaning the Augean stables. All Hercules had to do was to clean out – in one day no less – the stables that housed thousands of cattle, goats and sheep. He did this by diverting the flow of a couple of rivers right through the stable area. The reason he got it done in a day was that he did not have to file an Environmental Impact Statement with regard to all the people who lived by the rivers downstream from the stables. Ah … progress.

ESPN has undertaken a similar level of “housecleaning” with regard to its pre-game and post-game NFL shows. And like that vendor outside Connie Mack Stadium in the 1960s, I am afraid you cannot tell the players without a scorecard. Therefore, let me go through who is gone; who is staying and who is a new addition to ESPN coverage here:


      Cris Carter: I cannot say that I am going to miss him all that much.

      Mike Ditka: I am ambivalent about this change; over the past couple of seasons he had been OK but not great.

      Tom Jackson: He retired after 29 years with ESPN in this role; he was not fired. I will miss him a lot; I think he provided good insight for the programs. Moreover, he and Chris Berman clearly “played well together” and it showed through on the broadcasts.

      Ray Lewis: I will not miss him even a little bit. His “analyses” tended to involve a lot more heat than light.

      Keyshawn Johnson: I have to say that I liked him a whole lot more than I liked either Cris Carter or Ray Lewis.


      Chris Berman: Many people do not like him and have tired of his shtick. I like Chris Berman; he is intelligent and insightful. Reports say this will be his last year with ESPN in this NFL capacity. Frankly, I hope those reports are incorrect.

      Trent Dilfer: He is getting better. A couple of years ago, I would have advocated stuffing a softball in his mouth; now, he is more than acceptable. It is good to have him back.

      Suzy Kolber: She began this part of her ESPN career as a stand-in for Stuart Scott; frankly, I think she is an upgrade in that position. Her studio work related to the NFL has been very good.

      Chris Mortenson: If he can come back from Stage IV throat cancer, he will be a welcomed back persona.

      Adam Schefter: His voice can be annoying, but he does provide good, timely and accurate “inside info”.

      Steve Young: Glad to see him back; it is good to have more than one person in the coverage team with an IQ north of 140.


      Randy Moss: I did not see a lot of him on FS1, but lots of folks think he will be very good in this position. I hope they are correct.

      Wendi Nix: I find here studio work related to the NFL to be OK and not much more. I shall reserve judgement here.

      Charles Woodson: I have really high hopes for this guy…

The NFL will have new rules regarding injury reporting this year. There will be no players listed as “Probable” anymore; the reason is that more than 95% of those players actually played on the weekend after they were so listed. So “Probable” came to mean “Virtually Certain”. Players this year will be listed as:

    “Questionable” (meaning it is a 50/50 shot that they will play)
    “Doubtful” (meaning a 25% chance they will be able to play)
    “Out” (meaning the player will not play)

According to reports, the league will “scrutinize” any players who do not show up on any of these lists who do not actually play on a given weekend. Moreover, the players listed as “Out” will not be released until Fridays instead of on Wednesdays as has been the rule in the past.

Finally, here is a comment from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel with regard to the Rio Olympics:

“What will be more polluted at the Olympics, the water in Brazil or the blood of the Russian athletes?”

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

Turner Field Is No More?

Last week, I ran across a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and I received an e-mail from a reader on the same topic on the same day. The subject was that Turner Field – the stadium that the Braves are “evacuating” at the end of this season has been sold to Georgia State University. The selling price is supposedly $30M.

Turner Field used to be the Olympic Stadium that Atlanta constructed for the 1996 Games. It was a “neighborhood” before the city got hold of the property and built the Olympic Stadium; the idea now is for Turner Field to be demolished and for Georgia State to expand its campus into part of the land and for “mixed use development” to happen on the rest of the land. The Atlanta mayor clearly felt in a rhapsodic mood saying that the “asphalt eyesores” would go away and in their place would arise a walkable neighborhood “with shops and amenities”.

The report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle is completely upbeat as one might expect with news such as this. The e-mail from the reader sounds a small alarm bell here:

“That part of Atlanta could certainly use a bit of redevelopment, but I am not sure a ‘mixed use’ plan and extension of the GSU campus will fit with the adjacent high crime area. The Atlanta police keep a heavy presence here during Braves games, so this ‘legacy’ of the Olympics will be interesting to watch.”

And this …

“This project was motivated differently, but the result will be the same as other Atlanta redevelopment projects. Every somewhat neglected neighborhood has a few very dedicated residents who fight like hell to get the city to help with crime and abandoned or over crowded buildings. For the most part these are long time Atlantans with no political clout and less money. In comes a project a few streets over and the years of construction noise and dust make their lives miserable. Then, upwardly mobile young people move in (a black lawyer or doctor making $100K is no different than the white variety). Property values shoot up in the surrounding neighborhoods because of their proximity to the higher valued buildings. And taxes increase along with the new assessments. Many of those long time residents find themselves owing more in taxes than they can afford and the vultures glide in and scoop up investment property they have no plan to maintain, so the downward spiral continues until the next redevelopment plan.

“I saw it happen many times in my years growing up, and living as an adult, in Atlanta. Tomorrow has always been more important in my hometown than yesterday or today. There is no sense of community when a dollar is on the line.”

According to a report at football talk, the lawsuit filed against the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame regarding the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game will be amended to assert that there was “deliberate deceit” on the part of the league and the Hall of Fame. The lawyer who filed the suit had this to say about the timeline of events:

“The league and the Hall of Fame informed the players, ninety players to the Packers and ninety players for the Colts, at least an hour and a half before they told the fans that the game was cancelled. Then to make matters worse they told those same individuals not to say anything about it, to tweet about it, et cetera. They clearly tried to cover this up and keep it from the fans in the interest of money.”

The plaintiff’s assertion here is that the fans were kept in the dark so that they would go to the stadium and buy food/merchandise/whatever that would not have been purchased had the fans known there would be no game. Other than to say all of these assertions are baseless, neither the NFL nor the Hall of Fame have had anything to say on this matter. However, if the court accepts these revised charges, it would seem to me that both of entities named as defendants will have to present evidence with regard to the decision processes and the timeline for the cancellation.

I have no dog in this fight; my feelings on the Hall of Fame Game have been rather explicit here. However, there is the potential for a delicious irony here:

    Imagine for a moment that the plaintiffs want to examine the phone records for Commissioner Goodell and the judge so orders. However, it turns out that the Commish turned in the phone he had on the day of the Hall of Fame Game for a new one about a week later. There is no phone for the plaintiffs or the court to examine. Too bad …

    Would that create an uproar, or what?

The Arizona Diamondbacks have not exactly torn up the National League this year. In fact, the only teams in MLB with a worse record are the Braves and the Twins. However, the D-Backs are at the forefront of culinary masterpieces at their ballpark. Consider these:

    The D-Bat Dog starts with an 18-inch corn dog. (Right there in the menu description, I am moving on to the next item but hang on because there is more.) That baby is stuffed with cheddar cheese, jalapenos and bacon. Then it is served with a side of fries. And the cost is – wait for it – $25.00.

    For those fans who did not take out a second mortgage to buy stadium food before going to the game, the team also sells something called the Venom Dog. This is a footlong sausage spiced with habanero peppers that is topped with guacamole, black beans, pico de gallo and sour cream. This will set you back $10 – plus whatever cost you incur for antacids in the late innings.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Lionel Messi has dyed his hair blonde. That’s for the people who email to say I never include anything about soccer in my column. OK, next …”

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

A Treatise On Inside-The-Park Home Runs

I fully expect someone to accuse me of trolling here. Yesterday, I mentioned the walk-off inside-the-park home run by Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians and said that the last time an Indian had done that was 100 years ago. I did not do that to poke a stick at the reader in Houston who is THE MAVEN of sports history/sports stats. He has to have a dedicated server to keep track of all those stats; if he has them all in his head, then he has a 40-acre brain.

I mention this because I indeed got an e-mail from him about than 2 hours after the rant was posted on the website. Here is a ton of info about inside-the-park home runs, walk-off inside-the-park home runs and related stuff courtesy of the Houston Sports Maven:

    In the early days of baseball with the large dimensions of many of the stadiums, inside-the-parkers were plentiful with Jesse Burkett hitting 55, Wahoo Sam Crawford hitting 51, Tommy Leach hitting 48, and the Georgia Peach and Honus Wagner both hitting 46.

    However, since WW2, Willie Wilson is the leader with just 13. Wahoo hit 12 himself in 1901.

      Of the over 230,000 HRs hit since the end of WW2, about one in every 162 was an inside-the-parker.

    18 players have hit two insiders in one game with Dick Allen (1972 for Chisox) and Greg Gagne (1986 for Minny) being the only ones to do so since the end of WW2.

      There have been 6 walk-off insiders since 1990.

      10 insiders have been hit in the WS with Alcides Escobar (KC) being the last to do so in Game 1 of last year’s WS vs. the Mets.

    The most exciting play in baseball is the inside-the-park grand-slam in which there have been about 225.

    The only one of those which was a walk-off was on July 25, 1956 by Roberto Clemente of the Bucs vs. the Cubs in a 9-8 Bucco win at Forbes Field.

Let me channel the late Paul Harvey here and say:

“And now you know … the rest of the story.”

The life-story of Todd Marinovich has not been happy or uplifting to say the least. He was prepped by his father from his early years to be a “super-quarterback”; the hype and expectations for his career in the NFL – where he was supposed to be dominant – had to have been an enormous burden. Marinovich was drafted by the Raiders in the 90s and his career consisted of 8 games over 2 seasons. None of his stats was impressive. Last week, Todd Marinovich’s life sank to a new low; is it rock-bottom?

Marinovich was arrested in Irvine, CA and cited “for multiple offenses after being found naked and being in possession of drugs.” According to the local gendarmes, they had a report of a naked man on a walking trail and in response to that report they found a naked man – allegedly Marinovich – walking through someone’s backyard and that the man had both marijuana and meth in a bag with him.

This is not Marinovich’s first interaction with the police with regard to drugs. At one point, he was arrested for growing his own crop of marijuana at a time before anyone thought that might become a legalized activity in the US. He also has been arrested over the years for possession of heroin, meth and cocaine in separate incidents. Last week’s incident adds “wandering naked in public” to the repertoire. Marinovich is 47 years old; he is no longer a child or a young man who will someday grow up. Maybe this event will be the thing that propels him into a rehab regimen that will stick; on the other hand, maybe he is beyond the reach of rehabilitation and this is who he is and who he is going to continue to be. Stay tuned …

That arrest report brings to mind the pants-dropping event at the recently completed Olympics in Rio. If you did not hear about it, let me summarize for you:

    A Mongolian wrestler – Mandakhnaran Ganzorig – was leading an Uzbek wrestler by a score of 7-6 with less than 10 seconds left in the match. The match would determine the bronze medal for that weight class.

    Ganzorig began waving his arms at the Uzbek opponent and ran around the mat. The time ran out; Ganzorig fell to the mat and his coaches ran out and draped him in the Mongolian flag. All seemed right with the world…

    The judges then penalized Ganzorig 1-point for “fleeing the hold” and not competing for the final seconds of the match. Evidently, that is within their prerogative; I am not a wrestling judge. That tied the score at 7-7.

    The Mongolian coaches filed a protest. However, when the judges over-ruled the protest, that cost Ganzorig one more point and now the Uzbek wrestler was declared the winner – and bronze medal recipient – by a score of 8-7.

All of that is what led up to the trouser-dropping … One of the Mongolian coaches went to the judges’ table, stripped off his shirt, took off his pants, picked up his clothing and unceremoniously dumped it on the judges’ table. He refused to leave the mat or the venue until the security folks at the venue escorted him away.

Somewhere, someone in the WWE has taken note of all this and is figuring out how to turn this into part of a WWE pay-per-view extravaganza. You just know it …

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times has found another nexus between the world of politics and the world of sports:

“Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is on his third campaign manager in three months.

“Somewhere, George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin just can’t stop smiling.”

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

Something Very Unusual Happened Last Week …

Walk-off hits – or home runs – are exciting when they happen in a MLB game; but, truth be told, they are not exactly rare occurrences. A “walk-off balk” might not be very exciting, but it is not commonplace by any means. Last week, we saw a walk-off home run that was exciting and rare at the same time because:

    It was a walk-off inside-the-park home run!

Here is how it went down:

    The Blue Jays led the Indians 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. Jose Ramirez tied the game for the Indians with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth.

    Outfielder, Tyler Naquin, was the next batter and he hit a shot to left field that took an odd carom off the wall away from the Jay’s outfield and Naquin circled the bases to score the winning run.

Some folks in the baseball stat world with a lot of time on their hands – or a really fulsome database for searching – determined that the last Cleveland Indian to hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run was Braggo Roth in August of 1916. Roth had an 8-yaer career in MLB and he hit a total of 30 HRs in his career. In 2016, he only had 4 HRs and the walk-off inside-the-park shot was one of them.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot has been on hiatus for a couple of weeks but he returned last week with a cogent comment about baseball:

“In passing: His Angels are in last place, but for the fifth year running, Mike Trout is baseball’s best everyday player.”

I absolutely agree here. There are maybe a dozen baseball players in MLB at any given time that I would go out of my way to see play the game. The first two players who fit that bill for me as a youngster were Ted Williams and Robin Roberts. Over the years, players such as Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Pete Rose, Dwight Gooden, Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux, Ichiro, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Roger Clemens filled that role. Today, Mike Trout is probably the player I would most go out of my way in order to see him play the game of baseball. I think he is that good. Please note that everyone on my list above belongs in the Hall of Fame for what they did on the field…

While I am on the subject of baseball, it is not too early to give you my front-runners for Managers of the Year in both leagues. I will do it in alphabetical order because there is still time for fortunes to shift and sentiments to change:

    National League:

      Don Mattingly (Marlins): No one thought they would be a serious wild-card contender in April.

      Dave Roberts (Dodgers): Given all the injuries this team has had, they should be duking it out with the Padres for last place in the NL West not being in the hunt for a wild-card slot.

      “Whomever” (Atlanta Braves): Consider this a nomination akin to giving the recipient a Purple Heart. The Braves are barely better than a top-shelf minor league club.

    American League:

      Terry Francona (Indians): They are cruising in a division that has last year’s World Series Champs in it.

      Scott Servais (Mariners): In his first year as a manager at the MLB level, he has the Mariners contending for a slot in the playoffs. It has been a while since the Mariners have been there…

      Buck Showalter (Orioles): Never a contender for the “Mr. Congeniality Award”, he has the O’s in the thick of the AL East race for division champion and/or a wild-card slot.

Bob Molinaro had another observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot in his column back from vacation that I found interesting:

“Ratings game: Usain Bolt is the greatest track athlete of his generation, but is his career more impressive than that of American Carl Lewis and his nine gold medals? Nah.”

This is a debate that can go on forever. This is akin to the argument about who was better, Williams or DiMaggio. Who was better, Willie, Micky or The Duke? I have said that I do not like debates of this nature because I find it distasteful to say anything negative about any athlete who is so accomplished that he finds himself as part of such a debate. I am happy to have witnessed the greatness of both Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt. I shall remain happy to consider both of them outstanding Olympians.

Finally, I missed this one but Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times did not:

“Faster, Higher … Poorer?

“’The last Olympics that didn’t lose money for the host city?’ asked Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“’Los Angeles, 1984.

“’The last Olympics at which the IOC didn’t make a ton of profit, even though it doesn’t really do anything except collect money?

“’Athens, 750 BC.’”

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

The “Ryan Lochte Circumstance” …

I am certain that you have heard sufficiently about the “Ryan Lochte Circumstance”. So have I. However, last week, there were a few folks out there who were trying to make this case:

    Ryan Lochte was being treated with kid gloves by the press because he is a white male and the evidence for that was the huge brouhaha that came up when Gabby Douglass did not put her hand over her heart during the national anthem.

I do not read the minds of columnists and commentators; nor do I read the minds of the folks trying to make this argument. However, it does seem to me that Lochte’s coverage was anything but “kind and gentle”. If this is the best argument one can find to illustrate “white male privilege”, I suggest it might be put on the back burner because it does not make the case well at all. For the record, where I stand on this matter is simple:

    I do not recall ever being taught that it was a “crime against humanity” to hear the national anthem without having my hand on my heart. I was taught that one stood straight, took off your hat and put your eyes on the flag. What Gabby Douglass did was perfectly acceptable to me.

    By contrast, Ryan Lochte is the leader in the clubhouse for the Asshat of the Year – – 2016.

If you would like to read just one more takedown of Ryan Lochte before he and his behavior sink into the muck and mire of sports history, let me suggest this column from Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post.

Jerry Jones is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the class that will be inducted in August 2017. I think this is a bit strange and perhaps more than a bit premature. I acknowledge that Jones is one of the owners who has successfully marketed his team and the league to the benefit of all of the owners and to the benefit of the NFL “brand”. He is a master of promotion and positivity; those traits have helped to make the NFL the entertainment juggernaut that it is. He recognized early on that pro football is entertainment and that the best way to “grow the business” was to continue to entertain the fans.

I recognize that those are powerful credentials and I recognize that Jones will have plenty of support from the folks who do the voting because the majority of them are people who cover the NFL and teams in the NFL. Jerry Jones is probably the most “open” and “available” owner in the league; when someone covering any aspect of the NFL that might involve the Cowboys even tangentially needs to get a comment from an owner, Jerry Jones is willing to provide it. However, this is the part of the “Jerry Jones résumé that gives me pause:

    In addition to owning the Cowboys, Jerry Jones serves directly as the GM for the team. That is part of his “NFL career”; and in that part, he has been “less than fully satisfactory”.

    I need not go into the record for the Cowboys once “The Triplets” – Aikman, Smith and Irvin – went their separate ways. As a GM, Jerry Jones would have been fired multiple times if he worked for any owner other than Jerry Jones.

I do not vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I never will. If I were in that position this year, however, this nomination would give me pause…

Last week, I wrote about the importance of the backup QB in the NFL. There is an implicit problem in having good backup QBs for all 32 teams; that would mean there would have to be 64 “good QBs” out there. The fact is; there are not. The Niners demonstrated that fact late last week when they signed Christian Ponder to a 1-year deal after third string QB, Thad Lewis required season-ending surgery. The Niners’ current backup is Colin Kaepernick who is still rehabbing from shoulder surgery and who has been plagued with “shoulder woes” during training camp. Christian Ponder is the Niners’ safety net.

Ponder last appeared in an NFL game in October 2014; there is a reason for that. Ponder has started 36 games in a 4-year NFL career. The team record in those 36 games is 14-21-1. Using the ESPN QBR (Quarterback Rating system) which has a range of 0 – 100 as a measure, Ponder’s best season was 51.63 – ever so slightly above average. In those 36 starts, according to Pro Football Reference, he engineered exactly 3 game-winning drives.

What I find interesting about this signing is that the Niners now have a depth chart that reads:

    Blaine Gabbert – #10 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft
    Colin Kaepernick – #36 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft
    Christian Ponder – #12 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    The Niners would seem to own the 2011 NFL Draft …

The Miami Dolphins will play their home games this year in Hard Rock Stadium. No, they have not moved to a new venue; this is another name for the stadium that was originally known as Joe Robbie Stadium back when Joe Robbie owned the team back in the Iron Age. Hard Rock Café is a rock music themed restaurant chain and they are the latest in a long list of business entities to put their name on this stadium. Off the top of my head, this place has been called:

    Pro Player Stadium
    Land Shark Stadium
    Sun Life Stadium

I am sure I missed one or two others along the way. Good luck to Hard Rock in maintaining enough interest in this naming venture to have it last for a while. Meanwhile, if the Dolphins fortunes take a turn for the worse, be sure to look for someone to say they are between a Hard Rock and a hard place. BaDaBing! BaDaBoom!!!

Finally, a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times on the “Ryan Lochte Circumstance”:

“Ryan Lochte spokesman for Burger King?

“Hey, don’t laugh. They’d probably sell a lot of Whoppers.”

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

Trivia Item Verified …

Earlier this week, I mentioned a trivia item given to me by a friend that I passed along without verification because it would have been more work that I thought it was worth to do so. That item said that a student or alum of USC had won a medal at every Summer Olympics since 1912 and that only 15 countries could make that claim. Well, the reader in Houston who obviously has a PhD in sports stats and sports history did not think such an effort was too daunting and here is what his analysis came up with:

    “With regard to only 15 countries having won a gold medal in every Summer Olympics since 1912, please note that the US is not one of them (1980 being the boycott of Moscow).

    “With regard to USC, I confirmed that with the only possible exception being in 1980 when the US boycotted the Olympics.

    “However, in 1980 Michelle Ford won a gold medal for Australia in the 800M freestyle. Three years later in 1983, Ford accepted a scholarship to attend USC for a degree in communication, while training for the 1984 Summer Olympics to be held at USC/LA the following year. Unfortunately, she did not qualify for the 1984 Olympics due to being overweight and therefore unable to match her previous times, resulting in her eventual retirement from the sport.

    “At the time when she won the gold, she was not affiliated with USC, but did attend three years later. Therefore, if Usain Bolt and LeBron James are offered scholarships to USC in 2020, so that they can further their movie careers by being close to Hollywood, they can also be included as USC gold medal winners.”

So, there you have it … except there is even more info from Houston on the subject:

    “FYI – USC students/alums have represented 59 countries and participated in 28 different sports, ranging from those generally associated with USC, such as track, swimming, volleyball, and hoops to lesser sports, such as team handball, canoeing, fencing, water polo, and even bobsled. While the Trojans traditionally have found their place in the sun during the Summer Olympics, USC athletes also have competed in the Winter Olympics 10 times in such sporting events as biathlon, skiing, and bobsledding.

    “FYI – The Pac-12 has the nation’s top 3 universities with Olympic competitors in Rio–USC (44), California (41), Stanford (39), while UCLA (29) is fifth behind Florida (31).”

Several weeks ago, I suggested that MLB adopt a rule that any pitcher in a game must face at least 3 batters as a way to increase the pace of play. I have continued to think about that issue and I hereby propose two more new rules:

    1. Teams employ the stalling tactic of having the catcher or an infielder go to the mound to have a “glove-over-the-mouth” interaction with the pitcher. Maybe teams have to limited to a certain number of such “visits”. How about no more than 2 or 3 per game?

    2. In the minor leagues, they are experimenting with pitch clocks and they time relief pitchers arriving into the game. It works perfectly well; it does not intrude on the game nor does it upset the sacred ambience of the game. What MLB needs is a countdown clock on replays. I propose two such countdowns:

      2a. After a controversial call – safe or out at a base/ fair or foul on a ball down the line/home run or not – the manager has 15 seconds to decide if he will challenge the call. No more standing on the top step of the dugout while some minion “upstairs” watches the tape and calls the bench coach in the dugout. Either challenge it or sit down and live with it…

      2b. Once the umpires take the challenge, the mavens who are reviewing the play have 90 seconds – I would prefer 60 seconds but I doubt that would ever be acceptable – to make a decision to overturn. After 90 seconds of review, if the play is so close that they cannot decide to overturn or not, then the call stands as it was on the field.

These two rule changes – along with the one about requiring pitchers to face a minimum of 3 batters will speed up the games. The chances of them showing up in MLB next season are about the same as the chances that I will win the Nobel Peace Prize.

If anyone is thinking of heading out to Turner Field to see the Braves play their final games at that venue, there are two culinary items you might want to sample. You can avail yourself of the T.E.D. – The Everything Dog and/or the Burgerizza

    Naturally, the T.E.D. is built on a foundation of a foot-long hot dog. Then it is adorned with fries, chili, nacho chips, jalapenos, melted beer cheese, a “Coca Cola infused barbecue sauce and all of that is topped with popcorn.

      How can this be an “Everything Dog” without bacon? Riddle me that …

    The Burgerizza is simply a gut bomb waiting to go off. You get a 20-ounce burger and stick it between two 8-inch pepperoni pizzas. It ought to come with a side of Pepto Bismol…

Finally, an observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Vikings backup QB Taylor Heinicke severed a tendon in his foot when he tried to kick in a door and missed, putting it through a window instead.

“On the bright side, they didn’t need instant replay to determine if he broke the pane.”

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

Pro ‘Rassling Is Big Business

I used to be a big pro ‘rassling fan when I was a kid but I have not followed or even paid a shred of attention to it since the days of Bruno Sammartino, Dr. Jerry Graham and Antonino Rocca. However, I read a report recently on analyzing the pro ‘rassling business and there are obviously a whole lot of people who not only like this sort of display but also spend time following it. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is a publicly traded corporation on the New York Stock Exchange; therefore, its finances are available for public scrutiny.

    WWE revenue for last year was $658M which is up more than 20% from two years ago.

    WWE staged 273 events in the US last year attracting 1.6 million fans who paid an average of just over $53.00 per person to attend.

    WWE got $130M in TV rights fees last year and that number will grow to $235M in 2018.

    40% of WWE fans are women; more women watch WWE on TV than watch Oxygen Network or Lifetime Channel.

    WWE is the #1 subscribed YouTube sports channel. Twelve million subscribers watched over 1 billion YouTube segments.

    John Cena is a WWE rassler. I might be able to pick him out of a lineup but I am not positive that I could. He is the most-followed athlete in America on Facebook. His page there has 42.2 million “likes”. By comparison, LeBron James has 23 million “likes”.

Notwithstanding the fact that I am not a fan or follower of pro ‘rassling, the WWE is big business and a successful business in 2016. To see some of the other data to support what a big business it really is, check out the report here.

There are a little less than 7 weeks left in the MLB regular season and the American League is the place to watch for potential excitement and fireworks. The major focus would have to be the AL East race where the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox are in a virtual dead heat at the moment for the top spot in the division. It could be that the two AL wild Card teams could be the two teams in the AL East that do not win the division – although the Astros, Mariners and Tigers are also in contention for at least one of the two Wild Card slots. Oh, and even though the Yankees were “sellers” at the trading deadline and have reduced their average roster age, they are still within striking distance of the AL East lead.

    The Yankees hold their fate in their own hands. They have 6 more games against the Blue Jays; they have 8 more games against the Red Sox; they have 9 more games against the Orioles.

    The Yankees are a real long-shot to be able to climb over 3 opponents to win the division, but with all of those division games remaining, they are in a position to make a run if they go on a tear.

The Red Sox play the Orioles 7 more times this year. The Blue Jays play the Orioles 6 more times this year. The Blue Jays and the Red Sox play each other 6 more times this year. All three teams have shown the ability to go on a roll and run up nice win streaks; all three teams have also shown the ability to go cold for a week or so at a time. This could be fun to watch from afar and very stressful to watch for fans of these three teams. All three of these AL East teams can score runs. Consider:

    Toronto Blue Jays lead MLB in home runs this year.

    Baltimore Orioles are second in MLB in home runs this year.

    Boston Red Sox have 2 players with 27 HRs this year and 5 others with more than 12 HRs this season.

In the NL East, the Marlins’ hopes to put together a miracle run to catch the Nationals in the NL East – or at least to secure a Wild Card slot in the NL playoffs – suffered a huge punch to the gut when Giancarlo Stanton suffered a groin injury that appears to put him on the shelf for the rest of the regular season. Stanton is a stone-cold monster in the middle of the Marlins’ line-up and replacing him there appears to be impossible.

A friend described Johnny Manziel as a toxic asset; he said that Manziel was not signable by any NFL team right now because of the PR “spit-storm” that his signing would cause in any NFL market. I agree that is the case in 2016 and I am not sure what even a year of rehab and “clean living” might do to alter that situation. However, as I thought about this chat with a friend, I realized that both Ray Rice and Greg Hardy remain unsigned as of today.

    Rice has been out of the NFL for 2 seasons; the window is closing on his career.

    Hardy was part of the Cowboys – with their seeming goal to be the Boys
    Town of the NFL with Jerry Jones cast as Fightin’ Father Flanagan taking in and changing the lives of lost children. Hardy even wore out his welcome there.

I think the Communications Director for all 32 of the NFL teams has to go to church to light candles at least once a week praying that none of these three albatrosses gets put around the neck of the Communications Director for a year’s worth of explaining…

Finally, an Olympics observation from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Brazil claimed during the Olympic opening ceremonies that it launched the first airplane flight.

“Moments later, Al Gore called a press conference to take credit for inventing the samba.”

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