Starting Out On The Right Foot …

Since I am confident this will not continue into the future, let me begin today by patting myself on the back. In my NCAA Mythical Picks earlier this week, I made 4 selections for Thursday night games and hit all 4 of them. For this brief and shining moment, I am – mythically of course – way ahead of the game. Now that I have “strutted my stuff” so to speak, let me use this as a teaching moment.

After those 4 picks in Thursday games, I can look at the Friday schedule and see that there are 2 games where I made picks. If I were to fall victim to the gambling fallacy of “being on a hot streak”, I would bet the mortgage money on those 2 selections for tonight. Let me be clear:

    I will not do that.

    “Hot streaks” always end – and if you fall for the gambling fallacy of “pressing bets while on a hot streak”, they will end badly.

But I can still feel good about myself for now…

Tim Tebow has an offer to play pro baseball. The Aguilas del Zulia – the Eagles of Zulia – in the Venezuelan League have offered him a chance to play winter baseball there. Zulia is a state in Venezuela in the far northwest of the country on the border with Colombia; the largest city in Zulia is Maracaibo – the heart of the oil industry in the country with a population a bit over 1 million. Luis Aparacio came from Zulia and the stadium where Aguilas del Zulia play their games is named for Aparacio.

This is a classic good news/bad news situation:

    Good News: This is professional baseball; it is certainly not MLB but if Tim Tebow seriously wants to get to that level one of these days, he needs as much time on the field to develop his skills as he can get. As of this morning, it is the only offer on his plate. And, by the way, lots of players who made it to MLB have spent time in the Venezuelan Winter League in the past.

    Bad News: Venezuela is a country that is plummeting downward such that it may sink below “Third World Status” into “Iron Age Status”. Some minor league players here in the US are suing teams claiming they are not making minimum wage; I suspect that those players are still living in better conditions than prevail in many parts of Zulia.

According to an AP report earlier this week, the IOC has stripped 4 more athletes of medal they won in the Olympic Games due to detection of PEDs. That sounded like a simple and straightforward report; I did not think there would be much of anything therein worthy of comment. I was wrong. These 4 athletes won their medals in Beijing; those Games happened in 2008.

    Question for the IOC and for the Drug Testing Mavens:

      It took 8 years for these test results to come to everyone’s attention. So, is the testing lab is on one of the moons of Saturn?

According to a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Coca Cola is now going to sponsor the Saudi Arabian Football Federation providing support for the Saudi National Team and three major soccer tournaments in Saudi Arabia each year put on by the Football Federation. In the big picture of “world soccer”, this is not such a big deal. I mention it here because every time this sort of thing goes down, you get to read a statement by parties to the agreement that take “soaring rhetoric” and leave it in the dust. Consider these words from a representative of the Saudi Federation:

“Today we witness an important partnership with Coca-Cola, one of the leading global brands renowned for their history in supporting sports, as an official sponsor of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. This new partnership reflects the importance and the stature of our federation, teams and the competitions we organize.”

For the last decade or so, Coca Cola Zero has been the “Official Fan Refreshment” of the NCAA. Is this what the guy meant by “renowned … history in supporting sports”?

Naturally, someone from Coca Cola took the opportunity to say a few words. In this case it was Middle East Region Marketing Director for Coca Cola and here is what Coke hopes to do:

    Coca Cola will use various platforms and channels to tell the “…real human stories of Saudi’s pride and passion for the sport”. He went on to say, “We are certain the Saudi National Team will inspire fans of all ages, including the generation who will represent the country at the 2018 World Cup qualifications.”

Let me add just a bit of perspective here. I believe there are 165 countries that FIFA recognizes as having a National Team. In the latest rankings I can find, Saudi Arabia ranks 101st. Moving on …

Finally, since I mentioned the IOC and the Beijing Games above, I think it appropriate to close the week with two comments about the Rio Olympics from sportswriters that I read regularly:

“Ryan Lochte is reportedly set to join the cast of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

“Sources say he chose the show over an offer to debut a Brazilian series called ‘Leaving the Scene.’” [Brad Rock, Deseret News]

And …

“According to Brazilian media, 20-year-old Ingrid Oliveira and 17-year-old Giovanna Pedroso have ended their Olympic diving partnership after Oliveira kicked the teen from the room they shared at the Olympic Village in Rio so she could enjoy a night of sex with Brazilian canoeist Pedro Gonçalves. Um, is that a canoe, or are you just happy to see me?” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]

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

The Big 12 Expansion

The Big 12 Conference is looking to expand. Actually, the Big 12 Conference is trying to live up to its name because at the moment the Big 12 Conference consists of only 10 teams. If they add two more, they will hit some sort of magical threshold set by the overseers of collegiate athletics and will be allowed to stage a Big 12 Conference Championship Football Game. Strip away every other motivation you may hear or read; that is the basis for this endeavor at its foundation.

Reportedly, the search began with 20 possible schools that might be invited to join and there is a perspective that needs to be placed on that original list of 20 schools. The Big 12 Conference is the scion of the Big 8 Conference which was spawned by the old Southwest Conference. The Southwest Conference was at one time a big deal; Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Arkansas and sometimes TCU were prominently displayed in the “Top Ten” in the country. I do not want to portray today’s Big 12 as something akin to the Sun Belt Conference or Conference-USA, but today’s Big 12 has lost a lot of the luster that was associated with its previous incarnations. So, when I saw the “original list” of 20 possible invitees, I wondered if any of the “conference historians” had chimed in.

Yesterday, reports began to emerge that the list had been cut from 20 to 13. Here are the 7 schools that supposedly will not be invited to the Big 12 party:

    Arkansas State
    Boise State
    East Carolina
    New Mexico
    Northern Illinois
    San Diego State

Meaning not a shred of disrespect to any of those schools or any folks associated with any of those schools, there is no “football royalty” in any of those bloodlines. If indeed the Big 12 Search Committee – or whatever it may call itself – spent more than an hour-and-a-half considering that entire list of 7 schools, then it has far too much time on its hands.

The 13 schools that remain on the list are:

    Air Force
    Colorado State
    South Florida

To me, the choice is pretty simple if that is the list. I would add BYU and Houston for these reasons:

    BYU has a consistently good football program that will add to the conference strength of schedule for the teams there. Moreover, it is geographically close to other Big 12 schools and it is not a school where scandals and probations from the NCAA abound.

    Houston is right in the heart of “Big 12 Country” and the school happens to be in a city of more than 2 million people – that is a big market for the conference to tap into.

Please notice that Temple and UConn are still on the list. I suspect – but do not know for sure – that they are there for the same reason that the Big 10 Conference added Maryland and Rutgers a couple of years ago. The thinking is that having “representation” there will make Big 12 football more interesting in the heavily populated Northeast market. I think that is searching for Fool’s Gold.

I have lived all of my life in the Northeast Megalopolis. One of the things that is clear to me as a denizen is that college football is just not that big a deal with the vast majority of the sports fans here. Picture the “football map” of 30 years ago where the Big 10 never got east of Ohio State/Michigan/Michigan State and the ACC never got north of Maryland. Think about those northeastern states of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and all of New England. Ask yourself now:

    Where are the “big time football schools” where the teams are consistently good and the crowds are big and rabid?

Well, here is the list:

    Penn State

If you want to embellish a bit:

    Boston College fields good teams most of the time but never fields a great team. Let me just say that tickets for BC football are not “hot commodities” in the Boston area where tickets to the Red Sox and/or the Patriots set the standard for “hot commodities”.

    Syracuse used to be consistently good and has drawn some good crowds in the past but today Syracuse is far more of a basketball school than a football school and it has been that way for about 20 years.

Different parts of the country embrace different sports to a different degree. It is just the way things are. In the northeast, people care about baseball far more than do people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. There is no value judgment in that statement; it is just a fact. If the Big 12 seeks to market its product in the northeast, it is going to be met with a lot of yawning and passive resistance; people there would not even care enough about it to engage in active resistance.

The Big 12 is in the business of marketing college football. They really need to do a market analysis not of their product – which of course they will see as pure and wonderful and virtually irresistible – but of their target audience. Let me give an example here:

    The American Vegan Society will put on a Gala Dinner with dancing and entertainment in Vineland, NJ later this month.

    It would make no sense at all for the National Pork Board to hand out coupons for ham steaks and other promotional materials at this event.

I am not saying that the Big 12 is considering something as abjectly stupid as my example here but it is close.

Finally, let me close with a comment about college football from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald. It relates to a part of the country where college football is indeed a really big deal:

“A four-star recruit announced his commitment to Florida State by pulling up in a Lamborghini adorned with Seminoles logos. Here’s the scary thing: What are the five-star recruits driving?”

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