Niners And Raiders News Today …

It certainly looks to me as if Jed York – the guy who runs the Niners’ football operation for his family that owns the team – has thrown the management version of a Hail Mary.  The team is a mess and the organization is a mess.  Since the time when Jim Harbaugh was forced out based on a personality incompatibility out there, the roster has suffered; the team has lost; they have hired and fired two coaches and fired the GM who survived the “Harbaugh-pogrom”.  Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for the Niners up and down San Francisco Bay.

Jed York just hired a new GM.  John Lynch went to Stanford; he was an outstanding safety in the NFL for 15 years making the Pro Bowl 9 times and being named first team All-Pro 2 times.  He retired from the NFL in 2008 and joined FOX Broadcasting as part of their NFL coverage.  He and Kevin Burkhardt served as the #2 FOX television announcing team for the past several years.  On the air, John Lynch is very good.

So, why is this a Hail Mary?  As good a player as John Lynch was – oh, by the way, do not be surprised to see him in the Hall of Fame as a defensive back; he was that good – and as good an analyst as he is on TV, John Lynch has never been an assistant coach, a coach or held any position in a football front office.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and he is starting his football management career at the top of an organization that might fairly be described as one that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.

The Niners gave Lynch a 6-year contract as the GM.  That is also a bit unusual because of its length and it may demonstrate one of two things:

  1. Perhaps Jed York has had an epiphany and realizes the depth of the mess that has accumulated in SF.  Having seen the mess, he has come to understand that it will take a while for anyone to clean it out and put things in order.  [Aside:  One of the labors of Hercules was to clean out the Augean stables in a single day and he accomplished that by diverting a river bed through the stables.  That is mythology; the Niners’ mess may be similarly sized, but it is real and cannot be cleaned up in a day.]
  2. Perhaps Jed York could not get anyone with “significant GM credentials” to take the job and when he reached out to John Lynch, Lynch realized that he held all of the leverage and put the arm on York.  [Aside:  If this is correct, then maybe John Lynch has a real aptitude for the negotiation part of the GM’s job.]

The word is that Lynch will hire Kyle Shanahan to be the Niners’ coach as soon as Shanahan gets through with being the Falcons’ offensive coordinator this Sunday in Houston.  Kyle Shanahan has grown up in and around football and has been an offensive coordinator for three NFL teams.  He has not, however, been a head coach anywhere meaning that he and John Lynch will be learning the full measure of their new responsibilities together.

Hey, this might work out – just like Hail Marys sometimes work out, particularly if Aaron Rodgers is the one launching them.  On the other hand, this might turn out to be the West Coast version of a decision made by William Clay Ford in Detroit when he hired Matt Millen – an outstanding NFL linebacker – out of the broadcast booth to be the Lions’ GM.  I’ll just say that the Matt Millen experience in Detroit was less than positive.  If you want all of those gory details, Google is your friend…

As I said above, the Niners’ roster is substandard on the “talent spectrum” and the Lynch/Shanahan project will be to upgrade the talent level significantly and quickly.  However, over and above that generic situation, they need to figure out quickly if they have an NFL-caliber QB on the roster.  Here is the depth chart:

  1. Colin Kaepernick:  He took the Niners to a Super Bowl in February 2013 and his career arc since then has been steadily downward.
  2. Blaine Gabbert:  He had 3 undistinguished years in Jax and has been in SF for 3 seasons.  He has started 40 games in his career and the team record in those 40 games is 9-31.
  3. Christian Ponder:  He had 4 mediocre-at-best years with the Vikes from 2011-2014 and has not seen the field in an NFL game since then.
  4. Thad Lewis:  He has appeared in 7 games in his career and started 6 of those games.  The last time he was in a real NFL game was in late December 2013.

Meanwhile, the other Bay Area NFL team is also in the news.  As the Raiders have applied to the NFL for permission to relocate to Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports yesterday that the Adelson family has withdrawn as investors in the stadium project.  Originally, Sheldon Adelson had “pledged” to put $650M into the pot to build the stadium; earlier this month, the Raiders said that Goldman Sachs could provide financing for that $650M in the event that things could not be worked out with the Adelson family.

There are lots of moving parts to this story to include the NFL, the Raiders, Sheldon Adelson, the Governor of Nevada, the Clark County Commission Chairman, and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority.  For all I know, Francis the Talking Mule may become an actor in this saga.  Here is the report from the Review-Journal yesterday to give you an idea of the landscape at the moment.

I will try to follow this story in the Review-Journal for a several reasons:

  1. The paper has been steadfastly in favor of building a new stadium and getting the Raiders to move to Las Vegas.
  2. The Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by Sheldon Adelson.
  3. With the Adelson family now “out of the deal”, I wonder if the paper’s unwavering favorable view of this venture will continue to obtain.

Finally, here is a comment form Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times about another happening in Las Vegas:

“A driverless shuttle is being tested in downtown Las Vegas.

“Apparently, they got the idea from watching the Houston Texans’ offense this season.”

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


Just A Bunch Of Stuff Today …

In case you missed it, Adam Jones – known as “Pacman” Jones to many NFL fans – is in trouble with the law.  Again.  The charges this time include obstructing official business, disorderly conduct and assault; there is video of Pacman raging against officers from the back of a police vehicle telling the officer(s) that he hopes they die tomorrow and that they will be out of a job tomorrow.  [Aside:  I suspect the “loss of life” would necessarily imply a “loss of job”, but the redundancy of the statement is not particularly important here.]  And, it is alleged that once he arrived at the hoosegow, he spit on a nurse who was attending to his processing.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Jones rides in police cars as often as millennials ride in Ubers, but it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that Jones could provide direct testimony regarding the comfort level and the amenities provided in the rear seats of police vehicles from a variety of jurisdictions.  I do not pretend that what follows is based on exhaustive research; these are just some of his previous encounters with the gendarmes:

  1. He has been accused of assaulting two women.
  2. He was the one who “made it rain” in a Las Vegas nightclub that led to a shooting incident leading to lawsuits from victims that cost Jones more than $12M as a result of the incident.
  3. He served a 1-year suspension from the NFL and has undergone substance abuse rehab.
  4. He got into a fight with a bodyguard employed by the Cowboys that engendered a trip in a police car.

According to reports, he has now been arrested “at least nine times”.  He arrived in the NFL a bit late to play for an Al Davis team but he has played for a Jerry Jones team and found a way to wear out his welcome there before joining the Bengals where he was merely a cog on the wheel of eccentricity there in Cincy.  Jones is now 33 years old and – frankly – his coverage skills started to show bits of wear and tear last season.  One has to wonder if he still has sufficient talent to overcome his rather obvious “behavioral issues”.

Moving on …  I happened to be grazing through the cable channels and came across a “panel discussion” on NFL Network where the subject was organizational stability and how that stability was a critical component for successful franchises.  The Patriots, Steelers and Packers were cited as current examples of long-term organizational stability; people recalled the stability of the “Bill Walsh 49ers” and the “Shula Dolphins” and the “Lombardi Packers”.  As the discussion turned to some of the “less stable franchises”, one of the panel members – I did not recognize him – mentioned the Buffalo Bills and he said that the Bills last playoff appearance had been prior to the Patriots hiring of Bill Belichick.  It is not that I did not believe him, but I went and checked and came up with three facts:

  1. The Bills’ last playoff appearance was on Jan 8, 2000 in a loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild card round.  The Pats hired Bill Belichick on Jan 27, 2000.
  2. When Bill Belichick took the Pats’ job, Wade Philips was the Buffalo head coach.  Since Phillips was fired at the end of the 2000 season, the Bills have had 7 “full time head coaches” plus interim coach Anthony Lynn in the 2016 season plus newly hired Sean McDermott.
  3. Phillips’ record in Buffalo was 29-19 when he was fired.  Since then every subsequent head coach has left with a record below .500.

Last week, one of the minor college football bowl games went belly up.  There will be no more Poinsettia Bowl games; the rich 12-year tradition of this game will have to live on only in memory.  These games have been played in San Diego and the demise of this game leaves the city with only one college bowl game – the Holiday Bowl – which will soldier on.

One organization was responsible for staging these two bowl games in the past and here is the statement from its executive director regarding the Poinsettia Bowl:

“College football and the bowl game structure has gone through major changes through the years and our board feels the time is right to focus our efforts on one post-season game. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl staged exciting match-ups for more than a decade and we were one of the few cities to host two bowl games.”

Here are the data that probably led to the decision to deep-six this game:

  • Average attendance at the Poinsettia Bowl game for the last 12 years has been just under 32,500 fans.  That would be a stupendous crowd for a Wednesday night game between two MAC teams, but that is just a smattering of folks for a college football game of any importance.
  • In the last 6 of the Poinsettia Bowl games, attendance has only gone over 30,000 in the two years when San Diego St. played in the game.  That indicates that despite the great weather in San Diego in December/January, people were not traveling from Wherever, USA to San Diego to see a game they considered an after-thought.
  • When the Poinsettia Bowl first appeared on the college football scene in 2005, there were 28 post-season bowl games.   In 2016, there were 41 post-season bowl games.  To me the message is clear and perhaps the demise of the Poinsettia Bowl will “spread the word”.  There are simply too many college football bowl games and at least two-thirds of them are sufficiently meaningless that they could be discontinued with no pain to anyone other than TV networks looking to fill 168 hours a week with programming.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Adult:  What you become when you finally give up drinking, sleeping around and bouncing from job to job.  Also known as kill-me-now syndrome.”

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



Chicago Bulls or Chicago Blues …

I was watching Sportscenter the other night and after they reported that the Chicago Bulls had lost to the Atlanta Hawks on a late rally by the Hawks, the team showed locker-room interviews with Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler of the Bulls.  Both were calm and composed; there was no ranting.  Nonetheless, what they said – and the directness with which they said it – indicates to me that the Bulls have a VERY serious “chemistry issue”.  Let me paraphrase their comments and aggregate them here:

  • Wade and Butler questioned the desire of some of their teammates and their commitment to winning.
  • One of them – I do not recall which one – questioned teammates’ heart.
  • They wondered why teammates had taken some unsuccessful shots late in the game with the game on the line.

This is not quite the same thing as LeBron or Kobe indicating that their team has problems that need resolution.  In this case, the two best players on the team – unarguably – both made specific references to teammates and the commitment of those teammates to winning basketball games.  If the coaching staff in Chicago can patch this back together, maybe we should send those guys to the Middle East to negotiate a peace deal in that region of the world.  I think the Chicago Bulls are coming unglued…

Here is a scheduling alert for your Super Bowl party.  For those of you who are determined to watch Lady Gaga and her halftime act/antics, you should be sure to be back from your potty-break when it comes time for the first advertisement of the 3rd quarter.  For the first time in history, the ad will be live – not taped.  Snickers has purchased the ad slot and here is something we know about this first-time event:

  • Per, the ad will feature actor, Adam Driver.  Let me be clear, I do not know Adam Driver from Adam Walker or from Johnny Walker or from Johnny Football or from Squirt the Wonder Clam.  Nevertheless, thinks this is important information.

There is something else here that I do not understand.  According to, this 30-second ad will be preceded of a 36-hour livestream.  Snickers is going to be streaming live content at from noon on the Thursday before the Super Bowl until midnight on Friday.  Then, will do more streaming on game day before, during and after the game itself.  So, perhaps the idea here is to do something that sounds so strange that it might tempt me to tune in to see what is going on.  Well, if that were the case, then this next “clarification” from someone at Snickers doused my curiosity; the ad will be part of a:

“… fully integrated 360 campaign to reinforce the brand’s connection to hunger satisfaction before, during and after Super Bowl LI.”

I know the definition of every word in that phrase and yet the meaning and importance of the message delivered by that phrase completely escapes me.  Oh, but it gets even better.  Here is what the Snickers brand director told

“Every year we challenge ourselves to find new ways to satisfy our fans hunger for entertainment by delivering something new and breakthrough, and there is no better way than being the first to have a Super Bowl live ad.”

As is always the case with press notifications of this type, there has to be a parallel comment from the network that will be airing the ad and so we get to hear now from a FOX group vice-president:

“We’re excited to welcome Snickers back to the Super Bowl on Fox.  As this first-ever live Super Bowl spot demonstrates, innovation in advertising comes as much from outstanding creative ideas as it does from technology.”

One more foreshadowing for the Super Bowl ads comes from  Hyundai will not air a live ad, but will do the next best thing.  Hyundai said that it will be taping its commercial during the game itself and that ad will air in the first ad slot after the final whistle of the game.

And you thought that the only excitement would be on the field in Houston.  How silly…

Switching gears…  We know that fans sometimes throw things onto the field of play.  In Detroit, they throw octopuses on the ice during Stanley Cup Playoff games; in Europe, they throw flares onto soccer pitches; in Philly, they throw snowballs at Santa Claus.  We also know that when a player leaves one team to go to a rival team, he is often greeted “less than warmly” when he returns to the venue where he used to play.

Leave it to the Aussies to add some creativity to such a situation. reported that in a soccer game between Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers – a game known as the Sydney Derby – fans threw snakes at the Wanderers’ goalkeeper, Vedran Janjetovic.  Why not?  It was a big rivalry game and Janjetovic had had the audacity of leaving the Sydney FC team to play for the Western Sydney Wanderers.  Clearly, that is an intolerable situation.

Just to be sure that Janjetovic got their message, the fans also chanted to him:

“You’re a snake!  You’re a snake!”

The report did say, however, that they are “pretty sure” that these were toy snakes and not live ones.  Nevertheless…

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“U.S. ski star Lindsey Vonn — whose medical history already included two broken legs, three major knee injuries, a broken finger and a lacerated thumb — underwent surgery after breaking her right arm during a training spill in Colorado.

“Needless to say, she’s got a surefire gig in hand if Milton Bradley ever rolls out an updated version of ‘Operation.’”

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



Bonne Chance, Brent Musburger

As I continue my quest to ignore any focus at all on the upcoming Falcons/Patriots game 10 days hence, there are indeed issues worthy of commentary.  For example, Brent Musburger announced yesterday that he will be retiring – at age 77 – from ESPN/ABC Sports at the end of January this year.  His last on-air game will be Georgia versus Kentucky at Rupp Arena on 31 January.  I remember Musburger from his days as the studio host for NFL Today on CBS back in the 70s and I have always enjoyed his game calls.  Here is a sentence from the AP report on his retirement:

“Musburger, who is 77, said he’s leaving active sportscasting to help his family get a sports handicapping business started and to use some of the millions of airline miles he’s earned for some fun travel.”

As you can probably surmise, I fully get why he would choose to retire.  I think “fun travel” is a great idea at any age and would only chide Messr. Musburger for not doing a lot of that all along the way; no reason to put it off until you are 77.  I can also relate to the idea of helping family members to start a sports handicapping company.  If the various states prevail in court to overturn PASPA and are allowed to host sports betting in places like New Jersey and Michigan and New York, there will be a growing market for “sports consultants” and this company may indeed be getting on the ground floor.

Bonne chance, Brent Musburger…

Speaking obliquely about wagering on sporting matters, one of the Internet sportsbooks has posted odds on where Tony Romo will play in the 2017 NFL season.  As of this morning, here is a sampling of the odds:

  • Houston Texans  3 to 1  (the lowest odds on the board)
  • Denver Broncos  4.75 to 1
  • Buffalo Bills  5 to 1
  • NY Jets  7.5 to 1
  • Dallas Cowboys  10 to 1
  • “Retired”  20 to 1.

If Romo winds up playing somewhere other than Dallas next year, it will have to involve at least one of these circumstances:

  1. The Cowboys release him; Romo becomes a free agent and signs on in the place that most appeals to him.
  2. The Cowboys trade Romo to a team with a ton of cap room this year – and for the next several years.

Absent one or both of those situations, the ‘new team” must fit Romo’s contract into their salary cap structure and it may not be easy.  Romo has 3 years left on a 6-year/$108M restructuring of his contract and the three late years are back-loaded.  If my calculations are correct, he will earn $72M in the next 3 years.

Something to keep in mind here is that the Cowboys can – if they want – keep Romo as their backup QB even at his sky-high price for the simple reason that they are paying Dak Prescott on a slotted rookie contract which means that their “total cap commitment” to the QB position is about what it would be with Romo as the starter and Prescott as the clipboard holder.  If my reading of Prescott’s contract situation is correct, he got a $400K signing bonus last year and then made $450K for the 2016 season.  This year, his base salary goes up to $540K and then increases by $90K each year until the 2019 season whereupon he can be a free agent.

There is still a lot of time and opportunity to speculate on what the Cowboys will do here and what other teams may try to do to pry Romo loose from Dallas etc.  In the end, this all comes down to money – cap money for the team and cash money in Tony Romo’s bank account.

Now, speaking of money in amounts that I have difficulty relating to as I peruse my bank accounts, I read a report saying that the NFL is going to extort $650M from the Chargers’ owners as a relocation fee.  That means that the Chargers will pay $650M to move the team to a town that does not want them very much and to become second-level tenants in a new stadium playpen being built by the owner of the other team that just moved to LA.  So, riddle me this:


If the Chargers’ owners have $650M laying around – or have access to $650M without moving Heaven and Earth – why can’t they take that money and get some money from the NFL’s “slush funds” and perhaps take on a partner who would buy in for say 15% of the team and pool all of that money?


My guess is that total would be north of $1B and that would allow the Chargers to build – and own – their own new stadium in San Diego where fans have supported the team for more than 50 years.

The fact that this makes sense to me and seems not to make any sense to the Chargers’ owners and/or the NFL financial mavens tells you why I never would have had a shot at making it in the world of high finance…

Finally, since I started today with a comment about a retirement, let me close with this item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“A 75-year-old man reportedly punched a 92-year-old man in the face over seating in a Nebraska nursing home cafeteria.

“So that settles it. Neither Evander Holyfield nor George Foreman has retired.”

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



The Middle Of The NBA Season – Who Knew?

You may not have noticed it, but the NBA season is about half over.  It is still a bit early to get focused on the NBA; the really interesting stuff starts to happen after the NBA All-Star Game and the league gets down to business about the fourth week in March.  Nonetheless, here are 9 teams who have been surprises in the first half of this season.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (9-35):  Most folks thought the Nets would be bad but not this bad.  They are on pace to win only 16.8 games this year.  Ugly indeed …
  2. Chicago Bulls (22-23):  They are in 8th place in the Eastern Conference for now but they are underachieving what most folks thought they would be doing in the first half of this season.  The Bulls are a poor shooting team – except for Jimmy Butler – and good defense will only get you so far in today’s NBA.
  3. Dallas Mavericks (15-29):  The horrible surprise for the Mavs was starting off the season losing 13 of their first 15 games.
  4. Houston Rockets (34-14):  I do not know anyone who thought the Rockets would be on pace to win 58 games in late January.  Other than merely paying lip-service to playing defense, James Harden is doing everything else in the world for this team – and doing all of that very well.
  5. LA Lakers (16-32):  The surprise here is that the Lakers began the season very hot and people were suggesting a possible appearance in the playoffs this year.  Then reality struck and the Lakers are doing now what most folks thought they would do from the season’s opening tip-off.
  6. Miami Heat (15-30):  When Dwayne Wade left in free agency, it was clear that the Heat would have a down year.  I did not think they would be a team to win fewer than 30 games this year – but they are on pace to do just that.
  7. Milwaukee Bucks (21-23):  Here is a positive surprise team and I think you can point to the emergence of Jabari Parker and Gianis Antetokounmpo – or his more easily spelled persona, The Greek Freak.
  8. NY Knicks (20-26):  Things were looking up for the Knicks in November and then it all started to fall apart.  Now there is infighting amongst the team and the GM; they refuse to play any defense; most of their outside shooting is awful and the thing they do best is to lose games.
  9. Philly 76ers (15-27):  Trust the process…  A healthy Joel Embiid and the arrival of Dario Saric has made this team significantly better than it has been for the last 5 years and they have yet to get any contribution from Ben Simmons – their top pick in the draft last year.

I am not any sort of expert when it comes to putting out a sports section in a daily newspaper.  Nonetheless, I think I can spot an article that is – at its core – a space filler on a slow news day.  In radio and TV, they say there is nothing worse than “dead air” and I suspect that in the newspaper industry, there is nothing worse than blank newsprint on the page.  That brings me to an article that appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a week ago, which offered readers 5 “tips” to help them keep their New Year’s Fitness Resolutions.  Of course, the best way would be not to make such resolutions in the first place but let us ignore the obvious solution to this “problem”.  I am going to list the 5 “tips” offered in this article and make a brief comment about each of the “tips”:

  1. Set more manageable goals.  Setting easily manageable fitness goals probably contributed significantly to the fact that you thought it necessary to make a bunch of New Year’s fitness resolutions a couple of weeks ago.
  2. Do something fun:  Generally that will mean doing something that has little to do with whatever your fitness resolutions had to do with.  Here are some things that are fun – playing poker, eating some pizza and downing it with a brewski, finishing the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle.  None of that will get you fit…
  3. Be consistent.  Like #1 above, this is likely one of the behavior characteristics that got you to the point that you felt it necessary to make fitness resolutions.  People who consistently eat more than they need and do not work out tend to be in poor shape.  Ever notice that?
  4. Have someone keep you accountable.  Thank hard about this one because this is going to be someone that you ditch as a friend.  If you need help keeping your Fitness Resolutions, the last thing you need to add to the mix here is a friend who is acting like a self-righteous harpy all the time.
  5. Incentivize it.  Oh good; I can have those Boston Cream donuts now that I did my time on the treadmill…  That’ll help.

Let me veer even further off the path of sports today to acknowledge the end of a 146-year run by Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.  My wife and I and several neighbors go to see the show each Spring when its itinerary brings it to the DC suburbs and we all have a wonderful time every year that we go.  After this year, my wife, my neighbors and I  will all have to settle for the clowns in the Congress and in the Administration to provide us with the pratfalls and goof-ups that give us amusement.  There are indeed plenty of clowns in this town – – even when the circus is elsewhere.

Finally, with Sean McVay hired as the Rams’ coach at age 30, is it possible that Bill Belichick has a hoodie that is older than Sean McVay?  Enquiring minds want to know…

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



Skating Dangerously Close To Politics Today …

Anyone who has read these rants over the years knows that I am a fan and admirer of Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle.  In my fantasy world, I like to think that I can produce prose half the caliber of what he must have to delete from his columns just to meet the space restrictions of his newspaper. Two days ago, he married the social concept of “fake news” to the sports world in an extraordinarily interesting way.  It begins with the heading:

“All the fake news that fits, we print …”

From there, the column is wide-ranging but under the “reporting” that the recently inaugurated President had issued an executive order banning the use of helmets in NFL games, here is a sample of the commentary:

“The President said he cleared the no-helmet order with his newly appointed head of OSHA, Evel Knievel.

“When a reporter at the news conference told Trump that Knievel was dead, the president retorted, ‘That’s what they said about Donald Trump last September.’”

I highly recommend that you read this column in its entirety simply because it is far too good for me to try to summarize here.

While I am meandering dangerously close to politics here – only for a moment to be sure – I ran across a report at that said President Trump had received some advice from Johnny Manziel.  You read that correctly; Johnny Football thought that he had some good advice for the President of the United States that had nothing to do with domestic policy or foreign policy or whatever.  Here is the deal:

  • Johnny Manziel has deleted his Twitter account.
  • Just before he did that, here is what he Tweeted out:

“Yo, POTUS even I know to stay away from the notifications section on twitter. S— will drive you crazy, lead the country and let them hate … Control what you can control and let the rest fall by the wayside.”

Please put your politics aside here for just a moment and contemplate the zeitgeist of 2017 wherein a presumably recovering addict offers advice to the newly inaugurated President of the United States that makes actual good sense.  Timothy Leary was not in a position to make a similar recommendation to President Kennedy; David Koresh was not in a position to make a similar recommendation to President Clinton; Anwar Al-Awlaki was not in a position to make a similar recommendation to President Obama.  Notwithstanding all the negative precedents, Johnny Manziel may indeed have a piece of advice for the President of the United States that might be worthy of attention.

I cannot decide if this falls into the category of:

  1. The Blind leading The Blind – – or – –
  2. Out of the mouths of babes …

As the NFL builds up/winds down to a single game two weeks hence, the college basket all season has begun its buildup to March Madness.  Teams are focused into “Conference Competition”; the joy-ride/feelgood tournaments of late December are forgotten; the patsy games/glorified scrimmage games are in the rear-view mirror.  I can watch college basketball in December to see really good teams and really good players dominate my TV screen.  From here on out, I can watch with the idea that I may be able to discern just how good this team is as compared to that team and how good that player really is when he is being defended by a team of comparable talent.  There is still a LONG way to go between late January and March Madness but I would like to offer a few general college basketball observations here for you to chew upon:

  1. It sure is fun to watch UCLA basketball this year.  This team may not be as dominant as some of the UCLA teams led by Lew Alcindor and/or Bill Walton35 -40 years ago, but they are very good and they are a whole lot of “entertaining” to watch.
  2. The Big 12 may be an “afterthought” in terms of major college football, but the Big 12 is a powerhouse conference in basketball this year.  Kansas and Baylor are both 18-1 this year; West Virginia and K-State are merely 15-4 this year.  These are four very serious teams and that means there will be some major confrontations in conference play in the Big 12.
  3. The Big East has no schools that are football powers but that does not mean you can ignore Big East basketball.  The defending NCAA Champion, Villanova, is 19-1 this year; in the same conference, you have Creighton at 18-2, Butler at 17-3, and Xavier at 14-5.

Please notice that I have not mentioned anyone in the ACC and/or the SEC and/or the Big 10 above.  That does not mean that I doubt that those conferences have good teams; what it means is that you can see good team play in a lot of different conferences this year and what you have to do as a viewer is to avoid overloading on “games of mediocrity”.  Too many local cable systems – Northern Virginia is a prime offender here – offer tons of game that showcase teams that would be better served if no one other than the student body of that school and the blood relatives of the team members every looked in.

Finally, since I referred you to a Scott Ostler column in the SF Chronicle above, here is another of his comments.  He was “enumerating” the things he might prefer to watch other than Thursday Night Football:

“My entire backlog of ‘Jeopardy! — the Art Fleming years.’ ”

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



Two Weeks To The Super Bowl

The rhythm of NFL games skips a beat at this point in January every year.  Instead of a 6-day cycle of anticipation for the next “event”, we get to wait 13 days.  I would certainly not count that as a disastrous state of affairs were it not for the added 7 days of nonsense that sports fans will endure between now and Super Bowl Sunday.  I will try not to focus on any such nonsense for the next two weeks and speak of the upcoming game only in the final edition of Mythical Picks a week from next Friday.  I know already that I will not be able to avoid some mention of happenings on Media Day next week because that event is so outrageous that it brings out a normally dormant strain of lunacy in the folks who attend.  Other than that …

The teams for the game are set; the Patriots and the Falcons have earned their places in the game; a bazillion people will tune in to see the game.  Much of the foofaraw over the next two weeks is superfluous at its very best.

About a week ago, I ran across a report about the advertising revenue that this year’s Super Bowl is expected to generate.  According to this report, FOX could take in about $500M in ad revenue for the day if you add up the revenue from the pre-game “festivities” plus the game itself plus the post-game “hosannas”.  Last year, the total revenue for super Bowl Sunday was $445M.  An interesting fact – at least it was interesting to me – from this report is that nine different automobile brands will buy ad spots somewhere in this mix of programming.

Over the weekend, reported that the Spring Football League that is launching this year will invite three NFL “veterans” who are not under contract to any teams at the moment to participate.  Obviously, having recognizable names would be a plus for the league; obviously, playing in these games offers those players a showcase for whatever football skills they possess.  The three “veterans” identified in the report were:

  1. Johnny Manziel
  2. Ray Rice
  3. Vince Young

The CEO of the Spring League, Brian Woods, said that the Spring League will be happy to provide a platform for players who want to demonstrate to the football mavens that those players are still relevant and deserve employment consideration.  Granted that these three players provide a lot more name recognition to the Spring League that Joe Flabeetz would provide.  However, I am not sure that very many people will recognize those names in a sufficiently interested or positive way as to motivate them to watch those players perform in a Spring Football League otherwise populated with Joe Flabeetz and Sam Glotz and Biff Bopf.

The Indy Colts fired GM Ryan Grigson and are now on the lookout for a new GM.  This event comes a year after Colts’ owner. Jim Irsay, gave a contract extension to Grigson and to head coach Chuck Pagano despite rumors a year ago that both of them could be on the chopping block.  There was a report that Irsay had tried to contact Peyton Manning about taking the GM job in Indy but then that report was refuted – sort of and …

The situation in Indy is a precarious one.  The Colts are a bad football team with a franchise QB.  Most bad teams do not have a franchise QB and that omission from their rosters is a significant contributor to their “badness”.  What happens in Indy is that the Colts have an outstanding QB and they play in a chronically weak division meaning that they win enough games to make it seem as if they are a decent team.  The reason I say the situation there is precarious is because Andrew Luck has been injured in each of the last two years.  He had to miss time in 2015 and we recently learned that he needed post-season shoulder surgery after 2016.  The Colts do not have a roster that can protect the asset they do have that separates them from the abject bottom-feeders in the league at the moment – – the Browns, Niners, etc.

If I may use a business analogy here, the Colts have not taken out an insurance policy on the thing that makes their business competitive.  Looking at this from the outside, that situation can obtain in several ways:

  1. The coaching staff may have sufficient raw material to work with but the coaching staff is not sufficiently competent to take that raw material and mold it into a functioning unit.
  2. The GM/Front Office may not recognize the fundamental lack of talent on the roster in several areas and therefore makes no effort to improve those areas.
  3. The owner may not be a constructive element in establishing working environment where folks can pool resources to solve common problems.
  4. Or, it could be all of the above…

Back when the Colts were a very good team, the GM was Bill Polian who had an excellent track record when it came to building rosters.  After a bad season – so bad that the Colts had the #1 overall pick they would use to draft Andrew Luck – Jim Irsay decided to clean house and fired just about everyone.  What he has now is an apparently dysfunctional working environment and an obviously dysfunctional team.  If the Colts are to find a way not to squander the asset that is Andrew Luck, they need in no particular order:

  • An upgraded offensive line to keep him in one piece.
  • An upgraded running game – likely to come with an upgraded OL – so that he does not have to throw the ball so often.
  • An upgraded defense so that he is not always playing catch-up and throwing the ball behind his porous OL.

Now let me look at some recent drafts by the Colts:

  • In 2014, they took two offensive linemen.  One of them is still on the roster but is not listed on the depth chart for 2016.  I have no idea where the other one is.
  • In 2015, they took one offensive lineman in the 7th round and he is the Colts’ starting right guard.
  • In 2016, they took 4 offensive linemen (including 2 centers) and all four made the squad and are on the roster.

At some point, someone “in charge” at Indy has to decide if those 7 offensive linemen taken in recent years were good picks who are still in “development mode” or if they were good picks who have been insufficiently coached to develop properly or if they were bad picks from the beginning.  It is going to take a “football guy” to sort all of that out and given the recent history of the Colts and their owner, I wonder how much of a salary premium the team will have to pay to a “football guy” to wade into that miasma.  Stay tuned …

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Acid:  Something you definitely have to be on to appreciate Carrot Top.”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 1/22/17


This is the penultimate edition of Mythical Picks for the 2016/2017 football season.  Last week’s Mythical Picks were boring – neither disastrous nor exciting.  I made 4 selections and the record for the week was 2-2-0.  That brings the season total to 139-93-5.

The “Best Picks” from last week were:

  • Pats – 15.5 against Texans.  Pats won by 18 points.
  • Steelers +1.5 against Chiefs.  Steelers won the game straight up.

The “Worst Picks” from last week were:

  • Seahawks +5 against Falcons.  Seahawks lost by 16 points.
  • Packers/Cowboys UNDER 52.5.  Total score was 65 points.

As is always the case, no one should take anything here seriously enough to use it as the basis for making a decision as to which side to back in a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend.  Here is how dumb you would have to be to do anything close to that:


You would employ Dr. Victor Frankenstein as your personal trainer because of his experience and success in body building.


General Comments:


The NFL’s rendition of the “Final Four” presents us with 4 worthy teams.  It would be very difficult to argue that one or two of these teams do not belong here; the regular season and the first two weekends of the playoffs have left us with 4 good teams – – and more importantly 4 teams that are hard to root against.  Curmudgeons are supposed to find the chinks in the armor of Final Four groupings but in this case, it is very difficult.


Atlanta Falcons:  All they did this year was to score 540 points in the 16 regular season games and then score 36 points against a much better than average Seattle Seahawks’ defense last week.  They are the “new kid on the block” with regard to Super Bowl championships – and even Super Bowl participation.  They have only been to the big game once in franchise history and they were smoked by John Elway and the Denver Broncos in that appearance.  On a personal note, Matt Ryan went to high school about 15 miles as the crow flies from where my parents lived at that particular time.  It will surely not offend me to see the Falcons win this weekend and then go on to win the Super Bowl.


Green Bay Packers: After starting the season at 4-6, Aaron Rodgers said that the team could/would “run the table” and get into the playoffs.  Based on his play for the most part, the Packers did just that despite injuries approximating the carnage at the Battle of Verdun.  Then, in two playoff games, the Packers offense beat two worthy opponents and last week’s win over the Cowboys had a “signature play” in NFL history leading to the winning field goal.  Rodgers said the Packers would “run the table”; well, now there are only two balls left on the table.  It will surely not offend me to see the Packers win this weekend and then go on to win the Super Bowl.


New England Patriots:  If you like sustained excellence, you have to like the New England Patriots.  In the Belichick/Brady Era, they have been in the AFC Championship Game so many times that I am tempted to call that game the “New England Patriots’ Invitational”.  There is a “Curmudgeon Angle” here; in fact, it is the reason that if you made me pick my favorite team in this Final Four, I would pick the Patriots.  I would love to see the look on the face of Roger Goodell if he has to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Tom Brady after the game.  Even more, I want to pay enough attention to the moment to do the best lip-reading that I can to see what Brady might say to the Commish in sotto voce.  It will surely not offend me to see the Patriots win this weekend and then go on to win the Super Bowl.


Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers represent franchise stability over a LONG period of time.  They have had 3 head coaches since January 1969 when they hired Chuck Noll to be their coach.  By comparison, the Niners will be hiring their 3rd head coach since January 2014 sometime soon.  The Steelers are a small-market team with a “team philosophy” that is different from most other teams.  And it works…  The Steelers’ offense this year has relied on the “Three Killer Bees” – Big Ben, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell.  After last week, they need to admit a 4th “Killer Bee” to the table.  That would be Chris Boswell whose 6 field goals provided all 18 points that were enough to beat the KC Chiefs and thereby led the Steelers to this week’s game.  It will surely not offend me to see the Steelers win this weekend and then go on to the win the Super Bowl.


With regard to last week’s games specifically, I really expected the Falcons/Seahawks game to go down to the final possession.  That is not even close to what happened.  The Falcons scored a lot of points on a good Seahawks’ defense and the Falcons’ defense played much better than I thought they could play against the Seahawks offense.  Two weeks ago, Seahawks’ RB, Thomas Rawls ran for 161 yards; last week, the Seahawks’ leading rusher was QB, Russell Wilson with 49 yards.

The Pats/Texans game last week was not exciting – to say the least.  The Pats played poorly; at the half, it was a 4-point game.  Nonetheless, I never had a shred of doubt that the Pats would come out as the winner of the game; I was not sanguine about them covering a 15.5-point spread, but I never thought they might lose the game.  When a team intercepts Tom Brady 2 times in a game, they must find a way to win.  Remember, he only threw 2 INTs in 12 regular season games in 2016.  The Texans got 2 INTs but Brock Osweiler managed to throw 3 INTs of his own to negate that defensive accomplishment.

On the other hand, the Packers/Cowboys game was one for the ages.  The Packers dominated early; the Cowboys made an excellent comeback; there were great plays in the final minutes involving a multitude of field goals from 50+ yards and there was “the third-and-20- pass-completion” with 3 seconds left to set up the winning field goal.  If that game did not get your blood pumping, stop wasting time watching NFL football games.

The Steelers/Chiefs game was also a great game to watch for a completely different reason than the Packers/Cowboys game.  This was a defensive game that was always one play away from changing the fortune in the game.  The Steelers won 18-16 because of 6 field goals.  You have heard of the “Pick Six”: well, the Steelers introduced us all to the “Kick Six”.

There are two things that I am looking forward to watching in this week’s Conference Championship Games.  I do not mean to say that this is all that I want to see but I think these will be interesting “sub-plots” within the games:

  1. The Packers had more than a little trouble covering Dez Bryant last week; he had 9 receptions for 132 yards and 2 TDs.  This week, they need to figure out how to cover Julio Jones.  Meaning not a shred of disrespect for Dez Bryant, Julio Jones is a better WR and I have no idea how the Packers are going to cope with that.
  2. Antonio Brown versus Malcom Butler – their pizza commercial notwithstanding – will be an interesting match-up.  It might just be the fulcrum of the game because if the Pats can keep Brown in check using only one defender, they may be able to commit more of the defense to stopping LeVeon Bell.


The Games:


(Sunday 3:05 PM EST) Green Bay at Atlanta – 5.5 (60):  Yes, I know; the Total Line here looks like one for a Big 12 game and not an NFL game.  However, the Falcons averaged almost 34 points a game in the regular season and put 36 on the board last week against the Seahawks.  Meanwhile, the Packers have been on an 8-game tear and in those 8 games have scored 30 or more in each of their last 6 outings.  The Total Line opened at 58 and was up over 60 in about 2 hours last weekend.  I do not recall seeing an NFL Total Line at this level before.  The spread on this game has gyrated too.  It opened at 4.5 points and shot up to 5.5 points very quickly.  Then it dropped to 4 points in the early part of the week until more falcons’ money showed up and pushed it back up to 5.5 points just about everywhere this morning.

These teams met earlier this year in this same Georgia Dome and the Falcons won by 33-32.  That was back in late October – 3 weeks before Aaron Rodgers suggested that the packers would “run the table”.  I do not think either defense is going to throttle the opposing offense and I do think that this game can easily come down to the final possession in the final minute of the game.  Because there are only 3 games left to pick in this season, I will make two selections for this game:

I like the Packers plus the points.

I like the game to go OVER.

I am tempted by the Packers on the Money Line at +190 but will resist that temptation.


(Sunday 6:40 PM EST) Pittsburgh at New England – 6 (50):  This spread opened at 4.5 points but it jumped to 5.5 point in no time flat.  Since then, it has hovered between 5.5 and 6 points and the clear majority of the sportsbooks have the spread at 6 points this morning.  As much as I would love to see Roger Goodell having to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady (see above) in Houston two weeks from now, I think the Steelers have a very good chance to win this game outright.  I think LeVeon Bell will gain his yards and the Steelers can control the tempo that way.  I’ll take the Steelers plus the points here.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald related to the Packers/Vikings game on Christmas Eve 2016:

“The Minnesota Vikings team plane skidded off the runway in Green Bay. There is probably nothing more frightening than spotting rescue workers in cheeseheads.”

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



Baseball Hall Of Fame – Class Of 2017

The votes have been tallied and we have three new players about to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.  They are:

  1. Jeff Bagwell
  2. Tim Raines
  3. Ivan Rodriguez

If you go by the numbers, these guys all belong in the Hall of Fame and the fact that Raines was elected in his 10th – and final – year of eligibility on the baseball writers’ ballot makes me wonder what took them so long.  There have been rumors/suspicions/suggestions that some of Bagwell’s stats were “chemically enhanced” and more than a few folks have offered up those circumstances as the basis for his delayed entry.  Please note that there has never been any solid evidence in Bagwell’s case – but rumors were sufficient in previous years.  Likewise, there had been similar hints/winks of the eye/whatevers regarding Pudge Rodriguez’ stats and “the juice”.  Once again, there was never any proof – – and yet, Rodriguez was inducted in his first year of eligibility.

The election process for the Hall of Fame is imperfect to be sure but I do not think the idea of membership in the Hall of Fame is sufficiently important to spend the time and energy to cure the imperfections.  The current process works well enough so leave it alone.

Having said that let me juxtapose two players’ career stats for you and then pose a fundamental question:


Player A:  He played 17 years in MLB.  His career batting average was .260; his career OBP was .299 and his career slugging average was.367.  He averaged 22 home runs and 64 RBIs per season.  He was on the All-Star Team 7 times.

Player B:  He played 17 years in MLB.  His career batting average was .290; his career OBP was .356 and his career slugging average was .500.  He averaged 27 home runs and 107 RBIs per season.  He was on the All-Star Team 5 times and he was the MVP 1 time.


As you have probably guessed by now, Player A is in the Hall of Fame and Player B is not.  In fact, Player B only got about 15% of the votes this time around meaning he is nowhere near the 75% level needed for election to the Hall of Fame.  Making the comparison even more interesting is the fact that Player A and Player B played the same position for the vast majority of their 17-year careers.

Player A is Bill Mazeroski; Player B is Jeff Kent.  If you “go by the numbers”, I do not understand how Mazeroski can be in the Hall of Fame and Kent be at 15% in the voting.  Does that make a lot of sense to you?

It may be difficult to untangle the jejune thought processes of the Baseball Hall of Fame voters but I doubt that it will be difficult to understand the motivation behind the announcement I want to discuss now.  FIFA announced about a week ago that it was going to expand the World Cup Tournament from 32 teams to 48 teams.  The underlying motivation is:

  • More Money

Instead of breaking a 32-team field into 8 groups of 4 teams and advancing the top 2 teams from each group to a 16-team knockout round, here is the proposed new format:

  1. There will be 16 groups of 3 teams; they will play one another and the top 2 teams in each group will move on.
  2. That will put 32 teams into a knockout round and the survivor of that knockout round will be the World Cup champion.

The idea is to implement this new format for the 2026 tournament and to leave the current format in place for 2018 and 2022.  You may wonder why – if I am correct and added revenue is the motivation behind all of this – why FIFA would postpone implementation.  I cannot answer that definitively because I am not part of the FIFA “inner circle” but perhaps it has to do with the activities underway to provide “quarters and rations” for 32 teams at the tournaments in 2018 and 2022 and expansion of the field would be an organizational problem for the host countries that have things underway already.

Bob Molinaro had this comment regarding the expansion of the World Cup field in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Futbol folly: In announcing the generally unpopular decision to increase the field at the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, a FIFA official said expansion would give 16 more countries a ‘chance to dream.’ It also invites a lot more bad games. FIFA? It’s only dreaming of the additional $1 billion the inflated tournament will pump into its coffers.”

He is absolutely right about the additional “bad games”.  In order to get into the World Cup Tournament, teams play in qualifying rounds in their geographical sections of the world.  The only team that gets a “BYE” into the tournament is the host country.  That means in the current system, 31 of the 32 entries are there because they finished high enough in their geographic region to get an invitation; those 31 teams earned their way in.

Presumably, the same rules will apply to the 48-team field which can only mean that there will be 16 teams added to the field that would not have been deemed “good enough” to be in the Tournament with only 32 entries.  In competitive terms, that is not going to help; there are already more than a few non-competitive games in a 32-team field; imagine what will happen when a team like Germany or Spain or Brazil or Argentina gets to play “Team Number 48”.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about another sporting decision that was made for “financially-driven reasons”:

“The San Diego Chargers are leaving for Los Angeles. Seldom has the nickname ‘Bolts’ been more fitting.”

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