Final Four Weekend Approaches …

As the Final Four games approach, it is interesting to look back on the tournament form a perspective other than the games themselves.  ESPN had its bracket challenge contest this year where people picked the full brackets.  There were 18,797,075 entries in that contest and from that mass of entries only 657 of them had the Final Four predicted correctly.  In case your calculator battery is dead, those correct prognostications amount to 0.0035% of the total entries.

One other meaningless fact from the Final Four is that Oregon coach, Dana Altman, and South Carolina coach, Frank Martin, both had the head coaching job at Kansas State in the past.

  • Dana Altman was at K-State from 1990 to 1994; it was his first head coaching assignment at the collegiate level; the Wildcats made the tournament once under his guidance.  His overall record there was 68-54 but his record in conference games (the Big 8 at the time) was an unimpressive 19-37.  Since his days at K-State, Altman went to Creighton from 1995 until 2010 and used his success there to land the Oregon job from 2010 until now.  Since coming to Oregon, Altman’s teams have won 21 games or more in each season.
  • Frank Martin was at K-State from 2007 to 2012; like Altman, it was his first head coaching assignment at the collegiate level; the Wildcats made the tournament four years out of the five Martin was at K-State including one trip to the Elite 8.  His overall record there was 117-54 and his record in conference games (the Big 12 by this point) was 50-32.  Martin took the South Carolina job in 2012; this is the first of his teams there to make the NCAA tournament.

If there is some sort of link between the other two coaches in the Final Four – – Mark Few and Roy Williams – – I have not been able to discern it.  The only sort of link I can find for Mark Few is that he graduated from Oregon in 1987 but that was well before Dana Altman arrived in Eugene, OR.

The headline over Bob Molinaro’s column today reads:

“Is there a better bet than UConn women to win it all? That’s doubtful.”

Well, here are the betting lines as of this morning:

  • UConn wins the women’s national championship:  – 1050
  • Anyone else wins the women’s national championship:  +550

(Frankly, I am surprised the odds are that low.)

For tonight’s semi-final game in the women’s tournament, the line for UConn/Mississippi State is:

  • UConn – 21 vs. Mississippi St. (150)
  • Money lines are UConn – 4750 and Mississippi State +2375.

To answer Professor Molinaro’s rhetorical question from that headline above, the only things I can think of that are more likely than a UConn championship are outside the sports realm such as:

  • A senior White House official will say something dumb in the next week.
  • Democrats in the Congress would vote against a cure for cancer if it were discovered by Ivanka Trump.
  • You get the idea…

Switching attention to the NBA for a moment, there has been a sort of forced “debate” over the past several weeks in print and on sports radio about who should be the NBA MVP for this season.  As usual, the “debate” really comes down to different people having different criteria for what the “Most Valuable Player” is.  Consider:

  1. If you think that the MVP for a season is the best all-around player, then the NBA should just award it to LeBron James every year until such time as he is not clearly and conspicuously the best all-around basketball player on the planet.
  2. If you think that the MVP for a season is the best player on the team with the best record, please be quiet until you know which team has the best record at the end of the season and then the choice will be rather obvious.
  3. If you think that the MVP should be the player with the best stats for this year, then Russell Westbrook is your man because it looks as if he will average a triple-double for the season.  That has not happened since Oscar Robertson did it back in the 1960s.  Recognize, however, that the Thunder – despite Westbrook’s heroics – are probably not going to win 50 games for the year.
  4. If you think the MVP should be the player who led his team to a very good record for the year (better than 50 wins and maybe even better than 60 wins) but may not be as good all-around as LeBron James, then Kawai Leonard and James Harden come into the discussion.  [Aside, I think there is a real and serious debate to be had regarding those two players and this award.]

The problem with the “debates” that have been ongoing is that the creator/moderator of the debate never addresses the criteria that will be considered.  That results in people talking past one another usually in escalating volume levels which illuminates nothing.

Come to think of it, that description summarizes just about everything coming out of the US Congress today and for the past 10 years or so.  No one ever sets up a “debate” to argue about “MVC” or” Most Valuable Congressthing”.  If anyone ever does that, I think that I will move myself to a cave in the Andes in Patagonia.

Finally, I cited a headline from Bob Molinaro’s column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot above.  Here is a comment from within that column for your cogitation:

“Word play: So Mets reliever Jeurys Familia gets a 15-game suspension under MLB’s domestic-violence policy. Anybody else see the irony of a player named Familia being accused of domestic violence?”

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



Predicting the 2017 MLB Season

Baseball season starts early next week and here are my predictions for how the season will end in early October.  There will be lots of games and storylines and memorable moments between now and then, but here is how I see everything shaking out.

AL East:

  1. Boston:  Yes, they will miss David Ortiz.  However, the addition of Chris Sale to the starting rotation improves their pitching significantly.
  2. Toronto:  They are the “best of the rest” in the division.  A significant “comeback year” from Jose Bautista will let the Jays put pressure on the Red Sox.
  3. New York:  They are in the midst of a roster rebooting but their young players appear to be awfully good.  They cannot challenge the Jays or Red Sox … yet.
  4. Baltimore:  Chris Tillman is their top-of-the-rotation starter and he is on the shelf for now.  To win with their excellent bullpen, they need to have leads in games.
  5. Tampa:  I think the Rays are overmatched in this division and may be major sellers come the trading deadline.

AL Central:

  1. Cleveland:  Losing Mike Napoli cannot help the Indians but adding Edwin Encarnacion will help the Indians.
  2. Detroit:  This is a veteran team that is getting long in the tooth.  To finish this high, they must avoid the injury bug.
  3. KC:  I just do not think they have the talent to challenge the top of the division.  Losing Wade Davis over the winter surely did not help the team.
  4. Minnesota:  The Twins just have to be better than a 59-win team this year – – don’t they?
  5. Chicago:  How they plan to replace Adam Eaton and Chris Sale is not clear to me.  Maybe they can rise above the Twins in the division but nothing beyond that.

AL West:

  1. Texas:  They will win the division but will be pressed by the Astros all year long.
  2. Houston:  They spent a lot of money in the offseason adding veterans to their lineup.  A good comeback year from Dallas Keuchel would go a long way toward getting the Astros over the Rangers.
  3. Seattle:  The Mariners made lots of roster changes in the offseason but the fundamental success of the team rests on Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
  4. LA:  Mike Trout is the best all-around player in MLB but there is not nearly enough around him to get the Angels anywhere near the top of the division.
  5. Oakland:  A strong comeback year by Sonny Gray could get the A’s over 70 wins this year – – or not.

My call for the wild-card team in the AL is the Houston Astros by a whisker over the Toronto Blue Jays.

NL East:

  1. Washington:  Adding Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters to a team that won 95 games last year equals another division title.  The Nats’ only shortcoming is their bullpen.
  2. NY:  The Mets need a big comeback year from Matt Harvey and the rest of the starting rotation to stay healthy all year long to be able to threaten the Nats.
  3. Atlanta:  The Braves won 68 games last year but they are my pick for most improved team in 2017.  I think this year is the start of a long and productive career for Dansby Swanson.
  4. Miami:  The accidental death of Jose Fernandez last year is more than this roster will be able to overcome.
  5. Philly:  Phillies only scored 610 runs last year; the next lowest total in MLB was 649 runs by the Braves.  I do not see any potential for an offensive explosion from that roster.

NL Central:

  1. Chicago: Kris Bryant is the second-best player in MLB today.  Unlike Mike Trout, he has plenty of talent around him and the Cubs should win this division in a walk.
  2. Pittsburgh:  Moving Andrew McCutcheon to RF may be the change of scenery he needs to have a bounce-back year.  Starling Marte will be a better defensive CF than McCutcheon was.  I think a big year is coming for Gregory Polanco…
  3. St. Louis:  The Cards won 86 games last year and might win 88 or 90 this year.  That will not be sufficient in this division.
  4. Milwaukee:  If the Brewers finish at .500 this year, the team should break out the champagne in the clubhouse.
  5. Cincy:  The Reds stunk last year and traded away Brandon Phillips.  I think they will stink again this year.

NL West:

  1. LA:  If there is a weakness on this team, I do not know what it is – – unless you count the potential for Yasiel Puig to “go rogue” at any moment.
  2. SF:  The Giants’ bullpen was awful last year leading MLB in blown saves.  I don’t know if the addition of Mark Melancon is sufficient to avoid that sort of ignominy again this year.
  3. Arizona:  The three bottom teams in this division are after-thoughts.  The D-Backs look like the best of the three to me – but they are not going to threaten either LA or SF for long.
  4. Colorado:  The Rockies can score and the Rockies’ opponents can also score.  Probably good to take the OVER in lots of Rockies’ games this year.
  5. San Diego:  The Padres have been torn down and need now to rebuild.  It is going to take time – lots more time than the 2017 season will allow.

My pick for the NL wild-card team is the NY Mets.  Obviously, if that starting rotation falls victim to injuries – – and at least 3 of the starters have a significant medical history – – this pick could be laughably wrong.

One other thing to note…  Two cities lost their NFL franchises since New Year’s Day; the Chargers left San Diego for LA and the Raiders are now cleared for takeoff from Oakland to Las Vegas.  The baseball season does not look to be a salve for sports fans in those cities because I think the Padres and the A’s are both going to win fewer than 70 games this year.

Finally, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle to set the tone for the upcoming MLB season:

“A fond adios to all those elderly Cubbie fans who say, ‘Now I can die happy!’ It’s called ‘thinning the herd.’”

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



Some Of This … Some Of That …

Yesterday in discussing the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas and where they will play while the new stadium there is constructed, I said:

“The Raiders do have a short-term lease deal with Oakland to continue using the Coliseum there.  Having said that, I will not be surprised to read any time soon that someone will find a clause in that contract that purportedly voids the entire deal if the Raiders make a deal to leave the city.  That will go to court – and probably take at least 2 years to get anywhere near a trial – and in the end the team will likely settle with the city for a pittance because the stadium in Las Vegas is ready.”

Well, the first part of that seems to be in motion already.  Last evening, I found this report in the San Francisco Business Times and it says that “Oakland officials” have already begun to study their options regarding lawsuits against the Raiders.  Everything now is in the “posturing phase”; do not be shocked in the near future to hear that Raiders’ fans in Oakland are also studying their legal options.  Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circuses may be going away very soon; this circus will go on for at least another year or two.

There is another NFL story that has been overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding the Raiders’ move.  On the assumption that Roger Goodell and league officials can make all of this happen effectively, the NFL is looking into ways to speed up the games and make them more “viewer-friendly”.  Here is a link to what the league is trying to do at

One suggested way to avoid long breaks in the action is to stop having the referee run to the sidelines to go “under the hood” to watch replays when a play is under review.  The proposal is to have the referee review the play on the field with a tablet computer and for the referee and NFL Central in New York to make the decision right there.  This is not going to save a lot of time but – assuming that it works properly – it will be better than the situation we have now.

Another change contemplated is to reduce the number of commercial breaks in the games and simultaneously to increase the length of those breaks to accommodate the same number of ads.  In terms of “pace of play” or “action content” with regard to NFL games, there is just about nothing less interesting than this sequence of events:

  1. Team A scores.
  2. Commercial break
  3. Team A kicks off (often a touchback)
  4. Commercial break
  5. Team B puts the ball in play at their own 25-yardline

That is between 4 and 5 minutes of tedium in a game and if the NFL can find ways to avoid that sort of thing – without having to give money back to their “broadcast partners” – fans should stand and applaud.

NBA Commish, Adam Silver told ESPN that he thinks there will be a female head coach in the NBA one of these days and he thinks it should be sooner not later.  He said that he felt a responsibility to make that happen.  He is correct in saying that there will be a woman in that role in the NBA in the future.  What I do not understand is why he thought he needed to inform the world of this matter.  There have been women head coaches in professional basketball in the D-League; Nancy Lieberman held that position for several years and is now on the coaching staff of the Sacramento Kings.  Becky Hammon is on the coaching staff of the San Antonio Spurs.  It is not as if no woman has ever been in that sort of a job in the history of the world.

From my point of view, the problem he creates by saying what he did is simple:

  • The NBA Commissioner should have exactly no role whatsoever in who gets hired or fired in a head coaching job in the league.

Yes, I know that the Commish might have to stop in if a team decided to hire Charles Manson as its coach or even Tim Donaghy as its coach.  But neither of those things is going to happen so Adam Silver’s insertion into this sort of hiring decision is not welcome nor is it helpful.

It is not as if the NBA Commissioner has nothing to do these days.  There are several things going on in the NBA that need fixing.  Here are a couple:

  • When star players decide they need a rest in a road game, the fans are cheated.  Do not sugar-coat what happens in these cases.  Fans pay a premium price to see stars on visiting teams play in the fans’ home arenas and then the stars show up in street clothes.  That would be called bait-and-switch if done by just about any other commercial enterprise.  It happens in the NBA; it is permitted by the NBA; it is not a positive thing for the NBA.
  • Just as bad – if not worse – is the entire issue of tanking.  I know it happens; you know it happens; the NBA knows it happens – – but the NBA will not admit it happens and the NBA continues to make tanking a viable strategy for its teams.

If Adam Silver thinks it is worth his time and energy to assure that there is a woman in a head coaching position in the NBA “sooner and not later”, then maybe he also needs to spend time and energy improving the nature of the NBA owners.  Getting rid of Donald Sterling did no harm to the NBA; I doubt that many fans would argue with that assertion.  However, there are still folks in ownership in the league whose behaviors do not reflect well on the league.  Seeing a qualified woman as a head coach in the NBA would be a good thing; seeing new ownership in a couple of places – – like NY and Sacramento and Brooklyn – – would also be a good thing.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald from a week ago:

“NASCAR runs today in Phoenix. It will be loud. I won’t watch.”

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



The Las Vegas Raiders …

In case you had not heard, the Oakland Raiders have been unhappy with their stadium there and applied to move out of Oakland to Las Vegas.  The NFL owners approved that move yesterday.  The new digs in Las Vegas will not be ready for at least 2 years – and perhaps 3 – so the question of where the Raiders will play home games becomes the next potential saga.

The Raiders do have a short-term lease deal with Oakland to continue using the Coliseum there.  Having said that, I will not be surprised to read any time soon that someone will find a clause in that contract that purportedly voids the entire deal if the Raiders make a deal to leave the city.  That will go to court – and probably take at least 2 years to get anywhere near a trial – and in the end, the team will likely settle with the city for a pittance because the stadium in Las Vegas is ready.

Another interesting angle to how this story played out is that it appears to me that Sheldon Adelson was used in the process.  Adelson pledged $650M to the deal and then threw some weight around to get the Governor and the State Legislature to approve a hotel tax in Las Vegas to come up with another $750M.  Then the Raiders and/or the league itself did what needed to be done to get Adelson to walk away from the deal only to have Bank of America step in to fill the $650M funding shortfall.  That seems awfully convenient to me…

I read a report that said coaches were already planning on what to do and where to stay to keep their teams out of trouble and ready to play when they visit Las Vegas.  Obviously, if they are worried about “the dreaded distractions”, teams will not stay on The Strip but frankly, this seems like a “manufactured worry”.  Think about it for a moment:

  1. Visiting teams have been playing in Miami since 1966.  The homefield advantage for the Dolphins is not much better than normal NFL homefield advantage.  There are plenty of “dreaded distractions” and ways for players to “get in trouble” in Miami.  Teams do not stay in Port St. Lucie to keep the players out of harm’s way.
  2. Visiting teams have been playing in New Orleans since 1967.  Change “Dolphins” to “Saints” in the above and realize that teams do not stay in Pascagoula MS to keep players out of harm’s way.

There is the potential for a long-term problem with this move.  The Raiders are a peripatetic franchise; this is the third time they have gone from one city to another.  If they happen to move out of Las Vegas somewhere down the road, someone might want to point out to the City Fathers there that the move would disprove their marketing slogan:

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…

There was another report yesterday that caught my eye simply because it has the potential for future material here.  Coincidentally, it also involves the city of Oakland.  José Canseco is going to be part of the Oakland A’s television team; he will do analysis for the pre-game and post-game shows for A’s games this season.  You may recall that during the Presidential Campaign of 2016, Canseco “volunteered” to be the Chairman of the Federal Reserve for then-candidate Trump.  Canseco said he had a plan to grow the economy by 25% – instead of the meager 1-2% we have experienced in the last10 years and the slightly better 2.5-3 we have seen since WW II.  I presume that he is taking the job in Oakland because he has gotten word that he will not be on the short list to replace Janet Yellen when her term expires at The Fed.  For the record, her term will expire in early 2018…

There is a storyline that has been out and about for the last several weeks or months that I have tired of.  The narrative goes like this:

  • Jerry Jones is best buddies with Tony Romo; and that in the end, Jones will “do right” by Romo.

Since each person is free to define what “doing right” means here, the storyline is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  That is annoying on its own, but there is another part of this story that does not ring right to me.

  • My back-of-the-envelope calculation says that Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have paid Tony Romo about $115M to play for the Cowboys since 2004.
  • Might we agree that Jones has already “done right” by Romo?

As the MLB season gets closer, we will enter that time of year when a huge annoyance is perpetrated on sports fans.  If you go to a baseball game this season, you will likely be exposed to a gimmick that might have been cute back in the 80s – which is the timeframe that I first remember this nonsense – but it has outlived its “usefulness” and has become a pain in the ass.  I am talking of course about Kiss Cam.

There is nothing “cute” about Kiss Cam. In its most benign form, it is intrusive and voyeuristic.  And that is as good as it will ever get.  From that lofty perch of intrusive and voyeuristic, the Kiss Cam descends to a logical offshoot which is even more cringe-worthy.  In this obviously staged event, one party proposes marriage to the other party on camera in the presence of tens of thousands of people they do not know.  Whoop-di-damned-doo!

Look, if proposing marriage in front of 25,000 is OK, then why not hold the ceremony at the pitcher’s mound during the 7th inning stretch and then invite everyone to join in watching the consummation of the marriage later that night?  You know, there is sufficient facial recognition software technology available today to enforce a lifetime ban from any sports stadium or arena for everyone who proposes marriage on camera.  Do we need legislation to make that happen or will an Executive Order do?

Finally, since Oakland was the focus for a couple of topics today, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle regarding the public view of Oakland A’s management:

“Consumer watchdogs warn A’s fans not to fall in love with those food trucks at the Coliseum this season.  ‘If the Jamaican taco truck becomes wildly popular,’ warns one consumer advocate who has studied A’s management over the years, ‘the A’s are sure to trade it for a fried-whale-blubber-on-a-stick truck.’”

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



College Basketball And Football Today…

Sports Curmudgeon  3/27/17


Of course, I will begin today with comments regarding the tournament games over the weekend:

  • UNC/Butler:  Butler is a good defensive team and can usually control tempo – – but not in this game.  Butler scored 80 points and lost; that only happened to them once all season long.
  • Baylor/S. Carolina:  S. Carolina’s defense is smothering without being frenetic.  They held Baylor to 17 for 56 from the field and 3 for 13 from 3-point territory.
  • UCLA/Kentucky:  Kentucky’s guards not only outplayed, they dominated the UCLA guards.  This was an excellent game with lots of talent on display.
  • Wisconsin/Florida:  You could not script a game ending like that for a movie and survive the scorn of the critics.  Wisconsin dominated the first 12 minutes of the game and then their offense went to sleep for the next 10-12 minutes.
  • Kentucky/UNC:  Carolina played solid defense on the Kentucky guards and held Fox and Monk to 25 points vice the 60 points they got against UCLA.
  • Oregon/Kansas:  Jordan Bell had another dominating game with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocked shots.  I wonder if he also made the travel arrangements for the team to get to Kansas City…
  • Carolina/Florida: This was an excellent game. Freshman, Maik Kotsar played very well shooting 6 for 10 from the field.  S. Carolina only got 3 points from its bench players in the game.
  • Gonzaga/Xavier:  Gonzaga was just too big and too quick for Xavier in this game; the Cinderella run ended abruptly here.

I would like to take a moment and reflect on the commentary that followed the UCLA/Kentucky game.  As I mentioned above, the UK guards dominated the game scoring 60 points between them; however, when pressured on defense in the next game, those same guards only produced 25 points.  That is a big swing and it points to a facet of the game that did not get sufficient attention.  The UCLA defense – such as it was – played a passive zone for much of the game; neither Bryce Alford nor Lonzo Ball as the guards out front did much of anything to challenge or disrupt the Kentucky backcourt.

After the game, there was a narrative that seemed to play out in much of the reporting and that narrative went sort of like this:

  • Lonzo Ball’s father – Lavarr – shone a bright light on his son for this tournament and when it came to a big game against a big-time opponent, the light was too bright.

For folks who had tired of Lavarr Ball’s braggadocio, that is a satisfying narrative; but I think there is more to it.  I do not think that Lonzo Ball “wilted” in the glare of the spotlight that his father created for him; I think that Lonzo Ball is not a very good defensive player at this stage of his career and I think that deficiency in his game is due to the fact that he has probably never been pressured by any of his coaches to learn to play defense.  I think that is a more analytical conclusion from that game in place of some sort of self-satisfaction derived from mocking Lavarr Ball.

One other outcome of the basketball tournament this year is that it became part of the political system of the country.  No, I am not talking about the national “debate” over whether the players are exploited or about how/why the NCAA changed tournament venues as a result of laws passed in North Carolina regarding public restroom usage.  Rather, I am talking about the Senate in the State of Arkansas demonstrating nationally that each and every government problem in that State has been totally resolved to the benefit of every citizen in that State.  That MUST be the case because that august body took the time to introduce and pass a resolution to chastise the officials in the Arkansas/UNC game and to urge the NCAA to provide better training/education for basketball officials so that other teams, schools and fans will not have to suffer:

“… cruel and undeserved fate at the hands and whistle of a pinhead dressed in stripes.”

Let me move on to the other major revenue sport at the collegiate level – – college football.  The SEC announced last week that it will implement a new security measure for all its football games next year.  This policy has already been in effect for Alabama and Auburn games and now the SEC will institute it conference wide.  It is referred to as a “Clear Bag Policy” and it will limit what fans may bring into the stadium to watch a game.  Here is what will be allowed:

  1. Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12″
  2. One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags (Ziploc bag or similar)
  3. Small clutch bags, with or without a handle or strap, that do not exceed 4.5” x 6.5”

There is even another restriction on these bags:

  • An approved logo no larger than 4.5” x 3.4” may be displayed on one side of a permissible clear bag.

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

“Last weekend Council Bluffs hosted a Monster Jam event where big, powerful trucks crush smaller, weaker vehicles. It’s the same basic premise as SEC non-conference football season.”

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



College Basketball – Mostly – Today…

There were 3 excellent tournament games last night and 1 game that was close at the half before turning into a rout.  Allow me some brief commentary:

  1. Gonzaga/West Virginia:  West Virginia’s defense showed up but their “efficient offense” from a week ago did not; the Mountaineers shot a miserable 15 for 60 from the floor and still lost by only 3 points.  I know from experience that officiating a game with constant defensive pressure is a difficult task but the officials for this game cannot be proud of the way they administered this game.  The officials did not determine the outcome but they were not consistent in their calls.
  2. Kansas/Purdue:  Purdue led by 8 in the first half and a late run by Kansas had them leading by 7 at halftime.  I thought Kansas was the better team all along but it seemed that Purdue would make a game of it.  Then the second half happened and Kansas won the second half 51-26.  There are several freshmen around the country that have gotten lots of ink this year – deservedly so – but Kansas’ freshman, Josh Jackson has been noticed only secondarily.  So, let me say this very clearly; Josh Jackson is really, really good.
  3. Oregon/Michigan:  The hero of this game for Oregon was Jordan Bell.  In addition to 16 points and solid interior defense, Bell collected about every big rebound that the Ducks needed to seal this win.
  4. Xavier/Arizona:  I will ask it again; how could the Selection Committee make Xavier an 11-seed?  My guess is that they did not spend any time watching the team play and were influenced by a late-season losing streak.  By the way, I really appreciated the officiating in this game; I think it was probably the best officiating job in the tournament so far.

In other college basketball happenings, Georgetown fired head coach John Thompson III.  For those of you who do not live in the DC area, this is a big deal – – not because a new coach will show up on campus but because Georgetown basketball and the surname “Thompson” have been united for more than 40 years.  When you read the reports about the school’s decision, you will read that Georgetown had two losing seasons in a row and has not been a factor in the tournament for a while and that the Hoyas have been bounced from the tournament by lower seeded teams regularly under John Thompson III.  All of that is true; yet, this firing is surprising.

To keep the characters in this saga straight, let me refer to John Thompson, Jr. (the father and the Hall of Fame coach) as “Big John” and let me refer to John Thompson III as “JT-3”.  “Big John” was a very successful high school basketball coach in DC at St. Anthony’s; many people put him at or near the level of Morgan Wooten (DeMatha High School) back in the early 1970s.  Meanwhile, Georgetown basketball stunk; in 1972, “Big John” took the job at Georgetown after the team had an embarrassingly bad 3-23 record in 1971.  “Big John” stayed at Georgetown for his entire college coaching career leaving in 1999.

As important as all that is, “Big John” came to dominate the college basketball scene in the DC area despite the presence of other high quality coaches like Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams.  “Big John” dominated the news and the recruiting; when Georgetown raised the money to build a new Athletic Center on campus, they named it the John Thompson, Jr. Athletic Center and put a statue of “Big John” in front of it.  As of the beginning of this basketball season, “Big John” still had an “office” in that Athletic Center.  When “Big John” retired, he handed the program off to his longtime assistant; and when that tour of duty was over in 2004, the school hired JT-3 who had been successful at Princeton.  “Big John” was in the arena for Georgetown games at least 80% of the time during the time “JT-3” was the coach.

What may not be apparent to those outside the DC area is that Georgetown has seen decline that goes beyond 2 consecutive losing seasons.  That “failure” could be overcome with one good recruiting class and the Hoyas’ record in those two losing seasons was 29-36; it is not as if the team had regressed to the 3-23 level it had been when “Big John” took over.  What has happened to Georgetown basketball here in the DC area is that it is no longer the “second biggest sports story in town” behind the Skins.  That used to be the case; now Georgetown basketball is approaching the category of “afterthought”.

The search for a new coach will involve Paul Tagliabue who is on the Georgetown Board of Directors.  In his time as NFL Commish, Tagliabue demonstrated the ability to navigate through choppy waters; he will need to do that here because the next coach at Georgetown will be under intense scrutiny from the moment his name is announced.

Switching gears, I ran across this report in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal saying that the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee has begun to recruit “thousands of volunteers” to help manage the swarm of visitors that will show up for Super Bowl Week in Minnesota in Feb 2018.  The key word here is “volunteers” and the Host Committee is looking to get 6,000 – 7,000 of them.

I do not want to get into a political discussion here, but one of the issues that tends to grind the gears of a segment of our society today is “corporate welfare”.  Well, here is a thought for anyone considering becoming a “volunteer”:

  • The NFL has revenues of about $16B per year and is aiming to be a $25B per year entity in 2025.  When one works for them for no pay, that is a sort of “corporate welfare” and the NFL is an entity that already gets a more than generous helping of said “welfare” from government entities around the country.
  • They can afford to pay for whatever services they seek to get from the volunteers.  Why give them yet another “free ride”?

Oh, for the record, volunteers do NOT get to see the game for free; they are not going to be in the stadium; they will spend time outdoors in Minneapolis in February doing their volunteer duties…

Finally, with Northwestern making the NCAA Tournament field for the first time this year, here is an observation from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Nebraska’s men’s basketball team hasn’t won an outright conference championship in 101 years.

“This season finally gives Northwestern fans the chance to say, ‘Ha-ha!  You’re pathetic!’”

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



Mental Musings…

There were two news stories that played a central role in the sports world yesterday.  The first involved Cam Newton and the fact that he would have shoulder surgery sometime next week to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.  According to this report on, this injury happened in Week 14 of last season.

That same report says that Cam Newton will miss the team’s OTAs but that he is “expected to be ready” for training camp in late July.  Just as a rotator cuff injury is important to a pitcher in baseball, surgery to repair an injury there is important to a football QB for the same reason:

  • Passing a football requires the same sort of arm motion that throwing a baseball does and passing a football is critically important to playing the QB position in the NFL.

Per the report linked above, an MRI showed this partial tear in the rotator cuff in Week 15 of last season.  So, let me do a timeline here:

  1. Dec 11, 2016:  Panthers beat the Chargers at home and this is the game where the injury occurred.
  2. Dec 19, 2016:  Panthers beat the Skins in Washington.
  3. Sometime between December 11 and December 19, the MRI showing the injury took place.

The Panthers’ season ended on Sunday 1 January 2017; Newton played in every game for the Panthers throughout the season but by the time the season ended, the team and Cam Newton knew about this injury for at least 2 weeks.  So, that raises this question:

  • Why has this surgery been put off until the last week of March such that the rehab process will keep him out of OTAs and make him a “maybe” for the start of training camp?

The team says he has been seeing a rehab specialist and that the decision to do the surgery was made because Newton experienced pain in his shoulder during the rehab.  I am not a doctor and I do not play one on TV, but I know enough about anatomy to recognize that rotator cuff tears – whole or partial – are not likely to heal themselves enough to withstand the stresses of professional athletic endeavors.  Even if I assume that this injury has been monitored by the team and the player and the player’s physicians since January 2, 2017, I have to wonder why it took 11 weeks to realize what had to be done.

I wish Cam Newton well; I hope he can recover and that he can come back and be a quality QB for the Panthers this year and in upcoming years.  However, the postponement of this surgery to the point where he will miss OTAs and only “might” be ready for training camp is mystifying on a lot of levels.

The other dominating story from yesterday involves NBA players taking time off from regular season games because they say they need the rest.  They cite new science which shows that injuries and fatigue are related.  The problem is that teams rest all of their star players at the same time; essentially, they choose to tank a game once in a while and recently some of those tanked games were nationally televised games.  The NBA Commish, Adam Silver, sent a strongly worded note to the owners about this; obviously, the television partners with the NBA are not happy with paying top dollar for games when the stars show up in street clothes.  Using that avenue, Adam Silver will be about as effective as Don Quixote.

I do not even want to get into the discussion about today’s players and their aversion to and inability to participate in back-to-back road games.  That has been a staple of the NBA schedule for as long as I have followed the league (back to the 1950s); and only now, in an era of mega-contracts that are totally guaranteed has this become a physical problem and an injury-avoidance strategy.

Bull cookies !!


NBA players have asserted in the past that their fat contracts are justified because they are entertainers and without them the league would fold.  OK, suppose I give them that position and then ask the following question:

  • If I am a fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band [For the record, I am not.] and I pay in advance a premium price to see them perform, I expect them to show up and perform.  I do not want to go to the concert and see Joe Flabeetz and the Outhouses perform in lieu of Springsteen and Co.

By taking games off, that is what the NBA players are doing to the paying fans.  By taking games off – and announcing it ahead of time – that is what the NBA players are doing to the TV networks who are paying the money that lifts the salary cap for the league allowing the players to suck down their huge contracts.  [Aside: Regular season ratings for NBA games in TV this year are down almost 25% from the comparable time last year.]

This is a management/labor/network issue that needs to be ironed out.  What happened this week is that LeBron James demonstrated a high level of self-absorption saying that this only became an issue for the NBA when he and other of his Cavs’ teammates decided to take time off to rest.

Bull cookies !!


About 5 years ago – before LeBron thought it necessary to take time off during the season – Greg Popovich decided to rest all of his star players in a regular season game and even told them to go home so they would not be in the arena and tempt him to play them in a game.  David Stern went ballistic and fined Popovich $200K as I recall.  So, there is more than ample evidence available to demonstrate that this issue existed long before LeBron James decided to take a night off.

One more NBA note from this week that defies the existence of history…  Earlier this week, Boogie Cousins scored 41 points and took down 17 rebounds in a win by the Pelicans over the Grizzlies.  To read some of the effusive recounts of this game, one might think it was historic.  It was indeed a noteworthy performance by Cousins and one that should heap praise on him.  Nevertheless, here is something the reporters seem to have missed:

  1. In 1965, the Philadelphia 76ers played the Boston Celtics and in one game Wilt Chamberlain scored 44 points and had 43 rebounds – – against Bill Russell no less.
  2. In 1960, Chamberlain had a game with 58 points and 42 rebounds.
  3. In 1961, Chamberlain had a triple OT game where he scored 78 points and had 43 rebounds.

Those were “double-doubles”…

Oh, and for the record, back in the 60s, some teams played more than back-to back games.  Just a glance at the Philadelphia Warriors schedule in 1961 shows the following:

  1. 4 games in 4 nights in 4 cities from Feb 1 1961 to Feb 4 1961.
  2. 4 games in 4 nights in 4 cities from Feb 8 1961 to Feb 11 1961.
  3. Multiple stretches of 3 games in 3 nights and almost as many back-to-back games as “single games” with a day off before and after the game.

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

“The Sacramento Kings blew a 28-point lead in falling to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

“But there wasn’t a dry eye in sight when they walked into the locker room and saw the pick-me-up bouquet from the Atlanta Falcons sitting there.”

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



It’s Almost Baseball Season …

I received an e-mail from a friend and long-term reader whose “sports-worldview” is decidedly baseball-centric.  He included the following stat in a message that sought to remind me that:

  1. The World Baseball Classic is reaching its conclusion.
  2. Opening Day is right around the corner.

I was well aware of those two calendar-focused events but I had never seen anything like the stat that he provided as – what he called – a “teaser” for other baseball fans who read these rants:

“In his career, Greg Maddux faced a total of 20,421 hitters.

“Only 310 of those hitters got the count to 3-0.

“Of those 310 hitters with a 3-0 count, 177 of them also received an intentional walk.”

I have not even tried to verify those assertions for the simple reason that it would take far more work than it is worth.  However, my recollection of Greg Maddux as a pitcher makes those eye-popping numbers seem perfectly reasonable.  In a 23-year career involving 744 game appearances and 5008.1 innings, Maddux only walked 999 batters (177 of them intentionally).  And in all of those innings and facing all of those hitters, Greg Maddux only threw 3 wild pitches in 23 seasons.

Meanwhile, the World Baseball Classic has reached its final game; 16 teams started in the 4 pools that began the tournament back on 6 March; the tournament championship comes down to the USA versus Puerto Rico.  I do not want to nit-pick here, but natives of Puerto Rico are American citizens much the same as natives of Alaska, Hawaii and the Lower 48 are American citizens.

If the baseball mavens ever want to expand the tournament to 24 teams but can only find 22 national teams, they can use this precedent to add a team from California and another one from Texas to fill out the field.

Brad Rock of the Deseret News had this comment related to the World Baseball Classic in his column, Rock On, earlier this week:

“Playing in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands is 7-foot-1 pitcher Loek van Mil, who once played for the Salt Lake Bees.

“The Dutch team became interested after seeing him tag out a runner without leaving the mound.”

Let me continue commentary on baseball matters and citation of words by sports columnists around the country with these words from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Tick-tock: Now that a new rule requires MLB managers to ask for a replay challenge within 30 seconds, who will keep time on that? An umpire with a stopwatch? Someone in the press box? An official at MLB headquarters? Maybe a digital clock will count down on the scoreboard. And what about the arguments that could arise from either dugout if a team takes 31 seconds to call for a review? Does baseball know what it’s getting itself into?”

All of those questions are valid and need answers but let me just jump the line here and go to the last question posed.  No, MLB has no idea what they are getting into if history is any indicator of the future.

In an attempt to demonstrate that I do read things in the newspaper other than the sports section, let me note here that I read recently where scientists had discovered fossils of a bacterial species that have preliminarily been dated as 3.77 billion years old.  The protocol in privilege of naming the species.  I have no idea if any of the discoverers of these fossils are baseball fans but if they are, might I suggest a name for this species:

  • Bartolo Colon

Switching gears with regard to sports, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about cricket:

“India beats Australia, I think: Actual lead of news story I read Sunday morning: ‘RANCHI, India (AP) — A 199-run seventh-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha gave India a 152-run lead after they declared their first innings at 603-9 against Australia on Sunday.’ Anyone who has any idea what any of that means, would you please keep it to yourself?”

About 5 years ago, my long-suffering wife and I took a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand.  Our trip leader was a huge fan of cricket and Australian Rules Football (“Footy”) and he actually got me to understand the rules and scoring of cricket by the end of the trip.  Of course, never seeing cricket here in the last 5 years or so has randomized all of those synapses; so, I shall not be able to provide anyone here with an assessment of what all of that might mean.

Finally, Greg Cote had another comment related to cricket in his Miami Herald blog, Random Thoughts of a Cluttered Blog:

“Cricket! World cricket powers India and West Indies playing two weekend matches at Central Broward Stadium. Do cricket players have single names like in soccer. Is the star named Jiminy? (Sorry)”

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



The Long Arm Of The Law…

Good news this morning…  Inspector Clouseau, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Ellery Queen and Joe Friday can all go home and back to sleep.  The mystery has been solved and the stolen goods have been recovered.  Of course, I am referring to Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey which went missing about 6 weeks ago right after the game and led to an international investigation and search.  Not only did the authorities find Brady’s jersey from this year, they also reportedly found a jersey of his from Super Bowl XLIX two years ago that was also “missing” and Von Miller’s helmet from Super Bowl 50 a bit more than a year ago.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the culprit here was a member of the credentialed media covering the game who had access to the locker rooms after the game(s).  Obviously, that assertion has not been proven in court so far, but if it turns out to be the case, this is certainly not a feather in the cap for NFL Security.

Obviously, I am glad to hear that Brady and Miller will get their memorabilia back.  However, I posited a wistful scenario a while back imagining that Brady had possession of his jersey all the time and was arranging for it to be planted in Roger Goodell’s basement so that it could be found there.  I still think my ending to the story would have been a whole lot more fun…

Another “pressing issue” involving an NFL QB at the moment is the unsigned status of Colin Kaepernick.  Spike Lee thinks it is tied to the racial overtones of Kaepernick’s national anthem protests last year; President Trump thinks that he has created the environment that has kept Kaepernick without a job because under President Trump, it is all about “America First”.  As with most outrageous assertions, I think there is a germ of truth at the core of Spike Lee’s conceptualization and President Trump’s pronouncement.  Let me try to square this circle:

  1. Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest had to do with his perception of improper treatment of African Americans by police officers in the US.  Immediately, there is an element of “race” at the core of all of this.
  2. As with every protest involving social issues, there were supporters and opponents of Kaepernick’s protest.  Some opponents thought he was wrong-headed to begin with; others – me included – thought that the vehicle he chose for his protest was not such a good one.  No matter the reason, his protest perfectly naturally created opponents.
  3. Colin Kaepernick had a fat contract with the Niners after his taking the team to the Super Bowl a few years ago and managed to play himself out of the starting job there.  When given the starting job back in the middle of last season, his record and his stats were not good at all.  He started 11 games and the team record was 1-10-0; using ESPN’s QB Rating scale of 0-100, his rating last year was 55.6.
  4. Given the way he has played in the last two years, Kaepernick is surely a backup QB on a team with an established starter; and at best, he can compete on an equal footing for a starting job with a team that is desperate to find a starting QB.  My assessment here has nothing to do with his activism; it has only to do with his performances for the past 2 seasons.

Now put yourself in the position of an NFL owner or a GM or a head coach and contemplate signing Colin Kaepernick.  If you have a starting QB and are looking to sign a backup who has NFL experience, there are several options open to you.  And one of the factors you probably need to consider is this:

  • Do I need to sign a backup QB – someone I hope never needs to see the field on a Sunday – with the potential to bring drama and controversy to the team?

If the team judgment is that Kaepernick is undoubtedly the best available option, then you might consider signing him; if he is not clearly the best option, my guess is that you would look elsewhere.

Now suppose you are the owner/GM/head coach of a team that desperately needs a starting QB; I can think of about a half-dozen teams in that boat.  In that circumstance, you would probably be willing to accept the drama/controversy aspects of signing Colin Kaepernick so long as you were also convinced that he had a good chance to be you staring QB in 2018 AND that he will be successful once he earns that position.  I am doing this completely off the top of my head so I am sure I will have missed some candidates here; nonetheless, consider that these are some of the free agent QBs who like Colin Kaepernick are unsigned:

  • Jay Cutler, Chase Daniel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bruce Gradkowski, Robert Griffin III, Case Keenum, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith

None of the QBs who come to my mind here bring Hall of Fame potential to the party – – but neither does Colin Kaepernick.  So, if you are a team bereft at the QB position, where do you go on this list – – or do you go to the Draft and look for a developmental project?

The free agency period is nowhere near over; in fact, it is less than two weeks old.  I am not surprised at all to see that Colin Kaepernick – and most of the people on my top-of-the-head list above – remain unsigned.  There are football dimensions to the situation here AND there are intangible/PR issues to the situation.

Finally, since today’s discussion has focused on NFL QBs, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about a possible future NFL QB:

“The second coming of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, perhaps?

“Pinnacle High School in Phoenix boasts a highly recruited QB named Spencer Rattler.”

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



RIP Chuck Berry And Jimmy Breslin

The world lost two great entertainers over the weekend.  Chuck Berry entertained us with his music; Jimmy Breslin entertained us – and informed us – with his prose.  Both men lived full lives and because of their special talents, we are in a better state.

Rest in peace, Chuck Berry.

Rest in peace, Jimmy Breslin.

Prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament, there was a flood of money bet on Duke to win it all.  A week before the tournament started, Duke was 9-1 to win it all; when the tournament tipped off last Thursday, Duke’s odds were down to 9-2.  After the results of last night’s games, the sportsbooks can pocket that flood of money.

Right after Selection Sunday, I tried to explain why the Tournament Selection Committee was uniquely unqualified to pick the right teams for the brackets and to seed them in a way that reflected reality.  Now that you have watched portions of the first 48 games of the tournament from Thursday through Sunday, ask yourself if the Selection Committee had done any in depth study of the following teams:

  • Minnesota (a 5-seed) and Maryland (a 6-seed) as compared to other Big 10 teams such as Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State all seeded well below them.
  • Wichita St as a 10-seed?   Seriously now …
  • Xavier as an 11-seed?  I saw Xavier play 3 and maybe 4 games this season.  I do not know where they belonged in the seeding chart but I am positive that they are better than an 11-seed.  Putting them there means the Committee thought 40 other teams were better.

Wichita St. gave us 2 really good games to watch – a win over Dayton and then a loss to Kentucky.  There may not be a lot of household names on that team, but they are very good and they are fun to watch.

West Virginia put on another show of stifling defense against Notre Dame on Saturday.  The thing that sets West Virginia apart from other teams that press all the time and play frenetic defense is that West Virginia can also score on offense.  Too bad Arkansas lost; a West Virginia Arkansas game would have been interesting.

Arkansas advanced in the tournament with a win over Seton Hall.  Here is the note I made late in that game:

“If Seton Hall could shoot from the outside …”

Speaking of interesting potential games, how about UNC/Kansas in a matchup?  I like the OVER in that game…

As the UNC/Texas Southern game was unfolding in the early part of the first half, I made a note to myself that Texas Southern had “No hope!” in the game.  That makes me wonder what Coach Mike Davis told his players before the game about what they needed to do to win.  Their chance of winning that game were no more than my chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize any time soon.

The officials clearly missed the goaltending call against Gonzaga late in the game against Northwestern; there can be no doubt about that.  There is something else about which there can be no doubt:

  • The fact that multiple folks from the Northwestern bench were on the court while the ball was still alive to protest the call is the reason that the technical foul was called.  Moreover, that was the correct call and that behavior was so outrageous that an ejection or two may have been justified.

Speaking of officials, I saw two loose balls hit officials over the weekend and play continued in both cases.  The rule is that the official is part of the floor; if his feet are both on the court and in-bounds, then the play continues because the ball is still in-bounds; if one or both feet are out of bounds then the ball is dead when it hits the official because it hit something out of bounds.

One final officiating observation; most of the officiating crews either do not know the rule(s) governing traveling or they just do not care to enforce them.

Lonzo Ball is an outstanding point guard and will surely go high in the NBA Draft this summer.  I do want to point out however that he plays defense with the same intensity and the same interest as the NBA All Stars do in their exhibition game.  On the bright side, his father – who is given to hyperbole more than infrequently – can claim that Lonzo is already prepared to be in the NBA All Star Game…


[Aside:  Lonzo Ball’s father evidently claimed that he could have taken Michael Jordan “back in the day”.  I did not hear him say it, but it was widely reported and Charles Barkley took exception on one of the halftime shows.  Barkley pointed out that the elder Ball averaged 2 points per game in his college career – – and that was 2 points per game more than a dead man.  You gotta love Sir Charles…]


Speaking of Charles Barkley, those ads that he and Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson do each year as they journey to the Final Four are excellent.  My favorite one this year is the one where they are eating steaks on a plane…

If we ever have an Oregon/Baylor game, I must go to my TV settings and turn down the color intensity.  Baylor alone is bad enough; match them against Oregon and it might be seizure inducing…

Finally, one of the venues for the weekend games was Salt Lake City.  So, let me close with an observation by Brad Rock in the Deseret News from a while ago:

“Travel + Leisure magazine ranks Salt Lake City the second-most friendly city in America.

“Clearly the magazine didn’t visit on the week of the Utah-BYU game.”

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