NCAA Tournament Notes …

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  And by the way, how did the NCAA Selection Committee fail to put Notre Dame in a bracket slot that would have them playing today instead of yesterday?  Whatever…  Here are my notes and comments from yesterday’s games:

  • Notre Dame/Princeton:  Both teams are very disciplined on offense and defense.  There were lots of actual student-athletes on the floor.  Notre Dame’s offense seemed out-of-sync all day long – – or was that really good Princeton defense?
  • Virginia/UNC-Wilmington:  UVa is methodical; UNCW plays “Helter-Skelter”.  UNCW had a big lead early but had no idea how to hold on to it or to make Virginia play in a way Virginia would prefer not to play.
  • Winthrop/Butler:  Butler is a very good team.  This was a generally uninteresting game.
  • Gonzaga/S. Dak. St:  In a 16 vs 1 game, it was tied with 4:32 to play in the first half and Zags led by only 4 at the half.  Don’t know what Mark Few said at halftime, but Zags just dominated by running and playing smothering defense in the second half.  It was an easy win at the end.
  • Bucknell/W. Virginia:  W. Virginia simply had too many “better athletes” in this game.  Bucknell hung in by shooting 9 for 20 from 3-point range.
  • Florida/E. Tenn. St.:  Florida was just better at every phase of the game here.  For ETSU, it seemed as if Guard, TJ Cromer was the only one out there playing with his brain as well as his body.
  • Mid. Tenn. St./Minnesota:  Minnesota is a 5-seed?  Really?  They lost 7 games in the Big 10 and got a 5-seed?  Nate Mason was supposedly a leader for Minnesota and he played miserably.  Middle Tennessee St. is interesting to watch and has won 30 games this year but I don’t see them making a deep run in the tournament.
  • Vandy/Northwestern:  If ND/Princeton was not the most entertaining game of the early slate, then this one was.  Another game with lots of student-athletes on display.  Northwestern holds a distinction here that no other team in the country can claim; Northwestern has NEVER lost an NCAA Tournament game.
  • Villanova/Mt. St.Mary’s:  In the first half, it seemed that this year’s Villanova team did not play defense with the same ferocity/efficiency that last year’s championship team did.  Then in the second half, their defense showed up and it led to a runaway win.
  • VCU/St. Mary:  St. Mary looked awfully good for a 7-seed; they shot 56% from the field and 35% from 3-point range.  VCU plays fast but they need to recruit some shooters.
  • Vermont/Purdue:  If Purdue is the best team in the Big 10, then I wonder why there are so many teams from the Big 10 in the tournament.  The game was interesting because it stayed close for most of the time but neither team was overly impressive.
  • Xavier/Maryland:  Maryland went sleep-walking through the second half – particularly their point guard/leader Melo Trimble.  Xavier is very efficient on offense.
  • Wisconsin/VaTech:  This was an entertaining game even though neither team was all that impressive.
  • Fla. Gulf Coast/Fla. St.:  I don’t know if this game reminded you of an “And-1” exhibition but that is what it looked like to me.  I did not enjoy this game at all.
  • Nevada/Iowa St.:  I could not decide if Iowa St. had a very effective offense or if Nevada just did not play defense very well.
  • Arizona/N. Dakota:  At 10:40 of the first half, I wrote down, “N. Dak is overmatched/game over”.

Yesterday in mid-afternoon as college basketball fandom had its attention focused on the first-round tournament games, Indiana announced that it had fired coach Tom Crean after 9 years on the job there.  Tom Crean is a good coach; he took a Marquette team to the Final Four; he rebuilt the Indiana program from the scorched earth left behind by Kelvin Sampson and the probation that ensued.  In his first 3 years at IU, Crean went 28-66; from those humble beginnings, his teams went on to win the Big 10 Championship twice before this year’s team had a total meltdown in the latter part of the season.  Indiana lost its opening round game in the NIT to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.

It will be interesting to see who gets the job at Indiana.  On one hand, the program is a college basketball blueblood even though one could argue that it is not nearly as dominant a program as it used to be.  On the other hand, the way the administration there has handled athletics for the last couple of decades might be enough to get top-shelf coaches to keep looking for that “ideal landing spot”.  One name surfaced immediately and that is Brad Stevens who is now the coach of the Boston Celtics.  Stevens is a darling in Indiana because he took Butler – an Indiana school – to the final game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and lost to Duke when a half-court shot at the final buzzer rimmed out.

Personally, I think Brad Stevens would be nuts to leave the Celtics for the job at Indiana.  If he wants to go back to the college game from the NBA, he is one of those guys who ought to look at the “environment” at Indiana and keep looking for a job elsewhere.

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

“Sunday is the final day for the Omaha Boat Sport and Travel Show which features a water-skiing squirrel. The Creighton baseball program’s worst nightmare? Drawing fewer fans to the home opener than a squirrel on skis.”

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



Little League Baseball And MLB Intersect…

The largest league in terms of participation for baseball is Little League; including the girls’ softball division, Little League says that 2.6 million kids participate.  Major League Baseball is the pre-eminent league for baseball; with 30 teams and 25 players on a roster most of the time, there are only 750 major-leaguers at any given time.  Wikipedia lists 17 MLB players who were also in Little League including some rather famous ones like Nolan Ryan Cal Ripken, Jr. and Carl Yastrzemski.  I mention this because Little League baseball and Major League baseball are going to intersect in August 2017.

On 20 August, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to play one of their “home games” against the St. Louis Cardinals in Williamsport, PA – the town where Little League was born and the town where the Little League World Series happens every hear.  Mid-August is the time of the Little League World Series so the overlap here is symbolic.  [in fact, this MLB game will happen in the middle of the Little League World Series which will run from 17-27 August this year.]  ESPN will telecast that game as part of its Sunday Night Baseball coverage.

No.  The Pirates and Cards will not be playing on a Little League field even though the Little League fields in Williamsport are the largest venues in town with regard to seating.  The game will take place in the stadium used by the Williamsport Crosscutters – a Single A affiliate of the Phillies.  The Crosscutters play in BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field and the seating capacity there is 4200.

At first, I thought that these would be the most expensive baseball tickets of the season given the short supply until I read this report saying that there would be no ticket sales to the public.  A spokesperson for MLB says that the tickets will be distributed “mostly to Little Leaguers and their families”.  I guess that will limit to some extent the “ticket scalping industry” in Williamsport that evening but I can imagine that there will be complaints about who gets tickets and who does not.  There will be more Little Leaguers and family members present than can be held in the stadium.

  • Memo to MLB:  Figure out a way to minimize the complaints here lest they turn a feelgood moment into a protest demonstration.

The same report linked above also talks about some extensive upgrades that MLB will be making to the stadium in order to bring the field up to MLB standards including additional lighting and a new playing surface/draining system.

The Crosscutters play in the New York-Penn League which is a Short Season league and the home opener in Williamsport is not until 20 June.  Once all of the renovations/upgrades are finished, this should be one of the classiest venues for minor league baseball anywhere.  I don’t know if I will be able to make it to a Crosscutters game this year, but I have just added this to my list of “Things to Do” on a nice summer evening.

The players on the US Women’s Hockey Team announced yesterday that they will not participate in the World Championships that are about to be held in Michigan unless “significant progress is made to secure what players consider to be fair wages and support from USA Hockey.”  The US Women’s Team is the defending World Champion.  You can read the report on this matter here.

The two sides in this dispute are still at the stage of talking past one another.  The women say they have successfully represented their country with dignity and they want decent recompense and support for their sport at all levels in the country.  USA Hockey – the governing federation here – says that it appreciates the players’ contributions and that it has already increased its offer to them and to support for hockey in the country.

The lever the players have here is that the World Championships begin on 31 March and non-participation from the World Champions will alter the nature of the tournament itself not mention detract significantly from the economics associated with the tournament.  I will not pretend here that I follow women’s ice hockey closely; I do not.  I did know that the US Women’s Team had been successful in the past and had always been “in the mix” when it came to championships and medals in international competition.  However, a Google search told me that they have won the Gold Medal in the World Championships 7 times in the last 12 years and have won the last two tournaments in 2015 and 2016.

USA Hockey says it will field a competitive team for the tournament that begins in 2 weeks.  That sounds like bravado to me and it does to at least one of the members of the current US Women’s Team.  If indeed, they could throw together a team that is competitive at the World Championships in 2 weeks, that would denigrate the level of competition in their sport worldwide.

The players have the leverage here; the question is if they have the internal resolve to maintain that leverage and force a change from USA Hockey.  If the financial terms that are cited in the linked report above are accurate – or even close to accurate – then the women are definitely on the moral high ground here.

Finally, as I wrap this up to begin my annual basketball orgy and watch as many NCAA Tournament games as I can with only 1 TV at my disposal, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The St. Louis Cardinals will have to give up two draft picks and $2 million to the Astros after scouting director Chris Correa went rogue and repeatedly broke into Houston’s online player-information database.

“On the bright side, the Cards are odds-on favorites to win the inaugural Hack Wilson Award.”

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



March Madness And Money

Notwithstanding the fact that Mount St. Mary’s and K-State won their play-in games last night and that there are two more preliminary games on the card for tonight, the real NCAA Tournament begins tomorrow.  Prior to the tip-off, I would like to offer up some financial data/stats regarding the tournament as an event.

First, according to a brief article at, the total revenue for advertising throughout March Madness last year was $1.24B and that a 2% increase is expected for this year bringing the expected revenue for 2017 to $1.26B.  Yes, I know that is for 67 games; nonetheless that is a lot of money in comparison to some other sports events.  Consider:

  • The NBA post-season brought in $1.03B in 2016
  • The MLB post-season brought in $569M in 2016
  • The college football bowl games brought in $358M in 2016

Naturally, the NFL post-season and Super Bowl are the behemoths in terms of advertising revenues in the sports post-season category, but the NCAA Tournament is a clear second.

The second “financial matter” regarding the NCAA Tournament relates to the amount of money that will be wagered on March Madness.  Let me begin with a disclaimer:

  • The numbers cited here are estimates made by the American Gaming Association (AGA).  This organization is a trade group that represents and promotes the casino industry.  They see part of their mission as “relentlessly protecting against harmful and misinformed public policies.”  They work toward getting rid of PASPA and thereby opening sports betting to any of the individual States that would choose to implement that form of wagering.

This report from the AGA says that wagering on March Madness by Americans this year is projected to be $10.4B.  The projected handle for the Tournament games in Nevada – where sports betting is legal – is $297M or about 2.9% of the total handle.  The other 97% will be wagered in an underground economy.

AGA uses these numbers to point out that PASPA is a failure when it comes to preventing wagering on sports events [No doubt about that] and urges folks to be politically active to get the ban on sports betting overturned.  Anyone who reads these rants even once in a while knows that I agree completely with the AGA on that point even if I have no way to confirm any of its projections and even though I am skeptical about the magnitude of the money flow in the underground economy.

Here you can find the statements made by the AGA on this matter and look at the methodology by which they came up with their estimates.  What I found interesting was that according to their data/estimates, a total of $2.03B is wagered in bracket pools around the country.  That is a lot of cheese…

Earlier this week, I was driving somewhere and had a local sports radio program on in the car.  The hosts were filling time “debating” who should be the NBA Most Valuable Player for this season – – even though the season is not going to be over for the next month.  I call that sort of thing “Killing Time Radio”.  However, one of the hosts mentioned something while considering Kawhi Leonard’s performance this year that surprised me enough that I went and looked it up.  The host was indeed correct.

  • As of this morning, Kawhi Leonard has played 1989 minutes this year in 59 NBA games.  The Spurs have played 66 games so Leonard has been involved in most of those games.  In all that time on the floor, Leonard has more steals this year (108) than he has personal fouls committed (96).

To put that in perspective, Michael Jordan was widely acknowledged as a great defensive player – as well as an offensive giant – during his career.  In only one season in his career did Jordan finish with more steals than fouls committed.  [In the 1992/93 season, Jordan had 221 steals and only committed 188 personal fouls.]

The Cleveland Browns released RG3; he is an unrestricted free agent looking for a job.  Some folks have suggested that the Jets might be interested in him; I suspect that he will get an invitation to some team’s training camp simply because there will be a coach somewhere who believes that under the right system and environment, RG3 might recapture his magical rookie season energy and take his team onward and upward.  I put that in the “unlikely category” but I think someone somewhere will buy into it.

What I find more interesting about the Browns’ decision is this:

  • Griffin started the opening game for the Browns in 2016.
  • With his departure, that means that the Browns will have a new starting QB for their opening game in 2017- – AND – – that will mean that the Browns will have started a different opening day QB five years in a row.

The Browns are not “searching for a franchise QB” here.  They are still at the stage where they are searching for a guy they can tolerate as their starting QB for more than a season.

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

“The best high school basketball player in Utah is named Stockton Malone Shorts. His last name is Shorts, his first and middle names are ‘Stockton’ and ‘Malone.’ It could be worse. His parents could’ve named him ‘Under.’”

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



The NCAA Tournament – – “Analyzed”

There are “annual tasks” that one does not look forward to.  Just a couple of examples:

  1. What to get one’s mother-in-law for her birthday
  2. Filling out one’s tax return to send to the IRS
  3. Trying to explain how Danny Boy Snyder is more appealing than a bowl of pickled assholes.   Ooops; sorry!  That happens more than once a year…

And then there is an annual event here in Curmudgeon Central that I look forward to – simply because it is fun.  Here is my annual look at the NCAA Basketball Tournament from a perspective that has NOTHING TO DO with brackets and/or which team will advance and/or bracket-busting upsets and/or things of that nature.  This is simply about fun.

Let me begin with a recent comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot:

“Off course: The Big Ten basketball tournament is in Washington, D.C., the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. This is what happens when our schools de-emphasize the teaching of geography.”

Professor Molinaro could not be more on target with this observation unless the SEC had held their conference tournament in Duluth MN – – which they chose not to do this year.  I might only add this comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World Herald to explain how the Big Ten even started to think about holding its tournament in Washington DC:

“There is online video of Michigan fan Verne Troyer supposedly being hypnotized to think he likes Ohio State. Of course, hypnosis hasn’t been seen in the Big Ten since Jim Delany was put under that spell to admit Rutgers.”

College sports can pretend that they are all about the noble goal of pure competition and that none of its decisions can be linked to “economics”.  But we all know that is abject nonsense and so I will just go off on flights of fancy here.

For example, at the end of this month, we could have a Final Four where all the mascots are prey animals:

  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Bucknell Bison
  • Creighton Blue Jays
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers

The alphabet could lead us to the Sweet 16 where teams would square off to advance.  We could have Sweet 16 matches between:

  1. Villanova and Virginia
  2. SMU and South Carolina
  3. Notre Dame and Northwestern
  4. Maryland and St Mary’s (Give me a bit of slack here…)
  5. Nevada and NC Central
  6. Oregon and Oklahoma State
  7. Middle Tennessee State and Texas Southern (Talk about a bracket buster!)
  8. Kent State and Kentucky

However, I will find my most fun in looking at the names of players in the tournament and musing about what they might portend for the future.  For example, might these be the fields of major study for the following scholar-athletes:

  • Ty Outlaw (Va Tech) – – Criminal Justice/How to beat the system
  • Vic Law ((Northwestern) – – Criminal Justice/How to apprehend Ty Outlaw
  • Miles Bridges (Michigan St) – – Civil Engineering
  • Mikal Bridges (Villanova) – – Also Civil Engineering
  • TJ Leaf (UCLA) – – Botany
  • Kethan Savage (Butler) – – Anthropology
  • Terance Mann (Fla St) – – More Anthropology
  • London Parrantes (UVa) – – Geography
  • Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern) – – Computer Science
  • Nazareth Mitrou-Long (Iowa St) – – Middle East Studies

Might these players find themselves pursuing a rather obvious career:

  • Ian Baker (New Mexico St.) – – Self-evident
  • Kevin Baker (Troy) – – Self-evident
  • Steven Cook (Princeton) – – Self-evident
  • Matt Taylor (NM State) – – Self-evident albeit spelled incorrectly
  • Amir Coffey (Minnesota) – – Barista
  • Dererk Pardon (Northwestern) – – Public Defender/May represent Ty Outlaw
  • Duane Bacon (Fla St) – – Fry cook
  • Quinton Hooker (North Dakota) – – Whatever
  • Avi Toomer (Bucknell) – – Cancer researcher
  • Anthony Lamb (Vermont) – – Animal husbandry
  • Keyshawn Woods (Wake Forest) – – Carpentry

Just a couple observations about some random player names:

  • Duane Notice (South Carolina).  Glad his mother did not name him “Didja”.
  • Jack Salt (Virginia)  Glad his  mother did not name him “Table”.
  • Joe Toye (Vandy)  Glad his mother did not name him “Sex”
  • Shadrac  Casimir (Iona)  Might he have brothers named Mesach and Abednago?
  • Jawun Evans (OK St)  Does he have a twin named JaOddaWun Evans?
  • Dajuan Graf (NC Central) Does he have a twin named DaOddaJuan Graf?
  • Dakota Mathias (Purdue)  He surely knows North from South.
  • Giddy Potts (Middle Tenn St)  I guess it’s better than being named “Chamber”.
  • Alpha Diallo (Providence)  Does he have a brother named “Beta”?
  • Duane Notice (S. Carolina)  If you read his name backwards, it is a complete sentence.
  • Desi Rodriguez (Seton Hall)  Does he have a sister named Lucy?

Now how about players whose names are palindromic – – you could reverse the names and still believe that the announcers were talking about a player in the game you are watching:

  • Dean Wade (K-State)
  • Khadim Sy (Va Tech)
  • Marcus Howard (Marquette)
  • Justin Jackson (Maryland)
  • Christian Terrell (Fla Gulf Coast)
  • Jared Terrell (Rhode Island)
  • Kadeem Allen (Arizona)
  • Tarik Phillip (West Virginia)
  • Zach Thomas (Bucknell)
  • Khyri Thomas (Creighton)
  • Matt Thomas (Iowa St)
  • Eric Thomas (New Orleans)
  • Zak Irvin (Michigan)
  • Lindsey Drew (Nevada)
  • Deon Edwin (Kent State)
  • Jonathon Isaac (Florida St)

Proofreaders and copy editors have become less pronounced in newsrooms around the country as the newspaper industry has sought to cut costs over the past 15 years.  Some still exist and those folks live in fear of the possibility that one or more of these players just might make a critical play in a game in the upcoming tournament:

  • Chimezie Metu (USC)
  • JoLual Acuil (Baylor)
  • Eli Chucha (NM State)
  • Przemek Karnowski (Gonzaga)
  • Svi Mykhailiuk (Kansas)
  • Xeyrius Williams (Dayton)

[Aside:  Play-by-play guys and stadium announcers might have some trepidation here also.]

Florida starts three players named Kevarrius Hays, KeVaughn Allen and Kasey Hill.  My question is simple.

  • So how did Kansas and Kentucky miss out on these players?

We could construct an entire Starting 5 named “Brown”:

  1. Zach Brown (Wichita State)
  2. Bruce Brown (Miami)
  3. Stephan Brown ( Bucknell)
  4. Vitto Brown (Wisconsin)
  5. Sterling Brown (SMU)

Nonetheless, Princeton is the Ivy League team in the tournament.

Of course, no such summary of players’ names in the tournament would be complete without naming the 11 members of the All-Presidential Team:

  1. Miles Wilson (Mount St. Mary’s)
  2. Duane Wilson (Marquette)
  3. DJ Wilson (Michigan)
  4. Rashaun Madison (NC Central)
  5. Kevarrius Hayes (Florida)
  6. Matt Taylor (NM State)
  7. Amile Jefferson (Duke)
  8. Justin Jackson (Maryland)
  9. Josh Jackson (Kansas)
  10. Jevon Carter (West Virginia)
  11. Jordan Washington (Iona)

Finally, let me pose a Q&A for you as I sign off this annual fun exercise:


Q:  What does the March say to all the Madness?

A:  What’s all that bracket…   BaDaBing!  BaDaBoom!!!


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



Two Things To Avoid …

Because I need to travel tomorrow despite the impending major snowstorm that is about to happen in the Northeast US, I am writing this over the weekend instead of on Monday morning.  There are two things that will be “hot topics” on Monday in the sports commentary cosmos and I prefer to have nothing to do with either one.  The first thing I would like to avoid is to be part of any discussion of which team “got snubbed” by the Selection Committee and were denied participation in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  The reason I will not do that is simple:

  • No team is ever “snubbed”.

The reason why this annual “debate” happens in the first place is because sports fans – and sports commentators – have an unrealistic set of expectations for the Selection Committee.  This will sound harsh but I will say it anyway.

  • The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is fundamentally unqualified to make the kinds of marginal decisions that sports fans expect them to make flawlessly.

The Selection Committee has ten members.  Nine of the ten are Athletic Directors at NCAA member schools; the tenth committee person is a Vice President AND the Athletic Director as his school.  Expecting that agglomeration of folks to make reasoned, unbiased and difficult judgments about basketball teams is simply unrealistic.  Let me count the ways…

First, Athletic Directors are not necessarily knowledgeable about basketball.  Athletic Directors are far more knowledgeable about fund-raising and managing their enterprise to a budget.  Sure, they will go and see their school play a dozen games or so and maybe take in another two dozen games in-person or on TV over the course of a season, but the bottom line is clear.  Athletic Directors in general are more about dollars and cents than they are about rebounds and assists.

Second, the fact that they are Athletic Directors for their schools means that they already have a full-time job.  If the expectations of sports fans were even to be approximated, these folks would need to spend full-time paying attention to and analytically watching college basketball games.  NEWS FLASH!!  They don’t.

Let me personalize this for a moment.  I really like college basketball and I watch a lot of college basketball games on TV.  I follow teams and conferences in general terms from around the country.  I have probably seen more games and more teams than anyone on that Committee.  Now hear this:

  • I would not be able to say with confidence which teams should be the last half-dozen to be placed in the tournament field and which teams are the next half-dozen meaning that they would not be placed in the tournament field.
  • If I cannot do that, the Selection Committee cannot either.

Add to the fact that the Committee members are not basketball people, they simply do not have the time – or probably the inclination – to focus sufficient attention on the non-glamor games involving the teams that we say are “on the bubble”.  For the dozen or so teams in that category, Committee members should have seen them play at least 5 games and preferably 8 or 9 in order to make judgements about an ordinal ranking of those teams.

Let me be clear; any jamoke who even pretends to follow college basketball can name with great confidence at least 25 teams that belong in the tournament field this year.  That same jamoke can also deduce with confidence that a team with a record of 4-22 for the season does not deserve consideration as an at-large entry.  Those are the easy decisions; the hard decision involves the “bubble teams” and to make those decisions means watching those bubble teams play games other than the ones over the past week or 10 days.

Moreover, there will be biases associated with the Selection Committee as there will necessarily be with any committee made up of human beings.  My point is that the Selection Committee did not “snub” anyone because I do not believe that they have the knowledge/insight to recognize that Bewildered State really does belong in the tournament over Disco Tech but the Committee then decided to put Disco in anyway.  That would be “snubbing Bewildered State” …

The other thing I do not want to participate in on Monday is to declare the winners and losers of the first weekend of NFL free-agency.  I suspect that most of the sports radio segments not devoted to “Committee snubs” on Monday will be focused on “NFL free-agency hyperbole”.  I know that some folks will aver that a signing in the past three days is the “worst free agent decision EVER”; and for those folks who are memory challenged, let me offer just a couple of bad signings that need to be milestones along that continuum:

  • In 2009, Skins signed Albert Haynesworth for 7 years at $100M with $41M guaranteed.
  • In 2016, Texans signed Brock Osweiler for 4 years and $72M with $37M guaranteed.
  • In 2012, Raiders signed Matt Flynn for 3 years and $26M with $10M guaranteed.

There were, however, four moves made in the past several days that deserve a brief comment – even at this early date:

  1. The Niners signed QBs Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  Both Barkley and Hoyer were QBs with the Bears last year and – to be polite – the Bears were not exactly an offensive juggernaut.
  2. The Bears signed QB Mike Glennon for some big money – 3 years and $45M with $19M guaranteed.  The Bears also released Jay Cutler.  I have never been a big Jay Cutler fan going all the way back to his days at Vandy, but is Mike Glennon with $19M in guaranteed money a big step up from Jay Cutler?  I am not seeing that yet…
  3. The Pats signed CB Stephon Gilmore away from the Bills.  The Pats have been unable to come to terms with Malcom Butler and they have given him a tender offer.  Having Gilmore around means the Pats might find a way to trade Butler to someone willing to pay him what the Pats are unwilling to pay him.
  4. The Panthers signed OT Matt Kahlil for 5 years and $55.5M.  [Aside: Is his favorite poker game “Fives Wild”?]  I saw the Vikes play several times last year and I did not see Kahlil as a player worth more than $10M per year for even one year…

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

“A 7-year-old in St. John’s, Newfoundland, had his bowling gold medal taken away when, just before the awards ceremony, officials ruled his black faded jeans violated the tournament’s black-pants rule.

“So who put Roger Goodell in charge of kids’ bowling, too?”

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



Disarray or Dysfunctionality?

The following pair of events is abjectly coincidental:

  1. Yesterday, I wrote about the Skins’ FOD – Front Office Disarray.
  2. Then the Skins fired their GM on the first day of free-agent season.

With Scot McCloughan out of the GM job, that leaves Danny Boy Snyder and Bruce Allen in charge of things.  The track record for Danny Boy as a prime mover in the football personnel arena is well-established and it is not good.  Let me look at Bruce Allen for a moment today.

Here is how John Feinstein described Bruce Allen:

“He was born on third base and thought he tripled.  And he has been thrown out repeatedly trying to steal home.”

Here is how describes Bruce Allen:

“Bruce Allen is the personification of an NFL winner.”

Here is how some Skins’ fans view Bruce Allen:

  • They have started a petition online at to remove Bruce Allen from power.  As of this morning – about 16 hours after McCloughan’s firing – this signature has 4,856 signatories.  It will be delivered to the Skins where it will be promptly and summarily ignored as are most petitions at

I have no idea how all of this will play out but you have to agree that I was on the right path yesterday calling out the Skins for their FOD.

I am sure a Skins’ fanboy will point to this item as a sign of stability in the Skins’ Front Office.  Head coach, Jay Gruden, recently received a 2-year contract extension in the wake of two consecutive winning seasons.  Why is that good news – – or even news in the first place?  Well, Danny Boy has owned the team for almost 2 decades now and Jay Gruden is the first coach ever to get a contract extension.  On the assumption that he will not be fired in the middle of next season – his fifth in DC – he will then be the first coach to make it successfully to the end of the contract they signed up to.

That is what passes for “normalcy” regarding the Skins’ off-field operations…

While musing about dysfunctionality in the sports world, let me go to an unusual place for these rants – – the NHL.  Please recall that the NHL fought tooth and nail to put and then keep a team in Phoenix going to extreme measures to prevent a Canadian from buying the team and moving it to “South Ontario”.  That was not ancient history; that happened between 2009 and 2013.  I commented then and I will assert now that there was then and is now and will be into the foreseeable future a larger fanbase in “South Ontario” than in Phoenix.  Nonetheless, the league and Commissioner Gary Bettman remain adamant about a team in Phoenix.

However, there is a small speed-bump here…  Recently, Commissioner Bettman wrote a letter to the Arizona Legislature supporting a measure under consideration there that would set up a public-private partnership that would build a new arena for the Coyotes.  Here are two statements from that letter:

  1. “The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.”

  2. “[Glendale] is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

If your Hypocrisy Meter just sounded an alarm, that means it is in proper working order.  Let me be clear about something here:

  • There is only ONE REASON that the Coyotes are in Glendale in 2017 and that is because Gary Bettman and the NHL fought tooth-and-nail to keep it there and took that case to court.
  • In 2009, the previous owner tried to sell the club and when the league blocked that move he simply abandoned ownership and the NHL had to take over running the team.
  • When the league sold the team to the new owner, one stipulation was that the team would stay put.
  • Now the NHL is threatening to move the team if the taxpayers do not cough up money to build the team a new playpen.

You can read the recent report on all this stuff here.  My fervent wish is for the citizenry of the Phoenix area to tell Gary Bettman to take his team and move it somewhere – – like “Southern Ontario” for instance.

Finally, yesterday I also commented on the FOD of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Last evening, I ran across this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald on the same topic:

“The Los Angeles Lakers fired Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. One more firing and Jack Nicholson is in charge.”

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



Front Office Disarray

In a normal year, this is not the time for “Front Office Disarray” (FOD) in sports.  This is the time of year when baseball teams are in Spring Training and the biggest front office issue of the immediate term is how to goose up season ticket sales before Opening Day.  NBA teams are either fighting for playoff spots or playoff seeding or they are tanking.  NFL teams are set for free agency and getting set for the draft.  NHL teams are making their runs to the playoffs.

For some reason, this is not a normal year.  It is too far removed from New Year’s to blame it on a hangover; it does not make sense to link it to political wrangling all over the country because that happens all the time; it has lasted too long to be caused by a single phase of the moon; if you want to try to connect it with the melting of the polar ice caps, have at it.  The fact is that two franchises see their Front Offices in a great state of disarray.

Let me start with the one that is in my backyard – – the Washington Redskins.  They are no strangers to FOD; Danny Boy Snyder has owned the team for almost two decades now and it has only been in the last couple years that there has been a situation where FOD has been quiescent.  I am sure you have read or heard about the disappearing act that Scot McCloughan – merely the team’s GM – has pulled over the last several weeks.  He has been away from the media; he was not at the NFL Combine; there was even one report/speculation that his acknowledged alcohol problem had resurfaced.  I have no information on what is going on here but McCloughan’s absence and the smarmy spin-doctored info provided by team president, Bruce Allen, demonstrates that the Skins’ Front Office is not running smoothly.

Here is my hypothesis.  I have no evidence other than having watched how this franchise has functioned for the last two decades for this hypothesis.

  1. Scot McCloughan has been with the team for 2 years and in those 2 years the team has improved significantly making the playoffs in 2015 and missing out on the playoffs in Week 17 last year.  Many if not most observers have credited McCloughan with revamping the roster allowing the team to succeed.
  2. Over the past two decades, Danny Boy Snyder has cultivated an image that says he will “do anything to win”.  Indeed, he has spent money – often foolishly – and made splashy hirings and firings.  However, I believe that he wants something even more than he “wants to win”.  I believe that he wants to win AND he wants everyone to recognize that he – Danny Boy –  is the reason that the team is winning.

In my hypothesis, Scot McCloughan got too much of the credit for the Skins’ turnaround over the past two seasons and is now being eased to the side such that his exit – stage right – will appear to be a normal progression of things.  Nevertheless, the Skins are now in free agent season without their GM and prepping for the NFL Draft without the guy who oversaw all the scouting and ranking during the last college football season.  Front Office Disarray …

Now take yourself about 3000 miles WSW of Washington to sunny Los Angeles and contemplate the state of the LA Lakers.  The team has consistently been one of the bluebloods of the NBA going all the way back to its time in Minneapolis with George Mikan, Slater Martin and Whitey Skoog.  In the past several years, the Lakers have been less than normally successful on the floor and far more dysfunctional than usual in the Front Office.  Any attempt to rewind all that has gone on in terms of the intrigues and squabbles in that Front Office would take up more Internet bytes than it is worth.  Suffice it to say that the calmest period in recent times had the Lakers’ coach – Phil Jackson – dating the owner’s daughter – Jeanie Buss – while Jeanie Buss and her brother Jim Buss were feuding.  Those were the good times in the Front Office…

When longtime Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss died, Jeannie Buss took over the team and her brother, Jim, was the guy in charge of basketball operations.  That did not work out even a little bit and after lots of public squabbling Jeanie fired Jim – and also team GM Mitch Kupchak who seemed to take sides with Jim in the family feud.  In his place, Jeanie hired Magic Johnson as the major domo of the Lakers in all things basketball who then hired Rob Pelinka to be the Lakers’ GM.  Let us take a look at the triumvirate in charge here:

  1. Jeanie Buss gets high marks when it comes to running the franchise as a business enterprise.  However, she is also associated with the decision to give Kobe Bryant a two-year extension on his contract worth more than $50M at the end of Bryant’s career when he was well beyond being worth even half that amount.
  2. Rob Pelinka’s résumé for a GM job in the NBA seems awfully thin to me.  He is a former college player; he is an attorney; he has represented several NBA players as an agent; most importantly, he was Kobe Bryant’s agent.  I do not believe he has ever held any position for any team in the NBA prior to his hiring as the Lakers’ GM.
  3. Magic Johnson is a Hall of Fame player and a highly successful entrepreneur.  This will be his first venture into running an NBA franchise.  In the past, great players have done very well in the area of running a franchise; Jerry West is Exhibit A; Larry Bird is Exhibit B; Danny Ainge was not nearly as great a player as Magic or West or Bird, but he too has been successful at directing a franchise.  At the same time, Michael Jordan was less than successful as the boss of the Wizards; Phil Jackson has hardly distinguished himself running the Knicks’ franchise; Elgin Baylor was hugely unsuccessful as the GM of the Clippers; and let’s not even discuss the post-basketball accomplishments of Isiah Thomas.

The bottom line here is that the Lakers are in the midst ofand on the bridge steering the ship through the storm are 3 rookies.  Adding to the maelstrom are legal actions taken by Jim Buss and one of his brothers against Jeanie and the Lakers that deal with issues too subtle for me to understand easily.  It is a mess and it is not likely to be cleaned up in a brief time.

Finally, here is a quiz question posed by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

 “La La Land” is a movie about:

  • a) a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love.

  • b) Twins fans dreaming of winning this year’s World Series.

  • c) Johnny Manziel thinking he has an NFL future.

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




Here in Curmudgeon Central, schadenfreude is a welcome situation whenever it presents itself.  It is not that I enjoy watching people suffer; rather, what I enjoy is watching some pompous fool – or fools – squirm in a situation of their own making.  You may recall that all during the NFL lead-up to the playoffs, I said that I was rooting for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl just because I wanted to watch Roger Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady and Robert Kraft.  That situation was like having schaden on the right and freude on the left.

There is another potential schadenfreude situation facing the NFL in the upcoming season.  When the people of San Diego overwhelmingly rejected a financing plan for a new NFL stadium there, the Chargers really did have to get out of town.  However, they did not have a place to go and the NFL somehow approved a move that will put Chargers’ home games in the StubHub Center which is a soccer stadium that now seats 30,000 fannies and might be expanded to 35,000.  Just to put some perspective on this, Central Michigan University plays its home games in the MAC in Kelly/Shorts Stadium – a facility that seats 30,225.

  • The Los Angeles Chargers will play their home games in a MAC stadium.

Now just suppose that the LA Chargers are the “Team of Destiny” in 2017 and become a ratings monster for the networks.  What will be “the optic” for the NFL to have its “hot team” on TV playing in the stadium equivalent of a sandbox?  Now let me go way out on a limb here and imagine that the Chargers win the AFC West next year; that would mean that they would host a playoff game in their stadium equivalent of a sandbox.  Won’t that be fun?


[Aside:  I have never been to StubHub Center nor have I driven by it to see it in person from the highway but I have looked at pictures of the facility on the Internet.   If what I think is the press box is actually the press box, I suspect that those with media credentials for an NFL playoff game there will be less than happy with the cheek-to-jowl ambience of the facility.]


Since I mentioned MAC football above, let me use that to make an awkward transition here.  Much has been made of an advisor to the President of the US referring to The Bowling Green Massacre on TV.  It did not take long for her political opponents to jump all over that “alternative fact” and point out that a fictitious massacre could not be justification for a Presidential Executive Order.  All of the circumstances surrounding that situation are now in the rear-view mirror but here in Curmudgeon Central, research indicates that indeed there was a Bowling Green Massacre and it happened on 3 September 2016.  Here are the findings from some exhaustive research:

  • Ohio State beat Bowling Green 77-10 in football on that date.
  • Anyone care to claim that was anything but a massacre?

Here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News from earlier this week:

“Former slugger Sammy Sosa used a recent blog to deny steroid use, compare his trials to Jesus, and claim he introduced Chicago to the world.

“’Do tell,’ said Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Stan Mikita, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks, Benny Goodman …

It is not unusual for people to claim that their remarks were taken out of context when someone points out that one of their statements is just a tad on the shady side.  So, let me put those remarks into context:

  1. If these remarks are to be evaluated for veracity, one can pretty quickly say that is analysis of what he did for Chicago is greatly exaggerated at best and a downright falsehood on most days of the week.  Moreover, Sosa’s comparison of the hardships in his life to Jesus Christ demonstrates a fundamental lack of self-awareness and social/cultural awareness.
  2. Now, it would be in THAT context that I would evaluate the claim that Sammy Sosa never used steroids…

Here is another bit of “perspective” that is worth consideration.  On last year’s Super Bowl winning team, the Patriots carried 8 wide receivers.  Here is what those 8 WRs made in 2016 as they went on to win the Super Bowl.  I am counting their base salaries, bonuses they got for things other than winning the Super Bowl and a pro rate share of any signing bonus they may have received.

  1. Danny Amendola  $2.9M
  2. Julian Edelman  $4.1M
  3. Michael Floyd $1.3M
  4. Chris Hogan  $5.5M
  5. Devin Lucien  $0.5M
  6. Malcom Mitchell  $0.6M
  7. Matthew Slater  $2.0M
  8. DeAndrew White  $0.2M


Now for perspective, consider that the Steelers recently signed Antonio Brown to a contract that will pay him an average of $18.5M per season.  I am not saying that Antonio Brown is not worth that sort of expenditure; he may indeed be the best single WR in the NFL today – if Julio Jones is not.  However, it is interesting to note that the Pats spent frugally on their entire WR corps and all that did was get the team a Lombardi trophy and the second highest scoring offense in the league for 2016.

Finally, harkening back to my commentary on the Bowling Green Massacre above, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Sports Quiz:  The name of the German Shepherd that won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is:

  • “a) Rumor

  • “b) Fake News

  • “c) Alternative Facts”

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



Following Another Legend …

Yesterday, I spent some time explaining why replacing a coaching legend/Hall of Famer was not a good career move for the successor.  I was gently reminded later in the day that I had missed an obvious situation of this type that is going to happen in less than a month.  Indeed, I had…

Vin Scully was not a coach or a manager, but he was a broadcasting legend.  His 65+ years at the microphone doing Dodgers’ games – from Brooklyn and LA – were magical for most of his tenure there.  He is in the Hall of Fame; he belongs in the Hall of Fame; his voice was an iconic presence in the MLB cosmos for at least 5 decades.  And … he retired last year.

Replacing Vin Scully on the radio calling LA Dodgers’ games this year is 29-year old Joe Davis.  Vin Scully worked solo for all those years – a style that has gone the way of the starting pitcher who throws 10-15 complete games in a season.  Davis will call the games with “help” in the booth from either Nomar Garciaparra or Orel Hershiser or both.  If you want to criticize Davis from Day One, you can point to the fact that Scully never needed help and this “whippersnapper” needs it from the start.  I think the more rational way to look at this is that having a sidekick in the booth is something that will minimize the direct comparisons between Davis and Scully.  The more diminution there is on that axis, the better it will be for Davis and the Dodgers’ radio network.

Scully took over for a legend in Brooklyn – – Red Barber.  Scully did so successfully and hung around for more than 6 decades.  Davis is 29 years old.  If he can avoid the initial complaints that “He’s not Vin Scully!” and settles in as a great broadcaster – we won’t know about that for at least several years – he may be with the Dodgers for the next 5 decades himself.

Bonne chance, Joe Davis…

While on the subject of baseball – at least peripherally – the KC Royals are using Spring Training to prepare for the regular season on the baseball front and on the culinary front.  At their Spring Training stadium in Surprise AZ, the Royals will offer this to fans in attendance:

  • A hot dog, wrapped in bacon then wrapped in a cheeseburger.
  • The “official name” the Triple Play Dog.  I think it should be named the Gut Bomb.

The stadium concession folks say that this concoction checks in at 850 calories.  If so, my calculations say that this is either a small beef patty or a minimal amount of cheese.  My back-of-the-envelope calculations say that the Triple Play Dog should check in between 1000 and 1100 calories.  And we will not discuss the grams of fat in there…

Here is the question that folks who order the Triple Play Dog must be wondering:

  • What do you get for dessert?
  • Answer:  How about an ice cream sandwich where the external “sweet things” are chocolate donuts instead of cookies?  How did the concession company miss that opportunity?

Sticking with baseball topics for a moment more, lots of people have opined that MLB needs to do more to cultivate its next generation of fans.  The simplistic explanation for the basis of this assertion is that millennials do not have the attention span to enjoy baseball and its leisurely pace of play.  Hence, the movements to “speed up the game” by the powers that be.

I certainly do not object to measures that will prevent 9-inning games from becoming 4-hour marathons; I have suggested in previous rants some modifications to the rules that would speed up the game and I have another one a few paragraphs down today.  However, I think that there is something else that MLB can – and should – do to cultivate a younger fanbase.  I ran across this stat:

  • The last time that a World Series Game was played in daytime was in October 1987 – – thirty years ago this Fall.

In days of yore – the 50s, 60s and 70s –  the World Series was must-see TV.  People took off from work to do just that.  Kids rushed home from school to do that; I know I did.  Today, all the World Series Games are at night and for fans on the East Coast – – where there are LOTS of fans and LOTS of future/potential fans – – World Series Games rarely end before midnight or 1:00AM.  That is not a scheduling strategy to win over new and young fans to your game…  Perhaps the Commish and the union mavens for baseball might consider playing the opening game and the fourth game of the World Series in the daytime for the next several years to see if this skews the viewing audience a bit younger…

I said I had an idea for a rule change that might speed up some MLB games.  Specifically, games in September can drag on and on because managers then have 40 players at their disposal making pitching changes and pinch hitters/runners and the like much easier to do.  I understand that teams want to have their young minor-leaguers up for a taste of what the big leagues are like but maybe MLB can take a lesson from the NFL here.

  • Why not expand the rosters to 40 in September but only allow 27 or 28 players to be eligible to play in any one game?
  • Managers can declare some veterans ineligible for some games to give the youngsters a chance to play and to give the vets some time off.
  • Hey!  It’s a thought…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald noted the beginning of the college baseball season and reminded readers of the dumb rule change that will be experimental in the lower minor leagues this year:

“Big Ten baseball teams begin play next week in mid-February. Once again, ties will be broken by a two-man luge competition.”

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



College Basketball Coaches Today

The college basketball season has reached a point where just about every game matters.  Conference tournaments can be important to teams “on the bubble” for an invite to the NCAA tournament and teams comfortably in the tournament can have their seedings affected positively or negatively based on games in the conference tournaments.  I am not about to go and make predictions about the various conference tournaments around the country but the ramping up of college basketball at this time of the year got me to thinking about the sport in general over the weekend.

Coaching is an element of team success at almost every level of sport and – in my opinion – coaches/managers generally get too much credit for successes and too much blame for failures across the full landscape of team sports.  In college basketball, I think that coaches are more visible and more identified with success and failure than in other sports.  There are 6 college coaches working today whose record and whose reputation puts them at the top of their profession.  However, only one of them will probably around 10 years from now and in fact he may be the only one on the scene 5 years from now;

  1. Jim Boeheim:  He has been at Syracuse and associated with the basketball program since 1963 when he was on the team.  He has been the head coach there since 1976; he is 72 years old.  Although he has not made a formal announcement and signed his retirement papers, the reports are that he will step down at the end of this season and turn over the program to long-time assistant and coach-in-waiting, Mike Hopkins.
  2. John Calipari:  He is the youngster of this group at 58 years old.  I can see him still on the sidelines at Kentucky in 2027; he is under contract at UK through 2021.
  3. Tom Izzo:  This year’s Michigan State team is hardly one of Izzo’s best; nonetheless, he is as secure in his position as any coach on this list.  He is 62 years old and is signed with Michigan State through 2021
  4. Mike Krzyzewski:  Coach K is 70 years old and has had several recent surgeries.  He too is signed through 2021; when that contract expires, he will be 74 years old.
  5. Rick Pitino:  He is 64 years old and recently signed a contract extension that would keep him at Louisville through 2026.  Given the pending investigations by the NCAA regarding recruits there being supplied with hookers, I think that Pitino is not a mortal lock to see the final days of that contract.
  6. Roy Williams:  He is 67 years old and is signed through 2020.  Like Coach K, Williams has had some health issues.  Like Rick Pitino, there are NCAA investigations going on all around UNC and some of it focuses on the basketball program.

I am not suggesting that any of these 6 coaches are over the hill or out of touch.  In fact, I am convinced that all 6 are still very good at what they do.  But Father Time has paid a house call to a couple of these folks and could very well be ready to ring on some of the other doorbells.  Much will be made of the college basketball coaching carousel that will unfold over the next 6 weeks or so.  I think the much more interesting thing to ponder is this:

  • Who will replace these Hall of Fame legends when they turn in their whistles?

Let me just say that following a legend into a job is not a ticket to success and is not something that makes the replacement into a household name.  No Googling now:

  • Who replaced John Wooden at UCLA?
  • Who replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama?
  • Who replaced Vince Lombardi in Green Bay?
  • (Answers below)

One other college coach who is getting near the end of the line who has enjoyed lots of success but is a rung or two below the six guys above is Bob Huggins.  He is 63 years old and has had more than a couple of medical incidents in recent weeks including a time when his implanted defibrillator had to kick in during game.  Huggins’ teams have never won the NCAA tournament, but he has averaged 20+ wins per game over a coaching career that started in 1984.

The thing I find interesting about Huggins is his radical departure from his coaching brethren when it comes to sartorial splendor on the sidelines.  Most coaches wear suits and ties on the sidelines; Huggins wears a pullover with the school logo on it; no one seems to notice or care to comment.  This is the polar opposite of the reaction to Bill Belichick’s “unusual” sideline wardrobe choices – hoodies with cut off sleeves have not become a fashion statement even in Boston.  However, folks always comment on “the hoodie” and even refer to Belichick as “Darth Hoodie” at times.

I promised answers above:

  • Gene Bartow succeeded John Wooden at UCLA.  He lasted 2 years and his record of 52-9 in those 2 years was not satisfactory.
  • Ray Perkins replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama.  He lasted 3 years and his overall record of 32-15-1 in those 3 years was not satisfactory.
  • Phil Bengston succeeded Vince Lombardi in Green Bay.  He lasted 3 seasons and his record of 20-21-1 was considered scandalous in Green Bay.

Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times showing his skills as a spin doctor:

“Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins has been ejected 11 times in his NBA career.

“Or as DeMarcus apologists prefer to spin it: Cousins 11 times removed.”

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