The Passing Of An Era for Golf

It does not take a whole lot for Tiger Woods to get his name in the newspapers.  If he goes to a driving range and hits a bucket of balls without grimacing; that is a story; if he volunteers to do something for the PTA at his kids’ school, that is a story.  After all, if he can do such wonderful things out there on a golf course, he must also be able of all sorts of other great accomplishments in real life, right?  There is a segment of the press that is ready to lionize everything associated with Tiger Woods.

At the same time there is a dark side to the media too.  If Tiger Woods gets a parking ticket, it must mean that he was with a hooker and lost track of time; if he hits a bad shot in a tournament and utters an word even slightly less polite than “Dagnubit”, then it shows he is a crass and uncultured boor.  With that as a background, consider that Tiger Woods was arrested in Florida earlier this week and charged with DUI.  He passed the alcohol breath test but police found him in his car at 3:00 AM asleep at the wheel with the motor running.

Not wishing to take sides with the “Tiger-Haters” or the “Tiger-Acolytes” here, can we simply agree that asleep at the wheel of a car with the motor running at 3:00 AM is not a good look?   As this story has evolved, it now appears that a combination of prescription meds could have led to the situation the police came upon.  I think this is a sad state of affairs from several perspectives:

  • There was a time when Tiger Woods was golf’s icon.  If Tiger Woods did it, then it had to be good for golf as a sport and good for anyone who played golf because that associated them with Tiger Woods.  Those days are about 10 years in the rear-view mirror.
  • Tiger Woods was raised to be a golf prodigy.  He succeeded at that but failed at just about all other aspects of “growing up” into a mature and responsible adult.  Now, his body is failing him and he no longer can be the manifestation of a golf prodigy.

I am not a psychologist – and even if I were I have not examined Tiger Woods in any way – so consider this next statement as AMATEURISH  at best:

  • I think Tiger Woods needs a mentor in his life – even though he is in his 40s – to assist him in catching up to what an adult male of that age needs to understand and to do in modern society.  I am not convinced that he can do this on his own and his father has passed.

Looking at a bigger picture regarding what this means to “Golfdom”, this DUI incident may not have come at a worse time.  For the last 20 years or so, golf has marketed/pushed the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson rivalry as the pinnacle of its sport.  Ignore the fact that the rivalry was lopsided; it was the golf narrative for a VERY long time.  In reality, it has been purely a fictional/nostalgic rivalry for about 3 years now because Phil Mickelson can’t play either; unless I missed one, I think his last win on the PGA Tour was in 2013.

Golf marketed the game as the rivalry between Tiger and Phil and now it is over.  Even worse for golf is the fact that the two of them have reached this point in their lives/careers without embracing the rivalry to forge some sort of friendship.  Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were intense rivals but that rivalry grew into respect and friendship.  I wonder if Tiger and Phil will be hitting ceremonial tee shots together at The Masters in 2047…

The ratings are in.  Sunday Night Football on NBC was the top rated TV show in primetime again in 2016; this is the 6th year in a row when Sunday Night Football has enjoyed that status.  In the coveted demographic of 18-49 year-olds, the NFL hit the trifecta.  The largest number of viewers in that demographic watched:

  1. Sunday Night Football – 20.3 million folks
  2. Thursday Night Football (NBC) – 17.0 million folks
  3. Thursday Night Football (CBS) – 14.7 million folks.

The NFL continues to ride tall in the saddle when it comes to sports enterprises in the US.  It would be foolhardy to say that will NEVER change but the current data certainly indicate that it will be either a long time or a cataclysmic event that will take the NFL down off its pedestal.

Earlier this week, I suggested that MLB should consider contracting to 24 teams and that one of the teams to be whacked would be the Miami Marlins.  Recall that there were stories out there that Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush – were ready to buy the team for $1.3B.  Well, it seems that they may still have some interest in buying the team but they have not yet been ready to cough up $1.3B.  A recent entry to the field of potential buyers is Tagg Romney – son of Governor Mitt Romney – but that consortium is still short of the asking price.  Here is the thing about all of these reports that gets me:

  • If you believe reporting about the Marlins as a franchise, the team is losing money year over year.
  • Part of the revenue shortfall for the Marlins is the fact that they drew fewer than $1.65 million fans last year and are on pace to do the same again this year.

The Marlins’ owner, Jeffrey Loria bought the team for about $200M back in 2002.  The NY Post says that he may need to “cut the asking price” to $1B in order to get a deal done.  I still think it would be better to do without a team in Miami.

Finally, since I was speaking of things that are priced above what they are actually worth, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“At auction yet again: That rare 1909 T-206, the original Honus Wagner baseball card. I don’t wanna say it might be a fake, but if you look closely you can see an ESPN banner on the outfield wall.”

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



Rest In Peace, Frank Deford

Frank Deford died on Sunday.  A long time ago, I would grab my issue of Sports Illustrated from the mail pile at home and turn to the Table of Contents to see if he had a byline in that issue; when he did, that is where I turned first.  There was no Google or Wikipedia in those dark days; I ascribed inordinate levels of wisdom and insight into Frank Deford; I did that because I assumed that he was so much older than I am.  In reality, he was only 5 years older than I.  Whether he was writing a novel or a long-form sports feature or the story of the sickness and death of his daughter, Frank Deford was – simply – outstanding.

I have another bond with Frank Deford.  For years he did a weekly commentary on NPR Radio; reportedly, he did 1656 of those commentaries.  About twice a year, he would adopt the persona of “The Sports Curmudgeon” for one of his weekly columns; whenever he did that, I would get a flurry of e-mails and/or comments on the website asking for a transcript of “your radio column”.  I answered every one of those requests telling the listener that I was not Frank Deford and could never hope to be Frank Deford but that the listener could probably get the transcript he/she sought by contacting the local NPR station in their area.

Rest in peace, Frank Deford…

Since I mentioned one of my favorite writers from my youth, let me take a short paragraph here to recommend a book to you.  I just finished reading Dan Jenkins’ latest novel, Stick A Fork In Me; Dan Jenkins was my other “favorite writer” from the halcyon days of Sports Illustrated  This is a fictional “memoir” of a collegiate Athletic Director who is looking to find a comfortable retirement package from his school – Western Ohio.  If you even enjoy Dan Jenkins’ writing a little bit, I think this is a book you should read.  I read it cover to cover in about 3 hours; this is not War and Peace.

The NFL has loosened the reins a bit regarding endzone celebrations by players after a TD.  Ignore the details here and think about the “big picture” here for a moment:

  • To a large extent, the NFL is a TV show.  So long as people can bet on the games – legally or illegally – and watch them on TV, the NFL has a license to print money.
  • Do “over-the-top/choreographed” endzone celebrations cause fans to turn off the games?  If so, that hurts ratings and those celebrations need not be curtailed, they need to be banned completely.
  • Do “over-the-top/choreographed” endzone celebrations attract any fans?  Do you know anyone who tunes into an NFL game primarily to see endzone celebrations?  If those folks are out there, the NFL should never have a limit on what players might do.

As I said, NFL telecasts are a TV show and the TV industry likes its shows – to the greatest extent possible – to fit into carefully carved out time slots.  Lots of scoring along with lots of extended celebrating MIGHT cause time overruns and that is an imperfect solution.  So here is what the NFL Competition Committee should have done:

  1. After a TD is scored, the referee should immediately call for a “kicking ball” and place it at the 15-yardline and start the play clock.  Failure of the scoring team to get a try off in the allotted time would forfeit that team’s right to make an extra point try.
  2. This ruling would get the coaches on the side of the league and its “TV partners” and keep things rolling along.

The 2016/2017 NBA season started on October 25, 2016; the Finals will begin on June 1, 2017; if I have counted correctly that is a span of 219 days.  Here is the problem; we pretty much knew for certain which teams would be in the NBA Finals in the days leading up to October 25, 2016.  Both the Warriors and the Cavaliers were going to make the playoffs even if they had two starters show up on Quaaludes every fourth game; the teams did not care about regular season games; the con offered up by the NBA was that once the playoffs began the competition and the intensity would be ratcheted up.  Horse hockey!  To date, the totality of the NBA Playoffs has produced less than a half-dozen games that you would honestly call “interesting”.

These finals had better deliver some kind of game drama that makes the fan/viewer fixated on the game until the end; if either team wins this final series by 4-0 in 4 blowouts, the NBA will have some “ ‘splaining to do”…  [/Desi Arnaz]  The NBA is not the Harlem Globetrotters; you know who is going to win Globetrotters’ games but you go to be entertained by other antics on the court.  That is NOT the competition model or the fan interest model the NBA seeks.

I tried to get into the NBA this year once January showed up on the calendar and then February and then March.  I could not get myself to care even more than the slightest bit because all of this was obviously pre-destined.  The only – and I mean only – thing that I found interesting about the NBA regular season was the snarky – but on-the-mark – commentary from Charles Barkley about things that are imperfect with the NBA game as it exists today.

  • Memo to Adam Silver:  I am a basketball fan and have been since the mid-1950s.  I could not get myself interested in your NBA product this year even though I tried.  If that happens again in the next season or two, you will lose a lifetime fan – and at my age you may never get me back.
  • Memo to the NBPA:  You folks need to work with the league on this problem; this will affect both sides of the negotiating table.  Your product is less interesting than it used to be and you need to find ways to reverse that trend tout de suite.

Greg Cote summarized the situation at hand for the NBA and its fans like this in the Miami Herald:

“Finally, it’s on! The inevitable Warriors-Cavs Finals begins: It’s the Golden State-Cleveland trilogy, LeBron-Steph III, and the rubber-match series begins Thursday night. Now all it has to be is the greatest Finals ever ending in a triple-overtime Game 7 to live up to expectations.”

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

“Two players at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships who used a cart to take a bathroom break were given two-stroke penalties.

“So who’s running the show there, Roger Goodell?”

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



Happy Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day.  It is a day when remember the people in the Armed Forces who gave their lives in defense of the country.  When I think of Memorial Day the way it was when I was a kid, the first thing that comes to mind is:

  • Doubleheader baseball games in the daytime

Those events are an extinct species in 2017 having succumbed to maximizing revenue streams and all that comes with that.  However, when thinking about MLB and its scheduling, it comes to mind that thirty teams split into two 15-team leagues makes for awkward schedules.  Not the least bit of awkwardness is the fact that there must always be an inter-league game going on.  The first thing that comes to mind is for MLB to expand to 32 teams; the second thing that comes to mind is for MLB to contract to 24 teams.  That got me thinking about the pros and cons for each scenario.

I’ll start with “Expansion to 32 teams”.  Here are some of the pros:

  1. Current owners will get two fat checks in the name of “expansion fees”.
  2. MLBPA will like this since it “creates more jobs” for members.
  3. Allows inter-league play to be condensed into a fixed time slot on the schedule making it “special” again.

Here are some of the cons to expansion:

  1. Are there two viable baseball markets that are not yet filled?  With the NHL and the NFL going to Las Vegas, that might be one site and putting a team back in Montreal might make sense.  Perhaps Vancouver?  Remember, there are several existing MLB teams that are not hugely supported too.
  2. Are there enough pitchers?  MLB rosters are pitching dominated – probably because in these days of “pitch counts” and “working the count”, teams need lots of arms in the bullpen.  Are the two dozen best pitchers in the minors ready to pitch regularly at the major league level?  I am not so sure…

Let me be clear; MLB is not going to contract absent some sort of cataclysmic set of circumstances.  This is purely a gedanken experiment; so, here are some of the pros for “Contraction to 24 teams”:

  1. It weeds out 6 of the franchises that are not well supported.
  2. It concentrates the existing MLB-level talent thereby increasing the average level of play.
  3. It would allow scheduling to concentrate games within divisions thereby increasing/generating rivalries.  Rivalries tend to increase interest and increased interest produces increased revenues.

Here are some of the cons to contraction:

  1. Current owners will have to write some hefty checks to buy out 20% of the franchises or perhaps forego some portion of the current revenue streams for a while.  This is the main reason contraction will never happen.
  2. The MLBPA will hate this because 20% of its members will be out of work.

To take the gedanken experiment to some sort of conclusion, I now have to consider which 6 MLB franchises I would terminate.  The first three are pretty easy for me; these teams always have low attendance numbers:

  • Miami Marlins
  • Oakland A’s
  • Tampa Bay Rays

The next three are much more difficult but here goes:

  • Chicago White Sox.  They are the “poor relative” in Chicago in terms of attendance and fan interest by a wide margin.  Over the last two seasons, the Sox average 20,000 fans per game; they ranked 27th in MLB last year and in 2017 they are currently 28th in attendance per game.
  • Cleveland Indians.  This is a team that was in the World Series last year; in that season-long run to glory, the Indians’ average home attendance was the lowest in MLB.  This season in the afterglow of a World Series appearance, the Indians’ average attendance is 25th in MLB standing at 21,749 over 278 home games.  It surely looks as if most of greater Cleveland does not care about the Indians.
  • Minnesota Twins.  I know this looks like I am picking on the American League but that is really not the case.  The Twins were in the bottom third of MLB in attendance in 2016 and rank 24th in attendance this year with attendance down more than 3,000 fans per game.

Looking at the results of my mental musings here, you can add one more “con” to the list under “Contraction to 24 teams”:

  • Follow my plan and you also have to realign the leagues since the AL would lose 5 teams and the NL only 1 team.

Finally, since I mentioned the possible lack of major-league level pitchers above, here is an item related to one minor league pitcher from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

During the [Omaha] Storm Chasers-Salt Lake game in Utah, [Salt Lake City] Bees’ pitcher Troy Scribner was called for a balk after he was knocked off the mound by a gust of wind. OK, I’m thinking there’s no need to test this guy for performance enhancers.

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



No Marketing Man Here …

Odell Beckham Jr. has reportedly signed a $25M shoe deal with Nike for the next 5 years; it is supposed to be the largest shoe deal for an NFL player ever.  There is something here that I do not understand.  Let me say very explicitly that I am not the target audience for athlete designed/endorsed shoes whether they come from Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Jordan, Lonzo Ball or Joe Flabeetz.  Let me also say very explicitly that I claim no expertise at all in the field of marketing.  So here is my confusion in a nutshell:

  • Basketball players wear shoes that can be used to play basketball – obviously.  Those shoes can also be worn around the house or to school or to the mall or … you get the idea.
  • Football players wear cleats.  Other than to play football – or some other sport on a grass field – cleats are not useful apparel.
  • I can understand this deal from Nike’s perspective if the objective is to market the shoes to high school football teams but I do not understand the “mass marketing appeal” of football cleats.

Now, here is a marketing initiative that I do understand.  The Arizona Diamondbacks are playing well so far in 2017 but they are nowhere near filling their home stadium.  The D-Backs have 25 home games scheduled in June and July; and according to this report, the team is offering up a “Summer Pass” for those 25 games in June/July.  A fan pays $50 and for that he can get a seat in the outfield to any game he wants in June or July.  The seats will vary from game to game and all the logistics are handled over a mobile phone via an app.

The Braves tried something similar a year ago on a month by month basis and reported some fan interest in the concept.  Despite the D-Backs strong start this year – 30-19 and only 1 game out of first place in the NL West – average home attendance is only 22,649 per game and that figure is surprisingly down 3,410 fans per game from last year over the same number of home games.

For an upfront cost of $50, any fan who might be interested in going to a half-dozen games ought to consider this “Summer Pass” idea and then perhaps go to 10 games instead of 6 because the marginal cost for going an additional 4 times is zero.  From the perspective here in Curmudgeon Central, I would be much more likely to pay $100 for a pair of D-Backs Summer Passes than I would to pay $100 or more for a pair of football cleats.

Speaking obliquely about MLB, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“I was surprised to recently learn that African Americans now account for less than 7% of big-leaguers.  Not since 1957 have fewer MLB players been black.”

I too am surprised that the percentage is that low but I am not surprised that young African-American boys gravitate to sports other than baseball.  No, I do not believe it has anything to do with sociological factors surrounding the origins of baseball or anything like that.  I believe there are pragmatic and logistical reasons for this.

For kids to play a pick-up game of baseball, they need to get 15-20 kids to be at one place at one time with the right equipment and desire to play a game.  When I was a kid, it was not all that difficult to make that happen just by showing up at the playground and counting heads and asking if folks wanted to play a game.  Look at playgrounds in the cities and suburbs now and you will only rarely see kids playing pick-up baseball games because there are not hordes of kids on the playground.

Therefore, to get kids started in baseball requires adult intervention in terms of organizing and scheduling and the like.  This brings two factors into play:

  1. Adult intervention – from the kids’ perspective – comes with a price.  With that intervention, the games are not merely fun; the games become more cutthroat and there is emphasis on winning as opposed to just playing the game because one likes to play the game.
  2. Adult intervention requires interested adults and that usually means parents who have spare time to contribute to the organizational activities involved here.  From an economic perspective, it is more likely for “suburban parents” to have more spare time to devote here than for “inner-city parents”.

The economic factor also contributes to African-American kids gravitating to basketball.  Not only is it easier for kids to be able to find a pick-up game of basketball due to the small number of kids needed to play, but it is also more economically feasible.  Basically, all you need is a basketball, a pair of sneakers – not necessarily ones that cost $150 a pair – and a hoop in a playground.

Finally, here is a comment from Steve Rosenbloom in the Chicago Tribune regarding the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory last year:

“Each World Series ring the Cubs handed out Wednesday night contained 108 diamonds on the face to mark the number of years between titles. So, if the Cubs repeat, will next year’s rings contain zero diamonds?”

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



A Modified NFL Overtime Rule …

Surely, you have read about or heard about the NFL decision to change the regular season overtime rule by reducing the time of the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.  The “cover story” for all of this is that this is done in the interest of player safety.  While that may in fact be an outcome here, pardon me for my skepticism related to the idea that this was the concept that sprung from nowhere to mesmerize the NFL Competition Committee and now the NFL owners.

If, indeed, player safety is the paramount concern here, can I ask why there is overtime at all in the regular season?  Fans “hate tie games” – – or at least that is the standard narrative that sports leagues operate upon.  The fact is that the NFL existed until 1974 without the benefit of any overtime rule for the regular season; that means for more than half of the league’s existence, it was “OK” to have tie-games in the regular season.  Tie games are not apocalyptic; they may be unsatisfying to the fans but they do not threaten civilization as we know it.

If player safety is the driver here, there should be no overtime games at all until the playoffs where a singular winner is needed to ascertain who moves on to the next round.  If some other factor(s) are at work here, please identify them clearly and unambiguously.  If I asked you to guess what the NFL record is for a team playing tie games in a season, what would be your guess?  Here is the answer:

  • In 1932, the Chicago Bears played 6 NFL games that ended in a tie.  The team record for the year was 7-1-6.
  • The Bears began the 1932 season with tie games in the first 3 games of the season – and all of them were 0-0 tie games.
  • In the 4th game of the 1932 season, the Bears suffered their only loss.  The Green Bay Packers beat the Bears at Wrigley Field by a score of 2-0.
  • The Bears did not score a single point until their 5th game of the season and finished the year with a 7-1-6 record.

The NFL has had overtime in existence for 43 years now.  First it was sudden death; then, it was modified to give the loser of the coin toss an opportunity to possess the ball; now we have this change.  If the rules mavens cannot come up with something people perceive to be fair and effective at the same time, I have a radical idea:

  • Why not end the game after 60 minutes of play; and if the score is tied, record it as such and move on to the next game on the schedule?
  • That worked for the first 54 years of the NFL’s existence.

Since I started with an NFL topic today, allow my mind to wander in the space-time continuum of the NFL and television.  We know from recent personnel reductions that ESPN is in a cost cutting mode and that much of that is driven by the number-crunchers who oversee ESPN from corporate mahogany offices in Disney Corp.  So, let me accept as a fact that ESPN is not nearly the cash-cow that it was 10 years ago.

Earlier this week, I read a report that speculated that Turner Broadcasting – TBS – might be interested in getting a piece of the action for NFL television rights.  Let me be clear; I have no insight into that corporate thinking if indeed it is actually ongoing.  Let me channel Will Rogers here:

“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”

Never being one to allow my own ignorance to stand in the way of an opinion, consider that MNF costs ESPN $1.5B per year in TV rights.  According to reports, ESPN signed on with the NFL for $15.2B for TV rights to MNF for 2001 to 2021.  Might the mavens at ESPN/Disney think that a way to ameliorate the financial burdens at ESPN in 2017 might be to sell off part of that “inventory” to TBS?  Here is what math tells me:

  • If ESPN fired 100 staffers to save their salary costs, the $1.5B that MNF costs would cover all of those salaries unless all 100 of the fired staffers made more than $15M per year.

By comparison, NBC pays a little less for SNF than ESPN pays for MNF and NBC gets the benefit of flex scheduling which is logistically impossible for MNF.  My take-away here is that the good folks at ESPN need to find a better contract negotiator to represent their interests when they seek to carry NFL games after 2021.

A former colleague and long-term reader of these rants sent along a link to an article on about a communication between the Athletic Department at LSU and the “student-athletes” at LSU.  Earlier this month, the United States DoJ decided that it would not press charges against two police officers who had been involved in the killing of Alton Sterling.

Summarizing the communique from the Athletic Department, they asked the student-athletes not to wear LSU “gear” or uniforms if the “student-athletes” felt that they wanted to participate in protests over this decision.  Forget your opinion on the entire matter of Alton Sterling’s death for a moment.  This communication phrased as a request from the LSU Athletic Department is well-positioned.  It recognizes that some of the “student-athletes” will choose to participate in protests and the Athletic Department does not seek to stifle that in any way.  However, they do ask that the “student-athletes” help the Athletic Department in protecting the “brand” of LSU athletics” by not wearing uniforms or gear.  My summary:

  1. The “student-athletes” have full freedom of expression.
  2. The “student-athletes” are requested to ignore their freedom of attire.

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

“A squirrel ran on the field during a Twins-Indians game and eluded members of the grounds crew for four minutes. I’m sure this was more entertaining than any dumb between-innings hot dog race.

“A study reveals that rodents that run on the field at baseball games tend to have a higher IQ than fans who run on the field.”

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



NFL Hump Day …

The staff cuts at ESPN have not been too severe; someone there has plenty of time oh his/her hands.  On one of the myriad ESPN studio shows yesterday, the talking head intoned that yesterday was “NFL Hump Day”.  Yesterday was the exact middle of the “barren stretch” between the Super Bowl in February and the start of the new NFL season in early September.  Inconveniently, “NFL Hump Day” fell on a Tuesday this year and not a Wednesday…

Nonetheless, the NFL is producing news on its “Hump Day” that is on a different vector heading from things like free agent signings and/or the promise of the NFL Draft.  This week marks the start of “practice” for the upcoming NFL season as teams hold the first of their OTAs – Organized Team Activities.  The teams organize these things in accordance with the terms of the current CBA but they are not mandatory for players who are under contract.  That fact alone creates news like this item:

  • Odell Beckham Jr. did not show up for the first day of the NY Giants’ OTA.  Oh, the horror …  The world of social media has more than sufficient reason to explode over this news.

These sorts of stories are nothing more than sensationalized filler.  If the NY Giants’ 2017 season is going to be doomed by the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. on the first day of non-mandatory OTAs, then the whole organization should just take the season off and forfeit their games.  At best, this is a non-story – – or “fake news” to use the argot of the day.

The other thing that comes out of hiding as teams head into the start of their OTAs is the early pronouncements about “Teams That Have An Eye On The Super Bowl In February 2018”.  These sorts of articles pick up on stories about teams that made splashy free agent signing and/or teams that good immediate grades for their talent haul in the recent NFL Draft.  All looks positive for the teams mentioned in these articles – – for the moment.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, the standard practice is to look at the sports world through the other end of the telescope.  So, I want to take this horribly too early point in history to project the teams that just may be the WORST team in the NFL – the one that will be on-the-clock with the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft as of 1 January 2018.  I believe there are 5 teams among the 32 teams in the NFL who might wind up in that position.  Let me list them here alphabetically since it is still far too early to make a pronouncement:

  1. Chicago Bears:  I seriously believe the Bears will be a bad team again in 2018 no matter who they play at QB and that Coach John Fox will be fired in early 2018 if he actually makes it to the end of the 2017 season.  The Bears’ have no offense and the Bears’ defense is not nearly good enough to be sufficiently dominant as to carry the team to a break-even record.  Looking at the Bears’ schedule, they begin the season with games against the Falcons, Bucs, Steelers and Packers – – all four teams should have realistic hopes of making the playoffs.  If the Bears start out 0-4, which is a very real possibility, this team could easily hang up the jockstraps for the season and mail it in for the rest of 2017.
  2. Cleveland Browns:  Some folks have been just short of orgasmic in their praise of the Browns’ draft haul and the “Moneyball-style” mindset of the Browns’ front office.  I will be much more confident in pronouncing the Browns’ Front Office as “geniuses” after a few years.  However, even if I think they were great in their drafting this year and added 4 quality players to the roster, that leaves the Browns in the “talent-deficient” category of the NFL because the rest of the roster has – at most – 3 quality players.
  3. LA Rams:  Football is a team game and it is axiomatic that QBs get too much of the credit for successful teams and too much blame for bad teams.  Notwithstanding what I just said, the Rams’ problem has been for the last several years that they have not had a quality QB.  Truth be told, they have not had a QB who is better than a journeyman.  They spent an overall #1 pick on Jared Goff but did not put him on the field until late in the 2016 season and when Goff was out there he looked “less than awesome”.  Now we hear that the Rams at their OTAs are trying to work with Goff on his “leadership skills”.  The Rams are not going to be a good team, but if Goff flunks his QB tests and his leadership tests, the Rams could be awful.
  4. NY Jets:  Is there a player on their roster who can even pretend to be a functional NFL QB?  If so, the Jets can dodge the ignominy of the overall #1 pick in the 2018 draft.  If there is such a player on the roster, he has been keeping a VERY low profile to date.  The Jets are loaded with defensive linemen who can be difference-makers; that is not enough to make the team a difference-maker in 2018.  I suspect the Jets will be awful and that coach Todd Bowles will take the fall for a team whose roster would not be competitive under any head coach that could not cast hypnotic spells on the entire opposing squad every Sunday.  This is an early call but look at the NFL schedule for Week 5 and you will see that the Jets play the Browns.  That may be the Toilet Bowl game for the NFL season and it may have a significant role in determining the draft order in the Top 5 for the 2018 NFL Draft.
  5. SF 49ers:  Once again, the draftniks have proclaimed that the Niners – – under the firm hand at the tiller of GM, John Lynch – – aced the draft.  Even if they did – and that diagnosis would be at least 24 months too soon – the Niners’ roster is talent deficient.  The top two QBs on their depth chart as of this morning are two of the castoffs from the 2016 Chicago Bears – a team that won a total of 3 games.

Finally, since I mentioned the role that projections of the 2017 NFL draft may or may not have on the fortunes of some NFL teams, let me present some comments about “the draft” in two other sports from sports commentators around the country:

“Ping and pong: The NBA draft lottery couldn’t have gone much better for the L.A. Lakers if the drawing were rigged. Did I say rigged?”  [Bob Molinaro – Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And …

“The MLB draft is less than four weeks away. I’m working on my mock draft. Right now I’m stuck on the 22nd pick in round 113.”   [Brad Dickson – Omaha World-Herald]

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



NFL Stadium News …

Once upon a time, there was a TV Channel called The Weather Channel.  What it did was to present current weather conditions and weather forecasts for the entire USA on a 24/7 basis.  People loved it because it provided them with something they needed even if no one ever sat down to watch it for an hour at a time.  The Weather Channel got so popular that one of the mega-networks bought it out for umpty-billion dollars and proceeded to change what it put on the air.  Now they have studio shows and multi-hour feature shows such as Extreme Weather and When Weather Changed History.  You get the idea.

By the way, in case you wonder how these sort of feature shows about the weather might be interesting for more than about 5 minutes at a stretch, the answer is that they are not.  Infomercials about a new colon cleansing concoction are more interesting.

I mention all of this because if you believe reports, The Weather Channel can do a segment on one of its When Weather Changed History shows about how the weather changed the NFL’s scheduling plans.  According to reports, the highly unusual amount of rain in Southern California has delayed construction of the new mega-stadium in LA that will house the Rams and the Chargers to the point where the stadium readiness has been pushed back from 2019 to 2020.

The reality here is that the Rams will need to stay in the LA Coliseum for an extra season.  It is hardly an ideal stadium but it is large enough that if – I said IF – the Rams became playoff contenders soon, the Coliseum could handle the sorts of crowds that the team might draw.  Such may not be the case for the LA Chargers who are going to play in an expanded soccer venue called StubHub Center in Carson CA.  In its expanded state, this venue will have 30,000 seats and some have said it could add another 5,000 if push came to shove.

The Chargers are going to have to charge extreme prices for their tickets to generate “NFL-levels” of stadium revenues.  This is not only important to the Chargers’ owners, it is also important to all the NFL owners who are scheduled to play the Chargers in LA because the visiting team gets one-third of the stadium revenues for the day of their visit.

In an effort to make chicken soup out of chickens*it, the Chargers’ President of Business Operations, A.G. Spanos, told

“Construction is our family business, so we understand the challenges that come with a project of this magnitude.  At StubHub Center, we are creating an unparalleled environment for watching NFL football, and considering that no other venue in the league brings you closer to the action, we think Chargers fans will enjoy our three years in Carson.”

Chargers’ fans may indeed be closer to the action than fans anywhere else in the NFL.  One thing is for sure however, there will be fewer fans in attendance for Chargers’ home games from now until 2020 than there will be for any other NFL teams.

The NFL owners will be meeting soon and this issue will certainly be a topic of conversation at the meeting – as will the construction of the new stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas.  There will be another issue for discussion among the owners about the Raiders’ stadium.  In the past week or so, the Raiders and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority reached an agreement as to the terms of the Raider’s lease for the new facility once it is built.  According to a report at, the lease contains this language to prohibit:

“…any Gaming or Gambling, the maintaining or operating of a Gaming Establishment and/or sports wagering or any wagering on racing or other non-sports events.”

However, in that same report, ESPN says that the Nevada Gaming Commission – the body that regulates gaming/gambling for the State of Nevada – believes that clause in the lease agreement does not prohibit fans in the stadium from using their cell phones and gambling apps on those phones to place wagers – even in-game wagers on the Raiders’ game being played in front of them – with any of the sportsbooks in Nevada who routinely offer such mobile wagering opportunities.

This may sound like a huge hurdle for the NFL to get over.  For decades, gambling has been demonized by the NFL as a plague that can only destroy the league.  In 2020, not only will they put a team in the “Den of Iniquity”, they may be allowing fans to wager on the game they are attending.  Somewhere in the cosmos, George Halas just shuddered…  However, this is not a big deal at all for the NFL if it would only come to grips with reality.

The NFL has been playing games in London for years now and continues to expand their presence there.  This year, there will be four “London Games” and here is reality for the stadiums the NFL uses in London:

  • They all have betting kiosks in the stadium operated by the licensed bookmakers in England.  For NFL gamedays, the league requests that the operators shut down those betting windows and the bookmakers agree.
  • However, bookmakers in the UK have been using mobile betting apps for several years now – pre-dating any such activity by the sportsbooks in Nevada.  So, the reality is that the NFL has already played games under those wagering conditions without suffering any damage to their games.  Moreover, the NFL has been expanding the number of times per season that they play games under those conditions.
  • Reality:  There will be four NFL games this year where in-game wagering using mobile gambling apps is going to happen.  In 2020, there will be eight games played in Las Vegas where in-game wagering may happen if the owners ratify the lease agreement in front of them now.  It is not nearly as big a deal as one might make it out to be.

Finally, the America’s Cup Qualifiers are about to begin and then the Finals are less than a month off in the future.  [Quick Quiz:  Where are these events being held this year?  No peeking.]  Greg Cote had these items in the Miami Herald over the past couple of weeks regarding the America’s Cup:

“Sailing’s 35th America’s Cup begins in one month. It’s a wind-wind situation. Sorry.”

And …

“America’s Cup sets sail in five days: Biggest event in sailing, the month-long America’s Cup, begins this coming Friday in Bermuda. Weird choice for host, no? Ever heard of the Bermuda Triangle? Stay out of it, fellas!”

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



The Tom Brady Concussion Caper …

It is always incorrect to assert that some entity in the sports world had an infinite capacity for something.  In fact, the word “infinite” is almost always a dead give-away for hyperbole.  We saw an example last week how a simple comment can set off a firestorm in the sports cosmos which has a huge capacity for such happenings.  Notwithstanding the sports world’s tendency to overreact to things, last week’s firestorm should never have happened if only folks had taken a longer view.  Here is the deal…

Giselle Bundchen – super-model and wife of Tom Brady who needs no introduction in a rant focused on sports – announced/asserted last week that Brady had suffered “concussions” in the previous season.  Within a millisecond of the escape of those words from her mouth, the extensive network of “Patriot haters” were in full throat demanding to know how this information had escaped the NFL and its “concussion protocol” and its “expert observers”.  Brady’s agent issued a statement saying that his client had never suffered such an injury in the 2016 season.  This is the type of story that has legs; it has all the elements necessary to become an Internet trope for something like “the fix is in” for the next decade or so.

Sports radio and the ESPN commentary programs were on this story like pancakes are on a griddle.  If you hate the Pats, then Giselle had just let the cat out of the bag and it showed that the entire organization is as evil as Nazi Germany and its “Final Solution”.  If you are a Pats’ fan, this showed the level of concern that this devoted mother has to her family as she worried about the current and future health of her beloved spouse.  In either case, what else could it be …?

I am not privy to what happens in the Brady/Bundchen household – nor do I have any burning desire to be.  Therefore, I have no idea if Tom Brady was concussed or not during the 2016 season – and if he does not care, then neither do I.

Having said that, here is a concocted domestic scene that I would wonder about if I were to worry about the future mental health of Tom Brady”

  • It is a Tuesday night in the midst of the 2016 NFL season.  Tom Brady returns to his home in Brookline having done a day’s worth of film study on last week’s game and the defensive prowess of the upcoming opponent.  He is at home, dinner is finished; the kids are in bed.  Here are Tom Brady’s words to his wife …
  • “Not tonight Giselle.  I have a headache.”

Each and every NFL fan of the male persuasion would wish that he could have the opportunity to say those words to Giselle Bundchen confident in his own mind that no headache would cause him to utter those words.  Too bad …  Maybe Tom Brady said that – or maybe he never did.  It is not for us to know for the simple reason that it is none of “our” damned business.

Oh, by the way, to those who say that all of this “proves” that the entirety of the “NFL concussion protocol” is nothing more than a PR stunt; this sort of “proves” just the opposite.  The NFL concussion protocol is there as a potential legal defense against lawsuits from current players akin to the ones pending from former players.  This is not about PR; this is all about CYA…

Sticking with the NFL for a moment, the Bucs signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 1-year deal for $3M to be the backup QB to Jameis Winston.  Let me be clear here; Fitzpatrick had an abysmal year in 2016 with the Jets throwing 17 INTs and only 12 TDs.  Nonetheless, this was a good signing decision by the Bucs.

In the NFC South, the Bucs are serious contenders; they should be looking at ways to be part of the playoffs in Jan 2018.  This signing says to me that they are looking at that end-point as a measure of success for the 2017 season.  I doubt they believe that Ryan Fitzpatrick will take them to the playoffs if he has to start a dozen games in 2017; but if Jameis Winston suffers an injury and has to miss 2 or 3 games, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a credible stand-in.  Just so you know who are the QBs on the Bucs’ roster as of this morning behind Winston and Fitzpatrick:

  • Ryan Griffen –   4th year from Tulane
  • Sefo Liufau – rookie from Colorado

I think the Bucs took out a reasonably priced insurance policy here at 1-year and $3M…

The Grey Cup is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for the Canadian Football League.  This year, the game will be played in Ottawa – Canada’s capital – where the Ottawa Redblacks are the home team.  The Redblacks play in a stadium called TD Place Stadium; it normally seats 24,000 but for the Grey Cup seating will expand to 35,000.  According to reports, only about 5,000 tickets remain on the market.  The game will be played on 26 November – – the Sunday after Thanksgiving in the US.

Back in the days when the Olympic Games had just been resuscitated, one of the events in the Summer Games was a tug-of-war.  In terms of compelling television, this ranks at or near the level of competitive poker on TV; I am not repelled by it nor am I attracted to it in any meaningful way.

The IOC keeps looking for new events allowing the host nation to insert something into the games in each of the 4-year spans and by recognizing international oversight bodies for events/sports that can be on the fringes of fans’ interests.  Let me say this to the IOC on the off chance that someone at IOC HQs might run across this screed:

  1. If you can tolerate rhythmic gymnastics as a sport as pixies prance around on a mat waving ribbons in their wake, why can you not go back to the Olympic roots and include tug-of-war in the Summer Games?
  2. The IOC could actually save money here and thus increase its profits.  It takes a bunch of judges to do a rhythmic gymnastics competition – whether or not their decisions are scripted.  For tug-of-war, a video replay would likely be sufficient.

Finally, speaking of the Summer Games, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Los Angeles wants to host the 2024 Olympics, and if that fails, it expects to go for 2028.

“Sources say the four-year window will allow just enough time for officials to get home, repack, and drive back to LAX in time to make the next bid.”

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



More ESPN Stuff …

Sports radio has long been the home of the contrived “debate”.  ESPN raised the stakes in that game with First Take and then some other “confrontation shows” that are not nearly as blatantly staged as First Take.  Then FS1 got in the act when it hired Skip Bayless away from ESPN and paired him with Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed.  Here is why I think all of that programming is successful:

  • In the current era of social media and Twitter, it is beyond fashionable to take offense at a remark or an image and then to enter the social media world and start a s[p]itstorm.  In today’s world, that behavior is expected.

So, I was not really surprised when news broke that ESPN was going to “allow” a woman to do the play-by-play for the double-header game on MNF in the opening week of the NFL season.  The outpouring of “outrage” was out of this world.  ESPN said that Beth Mowins would do play-by-play and Rex Ryan would do color on this double-header game.  You might have thought that ESPN had announced that Charles Manson and Josef Mengele would be doing the game.

Some of the twits on Twitter swore that they would hit the mute button to show that they thought that was a horrendous idea.

  • Memo to Mute Button Hitters:  ESPN does not care about that; they care that you are watching the game because that is how they get ratings and the ratings determine their ad revenues.  Not only are you intolerant; you are ignorant; that is not a desirable exacta.

Let me try to approach this “issue” calmly.  I have never heard Beth Mowins do play-by-play for a football game so I have no idea if she is good at it or bad at it.  The way I think I shall discriminate between the two possibilities is to listen to her work and make my own judgment.  As to one of the hot-button areas of criticism directed at Ms. Mowins – – i.e. she never played the game – – let me say that she has played exactly the same number of NFL and Division 1-A college football games as Joe Buck, Al Michaels and Bob Costas.  Those three gentlemen have managed to do a bang-up job at play-by-play without benefit of strapping on a helmet on Sundays.

In the past, ESPN assigned Pam Ward to do play-by-play for Big 10 games on the network and Pam Ward was very good at that assignment.  If Beth Mowins does as well as Pam Ward did, this will be a huge success for ESPN.

What is more interesting to me in this announcement is that Mowins will be paired with Rex Ryan who is also a “rookie” in the role of a color analyst.  Given the nature of Ryan’s press conferences and interviews over the past 5-6 years, one should expect him to take to this role pretty easily.  However, for that one game, ESPN will give “live air” to a telecast tandem with no direct experience.  It should be interesting…

Speaking of ESPN, the network has also announced the schedule for the dozen or so college football bowl games that ESPN owns and operates.  Indeed, these games – – generally ones that few people really care about – – are owned and operated by ESPN.  The games provide the network with hours of “original content” which can also be replayed multiple times in the December timeframe.  Let me give you a flavor of what I mean by games that few people really care about and ones that I will assuredly miss:

  1. Gildan New Mexico Bowl – 12/16/17:  A Mountain West team will play a Conf USA team in this game.  Sigh …
  2. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – 12/16 17:  A MAC team will play a Sun Belt team in this confrontation.  Bleah …
  3. Boca Raton Bowl – 12/19/17:  The MAC, Conf USA and the American Athletic Conference all have ties to this bowl game.  If they played some sort of three-way game – a football ménage a trois so to speak – I would probably tune in just for the novelty.
  4. St Petersburg Bowl – 12/21/17:  The American Athletic Conference will supply one team and Conf USA will supply the other.  So what?
  5. Bahamas Bowl – 12/21/17:  Someone from the MAC will take on someone else from Conf USA in this meaningless contest.  Yawn…
  6. Hawaii Bowl – 12/24/17:  It will be Mountain West versus American Athletic Conference in this titanic struggle.

ESPN likes to call this pre-Christmas lineup of bowl games part of “Bowl Week”.  When they do, I immediately think of a porcelain bowl…

I mentioned recently that Mark Cuban admitted that the Dallas Mavericks tanked games this year to improve their draft position.  There is a bit of history in the NFL that demonstrates what happens when a team there had the opportunity to tank but did not.

  • In 1968, the Philadelphia Eagles were awful.  Going into the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, their record stood at 0 – 11.  They were on track to have the #1 overall pick in the draft and there was this guy named OJ Simpson who was eligible for the draft that year.
  • Not only did the Eagles win the Thanksgiving Day game 12-0, they returned home the next week and beat the New Orleans Saints before losing the final game of the year to the Vikings.  Final record was 2-12.
  • Meanwhile, in the old AFL, the Buffalo Bills staggered home with a record of 1-12-1 in 1968 so the Bills got the overall #1 pick.
  • The Bills took OJ who was pretty good.  You can probably win a bar bet or two with the knowledge of who the Eagles took with the second pick.  That would be Leroy Keyes who was a RB from Purdue who could not make it as a RB so the Eagles played him at safety.  As you might suspect the Eagles were not very good in the years following that missed draft opportunity.

Finally, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel was wondering how the quarterback-deficient Cleveland Browns could draft something other than a QB with their plethora of early draft picks:

“This is like the homeless man who wins the lottery and buys everything but a new home.”

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



Deep In the Heart Of Texas …

I am sure that Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon was covering some other singer when he recorded the song Deep In the Heart Of Texas.  However, that is the version that I recall as a teenager and so I will cite it here as a theme for today’s rant.  I will spend a lot of time talking about things going on in Texas.

Let me start with Mark Cuban.  For purposes of full disclosure, I am not a huge Mark Cuban fan in terms of his over-the-top actions as a team owner or as a publicity hound.  I do not think that I qualify as a “hater” for the simple reason that I do not care enough about what Mark Cuban says or does enough to hate him for it; in my gestalt, he is a buffoon – – albeit a very rich buffoon.

Mark Cuban was a “guest” on Dan Patrick’s radio program – – remember he is a publicity hound who is on record as saying there is no such thing as bad publicity – – and he told Dan Patrick and all of Patrick’s audience that once the Dallas Mavericks were no longer viable playoff contenders this year, the team tanked games.  The team set out to play the games in such a way as to maximize the possibility that they would lose instead of win those games.  Let me be clear:

  1. The Mavs did not tell players to give the games away or to play to less than their full effort.
  2. The Mavs did play certain players in various situations that were disadvantageous to the team if the objective had been to – you know – actually win those games.

Mark Cuban did not dance around this or try to obfuscate it with codewords and clichés’; he made it clear that is what the Dallas Mavericks did; and by offering the details that he did, it is clear that he knew about it and – at the very minimum – had no problem with that “strategy”.

Let me say this as clearly as I can so that the possibility for misunderstanding or misinterpretation is minimal:

  • Until and unless Adam Silver and the folks nominally in charge of the NBA come down on Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks like the rain in a typhoon, I do not EVER want to hear any self-righteous breast-beatings from the league about “the integrity of the game(s)”.
  • One of the teams – obviously with the knowledge and the assent of the owner – spent a portion of the 2016/17 NBA season trying to lose games to get more ping-pong balls in the lottery hopper.

I have no idea what Mark Cuban’s net worth might be and I do not care enough to look up the Forbes estimate.  Here is what I do care about; there is no fine that the league might even hope to enforce on him that would matter even a smidgen.  The penalty here must be something much more than that – like no first round draft picks for the next two or three years.

The NBA regular season is comprised of 1230 games.  We have evidence now that the top teams do not care about these games even to the point where they will cede playoff seeding in order to “rest” players because “the science” says they will play better rested than unrested.  We have known for more than 3 decades that teams will tank to get better draft picks; that is the whole reason behind the stupid draft lottery.  Now we know that teams other than the Sixers and their “process” are routinely tanking games.  So, Mr. Commissioner here is my direct question to you:

  • If teams in your league – good ones and bad ones – do not give a damn about the outcomes of regular season games, why the Hell should I?
  • Perhaps there are 25 games in the regular season I should continue to pay attention to because of matchups and/or storylines.  Mr. Commish, that is only 2% of your regular season inventory!

The other “Texas” story is yet another lawsuit brought against Baylor University alleging that there are videos of gang-rapes perpetrated by Baylor football players and some assertions that these were “organized events” meant to increase bonding among the players.  [For the record; I feel slimy just having typed the words in that last sentence.]

Just so there is no misunderstanding:

  1. Any and all men who participated in any activities that are even close to the description above should spend a LONG time in the Crossbars Hilton.  By LONG time, I am thinking in terms of 25 years or more such that they have NO opportunity to make a dime as a professional football player.
  2. If there is sufficient evidence to show that any coach knew about these activities and either “endorsed them” or “acted to conceal them”, then that coach should spend even longer in jail than the rapists.
  3. If there is sufficient evidence to show that any school administrator was knowledgeable and acted to cover any of this up, he should be boiled in oil.  [Sorry for going Medieval here…]

Now if you have been following these rants for the past several years or so, you should expect me to go off and dump a load of “equine fertilizer” on the NCAA.  Let me surprise you; I think the NCAA is in the right place on this one for the moment.

When the Penn State scandal broke, the NCAA got waaay out over its skis and jumped into a criminal matter – not an NCAA matter – well before the criminal matter had reached any resolution.  In this situation – as horrid as it would be if all the allegations are proven to be true -, I am not sure there have been any NCAA rules violations.  One of these days, the NCAA will punish Ole Miss for handing out cash to players who went to Ole Miss to play football; one of these days, the NCAA will find the backbone to punish UNC for its academic fraud over a 10-15-year period.  However, the heinous acts perpetrated (allegedly) by the Baylor football players did not violate any NCAA rules and so it is completely appropriate for the pooh-bahs in Indianapolis to keep their mouths shut and to ignore all of this until the justice system has had its turn in the barrel.

Finally, since I have been talking about “Texas” stuff today, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about something that happened at Spring Practice for the University of Texas football team:

“Pro wrestler The Undertaker gave a motivational speech to the Texas Longhorns football team. Now Texas has a new plan. One player is going to distract the referees while the other hits an opponent from behind.”

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