Colin Kaepernick To Seattle …?

I heard two guys on sports radio yesterday “debating” the issue of which NFL team should sign Colin Kaepernick.  One side of the argument went along the lines that he should work to get to a team that has no top-shelf starting QB and work to achieve that status with that team.  The other side of the argument was that he should sign – knowingly as the backup QB – with the Seattle Seahawks.  The proponent of the “Colin-to-Seattle” thinking said that all of this made sense for the Seahawks as well as for Kaepernick because the Seahawks have no experienced backup to Russell Wilson.

I could not think of who the backup to Wilson is as I was driving along yesterday so when I got home and here is what I found on the Seahawks’ roster/depth chart:

  • On the Seahawks depth chart, the backup QB is Trevone Boykin.
  • On the roster, the other QB listed is Jake Heaps.

Many people think the Seahawks are serious playoff contenders in the NFC West but I do have to admit that they do not have much experience behind Russell Wilson in the event he suffers an injury.  Boykin’s career shows him playing in 5 games; he is 13 for 18 passing with 1 TD and 1 INT.  If Jake Heaps has played at all in the NFL, I cannot find a record of that.  So. Maybe the “Colin-to-Seattle” suggestion makes sense.

            [Aside:  In checking for Trevone Boykin’s stats, I also discovered that he was arrested in March 2017 for a possible violation of his parole which came as a result of a run-in with the law in June 2016.  The Seahawks may be thinner than they look at QB.]

Notwithstanding the logic of that suggestion, I suspect that Colin Kaepernick would rather be able to earn the starting QB slot on a team and that is not going to happen in Seattle without an injury to Russell Wilson.  There are indeed “QB-deficient” teams in the NFL where he could possibly work his way to the top of the heap through training camp such as:

  • Chicago Bears
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Houston Texans
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • LA Rams
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • NY Jets

[Aside:  I did not include the SF 49ers on this list even though they have “QB-deficiencies” because I suspect that the Niners do not want Kaepernick and Kaepernick does not want the Niners.]

If I were Colin Kaepernick – or his agent – I would be trying to strike a deal with one of those teams instead of the Seahawks.  Then again, I am not Colin Kaepernick nor am I his agent…

A report at last week said that Adidas is getting out of the business of selling golf equipment.  Adidas makes Taylor Made equipment in addition to Adams Golf and Ashworth; Adidas is selling all of that to a private equity firm for $425M.  That sounds like a lot of money but according to the report, that is a reflection of a serious decline in the market for golf equipment.  According to the report, Adidas sold $1.7B worth of “golf stuff” in 2012; last year, sales were down to $500M.  That is a 70% decline in a 5 year stretch.

Apparently, the problem is not limited to Adidas.  Nike has also gotten out of the golf business.  I think the decline in the sales of golf equipment has something to do with the decline in interest in the Pro Tour.  After a decade or so when the folks who cover golf and the folks who promote golf did nothing beyond pushing Tiger Woods as the “face-of-the-game”, they are now struggling to make a connection with a wide audience now that Tiger Woods is a mere after-thought on the Pro Tour.  I do not think that Woods’ receding into the background is the sole cause of the market softness here; in fact, it is probably only an ancillary factor.  However, as the business of golf sought to climb out from under the weight of the 2008 economic financial collapse, the lack of a figure to regenerate interest in what is an expensive hobby was a problem for the industry.

Adidas has been in the golf equipment business since 1997.  For the 3 brands that sold to the private equity firm, Adidas paid a total of $1.54B to acquire them and now they only brought back $425M.

Just in case you are in the Tampa Bay area, let me fill you in on a dietary hazard at the Tampa Bay Rays stadium.  If you are there, you need to be wary of ordering the 4-pound burger that is on sale.  It is really a simple deal.  This is 4 pounds of ground meat on a “bun”; you add the condiments of your choice; it comes with 1 pound of fries.  If you eat the entire thing by yourself in 30 minutes or less here is what you get:

  1. Two tickets to another Rays’ game of your choosing
  2. A T-shirt
  3. And most likely a case of heartburn that would make it into the Guinness Book of Records.

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

“Ten tons of Kraft and Velveeta cheese were destroyed when the brakes of the semi hauling it caught fire near West Allis, Wis.

“So, in addition to Title Town USA, Cheeseheads can now lay claim to the Fondue Capital of the World.”

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



Tie Games In Baseball? Oh, The Horror …

A recent 18-inning baseball game between the Yankees and Cubs has generated angst in the baseball world.  Some folks have suggested that if games are tied after 12 innings, the game should go into the record books as a tie and the teams should just get on with their seasons.  As you can imagine the baseball historians and the purists want no part of such change.  If this were the Middle Ages, the purists would be having the “tie-game advocates” charged with heresy thereby subjecting them to drawing and quartering.

I am not offended by this new suggestion nor am I offended in any way by the potential for an 18-inning baseball game.  Having said that, there have been some arguments put forth regarding this proposed change that leave me cold:

  1. If baseball needs to increase pace of play, then it should also do everything possible to avoid games that will take 5 hours to complete.  This is nonsense; pace of play and duration of games are two different things.   Anyone who uses this argument in a serious fashion is a dumbass.
  2. Eighteen inning games put an unnecessary stress on bullpens and pitching staffs; moreover, the final portions of the game feature players playing out of position making the outcome subject to “unnatural conditions”.  I will not even grace the “unnatural conditions” argument with commentary; the “unnecessary stress on pitching staffs” argument is a tad annoying.  In times where players in various sports are using improved nutrition and improved training/conditioning techniques, pitchers in baseball are turning into fragile snowflakes.  Teams used to carry 9 pitchers and 16 position players; today they carry as many as 13 pitchers and only 12 position players.

[Aside:  Back in the 70s, Nolan Ryan once struck out 19 batters in a game where he pitched all 13 innings and he threw 235 pitches.  He then took his normal rest and his normal spot in the rotation.  In 2017, you have a better chance of seeing a unicorn frolicking with a yeti than seeing any pitcher do that.]

Here is another thing I find confusing in this discussion.

  • If it is OK to have a game go into the record books as a tie after 12 innings, why not just record it as a tie after 9 innings?

I know that there are fans who viscerally oppose the idea of a tie game in any sport.  I am not one of those fans, but I understand their desire to see a winner and a loser in any contest.  What frosts my cupcakes is when a sport chooses to determine a winner and a loser by changing the game in the final showdown.  I do not like – even a little bit – the way these entities break ties:

  1. The NHL:  I have no problem with an overtime period or the way things are handled in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I think the idea of the shoot-out via alternating penalty shots is an abomination.
  2. FIFA World Cup: I have no problem with tie games in soccer.  I detest the idea of determining a winner via penalty kicks.

I can tolerate the NFL’s tie-breaking system even though I would change it if I could.  I would prefer that they allow for ties during the regular season and play a full extra quarter (or a second full extra quarter) in playoff games to determine the winner.  But that’s just me.  At least the NFL is still playing actual football in its overtime periods.

The tie-breaker in tennis is a hybrid here.  They play the tie-breakers using the same rules of play for tennis but they change the scoring system.

Baseball, basketball and golf are the purest sports here.  They play extra time/extra innings/extra holes using exactly the same rules until there is a winner at the end of the extra time/extra innings/extra holes.  Frankly, I do not see any compelling reason to modify the way these sports handle things.

According to this report from, the Boston Red Sox banned for life a fan who made a racist remark about a Kenyan woman who had just finished singing the National Anthem.  This remark was overheard by another fan who reported this to an usher who removed the utterer of the racial slur from Fenway Park.  The next day, the Red Sox announced that he was banned for life.

This is not a First Amendment issue; the Boston Red Sox imposed this ban not the Congress and the Executive Branch of the US Government.  There is, however, something to think about here.

  • Assuming for a moment that it is critically important for the Red Sox to enforce this ban, can they do so?  Assume that Joe Flabeetz is the guy banned for life and he lives next door to Sam Glotz.  Now suppose Glotz buys a ticket to a Red Sox game and then resells it to Joe Flabeetz who goes to Fenway Park to see the game.  Is every ticket taker at every gate going to be on the lookout for Joe Flabeetz and how are they going to do that?

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times pertaining to another recent event in Fenway Park:

“Last Sunday’s Cubs-Red Sox game included what appeared to be a failed marriage proposal on the Fenway Park videoboard.

“But the foiled groom-to-be, undeterred, is already hatching plans to line up Colin Kaepernick to take a knee for him.”

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



Is This Part Of The Trilateral Commission?

There must be a secret society in the US these days with a name so long that even its acronym is a mouthful; the SOPSLTBPOAAAE:

  • The Society Of People Spring-Loaded To Be Pissed Off About Anything And Everything.

[Aside:  I believe at least 75% of the folks in the US Congress are officers in this secret society – – but that is another rant.]

These folks can find affront in just about any human act or utterance; and when they find affront in something harmless and pin their affront to a meaningful issue, what they do is to diminish the import of the meaningful issue.  These are sports rants and not sociological rants so I’ll just state categorically that sexism exists in US society and that sexism is not something that needs to be preserved in US society.  Having said that, the St. Louis Cardinals were accused of sexism in a Tweet they sent out regarding a promotion for a game later this week.  Here is the deal:

  • On May 17, the Cardinals were going to give away replicas of the 1967 World Series ring given to that Cards’ championship team.

Such a giveaway would not make me drop everything and change whatever plans I may have had for that day to rush to the ballpark to get my hands on one of those treasures, but it is not something that it out-or-line for a baseball promotion.  Now here is the Tweet that SOPSSLTBPOAAE found to be sexist:

“You love baseball, she loves jewelry.  On May 17, it’s a win-win.”

That Tweet was characterized as “awash in some impressively casual sexism.”  You can read here why that is a sexist remark…

Now, if one wanted to focus attention on something that has a far greater foundation of sexism, one might prefer to focus on a recent report that the Oakland Raiders reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought against it by members of The Raiderettes who charged that they were not paid a minimum wage for their efforts as team cheerleaders.  If the Tweet above was “awash in impressively casual sexism”, then the existence of scantily-clad female cheerleaders is “impressively actual sexism” and paying those women less than the legal minimum wage to do what they do is a manifestation of the economic principle of paying women less than they are worth when they do a job.

The Raiderettes were the first NFL cheerleading team to assert that they were not paid a minimum wage; subsequent to their lawsuit, other NFL teams have been defendants in similar legal actions.  In the settlement announced last week, the Raiders will pay $1.25M to about 100 women who were Raiderettes between 2010 and 2014.  You can read about more of the settlement details here.  This lawsuit and its ultimate resolution is a small step in the direction of minimizing/eliminating sexism as it relates to women in the workplace but before anyone attaches too much significance, please consider:

  1. The Raiders fought this suit for about 3 years through several levels of California state courts.  If they were not represented by “My Cousin Vinnie”, they probably paid a significant fraction of the ultimate settlement amount in legal fees.  $1.25M is a lot of money if you are talking about the balance in my IRA; it is not a lot of money when you are talking about an NFL franchise.  Did this resolution have to be deferred 3 years and require the intervention of various courts to get to this end-point?  Perhaps the decision to fight this action tooth-and-nail is an example of something “awash in impressively actual sexism”.
  2. The underlying basis of sexism here – the display of scantily-clad females on the sidelines during a football game – remains intact.  Given the silence from the SOPSLTBPOAAAE about that, I can only assume they do not know about it.

I read a report about the Philadelphia Eagles signing an undrafted free agent and immediately thought about the fact that Chris Berman was no longer doing NFL studio commentary for ESPN.  Given Berman’s penchant for giving silly nicknames to players I will take the liberty of channeling him here:

  • Today the Eagles signed free agent CB from UCLA, Randall Goforth – – and Multiply.  [ / Chris Berman ]

Sometimes, you read a couple of sentences and it gives you all you really need to know about a subject.  You know there is more to the story, but you also know that you really do not need to delve any deeper.  Greg Cote found an example of such a situation in the Miami Herald over the weekend:

“The owners of video porn site are suing former Heat star Chris Bosh over the rental of his California waterfront mansion. The plaintiffs claim the luxury abode contained, among other problems, rat poop. No, seriously.”

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

“With tennis star Maria Sharapova back from her 15-month drug ban, the question is this: Will she return to superstar form, or will she be just another grunt?”

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



ESPN Needs Changes Other Than Its Staffing …

I know that I have written about the layoffs at ESPN in recent weeks but I want to return to that topic once more today.  Clearly, ESPN – and its corporate overlords at Disney – want and need to cut some costs; I doubt that anyone would ascribe anything else as the prime motivation for these cuts.  However, I think that there has been some “lazy thinking” in much of the reporting here.  The standard narrative is that the cost cutting is the result of/the reaction to decreased revenues caused by people “cutting the cord”.

Even though I have not “cut the cord”, I understand that many other folks have; therefore, I acknowledge that “cord cutting” has been a major factor in these decisions.  But I do not think it begins and ends there.  I believe there is another factor at work here and that it overlays the “cord cutting issues” and the need for ESPN to get a better hold on costs:

  • The spending practices at ESPN over the past decade or two have not been “judicious” or “restrained” in any sense of those words.

ESPN as the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports has paid out some outrageous rights fees and has had a period of “spending like a drunken sailor”.  Look, I understand that ESPN has myriad networks and that each of them needs to flesh out 168 hours per week with video programming.  ESPN must have a large inventory of “content” because dead air or test patterns will not cut it in an era where subscribers pay for the privilege of watching ESPN programming.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. ESPN pays more for MNF than NBC pays for Sunday Night Football.  Both networks get the same number of regular season games but NBC gets to do some flex scheduling late in the season to avoid having to put on a dismally uninteresting game in December.  ESPN cannot do that on MNF.  From a purely economic perspective, ESPN did not get a good deal here…
  2. In order to have fresh content around the Holidays, ESPN now owns and operates about a dozen college football bowl games.  Most of them are the games that you and I and most other people do not care about in the least.  For example, one of those games is the Las Vegas Bowl which is played in a stadium that seats less than 40,000 folks and is NEVER sold out.
  3. ESPN paid rights fees to telecast things like the X-Games and things of that nature.  If one of those events ever cracks a rating of 1.0, it will be “salad days” at ESPN HQs.
  4. ESPN spent a tidy sum creating a studio in LA to house some of the SportsCenter telecasts.  After overdesigning it and spending lots of money on it, they figured they needed to put other programming there and went around “bigfooting” programs to move them to the new digs in LA.  This was one of – and not the only – issue that led to ESPN and Keith Olbermann parting ways about 2 years ago.  He said he was not going to move his operation from NYC to LA; ESPN told him to take a hike.  ESPN saved money in that move too.  However, ask yourself how much programming that you watch on ESPN comes from LA or would significantly benefit from originating in LA as opposed to NYC or Bristol CT.  My assessment is that there is precious little programming in that category and that the big money spent on the LA facilities may have been another example of extravagance.

Juxtaposed with all of this “austerity” came the announcement that ESPN had just reached a long-term extension deal with Tim Tebow to continue with them as a college football analyst and that his commitment to the network would in no way conflict with his pursuit of a professional baseball career.  Look, I enjoy listening to Tim Tebow when he talks about college football; I find him entertaining and informative.  At the same time, can we please take the statement of this TV commitment being independent of his baseball pursuits as public relations pabulum or downright mendacity.

  • If Tim Tebow miraculously made it to MLB this Fall on a team that made the playoffs and he was on the roster for the team in the World Series, that means his baseball “career” would interfere with his college football analysis role for about the first 8 or 9 weeks of the college football season.  Them’s the facts, folks…

I think that everyone here knows that I do not play fantasy sports and I do not particularly like fantasy sports.  Nevertheless, fantasy sports are a reality in 2017; and this week, FanDuel and the WNBA announced, “a new partnership that will make FanDuel the official one-day partner of the WNBA.”  [Aside: I will restrain myself from drawing a parallel between a “one-day partner” and a “one-night stand” because it is just too easy.]

Can I have a show of hands please?  How many people are in a women’s pro basketball fantasy league as of today?  How many of you will now get involved with women’s pro basketball fantasy teams now that you know FanDuel and the WNBA are partners in this endeavor?  I thought so…

What I love about the announcement of these sorts of “partnerships” is that the press releases always contain statements from each of the partner entities that go over the top.  Such is the case here and let me start with the statement from WNBA President, Lisa Borders:

“We are constantly looking to innovate by finding new opportunities to engage with our passionate fans and introduce the WNBA to wider audiences.  This partnership with FanDuel and our new one-day fantasy game will be a fresh, unique way for fans to further connect with their favorite WNBA players and teams throughout our season.”

And from the FanDuel side of the table, we hear from Nigel Eccles the CEO of FanDuel:

“The NBA has been a fantastic partner as we continue to build out our consumer offerings to appeal to all sports fans.  We first launched NBA contests in 2009, debuted NBA InPlay late last year, and are now extending our basketball offerings to include WNBA, giving our users even more opportunities to play fantasy contests.”

Now that we have fantasy sports out of the way, and we have heard from both “partners who are all aglow in their new relationship”, it is time to wind things up for the week.  So, here is a definition of the word, aglow, from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Aglow:  The condition of being flush with radiant emotion, such as one in the bloom of love.  Or, it might just be gas.”

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



Death, Taxes And …?

The old adage holds that the only certain things in life are death and taxes.  I believe Benjamin Franklin was the author of that bit of wisdom.  As of today, one might make the argument that you can add a third thing to the list of certainties:

  1. Death
  2. Taxes
  3. The Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It happened again last night; it was a 7th game win-or-go-home situation.  The Caps were at home but they were shut out so they also went home.  This happens so regularly to the Caps that I wonder if they played Tomorrow from the musical Annie after the game…

“The sun will come up, tomorrow …”

It is not often that I am way out ahead of public opinion but if you are a believer in polls it appears that I have been.  For at least the last 20 years, I have been an advocate of removing any Federal restrictions on sports gambling.  The premise of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) is ludicrous.  If gambling on football games or basketball games were to destroy the sports – hence their need for “protection” – it would have happened long before this because people gamble on sports all the time even though it is illegal.  The idea that the DoJ can and would apply a 70-year old law to Internet wagering is equally ludicrous.

A recent poll less than 40% of Americans when asked about PASPA knew that this act made sports betting illegal outside the State of Nevada.  However, when asked more specifically about attitudes toward sports wagering, here were some results:

  • 60% of Americans think the question of allowing sports betting should be in the hands of the individual states.  [Count me among these folks.]
  • 72% of people who self-identify as “avid sports fans” think the question of allowing sports betting should be in the hands of the individual states.  [I belong in this crowd too.]
  • 19% of Americans say they have placed a bet on a sporting event in the last year.  [Nevada – even counting all the visitors to Las Vegas – does not represent 19% of the US population.]

There is some response data here that ought to get the attention of the various sports leagues.  Remember, the leagues need public attention and involvement in their product to produce TV ratings which support large telecast rights’ fees.  In this poll, they asked people who said they would bet on sports about their attitudes toward games;

  • More than 90% said they would be more likely to watch the game.
  • 80% said they would follow the game more closely.
  • 78% said they would find the game more enjoyable.

Now for full disclosure – which is not commonplace when you hear from someone who is telling you about poll results that agree with his/her position on a subject.  This poll was commissioned by the American Gaming Association which is a group that advocates for casinos and gambling interests.  Everyone should always take polls paid for by interest groups with a large grain of salt but even if these numbers are inflated a bit, they seem to say that a majority of folks now agree with where I have been on this issue for more than 2 decades.

So, I realize that you are now thinking that even a blind squirrel can find a nut occasionally.  However, there is other news out there which shows that something I have been saying for the last 30 years is finally taking hold.  In about a week, we will have the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes.  The race will be held at Pimlico in Baltimore and there now exists a recognition among folks who matter – the Mayor of Baltimore, the owners of Pimlico, a Maryland State legislator and something called the Maryland Stadium Authority – that something must be done to Pimlico.  The facilities are decrepit; they have been in that state for more than 25 years; they are far beyond the state where some “cosmetic fixes” will suffice.

In any event, some of the folks listed above now recognize the problem but cannot figure out how to pay for what needs to be done.  Here, you can read about the ways these folks are framing the problem in ways that makes reaching a conclusion something that is still far down the road.  However, since I have been onto this issue for quite a while, let me frame it for you – and for them if they choose to deal with the reality of the situation:

The ideal situation would be to implode the entire Pimlico facility and to replace it with a new grandstand, stable area, administrative area and infield facilities.  The problem with that “solution” is that it does not recognize another serious problem facing Pimlico – namely, the track is in a bad part of town.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the track is decrepit, it fits right into the ambience of the neighborhood.  And that is a problem because the Maryland Stadium Authority estimates that at least $320M would be needed to renovate Pimlico; no one would look at the neighborhood and think that putting a $320M facility in the midst of the neighborhood would be a good idea.

There is a simple solution here that would cost a lot less than $320M but of course that simple solution is not even part of the discussion.  There is a second track in the Baltimore area; Laurel Park is in one of the Baltimore ‘burbs.  Laurel Park is not a grand facility in the mold of Churchill Downs or Saratoga or DelMar, but it is far nicer than Pimlico is; Laurel Park is not in a decrepit neighborhood; it would take far less than $320M to spiff up Laurel Park to a modern and inviting facility.  The elements of this paragraph ought to be foundation pieces for the solution to the “Pimlico Problem”.  However, since it took about 30 years for folks to recognize that Pimlico is as inviting as a porta-potty, it may take them another 10 years to figure out the easy and less costly way to resolve the problem.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Nine months after Iceland upset England in soccer there is a baby boom in Iceland. At the risk of being called unpatriotic, this probably beats the American way of celebrating by setting fire to your own couch.”

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



Changes Upon Changes …

For NFL fans who follow the sport primarily on TV, the lyrics from an old Bob Dylan song seem appropriate:

“The times, they are a-changin’ …”

When you go to the ballpark, the guy hawking programs often says that you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.  By analogy, fans will need new lists of cast members to learn to recognize all the new faces on their TV sets.  Let me start with the fact that John Lynch left his role as a FOX color analysts to become the Niners’ GM several months ago.  That opened a slot and when Tony Romo went to CBS, the slot remained open.  Well, now we know that Jay Cutler will retire from the NFL and take the job as the analyst on the “#2 telecast team” on FOX working with Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis.

Bears’ fans have not had a warm relationship with Cutler during his 8 years as the Bears’ QB even though his record in Chicago was 52-51.  Cutler’s demeanor and even his body language were off-putting to Bears’ fans.  Some have categorized him as “surly” or “sullen” and those adjectives do not immediately project him to be successful as a TV talking head.  However, Cutler is smart and he is articulate; like Tony Romo, he will have to learn his new craft quickly because neither of them has a long broadcasting background to call upon in this opening season.

Moreover, it is not just Bears’ fans who have issues with Cutler.  The Sporting News published a piece with this headline:

“Jay Cutler hire by FOX Sports is an affront to football fans”

Steve Rosenbloom had this to say in the Chicago Tribune about Cutler when the hiring was announced:

“The largely uninteresting and uninterested Jay Cutler has been hired by Fox an as NFL analyst, and I’m thinking, Cutler must have an endless need to get ripped for what he does on Sunday.”

I suspect this topic will one that engenders “conversation” once the NFL season begins…

Another change in a TV lineup happened over at CBS.  Recall that Phil Simms landed on the set of The NFL Today after Tony Romo took his place as Jim Nantz’ sidekick.  [Simms took the empty seat left behind by Tony Gonzales who appears to have left the program on his own.]  Now, CBS has replaced Bart Scott on that show with Nate Burleson meaning The NFL Today will now feature:

  • James Brown
  • Nate Burleson
  • Bill Cowher
  • Boomer Esiason
  • Phil Simms

By no means did I think that Scott “carried that show” nor do I think he was the best guy on the set; but he did bring something to that program that is now missing.  He played defense in the NFL.  Now, the panel consists of 2 quarterbacks, a wide receiver and a coach.

Over at ESPN, the wide-ranging purge from a couple of weeks ago may not be over.  Recently, Jerome Bettis got the axe at ESPN; he had been there doing studio show work since 2013.

Changing subjects abruptly …  I heard a recording of an interview of Draymond Green on the radio; I do not know who did the interview because what I heard was only Green’s commentary.  The subject was Celtics’ center/forward Kelly Olynyk a “dirty player”.  Green is an exciting and a volatile player on really good Warriors’ team; he properly gets a lot of media attention for his play and for his antics.  I am not surprised that someone would have gone to him seeking an interview nor am I surprised at Green’s candid and out-of-the-box commentary.

Having said that, I just do not think that I want to put too much credence in Draymond Green as an assessor of who is and who is not a “dirty player” – – unless, of course, one were to use the old playground retort, “…takes one to know one.”

Draymond Green is unquestionably a serial crotch kicker.  His feet magnetically find their way to the nether parts of the anatomies of his opponents.  As soon as I recall those facts, I think it is time to tune out anything and everything Draymond Green has to say about Kelly Olynyk and/or dirty players in general in the NBA.

Finally, I included an observation from Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune above.  He was mightily unimpressed with the Bears’ overall draft strategy this year.  He had nothing good to say about their trade-up to draft Mitch Trubisky and he does not think all that much of Bears’ second round pick Adam Shaheen.  However, this observation about their fourth-round pick demonstrates his overall disdain:

“Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, one of the Bears’ fourth-round picks, is coming off a broken left leg last season and a torn right ACL in 2014. I’m guessing the Bears would have drafted him higher if he had shown up at his pro day in a neck brace.”

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



NFL Off-Field Stuff Today …

A fundamental premise in sports journalism is that “Winning cures everything”.  A fractious locker room can become a circular tape of Kumbaya when the team is winning; a sullen fanbase – like the folks in Philly who threw snowballs at Santa Claus – will cheer the local heroes if they win.  Winning is a panacea.  If things go as they look to go this Fall, we may have an interesting test of that premise.

The Oakland Raiders will be the test subjects.  The team has one foot out the door in Oakland and ownership went so far as to hold the Raiders’ draft party this year to introduce the new crop of players to the public in Las Vegas.  The team plays in a horrible venue – perhaps the worst in the NFL – and the folks who operate that venue have made it clear that they would be perfectly happy to see the Raiders pick up and go elsewhere instead of playing out their lease on the stadium.  In 2016, the Raiders had the lowest average home attendance in the NFL; on average, the Cleveland Browns with their 1-15 record outdrew the Raiders by almost 10,000 fans per home game.

The Raiders made the playoffs with a 12-4 record last year despite losing their starting QB late in the season; their tenure in the playoffs as a wild-card team with a fill-in QB was brief.  However, they made positive moves in the off-season and in the draft and Derek Carr’s leg should be completely healed by the time training camp begins.  The Raiders will be the pick in a lot of places to win the AFC West and will likely be in contention to get a bye-week in the playoffs.

So, it will be interesting to see the degree to which “Winning cures everything” in Oakland this season.

  • Raiders’ home attendance has room to grow by about 9,000 fans per game based on last season.  Will fans show up to see a winning team that all but has the moving vans packed?
  • The Raiders had traditionally been in the Top 5 in the NFL with regard to sales of “team gear” such as jerseys, hats, mugs and the like.  Sales last year dropped a bit with all the uncertainty about the future of the team.  Will sales return to normal levels in 2017 if the team wins as much as most folks think it will?

Raiders’ fans and supporters have shown interest in the upcoming season at the betting windows in Nevada as reported in this piece in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  Does this support indicate a strong belief in the Raiders as a serious Super Bowl contender in 2017 or is this a “local phenomenon” because the team is about to become part of Nevada?  The NFL season is interesting by itself; this year, there will be off-the-field stuff that will be interesting to watch.

If fans in Oakland harbor ill-will toward the Raiders, it is understandable; most divorces involve a healthy helping of ill-will.  However, there is ill-will in Cincy toward the Bengals now stemming from the team drafting RB, Joe Mixon – he with the baggage of assaulting a woman.  The local ABC affiliate in Cincy wants fans to boycott the Bengals’ home games in 2017.  The Bengals’ home attendance average in 2016 was 29th in the NFL; it would not take a huge boycott to put them at the bottom of the league in 2017 even if the Raiders do not get a bump in their attendance because of their “Winning cures everything” aura.

Here is a link to the report of this suggested boycott – and a suggestion that the fans take the money they would have spent on Bengals’ tix and donate those funds to a charity that protects women from violence.  Interestingly, in that report, you will find the fallback position that winning will cure everything for the Bengals and team ownership.

As Arte Johnson would intone on the old Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In:

“Verrry interesting …”

While I am in the mode of discussing NFL issues that are not directly related to on-field happenings, let me address another one.  About a month ago, a couple dozen NFL players took part in an arm-wrestling competition that was held in a casino in Las Vegas.  Evidently, this was a “made-for-TV event”; no, I have no idea when it will be on the air.  The NFL is going to fine those players for violating its policy regarding “making promotional appearances at gambling-related establishments”.  You may recall a couple of years ago that the NFL put the kibosh on Tony Romo participating in a fantasy football convocation/event because it was also in a Las Vegas casino.

I am certain that somewhere in the CBA there is some sort of language that justifies this priggish and Puritanical position.  I am equally certain that the celebrity arm-wrestling event poses exactly no threat to the integrity of the NFL games or to the NFL brand.  This position by the league goes beyond nonsense and leaves bunk, balderdash and baloney in the dust; this is pure poppycock.  Please consider:

  1. The NFL is about to put a team in Las Vegas meaning an awful lot of players will be housed there and will be required to visit there.  In case the NFL has not figured this out, the casinos in Las Vegas are not going to close down once the NFL arrives.
  2. With regard to “protecting the brand”, the NFL has been the employer of folks who have committed murders, who have abused women, who have abused drugs and distributed drugs, who have driven while impaired and who have violated various firearms laws.  That list omits the myriad bar fights and the like that seem to find NFL players with regularity.  Each and every one of those sorts of situations threatens “the brand” a whole lot more than a celebrity arm-wrestling event in a casino.  This is as “self-evident” in 2017 as were the truths that Thomas Jefferson labeled as “self-evident” in 1776.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times that seems to fit today’s rant perfectly:

“A Nevada brothel owner says he plans to open a Raiders-themed bordello in 2020.

“And for an extra $50, they’ll even throw a penalty flag for excessive celebration.”

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



Maintaining Interest …

I have noted in previous rants that the obsessive and exclusionary focus of the golf world on Tiger Woods has created an “interest deficit” in the sport.  If this week sometime, Woods were to call a press conference to give an update on his recovery from his most recent surgery and to muse about how he and his new swing coach were “tweaking his game”, that event would get more coverage in the golf media than anything else.  Last weekend, the PGA Tour event was the Wells Fargo Championship – one of the myriad whistle-stops on the Tour.  The winner was Brian Harman who beat Dustin Johnson by one stroke by sinking a 30-foot putt on the final hole.  Johnson had won 3 tournaments in a row.

This event got normal coverage for a whistle-stop event and I suspect that most sports fans have no idea who Brian Harman is nor could they pick him out of a lineup with Justice League of America.  [Hint: He’d be the guy wearing normal clothes and not a superhero costume.]  However, since there is no way to tie the story of his win to Tiger Woods, he gets the reportorial “pat on the head”.

In fact, the more ballyhooed golf note from last weekend demonstrates the media focus for golf.  If it is not Tiger Woods, then it has to be something either maudlin or outrageous.  Last weekend we had something bordering on outrageous happen.  John Daly won a Senior Tour event – – oh, yeah, they now call it the Champions Tour.  The last time John Daly won any kind of tournament was 2004; if Max Patkin was the Clown Prince of Baseball, then John Daly is the Clown Prince of Golf.  His win is a big golf story this morning; Brian Harman’s win is at the “ho-hum level”.  Too bad …

The standard narrative regarding waning fan interest in the NBA regular season was that all of that would be cured by starting the playoffs.  In fact, TV ratings did rise when the playoffs started as they always do.  However, I wonder if this is sustainable.  Consider:

  1. The NBA regular season saw TV ratings down about 10% for this year; and simultaneously, avid fans as well as casual fans came to realize that the players do not care much about those games either.  Players rested; teams tanked; fans paid attention to other things.
  2. Now, we are well into the second round of the playoffs.  Indeed, one of the second-round series is already over and another stands at 3-0 meaning the team on the short end of the record needs a quick trip to Lourdes if they are to have any hope of advancing.  Question for all:  Have there been any great games in the playoffs yet?
  3. The NBA has come to the point where at the outset of the season, fans can pretty much know what the Finals are going to look like.  Back in October 2016, it would have taken a good imagination or a lot of wishful thinking to imagine how the Cleveland Cavaliers would be out of the playoffs before the Finals.  At the same time in the West, fans realized that there would be more competition to get to the Finals but the betting odds had Golden State going there as odds-on favorites.
  4. So, when nothing major happened during the regular season to get folks to doubt that preconceived outcome, interest waned.  Why get even mildly excited – nay even mildly interested – in a March game between the Sacramento Kings and the Orlando Magic?  Okay, those are both bad teams so how about a March game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Milwaukee Bucks?  I think I’ll spend my time sorting out my paper clip collection…

Fans love “super-teams” that can dominate their sports.  However, the NBA asks a lot of its fans to love – or hate – its two or three “super-teams” enough to pay attention to the exploits of the other 90% of the teams for almost 9 months.  I am a basketball fan but even I have only marginal interest in the NBA until the end of January in most seasons.  This year, I watched some games in February and March but really did not get invested in anything in the regular season until the final week when the final playoff slots were up for grabs.  And now I find myself bored by the less-than-exciting playoff games so far.  I want to fast-forward to the Finals but the league will not let me do that…

The English Premier League is sort of like the NBA in the sense that before the season starts fans pretty much know the contenders for the top of the table.  [Yes, I remember Leicester City last year.]  However, the EPL has relegation and that means there is interest in games involving teams with no prayer of getting to the European Champions League.  This year the relegation race could go down to the final weekend of games.  Here is a summary:

  • Crystal Palace:  38 points with 2 games left to play
  • Swansea City:  36 points with 2 games left to play
  • Hull City:  34 points with 2 games left to play
  • Middlesbrough:  28 points with 3 games left to play
  • Sunderland:  24 points with 3 games left to play.

Sunderland is guaranteed to be relegated.  A win in their final 3 games would only get them to 33 points (each win is worth 3 points and a draw is worth 1 point) so Sunderland must finish in the bottom 3 of the EPL.  Two of the other four teams will also drop down to the Champions League next year but there is no certainty there.  Today, Chelsea – the EPL winner this season – faces Middlesbrough in a game that should be of no interest at all save for the relegation race.  Swansea City’s next game is against Sunderland; that game matters even though both teams are in danger of relegation.  Crystal Palace’s next game is against Hull City; once again, the game has meaning.  Relegation may be harsh and it does have significant economic consequences for the teams dropping down but it does maintain fan interest.

Finally, since I began today with golf, let me share with you a definition of golf that I ran across somewhere.  I would like to cite the source, but I did not keep a record of where I found this:

“Golf: An endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle, followed by a good bottle of beer.”

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



Mental Meanderings …

Happy Cinco de Mayo.  Take it easy on the tequila shots…

As a public service announcement, allow me to remind you that the first Saturday in May is something other than the day they run the Kentucky Derby.  The first Saturday in May is officially World Naked Gardening Day and the goals, objectives and traditions of this day are explained at this website.  So, what might one do to honor and celebrate this day?  Here is what the website suggests:

“First of all, on the first Saturday of May, find an opportunity to get naked and do some gardening. Do so alone, with friends, with family, with your gardening club, or with any other group collected for that purpose. Do it inside your house, in your back yard, on a hiking trail, at a city park, or on the streets. Stay private or go public. Make it a quiet time or make it a public splash. Just get naked and make your part of the botanical world a healthier and more attractive place.”

See how simple that is?  Let me suggest, however, that if you decide to join in these festivities tomorrow, you will need to apply sunscreen to parts of your anatomy that normally do not get such attention.  Same goes for insect repellent.  A word to the wise…

In the world of sports, the first Saturday in May does indeed bring us the running of the Kentucky Derby.  Tomorrow will be the 143rd time the Derby is contested but there does not seem to be nearly the normal level of anticipation for the race this year.  I do not have any strong feelings about any of the entries this year and so I will offer up this unenthusiastic prediction:

  • McCracken and Always Dreaming as an exacta box.
  • McCracken, Always Dreaming and Girvin as a trifecta box.
  • McCracken, Always Dreaming, Girvin and Classic Empire as a superfecta box.

I have routinely referred here to José Canseco as “the gift that keeps on giving” because at least a couple times a year he does or says something sufficiently off-the-wall that I can comment on it here.  The great thing about Canseco is that there is no way to predict what might be coming next.  One time, he is involved in a celebrity boxing match; then he may be trying to reinvent himself as a knuckleball pitcher in an independent league; then he may be trying to sell you the privilege of just hanging out with him for a day and he might even suggest to then candidate Donald Trump that he (Canseco) should be the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Sit-com screenwriters should be so creatively goofy.

There is a possibility that there may be a second “gift that keeps on giving” emerging in the sports world and that new entrant could be LaVar Ball.  There is no doubt that LaVar Ball has achieved a level of outrageousness that would qualify him for that label and he is certainly prolific in the number of off-the-wall things that he says and does.  The only quality that I think LaVar Ball would need to certify himself as a “gift that keeps on giving” is a little variety in his egregiousness.

José Canseco’s “stuff” is all over the map.  Would anyone be really surprised to learn that Canseco would be a participant in a pro ‘rassling “extravaganza” somewhere down the road?  Would it be totally out of character for Canseco to announce his candidacy for mayor of some metropolis somewhere?  Any activity that is not blatantly illegal would surprise me if it were associated with Canseco.  However, with LaVar Ball, the scope of his off-the-wall pronouncements is limited to his declarations of his own personal greatness and that of his kids.

The latest startling event is the announcement of Lonzo Ball’s first signature shoe.  Lonzo has yet to play a minute of pro basketball and he has a new shoe ready for sale – – actually if you order it you will not get it right away but shipping is guaranteed to be prior to November 30, 2017.   There are no refunds on the deal and the cost of the pair of shoes is $495 – – unless you have a really big foot and need a really large size in which case the shoes will set you back an additional $200.

Folks, that announcement is sufficiently outrageous to put LaVar Ball squarely in the same neighborhood with José Canseco.  Now if LaVar Ball can only diversify his pronouncements and actions just a bit.  Maybe he could suggest that he and Lonzo be named as Ambassador-Without-Portfolio by the President so that he and Lonzo can go to the Middle East and explain to all the folks there why a peaceful solution to their differences is beneficial to all.  That would be all I would need to confer upon LaVar Ball the title of “gift that keeps on giving” …

You may recall that I recently pointed out how the so-called “draft experts” on TV covering the NFL Draft never criticized any of the draft selections by any of the teams despite the certainty that as many as 40% of those selections would never see the field in a real NFL game.  Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had a similar/parallel comment regarding the demonstrated expertise on those telecasts:

“Recent history: Draftniks would be wise to remember that they’re receiving analysis of this year’s quarterback crop from the same people who determined last year that the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott was a fourth-round pick.”

In case you are planning to take in a D-Backs game at Chase Field this weekend, let me alert you to one of your culinary possibilities there.  It is called The Churro Dog – not to worry, there is no hot dog in here:

  • Start with a cinnamon churro and stuff it into a cylindrical chocolate covered glazed donut.
  • Slather that in frozen yogurt and top it all with chocolate sauce and/or salted caramel sauce.
  • [There’s gotta be 1000 calories in this bad boy…]

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another ballpark cuisine item:

“The Seattle Mariners are selling out of a new item — toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt. These are the first baseball games where you have to bring insect spray to protect you from a concession item.”

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



First Here – – Then There – –

I am going to be bouncing around today so let me start with a recent report from the FIFA Independent Ethics Committee.  It is actually difficult to input those words via a keyboard without giggling, but that is indeed an existing committee and it would appear as if it ,might be taking its  responsibilities semi-seriously.  Anyhow, this entity has something called the “adjudicatory chamber” which may be akin to the Court of the Star Chamber or may be an incarnation of dunking folks to see if they are witches or not.  This “adjudicatory chamber” has handed down a ruling that bans FOR LIFE any involvement in any “football-related activity” for a former President of the Costa Rican Football Association.

The investigation leading up to this decree began in May 2015; in October 2016, the individual who has been banned FOR LIFE pleaded guilty to:

  1. Racketeering conspiracy
  2. Wire fraud
  3. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Unless I do not understand the calendar system in use by most of the world, those guilty pleas were entered about 6 months ago.  So, I wonder if it is fair to ask what took the FIFA Independent Ethics Committee so long to figure out that this dude was up to his earbrows in stuff closely related to bribery and shake-downs and other stuff that is of a similar nature.  I guess that only someone who thinks that the FIFA Independent Ethics Committee is no more powerful or effective than the Trilateral Commission would wonder how 6 months could have passed before the FIFA Committee decided to do what it chose to do.

I want to take a moment here to talk about a variety of injuries that have befallen some quality MLB players already this season.  I do not think there is some sort of cosmic message contained in all of this, but there have been some strange happenings so far this season.

  1. Noah Syndergaard – NY Mets:  He was “scratched” from a start and then he refused to undergo an MRI exam – – which is his right under the extant CBA.  Then he started against the Nats and had to leave the game very early with a “partial tear in his lat”.  A subsequent MRI – which Syndergaard chose to undergo – showed some muscle/ligament damage that could put the pitcher on the shelf for 10-16 weeks.
  2. Yeonis Cespedes – NY Mets:  He “tweaked his hamstring” about 2 weeks ago but instead of the Mets putting him on the newly established 10-day DL, the team chose to keep him active and to play games with only 24 players physically ready to perform.  When he was put back in the lineup, one of the worst things happened – – he aggravated the injury – – and now the Mets have to put him on a longer-term DL.
  3. Adam Eaton – Washington Nats:  Eaton had been performing about as well as anyone could have expected at the top of the Nats’ batting order until he came down with a torn meniscus and a high ankle sprain from trying to leg out a play at first base.
  4. Madison Bumgarner – SF Giants:  His is a self-inflicted wound; he injured his shoulder while riding a dirt bike.  Shoulder injuries are always tense situations in MLB; a shoulder injury to the pitching shoulder for a top-shelf pitcher has to be cause for a reaction closer to panic than to laissez faire.

Lots of other teams have suffered early-season injuries; listing these four is not an attempt to demean any other player who may not be able to participate so far this year.

With the Raiders poised to remain in Oakland for the next two seasons – and perhaps beyond that depending on the speed with which the new stadium in Las Vegas can be built.  Roger Goodell decreed that the team is indeed the Oakland Raiders now and going forward until such time that the franchise can move to Las Vegas and play home games there.  That sounds simple and straightforward until you think that the marketplace for selling “Las Vegas Raiders” gear might not be a legal potion until 2020.  Meanwhile, it is not difficult to imagine that the market for “Oakland Raiders” gear might be drying up.

Each NFL team gets to market its own “stuff” which seems like a fair arrangement.  However, in this case, the Raiders need to be able to acknowledge that the franchise is in a temporary locale for now but will “settle down” in the Nevada desert once construction details are ironed out.  If the Raiders cannot sell LV Raiders gear until near the start of the 2020 season, the team will miss out on a meaningful revenue stream.  Getting fans in Oakland to buy Raiders gear over the next couple of years will not be trivial; in fact, it may be a final exam question in a course labeled Marketing 505.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald about the support shown for Nebraska University football:

“The announced turnout for the Red-White game was 78,312. Picture a Creighton home baseball game only with 78,300 more people.”

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