The 2017 NBA Draft

Let me give you my impressions/reactions to the NBA Draft last night:

  1. The biggest winner of the night was Minnesota.  The Wolves acquired Jimmy Butler in a trade that sure does not seem as if it cost the Wolves a lot.  Butler is one of the 20 best players in the league and with the rest of the young talent in Minnesota, the Wolves are now a playoff factor in the NBA West.
  2. Another big winner from last night – – with two important “Ifs” attached – – was Philly.  The Sixers took Markelle Fultz as anticipated.  Now, IF Fultz is as good as advertised and IF Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can stay healthy, the Sixers have built themselves a really good young roster core.
  3. For the moment, a big winner from last night was Sacramento.  Using a trade to acquire 2 picks, the Kings got 4 very talented players in De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason.  Now we must wait to see how the Kings will screw all of that up; remember, this is the franchise that puts the “fun” in dysfunctional.
  4. A big winner and a big loser at the same time from last night was New York.  The Knicks win because they did not trade Kristaps Porzingis; the Knicks lose because they did not trade Carmelo Anthony.  The Knicks made draft picks but that does not matter nearly as much as the two trades that were not made.
  5. A big loser last night was Chicago.  The Bulls traded away a star in Jimmy Butler and got in return Zach Levine (coming off a “horrific knee injury”), Kris Dunn (coming off a mediocre season) and a draft pick they used to take Lauri Markaanan (Ho-hum…).  Then to put icing on the cake, they made a 2nd round pick and sold that pick for cash to the Golden State Warriors.  That pick was Jordan Bell and he is a big winner from last night going to a great team in Golden State instead of a miserable team in Chicago.

Yesterday, the announcement came that the Raiders and QB, Derek Carr, had reached an agreement on a contract extension.  The deal is billed as 5 years and $125M with $40M of that money guaranteed as of the time of the signing and with the possibility of $70M being guaranteed as the contract moves forward.  In normal circumstances, NFL contracts – which are never fully guaranteed mainly due to the injury potential in the sport – teams and players “back-load” the contracts to make them seem longer and bigger than they really are.  I often call those late years of contracts “ego massaging years” in that they look great at the time of the announcement of the deal but they never really occur.  For most players, they need to seek a lot of “front-loading” in the contract in order to assure that those “big-time dollars” actually show up in their bank accounts.

Derek Carr may be in a situation that is very rare in the NFL: he may want to “back-load his contract” and maybe postpone much of that $40M guaranteed money for several years.  Let me explain:

  • Carr currently is employed by a team in California and is subject to California taxation.  If I read the California Tax Service Center website correctly, the marginal state income tax rate on incomes in the millions of dollars is 13.3%.  That is over and above the 39.5% marginal tax rate Carr will pay to Uncle Sam.
  • For purposes of simplicity, let me assume for a moment that the 5-year $125M contract is paid out at $25M per year.  It surely is not, but that assumption will be illustrative.
  • If that were the case, Carr would owe the IRS about $9.5M in tax and then he would owe the State of California another $3M in tax.
  • A couple of years from now, Carr will be employed by a team in Nevada where there is ZERO state income tax.  He would still have to pay Uncle Sam, the that other $3M or so that he used to send to the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento can stay in his bank account.  [Aside:  Seven states in the US do not levy income taxes; they are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.]
  • In this particular case, Carr might be in a better financial state by deferring large chunks of that income until he moves to Las Vegas.

There was another NFL contract announced yesterday with none of the fanfare of the Derek Carr deal.  It is nowhere near as large; in fact, my guess is that Derek Carr will make more in a signing bonus that this contract will pay out over its lifetime.  Nonetheless, it may be just as significant for the player and the team.

  • The New England Patriots signed linebacker David Harris who had recently been cut by the NY Jets after their OTAs.  Harris is “long in the tooth” but he still has time before he passes his “sell-by date”.
  • The Pats love veteran players and they signed Harris to a 2-year deal for a nominal $5M.  With incentives met, it could escalate up to $6.75M; the total guaranteed money is up front and amounts to $1.25M.

According to reports, the Jets approached Harris after releasing him about re-signing with the Jets but that they low-balled him and would not match the Pats’ offer.  Unless, Harris has lost it all over this off-season, this is another contractual coup for the Pats – – and even if Harris cannot play a lick, all it would cost the Pats is the $1.25M guarantee…

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

“The NFL has reinstated touchdown celebrations. The Cleveland Browns plan to work on one just in case it’s necessary.”

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



Where Are The Golf Fans?

The TV ratings are in and they are not encouraging if you are an exec in the USGA.  It would appear that golf fans found other things to do last weekend instead of watching the US Open.  Ratings for Sunday’s final round were down 8% from last year and 28% from 2015.  The ratings from last Sunday were 3.5; to give you an idea, that is the lowest rating for a final round of a major tournament except for the 2015 British Open where the final round had to be postponed until Monday due to inclement weather.

If USGA execs want to put a positive spin on all of this, perhaps then can convince themselves that the folks missing from the TV sets were out on the links playing a round of golf… had a report recently about a new legal instrument called a CAP Agreement which is characterized as a replacement for a National Letter of Intent by college athletes and which represents a “legally binding contract between a college prospect and his school”.  I am not going to pretend to understand the legal stature of this new instrument but here is the link to the report at that will give you an overview.

There is one quote in the report that is pretty much a malaprop.  The Executive Director of the National College Players Association said this about the new CAP Agreement:

“We think this will change things.  This will be a good place to start. It opens Pandora’s Box.”

The problem with that statement is that in Greek mythology, Pandora’s box contained all the evils of the world and that they only escaped to exist in the world after Pandora opened the box.  I suspect that the National College Players Association would prefer not to release legal evils upon the players themselves with the new CAP Agreement.

There were a couple of trades earlier this week in the NBA as teams prepped for the upcoming draft.  Trades on draft day are commonplace in the NBA so there is likely more to come on that front but here are some thoughts on the trades that went down:

  1. Lakers trade D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets for Brooke Lopez and the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft.  The Lakers win this trade by default.  Russell is talented but his tenure in LA has been tumultuous to say the least and Mozgov was next to useless for the Lakers despite signing him to a big free agent contract last year.  This trade rids them of what they perceive as a “problem child” and of a “bloated contract” in exchange for a mediocre center and a third first round pick in this year’s draft.  The Lakers now have picks #2, 27 and 28 in tonight’s draft and that might presage another trade coming up.  Meanwhile, the Nets just stink and the addition of Russell and Mozgov will not change that very much.
  2. Hawks trade Dwight Howard and the #31 pick in this year’s draft to the Hornets for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the #41 pick in this year’s draft.  Howard is a good defensive player and rebounder; his offensive skills seem to be eroding at age 31.  When the Hawks were eliminated in the playoffs this year, Howard was benched in the 4th quarter of a couple of those games.  The Hawks got a bit younger with this trade but neither Plumlee nor Belinelli can be considered “centerpiece players”.  On the assumption that the Hornets are not going to ask Howard to do a lot offensively, I guess they win this trade by a slim margin.

More interesting than these two actual trades are the trade rumors running amok now.  Players with significant skills and with wide name recognition are mentioned in the rumors to include:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Paul George
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Kevin Love
  • Kristaps Porzingis

I certainly do not expect all of those players to be moved in the next few days but playing with them as chess pieces as teams seek to catch up to the Warriors makes for some interesting mental exercises.  Interestingly, in the midst of all this “intrigue” the Cavaliers found time to fire their GM, David Griffin.  [Aside:  Many people believe that LeBron James is the de facto GM for the Cavs so perhaps this is not such a big deal.]  What it does show, however is that Cavs’ owner, Dan Gilbert, is not a man of patience and long-range vision.  Gilbert has owned the Cavs for 12 years; in that time, he has had 4 GMs and is about to hire a 5th.  Given that the team has been in plenty of playoff series and has won a championship, that seems like a lot of front office turmoil to me.

The other part of this saga that I find interesting is that – according to an report – Gilbert refused in the past couple of months to grant the Magic and the Hawks permission to talk with David Griffin about executive positions with those teams.  Now, with jobs filled, he decides to fire Griffin.  Here is the link to the report on this firing.  It provides a peek behind the curtain regarding some of the inner workings of one NBA franchise.

Finally, since I began today with disheartening news regarding the TV ratings for the US Open, let me close with this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding a way to “goose those ratings”:

“In Anchorage, Alaska, a bear chased some golfers on the course. If more golfers were chased by bears, TV ratings for golf would double.”

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



Viva Las Vegas …

Let me begin today with two “Las Vegas items”.  Earlier this year, the Nevada Gaming Commission expanded the number of things that the sportsbooks there could include on their betting menu.  For the first time, sportsbooks in Las Vegas could take bets on propositions related to the NFL Draft.  That experiment was deemed a success even though the handles reported seem awfully small to me by Las Vegas standards.  According to an report, some books said their handle was “as much as $60,000”.

Presumably based on that declaration of success, the Nevada Gaming Commission has now approved proposition wagering on the NBA Draft taking place tomorrow.  Here is a sample of the propositions offered by the Westgate sportsbook:

  1. Number of Duke players drafted in the first round.  O/U = 3.5  OVER = +145 and UNDER = -160.
  2. Number of Kentucky players drafted in the first round.  O/U = 2.5  OVER = -300 and UNDER = +250.

All wagers have to be in by close of business tonight (June 21); don’t get shut out at the windows…

Unless you have been on a tour of one of the newly discovered exoplanets for the last several weeks or are just coming out of a coma, you know that Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor are going to fight one another in Las Vegas in August.  Before I retired, I had to spend a week at a conference at Nellis Air Force Base just outside Las Vegas in mid-August.  I do not have a degree in meteorology, but I can report that it is generally outrageously hot in that part of the world at that time of the year; when I was there, temps all week got into the 110 – 114-degree range.  As you might suspect, this is not the peak season for Las Vegas tourism…

The hotels in Las Vegas do not charge premium prices for the rooms that they do sell in August – – except for one weekend this year.  As soon as the date for the fight was set and the hype begun, room rates in Las Vegas jumped. reported that a weekend stay (3 nights) at the Rio on the strip in Vegas cost $133 per night before the fight was announced; once that announcement hit the streets, the price of a room for the weekend of the fight was $233 per night.  That is a 75% increase.

According to ESPN, this is in line with the price jump at other hotels in Las Vegas for the weekend of the fight:

  • Flamingo – up 72%
  • Harrah’s – up 76%
  • New York New York – up 68%
  • Treasure Island – up 60%
  • Wynn’s – up 70%

The two fighters are going to make a whole lot of money for this fight; it appears that the Las Vegas economy is going to do very well also…

I do not eat a lot of “fast food”.  This is not some sort of sanctimonious statement about the healthiness of fast food or the sustainability of fast food; I do not eat much of it because I do not think most of it tastes very good.  Specifically, regarding McDonalds, my main patronage for these restaurants over the past 20 years or so has been to go in to relieve myself of previously consumed coffee along the highway and to get another cup of coffee that will eventually be delivered to another locale along the highway.   Based on recent reports, however, I may need to reassess my patronage and stop in for a Big Mac – – assuming of course that McDonalds still sells those things.

McDonalds has been a TOP partner – The Olympic Partner Pregramme – with the IOC for more than a couple decades.  McDonalds has terminated its relationship with the IOC before it expired.  The IOC characterized the split as McDonalds seeking to “focus on different business priorities”; McDonalds said basically the same thing.  What I take this to mean are these things:

  1. McDonalds has disassociated itself with an entity that is venal and corrupt to the core.  I give them points for coming to that realization and doing something about it.
  2. Future Olympic athletes will have to eat something else in the Olympic village when the IOC finds another food vendor to take McDonalds’ place as a TOP partner.

Prior to McDonalds’ withdrawal from the TOP Programme, the composite of the TOP partners was:

  • Alibaba
  • Bridgestone Tires
  • McDonalds
  • Omega Timepieces
  • Panasonic
  • Toyota

The IOC said it had not decided whether it would seek to replace McDonalds with another entity in the retail foods business segment.  What I take that to mean is that the IOC is accepting offers from companies in all business segments to assume the position that McDonalds had occupied; they will take money wherever they can get it.

If I remember correctly a Big Mac was “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onion on a sesame seed bun.”  I need to go an eat one of those bad boys just to show my support for this divorce.

Finally, with the College World Series underway in Omaha, here is some reporting from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World Herald:

“The TD Ameritrade Park concession is offering an item consisting of two Omaha Steaks patties topped with melted provolone, cheddar, mozzarella and jack cheese. It’s called the Double Play Burger. Sounds more like Triple Bypass Burger.

“There’s also the giant “Strike Zone” Calzone, which is 1-1/2 feet long. It’s the first concession item that could be mistaken for a section of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Since large umbrellas aren’t allowed inside TD Ameritrade Park, in the event of rain take refuge under the 1-1/2-foot calzone.”

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



What Is A Supreme Court Decision Doing In A Sports Rant?

The Supreme Court of the United States is not a normal source of material for these rants but that was not the case yesterday.  In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the court struck down the provision of the Lanham Act that allows the Patent and Trademark Office to deny trademarks in cases where the name being trademarked may be offensive.  The Court said this was a violation of the First Amendment – and indeed, it is.  The Lanham Act was passed by the Congress and signed by the President meaning that it was the force of law and the US government that was regulating such speech/expression.  As someone who places high value on the First Amendment – and who gets annoyed when people try to invoke it in situations not involving the “interference” of federal laws – I applaud this decision.

Right about now, I can imagine people wondering what the heck this has to do with sports.  Here it is:

  • This decision is going to make it very difficult for the Patent and Trademark people to prevail in their action to deny the Washington Redskins a renewal of the team trademark.  [Aside:  This case did not involve the Redsiins; this case involved the “trademark folks” and a rock band with a name that the trademark folks found to be offensive.]

Given that there are a significant number of folks who find the name “redskins” offensive, my reaction – were I the owner of the team – would be to change it to something else.  However, I do not own the team and never will.  Therefore, this decision now rests in the hands of Danny Boy Snyder and the odds of him changing the team name are about the same as the odds that I will buy the team from him.  This has to remain the owner’s decision and not the US Government’s decision.

Since my preference would be to change the team name – and I acknowledge that my preference does not matter a whit as compared to the preservation of the First Amendment – I have paid attention to the protests and the actions taken by folks who seek that change.  This Supreme Court decision deals them a serious if not fatal blow.  I have said this before; let me say it again here with regard to this “protest movement”:

  1. If you try to make the team name a moral issue, you can save your breath to blow your beans.
  2. The only way to effect a change here is to make this an economic issue – one that turns the team from a cash cow into a cash drain.

Denying a trademark renewal would have been an economic blow to the team; now it seems as if that is not going to happen.  So, if the activists are going to do anything useful now, they have to come up with some other economic aspect to their activism.  And as I finish typing those words let me say unequivocally that organizing and maintaining a boycott against an entity as large and popular as any NFL team or the NFL itself is more than merely a daunting task.

For a far more informed analysis of this decision and its potential impact on the Redskins/Trademark Office contretemps to come, please check out this link from Forbes.

Since I began today with a sports issue that seems to ricochet off the First Amendment of the US Constitution, let me take a moment here to comment on a sports issue that has nothing to do with the First Amendment – – even though some would have you believe that it does.  Over the weekend, Colin Kaepernick made his job hunt in the NFL more difficult.  After a jury in Minnesota returned a verdict of “not guilty” in the trial of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile.  Kaepernick was hardly the only person who protested the verdict and every person who protested peacefully simply exerted their fundamental Consitituional right to do so.  However, what Kaepernick did as part of his protest makes his job search more difficult.

In a Tweet, Kaepernick compared police officers to the people who hunted down runaway slaves in the 1800s; he posted a picture of the badges worn by those slave hunters juxtaposed with a police badge from today.  Before going a millimeter further, let me state clearly:

  1. I think it is inappropriate to equate – or even suggest – that police officers in the US in 2017 are analogous to the runaway slave hunters of the early 1800s.
  2. Nonetheless, if Colin Kaepernick or any other folks think that is a valid expression of their feelings, they are free to say so and to post images like the ones Kaepernick did.
  3. There must be NO legal consequences from any level of government to such expression in order to preserve the First Amendment.

At the same time, this latest expression of protest from Colin Kaepernick makes him “more controversial” for a team that might consider signing him to be part of their roster.  Now, even if some teams – or even all of the NFL teams – make a decision that his level of controversy is more than they wish to incur, that is not a legal consequence of Colin Kaepernick’s protest or his latest appropriate expression of his protest.

There are precedents in sports where individuals have made inappropriate/offensive remarks and it cost them their jobs on a permanent basis.  Consider:

  1. Al Campanis:  He was the GM for the LA Dodgers for about 20 years.  In the late 80s, he said on TV that Blacks “may not have some of the necessities” to be baseball managers or general managers.  Campanis had been a teammate of Jackie Robinson and was good friends with Robinson; Campanis had been a very successful GM in his career.  Nonetheless, after his remarks, he became radioactive and never worked in MLB again.
  2. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder:  As a TV personality/commentator, Snyder was widely known for his flamboyant style and his definitive viewpoints.  Arpound the same time that Al Campanis made his career-killing remarks, Snyder said on camera that the reason Blacks were so good as athletes was that they were bred to be big and strong by the slave masters in the Old South.  CBS fired Snyder in the wake of those remarks and he never worked in network TV again.

            It is more than merely “OK” to hold controversial positions; it is absolutely one’s right to express one’s views and to advocate for those controversial position.  That does not mean that such expressions can be done without any consequences at all.  Those expressions cannot be squelched by the government but those expressions can cost one a career or at least force one into a change of career.

Finally, let me end on a lighter note here with this “sports/political analysis” from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“WWE legend Kane has filed to run for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.

“In 2013 Kane was voted Most Hated Pro Wrestler of the Year.

“Which means becoming a politician should be a natural transition, right?”

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



A Good Omen For Celtics’ Fans …

Late last week, the Celtics and the Sixers made a draft pick trade.  In terms of this year’s draft, the Sixers move up from #3 to #1 while the Celtics get another first round pick from the Sixers in 2019.  If the common narrative is correct, the Sixers will take Markelle Fultz with the overall #1 pick; and then after the Lakers take Lonzo Ball, the Celtics will take Josh Jackson.  Here is my assessment of the situation:

  • Markelle Fultz:  Because Washington was not a top-shelf team last year, I did not get to see a lot of his play back here on the East Coast.  I did make it a point to watch a Washington/UCLA game because both Fultz and Lonzo Ball would be on the court together.  That game was a blowout in favor of UCLA but it seemed to me that the basis of the blowout was the lack of real talent around Fultz.  Based on highlights I have seen and on his state, Markelle Fultz seems like a player who can make it in the NBA – – but I have no idea if he is the best player in this draft.
  • Lonzo Ball:  I have said before and will say again that Lonzo Ball is gifted when it comes to passing and hitting the open man.  In that aspect of the game, he may be the best since Magic and Bird.  He is not a natural scorer although he does have great range on his jump shot.  His weakness is that he does not play any defense at all and will have to ramp up that part of his game significantly in the NBA.
  • Josh Jackson:  Based on last year’s college basketball season, I think he is the best player in this draft.  He is athletic; he can shoot – albeit his range may need to be expanded a bit; he is a good defender and he will rebound once he adds some weight/muscle to his frame.

Based on that assessment – and on the assumption that the Sixers are going to take Markelle Fultz – I suspect that the Celtics got the better of this deal.  If you are a Celtics’ fan, you may want to harken back about 35 years to the last time the Celtics traded away the overall #1 pick in the draft in order to move down to #3 and pick up “other assets.  That trade wound up being a windfall for the Celtics; let me remind you of the trade:

  1. Celtics gave the overall #1 pick to the Golden State Warriors – which they used to draft Joe Barry Carroll – plus the #13 pick in the draft – which they used to draft Ricky Brown.
  2. Celtics got from the Warriors, the #3 pick – which they used to draft Kevin McHale – plus Robert Parrish.

Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish – plus Larry Bird of course – made the Celtics a force majeure in the NBA for more than a few years.  Rickey Brown played 6 seasons in the NBA averaging 13.2 minutes per game, 3.4 points per game and 0.4 rebounds per game.  Joe Barry Carroll was a solid NBA player averaging 20 points per game for his career.  In addition, he always led the league in first names…

I don’t know if this Celtics’ trade will bring the same windfall of talent as did the one they made with the Warriors about 35 years ago, but I do think the Celtics came out ahead on the deal.

Since I mentioned the Golden State Warriors tangentially above, let me move to the current wondering as to whether or not the team will go to visit the White House as the NBA champions.  I do not understand why this is worth the energy it takes to think about it.  In the first place, I have seen nothing that suggests that the team has been invited to the White House and – despite the seeming grandeur of winning a sports championship – teams need to be invited to go to the White House and do their silliness with the incumbent President.  They do not decide to show up one day and get to see the President because they are the reigning champs of whatever sport…

Moreover, Bob Molinaro pointed out last weekend in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot that Larry Bird did not go to the White House to “visit” Ronald Reagan and that Michael Jordan did not go to the White House to see George H. W. Bush.  As Professor Molinaro properly observed, the republic survived.

I think we can dial back the energy that is going into this story and report the outcome – they will go or they won’t go – in the agate section of the newspaper after the invitation is offered…

The US Open concluded yesterday with Brooks Koepka as the champion.  If you have never heard of Brooks Koepka, that could be because he has only won one tournament in his career and that was certainly not a major championship.  Koepka finished at 16-under for the tournament winning by 4 strokes.

Dwight Perry had this comment relative to the US Open in his column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times last weekend:

“The U.S. Open gallery witnessed quite an unusual sideshow during Thursday’s opening round at Erin Hills: an advertising blimp crashing to Earth about a mile from the course.

“Evoking memories of John Daly carding an 18 on No. 6 at Bay Hill in 1998.”

Finally, with the CFL season set to start later this week, the Saskatchewan Rough Riders released QB Vince Young who was trying to make a football comeback there.  Young had suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and was expected to be out for the first several weeks of the CFL season – – but he was cut.  Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald in the wake of that release:

“Want the exact definition of ‘your football career is over’?  Comeback-attempting Vince Young got cut by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.”

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



Hit And Run

I have a bunch of little things on tap for today so I’ll just call this “hit-and-run” to get them all in.  Ricky Fowler shot a 65 yesterday in the first round of the US Open.  That is a good round on just about any day, but it put Fowler in a tie for the best performance in the opening round of the US Open at 7-under par.  Only two other golfers in history have done that; they would be Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.

Obviously, it is more important where Ricky Fowler finishes the tournament on Sunday but I still think this is a big deal for him because any time a golfer can put his name on a short list and the other two names on that list are “Nicklaus” and “Weiskopf”, he has done something special.

Yesterday, LeBron James was spotted leaving a gym workout with his head shaved.  James’ receding hairline has been a topic of discussion for reasons that have never been clear to me.  Yesterday he had the hair on the top of his head cropped and he was rubbing the area of the shorn locks.  Naturally, this “new look” attracted attention on SportsCenter and outlets of that ilk.  People who are prone to seek “meaning” in any and all circumstances pounced on this with interpretations such as “even more commitment to regain the NBA championship next year” and “new look/new determination”.

Frankly, I think most of that is an excessive strain of logic.  But if anyone simply must have a “hidden meaning” in this change of coiffure, let me offer a really nonsensical one:

  • Maybe this is a secret/subliminal message to James’ buddy, Chris Paul, to re-sign with the LA Clippers because James will join him there after next year when James is a free agent.  How is this a subliminal message?  Well, he cut his hair – – and you need “clippers” to do that.

If you want to buy that “explanation” of what happened here, perhaps I can also interest you in oceanfront property in Omaha …

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant made a pronouncement yesterday that Kyrie Irving was a better player that Allen Iverson.  Any “debate” about that quickly devolves into “oh, yeah?” versus “well how about this?”  Obviously, they are both outstanding players and one of the unattractive features of such comparisons is that it becomes necessary to assert negative things about the player one is in favor of.  As I said, they are both excellent and I will only point out one thing that Allen Iverson accomplished that Kyrie Irving has not:

  • Allen Iverson plus a cast of journeymen supporters made it to the NBA Finals.  There were no other players on that Sixers’ team who will ever get a vote for the Hall of Fame; most of them never even made it to the all-Star game.  Nonetheless they got to the NBA Finals and actually won a game against the Lakers’ team led by Shaq and Kobe.
  • Kyrie Irving has been to the Finals multiple times and has won a championship but the “other players” on his Cavaliers’ team were significantly better than Iverson’s teammates.

Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather are going to fight – with boxing rules – in August.  You can expect hype and hoopla galore for the next 10 weeks.  This is going to be a spectacle and not a fight.  Given that this is a boxing match, McGregor is at a huge disadvantage.  Max Kellerman made this point yesterday:

  • Consider the best water polo player in the world.  He obviously knows how to swim and he obviously has strength, stamina and familiarity with the water.
  • Now consider Michael Phelps.
  • If these two men were matched in a race, Phelps would have a huge advantage; if they were matched in a water polo game, the other guy would likely dominate.
  • Pairing those two athletes in one-another’s sport would prove nothing.  Neither will the McGregor/Mayweather spectacle.

This is nothing more than a “money-grab” by all the involved parties.  Good for them as they pull it off; there are plenty of folks out there who are already committed to buying the pay-per-view for this thing.  I do not begrudge anyone their take from this “fight” but you may be certain that none of that take will come from my pockets.

I happened to see the Houston Astros play several times in the past couple of weeks and that leads me to make this very simple and very straightforward statement:

  • Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are a whole lot of fun to watch both in the field and at bat.

The NCAA put Louisville on probation for 4 years and suspended Rick Pitino from 5 ACC conference games next year.  This is based on the prior allegations made by a woman that an assistant coach at Louisville paid her to provide escorts and sexual services to potential recruits in a dormitory at Louisville.  Pitino is being punished for not sufficiently supervising the activities of that assistant coach.

Here is the problem.  A prosecutor and the police have considered the allegations made here and they are far more serious than any prudish concern about plying teenagers with sexual favors or prostitution; one allegation was that a minor child was used for some of the sexual favors.  At the end of all that investigating – which took more than a year – there were no charges brought against anyone.  Not the assistant coach …  Not the woman making the allegations …  Not the person(s) who allegedly inserted the minor female into the narrative …

So, the NCAA here is punishing Rick Pitino and the assistant coach (He is under a 10-year show-cause restriction from getting another college coaching job.) and Louisville as a school for actions that did not even result in charges let alone convictions.  So, here is the essence:

  • Rick Pitino did not sufficiently supervise a member of his coaching staff there by allowing him to … do something that is alleged but cannot be proven?
  • If I were to allege that the assistant coach also arranged for recruits to have sex with a yeti, would that mean Pitino was guilty of an even bigger NCAA offense?

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

“Joanna Jedrzejczyk made her fifth successful UFC title defense. ‘Jedrzejczyk’ looks like something I ended up with last time I tried to work the New York Times crossword puzzle.”

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



The Olympic Movement – Spare Me

I have long held the position that the IOC is venal and corrupt and that the Olympic Games themselves are flawed to the core and should be cancelled/abandoned/terminated.  Please take a moment and read this prior rant written sometime in 2003 and then reposted on a new version of the website in 2007.  Here is a summary paragraph to give you an idea of the line of reasoning:

“Remember, some folks will still cash $1B in checks for all of that. And that money comes out of your pockets because it is the US TV contract and the advertising on US TV that fuels all of this. Cancel the NBC contract for televising Olympic games and the IOC might be able to hold a ping-pong tournament in a low cost of living area of the world such as Mali. They probably have enough money left in “savings” that have not been paid out to consultants and officials and international conferences to afford hotel space in Bamako.”

I suggested bluntly and directly sometime in 2008 that the Olympic Games themselves ought to be canceled.  Please take a moment and read that prior rant here; as with the above, here is a sample paragraph:

“So, let me get to the bottom line here. The games have been turned into a medley of events where most of the events don’t belong there in the first place; the athletes are merely a bunch of self-indulgent employees of some sponsor; the people organizing the games are about as noble as gun-runners; the television coverage is overdone and cloyingly sweet and pseudo-poignant. And they wonder why the TV ratings were lower this year when these events were on an 18-hour tape delay than they were in Atlanta when they were live. If you can’t see why, then you are suffering from rectal blindness.”

With that as prologue, I hope my starting point for today – or my bias if you will – is crystal clear.  Now let me add this.  The Olympic Games are bad for the countries that host them despite the rosy PR statements you hear from the IOC and various organizing committees.  The Games can be beneficial in countries/cities where the economy is already large and established. In other situations, the economic “benefits” are negative –  not positive.  If you think that is harsh, consider:

  • Athens hosted the Games in 2004.  If the Olympics provided the Greek economy a huge boost, can you explain to me how Greece is in the economic condition that it is today?
  • Rio de Janeiro hosted the Games in 2016 – getting a double shot of “economic benefit” from hosting the FIFA World Cup just two years before that.  According to reports, the unemployment rate in Brazil in 14% and many governments have been known to shade the unemployment stats to the “low-side”.  The Olympic Park is unoccupied; several of the arenas are already boarded up; the former mayor of Rio is under investigation for taking about $5M in bribes.  Regarding the FIFA World Cup “benefits”, one of the largest new soccer venues built for the Tournament in a remote city is now used as a parking lot for buses.

Brazil has a federal prosecutor looking into the bid for the Olympics and the events in the run-up to the games.  He issued a report recently – it is not clear to me if this is a “final report” or an “interim report” – that contained just a few items of concern:

  1. He said that many of the Olympic venues are “white elephants”.
  2. A venue destined to be a public park in a “poor area” remains closed off with its venues unused.
  3. He says there was “no planning” that went into the original bidding and that “bribes and corruption” littered the path to the Games.

Most estimates say that the Rio Olympics cost Brazil $12B.  If you look at photos taken of the favelas in Rio, it should not take you long to think that maybe – – just maybe – – that $12B might have been spent differently by the Brazilian government.  [Aside:  Most coverage that refers to the “favelas” usually equates that word with “neighborhoods”.  I prefer to call the favelas what they are; they are slums.]

Even the casual follower of the events that lead up to an Olympic Games will recognize two recurring themes:

  1. The Games always cost a lot more than originally thought.
  2. The complexity of staging the Games is always a lot more complicated than originally thought.

The Games in 2020 will be in Tokyo; the Japanese economy can take the hit.  The Games in 2024 and in 2028 are still under consideration but it appears now that only two venues are interested in bidding – – Paris and Los Angeles.  Once again, the French and American economies can take the hit.  Once those three sets of Games go off without triggering an economic nightmare in the host city/country, the ultra-politically correct faction of the world will rise up and “demand” that some developing country get a piece of these “benefits”.  I have no idea who will win the bidding for the 2032 Olympic Games, but I will not be surprised to see some folks push for a totally bizarre venue such as Kigali, Rwanda or possibly Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

  • Quick Quiz:  Name one other city in Rwanda and in Uzbekistan…

Please do not try to convince yourself that the Olympic mavens will realize by then that such out-of-the-way places must be taken off the table.  Remember that their brothers-in-venality – namely FIFA – have still to figure out how to hold the World Cup in Qatar because they saw only the bribes and gifts in the bidding process and not the average temperature in the summer in Qatar as they made their decision.

With that as the basis for my conviction that the Olympic Games are at best economically neutral and most often economically awful for the host city/country, let me turn to the events in the Games as blessed by the IOC.  Please understand; when the IOC includes new events in the Games, that means they become benefactors for added international organizations that oversee those new sporting endeavors and by extension they become benefactors for each of the national oversight committees in every nation where they play that sport.  The bottom line here is that adding benefactors to the list means more opportunity to “extract resources” from those new sources.  In US politics, they call this “pay to play”; for the IOC, that would be a literal description.

So, what new stuff is on the horizon?  Of course, it will fit nicely with the Olympic Motto:

  • Faster, Higher, Stronger

            About 2 weeks ago, I told you that the IOC has taken under consideration recognizing cheerleading as a sport and including it in the Games.  Now let me tell you that the IOC has decided to include 3-on-3 half-court basketball in the 2020 Games in Tokyo.  That’s right; the IOC is bringing a made-up playground game to the Olympics.  If anyone here wants to get in on the Olympic action, let me suggest that you start to push for the IOC to recognize HORSE as a new Olympic event right after you establish yourself as the head of USHOOF – the United States HORSE Oversight and Organizing Federation.  Give me a break here…

I said before that it was time to shut down the Olympics; I stand by that position.  In the past, I have referred to the Olympic Movement as a Bowel Movement; I stand by that position too.  Here is the state of play in 2017:

  • The Olympic Games – – summer and winter – – are not much more than an irregularly scheduled Reality TV show.  They contain loads of sub-plots and hidden agendas; they can regularly provide or concoct real or imagined heart-throbbing tales; they provide the TV cameras with lots of staged shots; when needed, they can provide a dose of glitz and glitter.  Oh yeah; every once in a while, a genuine athletic competition where the winner is not decided by the opinion(s) of judges happens to break out.

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



Happy Flag Day …

Happy Flag Day.  On this date 240 years ago, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the country’s flag.

Having exactly nothing to do with Flag Day, I read a “thought piece” yesterday on this question:

  • Could a team of current NFL free agents beat the Browns or the Jets?

My reaction to that was simple and two-fold:

  1. Who cares?
  2. At least this is a different spin on the hackneyed “think pieces” trying to assert that Alabama or whatever college team is ranked #1 at the time could beat the worst team in the NFL.

What caught my attention, however, was that the author cited 2 NFL teams as sufficiently bad – on paper – to merit inclusion in the hypothetical race to the bottom.  We know the Browns stunk last year winning only one game with a roster full of question marks regarding NFL talent.  We also know that the Jets were miserable last year and that they are still in search of the “Franchise QB replacement” for Joe Namath.  [FYI, he left the Jets for the Rams after the 1976 season.]  So, I started to take a look at what the Jets had done so far in this off-season; and based on a quick glance, they may indeed be in as bad shape as the Browns or the Niners or the Bears.

The Jets will never announce that they are tanking the season but they are clearly tearing down the roster that they had and starting from a point not unlike an expansion team.  One report that I read said that the Jets got rid of $68M in salary with their veteran cuts in this off-season; I will take that as a fact and not try to verify all the cuts and all the salary numbers associated with those cuts.  Here are some of the veterans who were on the Jets’ roster in 2016 who are not on the Jets’ roster as of this morning:

  1. Ryan Clady OT:  Clady is only 30 years old so you would think he has some tread left on his tires.  He did suffer a shoulder injury last year that sent him to the DL late in the season and he had a knee injury earlier in his career.  He is still a free agent so maybe that injury history is significant?
  2. Eric Decker WR:  Decker is 29 years old and only played 3 games last year due to injury.  However, in his 2 previous seasons with the Jets, he averaged more than 990 yards receiving.  Decker was only released last week so his future whereabouts are not yet determined.
  3. Marcus Gilchrist S:  Gilchrist is only 28 years old and seemed to play well last season.  He will find work somewhere else.
  4. David Harris ILB:  Harris 33 years old and has been with the Jets since 2007 – his entire time in the NFL.  His age probably does not fit with any sort of “long-range projection” for the team and its roster but David Harris can still play somewhere.  Like Eric Decker, his separation from the Jets only happened a week ago; it remains unclear where he will surface.
  5. Nick Mangold C:  Mangold is 33 years old and has been part of the Jets’ OL for his entire career.  If, in fact, the Jets’ braintrust is working on a 5-year plan to rebuild the roster, it would not make a lot of sense to work around a center who would be 38 at that time.  Like Clady, Nick Mangold remains a free agent; if my contract research is correct, he was scheduled to make $9M in 2017 with the Jets and if that is what he is seeking in a new contract as a free agent, perhaps the price tag is why he is still “unemployed”.
  6. Brandon Marshall WR:  Marshall is 33 years old and has been with the Jets for 2 seasons.  In those years, he has averaged about 1150 yards receiving.  Marshall signed a new deal with the NY Giants in March 2017 soon after he became a free agent.
  7. Calvin Pryor S:  Pryor is only 24 years old and has been with the Jets for 3 seasons.  Reports say that he has not lived up to his potential as a first-round pick in 2014; I would not know about that.  Pryor was traded from the Jets to the Browns for Demario Davis who used to be with the Jets but then signed on with the Browns.  Now he is back with the Jets…
  8. Darrelle Revis DB:  Revis is 31 years old and it was not too long ago that he was one of the top 3 defensive backs in the NFL.  Last season, however, was not his finest hour.  The question hanging in the air is whether he has lost a step and should be willing to covert to playing safety or if the defensive scheme(s) last year did not set him up to succeed.  Rumors have Revis going to the Cowboys – but he is not signed there yet.

            This is not an exhaustive list of the players who were Jets but are no longer Jets but it demonstrates that a team that won only 4 games last year has jettisoned (sorry about that) a significant portion of its starting talent.  The Jets’ GM says that these roster moves are intended “to create opportunities for a lot of players on the roster”.  I should say so; three quarters of the Jets’ starting defensive backfield from last year are gone.  There are indeed opportunities for young players on the Jets’ roster but the key question is this:

  • Is there enough talent among the young/replacement players to make up for the talent and experience that is now on the free agent market?

Sunday October 8, 2017 will be Week 5 of the NFL season.  On that day, the NY Jets will venture forth to play the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland.  That game should have exactly no bearing on playoffs or tie-breakers, but it could well have a significant impact on the draft order in the Top 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft…

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

“Former NFL agent Terry Watson pleaded guilty to giving cash to three former North Carolina football players.

“In keeping with tradition, they had tutors take it for them.”

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



Like A Bad Penny, I Keep Turning Up…

After the sudden demise of my computer over the weekend, I am back at the keyboard with a new device – – albeit without any major change of attitude.  The NBA Finals are over; the Golden State Warriors are the champions; we saw two interesting/competitive games in the Finals and that should be taken as a blessing in this year of boring/blowout NBA games.  At one point during the early stages of the playoffs, I thought about labeling the NBA as the National Blowout Association but did not because trying to define “blowout” so that I could make the case was convoluted and the amount of research necessary to go back a month or so into regular season games quickly convinced me to do other things.

The MVP of the Finals is Kevin Durant and he played last night just like an MVP shooting 14 for 20 and totaling 39 points.  Nevertheless, the biggest advantage the Warriors had last night – and for the balance of the Finals – was their bench.  Compare these aggregate numbers from last night:

  1. Warriors’’ bench played 70 minutes; Cavs’ bench played 49 minutes.
  2. Warriors’ bench scored 35 points; Cavs’ bench scored 7 points.
  3. Warriors bench had 9 rebounds; Cavs’ bench had 4 rebounds.
  4. Warriors’ bench committed 6 fouls; Cavs’ bench committed 11 fouls.

After the game, LeBron James said that he needed time to “figure things out”.  That’s fair; it should be unreasonable to expect that he already knows what needs to be done to change the outcome for him and the Cavaliers next year.  However, since I had the luxury to watch the games in the Finals without having to worry about how to do things on the court to thwart the Warriors, let me make one solid suggestion to LeBron James and anyone else in the Cavaliers’ Front Office who may be involved in off-season changes:

  • The Cavaliers need significant improvement on defense.  James is a good defender and Tristan Thompson is sometimes a good defender.  Iman Shumpert is a good defender off the bench most of the time.  If the Cavs are to beat the Warriors’ offensive machine, they need a major upgrading on defense.  If I read the contracts correctly, the Cavs will have 5 veteran bench players heading into free agency this summer.  That is the window of opportunity for the Cavs to find a couple of defensive specialists as replacements.

This season’s Warriors’ team might be summarized algebraically like this:

  • 2016 Warriors minus Harrison Barnes plus Kevin Durant = 2017 Warriors.
  • Therefore – – –  2017 Warriors > 2016 Warriors.

Meanwhile, the Cavs made only cosmetic changes from 2016 to 2017 adding Kyle Korver – who plays zero defense – and Deron Williams who is well past his sell-by date.  The Cavs were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals in 2016, but the simple fact is that the Warriors got significantly better and the Cavs did not.

Meanwhile, the Stanley Cup Finals also concluded with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the repeat Stanley Cup champions.  The NHL revenue for the season appears to have been flat as compared to the previous season and that would suggest a lack of growing interest in the sport.  However, according to the folks who measure TV viewership, the Finals did very well.  The games in the Finals averaged almost 4.5 million viewers and if that is accurate, that means these Finals attracted a bigger audience in the US than any previous NHL Finals that did not have one of the “Original Six” in the series.  The last game of the Finals had an audience in excess of 7 million viewers.

I find that even more impressive given that Pittsburgh and Nashville are not “major-markets”; a Stanley Cup Final series between LA and Philly would not have “Original Six” teams in it but the number of people in those cities dwarfs the numbers in Pittsburgh and Nashville.

I mentioned that the NHL revenues for the season were flat and according to this report in the NY Post, that puts the NHLPA in a delicate position.  I am not going to pretend to understand all of the ramifications here, but if there is agita on the union side as it starts to prepare its negotiating position for the next CBA in a couple of years, that is not a good sign.  Remember, the two folks sitting across the bargaining table from each other:

  • Gary Bettman – the man who sacrificed an entire season of NHL hockey in order to get concessions in a previous set of CBA negotiations.
  • Donald Fehr – the former leader of the MLBPA and a co-conspirator in the work stoppages that plagued MLB in the 80s and 90s.

In college basketball, Chris Holtmann is the new coach at Ohio State after 3 successful seasons at Butler where his teams made the NCAA Tournament each year.  Holtmann was originally hired at Butler on a “1-year/show us what you can do” contract at Butler; that was his first head coaching job.  Now he has gone to Ohio State with an 8-year contract that could – with incentives – approach $25M.  After Ohio State fired Thad Matta and went hunting for a replacement, I said that the school had the ability to “money-whip” a replacement.  I think these numbers indicate that I was onto something with that comment.

Finally, since I said above that I was back to ranting without a change of attitude, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Air:  The glorious God-given substance that provides us our very breath of life while also containing the disgusting contagious pathogens that will one day kill us.”

Have a good day …

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



The Belmont Stakes Tomorrow …

Tomorrow is the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes.  In terms of “buzz” and excitement, this race had generated just about nothing.  Not only is there no possible Triple Crown winner in the field, neither the Derby winner – Always Dreaming – nor the Preakness winner – Cloud Computing – will go to the post.  Lest you think that their trainers and owners have them entered somewhere else, that is not the case; both horses are stabled at Belmont park.  For 2017, the Belmont Stakes is really not much more than your garden variety Grade 1 Stakes race run on a summer weekend – – except for the fact that the race is a mile and a half.

If you have never been to Belmont Park, it is a huge facility; in terms of size it dwarfs Pimlico and Churchill Downs; the record attendance for a Belmont Stakes was 120,000; it would surprise me if the live gate tomorrow is more than half that figure.  The Belmont has always had to be its own draw because the New York Racing Association has never been known for its promotional acumen.  Let me give you a couple of tidbits about the race so that you might be tempted to use the remote to tune in and see it tomorrow around 6:30 PM EDT.

  • Hall of Fame trainer, Woody Stephens, saddled the winner of the Belmont 5 times – and all 5 of those races were in succession from 1982-1986.
  • Trainer D. Wayne Lukas saddled the winner 3 years in a row from 1994-1996.
  • The record time for the Belmont Stakes is 2:24 set by Secretariat in 1973.  That record is 2 full seconds – about 10 lengths in handicapping terms – better than the second fastest time in the race.

That last item leads me to share with you something #2 son pointed out to me.  Someone has taken the telecasts of the 1973 race won by Secretariat and put it side-by-side with the telecast of the 2015 race won by American Pharaoh and posted it on YouTube.  Let me be clear, Secretariat would have beaten American Pharaoh by 13 lengths based on their times but there is an interesting aspect to the race comparison.

As you watch the 1973 race, Secretariat blazes through the early fractions and then continues on a pace that leaves the second place horse 31 lengths in the dust.  If you only look at that race, it appears as if Secretariat is actually accelerating in the final portions.  However, when the two races are juxtaposed, you can see – and you can verify by looking at the split times for the ¾ of a mile and for the mile that American Pharaoh actually ran the final half mile faster than Secretariat did.

Just for fun, here is the  video comparison…

For what it is worth, here are my picks for the race.  Until late yesterday, I liked Epichris (#11) to be part of the superfecta but then I read he had been given a pain killer shot for an abscess on his foot.  That convinced me to look eslewhere for a runner in a mile-and-a-half race so here is my wager:

  • Exacta Box: Tapwrit (#2) and Irish War Cry (#7)
  • Trifecta Box: Tapwrit/ Irish War Cry/ Twisted Tom (#1)
  • Superfecta Box:  Tapwrit/Irish War Cry/Twisted Tom/ J Boys Echo (#4)

I want to switch gears here and talk about a relatively new phenomenon in sports radio and sports TV commentary.  It did not start yesterday but yesterday put me over the top here.  It seems the latest fashion is to discuss how current ongoing events may or may not affect the “legacy” of some star player or some team.  Yesterday’s versions of this sort of nonesnse went along these lines:

  • If the Warriors sweep the Cavaliers, will that tarnish LeBron James’ legacy to the point that any discussion of him as “The GOAT” is “off the table”.
  • If the Warriors sweep the Cavaliers, does that make this team the greatest basketball team of all time?

I guess the producers of the radio shows and the TV shows have to come up with items to fill time, but these sorts of discussions have gotten tiresome very quickly.  For starters, what the Hell difference does it make if I think the 1990s Bulls teams are better than the current Warriors team and you think the obverse?  We could have that “debate” privately over some beer and chips and it would probably move on to another topic in about 3 minutes – if we got really worked up over the “debate”.  On radio and TV this goes on forever and ever and ever…

The idea of a “legacy” should not – because it cannot – be assessed in the current time.  A player’s legacy or a team’s legacy is only capable of measurement once a decent interval of time has past.  Legacies are things that are more on the “mental” or “intellectual” end of the spectrum; in the immediate moment, “mental” and “intellectual” things tend to get clouded by emotions and adrenaline and endorphins. Let me give you two examples:

  1. In 1979, OJ Simpson retired from an 11-year career in the NFL.  If, during the final weeks of his career, you had discussed his “legacy”, the focus would have been on things like “first-ballot Hall of Fame RB” and “2000-yard season” and “five time first Team All-Pro” and “in the conversation with Jim Brown as the best RB ever”.  That was then.  In 2017, with the perspective of history, is that OJ Simpson’s legacy?
  2. In 1986, Pete Rose retired from a 24-year career in MLB.  If during the final weeks of his career, you had discussed his “legacy” the focus would have been on things like “all-time leader in base hits with 4,256” and “sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame” and “played the game the right way” and “Charlie Hustle”.  That was then.  In 2017, with the perspective of history, is that Pete Rose’s legacy?

Having dismissed these “legacy debates” as frivolous at best, let me try to answer briefly the two sorts of questions that dominated a lot of yesterday’s air-time:

  1. Getting swept in the Finals by an opponent cannot possibly be a positive entry on any player’s résumé.  At the same time, a career is much more than a single 4-game series.
  2. I doubt that the 2017 Golden State Warriors could possibly have beaten – let alone dominated – the original Dream Team.

Finally, here is an item from Norman Chad’s syndicated column, The Couch Slouch.  It is one of a list of “facts, tired and true, about the widening world of sports television”:

“Best thing about having kidney stones?  It takes your mind off Stephen A. Smith.”

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