RIP Rollie Massimino

Rollie Massimino died yesterday at age 82.  He was the coach at Villanova when Villanova  upset top-ranked Georgetown (one of the Patrick Ewing teams) in the NCAA basketball tournament final game.  It was one of the great upsets in March Madness history.

RIP Rollie Massimino.

I have been writing these rants since 2001; this is the first time that I have referenced the Hamilton TigerCats three times in a week.  In fact, if I were sufficiently motivated to check, I am pretty sure that I have never referenced them even twice in a single week before.  But here we go…

After hiring Art Briles and then firing him less than half a day after hiring him, the Hamilton TigerCats are in the news again.  According to reports, the coaches and at least some of the “upper level execs” associated with the team worked out Johnny Manziel in Buffalo a week or so ago.  In a way, I actually get this;

  • The TigerCats are 0-8 and are not much more than an afterthought in the CFL this year.
  • They score about 20 points per game and in CFL games that is not nearly enough.
  • Art Briles is a coach whose reputation is made on offense.
  • Johnny Manziel is a mobile QB who – in a former existence – made things happen on offense.

Having said all that, the Hamilton TigerCats got it right twice.  The PR hit the team took from hiring Art Briles would not likely ever be paid off.  The “workout in Buffalo” was sufficiently questionable to get everyone there to the point where they just did not want to be under the microscope that will focus on wherever Johnny Manziel next tries to play football.  Good for them…

Just a suggestion here for the TigerCats:

  • Open the wallet and think about signing Colin Kaepernick.
  • He ought to thrive on the larger field of the CFL.
  • His protest has to do with events in the US and not in Canada.
  • He needs a job; you obviously need offensive firepower…

Since I mentioned Buffalo in relation to the putative “Manziel workout”, let me offer a comment about the Buffalo Bills.  They are cleaning house out there in northwestern NY state almost to the same extent that the Jets have cleansed their roster in southeastern NY state.  As a franchise, the Bills are as much a “sad-sack” as are the Jets.  Consider:

  1. The last time the Bills participated in a playoff game was in January 2000.  They lost that game to the Tennessee Titans.
  2. Since that game the Bills’ cumulative record is 112-161.
  3. In the intervening years, there have been exactly 2 seasons where the Bills’ regular season record was over .500.

I mention all this because the Bills have a highly talented defensive lineman on the roster named Marcell Dareus; in the morass of mediocrity-at-best, Dareus stands out like a corncob in a lettuce patch.  The problem is that Marcell Dareus is also a stand-out when it comes to “off-the-field issues”.

  • In his career, he has been arrested twice.
  • In his career, he has been suspended by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy.
  • Despite all of that, the Bills recognizing his physical talents signed him to a contract worth $96M over a 6-year stretch.  That deal still has 5 years to go…

Recently, the Bills sent Dareus back to training camp prior to an Exhibition game for “disciplinary reasons”.  I understand that his contract extension was done by a “previous administration” in Buffalo, but still…  If you give a defensive lineman that kind of money and tenure, you should expect some “leadership” from him too and given his previous behaviors – both in his collegiate years and his time in the NFL – one must wonder how he was supposed to become a “leader” once that kind of money was dangled in front of his face.  In microcosm, this is why the Bills have been without any participation in the playoffs for so long.  And looking at the roster they have going into the 2017 season, that playoff drought looks like it will be continuing for a while…

Another defensive tackle in the NFL also got a recent contract extension but seems to have reacted to that event more positively.  Linval Joseph of the Vikings (a really good DT and one who is comparable in skill to Marcell Dareus) recently signed a 4-year contract extension worth $50M.  After that signing, someone saw Joseph arrive at the Vikings practice facility in his pickup truck and asked him if he was going to spend some of his signing bonus money on a flashy car – – like a $200K Maserati.  Here is how Joseph responded:

“Why get one — I can’t fit in it.”

I really like pragmatists …

Finally, leave it to Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times to figure out what caused a record in MLB to be broken:

“Yankee slugger Aaron Judge broke the major league record by striking out in 33 straight games.

“That’s what he gets for changing his breakfast menu from Wheaties to Special K.”

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



RIP Jud Heathcote …

Former Michigan State basketball head coach, Jud Heathcote, died at the age of 90 yesterday.  He won the national championship in 1979 when the final game was “Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird”.  Heathcote took over at Michigan State in 1976 and stayed through 1995 where he turned over the reins to a long-time assistant named Tom Izzo who remains the coach at Michigan State today.

Rest in peace, Jud Heathcote.

The hiring of Art Briles by the Hamilton TigerCats of the CFL lasted about 24 hours.  In an announcement yesterday, the team owner and team CEO said that they had terminated Briles and that they had not realized how intensely negatively his hiring would be viewed by fans and social media.  It also appears that CFL Commissioner, Randy Ambrosie, played a part in this “U-turn” of thinking.  If so, I would have to give Ambrosie high marks for initiative and action.  It would appear that he saw something that he believed was going to be detrimental to his league and he took action.  That would indicate to me that he is not going to be a potted plant in the corner of the room as the CFL Commissioner.

Art Briles is an interesting test case for the concept of “second chances”.  Remember, Briles has not been charged with any criminal acts let alone been convicted of criminal acts.  Partly because of that situation, there are still facts about the sordid mess at Baylor under his watch that are unknown; hearing only one side of a partial story is hardly a firm foundation on which to draw conclusions.  What we do know is that there were more than a few instances of sexual assaults perpetrated by Baylor football players on students at that school and that Briles did not put a stop to it.  He may have even gone so far as to act to try to cover up the actions of his players.  Whatever happened there, it was bad and there is no way to sugar-coat that.

So, the question now is this:

  • Does Art Briles have the opportunity to get a “second chance”?

Remember, Art Briles is 61 years old; if he is going to have that opportunity, it will necessarily have to happen in what will seem like an awfully brief time after his messy departure from Baylor.  I cannot imagine him getting a job with an NCAA school any time soon; I suspect there would be more than a tad of outrage if a high school hired him as its football coach; given the tenuous stances that the NFL has taken on matters related to “assaults on women” (sexual and non-sexual), I doubt that any team’s PR folks would be happy to have to explain that hiring.  Now, it would appear as if the CFL is closed off too.

I said above that there are still facts of the Baylor mess that remain in doubt – one of which is just how many sexual assaults we are talking about here.  Let’s assume that there was a half-dozen such events for the sake of argument.  [Aside: One victim claims that more than 50 women had been raped and some of them had been gang-raped.  I do not know the number; I find the idea of a “half-dozen rapes” to be horrific.]

Perhaps, Art Briles had the opportunity for a ”second chance” and squandered that opportunity when the second of those alleged sexual assaults came to his attention and he did not take action to prevent a third occurrence.  Or maybe when the third came to his attention and …

I surely do not feel sorry for Art Briles this morning and I think the CFL and the Hamilton TigerCats acted in the best interests of that league and that franchise.  At the same time, I think that Art Briles may be an example of someone who is just not going to get a chance at redemption and that is an unusual – not unique but unusual – circumstance in our society.

The other big news this morning is the mega-contract signed by Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.  It is a 5-year extension worth $135M with a $50M signing bonus and a total of $92M guaranteed.  That is the biggest contract with the most guaranteed money in NFL history and some Detroit Lions’ fans have freaked out over it.  As if on cue, the negative stats generated by Matthew Stafford hit the Internet almost as soon as the contract details and his passing stats were publicized.  I will list the negatives here only to demonstrate the depth of the angst of some Lions’ fans:

  • Stafford’s teams are 0-3 in playoff games.
  • Stafford’s teams have only won 1 road game against teams that finished the season with a winning record.  [Someone had to do a lot of digging to come up with that one.]
  • Stafford’s teams are only 5-46 against teams that finished the season with a winning record.  [That might explain the lack of success in the playoffs where opponents almost always will have a winning record.  No?]

With all the outrage out there on the table, I think signing Stafford up for a 5-year extension was a good thing for the Lions.  Stafford is not the best QB in the NFL; he will be the highest paid QB in the NFL – until the next mega-contract gets announced – but he is better than about 20 other starting QBs in the league and he is only 29 years old.  The Lions had three options:

  1. Sign Stafford up – and the going rate for franchise QBs these days is lots of money per year and lots of money guaranteed in the deal.
  2. Lose Stafford after this season and draft a new QB and develop him – and simultaneously pray the guy you draft is not the second coming of Joey Harrington.
  3. Sign an experienced NFL QB in free agency – but not one that will cost $27M per year with $92M guaranteed.  [Translation:  That means shopping in the aisle that has folks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer and Matt Schaub on the shelves.  This is the Jets/Browns/Rams model…]

The first option is clearly expensive and by comparison with some other top shelf NFL QBs the first option means the Lions “overpaid”, but isn’t it really the most sensible thing for the team to have done?

Even more interesting is the possible impact this contract could have on upcoming QB contracts and contract extensions.  I have not had the time to look at every starting QB’s contract situation but here are ones that I know will be coming up soon:

  • Drew Brees:  His contract is up at the end of the 2017 season; he has won a Super Bowl; he has thrown for 5,000+ yards 5 times going into the 2017 season.  On the other hand, he will be 39 years old once NFL free agency begins.  It will be interesting to see the “time-adjusted value” of his stats and accomplishments.
  • Kirk Cousins:  He makes about $24M this year on his second franchise tag.  He will get a contract that is in the same neighborhood as Matthew Stafford’s and that is a far cry from the low-ball offers he has gotten from the Skins in the last two years.
  • Matt Ryan:  His contract is up at the end of the 2018 season; when that happens, he will be 33 years old as he potentially becomes a free agent.

Finally, on the subject of NFL QBs, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is accused of using a machine to stamp his autographs. That’s terrible! Back in my day, star QBs had the decency to have the team trainer hand-forge their signature.”

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



I Don’t Get It …

Riddle me this, Batman…  Almost 10 years ago, DeMaurice Smith was elected/selected to be the Executive Director of the NFLPA.  In that role, he was the point man for the union as they negotiated the CBA with the NFL that remains in force until today.  It is scheduled to expire in 2021 and it will be incumbent on both sides to negotiate a new agreement.

Recently, DeMaurice Smith said that a “work-stoppage” was inevitable for the NFL in 2021.  With 3 full seasons left to play, he is telling the world that the current deal as bounded by the current CBA is sufficiently deficient that it will take a work-stoppage to get it corrected.  At this point in the process, “work-stoppage” can mean a strike by the players or a lockout by the owners.  Whichever flavor the putative “2021 work-stoppage” comes in, DeMaurice Smith says it is inevitable.

So …

  • If I am an NFL player represented by the NFLPA and led into CBA negotiations by DeMaurice Smith, why should I have any confidence that he can get me a deal in the next CBA that is significantly better than the one he got me back in 2011 and agreed to let it be in effect for 10 years?

The players have some legitimate issues that they want to see reflected in the new CBA; I understand that and I support them in some of their pursuits.  However, at least some of those same legitimate issues existed back in 2010/2011 when this CBA was negotiated and the NFLPA reps essentially jettisoned them in favor of taking a bigger bite of the revenue pie.  If a significant majority of the 1700 or so NFL players really believe that there are problems in the CBA worth striking for, then that same significant majority ought to think the NFLPA needs someone else at the table doing the negotiating.

Last weekend, MLB had “Players Weekend” and allowed players to put various nicknames/messages on their uniforms.  This is a MAJOR departure for MLB; remember when Ted Turner owned the Braves and WTBS Channel 17 in Atlanta and he got one of his pitchers to wear a uniform with “Channel 17” emblazoned on the back.  The Commish himself got involved in that and put a halt to it.

Here are some of the uniform names that I particularly liked:

  • King Felix – Seattle Mariners’ pitcher Felix Hernandez.  This has been his name in Seattle for at least a decade; putting it on a uniform was an acknowledgement of reality – or royalty in the eyes of Seattle fans.
  • Miller Time – Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Andrew Miller.  This sobriquet has been attached to this player for quite a while now; once again, the uniform was an acknowledgement of reality.
  • Digger – Oakland A’s pitcher Kendall Graveman.  Interesting play on words here…
  • Toddfather – Yankees infielder Todd Frazier.  Another interesting play on words but I would have been just as happy if Frazier had worn a uniform with the words “Down Goes…”

My favorite “alternative uniform” from Players Weekend had to be:

  • Corey’s Brother – worn by Mariners’ third-baseman, Kyle Seager.

Last week, there was a small kerfuffle caused by some websites publishing naked photos of Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn who used to be “a couple”.  Vonn thought this was an outrageous invasion of privacy and lawyers representing her threatened lawsuits if the websites did not take the photos down.  These pronouncements were accompanied by the usual homages to privacy and the sorts of things that might resonate with common folk.  Let me make two comments about this matter and let me be clear that I have not seen nor have I tried to see the naked photos in question:

  1. When an “Olympic class athlete” and the “world’s greatest golfer” are linked romantically and they acknowledge that status, there will ALWAYS be more scrutiny on them than there might be on any two random schlubs who are ‘in a relationship”.  That comes with the territory of being “celebrity athletes”.
  2. The foolproof way to assure that naked pictures of yourself never make it to the Internet is to assure that there are no naked pictures of yourself in the first place.

Art Briles has a new job coaching football.  After his unseemly exit from Baylor where even he admits that some bad stuff went down while he was in charge, Briles found a job as the new Assistant Head Coach for Offense for the Hamilton TigerCats in the CFL.  The head coach there is June Jones who has known Briles and coached against him for a while.

Most folks acknowledge that Briles has a creative and fertile mind when it comes to offensive football.  The TigerCats can use his help; as of today, their record is 0-8 and they have scored 51 fewer points than any other team in the CFL.

Even if only half of the things I have read about the way he and his staff dealt with allegations of sexual assault at Baylor are true, I do not believe that Art Briles belongs in the coaching business with any team associated with a school or a college.  Those reports indicate to me that he cannot be a person that can be relied on to teach 19 or 20-year-old males how to be young men on one hand and constructive members of society at the same time.  Frankly, I am glad to see that he has a job as a coach in pro football because – if he can establish himself as a successful coach at that level – it will keep him from trying to be a college/high school coach; and I think that is a good thing.

Finally, speaking of coaching hires, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald.  You may think it is simplistic – – or you may conclude that this is a statement of inevitability:

“The 49ers’ Katie Sowers has become the NFL’s first openly gay coach. Given the job security of that profession, she’ll also be the NFL’s first openly gay coach to be fired.”

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



Backup Quarterbacks

I spent a bit of time over the weekend pulling stuff together for my annual Pre-Season NFL analysis and predictions for every team in the league.  That magnum opus will appear either Friday of this week or Monday of next week.  However, in going through my notes and the schedules for the teams, the QB situation for some of the contending teams kept coming to mind.  That got me to looking at the team depth charts and at team rosters so I could see who the backup QBs might be around the league.

And as happens more frequently than I would prefer to admit, my mind started wandering as I looked at the various backup QBs and I decided that I would categorize them here.  Do not worry, I am not dumb enough to put them in a rank order so that people can argue over whom I put at #15 in the league as opposed to whom I put at #19.  Rather, what I am going to try to do is to aggregate these backup QBs into General Categories and then list the players in each category alphabetically.  In a few cases I will have a comment about the QB situation for a team based on the backup listed here.

The first General Category should be called Not So Good/Big Step Down From Starter:

  1. Trevone Boykin – Seattle
  2. Matt Cassell – Tennessee
  3. Brett Hundley – Green Bay [Packer fans never want to see him on a Sunday.]
  4. Ryan Mallett – Baltimore
  5. EJ Manuel – Raiders [JaMarcus Russell in better athletic condition]
  6. Kellen Moore – Dallas
  7. Jake Ruddock (maybe Brad Kaaya?) – Detroit
  8. Matt Schaub – Atlanta [His train left the station about 2 years ago.]
  9. Geno Smith – Giants [Sigh …]
  10. Scott Tolzein – Indy

Please note that of the ten QBs and teams listed here, at least six of them are serious playoff contenders.  Those hopes would take a significant hit if the starting QB had to miss a long stretch of games during the season – or worse at the end of the season.  All those people who gathered to demonstrate outside NFL HQs last week “demanding” that a team sign Colin Kaepernick and end his “blackballing” need to keep an eye on the 6 or 7 contending teams on this list for a serious injury to the staring QB.  These teams want to make a run and they would be candidates to sign Kaepernick – – for football reasons not for societal reasons – – if the injury bug bites them badly.

The second General Category should be called Good Enough Not To Be An Embarrassment – Presumably.

  1. Derek Anderson – Carolina [Not spectacular but steady.]
  2. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Tampa Bay [Journeyman with lots of experience.]
  3. Nick Foles – Philly
  4. Landry Jones – Pittsburgh
  5. Colt McCoy – Washington
  6. Matt Moore – Miami [Played well until playoff game last year.]
  7. Drew Stanton – Arizona [Has a winning record as a starter.]

None of these seven backup QBs is a serious threat to unseat the starter in town but all of them have demonstrated in the past that they can come off the bench for a couple of weeks and avoid a team meltdown.

My third General Category should be called Who Knows If This Guy Can Play?

  1. CJ Beathard – SF
  2. Paxton Lynch – Denver [Once again behind Trevor Siemian.}
  3. Patrick Mahomes – KC
  4. Sean Mannion – LA Rams
  5. Nathan Peterman – Buffalo
  6. Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago [Bears fans pray this guy can play well.]
  7. Deshaun Watson – Houston [May be the starter by Thanksgiving?]

Please note that of the seven backup QBs on this list, five are rookies and one – Sean Manion – has only seen the field for parts of 2 games going into his third year in the league.  Maybe this category should have been called the “Leap Of Faith” category?

My fourth General Category should be called At Least this Guy Has Been Around for A While…

  1. Kellen Clemens – LA Chargers [Eleven seasons; 21 starts]
  2. Chase Daniel – New Orleans [Seven seasons; 78 pass attempts; 56 games]
  3. Chad Henne – Jax [Eight seasons; 18-35 as a starter.]

It is worth noting that Chad Henne may not belong on this list at all because he may beat out Blake Bortles for the starting job in Jax because Bortles has been underwhelming in Exhibition Games so far.  If that turns out to be the case and I had to figure out where to put Blake Bortles in my General Categories, it would be in the next one…

My fourth General Category – the one where Blake Bortles would go if he winds up as the backup in Jax should be called Oh My, This Guy Had A Bad Year Last Year

  1. Case Keenum – Minnesota
  2. Cody Kessler[Not the reason the Browns were 1-15 last year, but …]

My fifth General Category has only one entry and exists only because I could not really find another place for this so I’ll call it It Just Does Not Matter

  1. Christian Hackenberg/Bryce Petty – Jets

Unless this NFL season is nothing more than a Walt Disney sort of plot where the Jets are the football equivalent of The Bad News Bears, then the reality is that the Jets are already out of contention for the playoffs and the season will not start for two more weeks.  It does not matter which of these guys is the backup or if one of them is the starter

My sixth and final General Category should be called The Best Backup QB Situations For 2017.

  1. Jimmy Garoppolo – New England [The best backup QB this year – period.]
  2. AJ McCarron – Cincy [The next best backup QB this year – period.]

Finally, Scott Ostler had this comment in the SF Chronicle recently.  I like his thinking here:

“The hottest race in the NFL this year might be between the Jets and the 49ers: Sucking for Sam, or Diving for Darnold — USC quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets probably have the edge, but watch the fun if both teams hit the midpoint 0-8.”

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



Just Bouncing Around …

Earlier this week, I posed some sports-world questions that fans would seek answers to in the coming months.  Obviously, several had to do with the outcome of the MLB season.  Today, I want to present potentially interesting story lines for the rest of the MLB season.  The reason to do that is that half of the division races are over already and will provide no drama at all.  Do you realize that the Giants have been eliminated from the NF West race and have been for more than a week?  And August still has a week left in it…  So, consider these storylines:

  • NL West:  Can the Dodgers win 117 games and set an MLB record?  Will both NL wildcard teams come from this division?
  • NL Central:  Can the Cubs make the playoffs to defend their championship this year?  Even though Joey Votto plays for a bad team, will he get attention as a serious candidate for MVP?
  • NL East:  Could the Nats win this division if they sent their entire squad down to Triple A and brought up the Triple A guys to finish out this season?
  • AL West:  Can the Mariners make it as a wildcard team marking the first time they have been in the playoffs since 2001?  By the way, that was the year they set the MLB record for wins in a season at 116 games.
  • AL Central:  Are the Indians primed for another World Series appearance?  Are the Tigers in total freefall?
  • AL East:  Where has Rafael Devers been all year?  Can Aaron Judge return to his pre-All-Star Game form?  Can the last-place Blue Jays rally to be a wildcard team?

Those questions ought to hold your attention for a while…

According to a report at, starting in 2018, MLB will have a “universal code of conduct for fans who attend games”.  This matter became an issue that got the attention of owners after the incident in Boston involving Adam Jones being the recipient of racial slurs from fans.  Evidently, the owners have been discussing this code of conduct at their regular meetings since last May.

Unlike the silly move by ESPN I wrote about yesterday that reeks of political correctness, the MLB owners need to be sure that attendance at MLB games is an enjoyable experience for fans.  “Enjoyable experience” cannot be defined exactly for every fan in every situation but it must contain the elements of safety/security and freedom from obnoxious behaviors.  At the moment, all 30 MLB clubs have some form of a fan code of conduct; the idea here is to take the best elements of those 30 different codes and to make them into one that can apply to all the ballparks.

According to various reports, the NFL owners and Roger Goodell are closing in on a contract extension for The Commish through the end of the 2024 season.  With all the controversy that accompanies most of his actions/decisions and the fact that the NFLPA is talking about a work stoppage 3 years in advance of the end of the current CBA, one might wonder how he keeps his job – let alone gets a contract extension.  Here is why…

As I have tried to point out many times before, Roger Goodell’s job is to grow the NFL.  He has done that very well; and by so doing, he has made the owners a ton of money.  Forbes rates the Dallas Cowboys franchise to be worth $4.2B.  For that reason, the owners have to like the job he has done.  [Aside:  He has also made the players a ton of money too.  Remember that approximately half of the NFL’s national revenue goes back to the players in terms of salaries; it is that increased revenue that has mandated the increased salary cap figures for all the teams.]

The NFL is the 800-lb gorilla of entertainment in the US.  The NFL provides NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and NFL Network with each network’s highest rated TV broadcast and has done so for several years now.  That is why the networks pay the rights’ fees they do for NFL games.

Roger Goodell performs another important function for the owners.  There are times when the league is the target of outrage and derision from fans or the media or the NFLPA; Goodell takes those hits for the owners and does it in a way where he does not lash out at those who are throwing rocks at him or at the league.  To be sure, Goodell’s role as the league disciplinarian will be a point of contention in the upcoming CBA negotiations, but I suspect that the NFLPA would want changes in those clauses of the CBA no matter who The Commish is at the time.

To be sure, the NFL has some serious issues facing it.  Roger Goodell is not the source of these problems so the owners cannot “blame him” for them.  Their question should be if they believe he is capable of charting a course for the league that will resolve those problems.  For example:

  1. CTE:  Some folks say this is an existential issue for the NFL.  I think that is overblown but I also think that anyone who would brush it aside as a trivial nit is a nitwit.
  2. “Cord-cutting”:  The NFL revenue juggernaut is driven by television rights’ fees.  People are now in the process of watching television differently from the ways they have done it in the past.  The NFL will need to adapt how it presents its product to the public in a new environment without losing revenue in the process.
  3. Social-justice causes:  The very nature of these causes creates tension and adversarial positions among the populace.  As more players and/or coaches take up such causes, the NFL could find itself in the position of walking a fine line to avoid alienating fanbase members on both sides of such issues.
  4. The next CBA negotiations:  With 3 years left on the current CBA, there are already noises about a “work-stoppage” and the current head of the NFLPA has said that it does not matter to him if the league is in existence 20 years from now.  His focus is clearly on bettering the lot of the current players and all else is secondary.

The last point on that list deserves a bit more examination.  The NFLPA needs to assure that the NFL continues to exist.  If the NFL were to “go out of business”, what would happen to all those CTE payments that have been promised to former players and where would they come from for the current players who develop symptoms 15 years from now?  The same goes with the health insurance benefits that the players get; many of them would pay huge premiums for health insurance on the “open market” because of injuries sustained playing football.  That sort of short-sightedness might be dismissed as nothing but rhetoric; all I can say is that it had better be.

The other issue about the upcoming CBA negotiations is the willingness of the players to be talking about a “work-stoppage” already.  I am old enough to remember the last time the players walked out; the NFL responded with “replacement players” and those games were painful to watch.  Even when the “real players” returned, it was clear that some of them had not maintained themselves in “football shape”; it was not a fun season.  Fans also witnessed the infamous “replacement refs” in 2012.  No one wants to see “replacements” – – call them the junior varsity – – on display again.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News from a while back:

“Mike Gundy, the Oklahoma State football coach who made himself famous with his ‘I’m a man! I’m 40!’ rant turns 50 on Aug. 12.

“Gundy’s new slogan: ‘I’m AARP-eligible! I’m 50!’”

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



Political Correctness Run Amok

Let me use the word “debate” here in a very broad sense.  There has been a debate recently about sportswriters, sports commentators and pro athletes speaking out on social and political issues.  The extremes on the two sides of this debate are:

  1. Sports people should stay in their lane and leave social issues and politics to people who study that for a living.
  2. Everyone has a right to speak out on whatever issues are important to them and a responsibility to use whatever platform is available to make things better.

The reason you will not read any socio-political stuff here is because I think you came here for a different reason and need not be a captive audience for my personal views on subjects like that.  However, from commentaries about sports that I have done over the years, any long-term reader knows by now that I think politically correct speech is useless silliness.  And that is why I wonder how ESPN – the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports – got itself caught up in an extremely silly action that boils down to politically correct speech.  I am sure you have read about it already so I will give you the Cliff’s Notes version here:

  • ESPN will broadcast the UVa/William and Mary football game in a couple of weeks.  The game will be in Charlottesville, VA where there were violent demonstrations/counter-demonstrations only a week or so ago.
  • One set of demonstrators was opposed to taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee in the town.  The ESPN announcer assigned to the game in Charlottesville is named Robert Lee.
  • ESPN decided to move him and his broadcast partner to another game that weekend coming from Youngstown, OH.  Then they issued a press release to explain that they made the change and why they did so.
  • Here is part of how ESPN explained their decision:

“In that moment, it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”

Excuse me, but the only reason this is a topic of conversation is because you announced that you were doing this!

Yes, they did it because the announcer is named Robert Lee and the statue in Charlottesville that is now controversial is in honor of Robert E. Lee.  The fact that announcer Robert Lee is of Asian heritage/extraction and Robert E. Lee most certainly was not seems not to have occurred to the ESPN mavens.  The self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports did not advance the argument that sports guys belong in the social issues business.

This was a humongous over-reaction on the part of ESPN in the first place; then ESPN doubled-down and announced to the world that they had made a silly decision.  Whatever…  For the record:

  1. Announcer Robert Lee is cool with the decision.  HOW-EVAH, [/Stephen A. Smith] imagine the complex outrage that would have emerged if he had played the “race card” here.
  2. Bob Ley who must be one of the longest-tenured on-air people at ESPN will still be the host of Outside the Lines – – unless they do a story from Charlottesville in the next couple of weeks and then the ESPN mavens will have something else to worry about.

The other big sports news from yesterday was the trade between the Cavaliers and the Celtics.  The Cavaliers get Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, a prospect named Ante Zizic and the unprotected first round draft pick from the Brooklyn Nets.  That first round pick is the treasure here because the Nets will stink in spades next year and will have loads of ping-pong balls in the hopper for the Draft Lottery.  Crowder is a good defensive wing player and Thomas will provide scoring in support of LeBron James.  Frankly, I am surprised that the Cavs got as much as this from the Celtics since Kyrie Irving had been publicly demanding a trade.

The trade might help both teams.  However, I do not think that this trade moves either the Cavaliers or the Celtics any closer to beating out the golden State Warriors than they were a week ago.  The Celtics now have a premier scoring threat; Irving is 25 years old and has already been an All-Star.  The Cavaliers add a defensive player on the wing – something they lacked last year – and that first round pick might turn out to be the overall #1 pick next year.  Might that top-flight pick entice LeBron James to stay in Cleveland beyond next season?  Probably not – – but it will provide Cleveland with a leg up on the rebuilding process if he leaves.

The thing that bothers me about this trade – and makes me wonder if Cleveland is done dealing – is that they also signed Derrick Rose in the offseason.  Frankly, I do not see how Rose and Thomas can play to each other’s strengths; it would seem to me that each of them dominates the ball in order to be effective and that would mean that one of them would be less-than-fully-effective if they were on the court together.

Finally, since I started today with commentary about silliness from ESPN, here is a comment from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, about ESPN’s flagship program – SportsCenter.

“The last time I watched ‘SportsCenter’, Keith Olbermann was still in a good mood.”

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



Not The End Of Times…

In the time leading up to Monday’s total eclipse of the sun observable here in North America, there were seers and doomsayers asserting that this was the beginning of the end.  The apocalypse was right around the corner and it was the eclipse that was going to signal its beginning; the eclipse was an evil omen.

Well, it would appear as if the Earth is going to continue its routine journey around the sun notwithstanding the fact that the moon “got in the way” for a few hours for a small fraction of the planetary surface.  Since no one would think of coming here to get information about the end of times or about human history being erased, I guess the only thing to do now is to proclaim that we can – and should – look forward to things in the sports cosmos that will happen because the Earth continues to exist.  For example:

  • College football begins in a couple of weeks.
  • The NFL’s real season begins right after Labor Day.
  • The NBA regular season will begin in about 8 weeks even though most folks know already that the NBA regular season is nothing more than six months of tedium.

Before any of those things come to fruition, we will have to endure the happening and the aftermath of the Mayweather/McGregor money-grab – err, fight.  The hype and promotion for this thing has been about the same as the build-up to a “championship clash” in pro ‘rassling.  The only thing that seems to be missing is the stipulation that the loser of this fight will permanently retire from any of the combat sports.  Let me insert here some commentary from two sportswriters regarding this spectacle:

“Mayweather-McGregor: Ready, set, hype!: Only five more days until unbeaten boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor will be in a Vegas ring this coming Saturday. Mayweather is heavily favored, but, with both men so unlikeable and such idiots in the buildup, can we please fix this thing so they simultaneously knock each other out?”  [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]

And …

“Anything goes: If the participants and promoters have gone this far to create the vulgar cash-grab and all-around circus that is the Aug. 26 fight between Floyd Mayweather and Condor McGregor, who’s to say it won’t be fixed in some form or fashion? Rigging the fight wouldn’t violate principles of sports integrity. This one has none going in.”  [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

Please note that both of these sportswriters used the word “fix” in their commentary and – quite frankly – I am not offended by that at all.  There is so much potential money to be made here that it would not surprise me to have this event end in such a way that people clamor for more to “set the record straight”.  Moreover, I will not be shocked to see this fight end in such a way that someone books another boxer against another MMA fighter somewhere down the line.  I will read about this fight; I might – I said MIGHT – watch some part of it on YouTube after the fact.  There is just about nothing on the planet that would get me to watch the fight live – and in living color.

Since I am positively looking beyond this concocted confrontation, what might I hope to witness in the upcoming months in the world of sports?  Well …

  • Can the LA Dodgers win 117 games this year to break the MLB record for wins in a season?  With 39 games to play, the Dodgers need to win 29 of them to get to 117 wins.  That would mean playing close to .750 baseball down the stretch and that is unlikely.
  • Can the Dodgers win a World Series for the first time since 1988?  They are well-positioned to do so.
  • Can the Cleveland Indians win a World Series for the first time since 1948 – and only the third World Series championship in franchise history?  The Indians came close last year taking the Cubs to the seventh game of the Series; can 2017 be THE year?
  • Will the 2017 season see another NFL team (the Jets) go winless for the season?  This will not come easily for the Jets despite their scorched Earth roster moves of the offseason.  They have two games against the Bills, one against the Jags, one against the Browns and one against the Rams.  Those represent 5 “winnable” games; it will be difficult for them to lose them all.

In yesterday’s rant, I said that I would only put the Olympic Games in countries with solid and resilient economies.  A reader chastised me in an e-mail saying that South Africa put on a perfectly acceptable World Cup tournament in 2010 and that the World Cup is comparably complicated to the Olympics.  I have 3 things to say about that:

  1. The World Cup is not nearly as complex.  A country only needs one sort of facility for the whole thing; that is not nearly true for the Olympics.  The athletes are professionals and need not be housed in a concocted space like an “Olympic Village”.
  2. The World Cup athletes and teams come from only 32 countries – – to expand to 48 sometime soon – – and not from more than 100 countries.
  3. If you would like to see a Summer Olympics in South Africa, please consider that the powers-that-be there could not find ways to control vuvuzelas in the World Cup.  Is that the accompaniment you want to hear for all the competitions and at the Opening/Closing ceremonies?  I don’t think so …

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times regarding the results of Tiger Woods’ blood test after his DUI arrest:

“Put him down for a 5

“Golf icon Tiger Woods had Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC in his system when he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Jupiter, Fla., in May, according to a toxicology report released Monday.

“In other words, a solid four over par.”

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



The Rio Olympics; The Aftermath…

The IOC previously selected Paris as the site for the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles as the site for the 2028 Summer Games.  The Games in 2020 will be in Tokyo and preparations for that event are well underway.  Anyone who has read these rants for a while knows that I hold the IOC in very low regard; nevertheless, these last three decisions on venues are good ones.  The reason they are good decisions is simple:

  • All three cities reside in countries with solid/prospering economies and all three cities already have many of the necessary venues and infrastructure in place and in functional condition.

Some recent analysis of the aftermath of the 2016 Games in Rio point to the importance of putting these events in cities that are established and with sound economic underpinnings. has a lengthy analysis of the Rio Games and it is very ugly.  I recommend that you read this analysis in its entirety because it lays bare what happens when euphoric idealism (the status that existed when Rio was selected as the host for the 2016 Games) meets the real world.  Let me offer just a few of the lowlights:

  • Brazil’s economy was solid in 2009; the future looked bright; the political situation was stable by Latin American standards; there was plenty of time to make the Rio Games a showcase for the country.
  • Following on the heels of the FIFA World Cup tournament in 2014, the Rio Games existed in a time of economic collapse and political upheaval in the country.  Lots – and I mean LOTS – of the money appropriated to ready the city for the Games was wasted or fraudulently diverted.
  • Costs for the 2016 Games is estimated at $13.1B.  Problem is that Brazil does not have that kind of money in reserve in 2016/17.  Compounding the problem, the Brazilians only budgeted around $9B for these endeavors back when they actually had money to spend.
  • Many of the venues are “white elephants” – much like the huge soccer stadium built in rural Brazil for the World Cup that is now a bus parking lot.  The venue that housed the 2016 Opening and Closing Ceremonies has been vandalized with many of its seats ripped out and stolen.  Not surprisingly, it is unused these days.
  • The Athletes Village is described as “void of life” and the golf course constructed for the Games charges $180 for a round of golf.  In a country deep in a major recession, it does not get a lot patronage.

I am not so Pollyannaish as to believe that corruption and fraud do not occur in cities like London, Paris, Tokyo or Los Angeles.  However, here are a couple of comments from the report that probably would not be written about the preparations for games in one of those cities:

“… the malfeasance in Brazil’s political system has long been cancerous and its scale staggering, with every governor elected in Rio since 1998 either facing corruption charges or serving a sentence. He adds that the lucrative building contracts and ensuing construction boom brought about by the arrival of sport’s two biggest events only spawned new opportunities for corruption, with deals between politicians and large construction firms for venues and other infrastructure inflated and founded on sizeable tax exemptions.”

And …

“If the financial and political consequences were dire, the social ramifications have been profound. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people were evicted from Rio’s favelas to make way for large-scale construction projects and new real estate developments tied to the Games, exacerbating the deep distrust for elected officials that already existed among the city’s poorest people.”

And …

“Most troubling of all is the fact that wasted public money has contributed to shortfalls in funding for vital services such as policing, schooling and healthcare. Protests from unpaid civil servants against the corruption, crony politicians and overspending on the Olympics in general were a feature of the months and years leading up to the Games; since they concluded, crime has spiraled to the highest levels in a decade, with street violence and stray bullets having become a daily reality. Just last week, thousands of armed forces were deployed to Rio’s streets as part of federal efforts to increase security and preserve public order.”


The IOC – probably intending to be ever so politically correct – celebrates the fact that it presents to countries the opportunity to be part of the “Olympic Movement” and to “play with the big boys”.  The problem is that when countries overreach, the economic and social consequences are disastrous for the citizenry.  It is not just Rio; look at the aftermath of the 2004 Games in Athens.  The Greek economy was wobbly before the Games; it went into a freefall such that Greece was almost kicked out of the EU after the Games.

What would make sense would be for the IOC to take a position that would create some enemies.  They should come up with a list of a half-dozen countries that will host the Summer Games on a rotating basis.  There would be no need for “bidding”; there would be no mystery as to where the Games will he held when.  And those half-dozen countries need to be in robust economies.  Let me list some – perhaps most – of the contenders to be on the “List of The Half Dozen”:

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. China
  4. France
  5. Germany
  6. Great Britain
  7. Japan
  8. India
  9. Russia
  10. United States

Here is what is “wrong” with my list of ten countries that should be trimmed to six.  There are no “representative countries” from Africa or Latin America.  And because of the potential for dire consequences – social and economic – to smaller economies, there ought not to be any.  That last statement represents another collision between “idealism” and “the real world”.

The IOC will continue to do its business as it has in the past because the people at the top of the IOC and at the top of the various federations that govern the international sports involved in the Games are all in comfy situations.  Their isolation protects them from the suffering that can befall people in countries where the economy collapses under the added burden of Olympic expenditures that were beyond the means of the economy from Day One.  The IOC will not be able to slurp at the public troughs in Paris and LA to the same extent that they can and did in years gone by.  Probably by the time they come to consider the venue for 2032, they will go looking for another site to exploit.  Emerging economies beware…

Finally, all is not gloom in the world of the “Olympic Movement” – something that I have previously likened to a bowel movement.  Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot had this item in a column recently.  It shows that the IOC is looking to the future for the Paris Games in 2024 and is not slavishly tied to the threadbare motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”:

“C’est la vie: Another sign of the coming Apocalypse comes from organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics who are considering the inclusion of eSports – video gaming – as a competitive event.”

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



Want To Win $1 Billion …?

The Fantasy Football ads are back on TV; I fear that is an ominous portent.  Moreover, they are re-running the same old ads from a couple of years ago.  However, at the end of one ad, DraftKings touts a free contest where you can win $1B.  That was strange enough to send me to their website to find out what the deal is.  Remember, I do not play fantasy football so let me quote for you here what they say is the “Billion Dollar Lineup”:

“It’s the lineup that scores the most DraftKings fantasy points that could possibly be scored within the salary cap and position requirements. The perfect lineup will be determined by calculating all possible lineup combinations for the NFL Week 1 player pool that fit DraftKings lineup requirements, and the highest scoring out of all possible lineups will be the perfect lineup.

“Scoring higher than all other DK users may not be enough to win unless your lineup scores the most fantasy points that could possibly be scored out of all possible lineup combinations. For clarity, it is possible that no DK user will draft the perfect lineup and therefore no DK user will be eligible for the prize. For tiebreaker rules and other conditions, please see the Official Rules.”

Go to the DraftKings website that explains all of this in case you choose to enter the contest.  For the record, I will not be entering.

According to an report, former MLB Commissioner, Fay Vincent, believes that legalized sports gambling is going to happen and that it could happen very soon.  He believes that the decision by the US Supreme Court to take the New Jersey challenge to PASPA is an important indicator that legalized sports gambling is coming on a nationwide basis.  Moreover, he believes that teams and leagues will find ways to monetize that legalized gambling and that is why the value of sports franchises have risen so dramatically.

Recall that Fay Vincent – and his fellow sports commissioners – testified passionately in favor of PASPA in front of the US Congress back in the early 90s.  Based on his remarks to, he still opposes sports gambling but recognizes the economics here:

“I’m not a fan of betting, and I’m not minimizing the consequences.  The complexities are staggering, but that is such an enormous amount of money, you can see why people would be grasping for it.”

Nowhere in his comments to is there a recognition on the part of Vincent that sports gambling has been going on in times before PASPA and has continued to go on after the passage of PASPA.  Banning sports gambling has been about as effective as Prohibition was in banning alcohol consumption in the US.

Several readers complained that I was too harsh on NFL Exhibition Games yesterday.  They felt that I had equated those games with an obvious bait-and-switch promotion in my example involving Bruce Springsteen introducing a clearly sub-standard musical act in his stead.  OK; I admit that NFL Exhibition Games are not bait-and-switch because any person who cares enough about NFL football to go and see the first Exhibition Game knows damned well that he/she will not see the “varsity players” on the field.

One commenter pointed out that the early Exhibition Games wee the only way for low-round picks/undrafted free agents to get the attention of coaches so that they might make the team.  He cited the example of Terrell Davis who just got into the Hall of Fame who allegedly caught the eye of coaches with his special teams’ play in an Exhibition Game.  Let me assume that is absolutely true and not urban legend; that example does not infuse meaning into Exhibition Games.

Here is the fundamental meaning of NFL Exhibition Games to the broadest spectrum of NFL fans:

  • They cross their fingers – and perhaps go to church to light a candle – in the hope that one of the critically important players on their favorite team’s roster does not incur a season-ending injury in such a meaningless display.

In my aperiodic commentary on culinary monstrosities at baseball stadiums, I tend to focus on the outrageous concoctions built on or around hot dogs or giant hamburgers; and indeed, these monuments to excess tend to dominate the menu segment you might call “strange”.  However, there are a few “strange entries” that build on a different platform such as:

  • Coors Field, Denver:  Someone had to stay awake late into the night to come up with this as an idea.  They call them Apple Pie Nachos and why anyone thought of mixing these things in the first place is a mystery to me.  What they have done is to take a slice of apple pie and put it on cinnamon dusted nacho chips and covered it with whipped cream and caramel.  So, that doesn’t sound all that outrageous until you know that you also have the option of topping all of that with nacho cheese.
  • Minute Maid Park, Houston:  The name of this option is the Chicken and Waffle Cone and there is no deception in that name.  What you get are fried chicken strips and mashed potatoes inside a waffle cone topped with honey mustard.  I guess if you are going to eat mashed potatoes with your hands, a waffle cone would come in handy.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald recently regarding the similarities and differences in sports fans worldwide:

“In Serbia, a soccer player claims he was attacked by fans of his own team after losing a game. In Nebraska, we call this ‘Twitter’.”

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



Mediocre Entertainment

I get the NFL Network in my cable TV package here; and not surprisingly, the cable provider has that channel nested in with all the other sports channels.  Therefore, when I go grazing in that part of the programming spectrum, I pass by and through the channel that provides NFL Network.   At this time of the year, the programming there seems to consist of two things:

  1. Studio shows bringing me “breaking news” from training camps around the country and trenchant analysis of what the implications of such “breaking news” could be for the teams/players involved.  [Hint:  Just about every newsy tidbit has either glorious or apocalyptic implications.  I have yet to hear one of the studio experts hear a news item and say, “Meh!”]
  2. Replays of NFL Exhibition Games.

If I stop on the NFL Network in one of my grazing periods and they have an Exhibition Game replay on, I will often stop and watch a couple of plays.  I am not focused at all on the players because, in the first exhibition games, teams play guys who will not be on the roster in the regular season.  The first Exhibition Game is sort of like one of those meaningless college football bowl games in mid-December; the outcome is irrelevant; few if any of the participants will make their living playing the game of football.

What I do focus on is the attendance.  Here is what I notice:

  • There are huge swaths of empty seats in every venue I have seen.  In most cases, it would be generous to say that the stadium is 50% full; in a couple of cases, I would not be surprised to do a head count and find only 35% of the seats filled.

I am not about to fall into the trap of taking this “breaking news” and interpreting it as some sort of omen of doom for the NFL.  Fans are not abandoning the NFL – or football in general – as a pastime.  What I think is going on here is more positive than that.  Those seats are empty for two reasons:

  1. Some fans who were coerced into buying tickets to these Exhibition Games as part of their season ticket package and who could not give them away to friends/relatives simply chose to stay home.  They made an entertainment choice; they could do something more entertaining/pleasant in their lives than go to see a meaningless Exhibition Game.  Give those folks a round of applause for having at least a semblance of a life.
  2. A lot of fans who had the option to purchase seats not potentially encumbered by a season ticket holder’s fanny also found something else to do with their time and money.  Let’s give those folks a round of applause too.

At its core, the NFL is entertainment.  It is a hugely popular form of entertainment and the players often compare themselves to show biz entertainers as a way of justifying why they get multi-million-dollar salaries to play a game that happens to be shown on TV.  I get that; I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with “entertainment” that does not deliver.  I am not a big music concert fan so let me pick an artist who is very popular and use him as example here.  This is purely fictitious because I have never heard this entertainer perform.  Imagine that the XYZ Club in Punxsutawney PA announces that Bruce Springsteen will appear live on their stage this weekend.  You can make reservations there for dinner and there will be a $10.00 cover charge.  I presume that if you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen and you live somewhere within striking distance of Punxsutawney, you might consider attending this event.

Here’s the rub.  When you show up and you order your dinner and have paid your cover charge, Bruce Springsteen walks onto the stage and tells you and the rest of your audience that he is not going to sing that night.  He is there only to introduce you to your entertainment for the evening and he calls Joe Flabeetz and the Atonal A-holes onto the stage.  He thanks you for coming and leaves the building.

Folks, that is NFL Exhibition Game football.  The real players are there; you can see them; they might even step on the field for the briefest of moments.  But you are paying top dollar to see a mid-December college football bowl game.  Fans are beginning to catch on and their action now is to stay home and do something else.

Lots of commentators – including me – have advocated cutting the Exhibition Season to at most 2 games and preferably 1 game.  The Commish has said that he is concerned with the quality of play in Exhibition Games – demonstrating conclusively that he is awake and conscious of his surroundings.  If you are a season ticket holder for an NFL team, you can consider the price you pay for these sub-standard performances like a cover charge to see Joe Flabeetz and the Atonal A-holes assault your ear-pans in lieu of [fill in the blank of your favorite musical entertainer here].

Speaking of irrelevant sporting events, let me turn my attention to the NBA regular season.  In the “Era of the Super-Team”, the vast majority of the games in the regular season are reduced to “happenings”.  On the spectrum of anticipation, “happenings” fall below “occurrences” which fall below “events”.  “Happenings” rank above “instances” but not much else.  Here is an example of a sports “happening”:

  • Today, the Phillies play the Giants in SF.  The Phillies are dead last in the NL East with the worst record in MLB; the Giants are dead last in the NL West a mere 38.5 games behind the division leading Dodgers.
  • This game has no “far-reaching implications”; Hell, it doesn’t even have “near-reaching implications”.  But they will play it anyway; it is a “happening”.

The NBA announced its full regular season schedule this week. had an article identifying 10 games you should circle your calendar for; these were the games you dared not miss.  There are 1230 regular season games; this article says that 10 of them are “events”; a few others will be sort of important regarding who makes the playoffs so they can lose to one of the Super-Teams; the rest of them are either “happenings” or “instances”.  Wake me when the playoffs start in April 2018…  By the way, here is a link to that list of 10 games you don’t want to miss – just in case you are interested.

Finally, staying with the general idea of low-grade entertainment today, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot about the reincarnation of the TV Show, Battle of the Network Stars:

“There are some things you never want to come back. Pet rocks. Disco. Bad oysters.”

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