Bad Ads 2017

There is a comfort in periodicity; the Super Bowl is the first Sunday of February; March Madness ends on the first Monday in April; the Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in May; coincidentally, that is also the date on which the Oakland A’s are usually eliminated from MLB’s postseason action.  I take comfort in my annual compilation of Bad Ads that adorn my TV set while I am watching sporting events; that compilation is my final rant of every calendar year.

Since the focus of today’s offering will be television advertising, I guess I should start with disclaimers:

  • Do not read on if you are allergic to bad ads.
  • No animals were harmed in writing this screed.
  • Your mileage may vary.
  • Valid only at participating locations.

The real challenge here is where to start because there are plenty of Bad Ads to fill up the space here. There were two beer ads that I found particularly annoying/idiotic:

  1. Sam Adams Boston Lager ran an ad where the background music included lyrics to “follow me into the jungle”.  Can someone tell me what Sam Adams lager has to do with the jungle – or Sam Adams the person for that matter?  Just plain dumb…
  2. Coors Light had an ad where they showed a sequence of people involved in strenuous activities culminating with a group of folks reaching the summit of a snow-capped mountain.  The tag line is that the tougher the climb, the better the reward.  Let me say this gently.  If the reward is Coors Light, then the climb should have been made on an escalator.

Samsung ran an ad about millennials making movies on their phones because someone told them they couldn’t do that.  The ad exhorted these millennials to “Do what you can’t.”  Immediately, I resonated with that ad and that direct message; I came up with this response:

  • Here’s something millennials can’t do.  Stop acting like a bunch of self-absorbed, insufferable, know-it-all assholes.
  • Get to it…

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

For some reason – known only in the highest creative circles of the advertising community – this year was a year focused on poop and pooping in TV ads.  I know we have had the bears who use Charmin toilet paper to “enjoy the go” in past years, but this year was different; this year went to places that had not been examined before.  Pardon the play on words, but I would not shed a tear if any of these were eliminated:

  • There is a product out there called VIPoo.  It is a liquid in a small spray bottle that is sprayed on the top of the water in a toilet prior to “dropping a deuce” and its purpose is to eliminate the odor.  The ad lets you know that you can use someone’s rest room and not leave behind any aromatic evidence of what you did in there.  In the ad, they refer to one’s elimination as “the devil’s donuts”.  We can do without that – rather easily.
  • Febreze tackled the same “problem”; Febreze asked if your bathroom is ready for halftime at your Super Bowl party.  That is less graphic than the VIPoo ads but no less revolting.
  • An ad for CharcoCaps, an activated charcoal anti-gas product, has an animated ad showing people going about with little “fart clouds” emanating from their nether regions.  Obviously, the assertion is that the little charcoal pill can resolve that problem for you.  The ad would have been in borderline bad taste if it stopped there but it went just a tad further with a tag line telling you there would be “less boom in the room”.  Question:  When did frat-boy level fart jokes become a good way to sell products?
  • Quaker Oats spent time extolling the virtue(s) of oats and oat fiber in one’s diet.  No problem at all; there are indeed plenty of health-benefits provided by maintaining a good level of fiber in one’s diet.  What I did not need was for the ad to ask me, “What good will you pass along today?”

Let me pause for a moment here to refer to a news report that I saw earlier this year; it is not an advertisement, but it does seem to fit into the discussion here.  NBC News reported on a model of American Standard toilets that can flush 18 golf balls at once.  Obviously, at this moment you are thinking I made that up, so here is a link to show you that I did not.  However, if you need a toilet in your bathroom with that level of “flushing power”, might I suggest that you do something to alter your diet.   And do not even think of using anyone else’s bathroom not equipped with such a toilet.  VIPoo will not help you out here…

Jimmy Dean Breakfast Frittatas announced with pride that they are made from “real ingredients”.  Well, thank Heaven for that.  I know I would not want to eat anything made from phlogiston for breakfast…

During the Holiday season, KFC ran ads where the Colonel replaces Santa and brings presents to a family comprised of some of the dumbest bipeds ever to exist.  The mother of this consortium of cretins is the recipient of a “KFC $20 Family Fill-up Meal”.  In her ecstatic reaction to that gift, she declares that it is a home-made meal that we don’t have to cook at home.  There is something very fundamental about a “home-made meal” that has eluded this genius.

Some sort of breath mint – I don’t even remember the brand name indicating just how effective this ad is – shows us a young woman talking with a man in an office; she is going through the paper work of being hired.  She says she will need 3 weeks’ vacation; the man says that 2 weeks is standard.  She pops a breath mint; a unicorn appears; she tells the man she is not standard and demands 3 weeks; the man acquiesces.  In the real world – you know, the one we all exist in – the way that conversation likely ends involves the man escorting the young woman to the door and telling her to take her fresh breath and her unicorn and find somewhere else to work.

There was a Hyundai ad where a guy is stuck in a traffic jam and he starts singing Sweet Caroline at the top of his lungs.  That gets a woman in a car in the adjacent lane to start singing the song with him.  Really?  What does Sweet Caroline have to do with Hyundai vehicles?  Is this targeting the Boston Red Sox fan demographic?  Combien stupide…

The Black Friday car ads for GMC vehicles announced that you can get 20% off the MSRP during the sale.  Sounds good – – but this delivers another message to me besides the one convincing me to run out and buy a new vehicle.  Since I am relatively certain that the folks at GMC and at the various dealerships are not out to lose money on every sale for the week or so that the Black Friday prices are in effect, that means no one should EVER pay more than 80% of the MSRP for a GMC vehicle.  They are making money at that price.

I don’t know if this next ad is a local ad or if it is one that can be seen in lots of markets.  It is for RE/MAX Realty and the scene shows us a couple that is mightily confused about the housing market.  They cannot figure out if it is up or down; they think they want to sell and move elsewhere, but they are in a fog.  To the rescue comes a RE/MAX agent who gives the couple confidence by telling them that all the houses that he has listed in their neighborhood have gotten multiple offers above the asking price.  The young folks look at one another and nod peacefully.  Excuse me, let me tell you what just happened there.

  • That realtor just told those folks that he is really bad at setting prices on the houses that he lists in that neighborhood.  He prices them too low!
  • Here is the important takeaway for confused couple.  Find another realtor!

There are tons of banks and credit unions that run ads on sports programming.  Let me offer the folks who run their ad campaigns some free advice.  You can entice me to use your bank and its products/services by:

  • Offering higher rates than other banks on deposits
  • Offering lower costs than other banks on products/services
  • Offering more convenient locations/hours than other banks
  • Offering unique products/services that I might need

Here are some messages that are meaningless, and you might want to avoid:

  • You do not “share my values”; you are a bank and I am a person.  Please do not try to pump that sunshine up my ass.
  • You do not “care about our community”; you participate in community events as a way to keep your name in front of the citizenry involved in said community events.
  • You are not “on my side”; the first time there is any sort of controversy between you and a client on a product or service will demonstrate that fact directly.

Sprint hired the guy who used to do the Verizon ads asking every 10 feet if you “can hear me now”.  He says his name is Paul; I have no reason to doubt that.  The problem is that Paul’s pitch for Sprint is an unappealing one.  He tells you that Sprint costs less than Verizon and AT&T and he also tells you that the Sprint network is less reliable – – it is close; but Sprint is not as good.

My reaction to advertising is that every ad campaign tries to convince me that its product is superior – – even when I know it is not.  See for example – Coors Light. Miller Lite, Hyundai autos, Taco Bell, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Papa John’s … you get the idea.  Now consider that Sprint is going out of its way to tell me that it is not as good as its major competitors.  Thanx, but I will choose not to touch that service with a fork…

There is an ad campaign that is very active now for a product called Alpha Force.  It is one of the family of products that is aimed at aging males and it insinuates that the use of this product can “turn the clock back” on their “maleness”.

  • Memo to Aging Males (of which I am one):  The “arrow of time” is a phrase coined by a British astronomer about 75 years ago denoting that time has only one direction.  Turning the clock back only happens when Mr. Peabody fires up the Wayback Machine with his boy Sherman.  Al Gore thought his climate warning was “An Inconvenient Truth”; well the irreversibility of time is yet one more inconvenient truth.

Having disposed with the fundamental instability of the foundation for the ad’s claims let me now turn to the ad itself.  It uses Bo Jackson as the spokesthing to convince me that this stuff works because Bo Jackson uses it to stay in top shape.  OK, I can live with that sort of nonsense, but here is where I get off the train.

  • Bo Jackson tells me in this ad that HE has “looked into the science behind this stuff personally” and with that sort of endorsement, how could it be anything but the real thing.

When I want some sort of scientific or nutritional verification, I tend not to go to great athletes/Heisman Trophy winners for that sort of confirmation.  By the same token, if I were drafting players to play in the NFL, I would not start my search with people who may have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine nor would I contact the incumbent Poet Laureate of Manitoba.

There is another category of ads that I find repulsive and they are sort of attached to the Alpha Force ad cited above.  These are the ads for drugs manufactured by reputable pharmaceutical firms for serious conditions.  The object of the ads is to get people who suffer from those serious conditions – or their families/caregivers – to “ask the doctors” about this specific drug.  When I am in my most magnanimous mood, these ads seek to inform people with serious medical conditions to seek every possible option to alleviate their serious condition.  Momentarily, I think those ads are good…

And then comes the time in the ad when the drug manufacturer needs to list the side effects and the possible “adverse events” that may or may not occur with taking the drug that is the subject of the ad.  In one such case, I counted 21 potential adverse events – including death which must be the ultimate adverse event – from using the drug being advertised.  I understand; the lawyers require this sort of “disclosure” because we are a humongously litigious society; nonetheless, if there are more than 20 adverse conditions that are sufficiently bad that they need prior notice to mitigate lawsuits, maybe there should not be any advertising?  Just saying…

I am sure you have seen the ad for where the guy wears a Raiders’ sweater to Christmas dinner at the home of a bunch of Chiefs’ fans.  This ad sends so many mixed messages that I wonder if anyone associated with the NFL ever screened it.  Let me walk through the ad:

  • Guy is wearing a Raiders’ jersey; wife tells him he cannot wear a Raiders’ jersey to her family’s Christmas dinner; he takes off the jersey to reveal a Raiders’ sweater.  We never do learn why she finds that as acceptable attire.  The message is that the guy is a doofus for wanting to wear a football jersey to a Christmas dinner, but he is a docile doofus because he removes the jersey as soon as his wife tells him it is inappropriate.  Or, maybe he is a manipulative SOB, because he knows there is a Raiders’ sweater underneath.  Or, maybe he is henpecked…
  • Then, seated at the Christmas dinner table with the wife’s family – all of whom are dressed in Chiefs’ jerseys – the guy has his Raiders’ sweater on with blinking Christmas lights.  Everyone at the table is offended; the wife tells him to turn off the lights; the guy just sits there blinking away.  The message is that the guy is not henpecked; he is a passive-aggressive asshole.  Oh, and the family that eats their Christmas dinner wearing football jerseys is a piece of work too.  Passive-aggressive guy has a wife who is the spawn of these cretins and will probably need lots of therapy down the road.
  • Final scene has the family dog – also decked out in Chiefs’ gear – growling at Raider guy.  The message here is that even a dog is smart enough to know that everyone seated at that table is a cretin.

Remind me to check out the great values an so I can enjoy my Christmas dinner next year the same way those folks enjoyed theirs this year.

I saved the best – or worst depending on your vantage point – for last.  There was an ad for Dairy Queen that touted the fact that drinks and pretzels are only two dollars every day during “Happy Hour” at Dairy Queen.  I think there is a hugely important message in this ad campaign:

  • If you are spending “Happy Hour” at Dairy Queen – even once a year – you have no social life that is supportive of claiming any time period as a “Happy Hour”.

The New Year is about to start.  Companies have already committed millions upon millions of dollars to produce and air ads during the Super Bowl.  Other companies will agree to ad campaigns that the “creative people” at their ad agencies tell them are targeted just right.  And the fact of the matter is that I will be back here at the end of 2018 – just as I have been here at the end of previous calendar years – pointing out the Bad Ads of the year.

Not to worry; you can ignore the ads in whatever way fits your lifestyle.  I’ll be here – Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – to point out the next tranche of Bad Ads.  Until then …

  • No sub-atomic particles were created or destroyed in the writing of this rant.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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


The Last Week Of The NFL Regular Season

Picking winners – let alone picking winners against the spread – in the final week of an NFL season is a crap-shoot at best.  It would take incredible access and heretofore unrivaled mind reading skills to know which teams were going up to show up with motivation and which ones would show up to play out the string.  In that respect, Week 17 of an NFL season is almost the same as figuring out college bowl games.  The oddsmakers have it even worse than I do; the oddsmakers must try to figure out all that stuff and then lay out lines for people to bet into; the oddsmakers have to do mind reading with the teams AND the oddsmakers have to do mind reading on the betting public as they publish their lines.

  • Happy New Year to those oddsmakers.  This is the last weekend you will have to do this for a while.

In the performance of their line-setting duties, the folks in Las Vegas have some strange looking lines on the board this weekend.  Consider:

  1. The Rams are 11-4 and have clinched the NFC West.  The Niners are 5-10 and cemented in last place in the NFC West.  The Rams are at home this weekend against the Niners and the oddsmakers have made the Niners a 3.5-pooint favorite.
  2. The Eagles are 13-2 and have clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs as the NFC East champions.  The Cowboys are 8-7 and are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.  The Eagles are at home this weekend against the Cowboys and the oddsmakers have made the Cowboys a 3-point favorite.
  3. The Chiefs are 9-6 and have clinched the AFC West championship and they are locked into the #4 seed in the AFC playoffs.  The Broncos are 5-10 and are in last place in the AFC West.  Nonetheless the oddsmakers have installed the Broncos as 3.5-point favorites at home this week.

Good luck making sense out of those games – as well as plenty of others this week.  I’ll try to let you in on what my Ouija board is telling me here in Curmudgeon Central.

The Ravens host the Bengals and the Ravens are 9.5-point favorites at home.  The Ravens clinch a playoff slot with a victory here; they should be plenty motivated to play well.  The biggest question in my mind is this:

  • Were the signs of life produced by the Bengals last week for real or were they merely a symbolic form of a death spasm?

This is Marvin Lewis’ last game on the Bengals’ sidelines.  It would be totally fitting for the Bengals to lose the game based on knuckleheaded out-of-control play by one of the team hot-heads late in the 4th quarter.  It would be a punctuation mark for Lewis’ tenure in Cincy.

The Lions host the Packers and the Lions are 6.5-point favorites at home.  This is a completely meaningless game; neither team can be in the playoffs and both teams are mediocre.  Count this game as one of the Three Dog-Breath Games of the Week.  This could be Jim Caldwell’s last hurrah as the coach of the Lions – a franchise that has known the meaning of “futility” for quite a while now.  Let me pretend that Jim Caldwell does not survive as the coach of the Lions beyond “Black Monday” at the start of next week.  If that is the case:

  • His head-coaching future beyond the Lions in the NFL does not look good.  Since 1956 when Buddy Parker left the Lions as head coach, the team has had 17 head coaches (including Jim Caldwell).  None of those 16 head coaches who have come and gone before him have EVER coached another game in the NFL as a head coach.
  • Jim Caldwell has an overall winning record with the Lions.  Of the 17 head coaches since Buddy Parker left in 1956, only 3 of the other 16 head coaches can claim that stature.

The Bills are 2.5-point favorites on the road against the Dolphins.  If the Bills win and both the Chargers and the Titans lose, the Bills will make the playoffs and end the NFL’s longest drought without a playoff appearance.  That is correct; the Browns have been in the playoffs since the last time the Bills were there.  Presumably, the Bills will be motivated to win; the Dolphins are out of the playoffs no matter what happens this weekend.  However, the Dolphins are 4-3 at home this year while the Bills are 2-5 on the road.  The Total Line for the game is 42 points; I kinda like the OVER here.

The Falcons host the Panthers and the Falcons are 3.5-point favorites at home.  This is the most meaningful game of the week because it has potentially significant effects on both teams:

  • The Panthers can still win the NFC South with a win here and a Saints’ loss.
  • However, the Panthers are in the playoffs no matter what happens here.
  • The Falcons can make the playoffs with a win, plus the Falcons are at home.
  • The Falcons have the motivational edge and the venue edge here – – but do you really trust either team to perform to their top level on any given weekend?  I don’t.

The Saints are 7-point favorites on the road against the Bucs.  The Saints win the NFC South if they win this game.  No matter the outcome, the Bucs have earned the label of The Hot Mess Express – 2017.  If you like trends, check these out:

  • Saints are 13-3 against the spread in their last 16 games against NFC South teams.
  • Saints are 13-4 against the spread in their last 17 road games.
  • Saints are 9-3 in their last 12 games against teams with a losing record.
  • In this game the Saints are on the road against an NFC South opponent who sports a losing record…

I like the Saints to win and cover here.

The Titans host the Jags and the Titans are 3-point favorites at home.  This game means little to nothing to the Jags, they are the AFC South champions for 2017.  For the Titans, this is a big deal; despite losing their last 3 games in a row, the Titans remain in a “win-and-you’re-in” situation.  Maybe the Jags’ defense will be motivated to hold the Titans down as a way to get the taste out of their mouths of giving up 44 points to the Niners last weekend?  Or maybe not…?  There are two opposing trends at work in this game:

  • Jags are 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 road games.
  • Titans are 8-2-1 against the spread in their last 11 home games.

You make the call …

The Pats host the Jets and the Pats are 15-point favorites at home.  The Pats clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win here.  That situation plus the fact that the Jets are the opponents here ought to provide the Pats with sufficient incentive here.  The Jets have been the underdog in the last 9 games versus the Pats; in those 9 games:

  • Jets are 7-1-1 against the spread.

The Colts host the Texans and the Colts are 5-point favorites at home.  This is another abjectly meaningless game and it is certainly one of Three Dog-Breath Games of the Week.  This is probably Chuck Pagano’s last game as the head coach of the Colts; if the Texans lose to the sorry-assed Colts here in a blowout, it might also be Bill O’Brien’s last game as the head honcho in Houston.  By the way, notwithstanding the Texans’ 4-11 record entering this game, they will not have a high draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft because they traded that pick away to the Browns.  In fact, the Browns have the Texans’ first round pick AND the Texans’ second round pick next year…

Speaking of the Browns, the Steelers host the Browns and the Steelers are 10.5-point favorites at home.  There are plenty of storylines at work here and as the Browns careen down the path to a winless record in 2017.  Ponder how many fans in Cleveland will be tuned into their TV sets this Sunday and how many of them will still be sober by halftime.  Back in Week 1, the Steelers beat the Browns 21-18; in Week 17, the Steelers can put bookends on a Browns’ season record of 0-16.  That accomplishment would put the Steelers in tune with the symmetry of the universe – or something like that.  Word out of Pittsburgh is that the Steelers will rest Ben Roethlisberger and LeVeon Bell.  Does that matter – if in fact it is true?

The Skins are 3-point favorites on the road against the Giants.  Here is another meaningless game and one of the Three Dog-Breath Games of the Week.  The Skins are 2-5 on the road; the Giants are 1-6 at home.  The only thing that is clear to me about this game is that for Kirk Cousins this is a “Money In The Bank Game”.  It is not clear which NFL team is going to pay him a ton of money next year, but someone will, and this game will be part of the reason that they do so.  By the way, the Total Line for the game is 39 points.  Consider:

  • UNDER has been the winner in 11 of the last 14 games between Skins and Giants in NY.
  • UNDER has been the winner in 9 of the last 12 games between these teams wherever.
  • says it will be very cold and windy on Sunday afternoon…

The Vikes host the Bears and the Vikes are 11.5-point favorites at home.  For the Vikes, a win gives them a BYE Week in the NFC playoffs; that should be sufficient incentive against a hapless Bears’ team bringing a 5-10 record to the kickoff.  This game may prove to be John Fox’s last game as the head coach of the Bears.

The Cowboys are 3-point favorites on the road against the Eagles.  This is a rivalry game, but it has no bearing on playoffs or standings or any of those sorts of things.  The Eagles have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; the Cowboys are planning their January vacations with their families.  Last week against a porous Raiders’ defense, the Eagles’ offense was inept or dormant.  They will need to play Nick Foles at QB simply to get him in sync with the rest of the offensive unit.

The Chargers host the Raiders and the Chargers are 8-point favorites at home.  The Chargers can make the playoffs with a win here and a Titans’ loss to the Jags.  The Raiders just want this season to be over.  Last week against the Eagles, the Raiders were in a close game and led 10-7 in the third quarter of the game.  However, here is how the last 8 possessions of the game went for the Raiders on offense:

  1. Interception
  2. Fumble
  3. Punt
  4. Missed field goal
  5. Fumble
  6. Punt
  7. Interception
  8. Fumble returned for a TD

Some folks think the Raiders need changes to the coaching staff.  Maybe that would help over the course of a season, but that performance on the final 8 possessions of the game last week is not the product of bad coaching; that is bad playing.  By the way, how long is it going to take until the fans in Oakland realize that these are the Oakland Renters and not the Oakland Raiders and that the team is getting very close to skipping town on those fans once again?

The Seahawks host the Cards and the Seahawks are 9.5-point favorites at home.  The relevance of this game is straightforward.  The Seahawks make the playoffs if they win here and the Falcons lose to the Panthers.  Other than that…

The Broncos host the Chiefs and the Broncos are 3.5-point favorites at home.  The Chiefs will give Patrick Mahomes his first NFL start here; the Broncos will take a look at Paxton Lynch at QB here.  So, basically, this is a JV game…The Chiefs will be the #4 seed in the AFC playoffs no matter what happens here; the Broncos are playing for whatever shards of pride remain.

The Niners are 3.5-point favorites on the road against the Rams.  Jimmy Garoppolo has led the Niners to 4 straight wins after the team went 1-10 before him.  The Rams clinch the #3 seed in the NFC playoffs with win here.  The Total Line for the game is 43.5; I like the OVER.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald about an NFL tempest in a teapot:

“Jaguars fans are shipping garbage cans to Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney after he called QB Blake Bortles ’trash.’ I’m not sure what’s more surprising: That Bortles is having a good season. Or that there are Jaguars fans.”

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



Memorable Moments – 2017

It is about that time of year when it is de rigueur to list the “Dozen Most Memorable Sports Moments of 2017” or something like that.  As I went through my memory bank to create such a list, I could only come up with 10 memorable moments and they divided themselves into two categories.  I came up with 5 “on-field” events that are memorable and 5 others that were equally memorable but did not have anything to do with any actual games.

Here are my 5 On-Field Events of 2017 that are most memorable:

  1. Clemson beat Alabama in the CFP for the national championship with a great last-minute TD drive.
  2. The Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit in the 3rd quarter to beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl.
  3. Mississippi St. beat UConn in the Women’s basketball tournament snapping UConn’s 111-game winning streak.
  4. Serena Williams won the Australian Open while pregnant.
  5. The Astros beat the Dodgers in a most exciting World Series.

Here are my 5 Off-Field Events of 2017 that are most memorable.

  1. The FBI investigations into alleged fraud and payoffs in college basketball recruiting that led to the arrests of several assistant coaches.
  2. The NFL’s National Anthem protests.
  3. The Mayweather/McGregor promotional tour proving that their “fight” was nothing more than a moneygrab.
  4. Charles Oakley being led out of MSG by security because he and Knicks’ owner James Dolan are having a feud.
  5. Jerry Richardson deciding to sell the Panthers in the wake of revelations about his behaviors in the workplace.

Feel free to add to these lists.  They were not given unto me atop a mountain…

I think everyone who has read these rants for even a short while knows that I have no time for any of the All-Star Games.  Were I the Sports Czar, all of them would be canceled immediately.  The NFL’s Pro Bowl is particularly untoward simply because even the players selected to the game do not want to be there.  A significant fraction of them opt out of participating.  Nevertheless, when I scanned the list of players selected for this year’s iteration, I was moved to go and find out what the Pro Bowl selection process was.

It turns out that fan voting counts for one-third of the Pro Bowl voting process.  I had not known that and learning of that component to the selection process makes me even more skeptical of the final list.  The other two-thirds of the vote is based on players’ votes and coaches’ votes as to who should make the teams.  As I suspected, newspaper copy editors around the country have no say whatsoever as to who makes the teams and who does not.  The reason for my suspicion is the selection of Kyle Juszczyk to the squad for the second year in a row.

Shea Patterson was a 5-star recruit and the top-ranked QB graduating from high school in 2016.  He enrolled at Ole Miss and was slated to play behind Chad Kelly there, but Kelly suffered an injury in mid-season making Patterson the starter as a freshman.  He played at Ole Miss for a season-and-a-half and then transferred to Michigan.  The reason for the transfer is that Ole Miss has been hit with a bowl-ban and recruiting limitations based on a variety of shenanigans there.  Rather than go through the sordid history, you can read a summary of the issues and events in this report.

Due to the bowl-ban, it appears that Patterson need not sit out a season at Michigan as would be the case if he transferred there simply to enjoy the winters in Ann Arbor.  This means that Michigan – and coach Jim Harbaugh – ought to have better QB production next year.  The Wolverines were merely mediocre at QB this year and last year; the rest of the Michigan squads were solid.  Patterson represents the high potential QB that Harbaugh’s teams have not had at Michigan; recall when Harbaugh had Andrew Luck at QB at Stanford, the team excelled.

So, next season ought to be very interesting for the Michigan fans and for those who may have had some doubts about Jim Harbaugh’s coaching legend.  He has been at Michigan for 3 years and has played Michigan’s 2 biggest rivals – Ohio State and Michigan State – a total of 6 times.  In those games, Michigan is 1-5; now it would appear as if Michigan has an upgrade at the QB position.

Of course, here in Curmudgeon Central, skepticism is commonplace; if there is a fly in the ointment, the objective here is to find it and shine a light on it.  So, here goes:

  • About that 5-star rating coming out of high school and the label as the top-ranked QB in the country that year, consider the case of Baker Mayfield who merely won this year’s Heisman Trophy.
  • When Mayfield graduated from high school he was not even offered a scholarship at a single Division 1-A school; Mayfield was a walk-on at Texas Tech.
  • When Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma, he was a walk-on there too and had to earn a scholarship there.

I think the 2018 season for Michigan football will be interesting from several vantage points…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald that highlights the intersection of sports and politics:

“Former pro wrestler The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, may run for president in 2024. Jesse Ventura also made the leap from wrestling to politics. Why is it never the other way around? Orrin Hatch announces he’s stepping down to compete at Wrestlemania XXIII?”

Good question…

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



Some College Basketball Today

The college basketball season is coming to the end of its “silly season”.  Many of the games to date have been glorified scrimmages – despite the Wofford upset of UNC – or they have been interesting matchups made possible only by made-for-TV concocted “tournaments”.  It is too early to draw any conclusions about teams yet, but conference games are just about to start.  Nonetheless, there are 4 things associated with college basketball now that have caught my attention:

  1. Can you imagine anyone happier than Steve Alford the moment LiAngelo Ball and his younger brother LaMelo Ball signed with that pro team in Lithuania?
  2. Bobby Hurley has Arizona St. on the map in college basketball.  Arizona was supposed to be “the big guy” in that part of the country this year but Hurley has the Sun Devils at 12-0 and ranked 3rd in the country.  This Saturday, Arizona and Arizona St. meet for the first time this season.
  3. Bruce Pearl has Auburn at 12-0 despite all the “distractions” at work there considering the FBI investigations into recruiting scandals and Federal criminal charges.  Granted, Auburn has not played any college basketball “bluebloods” yet, but 12-0 is still impressive.
  4. Trae Young at Oklahoma is getting a ton of attention as the best freshman player in the country.  I have not yet seen him play a real game; I have seen lots of ESPN highlights, but I do not consider those things to be reliable indications of a player’s skill or prowess.  This Saturday, the 12th ranked Sooners host the 10th ranked Horned Frogs of TCU.  If that game is on in my area, I will be tuned in.

Often, the most difficult questions to answer begin with the word, “Why…?”  Let me pose a few of them here:

  • Why do fans attend NFL Exhibition Games?  The regulars see little to no action; the most important outcome for a game is to avoid any sort of injury to one of the team’s regulars; the tickets cost as much as real game tickets.  I don’t get it…
  • Why do The ESPYs exist?  This programming is rampant network narcissism and various other media outlets report on it.
  • Why do NFL teams have cheerleaders?  No one ever said that he/she would stop going to games if the teams ditched the cheerleading team.
  • Why is the NFL Combine televised?  I realize that NFL Network needs programming to fill time on the air, but still…
  • Why does the NCAA continue to pretend that making a school “vacate wins” or “vacate championships” is a meaningful punishment?  At some point, the folks who cover collegiate athletics have to call the NCAA pooh-bahs on this nonsense.
  • Why aren’t the stupid bets between mayors or governors on games like the Super Bowl not prosecuted as illegal sports gambling?  Tell the truth; you would love to see FBI agents in dark sunglasses leading Gov. Frick and Gov. Frack out of their statehouses in cuffs as part of a perp walk.  You know you would.

Bob Molinaro had this in a recent column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Teeing off:  In an interview with Golfweek, Jack Nicklaus said he doesn’t follow the PGA Tour and won’t when Tiger Woods returns. ‘Do I wish (Tiger) well? Yeah, but I’m not interested in watching him,’ said Nicklaus. ‘I’ve watched him play golf for 20 years; why would I want to go watch more?’ He added, ‘I don’t watch anybody play golf.’ I’ve never felt so connected to Jack.

I too feel very connected to Jack Nicklaus at this moment – – but I would have missed the opportunity for this connection had not Professor Molinaro made me aware of this comment.  Many thanks, good sir…

Bob Molinaro had another cogent observation regarding the catch-that-wasn’t-a-catch in the Steelers/Patriots game about 10 days ago:

“Reversal of fortune: If you think the replay official cheated the Steelers out of the game-winning touchdown pass against the Patriots, maybe you can appreciate the irony of somebody named Jesse James being robbed.”

Wish I had thought of that line first…

The Miami Marlins are openly and unabashedly dumping salary; new baseball honcho, Derek Jeter has not even tried to hide that fact.  Meanwhile, about 250 miles northwest of Miami, there might be another “salary dump” in its early stages.  The Tampa Bay Rays just sent Evan Longoria to the Giants for a bunch of players who do not make nearly as much as Longoria does.  Let’s be clear; Evan Longoria in 2018 is not the same stud infielder that the Rays put on the field 5 years ago; his career is on a downward arc.  That is why I said the Rays might be in the early stages of a salary dump.  The key indicator for me will be the fates of starting pitcher Chris Archer and closer Alex Colome.  If either or both of those guys go somewhere else for prospects, then the Rays are dumping salary.

Finally, since I started today with commentary about college basketball, let me close with this comment from Brad Rock of the Deseret News on the same subject:

“A 2,300-year-old gymnasium has been discovered in Egypt. “Found inside were papyrus scrolls, copper carving tools, and Jim Boeheim’s clipboard.”

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



There’s Been A Terrell Owens Sighting… has a report this morning that Terrell Owens asserts that he has been blackballed from the NFL just as Colin Kaepernick has.  T.O. says that the league knows he can still play – at age 44 – but he cannot get a job because he is blacklisted.  Owens’ last NFL game was in 2010.  You can read all about it here.

I do believe that Owens and Kaepernick are “out of a job” in the NFL for the same reason but the reason is not blackballing; I believe the reason is a cost/benefit calculation.  Here are the benefits:

  • Colin Kaepernick is a capable QB; he is not a star QB or even a “Top Ten” QB, but he is capable, and he would win the starting job on more than a few NFL teams if he were on the roster.
  • Terrell Owens ranks 8th on the list of NFL pass-catchers in passes caught; he says he can still run a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds; he may not be a lead receiver at his age, but he could certainly make a team on physical ability alone.

And it is those last words about Terrell Owens – “on physical ability alone” – that changes the equation because neither Kaepernick nor Owens would be on a team as an anonymous presence save for physical football acts every Sunday.  Kaepernick would bring with him the whole “anthem-protest thing”; Owens has been known to be a “less-than-perfect teammate” in previous stops along the way.  Thus, you have the cost/benefit calculation that seems to say that while both could make the team, neither one would make the team sufficiently better to warrant taking on the “other stuff” that comes along with Kaepernick or Owens.   Hi ho…

Given the NFL standings this morning, there is a possibility that the LA Chargers and the Buffalo Bills could wind up with the same record and with only one wild card slot available to the team holding the tie-breaker.  That team would be the Chargers based on the Chargers beating the Bills 54-24 on Nov.19.  That was the game when Sean McDermott decided to start Nathan Peterman at QB only to watch Peterman throw 5 INTs in the first half of the game.  The Chargers took advantage of that largesse and led the game 37-7 at halftime.  And that game might turn out to be the reason the Chargers make the playoffs and the Bills do not.  It is not likely, but it is possible…

A couple of quick remarks about six of NFL games over the weekend:

  1. The Jags lost to the Niners and gave up 44 points to the Niners.  The Jags had the NFL’s top-rated defense at kickoff; how did they give up 44 points to the Niners?
  2. The Lions lost to the Bengals eliminating themselves from playoff contention.  Granted, the Lions needed a lot of things to fall just right for them to get in, but in addition to having all those things fall right, the Lions needed to win out.  And so, on Sunday, the Lions lost to a Bengals team that had lost its last two games by a combined score of 67-14.  How Lionesque..
  3. The Seahawks remain alive in the playoff race after eliminating the Cowboys over the weekend.  The Cowboys’ offense was a complete no-show in the game despite the return of Ezekiel Elliott.
  4. The Giants were shut out in Arizona.  The Giants leading rusher in the game carried the ball 10 times for 18 yards.
  5. The Rams beat the Titans and Todd Gurley had another great game.  He for 118 yards on 22 carries and he caught 10 passes for 158 yards and 2 TDs.  Not a bad day at the office…
  6. The Browns lost to the Bears in a “snow-game”.  The Browns held the Bears’ rushing attack in check; Jordan Howard gained only 44 yards on 22 carries but DeShone Kizer threw 2 INTs and the Browns turned the ball over twice in the red zone.  How Brownsesque …

I was checking out some of the NBA action on Christmas Day waiting to see the NFL games in the late afternoon time slot.  As I turned over to the NFL game, the juxtaposition of basketball and football put a bizarre thought in my head.  Imagine for a moment that the rumors about Vince McMahon breathing a second existence into the XFL are correct.  Obviously, if the XFL is going to compete with the NFL and college football in a meaningful way, it will have to distinguish itself from either of those rivals and it will need lots of publicity and hype in the early stages of its existence.  So here is the bizarre idea:

  • How about Vince McMahon as the “head guy” with LaVar Ball as his “second-in-command” where Ball has the responsibility for doing sufficiently outrageous things to keep the XFL in the sports section of the papers around the country on a twice-a-week basis?  Oh, and the players could wear Big Baller Brand shoes in the games as a “cross-promotion”.

A McMahon/Ball tandem might just put P.T. Barnum to shame…

Finally, here is a snarky football comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times last weekend:

“This just in: Raiders wideout Amari Cooper chosen to drop the ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”

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



A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Merry Christmas to all …

As I sat down to watch some football yesterday afternoon, I discovered that in the DC area there would be only one game televised in the 1:00 PM time slot.  That was the Skins and Broncos in one of the more meaningless games of the day, but I had a cup of coffee in hand and no social commitment until 5:00 PM and so I watched.  By the middle of the third quarter, I found myself thinking of Charles Dickens.  What I was watching was – with apologies to Mr. Dickens – A Tale of Two Quarterbacks.  The month of March in 2016 joined these two quarterbacks at the hip; they are Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler.

They both came to the NFL in 2012; neither set the league on fire until the 2015 season; even in 2015, what they showed was more like a campfire than like a forest fire.  Nonetheless, competency at the QB position is important in the NFL and two teams took very different approaches with these two young men.

  • On March 1, 2016, the Skins applied the franchise tag to Kirk Cousins.  At the time he signed that offer sheet, he was guaranteed a $20M salary for the 2016 season with no assurance that he would be back with the team after that.
  • On March 9, 2016, the Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a 4-year contract worth a total of $72M with $37M of that contract guaranteed.

According to reports at the time – and I have nothing else to go on besides those reports – the reason the Skins and Cousins could not reach a long-term deal was that the Skins would not go beyond $16M per year for 5 years with only $35M guaranteed.  That was a low-ball offer and probably served as a starting point for the Skins in what should have been a back-and-forth deal making process; reports say the Skins refused to budge.  Whatever.

In the 2016 season, Osweiler stunk out the joint in Houston and lost his starting job.  The Texans gave him and a draft pick to the Browns in the aftermath of that 2016 season in exchange for the Browns picking up the tab on the rest of the guaranteed money in that contract.  The Browns cut Osweiler to go with DeShone Kizer at QB and Osweiler went back to the Broncos – the team he started with in the NFL – for a less-than-mediocre season in 2017.  Cousins had a good year 2016 throwing for 4917 yards and leading the Skins to an 8-7-1 record and he has had a solid year so far in 2017.

Not only did the Skins fail to sign Cousins at the end of the 2016 season, they franchised him again; that time the franchise tag was worth $25M (approximately) and was guaranteed the moment the ink was dry on Cousins’ signature.  As the 2017 season ends, the Skins still have no assurance that Cousins will be their QB in 2018.

Yesterday, these two QBs faced each other on my TV in a meaningless game.  So, I concentrated on watching them; I wanted to compare them.  Here is my assessment:

  • Kirk Cousins is a better-than-average NFL QB.  He would be the starter on at least a dozen teams and probably on 20 teams as of this year.  He is a solid and methodical player who makes few mistakes other than the times when he tries to do something that is beyond his athletic skill level.
  • Brock Osweiler is a stop-gap back-up QB at best.  He is sonly 27 years old; he may improve with time and experience.  However, in December 2017, he is clearly inferior to Kirk Cousins.

I doubt that the Broncos would shed crocodile tears if they had to part with Brock Osweiler one more time.  I believe it would take a Hollywood twist of fate to see him as the starting QB in Denver in 2018.  The Skins’ situation is very different.

Recall that the Skins would not guarantee Cousins more than $35M back in 2016 (according to reports).  Well, with the two franchise tags they have used, they have already paid him about $45M in guaranteed money – and have no assurance that he will be back.  If they apply the franchise tag again, it will cost them $34M in guaranteed money in 2018 and after that they cannot prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.  If they do that – and they might – they will have committed $79M in guaranteed money to a player they refused to give a contract with more than $35M in guaranteed money.  The going rate for franchise QBs in the NFL these days seems to be in this range:

  • $25-27M per year with about $80-85M in guaranteed money over 5 to 6 years.

Before the naysayers chime in here to tell me that Kirk Cousins has never won a playoff game so how can he possibly think he is worth that kind of money, let me point out that those sorts of numbers are what Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford received as long-term deals in 2016.  And just like Kirk Cousins, neither Carr nor Stafford has ever won a playoff game.  In fact, Carr has never participated in a playoff game.

Someone in the Skins’ braintrust back in 2016 had the chance to sign Kirk Cousins with a competitive offer – such as the one the Texans made to Brock Osweiler.  Maybe Cousins’ agent would have been more aggressive; maybe the Skins would have to “overpay” a bit – as the franchise has done with free agents more than a few times in the last 20 years.  The fact is that they might have been able to have Cousins set to enter the third year of a 5-years deal having guaranteed him not much more money than they have already paid him in guaranteed money.  Moreover, the annual salary level from a 2016 contract would be several millions of dollars less than what it will cost the Skins to sign Cousins to a long-term deal – or to sign a free agent of comparable capability.

Or, the Skins could draft a QB and hope that he turns out to be another Kirk Cousins and not another RG3 – both of whom came to the Skins in the same draft in 2012.

I started out this rant thinking about Charles Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities.  Having gone through the thought processes here, I will go to the far end of the literary scale for my next metaphor.  This thinking applies to the folks who oversaw the Skins’ Front Office in 2016 and the “literary” moment comes from the screenwriter for I Love Lucy.  Desi Arnaz was wont to say:

“Lucy, you have some ‘splainin to do.”

Enough venting for the day.  My long-suffering wife and I are off to a neighbor’s house for Christmas dinner.  I hope everyone has a good a time celebrating Christmas as we are sure to have at this event.

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



RIP Dick Enberg

Dick Enberg died yesterday.  His broadcasting career spanned 6 decades and had him at the mic for a variety of sports including the NFL, Wimbledon, March Madness and MLB.  At the Pearly Gates, I can see St. Peter looking down at the list of new arrivals and exclaiming, “Oh my!

Rest in peace, Dick Enberg.

Before I get to the NFL games for the weekend, I want to comment on the “punishment” the NFL handed down to the Seattle Seahawks for its flagrant disregard for the existing concussion protocol a couple of weeks ago.  Russell Wilson was sent off for “examination”; he went into the blue tent for about 2 seconds; he burst out refusing to talk to anyone in the tent, grabbed his helmet and went back into the game.  The “punishment” is that the Seattle Seahawks as a team was fined $100K.

Forget for a moment if the protocol is a good idea; forget if it works; forget if it would work with minor tweaking of the elements within the protocol.  None of that matters now; the fact is that there is a protocol in place and a protocol in this case is a rule.  For flagrantly violating that rule, the team is fined $100K.

Punishment is nominally supposed to serve as a warning to others not to repeat such offending behavior.  Let me analyze that for just a moment.

  • Forbes estimates that the Seahawks franchise is worth $2.45B.
  • Forbes estimates that the Seahawks operating income last year was $85M
  • Paul Allen owns the Seahawks; Forbes estimates his total worth at $20.7B

Fining the team or the owner $100K is meaningless.  There is no deterrent value there; this fine is pure nonsense.  If the league wants this protocol enforced, they need the cooperation of the coaches and the team staff.  So, maybe the punishment should have been the loss of a first-round draft pick for the first offense with the announcement that any future offense by the Seahawks would result in loss of all draft picks for a year.  Even that would not guarantee that a team would obey the protocol completely, but it would be a lot more of a deterrent than a fine of $100K.

As I look at the NFL games for the weekend, there are still a few enticing matchups on the card even though the number of teams with playoff aspirations continues to dwindle.  There was no Thursday Night Football this week but there are two games on Saturday.

  • The Colts visit the Ravens and the Ravens are 13.5-point favorites in this game.  If the Ravens win out, they make the playoffs – – if my calculations are correct.  The Colts just plain stink.  The Ravens’ offense has had a sort of renaissance in the past couple of weeks emerging from a dormant period.  Against the Colts’ defense, that renaissance ought to flourish.
  • The Vikes are 9-point favorites on the road at Green Bay.  The Packers were eliminated from the playoffs last week when they lost to the Panthers and the team – smartly – put Aaron Rodgers on IR so that he cannot play in this season’s final two meaningless games.  The Vikes can still have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; that would require them to win out.  The Vikes can still miss out on a BYE Week in the NFC playoffs; that would require them to lose out.  The fundamental difference between the Vikes and the Packers is this.  The Vikes have a very good defense.  The Packers have players who purport to play defense.

Moving on to the Sunday games…

  • The Lions are 4-point favorites on the road against the Bengals.  That spread tells me that the oddsmaker believes the Bengals will put forth substantial effort in this game; I am not sure I agree.  The Lions can still make the playoffs, but it will require them to win out and to find some pixie dust to sprinkle on a few other games this weekend and next.  For that reason, this game is worth the time it takes to follow the score as you are doing something else.
  • The Chargers are 7-point favorites on the road at the Jets.  The Chargers’ loss last week to the Chiefs makes the Chargers a playoff longshot; the Jets are out of it.  This is a long trip for the Chargers and an early time slot game.  The Jets have a winning record at home and are getting a TD’s worth of points.  The Jets are a tempting home dog…
  • The Bucs visit the Panthers and the Panthers are 10-point favorites at home.  The Panthers, Saints and Falcons are all in contention in the NFC South so none of those teams can afford to lose.  The fact is that either the Saints or the Falcons are going to lose this week because they play one another (see the next game on the list).  The Panthers must avoid/minimize those dreaded “distractions” caused by the revelations about their skeezy team owner; the Bucs are huge disappointments and have no real reason to play hard.
  • The Falcons visit the Saints and the Saints are 6-point favorites at home.  This game is the most meaningful game of the week – unless you live in Seattle or Dallas and think the Seahawks/Cowboys game deserves that label.  The Saints lead the NFC South this morning based on tie-breakers with the Panthers; if the Falcons win out, they will be the NFC South champions – – if my schedule calculations are correct.  For me, this is the Game of the Week.
  • The Broncos visit the Skins and the Skins are 3.5-point favorites at home.  There are two games that are strong contenders for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week and this is clearly one of them.  Neither team has anything to play for; neither team is any good.  The Skins’ home stadium will be about half empty at kickoff and will be 75% empty at the end of the game; no one cares about this game on Christmas Eve.  I will confer the Dog-Breath label on this game and attach another label to the other stinkeroo game later.
  • The Dolphins visit the Chiefs and the Chiefs are 10-point favorites at home.  I believe that the Chiefs will clinch the AFC West with a win here; the Dolphins are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs – – but I think we all know they will not make it there.  I have no idea what put the Chiefs to sleep for abut a month in the middle of this season or what woke them up about 2 weeks ago, but the Chiefs are the better team here.
  • The Bills visit the Pats and the Pats are 12-point favorites at home.  The Pats need to win to maintain home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs; the Bills need a win to continue to have a shot at the playoffs; you can see where the oddsmaker is leaning here.  Tom Brady’s record against the Bills for his career is 27-3.  That is the most wins by a starting QB over any opposing team in NFL history.  There is an interesting matchup here.  The Bills are 6th in the NFL in pass yards allowed per attempt; meanwhile, the Pats lead the NFL in pass yards gained per pass attempt.
  • There is one other early time slot game this weekend, but I will save it for the end today.  I have my reasons…
  • The Jags are 4-point favorites on the road against the Niners.  The Jags are 10-4 while the Niners are 4-10; and the spread is only 4 points…?  Call this “the Jimmy G Effect” or call it “Garoppolomania”.  Back in August if you scanned this week’s schedule, you would likely have thought this was a dog-breath game; , it  is one of the intriguing games for the week even though it is not a life and death game for either team.
  • The Giants visit the Cards and the Cards are 3.5-point favorites at home.  Since I put the Dog-Breath label on the Broncos/Skins game above, let me call this one a WAGARA Game where “WAGARA” is an acronym for Who Gives A Rat’s Ass?  The only thing marginally interesting here will be if the Cards score a TD.  In their last two games, the Cards have kicked 10 field goals and scored no TDs.  Other than that, these are two teams going through the motions…
  • The Seahawks visit the Cowboys and the Cowboys are 5-point favorites at home.  Both teams can still make the playoffs but both teams must win out and both teams need other cards to fall correctly to make that happen.  The loser here will stay home in January.  Ezekiel Elliott is back; he announced that he intends to gain 200 yards in his first game back; the Seahawks were gashed by Todd Gurley last week to the point that a 200-yard game from Elliott is not unimaginable.  The question for this game is simple; does Russell Wilson have yet one more unworldly performance in him for Sunday afternoon?
  • The Steelers visit the Texans and the Steelers are 9.5-point favorites on the road.  If this game were in Pittsburgh, this would be a “squash-game”; the Steelers are the better team and they are far and away the healthier team.  The fact is that the Steelers are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home.

There is no Sunday Night Football this week.  Even the NFL makes way for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve…

  • On Monday Night – Christmas Night – the Raiders visit the Eagles and the Eagles are 9-point favorites at home.  The Eagles can clinch home field advantage in the NFC playoffs with a win here – or with a loss by the Vikes on Saturday to the Packers (not likely).  The Raiders’ playoff chances come down to them winning out AND having a bunch of other games turning out in a way that only a Disney screenwriter might imagine.

I left out an “early game” on Sunday because it needs special mention this week.  The game has no bearing on the playoffs or the standings; both teams are awful.  Absent “special considerations” this would be the worst game of the week without a doubt.  This game requires the Cleveland Browns to pay a visit to the Chicago Bears and on Christmas Eve no less.  The Bears are 6.5-point favorites in the game.

The Browns are 1-29 in their last 30 games; the Bears are 7-23 in their last 30 games.  How can this game have any “special considerations”?  Well, here goes:

  1. The Browns are 0-14 this year.  Last year their victory came in their 15th game of the season.
  2. Browns’ coach, Hue Jackson, is 2-0 in games played on Christmas Eve.  Last year his Browns beat the Chargers; in 2011, his Oakland Raiders team beat the Chiefs on Christmas Eve.
  3. The Bears are favored in this game; the Bears are 0-7 straight up as favorites in the John Fox Era.
  4. Speaking of John Fox, he has a record of 0-2 on Christmas Eve.
  5. These “trends” point to the Browns getting off the schneid and winning their first game of the year.  However, there is one strong countervailing trend at work here.  The last time the Browns won a game in Chicago was in 1969.  The Bears were 1-13 that year and they started 3 QBs over the season.  Those three stalwarts were Jack Concannon, Bobby Douglass and Virgil Carter.

I believe the Browns can win this game and not based on any of the “trends” listed above.  The Bears win by running the football and controlling the tempo and field position.  The Browns’ run defense is the team’s strong suit; the Browns only give up 3.3 yards per carry.  As of this morning, the Money Line odds on the Browns is +240.  If I were in Las Vegas…

Finally, this is a season of celebration for people of different religions and different cultures and different ethnicities.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, the celebration is Christmas but that does not mean that other holidays or festivals are denigrated in any way.  I am looking forward to a holiday focused on family and good friends; I hope that everyone has the same sort of happy time with whatever their celebration may be.  Stay well, everyone…

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

A Reincarnation Of The XFL?

Last Saturday, there was a report at saying that Vince McMahon was considering resurrecting the XFL.  Actually, what the report said was that there were rumors that this idea was under consideration and that Vince McMahon was not denying those rumors.  You can read that report here.

There is a segment of US society that thinks the game of football is becoming “wussified” with all the rules about how players can be hit/tackled, and the ground cannot cause a fumble – but can negate a pass reception.  That segment of the population might welcome a return of the XFL and its “caveman rules”.

There is a segment of society that thinks the “#MeeToo” movement has gotten out of hand and that the scales have tipped against men in leadership/supervisory positions.  That segment of the population might welcome a return of the XFL where players and cheerleaders were encouraged to date one another, and the cheerleaders were encouraged to maximize their level of “eye-candiness”.

There is a segment of society that thinks pro ‘rasslin is real.  Vince McMahon knows that segment of society well and has been providing it with exhibitions that satisfy its tastes for at least 30 years.  Here is the question I want answered:

  • If the XFL makes a return, will they bring back Jesse “The Body” Ventura as one of the game announcers?

Here how Brad Rock reacted to news of these rumors in the Deseret News:

“Rumors say Vince McMahon is considering resurrecting the XFL.

“Because, you know, there has to be some other high-end entertainment to compete with ‘Battle of the Network Stars’.”

A recent announcement from the NFL is not a rumor; it is a fact.  The NFL will schedule another game in Mexico City next year as well as 4 games in London.  I can understand why teams that do not draw well at home – Chargers, Bengals, Titans, Bucs – might agree to giving up a home game to get the benefit of the draw from an overseas game.  I cannot figure out why any team would willingly make one of their 8 road trips have London or Mexico City as the destination.  So, maybe the NFL needs to incentivize this

Teams can “volunteer” to have one of their home games at a venue outside the US.  Those “volunteer teams” get to choose the date of their overseas excursion.

  • If the NFL does not get 5 “volunteers”, then the team with the worst record from last year will host one of the remaining games – and if they need 2 “directed assignments” then it will be the teams with the two worst records from last year and so on.
  • As for the visitors, the league will look at the scheduled opponents for all 5 teams and put the team with the worst record from last year as the visiting team in an overseas game – – with the proviso that no team can be sent there twice in a season.

Teams tank to get better positioning in the upcoming draft.  Maybe there needs to be a sort of “negative incentive” to tanking…?

The NFL has sent teams abroad that draw well at home – and on the road – here in the US.  That deprives hone-grown fans the opportunity to see those teams here and that makes no marketing sense to me at all.  If the league wants to showcase those popular teams, have them play Exhibition Games overseas – since the NFL is hellbent to keep 4 Exhibition Games on the schedule.

There are 33 players on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for 2018.  Obviously, I do not have a vote, but here is how I would vote – in alphabetical order – if I did:

  1. Vlad Guerrero:  Second year on the ballot; lifetime batting average of .318 and lifetime OPS of .931.
  2. Trevor Hoffman:  Third year on the ballot; 601 lifetime saves.
  3. Chipper Jones:  First year on the ballot; lifetime batting average of .303 and lifetime OPS of .930.
  4. Edgar Martinez: Ninth year on the ballot; lifetime batting average of .312 and lifetime OPS of .933.
  5. Jim Thome:  First year on the ballot; 612 career home runs and a lifetime OPS of .956.

That’s it; that’s my list…

Wagering has opened on the FIFA World Cup to be held next year.  At the opening the three favorites are:

  • Germany at 9 to 2
  • Brazil at 5 to 1
  • France at 11 to 2.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can get 1000 to 1 odds on Panama or Saudi Arabia to win the World Cup.  Just remember, it was not so long ago that Leicester City won the English Premier League and the opening odds on that happening were 500 to 1.

Finally, since I started off today with an item tied to Vince McMahon, let me close with this comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding WWE:

“The WWE is coming to Lincoln on Feb. 3. It’ll likely feature good guys being defeated by villains. Didn’t we see enough of that with Mike Riley teams losing to Urban Meyer?”

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



Yesterday Was An Unusual Day…

Low probability events happen every day.  Yesterday was one of those days when the low probability event was in the sports world.  There are not a lot of basketball coaches at the collegiate level who can say that their teams have won 1000 games.   I believe there are only 4 coaches on the men’s side of the game over the 1000 mark; as of this morning, there are indeed 4 coaches in the women’s ranks with 1000 victories.  However, as of yesterday morning, there were only two.  Yesterday, both Sylvia Hatchell (UNC) and Geno Auriemma (UConn) won their 1,000th game.  It would have been tough to script that.

Both Hatchell and Auriemma are chasing the all-time leader in women’s coaching victories, Pat Summitt (Tennessee).  Summitt recorded 1098 wins in her career.  Sylvia Hatchell is 65 years old; she could well be around long enough to eclipse Summitt’s record.  Geno Auriemma is 63 years old and should also threaten Summitt’s mark

Back in early September, I did my annual NFL Predictions Rant and included the standard list of “Coaches on a Hot Seat”.  Here is what I said then about Marvin Lewis and the Bengals:

“This will be Lewis’ 15th season as coach of the Bengals; the franchise he took over was a laughingstock; in the last 14 seasons, Lewis has had the team in the playoffs 7 times.  That is the good news; here is the bad news.  The Bengals have yet to win a playoff game under Lewis.  In 2015, they had the game in their hands and then a total meltdown in focus and discipline cost them their first playoff win of the Marvin Lewis Era.  You would have expected improvement in that area in 2016 and that Lewis would have made it a team objective.  Well, that did not happen and the team finished a dispirited 6-9-1.  One other factor working against him is that he only has 1 year left on his contract.  Ownership in Cincy does not like to pay coaches not to coach …  I think the Bengals have to make the playoffs for him to keep his job – – and if they do not win their first playoff game, they have to lose respectably.”

This week word spread that Marvin Lewis will “step away” from the Bengals and the word is that he is doing so with the intention of being a coach or a GM elsewhere in the league.  That situation could make for some interesting “stuff” in the offseason.  Lewis had talent in Cincy and he coached ‘em up pretty well during the regular season.  In his tenure there, his record is 123-111-3 in a division where he had to play the Steelers and Ravens twice every year.  Moreover, he won the AFC North title 4 times.

At the same time, his Cincy teams were undisciplined – to say the least – and many folks think he was complicit in allowing them to be undisciplined.  The other thing that critics will point to is this; of all the NFL coaches who have been in 5 or more playoff games, Lewis has the worst record of them all:

  • Marvin Lewis:  0-7 in playoff games
  • Jim Mora:  0-6 in playoff games
  • They are the only coaches on this list…

The injury to Antonio Brown in last week’s game will keep him out of the Steelers’ game this weekend.  That has seemingly amplified the volume on the “debate” about Antonio Brown being the NFL’s MVP this year.  I do not have a vote in that selection process and I usually ignore most of the hootdoodle that surrounds those selections, but I find the case of Antonio Brown interesting.

This situation is the latest example of the “situation without a resolution”:

  • Should the award go to the “Most Outstanding Player” or should the award go to the “Most Valuable Player”?

In terms of on-field accomplishments, I would probably give the “Most Outstanding Player” award to Antonio Brown.  In 14 games this year here are some stats:

  • 101 receptions (7.2 catches per game)
  • 163 targets (62% of the targets are receptions)
  • 1533 yards gained (15.2 yards per catch)
  • 9 TDs

Having laid all that out and acknowledging that those stats are outrageously good, I wonder about “Most Valuable Player” in the following sense:

  • Is Antonio Brown the “Most Valuable Player” on the Pittsburgh Steelers – let alone in the NFL?

Obviously, this is intended only to be a gedanken experiment; which situation would be more perilous for the Pitts burgh Steelers:

  • Antonio Brown misses the playoffs this year and is replaced by the clearly inferior Eli Rogers or Justin Hunter – – OR – –
  • Ben Roethlisberger misses the playoffs this year and is replaced by the clearly inferior Landry Jones or Joshua Dobbs?

I am not sure that the loss of Brown would be as harmful as the loss of Roethlisberger – and have no real desire to do the on-field test.  However, this thought experiment does highlight the “Most Outstanding Player” versus the “Most Valuable Player” dichotomy that often arises.

Finally, consider these two comments from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald that relate to NASCAR:

“Danica Patrick announced her upcoming retirement. She certainly changed the sport. Young people may not remember this but there was a time when auto racing announcers didn’t focus on the driver in 48th place.”

And …

“And finally: Russia has been banned from the Winter Olympics because of suspected state-sanctioned doping. The IOC got suspicious after a Russian luger won pole position at the Daytona 500.”

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



Football Roundup

Before I do the typical early-week rundown of last weekend’s on-field football happenings, I need to say a few things about Jerry Richardson’s decision to sell the Carolina Panthers after this season is over.  Last week, ESPN and Sports Illustrated reported that there were allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the Panthers’ organization and that Richardson was the tone-setter/perpetrator.  In another report, SI said that several former employees of the Panthers had been paid off regarding the resolution of prior complaints.  There are also racial overtones to the complaints within the organization with Richardson once again central to the problematic actions.  You can read some of the SI reporting here and here.

Over the weekend, Richardson announced that he will sell the Panthers and that he has relinquished any day-to-day management of the organization.  As the NBA learned a couple of years ago, a “bad owner” can put a stain on the league and the way the NBA sought to cauterize that wound was to force that owner to sell his franchise.  If Richardson made the decision to sell on his own, he probably did the NFL one final service; if he was nudged to that decision from behind closed doors, the NFL had best hope that similar accusations do not spring up in other franchises.  That would put the NFL into crisis management mode and the NFL has shown that it is less than competent when in crisis management mode.

Forbes estimated that the Panthers are worth $2.3B in September 2017 and estimated that their operating income for 2016 at $102M.

I wonder if this story is over yet…

Let me just do a bunch of short comments on last weekend’s NFL action:

  • The Lions beat the Bears in a game that gave new meaning to the word “tedious”.  The two QBs combined to throw 5 INTs.
  • The Chiefs have seemingly come back to life in the last two games; they dominated the Chargers with a powerful running game and intercepted Phillip Rivers 3 times.
  • Aaron Rodgers had some rust on him after 8 weeks on the sidelines; he threw 3 INTs in the Packers’ loss to the Panthers.
  • The Dolphins reverted to mediocrity with Jay Cutler also throwing 3 INTs in a loss to the Bills.
  • The Jags locked up a playoff spot smashing the Texans.  TJ Yates versus the NFL’s #1 defense was a mismatch.
  • The Skins beat the Cards making them 4-0 against the NFC West and 2-8 against the rest of the league.
  • The Bengals just mailed it in against the Vikes.
  • The Eagles beat the Giants playing their third consecutive road game – the first two being on the West Coast – and they did it with their backup QB.  That is not easy to do.
  • The Rams RAN for 244 yards and sacked Russell Wilson 7 times.  That is the basis of the 42-7 score beating the Seahawks in Seattle.  Losing by 5 TDs at home is worst home loss for Seattle since 1997 when they lost at home to the Jets 41-3.
  • The Jets played the Saints closer than 31-19 final score might look.  Score was 24-19 in the middle of the 4th quarter.  Bryce Petty threw for 170 yards and he threw 2 INTs.  Can the Jets ever find a real QB?
  • The Raiders lost to the Cowboys despite the Cowboys committing 14 penalties and converting only 2 of 10 third-down attempts.  It was an ugly game all around.
  • The Niners beat the Titans with a field goal as the clock ran out.  The “Jimmy G Era” has begun in SF with 3 straight wins.  Remember, Jimmy G won his first two starts with the Pats too.
  • The Browns lost – again – to the Ravens.  The Browns’ passing stats were 20 for 37 with 0 TDs and 2 INTs for 136 yards.  No wonder they are 0-14.
  • The Pats/Steelers game had a final four minutes that had to be seen to be believed.  Even if you saw it and even if you watch it again on your DVR, you might come away shaking your head wondering what happened and how.
  • The Falcons eked out a win over the Bucs keeping them in the last wildcard slot in the NFC playoffs.  However, it was not a convincing win over a mediocre-at-best Bucs’ squad.

There is an adage that says predictions are hard – – especially when they pertain to the future.  Nonetheless, Bob Molinaro made a prediction in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot prior to the Heisman Trophy presentation show a week ago – – and he was spot on:

“If form holds, Saturday night’s ESPN Heisman Trophy presentation will be a molasses-paced ceremony that makes the presentation of the Masters green jacket look like a Bruce Springsteen concert.”

Finally, there has been a lot of attention paid to the “conversation” between LeBron James and Lonzo Ball after a Cavs/Lakers game.  The two met on the court and spoke to each other with their mouths obscured so there would be no lip reading.  There were various reports about what was said and there is supposedly a “hot mic” recording of the interchange.  Frankly, I prefer Dwight Perry’s pure speculation in the Seattle Times about what was said to whatever the reality is:

“One guess on what LeBron James whispered to Lonzo Ball after their first NBA meeting: ‘Why’d they take their talents to Lithuania?’”

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