On Hiatus

I will be on travel and without my computer until I arrive back home on Sunday 4 March.  I expect that I will be back “on the air” on Tuesday, 6 March.

Please check back then.

Stay well, all …

Holidays Versus HOLIDAYS

There are “holidays”; and then, there are “HOLIDAYS”.  Yesterday was the day after Valentine’s Day and other than a small area of a store where chocolates were on sale for 40% off, it was almost as if Valentine’s Day was six months ago.  It is a “holiday”.

Christmas, however, is a “HOLIDAY”.  Christmas was 53 days ago and within a three-mile radius of our house, there are about two dozen homes that still have their Christmas lights up and turned on every night.  Moreover, there are two homes that still have Christmas trees up and decorated and lit at night such that they can be seen from the road.  In my Pollyanna moments, I like to think that those are live trees that are going to find a nice home in the back yard of those houses come Springtime.

Compounding the “holiday”/”HOLIDAY” issue is an online ad I saw yesterday for Cadbury Cream Easter Eggs.  Easter is still more than 6 weeks hence; by the time it arrives there may be a tsunami of jelly beans.  Oh well, I guess I can take solace in the fact that the online ad was not for a Black Friday Doorbuster Sale.

The key question for me is this:

  • Will those Christmas house decorations still be up and lit every night at Easter?

There was a report yesterday on CBSSports.com that may have slipped by you.  It involves the Pittsburgh Steelers and their “bumblebee” throwback jerseys.  Evidently, someone in the management structure of the team has come to the realization that those things are butt-ugly, and the Steelers will no longer wear them once a year.  In times of minor travail, my grandfather used to say:

“Thank God for small favors.”

In this case, I guess I need to give thanks that someone in authority in the Steelers’ organization decided not to assault the eyeballs of fans and casual viewers on an annual basis any more.

In Cincy, AJ McCarron won a grievance against the Bengals making him an unrestricted free agent this year.  The situation is confusing to me, but it seems that the Bengals put him on the “wrong list” back in his rookie season and putting him on that “wrong list” affected the date of his free agency.  In any event, he becomes another available QB for teams to consider in this offseason.

Recall that McCarron was supposedly dealt to the Browns at the trade deadline last season, but the deal never closed because the Browns failed to send the notification of the trade to the league HQS in time.  Given that set of circumstances,

  • Will McCarron be eager to talk to the Browns about a deal since they wanted him there last season?  Or …
  • Will McCarron be very leery of talking to the Browns about a deal since the organization could not handle the task of sending a fax/email on time?

The Seattle Seahawks appear to be going through the organizational equivalent of a juice cleanse.  Pete Carroll remains as the head coach, but eight of the assistant coaches are gone.  By my count:

  1. Michael Barrow – Linebackers coach – gone
  2. Darrell Bevell – Offensive coordinator – gone
  3. Dwaine Board – Assistant defensive line coach – gone
  4. Tom Cable – Offensive line coach – gone
  5. Heath Farwell – Assistant special teams coach – gone
  6. Travis Jones – Senior defensive assistant coach – gone
  7. Ricky Manning Jr. – defensive backs coach – gone
  8. Kris Richard – Defensive coordinator – gone

And that is just the coaching side of things…  Russell Wilson is still the QB, but consider the circumstances surrounding these five important players on the Seahawks’ roster:

  1. Cliff Averil – suffered a neck injury that might be career ending
  2. Michael Bennett – told a Tacoma paper in January that he does not expect to be back because he sees the Seahawks going with younger players.
  3. Kam Chancellor – suffered a neck injury that might be career ending (although Chancellor does say he is going to play next season)
  4. Richard Sherman – suffered an Achilles tendon injury last year and was supposedly on the trading block before the injury.
  5. Earl Thomas – openly announced that he would want to play for the Cowboys

Switching sports, do you remember when Pitt was a college basketball force majeure?  From about 2000 until 2014 under coaches Ben Holland and Jamie Dixon, the Panthers were always involved in post-season play.  That changed last year when Pitt had a sub-.500 record for the season and went 4-14 in ACC games – and that may not have been an aberration.  This year, Pitt is 8-19 overall but they are 0-14 in ACC games as of this morning.  What has happened there?

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle reported this tidbit recently:

“Charles Barkley was once asked to name his favorite white wine. He said, ‘Danny Ainge’.”

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



Winning Cures Everything

In sports, they say that winning cures everything.  We have some evidence to support that assertion from Jacksonville.  For years, the Jags could not sell out the stadium and it was “not a good look” on TV to have the team playing in front of vast swaths of empty seats.  So, the team put tarps over about 10,000 of the seats to give the impression that the Jags were playing in front of a crowd that came closer to filling the stadium.

In the 2017 season, the Jags were much better than they had been for a decade.  The Jags won 10 games; the last time they reached double-digits in wins was 2007.  Their record won them a division title and that got them a home playoff game.  The team pulled off the tarps for that game and sold a surprising number of tix for the game given the lukewarm attendance figures from the last 10 years.  And now the Jags have announced that they will keep the tarps off for the 2018 season.  Moreover, the Jags also announced that ticket prices will go up by 10% for 2018.

The Jags remain committed to playing one of their home games in London and in 2018, they will play the Eagles there in Wembley Stadium.  That is a scheduling glitch for the Jags.  The Eagles would probably have filled EverBank Field in Jax as the reigning Super Bowl Champions.  Two other opponents scheduled to visit Jax next year are the Jets and the Skins.  Those two teams will probably not draw full houses – but they very well could in London.

Winning cures everything – – except a scheduling glitch by the NFL schedule makers…

Sonny Dykes is the head coach at SMU taking over for Chad Morris who resigned the position.  Sonny Dykes had been the head coach at Cal and La Tech prior to this job; he is considered a “passing offense guru”.  The thing that I like about Sonny Dykes is that he is the son of Spike Dykes who was the head coach at Texas Tech for almost 15 years.  Spike Dykes was one of the more colorful head coaches that I can recall.  Nowadays, when a team loses a game, the head coach will go the lectern and say that he is proud of the way his team competed and how they showed resilience in the face of adversity.  Everyone will go back to work tomorrow and “get better”.  That was not Spike Dykes; when his Texas Tech team laid an egg, here are some of the things that he said about the team and the game:

“We played like three tons of buzzard puke out there today.”

And …

“They whipped us like a tied-up goat.”

And …

“We just weren’t productive; that’s because when you have five turnovers, miss two field goals and get another one blocked; my gosh, that’s enough to choke a mule.”

And …

“They say you lose 10 percent of your fan base every year. And I’ve been here 11 years, so you do the math.”

I can only hope that Sonny Dykes takes up his father’s mantle as a colorful football coach.  There are more than enough coaches who speak only in platitudes.

Yesterday, I watched two soccer games on FOX Sports Networks; this was the first phase of the elimination round in UAEFA Champions League.  One of the things that the commentators mentioned several times was that the World Cup Tournament in Russia was set to begin in 4 months.  The US will not be part of that Tournament having missed out on qualifying when it lost to Trinidad and Tobago last Fall.  Many commentators have said that this will be a setback for “growing soccer” in the US and they are probably right.  However, other commentators have pointed out that the failure of the US to qualify is also a blow to the Russian economy.  Here’s why:

  • The Russian government is spending about $12B to stage the World Cup.  That is a pittance when compared to the more than $50B it spent to stage the Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2014, but $12B is not a trivial expenditure.
  • In recent World Cup Tournaments, Americans were well represented in the cadre of new tourists coming to see the games.  With the US out of the tournament, it is likely that the American “representation” will be much smaller.  The estimate for the number of Americans who went to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014 is 100,000.
  • Americans are also spenders as tourists.  When the US team was eliminated from qualifying, that slot went to Panama.  It is highly unlikely that Panamanians will travel to Russia in numbers equivalent to US tourists or that Panamanians will spend the same amount of money once they are in Russia.

Another country that did not qualify for this year’s World Cup is The Netherlands.  That is a bit surprising because The Netherlands finished 3rd in the World Cup in 2014 and finished 2nd in the World Cup in 2010.

Finally, since I was talking about soccer, let me close with this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo may leave Real Madrid after being accused of tax evasion by Spanish authorities. Surprised Real Madrid fans haven’t started a GoFundMe to pay what he owes.”

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



The Winter Olympics – The Best I Can Do…

For the simple reason that I do not know much of anything about the Winter Olympic events nor anything deeper than the names of a few of the US athletes in the games, I will not be providing you with any commentary or analysis on the games.  Simply for the purpose of keeping you somewhat up to date about these events, let me provide you with a few comments by Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“The biathlon event involves shooting a gun. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, can we move that as far away from the North Korean border as possible?”

And …

“To cover figure skating we assigned our skating expert: an employee who once slipped on the ice in front of the building.  You think that’s bad, The World-Herald luge expert is a guy who got a sled from Santa when he was 9.”

And …

“The easiest job in the world is figure skating analyst. You can just make it up and no one will know. ‘He completed a quadruple Huckleberry followed by a Reverse Rodman!’”

And …

“The four-man bobsled features people holding on for dear life as they plunge down an icy track. Or, as we call that in Omaha during winter , ‘carpool’.”

Now that you are up to speed – so to speak – on the events in PeyongChang, let me turn to a much more serious topic.  Reuben Foster is a very talented young linebacker for the Niners; let me just say that he has not been a “model citizen” for all his adult life.

  • Two years ago, Foster was present – but not involved – in an incident involving firearms that left three people dead.
  • At the NFL Combine last year it was announced that he had “failed a drug test” and he was sent home.  Later it came out that Foster submitted a diluted urine sample to the testers at the Combine.
  • About a month ago, he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.  Since the diluted urine sample counts as a “failed test” in the NFL taxonomy, this could mean even stricter monitoring of Foster in the league’s substance abuse protocol.
  • Over the weekend, Foster was arrested again in an incident that involved domestic violence and an assault rifle.

Please note; those last two events are arrests; there has been no legal disposition of those matters.  Notwithstanding Foster’s presumed innocence, he faces liability in the court of public opinion where there is no such thing as “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty”.  Possession of marijuana has faded in significance in the court of public opinion in recent time; however, “domestic violence” and “assault rifles” are hot button issues and the emotions they arouse in the general public in February 2018 are not remotely positive.

Reuben Foster’s career may be on a knife edge here.  The NFL is likely to be handing him suspension time with reinstatement contingent on completing some therapy.  The Niners may be in a very delicate situation here.  Not long ago, they had to deal with Aldon Smith and his issues with DUI arrests, assault weapon charges and a hit-and-run incident.  Not too many years ago, the Niners also had to deal with Ray McDonald and his issues with alleged sexual assault, domestic violence and child endangerment.  The Niners are in a precarious place regarding the way they deal with Reuben Foster.

My guess is that if Foster is not convicted of some heinous action, he will be back in the NFL because he is – as I said above – a very talented young linebacker.  I recognize that he is an adult and is fully within his rights to live his life the way he wants to live it; but if the Niners want to keep him in their family for a long career, I suggest that John Lynch go and read Homer’s Odyssey.  There is a character there named Mentor; he is charged by Odysseus to be the teacher and guardian of Telemachus – Odysseus’ young son.  Mentor’s job was to teach Telemachus how to be a leader and how to be a king.  Reuben Foster needs a mentor (small “m”) who takes on a task similar to the one that Mentor (capital “M”) took on.  I don’t think this is going to be easy…

As NFL free agency approaches, one of the staples for football writers has been to opine about how the half-dozen or so teams that desperately need a QB are going to resolve that issue.  The pundits round up the usual suspects for these articles such as:

  • Bills
  • Broncos
  • Browns
  • Cards
  • Jets
  • Vikes

I read something over the weekend at spotrac.com that makes me think there is another team that might have a QB quandary on its hands.  Consider the Baltimore Ravens…

  • Joe Flacco is signed through 2021 but there is a buyout provision that might kick in at the close of the 2019 season.
  • In the next two years (2018 and 2019) Flacco will consume $51.25M in cap room.
  • In 2017, Flacco threw for 18 TDs and threw 13 INTs.  His yards per attempt was only 5.7 yards and his total yardage was only 3141.

I think that John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ FO have some serious thinking to do.

Finally, since I started today with some observations by Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World-Herald, let me close with one more:

“Police in Sunrise, Florida, caught Jets receiver Robby Anderson going 105 mph in a 45 zone. He stuck out because the average resident of Sunrise drives 6 mph in a 45 zone.”

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



Current Players To The Hall Of Fame

About a week ago, I wrote about the thought processes I would use to vote for or against a player nominated for a sports Hall of Fame.  What engendered that essay was the naming of the 2018 class of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I pointed out specifically that I have never had such a vote, nor did I ever anticipate having such a vote; but that statement evidently primed this question from a reader:

“If you did have a vote for the NFL Hall of Fame, which current players would you vote for?”

So, let me adjust my glasses and put on as erudite a look as I can muster and go through a list today.  I will surely miss some candidates here; I expect “nominations from the floor” and calls for removal of candidates from the list.  Nonetheless, with trepidation here I go.

I’ll start with the QBs simply because the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems to take kindly to players at that position.

  • Tom Brady – cannot be any argument here
  • Drew Brees – cannot be any argument here
  • Eli Manning – twice the MVP in the Super Bowl
  • Philip Rivers – gaudy stats but no “playoff achievements”
  • Aaron Rodgers – cannot be any argument here
  • Ben Roethlisberger – cannot be any argument here

Running backs are difficult to project because lots of great running backs have short careers.  Two examples of RBs with short careers who are deservedly in the Hall of Fame are Terrell Davis and Gale Sayers.  I admit that I have done some significant extrapolation with some of the players here.

  • LeVeon Bell – no extrapolation needed here
  • Ezekiel Elliott – needs to prevent his off-field behavior from curtailing his career
  • Frank Gore – longevity, durability and production put him on this list
  • Todd Gurley – lots of extrapolation here
  • LeSean McCoy – no extrapolation needed here
  • Adrian Peterson – his off-field behaviors will make him a controversial candidate

Next come the tight ends – and there are not a whole lot of tight ends in the Hall of Fame.  Tony Gonzalez will be eligible in the next couple of years; if he does not get in, then no one on my list here has a chance.

  • Antonio Gates – from undrafted free agent to the All-Decade Team of the 2000’s
  • Rob Gronkowski – a no-brainer in my opinion
  • Travis Kelce – lots of extrapolation here
  • Greg Olsen – a borderline call
  • Jason Witten – talk about longevity, durability and production …

At the wide receiver position, I think there are 3 shoo-ins and a couple of possibilities.

  • Odell Beckham, Jr. – possibly
  • Antonio Brown – a shoo-in
  • Larry Fitzgerald – a shoo-in
  • AJ Green – possibly
  • DeAndre Hopkins – an extrapolation here but an impressive start to a career
  • Julio Jones – a shoo-in
  • Jordy Nelson – possibly

If I am going to list offensive linemen here, I must admit from the beginning that I do not understand what the standard has been in the past for inductees.  What I am going to list here are the offensive linemen (not by position) who stand out to me when I watch games on TV.  Surely, I have over-valued some players here and have missed others completely.

  • David DeCastro
  • Jason Kelce
  • Alex Mack
  • Zack Martin
  • Jason Peters
  • Josh Sitton
  • Joe Staley
  • Trent Williams

On defense let me start with the defensive linemen and outside linebackers.  Given the way defensive coordinators line up their resources, sometimes it is difficult to tell if a player is a defensive end or a linebacker.  So, I’ll lump them together here.

  • Joey Bosa – an extrapolation from a good start to his career
  • Fletcher Cox – awfully good and awfully young
  • Aaron Donald – awfully good and awfully young
  • Everson Griffen – maybe yes, maybe no
  • James Harrison – a stud for the last decade
  • Justin Houston – a tackling machine
  • Khalil Mack – a younger version of Von Miller
  • Von Miller – has game-changing abilities
  • Terrell Suggs – a stud for the last decade with some off-field issues
  • Ndamukong Suh – anger management issues might keep him out
  • JJ Watt – injury problems starting to catch up to him

As with the defensive linemen and linebackers, I will group together the cornerbacks and safeties since some players go from one position to the other.

  • Eric Berry – seems obvious to me
  • AJ Bouye – an extrapolation here
  • Josh Norman – a real “shut-down corner”
  • Patrick Peterson – a real “shut-down corner”
  • Jalen Ramsey – a big extrapolation here
  • Xavier Rhodes – needs only to stay healthy
  • Richard Sherman – probably
  • Earl Thomas – probably

Punters and placekickers get into the Hall of Fame as often as Cookie Monster shows dietary restraint.  Therefore, I am not going to expend any effort on those positions.  Even though I was not asked to do so, let me consider the coaches in the NFL who may wind up in the Hall of Fame down the road.

  • Bill Belichick – a shoo-in
  • Tom Coughlin – a shoo-in
  • John Fox – took 2 different teams to the Super Bowl; he’s a longshot
  • Andy Reid – if he wins a Super Bowl; otherwise he is a fat Marty Schottenheimer
  • Mike Tomlin – 7 times in the playoffs and a Super Bowl win

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



A Meandering Monday …

Over the weekend, Yu Darvish signed a 6-year deal with the Chicago Cubs; reports say the deal is worth $126M with incentives that can raise the deal to $150M.  A report this morning at CBSSports.com says that Jake Arietta turned down a similar deal offered by the Cubs.  Since Arietta has been with the Cubs for the last 3 seasons, it is interesting to compare the two pitchers:

  • Yu Darvish is 31 years old and will turn 32 in August.  He has been a durable starter averaging 26 starts per season.  His career ERA is 3.42 and he averages a bit over 200 strikeouts per season.
  • Jake Arietta is 31 years old and will turn 32 in March.  He too has been a durable starter averaging 26 starts per season.  His career ERA is 3.57 and he averages about 130 strikeouts per season.  He won the Cy Young award in 2015.  He has also – mysteriously – led the NL in wild pitches in 2016 and in 2017.

Neither Darvish nor Arietta had his best season in 2017, but neither had a bad season in 2017.  Looking at history, these two pitchers on average are very similar; it is not surprising that a GM devoted to analytics would “assign” them relatively equal values.  Because of the similarity of their career records, it may be that the Darvish contract sets the general parameters for deals that may be extended to Arietta as the bidding for free agent pitchers comes down to the wire.  Of course, it will behoove Arietta’s agent to get him something more than what is in the Darvish deal if only as a face-saving gesture; but I would not look for Arietta to be getting any offers either 10% higher in salary per year or much longer than 6 years.  [For the record, I think 6 years is the longest contract I would offer to a 31-year old starting pitcher – – and yes, I have heard of Nolan Ryan.]

There was a report last week that LeBron James could be added to the Golden State Warriors team adding to the speculation as to where James will ply his trade next season.  I do not pretend to understand the nuances of the NBA’s soft salary cap, but I will go along with the idea that it can happen financially.  I also have no insight into the LeBron James master plan for the remainder of his career.  I do want to say this about that rumor/report however:

  • If the Warriors actually add LeBron James to their roster, the NBA can abandon any pretense it has that its regular season means anything AND that its playoffs short of the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals mean anything.

For years, we have heard leagues wring their hands over “the integrity of the game(s)” and how said “integrity” is the foundation of their enterprise and the cornerstone of fan interest.  That is true.  Here is something else that is true:

  • There must be some semblance of competitive balance in that league.  If the Harlem Globetrotters played 41 games in one city against the Washington Generals, the interest in those games would drop to zero after about the 5th game because everyone knows what happens when the final buzzer goes off.

Let me be clear.  I do not give a fig where LeBron James plays next year; he could start his own NBA franchise on the moon for all I care.  [Elon Musk can be his “transportation partner” …]  However, if the Warriors can put a starting five on the court of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, LeBron James and Klay Thompson, I will ignore any and all NBA games until the Conference Finals.

Mentioning LeBron James naturally makes me think of the Cleveland Cavaliers who totally redid their roster at the trade deadline last week.  So, here is a question for you:

  • Suppose you were commissioned to write the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers as a franchise.  How would you handle the Isaiah Thomas Era there?

I read a report over the weekend that in the Olympic Village in PeyongChang there are 110,000 condoms to be given out “as needed”.  That leads me to ask two questions:

  1. Does the IOC have a corporate partner providing these condoms and do the condoms have the Olympic logo with the 5 rings on the packages?
  2. How badly do the NBC execs wish they could televise on one of their cable outlets some of the “events” where those condoms play a strategic role?

Speaking of the Olympics – sort of – it should not surprise any regular readers that I am not glued to my TV watching hours and hours of Olympic coverage.  I did tune in briefly over the weekend; and in the “studio summary of the day’s events”, I found myself waiting for NBC to cut to a shot of Bob Costas sitting in a chair at a ¾ angle to the camera opining on the meaning of something that happened in PeyongChang.  Mike Tirico is doing a fine job as the major domo of the coverage; I do not mean to throw shade on him at all.  However, for me, something is missing from the telecast…

There was a report last week that the father of one of Dr. Larry Nassar’s victims tried – unsuccessfully – to attack Nasser in the courtroom while victim statements were being presented to the judge.  Intellectually, I know that is the wrong thing to do.  I do not have any daughters, but I do have a granddaughter; and if Dr. Nassar had done to her what he has done to other young girls, I am not sure that I would have been able to attend that hearing and behave in the way that I know is correct and proper.  There is in the recesses of my reptilian brain stem a feeling that wants me to say to that father:

  • I understand.  I only wish you had a better attack plan.

Finally, consider please, this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Someone stole the 7-foot unicycle belonging to Red Panda, a popular basketball halftime show performer. Here’s one police chase I wouldn’t mind seeing.”

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



What Happened To Miss Manners?

Yesterday afternoon, there were several reports related to a Tweet posted by Tony Dungy saying that what Josh McDaniels had done to the Colts and to the assistant coaches that the Colts had hired in anticipation of his being the head coach in Indy was “indefensible”.  Tony Dungy can Tweet whatever he wants, but using his Tweet as a way to post a report leads me to a question:

  • Who died and made Tony Dungy the arbiter of what is proper behavior?

I thought that was Miss Manners’ job.

There is an adage that a verbal agreement is not worth the paper it is written on.  That seems eerily applicable to the McDaniels/Colts situation at hand.  I do not read minds, so I have no idea what prompted McDaniels to jilt the Colts as he did but maybe he had this question in his mind and it was part of his “problem” that led to his “indefensible” action:

  • For whom and with whom would I prefer to work?  Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick or Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard?
  • Take your time here…

Yesterday seemed to be a day for people to express their butthurt feelings.  MLB agents and leaders of the MLBPA cannot fathom how “bad” the free agent market is this winter.  A couple of players have talked about boycotting Spring Training; agents and union leaders mused about “collusion”; pitchers and catchers are set to report next week and some pretty good players – several represented by Scott Boras – remain unsigned.  MLBPA head honcho, Tony Clark said that the GMs and teams are engaged in a “race to the bottom” and that they are calling into question the “integrity of the games”.  Sounds pretty bad …

On a parallel track, there were reports yesterday that JD Martinez – represented by Scott Boras – is fed up with the Boston Red Sox and their intransigence.  According to reports, Martinez has a 5-year, $125M contract offer from the Red Sox but he wants a 7-year, or 8-year deal and they will not budge off the 5-year mark.  Another report said that Yu Darvish had at least one “nine-figure offer” from a team but that he and his agent were waiting to see if the Yankees or Dodgers would join the bidding.

Suddenly, I feel a little less sympathy for the unsigned players, their agents and the union honchos.  There are indeed some pretty good players who are still unsigned, but I would not classify any of them as “great players”.  Perhaps, teams and GMs have seen enough examples of what happens when players around 30 years old sign long-term contracts; often the final few years on those deals are not pretty.

  1. The Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract worth $240M when Pujols was 31.  It has 4 years left and will pay him $27M, $28M, $29M and $30M in those 4 years.  Really?
  2. The Nats signed Jayson Werth to a 7-year contract worth $126M when he was 32 years old.  In the final 3 years of that deal (it ended in 2017) Werth’s batting averages were .221, .244, .226.  By the way, Jayson Werth is one of the many unsigned free agents out there …

The phrase “race to the bottom” is a favorite of union leaders in various industries.  In manufacturing, it is used to imply that companies are sending jobs to places where wages are low and workers are not represented by unions.  The usage of that phrase by the head of the MLBPA must mean something else because none of the GMs are seeking to send players elsewhere; the GMs are simply not willing to pay what players and agents think they are entitled to get paid.  Last year on Opening Day, the Houston Astros payroll for its 25 players totaled $124.3M.

  • That figure is close to what the Red Sox have offered to JD Martinez for 5 years of work.
  • The Houston Astros of 2017 – averaging $6M per player on Opening Day – merely won the World Series.  According to Tony Clark they also won the “race to the bottom”.

On the same day as the agents and unions were bleating about unsigned free agents, the San Francisco 49ers made a major financial commitment.  They signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a 5-year deal worth $137.5M with $74M guaranteed and a total of $90M to go into his bank account in the first 3 years.  The baseball agents would never consider a contract like this one because it is not fully guaranteed at signing.  However, the duration and the total value of Garoppolo’s deal is similar to the putative offer from the Red Sox to Boras and Martinez.  And here is why Garoppolo is worth more to the Niners than Martinez is ever going to be worth to the Red Sox:

  • The Niners have been awful for several years.  They have a new stadium and fans are not going to the games.  That embarrasses the owners and – more importantly – it diminishes the revenue stream into their bank accounts.
  • Jimmy G. gives the Niners hope and a measure of charisma.  He will put fannies in the seats and thereby increase revenue while – presumably – also winning more games for the team.
  • The Red Sox have played to home crowds of 95% capacity or higher for each of the past 10 seasons.
  • JD Martinez – nor any other free agent out there – is going to alter the Red Sox revenue stream significantly.  There are not a lot of empty seats for him to put fannies in.

Yesterday may have been a day to express butthurt in the sports world, but here in Curmudgeon Central, the crocodile tears are just not flowing…

Finally, speaking about bad contracts and things of that nature, consider this item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times.  In some cases, it costs a lot to have people stop working for you:

“Checks, please.

“Fired Arkansas coach Bret Bielema will receive 37 monthly installments of $322,567.57 through Dec. 31, 2020 as called for his in buyout, the Hogs’ support foundation announced.

“Final score: Greenbacks $11,935,000, Razorbacks 0.”

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



Conflict Of Interest

Surely you know by now that Josh McDaniels backed out of whatever verbal commitment he made to the Indy Colts and will not be the Colts’ head coach next year.  The coverage of this kerfuffle has focused on potential back-room shenanigans by the Pats’ ownership and promises to McDaniels that may or may not have been made and all that sort of speculation.  Also, reported is that McDaniels’ agent has fired McDaniels taking the position in effect that he does not want to represent someone who would back out of a deal that the agent had negotiated.  How noble a gesture…

How-Evah …!  [/Stephen A. Smith] Several reports said that the agent involved here represented Josh McDaniels AND he represented Chris Ballard – the GM of the Colts who was negotiating the team’s side of the contract with McDaniels.  That means the agent represented the two principals on opposite sides of the deal.

  • Can you tell me in what segment of the known universe that situation is not called a Conflict of Interest?
  • I have no idea if the agent involved here is an attorney, but I strongly suspect that the Legal Canon of Ethics would preclude an attorney from representing the parties on either side of a dispute.  Plaintiff’s attorneys do not also represent defendants in civil actions against one another; I suspect that is not an accident.

About a week ago, the Browns hired Todd Haley to be their offensive coordinator.  Haley held that job with the Steelers for the last 5 years.  Last year, the Browns scored only 234 points in their 16 games (just under 15 points per game); that was the lowest points production in the league.  Moreover, the Browns have gone 1-31 in their last 32 NFL games.  I guess you would have to say that Haley has found a job situation where there is only an upside.

The Carolina Panthers’ franchise is now officially up for sale; Jerry Richardson said that would be the case once the season was over and the team has hired legal and financial advisors to effect the transaction.  Interestingly, the NFL felt it necessary to “let it be known” (by including the topic in the Commissioner’s State of the League speech just before the Super Bowl) that the league strongly preferred keeping the team in Charlotte NC.  I found that interesting because with the recent franchise shufflings in the NFL, the LA market and the Las Vegas market are now occupied, and I wonder where a new Panthers’ owner might think to move the franchise.  Consider:

  • Charlotte is the 22nd largest TV market in the US according to Nielsen.
  • Only 3 larger markets do not already have NFL teams.  They are St. Louis, Sacramento-Stockton and Orlando.  St. Louis is an unlikely option; Sacramento is a sports backwater; and, putting a 4th franchise in Florida would be truly stupid.
  • Unoccupied markets similar in size to Charlotte include Raleigh-Durham (is it worth the trouble to move there?), Portland (maybe if Phil Knight was going to make an offer?), Hartford (doubt it), San Antonio (Jerry Jones’ head would explode) and Columbus (good luck competing with Ohio State there).

My guess is that the NFL simply was laying down a marker with that tidbit informing any potential bidder that he/she had best not be thinking of asking to move the franchise any time soon.  The most recent value put on the Panthers’ franchise that I can find was by Forbes about 6 months ago; they had the Panthers worth $2.1B.  Just for fun, I will set an OVER/UNDER line on the final price here:

  • $2.5B – – You want OVER or UNDER?

Now that folks have digested the fact that the Eagles are the Super Bowl champions, it may be interesting to look at the financial draw that the game had on TV.  Reports say that NBC hauled in $414M in ad revenue for the game.  That does NOT include the ad revenue generated by the 6-hour pregame hootenanny.  Last year’s game brought in $419M but recall that last year’s game was an overtime game and therefore had more ad slots.  This year’s ad revenue was a Super Bowl record for a 60-minute game.  The estimate for the total revenue to include the pregame and post-game ads is north of $500M.  Not a bad day…

In case you did not keep track, there were 49-and-a-half minutes of advertisements during the game.  That means ads took up about 22% of the time from the kickoff to the launching of the confetti.  Anheuser-Busch and Fiat-Chrysler were the biggest ad buyers this year; each of them aired 4 minutes worth of commercials.

Brad Dickson had the comment about Super Bowl viewers in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Most everybody will be watching the Super Bowl. Except for ESPN executives, who plan to skip the game to rewatch some old LaVar Ball interviews.”

One more Super Bowl related “bit of tid” if you will:

  • With the Eagles’ win over the Patriots last Sunday, the NFC East is the only division in the NFL in which all the teams have won a Super Bowl title.
  • At the other end of that spectrum is the AFC South where only the Colts have won a Super Bowl and none of the other 3 teams have.

Finally, here are two comments from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald about marathon runners:

“Miami Marathon happened while you slept: More than 20,000 runners were expected Sunday for the annual Miami Marathon & Half Marathon, which began at the ungodly hour of 5:45 a.m. Once again I meant to compete, but an utter lack of interest and ambition got in the way.”

And …

“Former Marlins president David Samson is running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days beginning Tuesday in a continuing effort to get as far from Jeffrey Loria as he possibly can.”

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



Halls Of Fame Voting

Mixed in among all the hubbub of the Super Bowl, the 2018 class of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was announced.  In case you missed it, here are the 8 members of that class:

  1. Bobby Beathard
  2. Robert Brazile
  3. Brian Dawkins
  4. Jerry Kramer
  5. Ray Lewis
  6. Randy Moss
  7. Terrell Owens
  8. Brian Urlacher

I have no argument with any of those selections; in fact, I was surprised to see Jerry Kramer’s name on the list only because I assumed that he had been inducted long before now.  The name on the list that can spark discussion is – of course – Terrell Owens.  Let me use his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a reason to proclaim what would be my voting criteria for Halls of Fame if I had such franchise.

I believe that any Hall of Fame is supposed to honor the achievements and the memory of the greatest players and coaches and “contributors” to the sport.  [Aside:  I am only talking about sports Halls of Fame; I consider the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a museum.  That’s just me…]  I believe that there is a significant distinction that I would make between “great players” and “very good players”.  If someone wants to start up the Hall of Very Good Players as an adjunct to the Hall of Fame, that would be hunky-dory with me.  However, I would not add the “very good players” to the Hall of Fame.  Remember, this is how I would vote if I actually had a vote…

Terrell Owens has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for several years and was denied entry until this year.  Many folks have opined that the voters were “teaching him a lesson in humility” by delaying his entry because Owens was not the greatest teammate ever and was not a great “ambassador of the game”.  Since I am not part of the process that selects Hall of Fame members, I have no idea how true that is; so, let me assume it is true for the sake of argument.

I think that sort of behavior is petty, childish and small-minded.  If in fact, someone with a vote thought that Owens’ behavior was such that it made him unworthy of entry in Year 1 of his eligibility, then changing one’s vote a couple of years later makes no sense since none of his “bad teammate-ness” or “bad attitudes” have been cleansed away in the intervening time.

I believe that members of the Hall of Fame should be there because of their performance on the field – – or in the Front Office or the League Office or whatever.  The Hall of Fame should not be an assembly of “Great Players Who Also Happen To Be Great Humanitarians”.  In fact, there are players in various Halls of Fame who are not particularly nice people but who happened to excel in their sport.

  • Ty Cobb was not a nice person by most accounts.
  • Tris Speaker may indeed have thrown games as a manager and bet on them.
  • Babe Ruth was hardly a model citizen or role model for children.
  • OJ Simpson – – you know…
  • Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was accused of sexual harassment and plead to charges of bribing of a governor.
  • Marvin Harrison has been in and around several shooting incidents in Philadelphia.

You get the idea…

Notwithstanding any or all of the human frailties of the players above – and the team owner on that list – they all deserve to be in their Hall of Fame because they were outstanding practitioners of their sport when they were involved in their sport.  I would have voted in favor of every one of the people on that list – and probably would have done so in the first year of their eligibility unless voting restrictions in that year precluded such a vote.

Please note that Ray Lewis is on this year’s list of inductees.  He was involved in an incident where someone died, and Lewis plead guilty to obstruction of justice.  Notwithstanding that reality, there can be no doubt that Ray Lewis was a great player in the NFL for about 15 years and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is there to honor that achievement in his life.  He belongs there.

To be sure, there is a level of heinous behavior that can trump the most outstanding on-field career achievements and that behavior would cause me to ignore the on-field stuff and to vote against someone’s induction.  Let me give two examples.  Neither of these people have any achievements that are “Hall-of-Fame-worthy” but pretend for a moment that they had them.  I would still vote against:

  • Rae Carruth:  Convicted of conspiracy to murder his pregnant girlfriend.
  • Dr. Larry Nassar:  I’m not big on child molesters.

For me, the real conundrum comes when considering steroid users in MLB.  My problem there is very simple:

  • Steroids – and Performance Enhancing Drugs as a class – were a part of the regimen that produced the eye-popping career stats that brought Joe Flabeetz’ name to the voters.  In that case, the “greatness” of the athlete becomes a bit fuzzier than I would prefer it to be.
  • I would not vote for a known steroid user.
  • If there were a preponderance of evidence (say 75/25) indicating steroid use, I would not vote for a player.

So that is what I think about people in Halls of Fame and that is why I have no problem with all the inductees in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame; Bobby Beathard was a great GM/Personnel Guy and the others were great players.

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

“At Super Bowl opening night, Tom Brady was asked if he’d rather battle a duck the size of a horse or 100 horses the size of a duck. Folks, this is what we’re left with when newspapers lay off lots of sports reporters.”

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



Winter Olympics Starting This Week

I have mentioned here several times in the past that my educational background and professional career involved the physical sciences.  To make a point today, I need to provide a brief and simple tutorial on the physical properties of water.  We have all experienced the fact that water expands when it freezes; put a can of soda or a full plastic bottle of water in the freezer overnight and you will have a ruptured can or bottle with a frozen mass of stuff in the morning.  Water is not the only substance that behaves this way, but it is far and away the most abundant one to do so.

Now take a leap of faith here…  There is something known as the Clausius-Clapeyron Equation and the upshot of that equation is this:

  • Substances that expand upon freezing also have a higher freezing point/melting point as the pressure increases on the substance.

Just trust me here; you do not want to know the derivation of the Clausius-Clapeyron Equation; in fact, the only people who really care about it at all are those who are about to take a Final Exam in a physical chemistry course.  All you need to do now is to believe me when I tell you that increasing the pressure on an ice cube will melt that ice cube as surely as increasing the temperature will melt that ice cube.

And that is the reason people can ice skate.  The area under those knife-sharp skate blades is incredibly small; the weight of the skater is supported only in that small area under the skate blades meaning the pressure in that long and thin support zone is very high.  And that increase in pressure “melts” the ice under the blade such that the skater moves along on a minuscule film of water – which refreezes as soon as the back of the skate blade moves away.

This has some marginal relevance today simply because the Winter Olympics in Korea are about to begin this weekend.  Every single event in those games is dependent on the fact that water expands on freezing and that leads to the situation where water freezes at a higher temperature when under high pressure.  Every event you will read about or see on TV would not be possible without that underlying physical principle.

Cement does not behave like water.  Imagine putting on a pair of ice skates and trying to execute a figure skating move on a cement slab.  It would not work; it would not end well for the skater.  If you enjoy any of the events taking place over the next several weeks, tip your hat to water as a substance and to Clausius and Clapeyron for explaining how and why your enjoyment came to be.

[Aside:  About the only part of the Winter Games that I can find that has nothing to do with this phenomenon is the portion of the biathlon that involves target shooting.]

Changing the subject here …  ESPN had to do a major overhaul to its announcing team on Sunday Night Baseball for 2018.  Aaron Boone had been part of the three-person announcing team for several seasons, but Boone took over as the manager of the Yankees in December.  Dan Shulman had done the play-by-play on Sunday Night Baseball for about 5 years, but he decided to step away from that job during this offseason.  [Aside:  Dan Shulman will continue to work ESPN college basketball telecasts and selected Toronto Blue Jays games on the Canadian network, Sportsnet.]

ESPN selected Matt Vasgersian to replace Shulman.  That should work just fine; both Shulman and Vasgersian are solid broadcasters who do not dominate the action of the game.   I think the more interesting ESPN replacement is Alex Rodriguez to take over for Aaron Boone.  This is interesting for two reasons:

  1. A long time ago, A-Rod replaced Aaron Boone at third base for the Yankees.  Now he is replacing him in the broadcast booth; an interesting coincidence …
  2. Alex Rodriguez was hardly a loveable figure for the latter part of his playing career.  I have no intention of rehashing all the negativity that surrounded him then, but in his broadcasting incarnation, A-Rod is enlightening and enjoyable.  For those who are spring-loaded to hate him for his prior actions and persona, take a deep breath and just listen to him on the microphone.  He is not the spawn of Beelzebub; he is actually pretty good as an announcer.

As of this morning, the other two members of the broadcasting team for Sunday Night Baseball – Jessica Mendoza and Buster Olney – will remain in their positions for the 2018 season.  I will spend at least some of the time early in the season listening to the new broadcast team for clues as to their longevity.  Sunday Night Baseball has had its share of turnover over the past 20 years or so – particularly in the analysts’ chairs.

An e-mail from a friend alerted me to a Division III basketball game that would surely have escaped my notice.

  • Fontbonne University is a small school (about 3000 students) located in St. Louis.
  • Greenville University is a small school (about 1500 students) located in Greenville, Illinois.
  • Both teams participate in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Recently, the Fontbonne basketball team paid a visit to Greenville and I think the scoreboard operator may have suffered carpal tunnel syndrome as a result.  Here are just a few stats from the game:

  • Final score was Fontbonne 164  Greenville  154  (OT)
  • Teams combined to attempt 224 field goals
  • Teams combined to attempt 88 3-point shots
  • Teams combined to take down 126 rebounds (they missed a lot of those shots)
  • Teams combined free throw shooting was 55 for 91.

This sounds as if it was the collegiate version of a game on the And-1 Tour; and yes, this is the NCAA record for most points in a basketball game.  However, this is not an outrageous outcome when you consider that Greenville has scored 140 or more points 6 times in regulation games this season.  Fontbonne has not been nearly such a scoring machine; in fact, the only two games where Fontbonne went north of 100 points were the two games against Greenville.  [The previous game in December was a win for Greenville by a score of 147-138.]  I think it is fair to surmise that Greenville spends less time in practice on defense than it does on offense…

Finally, since I mentioned the Winter Olympics at the outset today, here are two comments about the upcoming games from writers that I follow:

“NBC announced that it will air over 2,400 hours of Winter Olympics coverage. If you don’t despise mixed doubles curling at the beginning, you will by the end.”  [Brad Dickson, Omaha-World-Herald]

And …

“The ring thing: The Winter Olympics are less than a month away. It’s about time I drafted my curling fantasy league team.”  [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

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