A Teachable Moment?

Somehow, the folks in charge of the University of Maryland are going to – in their words – “honor the memory of Jordan McNair” while reinstating the head football coach who oversaw the practice conditions that led to McNair’s death.  If you can square the circle created by those two things, you are better than I am.  The way the Washington Post reports the story, university president Wallace Loh was told by the Board of Regents to reinstate Coach DJ Durklin or be fired himself.  Loh’s recommendation to the Board of Regents had been to fire Durklin based on investigations into the football program and the circumstances surrounding Jordan McNair’s death.  Loh reinstated Durkin and simultaneously announced his intention to leave the university in June 2019.

The return of Durkin did not go over all that well with the team.  According to reports, several of the players walked out of his first meeting with the team since he had been placed on paid administrative leave back in early August.  That gesture leads directly to a key point in this sordid mess:

  • What’s next?

The reporting by ESPN and The Athletic that revealed the circumstances of McNair’s death from heat exhaustion at a football practice revealed what became known as the “toxic culture” surrounding the Maryland football program.  Whatever that “toxic culture” entailed was overseen and directed by Coach Durkin and the already fired strength coach for the team.  For reasons known only to the folks in the room when the Board of Regents met and voted on what to do now, all of that information was deemed to be secondary to the reinstatement of Coach Durkin.  That is now; what is next?

I do not expect it to happen, but it would be very interesting to see how the Board of Regents would deal with a situation where a significant fraction of the football team – say half of the players – decided to come to the field on Saturday November 10 for the Terps’ next home game stand on the sidelines for the national anthem and then walk back to the locker room and choose not to play in that game.  In these times when there is lots of talk about placing proper value on college athletes in the revenue sports, that sort of action would go a long way toward establishing the athletes themselves as the critical part of the revenue generation process.

One of the phrases in vogue now is something called a “teachable moment”.  What that really means is that someone has really screwed things up and in the process of fixing them, you simultaneously show folks how they should behave so as not to screw things up again in the future.  Normally, adults apply the teaching/fixing and children do the learning.  In this case, I think the football players at Maryland can take advantage of a “teachable moment” and be the fixers/teachers for the football coaches and the Maryland board of Regents.  Will they step forward and take that mantle?

  • We shall see…

Moving up a level in the football hierarchy, the NFL trade deadline passed yesterday afternoon.  Before I comment on a couple of the transactions from yesterday, let me say that the NFL’s trading rules are far superior to those in MLB.

  • First, the deadline is around the halfway point in the season.  In baseball, the halfway point is around the end of June, but the trade deadline is not until the end of July.
  • Second, once the NFL trade deadline is passed, there are no “secondary markets” for things that are trades but are not labeled as such with concocted processes like revocable waivers and the like.
  • MLB would do well to emulate the NFL model when it comes to trading players in the middle of a season.

Several players moved around the NFL in transactions yesterday and some of the movements were interesting:

  • The Packers traded Ty Montgomery to the Ravens for a 7th round pick.  Montgomery is not a star player, but he is a useful player despite his boneheaded decision to try to return a kickoff at the end of last Sunday’s game against the Rams.  A 7th round pick is the trade equivalent of a duffel bag full of practice footballs and a used kicking tee.  That trade seems like the Packers’ recognition that he had to be separated from the team and that a 7th round pick is better than just cutting Montgomery outright.
  • The Packers also traded safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Skins for a 4th round pick.  I don’t get that move at all; Dix had started every game for the Packers this year.  Maybe the fact that he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year was the motivation for the Packers’ decision?  In any event, the Skins did well with that move.
  • The Texans needed a WR after Will Fuller tore his ACL in the game last Sunday.  They got Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos for a 4th round pick and an exchange of draft positions in the 7th round.
  • The Rams acquired an edge rusher in Dante Fowler from the Jags for a 3rd round pick next year and a 5th round pick in 2020.  I don’t understand this move at all from the Jags’ perspective.  The Jags win with their defense and not their offense; that cannot be news to anyone who follows the NFL even perfunctorily.  So, why weaken that part of the team without getting back an asset for the underachieving offensive unit?
  • The Eagles got Golden Tate from the Lions for a 3rd round pick.  I do not get that move from the Eagles’ perspective.  They need to upgrade their running game more than they need to upgrade their WR corps.  Moreover, Tate will be a free agent at the end of this year and his contract demands were too rich for the Lions, so the odds are that the Eagles traded away a 3rd round pick to “rent” golden Tate for an 8-game playoff run.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Atheist:  A person who privately prays that they don’t turn out to be wrong.”

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



Congratulations To The Boston Red Sox

Naturally, there need to be congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for completing such a dominant MLB season with a dominant World Series championship.  As we were watching Games 3-5 in the sportsbook in Las Vegas, we were directly reminded that the Red Sox are relentless.  Trailing 4-0 late in Game 4, one might have expected to see some frustration, or some quit in the Red Sox dugout; it was almost the opposite.  The dugout camera shots gave us the impression that the players knew there was going to be an eruption, but they did not know when it was going to happen.  Well, it happened in the final 3 innings when the Red Sox put 8 big runs on the scoreboard.

Much has been made about the “managerial errors” made by Dave Roberts.  While I totally agree that his lifting of Rich Hill in Game 4 was premature and boneheaded – – and that is not a second-guess as any of my viewing companions will attest – – I think there is a larger problem here.  I think what Dave Roberts is guilty of is over-managing.  Frankly, far too many MLB managers do that these days – particularly the true-believers in advanced analytics.  There are times when a manager ought to believe what he sees with his eyes on the field as opposed to what the Excel spreadsheet says in his briefing book.  Advanced analytics has its place but if it were the absolute answer to every baseball situation, every game would come down to a 1-0 game depending on which team made the first run-producing physical error on the field.

  • [Aside:  One of my weekend companions got a message from a friend with a fantastic stat.  According to the message, the seven-and-a-half-hour marathon game in this World Series was longer than the entire 1939 World Series – a 4-game sweep by the Yankees.  That was in the days when you could actually see MLB games that took less than 2 hours more than twice a year.]

Imagine that the “marathon game” had started in the afternoon instead of at 5:00 PM on the west coast.  Lots more people would have been able to see the whole game because even in the Pacific Time Zone, there were far fewer people there to see the final inning than there were in the sportsbook an hour-and-a-half earlier.  On the East Coast, the game did not end until after 3:00 AM.  For the remaining TV sets that were still on at that time, I suspect that more than a few of those sets did not have any open eyeballs staring at them.

  • Memo to Commissioner Manford:  I know you cannot predict which games will take forever and which ones will be over in short order.  Nonetheless, please use your “Commish authority” to require one game in the World Series to be played with an afternoon start.  In fact, let me be more specific; make it the Saturday World Series game.  You may get lucky and have a great game on TV at a time when a lot more people can be awake to see it happen.

According to Clayton Kershaw’s contract, he has 72 hours from the conclusion of the World Series to notify the Dodgers if he will exercise his option to get out of the final two years of his 7-year contract worth a total of $215M.  If I read the terms of what is left on the deal, Kershaw has 2 more years with LA and for those 2 years he will take in $65M of the Dodgers’ money

Clayton Kershaw is an excellent pitcher – but he is not nearly the pitcher he was 5 years ago when he signed that deal.  He has had arm issues and a lower back issue sufficient to put him on the DL in each of the last 2 seasons; advanced analytical folks say his average fastball has lost a few miles per hour and that loss of velocity makes his slider less effective.  Let me stipulate that; I am sure plenty of MLB execs and managers will take that as gospel truth.

The question comes down to this; it is a bird-in-the-hand situation:

  • Can Clayton Kershaw get a deal this winter that will pay him more than $65M plus whatever the going rate will be for his services 3 years down the road?

Clearly, that is an unanswerable question; but that is the financial landscape to be filled in here.  Personally, I think his best financial move is to stay with the Dodgers and collect his $65M and then see how things shake out after the 2020 MLB season.

Switching gears…  The verdict is in; the jury found the Adidas execs guilty of fraud because they paid college basketball recruits under the table.  You know my skepticism here about the basis of this trial in the first place; I have said several times that I do not believe any federal law was broken here even though:

  1. What the execs and agents and runners did and still do is despicable – and –
  2. There are NCAA rules prohibiting anything resembling what they did – and –
  3. The colleges are complicit in all of this because of their passivity and tolerance of the status quo.

I have no expertise in legal theory and do not pretend that I do; so, I have now asked three friends who are both sports fans and practicing attorneys about the legal basis of this case.  All three of them agree with my three points above – particularly in the colleges’ complicity in this mess.  Moreover, they all agree that they do not see any federal law that was broken here and one of the three said he will be shocked if the conviction stands up on appeal.  The other two were less certain of the outcome of an appeal but said they hoped it would be overturned.

I do not live in the jurisdiction where this case was tried so I could never have been selected for the jury.  However, if I were on that jury, the panel would still be deliberating, and gridlock would seem inevitable.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Art:  The deliberate arrangement of elements in any given medium in such a way as to appeal to the aesthetic sense.  If the last few centuries are any indication, most works of art could easily have been painted by the five year old child of whoever is viewing the painting.”

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



Football Friday – On Thursday This Week – 10/25/18

Football Friday will happen on Thursday this week because I need to leave the house at “Oh-Dark-Thirty” tomorrow to catch a flight to Las Vegas for the annual visitation.  The spreads and totals here are mid-week numbers; so be it…  As usual, I shall begin with NCAA football.

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 4-2 last week with a 14-0 shutout win over George Fox University.  The Wildcats need one more win to assure themselves another winning season in football – – something the school teams have done every year since 1956.  This week the Wildcats host the Pacific Lutheran Lutes in a Northwest Conference game.  The Lutes are 3-3 for the season; they are 3-0 at home and they are 0-3 on the road; this game is in McMinnville, OR.  Go Wildcats!

Two weeks ago, college football was Bizarro World; last week was relatively tame – – once you got past the fact that Ohio State threw in a horrendous clunker against Purdue.  The Buckeyes did not merely lose to the Boilermakers; the Buckeyes got their doors blown off in the process losing by 29 points.  Ohio State has not lost often in the past several years, but when they lose, they tend to lose badly.  Remember Clemson in the CFP a couple years ago; remember Iowa last year; now losing by more than 4 TDs to Purdue…

Here is a telling stat from the game that will explain how Ohio State found themselves so far out on the wrong end of the stick:

  • Ohio State had the ball in the red zone 4 times.
  • Those 4 possessions yielded a total of 6 points.

You can explain away that big loss to Clemson in the CFP; an opponent in the CFP is – by definition – a really good team.  You can sort of forgive the loss to Iowa last year because Iowa was a decent team and they were at home.  This year’s loss to Purdue on the other hand came at the hands of a team that had already lost to E. Michigan.  When a team beats Ohio State – and remember, that does not happen very often – it is very surprising if/when you find a loss to a MAC opponent on that team’s résumé.

In other Big-10 action, Nebraska won its first game of the year bringing its record to 1-6.  It was a dominant win over Minnesota by a score of 53-28.  Brad Dickson had this to say in a Tweet during this game:

“How bad did the first half go for Minnesota? Goldy Gopher was just picked up by a Humane Society van.”

By the way, Minnesota has a freshman offensive lineman born in Australia named Daniel Faalele.  He is probably not finished growing but even at this young age, he is listed at 6’ 9” and 400 lbs.  If you invite him to Thanksgiving dinner at your house, I would suggest doubling up on the mashed sweet potatoes…

Michigan dominated Michigan State last week and it was the defense that stood out.  Consider:

  • The Spartans had 65 yards total net offense for the game.
  • The Spartans were 0-12 on third down conversions and 0-1 on 4th downs.
  • The Spartans had only 11 first downs in the game and 5 of them were via penalty.

I don’t know if Michigan will crack the top 4 in the rankings this week; but if that defense can play that way consistently, I think they should be considered a CFP participant.

Ed Orgeron started the season on a hot seat at LSU facing some stiff competition in the SEC and dealing with an obsessively irrational fan base.  Two weeks ago, LSU beat Georgia; last week, LSU dominated Mississippi State 19-3.  Maybe that score does not look like “domination” to you, but it was.  Bulldogs’ QB, Nick Fitzgerald, was harassed all game long and threw 4 INTs.  Next up for LSU is Alabama a week from now.  If LSU wins that game, Ed Orgeron might be the Coach of the Year.

Last week, Auburn beat Ole Miss 31-16 improving to 5-3 overall but only 2-3 in SEC games.  That is a bit surprising; I thought Auburn would be better than that back in August.  Looking at the stats, it seems that it is the passing game that has let Auburn down.

  • Passing offense 217 yards per game; passing defense 222 yards per game
  • Rushing offense 4.4 yards per carry; rushing defense 3.3 yards per carry

Last week had to put to rest the notion that NC State and Clemson were on the same level – or even very similar levels.  The Tigers shellacked the Wolfpack 41-7 and it could have been worse.  An embarrassing moment for the NC State program came late in the game with the Wolfpack trailing hopelessly.  A defensive back for NC State made a nice play to break up a pass near the goal line.  Then, he proceeded to strut and gloat and dance to the point where he drew a taunting penalty.  Taunting an opponent who ultimately wins the game by 34 points is cause to hang your head in shame.

In other ACC action, UVa put itself squarely in the ACC playoff picture beating Duke and extending its record to an overall 5-2.  I have not seen a lot of UVa football this year, but I have seen enough to think that they would be no match for Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

Oh, and UNC dropped its record to 1-5 by losing to Syracuse in double overtime.  If Larry Fedora keeps his job after this year, the reason is probably tied to an inability to come up with the money to buy out the rest of his contract.

Previously undefeated Cincy went down in another OT game losing to Temple in Philly.  Temple is undefeated at home in 2018.

Texas Tech won a Big-12 conference game at home for the first time in 2 years beating Kansas 48-16.

Washington State established itself as the leader of the PAC-12 last week with a home win over Oregon.  The Cougars dominated the first half and led 27-0 at one point.  Oregon rallied but it was too little, too late as the Cougars prevailed 34-20.  Washington State is the only PAC-12 team with only 1 loss for the season; they would probably have to win out in order to get any consideration for the CFP.  I seriously doubt that a 2-loss PAC-12 team is going to get in.

That status will make the Apple Bowl game (Washington/Washington State) at the end of the season even more of a big deal than it usually is – – and it is always an intense rivalry game.

Washington beat Colorado 27-13 handing the Buffaloes their 2nd conference loss of the season.

Meanwhile Utah beat USC 41-28 and put itself in position to be the PAC-12 South participant in the PAC-12 Championship Game.

Just a scheduling note here … I will begin to collect candidates for the imaginary SHOE Tournament at the end of the NCAA football season starting next week.  I prefer to wait until the season is a little more than half over to look for the teams there; we have a month to go meaning that bad teams can get better and evade the ignominy of being a SHOE Team.  But it will be time to start the winnowing process…

NCAA Games of Interest:

Clemson – 16.5 at Florida State (51):  Two weeks ago, Georgia was ranked #2 in the country and lost.  Last week, Ohio State was ranked #2 in the country and lost.  This week, Clemson is ranked #2 in the country …  Is this a trend?

Georgia – 7 vs. Florida (51.5):  This game could decide who plays for the SEC Championship out of the SEC East.  It is always a big game and a big rivalry; these stakes raise the intensity.  I might succumb to temptation in Las Vegas this weekend and take this game to stay UNDER – – but I have other “opportunities” that I like better.

Texas – 3.5 at Oklahoma St. (59.5):  This is not a vintage year for Oklahoma St., but they are not pushovers at home.  Texas seems to have momentum on its side about now, but this is not a “gimme” for the Longhorns.

UNLV at San Jose St. – 2.5 (60):  San Jose St is 0-7 so far this year; they have been blown out more than a couple of times.  Here, they are listed as a favorite in a game.  That tells me this game is of interest because there may be TWO SHOE Tournament teams on the field here…

NCAA Football Six-Pack:

Iowa at Penn St. – 6.5 (51.5):  Penn St. is at home – – where they have lost twice this year.  The Nittany Lions have blown a 4th quarter lead to Ohio State and almost blew another one against Indiana last week.  Iowa has a shot at the Big-10 West title.  I like Iowa plus the points.

Purdue at Michigan St. – 1  (50):   This is a perfect letdown game for Purdue after last week’s dominant win over Ohio State.  I like Michigan State at home to win and cover.

Kentucky at Missouri – 7.5  (55.5):  I think this game is much closer to a “pick ‘em” game than to a game with more than a TD in the spread.  I like Kentucky plus the points.

Texas A&M at Mississippi St. – 2.5 (43.5):  I think the Aggies defense will stifle the Bulldogs’ offense much the same as LSU did last week.  I think Texas A&M will win outright so I’ll gladly take them plus the points – – even on the road.

Washington St. at Stanford – 3 (53):  The Cougars are on the road and Stanford is a good team.  But the Cougars are on a roll.  I’ll take Washington St. here with the points.

(Fri Nite) Utah – 10.5 at UCLA (54.5):  Utah has scored 40 or more points in its last 3 games.  That is not normal for a Utah team, but it is a fact.  UCLA seems to be out of the doldrums lately.  I like this game to go OVER.

NFL Commentary:

As the NFL trade deadline approaches, two teams have tossed in the jockstraps and are focused on getting high draft picks for 2019.  The NY Giants have traded away CB, Eli Apple, who was a high first round pick a few years ago and who had some difficulties with teammates over his level of effort last season.  His trade value was a 4th round pick next year and a 7th round pick in 2020.  Ho-hum …  Then, the Giants traded Damon Harrison, a big run-stuffing DL, for a 5th round pick in 2019.  More Ho-hum …  The Giants are tanking; but so far, they have not gotten any major draft assets in return for two starting players.  Unless one of those low-round picks turns into a great over-looked player (think Tom Brady in the 6th round), it is going to be a long time until the Giants return to relevance.

  • [Aside:  The Lions acquired Damon Harrison and that could turn out to be a good move for them.  The Lions rank 30th in the NFL at the moment in rush defense; Harrison has limitations but plugging the middle and stopping the run are not those limitations.]

It is striking to note that the Giants were 11-5 just two seasons ago and made the playoffs.  Last year’s horrid season saw the team crippled with key injuries and many – including me – thought those injuries would heal and the team would be stronger this year.  Actually, those injuries provided cover for the roster-rot that seems to have set in with the Giants.  GM Dave Gettleman has his work cut out for him.

The other tanking team would be the Oakland Raiders.  So far, “Gruden 2.0” has not been a stroll down primrose lane.  The team has 1 win and will not be an oddsmaker’s favorite very often for the rest of this season.  This is not what the fans in the Black Hole had envisioned; in their minds, the arrival of Gruden was the akin to the return of the prodigal son; there would be a great family feast and then it would be a straight shot to the playoffs and prior glory.  And then Khalil Mack was traded away to the Bears…

This week, Amari Cooper was sent to the Cowboys.  I do not want to make Cooper out to be the next coming of Jerry Rice, but he will be the best WR on the Cowboys’ roster and he was the best WR on the Raiders’ roster.  The silver lining here is that Gruden has gotten back significant draft assets for Mack and for Cooper; the Raiders now have 3 first round picks in the 2019 draft and 2 first round picks in the 2020 draft.

If the rumors around the league are correct, CB Gereon Conley, S Karl Joseph and QB Derek Carr could also be available for trade now or in the off-season leading up to the draft.  That would not be a mere housecleaning; that would be like Hercules cleaning out the Augean stables by diverting a river through them.

Before Raider fans go into euphoria again and risk another “crash and burn experience”, let me offer a bit of history.  First round draft picks only have value if the picks produce quality starting players.  These picks usually do that; but sometimes, those picks produce significant busts.  So, it is the acumen of the selector that is critical here.  And that leads me to my “bit of history” for Raider fans.

  • Two years ago, when Johnny Manziel was in the draft, Jon Gruden was on the ESPN set advocating every team who was on the clock to take or consider Manziel.  He was “all in” on Johnny Football; his position was that he was great on the field and that he would outgrow his “immature behaviors”.
  • If Gruden was being truthful – – something that can never be assumed for any football coach – – he would have taken Manziel with a first round pick.
  • I am NOT saying that will happen again with one or more of the 5 upcoming first-round picks the Raiders have.  Nevertheless … pump the brakes, Raiders’ fans.

While I am on the subject of tanking teams, let me suggest that some other teams may look to acquire future assets too:

  • Bills:  The Bills’ offense is pathetic; until and unless Josh Allen shows that he is indeed their QB of the future, they have no QB on the roster who belongs in the NFL.  Moreover, they are woefully understaffed at the so-called skill positions and their best running back is 31 years old.  If they can find anyone willing to give them a medium round draft pick for anyone on the offensive side of the ball, they should jump at the opportunity.
  • Cardinals:  This team needs help everywhere – except at QB where it looks as if Josh Rosen has a positive developmental path.  One day you hear that Patrick Peterson wants to be traded; the next you hear that he wants to be a Cardinal for life.  The Cards’ braintrust needs to assess what he might bring in trade and if it is a “big haul”, he should be shipped out of town.
  • Niners:  Those who suggest that the Niners need to acquire assets to shore up their defense are over-reacting.  The Niners season took a staggering blow in the late exhibition season when RB, Jerick McKinnon, went down for the year.  Then Jimmy G had to go under the knife.  I am not saying the Niners are fat, but I do not think they are in the same state of chaos/disrepair as the Giants, Raiders, Bills and Cards.  If I were the Niners, I would stand pat.

In other news, Hue Jackson said at his press conference that he might “step in” and try to do more with the Browns’ offense.  Many have reported that his intention was to indicate that he would do the play calling for the team.  If that is true, then Cleveland is much more of a hot mess than it would appear on the surface.  Consider:

  • The Browns brought in Todd Haley to run the offense in the last off-season.  Haley is clearly a “prickly personality”; he has been successful as an offensive coordinator in Arizona and Pittsburgh; while with the Cards, his offense took them to the Super Bowl in February 2009.
  • He left Arizona to be the head coach in Kansas City and that did not go well at all.  He clashed with the offensive coordinator there and seized control of the offense and the play calling.  He clashed with his starting running back and suspended him for a game and then released him when he came back from suspension.  His overall record was sub-.500.
  • His time in Pittsburgh showed successful offenses and tension between him and Ben Roethlisberger.
  • This is his first year in Cleveland and the offense is significantly better than it was over the past several seasons.  And not all that surprisingly, there is tension and drama surrounding Haley and the head coach and with who knows who else.

Before you conclude that I think Haley is a “bad guy” and never should have been hired by the Browns in the first place, that is an erroneous conclusion.  In this situation, no matter how “prickly” Todd Haley may be, he is getting positive results with the offense in Cleveland.  Moreover, fans there need to recall that it was Hue Jackson himself who was the offensive guru and play caller for the Browns last year and that he produced an 0-16 season.  From afar, it would seem that Jackson taking over the offense/play calling is more about ego-stroking than results.

The Lions beat the Dolphins last week running the ball for 248 yards averaging 7.1 yards per carry.  The last time the Lions did things like that, Barry Sanders was carrying the ball.

The Chargers beat the Titans and Philip Rivers threw 2 TD passes more than 50 yards in length.  He needed to do that because Chargers’ RB, Melvin Gordon was on the shelf and the Chargers could only manage 47 yards rushing.  The Titans lost by a point; Marcus Mariota threw a red-zone INT and Ryan Succop missed a field goal in the 4th quarter.  Hi-ho…

The Vikes cruised to a win over the Jets.  The Vikes’ defense shut down the Jets’ run game and that left Sam Darnold to try to deal with the Vikes’ defense on a one-dimensional basis.  That got ugly when the Vikes intercepted him 3 times.

The Bucs beat the Browns in OT.  I think the Browns do not realize that it is OK to finish and NFL game after only 60 minutes of play; that was their 4th OT game in 7 starts this year.  It was an ugly game.  The Bucs sacked Baker Mayfield 5 times; Jameis Winston threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble.

The Pats beat the Bears by 7 points and scored 14 points on special teams – a kickoff return for a TD and a blocked punt returned for a TD.  Tom Brady had 3 TD passes too.

The Texans beat the Jags when “Bad Blake Bortles” showed up again.  He was 6 for 12 for 61 yards and he lost two fumbles.  He was benched in favor of Cody Kessler in the second half.

The Colts beat the Bills 37-5.  When the Bills’ defense has an “off-day” the team has no chance.  Derek Anderson started at QB with about 10 days of practice time with his teammates; LeSean McCoy was injured in the first half.  The game should have been stopped by a mercy-rule.  The Bills’ defense was a no-show too allowing the Colts to run for 220 yards.  The Colts defense – – not the showcase unit for that team by any means – – produced 5 turnovers in the game.

The Panthers erased a 17-0 deficit in the 4th quarter to beat the Eagles in Philly 21-17.  Cam Newton threw for 201 yards in that 4th quarter comeback.

The Saints also had a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Ravens 24-23.  Last week, I thought it would be the Game of the Week and it sure turned out that way.  The Saints scored 17 of their 24 points in the 4th quarter.  The game deciding play was a missed PAT by Justin Tucker.  Prior to that attempt, he had converted 222 out of 222 attempts in his career.

The Rams dominated the Niners recording 7 sacks – including 4 by Aaron Donald.  This was never a contest…

The Skins beat the Cowboys 20-17.  The Skins’ defense won the game; they scored a TD with a fumble recovery and sacked Dak Prescott 4 times.  Ezekiel Elliott was limited to 34 yards rushing in the game.

The Chiefs beat the Bengals 45-10.  The game was in doubt for about the first quarter or so; then came the deluge.  The Chiefs had 550 yards of offense in the game and the Chiefs’ defense held the Bengals to 10 points.  This Chiefs’ team is going to win 99.9% of the games where the opponent scores only 10 points.  Patrick Mahomes threw for 4 TDs and 358 yards against a good Bengals’ defense.

The Giants and Falcons played on Monday night in a game that was hard to watch because neither team was interesting.  The Falcons won.  Hi ho…

NFL Games this week:

There are 4 teams on their BYE Week:

  1. The Chargers are 5-2; they trail the Chiefs by 1 game; as of this morning they would be the first AFC wild card team.
  2. The Cowboys will use the week to try to get Amari Cooper comfortable with the offense.
  3. The Falcons need to figure out how to do some different things on defense – – like tacking people – – and to stop giving up 30 points per game.
  4. The Titans have lost 3 in a row but are still only one game behind in their division.

Philly – 3 vs. Jax (42) [Game is in London]:  Back in August, this looked like a potential Super Bowl preview game.  Both teams arrive here with 3-4 records and both need the game a lot.

  • [Aside:  Since the game is in London, perhaps this is the appropriate time to ask if I am the only one who thinks Carson Wentz looks like Prince Harry if the Prince had spent a year or so in the weight room?  Google Images are your friends…]

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 8 (49):  If the Browns can take this game to OT – – as they did with the Steelers in Week 1 and with 3 other opponents this year- – they are guaranteed to cover this spread.

Jets at Chicago – 7.5 (45):  The spread on this game is all over the map.  You can find it as low as 7 points and as high as 9 points depending on the sportsbook.  Once again, the Jets must be able to run the ball a bit to give Sam Darnold a fighting chance against a good Bears’ defense.

Seattle at Detroit – 2.5 (50):  Here is another game where the spread varies wildly from sportsbook to sportsbook.  You can find the game as high as 3 points and you can find the game as a “pick ‘em” game at one sportsbook.  I am not sold on the Lions and I do not like the Seahawks on the road.

Baltimore – 2 at Carolina (43.5):  The oddsmaker sees a defensive game and I agree.  This is the Best Game of the Week unless you think that label belongs on the Saints/Vikes game below.

Indy – 3 at Oakland (50):  One interesting stat about the Colts is their record is 2-5 but they have outscored their opponents by 4 points over the course of those 7 games.  That does not happen often.  I was tempted to label this one as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but it has competition below.  If you think this is “that game”, I will not argue strenuously …

SF – 1 at Arizona (42.5):  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Normally a Total Line of 42.5 results from a pairing of two pretty good defensive teams.  Here it is a recognition that both offenses stink.

Green Bay at Rams – 10 (56):  I am trying to recall a time when I thought that a Packers team with a healthy Aaron Rodgers was overmatched going into a game; I cannot do so.  However, that is my thinking here…

NFL Six-Pack:

Denver at KC – 10 (53.5):  The Chiefs sure do appear to be on a roll and the Broncos are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home.  However, I really hate double-digit spreads in the NFL.  Did the Chiefs’ defense come to life last week against the Bengals or will they revert to their previous sieve-like state?  That is the question here because I am confident the Chiefs will score points.  I’ll take the Chiefs at home and lay those double-digit points.

Washington at Giants “pick ‘em” (43):  You can find the spread with the Skins favored by a point and you can find the spread with the Giants favored by a point.  Most sportsbooks have it as a “pick ‘em game” and that is because the Skins always play poorly at the Meadowlands.  Using the eyeball test, the Skins are the better team on offense and the better team on defense, so I’ll take them to win the game and hope that they forget where they are playing when they kickoff.

Tampa Bay at Cincy – 4 (54.5):  If the Bengals’ offense shows up here – – as it most certainly did not last Sunday night against the Chiefs – – they should cruise against a sub-standard Bucs’ defense.  This game will provide the Bengals with a way to rebound after that national humiliation last week.  Am I a fool to trust the Bengals?  We shall see …  I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points here.

(Sun Nite) New Orleans at Minnesota – 1 (52):  This is my Best Game of the Week.  I think the Saints will exact a bit of revenge here for last season’s playoff ending – – the Minnesota Miracle.  Drew Brees is on a roll – as are Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen.  I like the Saints plus the point here and – rounding out the Six Pack – I also like the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) New England – 14 at Buffalo (44):  Excuse me, but the QB match-up here is Derek Anderson and/or Nathan Peterman versus Tom Brady.  That is like a 100-meter dash between a sumo wrestler and Usain Bolt.  However, I am not going to lay double-digits in two NFL games on the same weekend.  I will, however, take the game to go OVER.

Finally, here is an NFL-related comment from humor-writer, Brad Dickson:

“Rae Caruth gets out of prison today & the NFL won’t allow fans to buy Rae Caruth jerseys. I hate to think we live in a world where fans would want a Caruth jersey.”

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



Hither, Thither And Yon…

When you consider that Game 1 of the World Series had two starting pitchers whose names are frequently mentioned in the same sentence with “Cy Young Award”, things did not go according to Hoyle.  If you make the mistake of extrapolating from a single data point – – never a good idea – – you would have to say that this will be a World Series dominated by offense.  Last night’s game produced 12 runs and 19 hits; it could be an omen of fireworks coming in future games.

Last week, news broke that the NBA and the G-League – – it used to be the D-League until Gatorade ponied up money to sponsor it and get the name changed – – were going to offer elite high school prospects a contract for $125K for a year if they did not want to go to college for a year while they awaited their NBA draft eligibility.  This action is part of the NBA’s broader movement to try to eliminate the one-and-done aspect of college basketball.  Naturally, it generated plenty of over-reaction.

Almost immediately, there were commentaries to the effect that one-and-done is dead and college basketball just took a serious if not mortal blow.  I think neither of those dire states will come to pass.  Even if the top dozen high school basketball players choose not to play college basketball in a year – remember, the G-League is their THIRD option to avoid college basketball – – there will still be plenty of players to fill the collegiate rosters and to continue to make March Madness a dominant sports event.  If any sports entity was dealt a serious blow by this announcement, it would be LaVar Ball’s Junior Basketball Association.  The JBA had a niche to itself; now it has the G-League – – and the NBA as the G-League’s patron – – as close competitors.

  • [Aside:  I do not think “all the good players” will skip college basketball.  In addition to the money offered by the G-League, top players also seek exposure so that they can enhance their brands.  The fact is that the G-League has little to no national following and college basketball has a large national following.  We shall see…]

Moreover, even if the top dozen or so high school players skip college basketball, who is to say that the best of the freshmen who do go and play college basketball will not declare for the NBA draft after a single season at the collegiate level.  When that happens, one-and-done will still be alive and well…

However, the most interesting reaction to the announcement that the G-League will be offering 1-year $125K contracts came from a bunch of WNBA players.  They are upset that the top salary in the WNBA right now is $115K and the G- League is about to pay high school seniors more than the top salary for any WNBA player.  Several players were enraged and suggested there would be some sort of confrontation with the WNBA over this financial slight.

On one hand, I can understand the WNBA players’ anger here.  In addition, I can understand why many people will take up this as a cause under the banner of “equal pay for equal work”.  On balance, I hope the WNBA women prevail in this situation and get a salary scale that is higher than the current one.

HOW-EVAH … [/Stephen A. Smith]

  • Please recall that only a few months ago, a bunch of WNBA players pulled a no-show for a scheduled game.  A bad set of connections led to a 24-hour trip to the game site such that the team arrived only 5 hours before tip-off.  The players met and decided not to show up; they called their union and their union supported that decision.  Let me be kind and say that is hardly professional behavior and the union leaders need to be reminded of that over and over.
  • Teams in the G-League do not travel first class and often have less-than perfect connections as they go from venue to venue.  I cannot recall an instance where a G-League team was in town for a game but decided that it was too tired to play and pulled a no-show.

The WNBA players and their union did damage to the cause that the WNBA players are now fighting for.  It cannot be undone; it is not something that should be a permanent albatross around the necks of WNBA players.  At the same time, it should not be forgotten or forgiven either.  WNBA players are professional basketball players; one of the hallmarks of being a “professional” in any field is that there are times when one acts in ways that are expected of people in that field even if at the time those acts might not be in one’s personal interest or in one’s convenience space.  For a professional basketball player – of any gender – showing up for a scheduled game when you are already in the city where the game is to be played is one of those fundamental tenets of professionalism.

On the subject of pro basketball, I happened to tune in to see a small part of the Houston Rockets/LA Clippers game a few days ago.  I guess I watched about a quarter of the game and then lost interest and flipped the channel.  What was the problem?  I did not count, but I would not be surprised if you told me that the Rockets took more 3-point shots than they did 2-point shots plus free throws in that span.

  • Obviously, that is a successful strategy for the team.
  • Just as obviously, that is not much fun to watch.

Public Service Announcement:  The latest news related to the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson challenge match that will be on pay-per-view is that the only way you will be able to see it is on pay-per-view.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that no tickets will be available for the event; the only folks on the course with Woods and Mickelson will be those who are there to provide the TV coverage, sponsors and guests of the sponsors.  So, just in case you were thinking of heading out to Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend and trying to score tix to the event at Shadow Creek Golf Club, stay home.

Finally, here is a comment from humor-writer, Brad Dickson, about the huge Mega-Millions Jackpot out there…

“The odds of winning Tuesday night’s lotto drawing are 88 quadrillion to one. About the same as Rutgers winning the Big Ten conference next season.”

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



Futbol And Money

As I graze through the assemblage of sports channels on my cable provider, I run across lots of international soccer.  Recently, I saw something new to me; the UEFA Nation’s League.  I knew about UEFA running a Champions League for the top clubs in Europe and I knew about the Europa League for a wide range of European futbol clubs, but I did not remember ever encountering the Nation’s League.  The three things that kept running through my head were:

  1. This must be a scheduling nightmare for the folks in UEFA and for the folks in all the various futbol leagues all over Europe.
  2. How do the players remember where they are supposed to be and for which team they are playing in these myriad overlapping seasons?
  3. How many games a week do those players participate in?

[Aside:  In England, the diversity of competition includes not only the EPL and the various European competitions, it also includes the FA Cup tournament which involves 170 club teams in the country from the top-shelf Manchester City and Liverpool four levels down to the likes of Woking, Wealdstone and Weston-super-Mare.]

I am not going to try to pretend that I did any investigative journalism of the quality of Woodward and Bernstein here, but I did a bit of Google searching and chatted up a good friend who follows the German Bundesliga about as closely as I follow college football.  I hope you are sitting down as you read this because I have some shocking news for you.  The basis of all this complexity and all this overlapping participation by players on club teams and national teams is:

  • Money

All of these competitions draw lots of interest and lots of interest generates revenue for the clubs.  When it comes to the concept of “money” in sports the maxim to keep in mind is this:

  • Whatever we have is not enough; there is always room in the coffers for more.

So, all these teams are out there generating revenues and that means that all the teams are fat with cash, right?  This is not like MLB where the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Dodgers have such a revenue edge on teams like the Marlins and the Rays and the Royals that they can scoop up all the best players for salaries that the “have-nots” cannot possibly afford, right?  As Johnny Carson once opined to Ed McMahon when he incorrectly guessed the answer to one of Carnac the Magnificent’s queries:

  • Wrong, buffalo-breath…

In European futbol, the revenue disparity and the operating budgets for teams varies hugely.  That is why when a player like Ronaldo is available for transfer, there are only a handful of clubs who have the wherewithal to meet the price that Real Madrid set for his transfer (€100M = $118M).  The UEFA Champions League gives you insight into this phenomenon.

To get into the Champions League competition from England, a team must finish in one of the top 4 slots in the EPL.  In other leagues, there are slot allocations based on prior successes in the Champions League by teams from those other leagues.  But it is a BIG deal to be part of the Champions League because:

  • Real Madrid won last year and received a prize of £42.1M = €47.7M = $54.7M.
  • For perspective, the winner of the FA Cup in England last year received a prize of £3.4M = €3.9M = $4.4M.
  • In the less prestigious leagues, the participation revenue for playing in the Champions League gives the one or two teams from that league a huge advantage in their home league.  Olympiakos is a regular in the Champions League from the top association in Greece; Olympiakos has won that league in Greece 19 times in the past 22 years.

As I noted above, I am neither Woodward nor Bernstein.  However, given my “investigation” in order to understand why all of these various complex leagues and competitions exist in the first place, the answer is similar to the advice the Woodward and Bernstein got from “Deep Throat”:

  • Follow the money…

I got back to my friend who tracks the German Bundesliga closely and asked if anyone ever thought of leveling the playing field a bit in European soccer with something like a salary cap as we have here in the US in football and basketball.  He said that I would win the Nobel Prize for Literature before the leagues and the clubs – – and FIFA – – would agree to such a thing.  He said they have something there called “Financial Fair Play” which is what he calls “fancy talk” to make it seem as if FIFA is trying to give the “have-not clubs” a fighting chance to get even with the big boys.  His advice to me was simple and direct:

  • Don’t try to understand Financial Fair Play; it will just make your head hurt.

The Miami Marlins announced yesterday that they have signed two brothers from Cuba and some have declared these signings as a coup by Derek Jeter in his role as the major domo for the team.  Over the weekend, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this to say about the impending announcement:

“[Marlins] on Monday will formally announce the signing of highly regarded Cuban outfield brothers Victor Victor Mesa, 22, and kid bro Victor Mesa Jr., 17. Yes, the more MLB-ready of the two Mesas is named Victor Victor. I guess among the many things in short supply in Cuba are middle names!”

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News noted the intersection of sports (sort of) and politics and international relations with this item:

“Some are urging WWE to cancel its November show in Saudi Arabia, following the suspicious disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Now that’s a first: wrestling drama that isn’t staged.”

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



Getting Ready For The World Series

The World Series pairing is set.  Both teams are worthy of participation, so fans should be happy.  TV execs are likewise happy to see Boston and LA as the participants; given MLB’s “final four” this year, this is the final pairing likely to draw the most eyeballs to TV sets.  Yes, I know that Houston is a large city and a larger TV market than Boston.  Notwithstanding the population disparity, baseball is a bigger deal in Boston than in Houston.

The US has very different regional sports interests.  Baseball is big in the northeast; NFL football is big in the northeast – – but college football is only a minor attraction.  In the south and particularly the southeast, football of all variations is huge, and baseball is something fans pay attention to when football is “on hiatus”.  Houston is “football country”; Boston is “baseball territory”.

Both league championship series provided some history and drama.  Once it was necessary for the Dodgers and the Brewers to decide their series in a Game 7, something “important” had to happen:

  • The Dodgers had not won a Game 7 since 1988 – the last time they won a World Series.  So, they won their first such game in 30 years.
  • The Brewers, on the other hand, have never won a Game 7 in franchise history.  That status remains.

Regarding the controversy of “fan interference” in the Boston/Houston series, all I can say is that Joe West botched the call.  He has seen the replays and the still photos of the event, and he now knows that he botched the call.  He will not, however, be forthcoming and say he made a mistake.  I believe that Joe West is genetically incapable of such behavior.  I suspect that LaVar Ball will take a vow of silence before Joe West admits he blew that call.

The Red Sox beat a very good Astros’ team and the Sox appeared to be in control for most of the series.  David Price seemingly exorcised some of his “playoff demons” in this series.  When he took the mound in Game 5, he brought an ERA of 6.15 in playoff games on his shoulders.  His opposing pitcher, Justin Verlander, brought with him a reputation as a guy who pitched his best in the biggest games.  It was not a Game 7; even if the Sox had lost, they would still have two more chances to wrap up the series.  Nonetheless, here is how David Price performed:

  • He threw 6 shutout innings allowing only 3 hits.
  • He struck out 9 Astros and walked no one.

In the NL championship series, Clayton Kershaw likewise seemed to exorcise his playoff demons.  Kershaw has been a dominant regular season pitcher – – perhaps THE dominant MLB regular season pitcher – – for the last 8 years.  In that span, he has won the Cy Young Award three times and has finished second in the voting twice.  However, his playoff performances have been far less impressive.  At the start of this series, he had appeared in 21 games throwing 133 innings with an ERA of 4.23.  Making that number even worse, Kershaw had allowed 5 runs in a playoff game 7 different times and no pitcher in MLB history had ever suffered that fate.

In Game 5 against the Brewers, Kershaw defied the narrative that he chokes in big playoff games.  He was in deep trouble in the 3rd inning but pitched out of it allowing only a run.  When he left the game his stats for the night were:

  • 7 innings pitched allowing 1 run and 3 hits.
  • He struck out 9 and walked 2.

One well-pitched game does not offer total redemption to either David Price or Clayton Kershaw, but both of them came through when their teams needed them in 2018.

As to predictions for the World Series:

  • Clearly, the Red Sox were the better team in the regular season wining 108 games as compared to the Dodgers winning 92.  [Aside:  The Red Sox have dispatched two opponents to get to the World Series and both of those opponents had won 100 games or more in the 2018 regular season.]
  • The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have installed the Red Sox as favorites in the Series at odds of “minus-130”.  The Dodgers are at +110.
  • Many of the baseball writers think the Red Sox will dominate the series; it would seem that “Sox in five games” is the most common prediction floating out there.  If that is to be the case, I think that Chris Sale must be fully recovered from whatever arm ailments and intestinal ailments he has encountered over the past month or so.

Since the upcoming weekend will be my annual autumnal pilgrimage to Las Vegas, I have an enlightened self-interest in rooting against a sweep by either team.  Anything other than a sweep will give me 3 games to watch and wager on this weekend; so of course, a sweep is the worst possible outcome.  I’ll go fully hedonistic with my prediction here maximizing the games for me to see:

  • I like the Red Sox in 7 games.

Finally, here is a Tweet from humor-writer, Brad Dickson:

“There’s a new World’s Oldest Man. Man, they keep dying. I’m beginning to think that title is cursed.”

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



Football Friday 10/19/18

Friday has rolled around once again – as it always does – and I have my seat-belt fastened as I head into another Football Friday.  As usual, I shall begin with college football and an update on the Linfield Wildcats.

Over the last two weeks, Linfield has played at home and has dominated two opponents by a combined score of 102-26.  That puts the Wildcats’ season record at 3-2 as they pursue another winning season in football.  This week, Linfield goes on the road – – albeit not more than about 30 miles – – to play the George Fox University Bruins.  George Fox brings a 3-3 record to the field; this is a Northwest Conference game for both teams.  Go Wildcats!

It seems as if every college football season has one weekend on the schedule where the results seem to come from Bizarro World and we are living on the cube-shaped planet htraE – – that is Earth spelled backwards don’t you know…  Last week was that weekend.

Alabama and Ohio State survived the strangeness of the weekend and Notre Dame remains undefeated – although it took a 4th quarter comeback to beat a mediocre-at-best Pitt team by 5 points.  Cincy also remains undefeated at 6-0 for the season.  In Las Vegas back in August, the win-total proposition bet for Cincy was either 5.5 or 6 wins depending on the sportsbook.  I think the OVER is looking good there…

West Virginia had been unbeaten and was sitting atop the Big 12 hoping that it just might slip into CFP consideration – – and then it lost to Iowa State by 16 points.  There may indeed be a need for the Selection Committee to evaluate teams with a single loss when it comes CFP time.  Having that sort of stain on one’s record will not go down well with the Committee…

Michigan dominated Wisconsin from start to finish.  The Wolverines won the game 38-13 and did not allow a Wisconsin completed pass in the entire second and third quarters of the game.  Both teams were ranked at kickoff, but this is the second loss of the season for Wisconsin and it could be that they win the Big-10 West and then the Big-10 Championship and still find themselves on the fringe of the CFP selection process.  Remember, I said “could be” …

Penn State also lost for the second time this year and both losses have been at home in “Happy Valley”.  I don’t think State College, PA is as happy today as it might be…

Nebraska lost to Northwestern in OT last week.  The Cornhuskers are 0-6 for the season and that is the first time in Nebraska history that the football team has lost its first 6 games.  For the record, Nebraska began playing football in 1890.  [Aside:  Benjamin Harrison was President in 1890 and he signed the legislation that established Oklahoma as a Territory in that year.]

LSU beat Georgia last week by 20 points giving both SEC teams a 6-1 record for the year.  There are several significant outcomes here:

  • The Georgia/Florida game was a big game to begin with and it is now very important as both teams have an in-conference loss.  This game happens on 27 October.
  • The SEC East race is complicated by the success of Kentucky this year.  The Wildcats also have one in-conference loss AND they have a win over Florida to their credit.  Kentucky hosts Georgia on 3 November…
  • LSU has one loss in-conference (to Florida) and has Mississippi St and then Alabama (both in Baton Rouge) as the next two opponents.

[Aside:  One other outcome from last week’s LSU/Georgia game is that the hot seat under LSU coach, Ed Orgeron, cooled significantly – – for the moment.]

Vandy led Florida at the start of the 4th quarter last week but the Gators dominated the 4th quarter to win the game by 10 points.  In doing so, Florida seems to have dodged the Bizarro Bullet from last weekend…

UVa beat Miami 16-13.  How did that happen?

Tennessee beat Auburn at Auburn.  I did not see that one coming…

Washington lost to Oregon in OT and that is the second loss of the year for the Huskies; their CFP aspirations just vaporized into the World Ether…

Meanwhile, Colorado lost for the first time this year to USC.  If Colorado were to be the PAC-12 Champ, they would not find a lot of favor from the CFP Selection Committee for their strength of schedule.  Here are the Colorado out-of-conference opponents and the records for those opponents as of this morning:

  1. Colorado State  3-4
  2. Nebraska  0-6
  3. New Hampshire (a Division 1-AA team)  1-4

USC has 2 losses on its record, but both are to decent teams (Texas and Stanford) and USC has a game at home against Notre Dame down the road.  The Trojans may be the team to watch in the PAC-12 this year.

UCLA won its first game of the year last week blowing out Cal 37-3.  Here are two questions that arise from that result:

  1. The UCLA defense had been giving up 36.4 points per game prior to the Cal game.  How did they hold Cal to 3 points?
  2. Cal started the season 3-0.  They have now lost three games in a row and the last two have been to Arizona and UCLA neither of which have had a lot of good fortune this season.  What happened to Cal?

One final note from last weekend before I move on…  Maryland crushed Rutgers 34-7 in the game that should be labeled The Dregs of the Big-10 Bowl.  Rutgers is 1-6 and it has already seen the “easier part” of its schedule.  Consider:

  • The single victory came at the expense of football powerhouse, Morgan State.
  • Rutgers lost to Kansas at home by 41 points.
  • Rutgers lost to Texas State and Buffalo by 4 TDs each
  • The remaining schedule for Rutgers is Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.  Yowza!

Since I mentioned Maryland above, recall that the Terps have their head coach, DJ Durkin on admin leave as the school awaits yet more reports about how Jordan McNair died at a practice and if Coach Durkin has culpability there.  If my reading of Durkin’s deal with Maryland is accurate and if he gets paid on a “per game basis”, I believe Durkin has been paid a little over $600K not to coach the team since being put on admin leave.  Just saying…

Enough of last week’s strangeness and on to what appears to be an interesting week ahead.

Cincy at Temple – 3 (48.5):  Cincy is undefeated at 6-0 for the season and is a road dog here.  The reason probably is that Temple is 4-0 at home.

UNC at Syracuse – 10 (66):  UNC is 1-4 for the season and its coach, Larry Fedora, will be hard-pressed to survive a 3-win season.  He needs this game as much as the team needs this game.

Penn St. – 14.5 at Indiana (61):  I would not be surprised to see the Nittany Lions hit the field with a hangover from last week’s home loss to Michigan state.

Illinois at Wisconsin – 24.5 (56.5):  Wisconsin can run the football effectively with Jonathan Taylor and Illinois gives up 199.5 yards per game on the ground…

Colorado at Washington – 17 (51):  Both teams lost last week; both teams have one loss in conference.

NC State at Clemson – 18 (56):  Both teams are ranked and both teams had a BYE Week last week.  This is a big game in the ACC and recent meetings between these teams have been close.

Virginia at Duke – 7 (44.5):  Very quietly, Duke has produced a quality season; they have only lost once…

Michigan – 7 at Michigan State (41):  The Total Line opened the week at 47 points and has plummeted to this level.  This is one of the rivalry games the folks at Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh to win.

UConn at USF – 34 (69):  The game is of interest to me because UConn could be one of my SHOE Teams at the end of the season.  UConn is dead last in defense in the country giving up – hold your breath here – 658.2 yards per game and 9.21 yards per play.

Cal – 7.5 at Oregon St. (58.5):  Cal has been an enigma this season (see above).  They must not lose this game to this less-than-mediocre opponent even on the road.

USC at Utah – 7 (47.5):  Utah is tough at home to be sure…

NFL Comments:

Last week was not quite as hectic at the pro level as it was at the collegiate level – – but there were about 5 surprises.

  1. The Dolphins win over the Bears with Brock Osweiler at the helm was a big surprise.
  2. The Skins win over the Panthers was a moderate surprise.
  3. The Rams winning by only 3 points over the Broncos was a surprise.
  4. The Cowboys beating the Jags was a surprise.
  5. The Cowboys scoring 40 points on the Jags was a big surprise.

The final 3 minutes of the Niners/Packers game and the final 3 minutes of the Patriots/Chiefs game last week ought to demonstrate the Hall of Fame certainty for Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.  I cannot imagine anyone not being enough of a football fan to sit back and be amazed at the comebacks they each managed here.

Will someone please file a Missing Persons Report for the Tennessee Titans’ offense?  The Titans surrendered 11 sacks to the Ravens last week; they managed all of 117 yards passing; they never really threatened to score points in the game.  What a stinker…

Here is an example of how stats can be misleading until you look at all of them for a game with some degree of care:

  • Eli Manning and Carson Wentz each threw for the same amount of yardage
  • Saquon Barkley rushed for more than twice as many yards as the Eagles’ leading rusher.
  • The Giants’ leading receiver had a couple more yards than the Eagles’ leading receiver.

One would think it was a close game and it was not.  The Eagles won 34-13 and had it on cruise control for much of the second half.

Here we are in Week 7 of the 17-Week NFL season; Halloween is still in the future; nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that the 2018 season is “OVER” for 6 teams and is “ALL BUT OVER” for 6 more teams.

Here is my breakdown of the six teams whose season is All But Over:

  1. Broncos:  The team plays very well at home.  The problem is that the NFL requires teams to play away from home 8 times in a season…
  2. Browns:  They are much-improved; they are competitive.  The problem is that they are – truth be told – the 4th best team in the AFC North.
  3. Colts:  The only thing that elevates them to the level of “All But Over” is the miserable division they play in and the inconsistency of the other 3 teams there.
  4. Jets:  They are only 2 games out of the AFC East lead, but we know that the Pats are going to prevail there, and the Jets are not making it as a wild card team.  Sorry about that…
  5. Lions:  They are not nearly as bad as recent Lions’ teams have been but to me they are the 4th best team in the NFC North and teams that finish 4th in their division are unimportant.
  6. Niners:  CJ Beathard played really well against the Packers, but I just do not see him doing that week after week after week.  The Niners season took a severe blow when RB, Jerrick McKinnon, was lost for the season; it is really circling the drain now that Jimmy G. is out.

            Here is my breakdown of the six teams whose season is Over:

  1. Bills:  Derek Anderson and Nathan Peterman are in the driver’s seat as long as Josh Allen is sidelined.
  2. Bucs:  The defense is even worse than the Falcons defense and that is saying something.
  3. Cards:  The only thing they are competing for is the overall #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
  4. Falcons:  That defense is a traveshamockery.
  5. Giants:  The offense still stinks even after adding Saquon Barkley and upgrading – a little bit – the offensive line.
  6. Raiders:  Khalil Mack is gone; rumors say that Amari Cooper and Derek Carr could be on the trading block.  Jon Gruden 2.0 has been a disaster to date.

So here are the games for this week.  The Steelers, Raiders, Seahawks and Packers take this week off.

  • Maybe the Steelers reunite with LeVeon Bell this week?
  • Maybe the Raiders find a pass rush this week?
  • Maybe the Seahawks avoid any more “roster drama” this week?
  • Maybe the Packers find a running game this week?

Tennessee vs Chargers – 6.5 (45): [Game is in London]:  The Titans’ offense was awful last week and the team has not played well in the last two weeks.  The Chargers, on the other hand have played very well for several weeks now.

New England – 2.5 at Chicago (48.5):  Best game of the week?  Maybe the Bears were looking past the Dolphins last week to focus on this game?  If not, the Pats will roll here even though they have not played well on the road yet this year (at Jax and at Detroit).  The Pats have scored 38 or more in their last three wins; can Michell Trubisky keep up with that sort of pace?  I see a close game.

Detroit – 3 at Miami (46.5):  My reaction to seeing this game on the card was a resounding, “Meh!”  The only question of interest here is seeing if Brock Osweiler can play well two weeks in a row.

Carolina at Philly – 5 (45):  The Panthers played sluggishly and poorly on the road last week; this could be an even worse match-up for them.  Meanwhile, the Eagles appeared to start to put the pieces together on offense last week – – but those were the Giants and these are the Panthers.

Minnesota – 3.5 at Jets (46):  Both teams have won their last two games.  Sam Darnold feasted on the Colts’ defense last week; the Vikes’ defense is a whole lot better…  Jets’ running game will have to help out Darnold or this will become a long day for him.

Houston at Jax – 5 (41.5):  Texans have won 3 in a row – – all of them squeakers.  The Jags have lost 2 in a row and have looked pathetic doing so.  And if Bad Blake Bortles shows up one more time …  Meanwhile, the Texans’ offense has been dreadful; other than an explosion against the Colts’ defense, they score about 20 points per game.   I think the Jags defense comes alive here against a putrid Texans’ OL.  The winner will be the leader – for the moment – in the AFC South.

New Orleans at Baltimore – 2.5 (50):  Best game of the week?  It certainly pits a very good offense against a very good defense.  I think the key to this game is Joe Flacco and his ability to keep the Ravens’ defense rested.  Ravens recorded 11 sacks last week and 10 came on blitzes.  Unlikely they will have that level of success against Drew Brees this week.

Rams – 9.5 at SF (52):  The Rams are the last undefeated team in the NFL.  They are better than the Niners and the Niners are coming off a short week.  Niners’ defense gave up a bunch of big plays to Aaron Rodgers last week and look to give up a few more to Jared Goff & Co. here.

(Sun Nite) Cincy at KC – 6 (58):  KC’s offense is rolling and the Bengals’ defense is nothing more than OK; they gave up almost 500 yards on offense last week to the Steelers.  The Bengals will run Joe Mixon at the porous Chiefs’ defense as a way to hold the Chefs’ offense in check.  By the way, the Chiefs are 6-0 straight up this year AND 6-0 against the spread this year…

(Mon Nite) Giants at Atlanta – 4.5 (54):  This is the Dog Breath Game of the Week.  It takes a lot for me to ignore a Monday Night Football game …  The only interesting question here is if the Falcons miserable defense is bad enough to make the Giant’s offense appear to be relevant.  Other than that…

Here is your Six-Pack for the week.  We have 3 college games and 3 NFL games once again in the Six-Pack:

Mississippi St. at LSU – 6 (45):  Perhaps the biggest college game of the week, LSU cannot afford a letdown in this “sandwich game” after a big win over Georgia last week and with an upcoming battle with Alabama next on the docket.  Mississippi St. beat LSU by 30 points last year; there is a revenge factor at work here too.  The Bulldogs problem is that they cannot throw the ball against quality defenses and LSU has a quality defense.  I like LSU at home to win and cover.

Oregon at Washington St – 3 (68):  Oregon is 5-1 with the loss coming in conference; Oregon scores 44 points per game.  Washington St. is 5-1 with the loss coming in conference; Washington St scores 42 points per game.  This is an important PAC-12 game that should light up the scoreboard.  Washington State has not lost at home in two years.  I like the game to go OVER.

Vandy at Kentucky – 11 (48):  Kentucky is well-positioned to play for the SEC Championship, but it must not stumble against weaker opponents such as Vandy.  Kentucky RB, Benny Snell should have a big game here; Vandy allows 4.5 yards per carry and 184 yards per game on the ground.  I like Kentucky to win and cover.

Buffalo at Indy – 9 (43):  This will be a low scoring game because the Bills’ defense is solid and because the Bills’ offense is a steaming mess.  In a low-scoring game, I like the idea of getting 9 points, so I’ll take the Bills on the road here.  Please let Derek Anderson start and finish this game; if Nathan Peterman plays, this could get out of hand quickly.

Cleveland at Tampa Bay – 3.5 (50):  Here are two teams going nowhere in 2018.  Baker Mayfield gets to show his stuff against a bad Bucs’ defense with a new defensive coordinator calling the shots.  If Mayfield is indeed the future in Cleveland, he should play well here.  I like the Browns on the road plus the points.  By the way, the last road win straight up for the Browns came in Week 5 of 2015 in case you were wondering…

Dallas at Washington – 1.5 (41.5):  The Cowboys are 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road.  This game is on the road.  Kabeesh?  I like the Skins to win and cover at home.

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

“Patriots fans were incensed upon discovering that some Dunkin’ Donuts outlets in Massachusetts were serving drinks in cups featuring a huge Eagles logo and the words ‘World Champions’ on them.

“Which makes one wonder: What are the odds of buying a set of Eagle tires in New England that are fully inflated?”

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



Two Not-So-Good NFL QB Situations

When Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, he began by comparing and contrasting.  It was the best of times and the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness; it was the spring of hope and the winter of despair.  His comparisons were always “the good” with “the bad”.  Today I want to present a tale of two quarterback situations in the NFL.  However, since these words emanate from Curmudgeon Central and not the pen of Charles Dickens, the comparison will be between “The Bad” and “More of the Bad”.

Let me start with the QB situation in Buffalo.  When the 2018 training camp began, the Bills were coming off a playoff appearance in 2017; notwithstanding that fact, they let their starting QB, Tyrod Taylor, mosey off to Cleveland and they seemed to be planning to replace him with AJ McCarron (signed as a free agent) on an interim basis plus rookie Josh Allen whom they drafted early in the first round of this year’s draft.  Nathan Peterman – the human interception machine – was also on the roster but there was no way that I thought he might be part of the picture there.

At the close of training camp, the Bills shipped off McCarron to the Raiders for a 5th round pick in 2019.  That left Allen and Peterman as the QBs for a team that made the playoffs the year before.  That was strange enough; Peterman started and demonstrated that if he is “the answer”, the question has to be “what the Hell were you thinking?”  Allen took over and looked like a raw rookie with tons of God-given physical ability.  So, you would figure that the team would soldier on and try to prop up the wunderkind.

And then, Josh Allen hurt his elbow on this throwing arm.  The team has not announced the extent of the injury but there are some reports out there saying that Allen needs Tommy John surgery – something that works very well for baseball pitchers but something that does not have a long track record of success for NFL QBs.  Let me stress here that Allen may not need this surgery; the injury to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm may right itself without surgery.  Nonetheless, there are reports that are dire…

The Bills took out some insurance – – a tad late if you ask me – – by signing Derek Anderson as a free agent.  If Allen cannot play, the Bills surely need a backup QB; so, a free agent signing is not surprising in the least.  Moreover, the Bills must be just a little concerned that the guy now at the top of their QB depth chart seems to be Nathan Peterman.  I referred to him as the human interception machine above.  Here is why:

  • In his brief career in the NFL, Peterman has thrown 82 passes and had 10 of them intercepted.  [These numbers include part of a playoff game last season.]
  • Nathan Peterman throws INTs at the rate of 12.2%.

I hope you find that figure as stunning as I did when I went to pro-football-reference.com for the numbers.  Just to put this in perspective, let me compare that interception percentage to some other QBs:

  • Tyrod Taylor – the guy the Bills did not want after last year – is at 1.5%.
  • AJ McCarron – the guy the Bills traded away in August – is at 1.9%
  • Brett Favre – a “gunslinger” who took a lot of chances – is at 3.3%
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick – like Peterman a late-round draft pick – is at 3.4%

The Bills’ QB situation is a bad one – and it sure looks as if it is a self-inflicted wound…

And then, there is another NFL QB situation that is also bad.  Last year, the Jags were in the AFC Championship Game; they led the Patriots by 10 points early in the 4th quarter and then lost the game.  Losing to the Pats in the playoffs is not outrageous; what is outrageous is not recognizing the weak link on a team built around the defense and that weak link is QB, Blake Bortles.  Since I railed on Nathan Peterman above about interception percentage, let me just put Blake Bortles’ comparable info here to start:

  • Blake Bortles – picked #3 overall in the draft back in 2014 – is at 2.9%.

Bortles does not suffer from the same ailment as Nathan Peterman, but he is problematic as the starting QB for a team whose defense was good enough to get the team to within 15 minutes of a Super Bowl appearance last January.  QB rating systems are not probative when it comes to identifying excellence in QBs; however, QB rating systems can give relative performance ratings in the broadest sense.  Now consider these ratings for these QBs all of whom are playing or played in the current gestalt of NFL football:

  • Blake Bortles QB rating is 80.2.  Comparable ratings belong to Brian Hoyer and Trevor Siemien.
  • If you were running the Jags, would you entrust your team – – and commit $18M in salary cap space – – to either Hoyer or Siemien?  I doubt it…

Blake Bortles is durable; he has not missed a start since his rookie year in 2014.  [Aside: It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine if that is a blessing or a curse.]  That seems like a good thing on balance when you consider who the backup is in Jax.  No Googling, can you name the #2 QB on the Jags’ depth chart?  I had to go and look to determine that it is Cody Kessler and while I was looking I found out that in his 8 career starts at QB, his team has never won the game.

So, there you have it.  Two of the six teams that made the AFC playoffs last year have maneuvered themselves into QB situations that are best labeled as “bad” and “also bad”.  Circle November 25, 2018 on your calendars for this reason:

  • At 1:00 PM (EST) the Jacksonville Jaguars will play the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo.  Notwithstanding the fact that this will be a game between two playoff teams from a year ago, there is about a ZERO probability that this game will be flexed to the late afternoon “Game of the Week” slot.  It is almost as if the schedule maker saw these QB messes coming…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times recently about two other QBs neither of whom is embarrassing to their respective franchises:

“Steelers star pass-catcher Antonio Brown says he and QB Ben Roethlisberger operate like Wi-Fi: ‘Sometimes the connection is poor. Sometimes the connection is great. But it’s always connected.’

“Can’t wait to hear what Cooper Kupp has to say about Jared Goff and gigabytes of Ram.”

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



A Shot In the Foot…

We all know someone who fits the description, “He can’t get out of his own way.”  Maybe the person is an artist who is so self-critical that his work is never finished or displayed; maybe the person is an engineer who is so absorbed by career goals and getting credit for his contributions that no one will work with him; maybe the person is so risk-averse that he ignores great opportunities in his life.  The person who can’t get out of his own way comes in many forms and in many fields.

The NCAA is an organization that seems not be able to get out of its own way these days.  The NCAA is under pressure to pay its athletes in the revenue sports; it faces health and safety issues; it has coaches and assistant coaches who run programs that abuse athletes to the point where the athletes suffer sexual assault and/or death; it faces the critical reality that its recruiting rules invite abuse by the “member institutions” and that the NCAA is feckless in its ability to enforce its own rules.  And in that quagmire, the NCAA was presented with a golden opportunity to do good and do well at the same time – – and it blew the opportunity.

Hurricane Florence did a lot of damage in the Carolinas last month; people suffered catastrophic losses; all the “rescue work” is over but the reconstruction of homes, facilities and lives has only begun.  The basketball coaches at UNC and South Carolina came up with the idea of playing a pre-season basketball game between the schools where all the proceeds would go to Hurricane Florence recovery activities.  The teams were going to pay their own way; there would be no facilities costs; it was a way to funnel money to the recovery.  These teams used to be rivals in the same conference but have not played one another for years now; the game would have drawn a good crowd.  Kudos to Roy Williams and Frank Martin for the idea.

That game will not happen – – thanks to the NCAA and its amazing ability not to be able to get out of its own way.

You see; the NCAA has a rule about college basketball exhibition games …  Once I tell you that, you can easily see how the NCAA can manage to tie its shoelaces together to immobilize itself.  Here is “the problem”:

  • The rule says that schools may play no more than 2 exhibition games and/or joint practices/scrimmages prior to its regular season.
  • Both UNC and South Carolina have contractually committed to two such “events” prior to the birth of Florence let alone its devastation.  Ergo, the schools need a waiver from the NCAA to raise money for Hurricane Florence relief in this way.
  • The NCAA said, “No!”.


The Tampa Bay Bucs fired defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, earlier this week.  The Bucs’ defense was bad last year, and it has not been any the better this year.  That is a recipe for firing a defensive coordinator if ever there was one.  However, I think there is something else bubbling below the surface here.  Head coach, Dirk Koetter is an “offensive guy”.  Supposedly, he got the job when as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, he made Jameis Winston look like a future star QB in Winston’s first season and was high on everyone’s list to become a head coach somewhere else.  The Bucs fired head coach, Lovie Smith, and elevated Koetter to the position.

The Bucs improved to 9-7 in Koetter’s first season at the helm; then, things went south in season two; the Bucs struggled home with a 5-11 record last year.  In 2017, the Bucs’ defense ranked dead last in the NFL in yards per game allowed (378.1) and in yards allowed per play (6.0).  Mike Smith’s defense certainly did not distinguish itself there.

This year, the Bucs record is 2-3 and the defense has been statistically worse.  In 5 games this season, the Bucs have yielded 439.8 yards per game and 6.9 yards per play.  If the defense hit rock bottom last year, they seem to have continued to dig this year.  And so, Mike Smith is gone, and linebackers’ coach Mark Duffner takes over the defensive coordinator job.

The Bucs have 11 games left in the 2018 season and the defensive coordinator has already been jettisoned.  Jameis Winston continues to show physical skills on the field that are enticing but his mental errors and his off-field behaviors could give one pause about his future status as a franchise QB.  If the Bucs do not rebound and play competitively, the Bucs owner – Malcom Glazer – may just feel the need to make major changes and “major change” would not stop merely at changing the team’s coordinators.  With the move to fire Mike Smith, I think Dirk Koetter is coaching for his job now.

Oh, by the way, the Bucs GM is in the final year – a team option year – of his contract too.  If the Bucs stumble home in 2018, the front office and the coaching staff may be looking for work in 2019…

At the other end of the NFL coaching spectrum from Dirk Koetter this morning, we find Sean McVay doing something else innovative besides his offense and his play calling.  McVay has hired an assistant to be on the sidelines with him during games whose job it is to advise McVay on clock management.  Jedd Fisch had been the offensive coordinator at UCLA under Jim Mora, Jr. and at Michigan.  Let me just say that there are other NFL head coaches who could use a clock management assistant too…

Finally, here is an observation by Brad Rock in the Deseret News with which I totally agree:

“A poll conducted for calm.com says the dullest sport to watch is golf.

“Cricket ranks the second-best cure for insomnia, followed by soccer and baseball in a tie for third.

“Synchronized swimming officials are demanding a recount.”

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



Bouncing Around …

The NFL has put Mychal Kendricks on indefinite suspension after he entered a guilty plea to chargers of insider trading.  To put a perspective on this, insider trading is what put Martha Stewart in the slammer for a short period of time about 10 years ago.  From that perspective, I can see why the NFL would not want Kendricks on the field as part of their TV product; he just admitted that he did something that put another widely known TV celebrity on the shelf.  In addition, it is important to recognize that despite all of the coach-speak and player-platitudes that you hear, at its core, the NFL is television programming.

The irony here is that Kendricks’ suspension by the NFL has already exceeded the suspension handed down to Ray Rice.  While not trying in any way to condone insider trading, I sorta think that what Ray Rice did – on video tape so there is no real debate about it – is worse than what Mychal Kendricks did.  Oh well …

The thing about this indefinite suspension is that it may become a de facto lifetime suspension.  Kendricks will be sentenced to a prison term in January 2019; the length of that sentence is obviously unknown.  However, if he remains “indefinitely suspended” for the balance of 2018 and is then sentenced to 24 months in prison in January 2019, it may be the end of his career.  That would make him 30 years old when he finished such a sentence (remember, this is hypothetical) and making a comeback as an NFL linebacker at that age would not be trivial.

Since Kendricks was a member of the Seattle Seahawks prior to this suspension, it is not surprising that Dwight Perry had an observation about the situation in the Seattle Times:

“Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been suspended indefinitely after pleading guilty to illegal stock-market moves.

“Coincidence?  ESPN’s NFL Insiders got the scoop.”

WNBA President, Lisa Borders, resigned that position to take the job as the CEO of a new organization called Time’s Up.  This entity seeks to represent women and advocate for women who face discrimination and harassment in the workplace and in their careers.  Time’s Up is pretty clearly an outgrowth/extension of the Me-Too Movement.

I guess Ms. Borders is a good choice for this new position given that she has run an organization dominated by women in the recent past.  However, I would pump the brakes before I went so far as to say that this selection is a shortcut to success for Time’s Up.  Consider:

  • Ms. Borders has been with the WNBA as its President for 3 years.  Is it fair to say that the WNBA has not exploded onto the sports scene during her time at the tiller?
  • The WNBA has been in existence for more than 20 years and it is just now beginning to achieve “niche-sports” status.  Is it fair to ask someone to point to two accomplishments identified with Ms. Borders that have put the WNBA on a better footing than it had before her?

Since I would choose to align myself with the goals and objectives of Time’s Up, I hope that this hiring decision bears fruit down the road.  As of now, there has been no indication as to who might replace Ms. Borders at the WNBA.  However, we should know that the WNBA is headed for some dicey negotiations whenever the next CBA is on the table.

  • The maximum salary in the WNBA is $115K.  Minimum salary for a rookie in the NBA is $823K.  That means if a WNBA team started 5 players all making the league maximum, that starting-five would earn less than the rookie NBA players sitting at the end of the bench.  That should be an interesting point of discussion…
  • Recalling that WNBA maximum salary of $115K, the entry level pay for an NBA official is $150K.  As the saying goes, no one buys a ticket or tunes into a game to see the officials.  Draw your own conclusions here.

Obviously, the NBA pays more because it takes in much more revenue.  I do not have the latest figures, but the last time I checked the figures the WNBA revenues were about 1% of the NBA revenues.  But the difference in revenue generation is only the starting point for the wide discrepancy here.  If I read the NBA CBA and the WNBA CBA correctly, the NBA funnels about 50% of the revenue to the players in the form of salaries/benefits while the WNBA allocates about 30% of its revenue to that end.  Whoever takes the WNBA job is going to find some headwinds when it comes to getting a new agreement.

The current CBA will expire in 2021, but the players association can opt out of the agreement this year with the aim of getting a new deal before this one expires.  Looking at that landscape, I think Lisa Borders made a very savvy career move with her decision to change jobs…

Pardon me, but I need to vent here.  We are only about a third of the way through the football season and I have reached my limit on something that TV announcers say far too often.  There is no such thing as a “very unique” offense or defense; in fact, nothing in the universe is “very unique”.  Everything and anything are either “unique”, or they are “not unique”.  There are no gradations there.

  • Memo to TV announcers:  Please replace “very unique” in your vocabulary with something that makes sense such as “highly unusual” or “very different”.

Finally, here is a WNBA related comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Seattle throws a championship parade Sunday to celebrate the Storm’s third WNBA title. It also is the third for star Sue Bird, now established as the second-best Bird ever to play basketball.”

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