I will probably be off the air until next Tuesday – 16 October – tending to some family business. Please check back then.
Stay well, all…
I will probably be off the air until next Tuesday – 16 October – tending to some family business. Please check back then.
Stay well, all…
I do not like fantasy football. I do not play fantasy football – – or fantasy “anything else”. I tried it once in an NFL fantasy league and lost interest in about the 4th week of the season to the point where I never changed my starting lineup from that point on. In one week of the season, I “started” four players who were out of action for the week. Somehow, I did not lose every game of the season and wound up something like 2-12. I bring this up because I want to point you to a column by Brad Dickson about fantasy football that I really think you should read in its entirety.
Brad Dickson is a humor writer; so, this is not a “serious” exposition on fantasy football. Nonetheless, I think there are several important issues that he addresses there. Just to whet your appetite, here are two short paragraphs from that column:
“It hasn’t been easy to resist the siren call of fantasy football. Indeed in 2018 playing fantasy sports has become America’s new pastime, having supplanted the erstwhile, laudable pursuits of Fidget-spinning, dabbing and searching for Pokemon.”
“There’s no doubt that fantasy football, which has grown into a full-fledged pandemic in America, makes you do crazy, off-the-rails stuff. My buddy Vic once sneaked a look at his cellphone during the eulogy at his grandpa’s wake to see how many yards Matt Schaub had passed for during a first half. (He justifies this by asserting it was ‘during a lull’ in the eulogy.)”
With the season-ending injury to Jay Ajayi, there had been an increased focus on the potential for the Eagles to trade for LeVeon Bell – – who has pretty much made it clear that he will not be signing with the Steelers next year. Forget all of the questions about if Bell is in “football shape” and how he might fit in within an Eagles’ locker room that has stars but not divas. Focus solely on this question:
My answer to that question is a resounding, “NO!” If I trade to acquire Bell and I am the Eagles’ GM, I do not want to be part of the focus of a ton of drama once the offseason starts. So, if I am the GM of the Eagles – which I am not nor am I connected to that position in any way whatsoever – here are the parameters of my deal:
Here is my offer to LeVeon Bell’s agent:
Again, my offer to Bells’ agent is take-it-or-leave-it; the last thing I would need in the middle of a season is haggling over details. Granted that Bell is the best running back option out there – – but he also brings more baggage with him than any other guy I might sign off the street to include:
And now it should be patently evident why I do not have the temperament or the résumé ever to be considered for the post of GM for an NFL team.
In the aftermath of the melee/brawl that ensued at UFC 229 in Las Vegas over the weekend, humor-writer, Brad Dickson, had this observation on Twitter:
“I watched my first ever UFC match Saturday night & I have tons of questions. For starters, when the winner spits on his vanquished opponent & jumps out of the Octagon to attack the opponent’s manager, how many points is that worth?”
Recall that I said earlier this week that UFC and professional wrestling were converging in terms of the promotional and “storytelling” aspects of the two enterprises. Brad Dickson’s comment goes to the question of what a first-time viewer of this sport is supposed to make of the after-fight activities. I do not have a good answer for him other than to say that all of this will be part of a humongous build-up to the rematch that will happen – – and then maybe a third match to be the “rubber match” …
It is time for a Quick Quiz … Put away all your notes and put all your cell phones out of reach. There is to be no Googling …
Finally, since I have cribbed from Brad Dickson for much of the content above, let me close with another of his observations about the stadium environment at the University of Wisconsin for a college football game:
“Then there are University of Wisconsin home football games at night which strongly resemble Turkish prison riots if the inmates paused to do the Wave and ‘jump around’.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Yesterday, I did not pay heed to the adage:
I mentioned that the Yankees/Red Sox game and Monday Night Football would be on at the same time, so I wished that one of the games would turn out to be a blowout so I could focus on the other one. Well, both of them were blowouts. There was about as much drama in those two games as there was joy in Mudville back in the day.
CBS Sports had a report yesterday about the ongoing trial of Adidas execs for wire fraud regarding college basketball recruiting. Here is an important paragraph buried in the middle of that report:’
” ‘We are closely monitoring the trial of three individuals charged with corruption in college basketball,’ the NCAA said in a statement Friday to The Washington Post. ‘If information relevant to potential NCAA violations is uncovered, we will continue to follow-up and investigate all the facts’.”
Why is that important? Isn’t that what you would expect the NCAA to say? Indeed it is, and it also demonstrates that the NCAA will – yet again – have to rely on outside efforts to bring to light “information relevant to potential NCAA violations”. It is an organization that is not capable of monitoring and enforcing its own rules. Is it any wonder why there might be programs that decide it is OK to act outside the boundaries of those rules?
USA Today did a poll to determine the salaries of college football head coaches in Division 1-A. There are 129 schools that play football at that level and the poll found that the average salary for head coaches is $2.4M per year. Doing just a tad of math here, that means head coaches – not all coaches on all staffs at those 129 schools – make a total of $309.6M. Given that the NCAA and all its member institutions are tax-exempt entities that operate not for profit, that seems like a hefty financial burden, no?
Other information from the USA Today poll that I found interesting:
Staying with college football for a moment, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:
“Musical chairs: Clemson’s Kelly Bryant is bailing on the Tigers now, while Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts is expected to change campuses after the season. Both have been dislodged by younger, better passers. Can’t blame them, though, for wondering why they were benched. As starters, their teams were a combined 42-4.”
The NFL has always been about “what have you done for me lately”; that attitude has trickled down to Division 1-A college football now…
As of this morning there are 11 undefeated college football teams in the country. It is tempting to try to conjure up scenarios whereby all of them end the season undefeated so that the College Football Playoff Committee would have to squirm as they made their announcements of the CFP seedings. Problem is that it will not happen because it cannot happen.
Looking at the other unbeaten teams:
A reader asked me via e-mail if Notre Dame were to finish the season undefeated and not make it to the CFP, would that be the impetus for Notre Dame to join the ACC in football. Actually, here is what I think would happen if an undefeated Notre Dame team were left out of the CFP:
As is customary here in Curmudgeon Central, one never looks at the undefeated teams in a vacuum; the ethos here is to search out the winless teams too. If I have counted correctly, there are 4 of them:
Nebraska and UCLA are recognizable programs with a history. Both have new coaches this year. Nebraska has Bethune-Cookman on its schedule along with visits to Minnesota and Illinois. There should be a win in that mix, right? UCLA’s schedule does not have any games that look like layup victories.
[Aside: The Cards win over the Niners on Sunday assures that no team in the NFL will be winless in 2018.]
Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times found an intersection of sports and business with this observation:
“J.C. Penney’s portfolio for the past four years boasts a profit in just two quarters.
“In a related story, J.C. Penney has just been named the official retail store of the Cleveland Browns.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Over the weekend, there was a big pay-per-view MMA fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Khabib won the fight but that seems ever so unimportant this morning given two other events that occurred:
I mention this as prelude to repeat something that I have said about MMA events and UFC and all of those other alphabet-soup fighting enterprises:
Today’s Washington Post has a story on the front of the Sports Section with this headline:
Post-match melee has UFC world still reeling
I cannot recall any other time when UFC got such a prominent placement in the Post; I will not be surprised when the “retribution” for Khabib’s post-match attack draws more attention to this matter. Nor will I be surprised when UFC exploits it to promote the rematch.
The MLB playoffs roll on. The Brewers swept their first round series shutting out the Rockies twice along the way. The Astros hold a 2-0 lead over the Indians who will try to avoid elimination this afternoon in Cleveland. The Dodgers had shut out the Braves twice in LA, but the Braves came back to win the first game in Atlanta last night by a score of 6-5. The Red Sox and Yankees are tied at 1 game apiece with the series going to NYC this evening. I will be rooting for a blowout game in either the Sox/Yankees contest or in the Monday Night Football game so that I do not wear out the batteries in my TV remote.
Last week, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot summed up the baseball situation in Baltimore very succinctly:
“Idle thought: Was Orioles manager Buck Showalter fired? Or was he granted clemency?”
People who create rankings MLB teams in terms of the strength of the farm system all seem to say that the Orioles’ set of prospects is sub-standard. Some have attributed that to a supposed edict from owner Peter Angelos to minimize spending on players from Latin America in general and the Dominican Republic specifically. I have no idea if such an edict exists or when it may have been announced if in fact it does exist. What seems to be a consensus among the “prospect raters” is that the Orioles are in deep yogurt.
That might not be so bad if the major league roster were a juggernaut. News flash here; it is not. The O’s lost 115 games this year; they do not hit well; their pitching is awful and good defense is not their forte. It may be a while before the Orioles are relevant again and Buck Showalter is in his 60s. It would not be difficult for you to convince me that he would not be overjoyed with the prospect of rebuilding a roster from scratch when the talent pool in the minor leagues is not very deep.
Looking at the Orioles’ situation, I wonder who would relish the job of manager – – or GM for that matter – – at this time. Peter Angelos is getting up there in years and just may have lost a lot off his fastball; neither of his sons has had much experience in running the baseball side of the team and there appears to be little delegation of authority on that front. The Orioles are a bad team today and could well be a bad team for more than a couple more years. Managing a team that loses 100+ games or being the GM who assembles the roster for a team that loses 100+ games is not a way to build a baseball résumé.
Perhaps the only open job in baseball that might be as bad as the opening in Baltimore would be the GM for the Mets. The problem there is simple:
Good luck with that…
The MLB free-agency meat market will get rolling as soon as the World Series is over. This is a bountiful crop of free agents led by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado who are in their mid-20s and are among the best players in the game. Often, the big-name free agents are over 30 and are looking for long-term deals even though their prime production years are behind them. GMs and owners will have to decide how much money they are willing to throw at these folks. Here are a couple of guidelines I would use:
Finally, here is some solid career advice from humor-writer, Brad Dickson:
“If both your Twitter and Facebook profiles show you flipping off the camera, try to apply for jobs with companies that don’t check applicants’ social media.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
It’s Friday and it’s football season. Ergo…
Starting with college football, the Linfield Wildcats are off to the worst start to a football season since I started following them about 10-12 years ago. Last week, the Wildcats lost on the road to Whitworth by a score of 19-14. Linfield’s record stands at 1-2 with a conference record of 0-1. This week, the Wildcats are at home to face the Willamette Bearcats who are also 1-2 on the season. Linfield needs to win at least 5 games in order to keep their streak of winning seasons alive; that streak began in 1956. Go Wildcats!
In major college football, there were no blockbuster upsets last week, but there were a few interesting happenings that may have escaped your attention. Two that caught my eye involve the current societal hyper-sensitivity to language. I swear there is a secret society out there called People Spring-Loaded To Be Offended By Anything And Everything. Last week those folks took offense at:
[Aside: I have it on good authority that Coach Whipple will spend his one-week suspension relaxing by squeezing the Charmin.]
Ohio St. beat Penn St. 27-26 with a TD in the final 2 minutes of the game. It was an exciting game and a well-played game by both teams. And – – notwithstanding the social sensitivities – – Ohio St. did silence the white noise.
Notre Dame won a game with its offense last week beating Stanford 38-17. The Irish made a change at starting QB and Ian Book threw 4 TD passes in the game.
Clemson beat Syracuse 27-23 and had to come from behind to do it. The Tigers lost their starting QB to a vicious hit in the first half and had to go to the #3 guy on the depth chart because Kelly Bryant decided to leave the team rather than take the demotion to #2. Clemson resorted to the run game and rushed for 305 yards; Travis Etienne accounted for 200 of those yards.
Texas beat Kansas St. 19-14; it was a tale of two halves. Texas won the first half 19-0; K-State won the second half 14-0. This victory was the first one for the Longhorns in Manhattan, KS since 2002.
Alabama beat Louisiana-Lafayette 56-14 but did not cover the spread. The spread was 49.5 when I wrote about it last week; it rose to 50 points by game time. Earlier this week, Nick Saban said that he was disappointed that the student section for the game was half-empty.
Oklahoma beat Baylor 66-33. I guess that score is not all that surprising when you consider that Baylor has the 88th ranked defense in the country and Oklahoma has the 91st ranked defense in the country. Sooners’ QB, Kyler Murray threw for 7 TDs and 477 yards.
In a mirror image game where defense dominated from start to finish, Florida beat Mississippi St. 13-6. Dan Mullen returned to Starkville for the first time since ditching the job as Mississippi St and came away with a win.
Texas Tech lost to W. Virginia in Lubbock last week. That is not all that surprising, but this is:
Michigan beat Northwestern 20-17 even though Northwestern jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The Wolverines leaned on their defense – – ranked #1 in the country as of this morning giving up only 232.6 yards per game – – and scored just enough to pull out a win.
Oregon beat Cal 42-24; that was the first loss of the year for Cal and it was a nice rebound win for Oregon after losing to Stanford 2 weeks ago.
Washington dominated BYU 35-7. A couple of weeks ago, BYU went to Wisconsin and beat the Badgers in Madison. Talk about a reversal of form…
Arizona St. dominated Oregon St. 52-24. The Sun Devils ran the ball down the Beavers’ throats all day long; the final stats were 396 yards rushing and 4 rushing TDs. Ladies and gentlemen, that is what I call an organized ass-kicking.
NCAA Games of Interest This Week:
LSU – 2 at Florida (44.5): Both teams rely on defense; points will definitely be at a premium here. Florida gives up only 311 yards per game; LSU yields 334.
Auburn – 3 at Mississippi St. (43): This will be another defense-dominated game. Mississippi St. gives up only 288 yards per game; Auburn yields 305.
Kentucky at Texas A&M – 5.5 (50): Is this the week where Kentucky’s Cinderella-story season crashes? That line is most unusual considering that Kentucky is ranked #13 in the country this morning; Texas A&M is unranked, and its 3 wins have come against sorry-assed opponents (Northwestern St., La-Monroe and Arkansas). Kentucky RB, Benny Snell has been the key to the Kentucky offense; the Aggies rushing defense is the best in the SEC as of this morning. That matchup should be the key to the game…
Alabama – 35 at Arkansas (57.5): In the great sportsbook in the sky, a tear comes to the eye of Frank Broyles…
Vandy at Georgia – 26.5 (54): Georgia is ranked #2 in the country this morning. Perhaps, Vandy is ranked #2 in the state of Tennessee … maybe not.
Florida St. at Miami – 14 (48.5): Twenty years ago, the winner here would be odds-on to win the national championship. Not nearly the case anymore… The oddsmaker thinks this will be a low scoring game given that Total Line; Miami’s second-ranked defense nationally should throttle the Seminoles’ offense.
Kansas at W. Virginia – 28 (61.5): Kansas is 2-3 on the season. If they win one more game this year, they will equal the total number of wins over the last three seasons combined. W. Virginia is in the top Ten as of this morning. The Jayhawks third win of 2018 is not going to come here…
Iowa – 7 at Minnesota (42): With a Total Line that low, both offensive units should be ashamed.
Navy – 3 at Air Force (48): This Total Line in this game is interesting. It opened the week at 55.5 and rose at one point to 57 whereupon there must have been a flood of money on the UNDER because the line plummeted to this level. The public has a propensity to bet OVER and not UNDER in most games; I suspect that pro gamblers saw the potential for a huge win on that bet when the line was in the upper 50s.
Nebraska at Wisconsin – 17 (60): This game should not be close. Nebraska will be 0-5 on Sunday morning.
Washington – 21.5 at UCLA (52.5): This game should not be close. UCLA will be 0-5 on Sunday morning. Is there an echo in here…?
Arizona St. at Colorado – 2.5 (64): Colorado is 4-0 and ranked in the Top 25. Other than long-term residents of Boulder, CO, who saw that coming back in August? Arizona St. is 2-2. I am unimpressed by Colorado’s record; their 4 wins have come at the expense of teams whose combined record is 1-16. The Sun Devil’s two losses have been to San Diego St. and Washington.
Utah St. at BYU – 2 (55): I am surprised by that Total Line. While neither team is a model of consistency this year, both have shown an ability to score points. Interesting game to watch…
The Bears simply demolished the Bucs 48-10. Here is what I said in last week’s version of Football Friday:
“The Bears’ defense has been very good this year and if the Ryan Fitzmagic Season is going to hit a speedbump, this could well be the game.”
I think I had that one right. Mitchell Trubisky threw for 6 TDs in the game and the Bucs pulled Ryan Fitzpatrick and inserted Jameis Winston into the game. As you might conclude from the final score, that move did not amount to much of anything.
The Pats beat the Dolphins 38-7, but the game was not nearly as close as that score might indicate. The game was televised into the DC area, but they switched away from it in the middle of the 3rd quarter because it was such a beatdown. The only Dolphins’ points were produced by Brock Osweiler at a point in the game where the Pats were simply looking to get into the locker room and get showered. Fun fact:
The Packers beat the Bills 22-0 and Aaron Rodgers was unhappy with the offense and its game plan. If there had to be a game with a less-than-satisfactory game plan this would be the one the Packers should have picked. The Packers recorded 7 sacks in the game and held the Bills to 145 yards total offense. That is not the typical way the Packers win football games, but that is what happened here…
The Seahawks beat the Cards 20-17. Earl Thomas left the game against the Cards on a cart with a broken leg; he is on IR for the season. On the way to the locker room, Thomas flipped the bird to someone and the direction was toward the Seahawks’ bench area. All has not been hunky-dory between Thomas and the team this year; last week seems to have put a punctuation mark on that relationship. The Seahawks were 0 for 10 on third down conversions and still won the game; it is not easy to do that. The Cards missed 2 FG tries and lost by 3 points.
The Cowboys beat the Lions 26-24 on a last-minute drive that produced a winning field goal. Dak Prescott threw for 255 yards in the game; it is the first time this year he has been north of the 200-yard mark in a game. Was this the Cowboys’ offense showing signs of life or was this just lifelessness on the part of the Lions’ defense?
The Bengals beat the Falcons 37-36 and the game was fun to watch – – unless you are a Falcons’ fan. [Aside: This is the game CBS switched to in the DC area when the Pats/Dolphins game became a laughingstock.] The only downer in terms of watching was listening to Bruce Arians doing color/analysis. Arians may be insightful, but behind the mic he is about as exciting as day-old toast. The Falcons’ defense has been AWOL recently; that unit has given up 104 points in the last 3 games AND all 3 of those games have been at home! Here is a stat I ran across and did not even begin to try to verify; take it at face value:
The Jags beat the Jets 31-12. Just about any rookie QB is going to have problems with the Jags’ top-rated defense and that was indeed the case for Sam Darnold. It should be noted that a rookie QB going up against that defense would have to have a sound running game to keep the defense honest if that rookie QB was going to look anything but overmatched. The Jets ran for all of 34 yards in the game…
The Saints beat the Giants 33-18. The Giants offense has been AWOL for the season; maybe they are off spending time with the Falcons’ defense? The Saints’ defense had been giving up 34 points per game before this one; the Giants scored on their first possession and then went somnambulant.
The Texans beat the Colts 37-34 in OT. This was the first win of the year for the Texans despite the fact that DeShaun Watson was sacked 7 times. Somehow, he still managed to throw for 375 yards in the game. The Texans need to hold tryouts for offensive linemen. Maybe an open tryout for anyone in the Houston area currently employed as a piano mover… Andrew Luck threw 62 passes for the Colts in the game; I think it is safe to say they do not have him on a pitch count.
The Chargers beat the Niners 29-27. CJ Beathard threw for 297 yards and 2 TDs in his first start since Jimmy G went on IR. Not too shabby…
The Titans beat the Eagles 26-23 in OT. The Titans trailed by 3 points in OT and had a drive where they converted on 4th down three times to keep the drive alive. It produced a winning TD at the end.
The Raiders beat the Browns 45-42 in OT. Browns RB, Nick Chubb ran for 105 yards and 2 TDs; Baker Mayfield threw for 2 TDs – – and threw a Pick Six to the Raiders too. Derek Carr threw for 437 yards and 4 TDs and Marshawn Lynch averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the game. Defensive highlights? There were none.
The Ravens beat the Steelers 26-14. Put simply, the Steelers’ defense is not good, and it has not been good since Ryan Shazier had to be carted off the field with a spinal injury last season. I do not mean the defense is “not good by Steelers’ standards”; I mean the defense is “just plain not good”. I suspect that LeVeon Bell and his agent enjoyed this game because the Steelers ground game amassed a total of 19 yards in the game.
The Chiefs rallied to beat the Broncos 27-23. An interesting stat for the Chiefs this year is that in 4 games they have only turned the ball over once – – on a lost fumble.
NFL This Week
I know the season is only 25% over but here is an interesting stat. If the playoffs were to start today, the Eagles, Steelers and Patriots would not participate. The last time all three of those teams missed the playoffs was in 2000.
Two teams have their BYE Week this week:
Jax at KC – 3 (49): This could well be the game of the week. The Jags lead the NFL in points allowed; the Chiefs’ offense scores early and often; the Chiefs average 36 points per game. The Jags should be able to run the ball against the Chiefs’ mediocre defense even with Leonard Fournette on the shelf. I think the game comes down to this – – can the Chiefs’ mediocre defense slow down the Jags’ mediocre offense so that Patrick Mahomes has time to work his offensive magic? Here is a stat that surprised me:
Tennessee – 5.5 at Buffalo (40): The Titans have won two heart-stopping games in a row and this could be a let-down game since the Bills are not exactly a fearsome opponent. The Titans are clearly the better team; they should not need a “Music City Miracle” to win this one if they are up for the game.
Denver at Jets “pick ‘em” (42): The line for this game is all over the map this morning. You can find it with the Jets as a 1.5-point favorite and you can find it with the Broncos as a 1-point favorite. The Broncos have a long trip to the East Coast for this game after a short week of practice. Here are two stats for you:
Atlanta at Pittsburgh – 3 (58): This is a desperation game for both teams; each of them has only one win for the season; both aspire to make a run in the playoffs for a shot at the Super Bowl. Both defenses are bad (see above) and the Total Line here reflects those defensive shortcomings on both sides. The Steelers and Falcons have met 16 times over the years; the Falcons have never won in Pittsburgh and the Steelers lead the series 13-2-1.
Miami at Cincy – 6 (48.5): Both teams lead their divisions this morning. I surely did not see that happening back in August. I think the Dolphins were exposed by the Pats last week as a mediocre team at best.
Oakland at Chargers – 6 (52.5): If the Browns and Baker Mayfield can score 42 on the Raiders’ defense, Philip Rivers and company ought to be licking their chops. At the same time, the Chargers’ defense has not been stellar; they allow 30 points per game. I must admit, I am tempted by the OVER in this game…
Arizona at SF – 4 (40): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Even though it is a division game, I cannot imagine that anyone actually cares about the outcome here. If I look for a reason to pay attention to this game, it would be that this is the first road start for Josh Rosen and he was touted to be the “most NFL-ready QB” in the 2018 draft. Like I said, who cares about this one…
Minnesota at Philly – 3 (46.5): This would be the Game of the Week if you do not think the Jags/Chiefs game earns that moniker. Last year, these teams met for the NFC Championship; as of this morning, neither team would be in the playoffs. If the Eagles win here, that would put Minnesota at 1-3-1 and that would cause fans in Minnesota to say “Yikes” for the Vikes…
Rams – 7.5 at Seattle (50): The Rams are clearly the better team, but the Seahawks are clearly better at home than on the road. The Rams dominated the Vikes last week while the Seahawks eked out a win over the hapless Cards – the only winless team in the NFL.
(Sun Nite) Dallas at Houston – 3 (45.5): The Cowboys really want to run the football; they average 5.8 yards per rush attempt. The Texans’ rush defense only allows 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. This will be a big part of this game. As noted above, the Texans’ OL has been awful this year. However, Texans’ defensive tackle JJ Watt has been spectacular:
(Mon Nite) Washington at New Orleans – 6.5 (53): The Skins had last week off to prepare for this game. Drew Brees could reach two milestones in this game:
This Week’s Six-Pack of Games:
This week we have 3 NCAA games and 3 NFL games in the Six-Pack:
Northwestern at Michigan St. – 10.5 (43): I do not think either team here is all that good, but I just do not trust Michigan St. to beat any competent opponent by 11 points. I’ll take Northwestern on the road plus the points.
Notre Dame – 6.5 at VA Tech (55.5): This will be a stern test for the Tech defense and it will be a stern test for the Irish as a team. I think Notre Dame is on a roll. I like Notre Dame to win and cover on the road.
Oklahoma – 8 vs Texas (60.5) [Game is in Dallas]: If you like trends, here is one to consider. The last 5 times these two teams met in the Red River Rivalry, Texas was the underdog. In those 5 games, Texas covered every time. I think they will do that again here against a very suspect Oklahoma defense. I’ll take Texas plus the points.
Green Bay at Detroit “pick ‘em” (51.5): Do not overthink this one. The Packers are the better team. The oddsmaker says to pick the winner; I like the Packers to win the game.
Giants at Carolina – 6 (43.5): The Giants could not score on a mediocre-at-best Saints defense at home last week; now, they go on the road to face a good Panthers’ defense. The Giants’ defense may keep the game close for a while, but this looks like a comfortable win for the Panthers to me. I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points. [Aside: The Panthers roster was assembled by Dave Gettleman and then the Panthers fired him. The Giants hired Dave Gettleman to assemble a comparable roster in NYC. He is still a couple of drafts away from doing that.]
Baltimore – 3 at Cleveland (45.5): My only worry here is that this might be a let-down game for the Ravens after an emotional and hard-fought win over the Steelers last week. The spread opened the week at 1.5 points but shot up to 3 points right away and has held steady there. I see this as a defensive game; just a hunch, I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Finally, here is a comment from Omaha humor-writer, Brad Dickson:
“If you’re big on stats Kade Warner is the all-time Husker leader in receptions among sons of guys who used to work at grocery stores in Cedar Falls.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Once again, Happy Broderick Crawford Day…
It has been about a year since the FBI very conspicuously announced their multi-year investigation into the evils of college basketball recruiting. A handful of assistant coaches were indicted; some shoe company execs and employees were charged; there were photo-ops of people taking the infamous “perp-walk”. Many commentators opined that this would open a floodgate of revelations as cooperating witnesses pointed investigators onto new paths where more slime would be found. Yes, there have been subpoenas sent to a few other schools since the first wave of publicity in this matter; but for the most part, things have been quiet. Rick Pitino was fired based on allegations related to the case; he has not been charged with anything to date. Jim Larranaga was also alleged to have been involved in this stuff; he has not been charged with anything to date.
The first trial to come out of all of this is beginning. Two Adidas “officials” and a runner for a player agent are charged with wire fraud as they acted to steer prized recruits to “Adidas schools” and ultimately to the runner’s player agency. I have never understood the “criminality” of the actions alleged here even if every word of the indictments were to be true, so I asked a lawyer who was a Federal prosecutor years ago before going into private practice if he could enlighten me on the matter. This is his explanation – and he properly added the disclaimer that it is based only on things that have been made public:
[For the record, my lawyer-friend said that my description above would not be a sufficient answer to a professor in law school but that it captured the essence of his explanation to me. Also, for the record, if I were in the jury box and the prosecutors used that in their opening argument to the jury, I would have to stifle a giggle.]
The NCAA has adopted new rules that intend to reduce the influence of shoe/apparel companies in the basketball recruiting process including the establishment of an NCAA sponsored summer league for top-shelf basketball prospects. Time will tell how long it will be until that league too becomes tainted; but for now, let’s keep a good thought and assume that all will be well for a little while. Other than that, the NCAA has been unusually smart about what it has done and said. In essence, it has done and said nothing.
The NCAA is in the catbird seat here. Consider:
I indicated above that I would not be very likely to vote to convict anyone of a Federal crime in these proceedings. However, that does not mean that I think all the folks named as malefactors in this opera are fine and upstanding citizens. Quite to the contrary, I think they are bad guys who have despoiled the college basketball recruiting processes. It would be great if the NCAA and its member institutions could enforce the NCAA’s own rules such that we would not need this outside effort – – but that has never happened in the past and is not likely to happen in the future. I am not sanguine that convictions in this trial – and future trials that may come after this one – are going to solve the problem.
Now, it does seem to me that a Federal crime has likely been committed here if all the allegations made public to date are true. There are people out there who received money – allegedly as much as $100K – when certain recruits went to specific schools. I do not know this for certain, but I think it is a good bet that those people did not report that money as income on their tax returns. Remember, that is how the Feds got Al Capone…
Changing the subject – but staying in the quagmire of Federal law and legislation – the Congress of the United States is considering action regarding sports wagering in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that the last act by Congress regarding that issue was unconstitutional. The Court said PASPA was unconstitutional but made it clear that Congress COULD act to control/regulate sports betting if it chose to do so and did so in a constitutional manner. There were recent hearings held in the House of Representatives.
At a recent hearing, the subcommittee heard testimony that was about as shocking as hearing that the sun comes up in the east and/or that brown bears do indeed go poo in the woods. Witnesses told the subcommittee:
Finally, as the NBA begins its exhibition season silliness, let me close with commentary from two sportswriters on Tristan Thompson’s assertion that the Cleveland Cavaliers are still a force majeure in the Eastern Conference:
“The Cavaliers — despite the departure of LeBron James — are still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, Cleveland center Tristan Thompson told reporters.
“Oddsmakers immediately made Thompson the morning-line favorite for first NBA player to get drug-tested this season.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
“Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson says the LeBron-less Cavs are still four-time conference champs and ‘until you take us down from that, teams ain’t got much to say.’
“Except maybe this: The Browns aren’t the worst team in Cleveland anymore.” [Brad Rock, Deseret News]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Like almost all prognosticators, I thought back in March that the Washington Nationals would win the NL East handily and would flirt with or exceed 100 wins over the season. After all, the rest of the NL East looked pretty weak back then:
Despite that apparently soft division which would provide the Nats with 76 of their games over the season, the Nats finished at 82-80 and needed a surge at the end of the season to corral that many victories. It was a monumental example of underachievement.
The examination of “what went wrong” and “how did this happen” has begun in the DC area and the folks who follow the team around here have already trotted out the usual suspects in these sorts of dark circumstances. Let me acknowledge them here:
Personally, I think both of those “root causes” for the underachievement in 2018 are nothing more than convenient excuses. The Nats entered the season with an embarrassment of riches at the 8 permanent positions and 2 studs at the top of their rotation. The team was built to withstand an injury here and there. Consider:
That is not the Opening Day type of roster that would cause most fans to take a deep breath and wait to see how bad the season might be. That is not a roster built to go .500 over a six-month season.
Dave Martinez is going to take some heat for this underachievement. I believe that he deserves some of it, but I think he will take a disproportionate amount of heat. Martinez is a rookie manager; he is described as a players’ manager; he is one who can communicate with today’s players; he is big on symbolism and fun. All of that can be very positive with the right team; here is the problem:
Here is where I will take the path less traveled in assessing the disastrous 2018 season for the Nats. What the Nats need now – – and frankly have needed for at least the last 3 seasons – – is a manager and a management structure less focused on “Dr. Feelgood” and more focused on “Drill Sergeant”. The Nats are soft and have been for a while. This team has been coddled/pampered for far too long.
The grittiest guy on the roster for the Nats was Jayson Werth but Father Time caught up with Werth and he left MLB at the end of the 2017 season. The new manager came in and proceeded to pull an early symbolic stunt in Spring Training.
What the Nats needed to do was to work on fundamentals like hitting the cut-off man and covering bases on hustle plays. Camels don’t help with any of that; camels make you smile and feel good and let you know that you are going to be in the playoffs and you can worry about getting over the hump once you get there. Ah, the sin of hubris…
I have said this to many folks in the last couple of months as the Nats’ season was circling the drain. I believe this is one of the critical elements of the team’s shortfall:
Remember, I said that manager Dave Martinez is not the cause of the problem. At the same time, I believe that he is the wrong guy with the wrong temperament and outlook on life to lead this roster. He found himself in a situation where the team was like a Brooks Brothers three-piece suit and he was a pair hot-pink crocs.
The Nats’ fundamental problem has been ongoing for a while – – as evidenced by the comment from that Giants’ player several years ago. Moreover, the team as an entity has not dealt with it even when confronted with it.
There is a very overused word going around these days; people talk about “accountability” without ever defining what it might entail. Well, I will use it here and tell you what it means in this context. Players on the Washington Nationals have – – for several years now – – been allowed to “half-ass it” during games without being pulled from the lineup for a day or two. Or maybe even more… Nothing of a corrective nature happened to players in the past and the attitude has spread. Until that kind of nonchalance becomes unacceptable, there are not enough creative stunts like bringing a camel to Spring Training that will get the Nats to reach their potential.
I do not pretend to know if the problem is with the manager or with the general manager or with some of the poohbahs in the owner’s suite. It could be in all those places; that is opaque to me. What is transparent to me is that there is an organizational acceptance of lassitude/lethargy that undermines the assemblage of physical talent on the roster.
Charles Sanders Pierce was a pragmatist philosopher of the late 19th century. One of his signature lines was:
“Effort supposes resistance.”
In the situation at hand here, there is little to no resistance when it comes to “half-assing it”; and so, there is no reason to expect anything more than little to no effort.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Well, I did not get my wish; there were ties atop two of the NL divisions but there were no ties involving the wild-card teams. We were treated to two “extra regular season games” yesterday and the two losing teams will square off today in the NL wild-card elimination playoff game. Baseball was front and center in the US sports world yesterday and now the ramp to the World Series is open.
Normally, as the MLB playoffs begin, I have a World Series pairing that I prefer over all the other possibilities; sometimes, there are two match-ups that are equally appealing but usually there is only one I would like to see. This year is different; there are four possible World Series opponents that I would like to see – and I have difficulty figuring out which one is the one I like best.
As the baseball season progressed, I tried to track the teams on place to lose 100 games or more toward the end of each month. At one point, there were six teams that projected to lose that many games this year. In the end, only three teams lost 100 games and all of them were in the AL.
Here are my baseball end-of-season awards. There is a debate that goes on at the end of every season about whether pitches should be eligible for the MVP Award or if pitchers have their own version of that in the Cy Young Award. My position is simple.
With that as prelude, here are my end-of-season awards and honorable mention candidates:
Finally, here is a side issue related to baseball as reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
“The Milwaukee Brewers have secured new sponsorship with Johnsonville, ensuring that their famous racing sausages will continue beyond this season.
“To appease the kid demographic, how about adding a couple of little brats.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
I want to start with a couple of TV comments today. ESPN has put in place a schedule change that it announced more than a month ago. High Noon – the discussion program featuring Bomani Jones and Pablo S. Torre – has been moved to 4:00 PM Eastern Time and it has been shortened to 30 minutes from 60 minutes. Since I do not watch ESPN around noontime on most days, I only saw the show occasionally; in the new time slot, I see it more often – – and I like it a lot. I certainly like it better than the program it replaced, Sports Nation.
FS1 has also made a programming change. Speak For Yourself used to air at 5:00 PM Eastern Time and the program usually featured Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd. The two of them evidenced a good chemistry and the discussion topics – while a bit repetitious – were lively and interesting. Colin Cowherd is not on the program any longer; he does a three-hour program 5 days a week on FS1 – and on the radio – so it is understandable that he might want some time to himself. Cowherd has been replaced by Marcellus Wiley and the vibe between Wiley and Whitlock is just not the same as it was between Cowherd and Whitlock.
I do not dislike the new version of Speak For Yourself but it is just not as good as it used to be. Jason Whitlock is still as assertive and controversial as always; Marcellus Wiley is interesting despite being a tad over-the-top once in a while; the problem is that they appear to be talking past one another too often as opposed to talking to one another. The program has only been in this format for about 3 weeks, so it needs time to “ripen on the vine” …
In another ESPN note, it appears that they have hired Stan Van Gundy as an NBA studio analyst. I think this is an interesting hire because it was not that long ago – sometime during the last NBA regular season – that Stan Van Gundy along with some other NBA coaches threatened to boycott ESPN reporters. All of this stemmed from an ESPN report that quoted LaVar Ball during his time in Lithuania with his sons saying that the Lakers had stopped playing for Luke Walton and that it was obvious to anyone who was watching. Stan Van Gundy reacted to the story very directly:
Stan Van Gundy has been less than shy with the media as a coach and NBA exec; you can hold whatever opinion of him that suits your fancy, but you cannot say that he never speaks his mind. I think he will be a very interesting addition to the ESPN lineup of studio talkers.
About a week ago, the golf headlines blared and declared that Tiger Woods had completed the greatest comeback in the history of golf – – and maybe in all of sports. He had overcome injuries and surgeries and chaos in his personal life. Notwithstanding all of that he had fought through and had won a PGA Tournament event. The “Tiger Train” was back on track. Then they played the Ryder Cup…
In the Ryder Cup matches, the “Tiger Train” did more than derail; it self-immolated. Tiger Woods played in 4 matches and managed to lose all 4 of them. The fourth loss was in singles competition against a rookie Ryder Cup participant – John Rahm. In case that name is not familiar to you, he has a total of 2 PGA Tour victories in his career.
[Aside: Phil Mickelson hardly distinguished himself in the Ryder Cup matches playing in two of them and losing both convincingly. I was never going to pay money to watch Mickelson and Woods play one another the weekend after Thanksgiving but if I were so inclined…]
Oh, and by the way, allow me to say something to the golf goofs who gushed all over Tiger Woods’ “greatest comeback ever” win a week ago. I do not want anyone to interpret this as minimizing the obstacles Woods had to overcome; I am not minimizing knee surgery of back surgery and the rehab processes that go along with each. I am a firm believer in the adage that “minor surgery” is best defined as “surgery performed on someone else”.
Having said that, there are these annoying things known as “history” and “facts”. “History” goes back in time before 1990; What follows here are “actual facts” not “alternative facts”.
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from last week:
“The 1937 Heisman Trophy of the late Yale running back Clinton Frank could fetch $400,000 on the Heritage Auctions block, with bidding set to close Oct. 18.
“In keeping with the theme, they’re going to cut off the trophy’s outstretched hand and reattach it with the palm up.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………