Sports Debate

Anyone who has been a visitor to this little backwater of the Internet for a while knows that I try to keep political and societal issues out of the discussion here.  I am going to dip a toe in those waters for a moment here because I think you should read this column by Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post.  Here is the headline that initially caught my attention:

“With civility in short supply, sports debate is exactly what we need”

Boswell points out that debate in the US today is often conducted in an atmosphere of distrust, antagonism and suspicion but debate about sports can be emotional without hate.  Here is an excerpt from the middle of the column:

“… sports is one of the remining subjects – thank heaven for gardening, cooking and home renovation – on which we can still disagree without wanting to strangle each other.”

Sports is not a panacea; sports will not be the mechanism by which society climbs out of the hostile state it is in today; sports is not going to provide us with the white knight in shining armor who will vanquish the forces of darkness.  But the model of sports debate – as is well described in Boswell’s column – might be a model we all can use in discussions about things other than sports.

Enough lofty thinking; let me get back to sports oddities.  Last Saturday, NC State hosted VA Tech in men’s basketball.  The Hokies won the game handily by a score of 47-24.  That is not a typo; NC State scored 24 points in a regulation college basketball game.  State’s leading scorer in the game was guard, CJ Bryce who had 7 points.

As if that performance by the Wolfpack was not strange enough as a stand-alone event, consider that on Tuesday of this week – 3 days after the loss to VA Tech – NC State visited UNC and scored 96 points in another losing effort.  Must be the phase of the moon …

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH has a “wing” that recognizes “contributors” to pro football in the US.  This is where you would find coaches and GMs and owners and league commissioners so recognized.  In addition, Ed Sabol is – rightfully – recognized there for his work with NFL Films because NFL Films was an important vehicle for enhancing the growth in popularity of the league itself.  I would like to suggest a name for future consideration.

  • Rupert Murdoch

Hear me out …  The NFL is the dominant sports entity in the US with a revenue goal of $25B by 2027.  Rupert Murdoch played a crucial role in the expansion of the league’s revenues to the point that the NFL could set such a goal for itself.  Up until the early 90s, the NFL sold its broadcasting rights to NBC, CBS and ABC.  There was a semblance of competition among the networks – but not a whole lot.  Rights fees increased slowly.  Murdoch launched his new network, FOX, and entered the bidding for NFL rights fees and out-bid CBS for those rights.  From that point on, the competition for NFL television rights became sufficiently significant that rights fees increased dramatically every time they were up for bid.  Those rights fees deliver somewhere between $260M and $275M to each NFL team these days; that revenue is deposited before the team sells a single ticket or a single jersey or charges a single fan for parking at one of the games.

To be sure, Rupert Murdoch did not do anything here that was altruistic in any sense.  He bid for – and won – those NFL TV rights for NFC games in 1993 because he needed anchor programming for his new network.  The NFL game him audience numbers and credibility; he gave the NFL a path to rapidly escalating rights fees.  This was a symbiotic relationship; nonetheless, it was very important in the current state of the pro football in the US.

I have never read that Rupert Murdoch was “on the list” for consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I think he ought to be…

[Aside:  For the purpose of full disclosure, I think sports Halls of Fame need to recognize people who had significant effects on the game even if they were not players, coaches, owners etc.  In that vein, I also believe that Marvin Miller belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.]

There is an extant NFL issue that has nothing to do with players, coaches, free agency, the draft or – shudder – The Combine.  The NFL regular season will begin in about 6 months; the Oakland Raiders do not have a place to play their games for the 2019 season.  In grossly simplistic terms:

  • The Raiders’ lease on the Oakland Coliseum has lapsed
  • The Coliseum folks are suing the Raiders over something related to the move to Las Vegas.
  • The Las Vegas stadium is not ready – – and may not be ready until 2021.
  • The Raiders looked at playing the games in SF where the Giants play; the Niners invoked their “territorial rights”.
  • The Raiders do not want to play in the Niners stadium in Santa Clara; the Niners would probably let them play there for a tidy rental fee.
  • There is an empty stadium in San Diego; no one seems to be pushing that pawn.

So, why is no one thinking that the Raiders could be a vagabond team for one season and play all its games on the road?  It is not as if the Raiders are going to be Super bowl contenders next year; they will be fortunate to break even for the season.  Save whatever rental fees it would take for them to have a “home base” and spend it on travel for the team over a 17-week period.  The Raiders could position themselves as the NFL team raising awareness around the issue of homelessness in the US.

Finally, since I mentioned the Pro Football Hall of Fame above, consider this comment about another Hall of Fame from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“The College Football Hall of Fame says it will add the Goodyear blimp as an honorary member.

“Making it the biggest gas-filled immortal since the basketball hall inducted Dick Vitale in 2008.”

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



4 thoughts on “Sports Debate”

  1. Here are my HOF votes:
    Baseball Marvin Miller: yes. He had a profound effect on MLB, and he had to work hard to do it. This took skill, guts, and perseverance.
    Football Rupert Murdoch: no. Just for bidding on football so that he could partake of the advertising feast that is televised football? Hell no!!)

    1. Gil:

      I completely agree that Murdoch’s motives were highly self-interested. Nonetheless, by his self-interest and by his effective indulgence of his self-interest, he has a huge impact on pro football.

      Remember, I have advocated Marvin Miller for the HoF for the last 20 years or so, but if I were to point out some negatives about Marvin Miller, here would be one of them. Without Marvin Miller, there would never have been a Scott Boras. So there … 🙂

    1. Terrence LaTorre:

      Gil is a former colleague – – but I have no idea if he is a consumer of FOX News or not. Don’t look at me to be the oddsmaker here. 🙂

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