Joe Flacco To The Broncos

Normally, the announcement of a trade involving a 4th round pick in the upcoming draft for a backup QB would merit a glance and not much more.  Today the trade of Joe Flacco from the Ravens to the Broncos for a 4th round pick is a topic that commands major focus.  You will read and hear about the Broncos’ QB problems during the John Elway Era in a dozen other places so let me focus in a couple of other items from this swap:

  • The big winner in the trade is Joe Flacco.  When John Harbaugh left Lamar Jackson in that playoff game in the 4th quarter after Jackson had thrown up on his shoes for the first 3 quarters, that was an unequivocal statement that Jackson was “his guy”.  So Flacco wins the trade by landing on a team with a good RB, a couple of good pass-catchers and a good defense.  Now, he has to show that he can avoid injury and recapture some of his previous form…
  • The big question now is what the Broncos will do with Case Keenum.  He is owed only $7M next season so for one year he is not a “cap killer”.  I will not be surprised to read that the Skins have interest here because they have a lot of money tied up in a starting QB who cannot play in 2019 – and may never play again – so that small salary number combined with the fact that Keenum is a step up from colt McCoy and/or Josh Johnson at QB makes this a sensible landing spot for Keenum.
  • The fact that the Broncos acquired their starting QB for a 4th round pick and nothing else sort of sets the market for players on the market such as Nick Foles and/or Antonio Brown.

Another offseason NFL soap opera  now involves and will continue to involve the Oakland Raiders and where they are going to play their home games next year.  Their stadium in Las Vegas will not be ready until at least 2020 – and some folks have said 2021 is a more realistic target.  Their lease on the Oakland Coliseum runs out this week; the City of Oakland and/or Alameda County are suing the Raiders over the process by which they put together the deal to move to Las Vegas.  The Niners have nixed any possibility that the Raiders could play in a stadium in SF.  Someone actually suggested that the Raiders play one year with London as its home stadium as if that could ever be approved by the owners of the other teams.  This story will probably take three dozen twists and turns before some final decision is made.

However, there is a wild card in the deck here.  I don’t know the details but there are reports that Birmingham, AL and Tucson, AZ have come together to offer the Raiders an opportunity to play their 8 home games in those venues; this is a joint venture of the two communities.  You have to give these folks credit for originality here.  I realize that the league and the Raiders’ ownership will not care too much about the inconvenience for the players over an arrangement like this but consider that these two cities are 1200 miles apart.  If the Raiders have to have “two home fields” for the season, where would the players’ families locate?

My guess – and I mean guess – is that the Raiders will wind up playing their home games in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and share that field with the Niners for the 2019 season.  That makes the most sense – – and that is the reason I think there is a real likelihood the Raiders could wind up playing their home games elsewhere like on the Moon.

The NBA has reached its All-Star break.  That means there will not be any meaningful NBA action for about a week.  There will however be plenty of meaningless activity and let’s start with the Dunk Contest.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time to say goodbye to the Dunk Contest.

This was a fun idea and it was interesting to watch – for a while.  Then it got repetitious; then it got creatively silly as players dunked over parked cars; now, it is embarrassing.  The NBA can’t get many players – let alone any All Stars – to participate.  The players people want to see during the All-Star break will not show up for this silliness.  In 2019, there will be the grand total of 4 participants and there are no Dr. Js or Michael Jordans or Vince Carters or Dominique Wilkins in the group.

You have heard about Dennis Smith recently; he is the guy who was sent to the Knicks in the Porzingis trade.  Because that trade went down recently, you might actually know about Dennis Smith and might recognize him if you saw his mug shot.  I doubt that is true of the other three participants:

  1. Miles Bridges:  He plays for the Hornets don’t you know.  He is not related to Jeff Bridges or Lloyd Bridges.
  2. Hamidou Diallo:  He plays for the Thunder don’t you know.  If you put him in a photoshoot with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I could probably figure out that he is the tall Black man in the picture.
  3. John Collins:  He plays for the Hawks don’t you know.  You may know his brother, Tom Collins from Tom’s regular appearances at Happy Hours.

It is time for the Dunk Contest to be mercifully dispatched to the ashbin of basketball history…

The All-Star Game itself will take place on Sunday night and if you have nothing better to do with yourself on Sunday night you might find yourself watching some of it as you go channel surfing.  But understand that the NBA All-Star Game is not a basketball game.

  • The NBA All-Star Game is an extended version of the Skills Challenge from the day before the game with two added features.  First, they keep score as if it were a basketball game; second, they have referees involved to a marginal extent.

As you might guess, I will not be watching the NBA All-Star Game.  I have something much more important to do on Sunday night; I plan to alphabetize all the checks I have written over the past 5 years.  There is no reason to do that; it serves no purpose; yet it is more compelling than watching the NBA All-Star Game.

Finally, here is an NBA observation from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“A Kansas City woman reportedly makes $40,000 a year as a ‘professional cuddler.’ She offers comfort, understanding and reassurance by hugging people.

“Sources say the Cavaliers have booked her for the entire month of February.”

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



Here And There

With my long-suffering wife on a trip that has her 11 time zones away, I sat down last night after a comfort food dinner to watch the Duke/Louisville game.  I thought this was a perfect trap game situation for Duke coming between a trip to UVA last weekend and upcoming games against UNC.  Given that Duke is a predominantly freshman team, I wondered how they would handle such a situation.

I thought they played nothing but uninspired basketball for the first 30 minutes or so; it was worse than a sleepwalking performance.  With about 8 minutes left to play, the light went on and the Blue Devils did more than just wake up.  It was as if they snapped to attention and looked around and realized they were “in a predicament”.  Louisville was up by 20 points and were dominating on both ends of the floor – – and then the entire tone of the game flipped 180 degrees.  I don’t recall seeing that dramatic a turn-around in a game recently.  In the final 8-10 minutes, Duke erased a 20-point deficit against a very competent Louisville team and won the game at the very end.

What will be interesting to observe is the effect this game will have on Louisville.  They had the game under control and in hand and then everything turned to mud.  Clemson visits Louisville on Saturday; I cannot find any lines on that game this morning [For college basketball, lines tend to show up about 48 hours ahead of game time.]; I think it will be interesting to see how the oddsmakers see the outcome of last night’s game in light of the game on Saturday.

In the NBA, James Harden has a streak of 31 consecutive games where he scored 30 or more points.  Impressive…  Also, in the NBA, Russell Westbrook has had a triple double in 10 consecutive games.  Likewise, impressive …  Someone asked Michael Jordan which  of those feats was more difficult – given that he had never done either of them.  His answer was:

“Winning six titles.”

Even though Jordan abruptly changed the subject, I have to agree with his conclusion.  However, I would like now to change the subject on him just a bit and suggest that people recall some basketball happenings before Michael Jordan was a household name.  Bill Russell turned 85 this week; Bill Russell was a critical performer for 11 Boston Celtic teams that won NBA titles.  That is E-L-E-V-E-N!

The following paraphrase comes from Bob Ryan in his appearance on Around the Horn yesterday:

  • Counting NCAA tournaments, the Olympics, and NBA playoff series, Bill Russell played in 21 games where it was “win or go home”.  His team’s record in those games is 21-0.

So, kudos to James Harden and to Russell Westbrook and to Michael Jordan.  And an equal helping of kudos to Bill Russell…

When the Cleveland Browns announced the signing of Kareem Hunt earlier this week the social justice warriors went apoplectic.  You may recall that we have conclusive video evidence that Hunt assaulted a woman – even kicking her when she was down on the floor.  That behavior is despicable, and it got him suspended from the NFL and cut by the KC Chiefs.  He remains on the Commissioner’s Exempt List – which is even worse than double secret probation.  But the Browns signed him to a 1-year contract earlier this week.  I was wondering how long and how loud the voices of outrage would last for this action.

Now, in today’s Washington Post, Sally Jenkins provides a column of reason.  She does not excuse, dismiss or minimize what Kareem Hunt did.  [Aside:  Note that I am not hedging this by saying “allegedly did” because I saw what he did with my own eyes.]  What Sally Jenkins has done is to consider the possibility that there is a way to have something good come from that which is unmistakably bad.  I commend this column to your reading; here is the link.  Just to whet your appetite, here is the first paragraph of that column:

“Giving Kareem Hunt a second chance in the NFL is not just the right thing to do; it’s the only thing to do.  The alternative is to designate him incurable, a lost cause at 23.  It’s to say that his character is permanently set; and he’s incapable of making a willful better choice.  That’s not right, and it’s not true.”

Kyler Murray has decided he wants to play pro football instead of pro baseball – – at least for now.  Radio and TV commentators are now in full “debate mode” about how Murray’s short stature – – he is listed at 5’ 10” but we will have to wait until the Combine to get his official height recorded – – will affect his ability to function as an NFL QB.  Some have said that he will be the shortest QB ever.  Once again, people need to realize that all of history has not happened since 1990.

Eddie LeBaron was a QB for the Skins and the Cowboys over an 11-year career.  He is listed at 5’ 9” tall but plenty of reporting on him says that he was only 5’ 7” tall.  Interestingly, Google thinks Doug Flutie at 5’ 10” tall is the shortest NFL QB of all time.  Whatever…

José Canseco is back in the news.  Here is a recent Tweet from the volunteer Chairman of the Fed and/or the President’s Chief of Staff:

“Go on a Bigfoot and alien Excursion with Jose Canseco contact Morgan Management at XXX-YYY-ZZZZ.”

This is simply stunning.  If you were to consider – even for a fleeting moment – going on a “Bigfoot and alien excursion”, would you go with:

  1. A respected archeologist
  2. A TV producer such as David Attenborough or Jacques Cousteau (who is currently dead)
  3. A scientist
  4. An outdoorsman
  5. A former MLB player who has been hit in the head with a fly ball?

Tough choice…

Finally, Brad Rock had this comment in the Deseret News recently regarding celebrity status in the sports world:

“Norwegian world chess champion Magnus Carlsen is reportedly a celebrity in his home country.

“He edged out curling, ice fishing and fjord-yodeling champions for the honor.”

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



Fixing MLB Free Agency?

Last week, Jeff Passan wrote a column on about MLB’s free agency and why it is imperative for baseball to fix its free agency processes/procedures ASAP.  I like Jeff Passan; I almost always read his reports in their entirety when I run across them; I learn a lot from them.  Regarding last week’s offering on the “broken” free agency system, I must politely offer dissent.  Here is the opening paragraph of that column:

“On this, the 97th day of free agency, four days before the first pitchers and catchers report to spring training, less than six weeks ahead of Major League Baseball opening its regular season, the two best free agents in more than a decade remain unemployed. This is not a black eye for baseball. It is a ruptured spleen, a punctured lung and a lacerated kidney.”

Fortunately, the metaphors employed here stopped short of imminent fatalities…  The “problem” with MLB free agency – if there is one – comes down to intransigence on both sides of the negotiations.  If the players/agents have a fixed set of parameters in mind and the GMS have a fixed set of parameters in mind, there will never be any agreement if both sides refuse to budge.  It takes both sides to make a deal and both sides will have to be willing to live with the deal once it is made; that second condition argues against any type of coercive action to “get a deal done”.

The column states that players are wary of the clubs’ intentions to reign in salaries; OK, I believe that.  The column states that MLB is embarrassed that two young star players remain unemployed as Spring Training begins; maybe this is true and maybe not.  The column also states that:

“Fans are rightfully tired of waiting and guessing.  Intrigue has evolved into annoyance.”

That is where I get off the train.  If indeed the fans are tired of waiting and guessing, let me suggest that the source of that fatigue is not the fault of the players or their agents or the teams.  The wellspring of that weariness is the huge over-abundance of “reports” written by baseball writers since the end of the World Series about where either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado was going to sign.  Baseball writers beat this to death; resuscitated it; and then bludgeoned it to death again.  Either with no real sources at all – or with hugely uninformed sources at best – multiple dozens of writers have bombarded baseball fans with those sorts of “insider information” to the point that I cease to read past any headlines any more.  My fatigue is real; my fatigue was brought on by the journalists and not the players or the GMs.

Please follow this link to read Jeff Passan’s column in its entirety; it has some good insights there, but I do not believe that there is a palpable danger to baseball lurking in the last two winter’s of free agency – – unless both sides decide to go to the mattresses when the current CBA expires in 2021.

Having said all that, let me offer up a really radical idea that might make future winters of free agency less like winters of our discontent [H/T to William Shakespeare].  My suggestion contains two provisions; one of them has been anathema to the MLBPA for over 40 years; the other continues to be anathema to baseball’s owners.  Here it is in simple English:

  • Point #1:  Institute a salary cap – a hard cap – for every MLB team.  I don’t know what the number is, but some smart business analysts can figure that one out.  I can hear the gasps and the cries of chest pains emanating from the MLBPA offices all the way down here in Curmudgeon Central.
  • Point #2:  Institute a salary floor – a hard floor – for every MLB team.  I don’t know what this number is either, but I am confident that some smart business analysts can come up with it.  Moreover, what the salary floor will require is a real and robust system of revenue sharing among the teams so that the “small market teams” can stay afloat while they also incur payrolls in the region between the floor and the ceiling.  I am sure that idea is as welcome a turd in the punchbowl at the next owners’ meeting.

My point here is that the “problem” is resolvable by itself but if it is truly existential, then it is going to take something about as radical as what I have proposed here.  Until you start reading those sorts of suggested “solutions” to the free agency problem, do not buy into the dystopian future that is predicted.

After months of speculation – that stretched back to last year’s trade deadline – the Marlins got a deal they liked for catcher, JT Realmuto, and sent him to the Phillies for a catcher and two minor league pitching prospects.  With Realmuto leaving South Florida, the dismantling of what was a young and building Marlins team when new owners rode into town is complete.  Last year, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna were auctioned off; now Realmuto is gone too.

Given that all four of the very good Marlins’ players sent off in trades were young players, what is the point of the team stockpiling “prospects”?  History shows that once the “prospects” prove to be capable major league players, they get traded away for more “prospects”.  The Marlins drew a total of 811,104 fans to their 81 home games last year; that is about 350,000 fewer fans than the next lowest draw in MLB.  At least some part of those dismal numbers can be attributed to the personnel strategies exhibited by the team.

Finally, since today was devoted to baseball, consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“For what it’s worth: Free-agent signee and former Colorado Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino will be the first Yankee to wear No. 0, also making him the only current Yankee to wear a single digit. But, then, he’d have to be. It’s the only single jersey number the Yankees have not retired. Maybe future generations of Yankees should consider wearing fractions on their backs.”

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




I must begin today by correcting an error from last week.  In speaking about Frank Robinson being involved in a hugely one-sided trade between the Reds and the Orioles, I said that one of the players involved was Dick “Suitcase” Simpson.  I received this email from the font of sports historical information in Houston:

“You got your Simpsons mixed up. Harry “Suitcase” Simpson was the traveler, playing with Cleveland, KC, NYY, KC again, CHW, and Pittsburgh from 1951-1959.

“Dick Simpson played with LAA, Cincy, St Louis, Houston, NYY, and Seattle from 1962-1969. He had no nickname, as he only had 518 ABs and a .207 BA over that period.

“The funny thing is that Dick was traded seven times to Harry’s four times (Harry was purchased twice also).

“Compared to many other players travels over the years, these guys’ movements among teams seems like a pittance.”

I stand corrected.  Thanks to the reader in Houston for setting me straight.

I also said last week that I would take a look at some of the AAF games in their inaugural weekend.  I did not watch any game from start to finish but I saw about half of the three games on TV in my area.  Just a few generic observations:

  • Generally, the talent level on the field is equal to or better than major college football teams.  These guys are not weekend warriors by any means.
  • Teams have been together for about a month with one exhibition game under their belts; some of the play was understandably ragged.
  • I saw 7 QBs; none were impressive; Christian Hackenberg specifically was bleak.
  • The pace of the games was fast; one of them ended 2 hours and 40 minutes after the TV start time.
  • Interesting rule for the AAF limits blitzing to 5 pass rushers all of whom must be within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.  I’m not sure I like that one.
  • I did not miss seeing PATs or kickoffs.
  • I like having the replay official on camera and on the microphone as he deliberates challenged calls.
  • Marvin Lewis did color for the Arizona/Salt Lake game; he obviously knows his stuff, but his presentation is verbal Ambien.  They need to change his embalming fluid before he goes on the air…
  • Stadium crowds were OK; none were filled to overflowing but the ones I saw looked to have better attendance than many college bowl games.
  • The AAF is not “appointment TV”, but the AAF is a reasonable product.

The NY Post had a report over the weekend that Charles Woodson is out at ESPN from their Sunday studio show, Countdown to Kickoff.  I’m sorry to hear that; I liked Charles Woodson in that role.  To my mind, the “problem” with Countdown has little to do with Woodson; I think the problem is very simple – and very difficult to resolve:

  • The ESPN studio lead-in to NFL football on Sundays was presented by a broadcasting icon – Chris Berman – for decades.  He is not there anymore and no one in the cast of characters can pretend to be of a comparable stature.

That is not intended in any way to be a back-handed dismissal of Sam Ponder as the host of the program.  That statement simply states the obvious; Sam Ponder does not have the broadcasting gravitas of Chris Berman; that is why it is immensely difficult to follow someone of high stature in any position.  Moreover, Sam Ponder does not get a lot of help from her cohorts on the program:

  • I said I like Charles Woodson; I think he is the best of the lot among the regulars but let me be clear and say that if he is measured by the standard of Tom Jackson as the counterbalance to the program host, he does not measure up.
  • Rex Ryan is a one-trick pony; he ran out of interesting things to say a year ago.
  • Randy Moss is excellent at times and “change-the-channel obtuse” at other times.
  • Matt Hasselbeck often has interesting things to add, but he is as exciting as porridge pizza.

I ran across this statement by an NCAA official to ESPN:

“During the NCAA tournament, we will review all shots made at the buzzer, as necessary, in the interest of accuracy of score and team and player statistics and even if the outcome of the game isn’t riding on the officials’ call.”

Isn’t that an interesting coincidence?  The NCAA tournament has been around since 1939; the NCAA has had access to replay technology since the 1970s; the “accuracy of score and team and player statistics” now becomes important enough to review buzzer shots the year after sports wagering has expanded.  Only now has the “interest in accuracy” become so important…

Finally, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Mulligan required: Maroon 5 wanted a do-over after its heavily criticized Super Bowl performance, but the State of the Union doesn’t have a halftime show.”

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



RIP Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson passed away yesterday at the age of 83.  Because his career overlapped the likes of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle – you get the idea – he is one of the most under-appreciated baseball players ever.  He was traded to the Orioles from the Reds in one of the most lopsided trades ever; the Reds got in return for Robinson Milt Pappas (a serviceable starting pitcher), Jack Baldschun (a reliever whose best days were in the past) and Dick Simpson (his nickname was “Suitcase” because he was traded so frequently).

Rest in peace, Frank Robinson…

I suspect that I am going to be spending time this weekend doing something that most readers here will ignore.  Nevertheless, I am planning to take some time to watch the inaugural week of the Alliance of American Football.  In my area, there will be 3 games on the air on Saturday and Sunday; I am not going to watch the entirety of all 3 games, but I hope to tune in to see parts of all of them.

My interest here is not because I am a “football junkie” and need something to bring me down from my “Super Bowl high”.  I am interested because this is a new entity that is approaching the game differently from the NFL and I want to see what it offers to the viewing public.

[Aside:  It already offers itself up to the betting public.  Las Vegas sportsbooks offer futures bets on the ultimate league champion and there are spreads and totals offered for this week’s opening games before anyone has seen any of the teams.  If you like betting this week’s AAF games, you probably also enjoy scratch-off lottery tickets too.]

The AAF approaches football from a different business model and from a different entertainment model.  Here are some differences:

  • All players have the same contract; it does not matter if one is a QB or a defensive lineman.  All contracts are 3-years and $250K.
  • Players can earn incentives in each game.  HOWEVER, the incentives are not given to individual players, they are given to team units.  It is not clear how the units will share the incentives, so I guess that is up to the unit members?
  • The AAF wants to present shorter games instead of the 3+ hour games put on by the NFL and the “almost-4-hour games” that have become commonplace in NCAA football.  Their target is to offer a 2.5-hour game.
  • The AAF will try to emphasize offense and scoring.  According to reports, the league will “de-emphasize offensive holding”.  That will be something I will be watching for this weekend; I want to know what they mean by “de-emphasize offensive holding” …
  • The AAF will have a play clock of only 35 seconds (vice 40 seconds for the NFL).  What that means is more plays/more action/more scoring chances.
  • There are no kickoffs.  The “receiving team” simply gets the ball at its own 25-yardline.  For onside kicks, the kicking team gets the ball at its own 35 yardline and the situation is 4th and 10.  If they convert that 4th down opportunity, they keep the ball; other wise the receiving team gets it wherever the play ended.
  • There are no PATs either.  Teams must go for 2-point conversions after every TD.
  • There will be no “TV timeouts” during the games.  It will be interesting to see how the AAF works the TV ads into its presentation.
  • The overtime rule in the AAF is completely different – and I don’t think I like it very much.  There is a single OT period; each team gets the ball first and goal at the opponent’s 10 yardline.  If a team scores a TD, it must go for two.  Each team gets the ball once.  If the score is still tied at the end of the single OT, then it goes in the books as a tie.

I have checked my local listings and the Saturday night game will be telecast in CBS at 8:00 PM EST.  On Sunday, there will be a game at 4:00 PM EST on CBS Sports Network and then another game on NFL Network at 8:00 PM EST.  I was surprised to see that the AAF is going to be telecast on NFL Network; I have no idea what that portends for the future…

I mentioned above that the sportsbooks in Las Vegas have lines posted for AAF games already.  I will NOT be participating in such activities for a while; I do not play lotteries.  However, there are two hypotheses I have about AAF wagering that I will be “testing out” as I check the league results:

  1. If the AAF wants to emphasize offense and scoring, betting OVER should make sense early on as the lines adjust from “NFL-thinking” to “AAF-thinking”.
  2. The mandated 2-point conversions will produce scores that are uncommon in NFL and NCAA games.  Three TDs in the NFL normally produce 21 points; a bettor can reliably think of things that way.  In the AAF, three TDs can never produce 21 points and the range of scoreboard points from those three TDs can range from 18 to 24 points.  That is a big deal…

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times from a few weeks ago:

“Good in the paint, too:

“The Academy of Art basketball team is only 1-7, but you’d have to assume the Knights are adept at drawing charges.”

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



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………



A Bunch Of Stuff Today …

The Miami Dolphins and the Cincy Bengals introduced their new head coaches yesterday and the identities of those two gentlemen were of surprise to no one.  Each one had to wait to take the job until after the Super Bowl game was over because Zac Taylor was the QB coach for the Rams in that game and Brian Flores was the defensive coordinator for the Pats in that game.

  • Zac Taylor:  You will have to consult with 23-And-Me to know if he is descended from President Zachary Taylor.  [Aside:  The only thing I remember about President Taylor was that his nickname was “Old Rough and Ready”.]  the current-day Taylor fits the mold of “seeking the new Sean McVay.  Taylor is young, energetic, ultra-positive and steely-eyed as is McVay.  He worked for/with McVay.  The only discernable difference is that Taylor does not use hair gel and is clean shaven.  Is he the “next Sean McVay”?  Talk to me in about 3 years…
  • Brian Flores:  He has been part of the Pats coaching staff since 2004 serving as a scout and various position coaches and then as defensive coordinator.  The Dolphins must assume that some of the elements of “the Patriot way” have rubbed off on him.  Flores has a 5-year contract with the Dolphins and that of itself should be a challenge.  The last Dolphins’ coach to last 5 years was Don Shula and he hung it up in 1995.

The concept of the “NFL Coaching Tree” is widely accepted as something worthy of note.  I am not sure why because if you believe that Bill Belichick is one of the Top 5 NFL coaches of all time (as most people would unless they are Patriots’ haters), then why has “his tree” borne such sour fruit on its progeny?  Here is my off-the -top-of-the-head list of folks who are on the Belichick Tree; it is not a highly successful list:

  • Romeo Crennel:  He had two head coaching jobs with two bad teams. He lasted 5 full seasons (plus a bit of another one as an interim head coach).  His overall record was 28-55.
  • Eric Mangini:  He too had two head coaching jobs with two bad teams.  He too put in five full seasons as a head coach and his overall record was 33-47.
  • Josh McDaniels:  He was the head coach of the Broncos for a year and three-quarters.  His record in Denver was 11-17.
  • Bill O’Brien:  He had a successful time at Penn State in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky mess and then took over the head coaching job for the Texans.  In 5 full seasons there, his record is 42-38 with 3 playoff appearances.
  • Matt Patricia:  He too was the Pats’ defensive coordinator until he left at the end of last year to take over as head coach of the Lions.  Granted, it is a small sample size, but this year’s Lions’ team went 6-10 after going 9-7 the year before Patricia arrived.
  • Mike Vrabel:  He never coached with Belichick, but he played for Belichick for 8 years and was a coach under Bill O’Brien for 3 years.  Does that grant him status on this list?  I think it should.  This is another small sample size, but in his year at the helm for the Titans, Vrabel’s record is 9-7.

Moving on … says this morning that MLB and the MLBPA are discussing rule changes.  One would add the Designated Hitter to the National League; I do not like that change at all; I have not liked the DH concept from the day it was initiated in MLB.  However, the other rule is something that I have “championed” for about the last 4 or 5 years.  According to the report, the new rule would make every pitcher face a minimum of 3 hitters in a game.  That would put an end to the often-seen situation where fans get to watch two pitchers warm up after consecutive hitters.  I love this proposed rule change and wish it had been instituted several years ago.

The NY Post reported earlier this week that ESPN fired Adnan Virk and escorted him off the campus there.  It was only a few months ago that Virk reportedly signed a 4-year contract extension at ESPN supposedly in the “seven-figure neighborhood”.  According to the NY Post, this action is tied to some reporting by Awful Announcing about some programming decisions made by ESPN relative to their deal with MLB.  [Aside:  I must admit that I do not know anything about “Awful Announcing”; but with a name like that, I would surmise that it would not be best buddies with an entity such as ESPN.]  You can read about this situation here; my hunch is that this matter will be dealt with in a legal action and there will be more reporting on it then.

Tom Brady was a guest on Good Morning America; there he told Michael Strahan something about being identified as “The GOAT”:

“I don’t even like it.  It makes me cringe.”

I have to take Brady at his word here because I have no experience to judge his reaction against.  No one has ever considered calling me the greatest of all time at anything – – except perhaps for my long-suffering wife who says that I am the world’s only 75-year old 14-year old.

Finally, here is a tidbit of Super Bowl halftime show analysis from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“A USA Today story called Maroon 5’s halftime show ‘a white-bread performance from one of America’s most generic groups.’

“Which nicely matched the Patriots’ white-bread win in one of America’s most generic Super Bowl games.”

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



Ancillary Super Bowl Fallout

TV ratings for the Pats/Rams Super Bowl game were down from last year.  In fact, the audience was the smallest for a Super Bowl telecast since 2009; according to Nielsen, the audience averaged 103.4 million viewers.  So, there is data there for analysis if one is so inclined…

The ratings for this year were down by 5%.

  • Is that because the game was “boring”?
  • Is that because pro football is on the decline?
  • Is that more fallout from the NFL’s brush with social justice protests?

The ratings for this year were down by 5%.

  • Is that because of the “New Orleans boycott”?
  • Maybe the “St. Louis boycott” too?
  • Is that because pro football in LA is just not a big deal?

Or, from a more positive perspective, the ratings for this year were down by 5%.

  • Those 103 million viewers will be more than double the audience for any other TV program in 2019.

I am sure that we will be able to read various analyses that come down on just about any side of this matter because the audience for this year dropped below the numbers posted for the last decade.  I don’t know why all of this happened but here is the data that I would focus on if I were part of the NFL executive suite:

  • Advertising revenue for the game itself – and for the entire day of programming on CBS – was also down 5% from last year.

One might “explain” that drop by the fact that the NFL and CBS both ran more promotional spots this year than they did last year.  Or maybe, they ran those added spots because they could not fill out the ad times with paying customers?  These are the numbers that are most important to the NFL in its quest to become a $25B per year enterprise by 2027.  TV rights deals pay the freight for the NFL and TV rights fees will only go up if the ad revenues for the rights packages continue to go up.

Speaking of the Super Bowl ads, here are the 5 brands that paid the most for air time last Sunday:

  • Bud Light – – $23.5M
  • Verizon – – $20.4M
  • T-Mobile – – $20.0M
  • Toyota – – $20M
  • Amazon – – $19.4M

Other than seeing Bud Light harp on the fact that they do not use corn syrup to make their beer and other brands do, can you recall anything memorable from any of those brand messages?  I cannot.  That is not an NFL problem; that is an ad agency problem…

Bettor X – the person who famously won more than $10M from the Las Vegas sportsbooks last year betting on the World Series and the Super Bowl – reportedly gave back $3.8M of those winnings on Sunday.  Reports say that he/she had $3.8M on the Rams +2.5 points; I saw one report that said a small portion of his total wager was on the Money Line for the Rams at +125.  His results over the past two years in big sporting events demonstrates why they call it “gambling” and not “investing”.

Over the last couple of days, there has been some debate/discussion around this topic:

  • Does Julian Edelman’s consistent excellence in playoff games merit him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Those who think Edelman deserves to be there point to the fact that only Jerry Rice has more receptions, yardage and TDs in post season play.  That is an impressive calling card to be carrying indeed.

Those who think Edelman does not belong in Canton point to his regular season stats which are good – perhaps even very good – but certainly not exceptional.

Rather than worry myself over this concocted debate topic which will resolve itself once Julian Edelman ceases to play NFL football, I prefer to watch and appreciate how he manages to come up with big plays at important times.  There will be ample time to fret over the HoF question in the future.

Finally, speaking of the future and about football generically, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A 14-pound 13-ounce boy named Ali became the heaviest baby ever born at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

“Not sure if he has a baby carriage yet, but he does have a full ride to Texas A&M.”

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



Congratulations To The New England Patriots

We have certainly been here before; this is not uncharted territory.  Congratulations to the New England Patriots for their sixth Super Bowl victory.  By Patriots’ standards, this game was a blowout; this game was decided by 10 points; in previous Pats’ championships, the margin of victory had been 6,4,3 and 3 points.  And that is the problem with drawing conclusions based only on the score of a game.  This was not a blowout by any means; this was a “one-possession game” for the first 58 minutes and 48 seconds.

Wade Phillips had an excellent game plan for the Rams’ defense.  In the 2018 season, the Pats were held to 10 points by the Lions, Titans and Steelers; the Pats lost all three of those games.  What the Rams did on defense yesterday was exactly in line with a proven winning formula against the Pats.  There was only one little problem…

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores devised an even more effective defensive game plan for the day.  Save for a loss to the Bears where the Rams only scored 6 points, their minimum scoring output for the season was 23 points; often, they went north of 30 points in a game.  Yesterday, they managed 3 points and no more.  The reason for that meager output was not the youth of their coach or their QB; the reason was that the Pats’ defense throttled them down in a way no other defense had been able to do all year long.

A defensive game is not boring; a defensive game is low-scoring.  In baseball, if you watch a game that ends up 1-0 where each team gets 4 hits for the day, that is not boring because every pitch could be critical in deciding the outcome.  Too many people equate “defense” and “low-scoring” with “dull”; I do not.

In the first half of the game, the Rams had 2 first downs, 5 completed passes and 6 punts.  Obviously, that was not the Rams’ game plan; the Pats’ defense thwarted them and did not allow them to do what they normally did and/or what they wanted to do.  It is a mistake to discount that as “boring” or “dull”; it represents excellence by the defense.

Bard Dickson had this Tweet regarding the Rams’ first-half offense:

“Fact: when Adam Levine tossed his jacket and then his shirt into the crowd those were actually better than any two passes Jared Goff threw in the first half.”

The Pats moved the ball well in the game; they amassed 425 yards of offense but until the 4th quarter, they did not have a snap inside the red zone.  Don’t call that dull; recognize that the Rams’ defense did what it was out there to do.  The Pats’ defense was even better holding the Rams’ offense under 300 yards for the game and yielding only a long field goal over the course of 4 quarters.  Instead of lamenting the lack of offensive fireworks and scoring plays, it is appropriate this morning to recognize the accomplishments of the defensive units.

Think about it this way …  If there were no defense – or only token resistance from the defense – and the score was 55-45 (same 10-point differential), people would be ecstatic about the dynamism of the game.  Why?  If I were to seek to denigrate that game with 100 total points, I could say that it was only half a game because neither defense bothered to get off the team bus.  Players and coaches always talk about the “three phases of the game”.  They are correct to do so; yesterday showed that there is a way to win a game when one’s offensive unit is not dominating; the way to do that is for one’s defense to dominate the other offense even more potently.

I think Tony Romo summed all this up perfectly when he said:

“If you like offensive football, well, too bad.”

Let me list here some short takeaways from the entirety of yesterday’s spectacle in no particular order:

  • Overall, I think the Super Bowl ads were bland as could be.  Remember, it cost the advertisers about $5M to buy the time slot(s) and some other amount of money to come up with the ad concept and more money to produce the ad.  I’m not sure there were a lot of those ads that came close to being worth the investment.
  • [Aside:  I can’t decide which was the dumber ad.  The ones emphasizing that some light beers use corn syrup as an ingredient or the one with Bob Dylan singing “Blowin in the wind” as the Clydesdales parade through a wind farm.]
  • After the Washington Post ad in the 4th quarter, I mentioned to my Super Bowl party host that Jeff Bezos’ impending divorce action may influence the Post to the degree that their new slogan “Democracy dies in darkness” may need to be altered to “Democracy dies in divorce.”
  • Granted that I had no idea who any of the performers for the half-time show were.  After glimpsing pieces of their acts, I can say with certainty that I need not expend an erg of energy to find out the next time any of them will be in concert near to where I live.  The ad slogan for Camel cigarettes used to be, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel.”  Well, I would not walk across the room to hear any of those folks perform.
  • I am not a physician but given the way Todd Gurley played yesterday and the week before, I have to believe that he is injured to a much larger extent than anyone with the Rams has acknowledged.  He had only one run yesterday where he looked like “the Todd Gurley I have become accustomed to seeing”.
  • Where was that fearsome pass rush by the Pats all season long?

George Allen reportedly once said, “Losing the Super Bowl is worse than death because you have to get up the next morning.”  Obviously, that is hyperbolic coach-speak.  However, I would imagine that for football players/coaches, winning the Super Bowl is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

Finally, since I mentioned the dumb beer ads from yesterday, let me close here with a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Some beer deliveries in the upper Midwest had to be canceled last week because kegs were freezing en route.

“Coupled with the Packers missing the playoffs, flummoxed locals are claiming it’s the first two signs of the apocalypse.”

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



Final Football Friday 2/1/19

In case you had not heard, the Super Bowl will happen this weekend.  That means the 2018/19 football season will end in less than 72 hours and this is the last installment of Football Friday for a while.  So, let me get to it …  [Aside:  I know the AAF will kick off a week from Saturday and I wish the folks involved in that enterprise well.  However, I will reserve judgment on the magnitude – or even the viability – of that new league within the US sports landscape for a while.]

NFL/Super Bowl General Comments:

Before I get into my commentary, I want to point you to a column by Brad Rock in the Deseret News earlier this week.  We can all be amused by – or mystified by – the “super-fans” who attach themselves to teams.  You know who I mean’ the guy who spends a couple of hours painting himself to look like the team logo before going to the game and acting like a maniac in the stands or the guys who turn their bloodstream into a 20-proof concoction of plasma and alcohol only to bear their chests to reveal the team name while the temperature is in the single digits.  There are a few of them at just about every game.  Brad Rock’s column uses the results of a national survey to describe a set of “super fans” that take “super-fandom” to mind-numbing extremes.  Please take a moment and follow this link; when you have read the column and have finished shaking your head, come on back for the rest of this Football Friday.

For the last 2 weeks, I have been reminded at least a bazillion times that the Patriots have been to the AFC Championship game in each of the last 8 seasons.  The team has received abundant and sufficient praise for that achievement.  However, here in Curmudgeon Central, we always try to look through the other end of the telescope; therefore, here are the teams that have not been to a Conference Championship Game since 2000:

  • NFC:  Cowboys, Lions, Skins
  • AFC:  Bills, Bengals, Browns, Dolphins, Texans

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had a series of short takes/observations about the spectacle of the Super Bowl with some gems buried therein.  I will present several of them here as “rant interludes” for your amusement:

“Super Bowl wagering is popular, especially the prop bets. Because the NFL refs are so traumatized by the negative reaction to missed penalties in the conference championship games, the over-under on the number of pass-interference penalties called on the first scrimmage play Sunday is 3. Bet the over. You’ll win, even if it’s a running play.”

There have been reports that the NFL – in its ongoing fervent pursuit of the integrity of the games – is upset by prop bets offered by various sportsbooks.  For the Super Bowl there is a tsunami of prop bets related to the game and to the length of the national anthem and to whether the halftime performers will moon the audience during the first number or the third number.  The NFL position is that prop bets are far easier to “manipulate” than game outcomes.  To underscore the league’s distaste for prop bets, one of the league execs in Congressional testimony several months ago told Congress that it should enact legislation allowing the league – in conjunction with the sportsbooks – to ban proposition wagering as they relate to the stats for an individual player.

Let me stipulate that indeed it would be easier for ne’er-do-wells to “fix” a prop bet than a game spread or a total score.  Having said that, I have not heard or read about any evil-doers accomplishing such a betting coup.  Moreover, since prop bets during the regular season are limited in number and get only a tiny fraction of the handle for any given game, it is hard to see how a “fixer” would make enough money off prop bets to make it worth the time, trouble and risk.  In addition, many sportsbooks limit the size of the wager that they will take on any of the prop bets.

Here is another interlude from Scott Ostler:

“The average American will gain 6 pounds between now and Sunday night. But don’t worry, it’s mostly temporary weight, which easily can be shed with liposuction.”

Fans who attend the game in Atlanta will probably be surprised to see how low the food concession prices are at Mercedes Benz Stadium.  During the regular season, the Falcons instituted something called “Fan First Menu Pricing” which featured a whole bunch of concession items at prices that harken back to the 1980s.  For example, you could buy a cheeseburger for $5 and refillable soft drinks for $1.  Those prices are going to remain in effect for the Super Bowl attendees; the news item there is that there are no plans to gouge the people who may have already paid “four figures” for a seat in the stadium.  Kudos to Falcons as the hosts here…

One more comment from Scott Ostler, if I may:

“During the Super Bowl telecast, there will be no commercials for medicinal marijuana. That ad was rejected by the network, which wants to protect America from the evils of weed. There will be dozens of commercials for booze, bacon cheeseburgers, junk snacks, toxic colas, candy, large automobiles that hasten global warming, and wonder drugs designed to treat the ailments cause by all the other stuff being advertised. The wheel of life.”

In fact, CBS rejected an ad that would have touted the benefits of medical marijuana.  Acreage Holdings is a company involved in the “cultivation, processing and dispensing” of cannabis; they proposed a 60-second ad focused on medicinal uses for their product and supposedly sent the storyboards to CBS; CBS said they would not be accepting any advertising for medical marijuana for this year’s Super Bowl telecast.  Too bad …

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had his own comment about the rejection of the medical marijuana ad – but he believes the pain that will be felt exists beyond the target audience of people suffering from various medical maladies:

“CBS has rejected a Super Bowl ad for medicinal marijuana.

“But if you thought the pot moguls were upset about the news, you should’ve seen the folks at Frito Lay.”

According to, there will be 8 ads during the game from Anheuser-Busch for a mixture of its brands of beer along with 8 more “quick plugs” of 5 seconds each while the game is ongoing.  For people who focus more on the ads during the game than on the game itself, they are going to see lots of frothy beverages poured and admired during stoppages of play.  And that fact leads directly into another of the comments from Scott Ostler about the game this weekend:

“Everyone watching the beer commercials will muse, ‘How come this stuff doesn’t make me young and beautiful and hip? I must not be drinking enough of it.’”

I suspect that is exactly the conclusion that the advertisers hope that the audience draws from their presentations…

With regard to the telecast itself, the networks – and the sponsors – got the pairing that they would have preferred.  Boston and LA are the two largest TV markets by far of the 4 markets represented by the teams in the Conference Championship Games.  Nielsen identifies 210 “Designated Market Areas” for the US.  Los Angeles is the second largest market; Boston/Manchester is the tenth largest market area.  For comparison purposes, Kansas City is 32nd in the rankings and New Orleans is 50th on the list.

In addition to playing to much larger “home audiences”, the opposition of Boston and LA can allow networks and the league to allude to the rivalry of those two cities in the NBA orbit.  It may have been a while ago, but more than a few sports fans recall the intense rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers when it was Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson…

Now, if anyone reading those last two paragraphs begins to think that there might be a linkage between these preferences and the outrageous officiating calls in last week’s Conference Championship Games, please take your tinfoil hats with you as you go to see a therapist about your paranoia.

The Game:

In each of the last 5 seasons, both Conference Championship Games had been won by the home teams; last week, both home teams lost the Conference Championship Games.  Fans of those home teams that lost can feel as if they were robbed – and there were plenty of questionable officiating decisions in both games.  However, let me present a couple of stats here that might suggest that the right teams advanced.

  • At the end of regulation, the Rams had gained 363 yards to 296 for the Saints AND the Rams averaged 5.7 yards per play to 4.9 yards per play for the Saints.  Those are not insignificant differences.
  • The Pats dominated the Chiefs on the stat sheet.  In regulation time, the Pats gained 449 yards to the Chiefs’ 290; the Pats were 13-19 on third-down conversions; the Pats held the ball for 40 minutes and 41 seconds.

Regarding the betting lines here, the spread opened two weeks ago with the Rams as 1-point favorites in the game.  Evidently there were plenty of folks with plenty of money who thought that was the wrong line because in less than an hour the lines had flipped to the Pats as 1-point favorites.  The action must have abated a bit at that point because it was not until the next morning that the line reached Pats – 2.5.  There are a couple of offshore sportsbooks where the spread is Pats – 3, but for the most part, the line has stayed constant at 2.5 points since Monday a week ago.

The Total Line opened at 57.5 and early money went overwhelmingly to the OVER, so the Total Line briefly peaked at 59.5.  From there the line has dropped back over the last two weeks and this morning it sits at 56 points.

There is a report that someone placed a $2M bet on the game at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  The sportsbook acknowledged taking the bet but refused any other comment or details.  Speculation is that it was a bet on the Rams plus the points.

With betting now legal in 8 States – as opposed to last year when it was legal only in Nevada – estimates are that the legal handle might triple compared to last year.  According to the Nevada Gaming Commission – the regulatory body that oversees the casinos and sportsbooks in Nevada – the handle for the Super Bowl last year was $158M.  If indeed the legal handle nationwide triples, that would bring the total close to half-a-billion dollars.

The Nevada Gaming Commission data revel something else about Super Bowl wagering:

  • In the 28 years (since 1991) that the Commission has tracked Super Bowl wagering as a specific line item, the sportsbooks have beaten the betting public in 26 of those 28 years.
  • Don’t be surprised; that is how those folks stay in business…

Here are a couple of interesting – but certainly not important – tidbits related to the game:

  • I have not checked all 52 previous Super Bowl games, but I am confident that this is the first Super Bowl where the quarterback for one of the teams (Tom Brady) is 8 years older than the head coach of the other team (Sean McVay).
  • Todd Gurley and Sony Michel were teammates at Georgia in 2014; they will face one another in this game.
  • Tom Brady has started more NFL playoff games than Jared Goff has started in total.
  • Brandin Cooks was on the Pats team that played in last year’s Super Bowl; he will play for the Rams this weekend.
  • The last NFL team from Los Angeles to participate in the Super Bowl was the Raiders when they beat the Skins in 1984.
  • Both the Rams and the Pats ranked in the Top 4 in the NFL in points scored this regular season.  Notwithstanding that stature, neither team has paid off as OVER bets this year.  Counting the playoffs, the Pats are 7-11 to go OVER in 18 games and the Rams are merely 9-9.

New England – 2.5 vs. Rams (56) Game is in Atlanta:  I like this game to go OVER – notwithstanding the stat cited directly above.  Also, I cannot convince myself to bet against the Pats in this situation, so I’ll take the Pats to win and cover – – but with less conviction than the pick regarding the Total Line.  By happenstance I have two trends going for me with those selections – even though I am not a trend watcher:

  1. Pats are 7-1 to go OVER in their last 8 playoff games
  2. Pats are 9-3 against the spread in their last 12 playoff games.

Finally, let me close with one last Super Bowl observation from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“Halftime entertainment is Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi. Fine performers all, no doubt, but old-timers will pine for the simpler extravaganzas of years gone by. Like the 1988 halftime show featuring the Rockettes and Chubby Checker, a man with three career hits: ‘The Twist,’ ‘Let’s Twist Again,’ and ‘Let’s Twist One Last Time, I Swear, for My Retirement Fund.’”

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