Cognitive Dissonance

Kevin Blackistone is a sports columnist for the Washington Post in addition to being one of the rotating panelists on ESPN’s Around the Horn program.  His columns are usually about things in sports that are apart from games and strategies; importantly, his columns are always well-written and thought provoking.  However, his column here, takes me to a place where worlds collide and where some cognitive dissonance occurs.

Blackistone is aghast that Clemson football coach, Dabo Sweeney, just signed a 10-year contract with Clemson for a total of $93M.  For the record, I am not “aghast”, but I do wonder where all of this is going to end because it surely seems out of control to me.  When you read the column, you will see that Sweeney has also found ways to monetize his name and some of his motivational sayings – things a football player would not be allowed to do.  Blackistone decries the fact that the coach and the school are getting rich while the players are unpaid for their labors.

As everyone here knows, I am not in favor of paying college athletes.  At the same time, I don’t think any coach in any collegiate sport is worth $9.3M per year and I think that every college and university should be taxed on all the revenue that comes in through college athletics.  It is an industry associated with universities; it is not the fundamental mission of that university.

However, here is where I get to the “world’s colliding” …  Blackistone takes the revenue generated by Clemson football last year and divides that number by the number of Clemson scholarship players.  The result is $611,764 per player and Blackistone labels that as “fair market value”.  If that is the case, then those football players are hugely “underpaid” since all they get is a full tuition scholarship out of the deal.  But time out for a moment:

  • Apply that same logic to the Clemson women’s rowing team or women’s cross-country team.  If you divide revenue generated there by number of participants to determine “fair market value” you will get a trivially small number.  Any scholarship athletes there are being hugely “overpaid”.
  • Moreover, the law says Clemson cannot just get rid of those “money losing” / ”economically inefficient” sports.  Title IX will not allow that.

I do not read minds, but I am positive that Kevin Blackistone does not want to revoke Title IX.  However, its existence makes it the case that those football players who are “underpaid” are – at the same time – providing some of the funding that allows the women on the rowing team to compete.  Here is the dichotomy:

  • The NCAA rules create the situation where the players do not get paid – beyond a full tuition scholarship – but the coaches earn regal sums.
  • Federal law creates the situation where the players do not get paid – beyond a full tuition scholarship – and part of the money they generate for the university goes to fund other sports.

There are plenty of inequities there; the football – and basketball – players are the ones on the short end of the stick.  But leaning on a flimsy concept such as an athlete’s “fair market value” is not the path to any sort of remedy.

Moving on …  The first month of baseball is in the books.  There have been some early surprises and as the calendar turns to May tomorrow, here are some things I will be looking for:

  • The Boston Red Sox lost 8 of their first 10 games this year and the Tampa Bay Rays have started the season by posting the best record in MLB.  As of this morning, the Rays are 7.5 games ahead of the Red Sox.  I will be looking to see how that lead holds up towards the end of May…
  • Fernando Tatis, Jr. has been a major factor in the Padres first 29 games posting a batting average of .300 and an OPS of .910.  Given the hype, we should expect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to give the Blue Jays a kick-start starting about now.  I will be watching to see how these guys play over the next month or so…
  • The rash of injuries suffered by the Yankees to this point in the season is a huge statistical outlier.  Yet, the Yankees are only 2 games behind the Rays in the AL East.  I will be watching the Yankees to see how they keep things together until at least some of the “regulars” get back to the status of playing more than “simulated games” or “rehab assignments” …

There is another MLB “situation” I will be watching simply because I do not understand why it has not been resolved already.  There are several “good teams” out there who need bullpen upgrades to have a shot at being a “really good team” this year.  Just in the NL East, that situation seems to obtain in Atlanta, Philly and Washington.  At the same time, Craig Kimbrel is still unsigned as a free agent; and while he may not be Mariano Rivera, Kimbrel is an awfully good relief pitcher.  Quo vadis, Craig Kimbrel?

Finally, Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald about another MLB relief pitcher:

“Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly strained his back while spending five hours minding the boiling crawfish at a Cajun party for teammates. I blame the Dodgers. His contract prohibited skydiving and motorcycle racing but said nothing of minding boiling crawfish.”

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



Win Totals, Euclid And Yellow Journalism?

Last week, the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas posted lines for all the Week 1 NFL games.  This morning, bettors can find the OVER/UNDER win totals for every NFL team at the Westgate.  Remember, this is not necessarily how the oddsmakers think the teams will finish; this is their first attempt to get balanced action on as many teams as possible.

  • The Pats have the highest number at 11 wins.  Some of that is a recognition that the Pats will likely dominate their 6 divisional games and that they will win more than a couple of game outside their division.  However, it is also a recognition that the betting public loves to bet on “front-runners”; and the Pats have been at or near the front of the NFL pack for almost 20 years now.
  • At the bottom of the scale, you will find the Dolphins and the Cardinals at 5 wins.  Josh Rosen was the Cards QB last year and was just traded to the Dolphins; I suspect that he is less than thrilled to see the Westgate’s appraisal of his once and future teammates.
  • In an homage to NFL parity, the Westgate has 16 teams – – half the league – – with projected win totals between 7 games and 9 games.

With the NBA embarked on the second round of its playoffs, let me comment on one of the teams that was sent home in the first round.  I know it will not be pleasant for some readers to think back to their days in geometry class in high school; Euclid is not a real popular guy; think about it; how many people name their kids Euclid?  Anyhow, let me remind you of one of the fundamental axioms of geometry:

  • The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.

When I think about – or watch – the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seems to me that the whole team is less than the sum of its parts.  Euclid and his buddies say that cannot be the case, but consider:

  • Russell Westbrook is an indefatigable triple-double machine.
  • Paul George was a serious contender for NBA MVP for much of the NBA regular season.
  • Steven Adams is no slouch down in the post.
  • Jerami Grant, Markief Morris and Dennis Schroeder are solid NBA players.
  • Billy Donovan is an accomplished coach – – maybe he isn’t Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach, but he knows basketball.

Yet somehow, with that core of players and coaching, the Thunder have been eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.  In the last three years, the Thunder’s regular season record was 144-102 (winning percentage = .585).  In those same last three years, the team’s record in their first-round losses is 4-12 (winning percentage = .250).  Maybe Euclid can explain that to me…

Last week, I mentioned some of the issues and challenges that face the sport of horseracing.  Over the weekend, I got an e-mail from a reader who said that it seemed as if the sports media was “kicking the sport when it is down” with lots of negative publicity.  He offered some examples.  I reject the idea that the news about the spate of horses breaking down at Santa Anita in the last 2 or 3 months is “kicking the sport when it is down”.  The number and frequency of those breakdowns is well above the level where it is news no matter what the popularity of the sport.   The NFL is not “down and out” by any means, but if two or three players collapse and die in training camp in July, you may be sure that there will be plenty of analysis and coverage of those incidents.

He did send along two other connections to stories about horseracing that he thought were given larger play than they might have gotten a decade ago.  Since I had not been aware of either one prior to his missive, I cannot comment on how widespread the coverage has been.  Let me put a precis of the two stories here to see how many readers here are aware of these negative incidents:

  1. A jockey at Gulfstream was suspended for 60 days for “continuous careless riding”.  Evidently, the jockey had been suspended for a shorter time before this and had several disqualifications since the suspension and had been called in a reprimanded for careless riding.  One incident involved horses falling and serious injuries to two other jockeys.  When it happened yet again, they suspended the jockey for 60 days.
  2. A jockey at Oaklawn Park (that is in Arkansas for those who do not know) was also suspended for 60 days for deliberately whipping an opposing jockey in a race.  Evidently, there was “video evidence” and welts/bruises on the leg of the jockey on the receiving end of the whip strokes that led the stewards to this conclusion.

As I said, I was unaware of either incident, so I do not know if these reports were sufficiently widely known to be considered “piling bad news onto the sport of horseracing”.  I will say that there were details provided here that were far more detailed than what might have been simple announcements of the suspensions in the past.  Stewards at racetracks have a dilemma here.  Transparency is a good thing for stewards to seek; at the same time, exposing anything that can appear to be a “seamy underbelly” for the sport does not help the sport.

You make the call…

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald told us of the Miami Corporate Run last week and how it was going to clog traffic in the city.  Here he gives us the results of that event:

“Miami Corporate Run draws 27K: The annual Miami Corporate Run drew 26,698 pavement pounders from 882 companies, and the men’s and women’s winners were Dan Nestor and Ana Villegas. It was believed to be the first time in the history of running that a footrace was not won by somebody from Kenya.”

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



RIP John Havlicek…

John Havlicek died earlier this week.  When I was starting my experience as a college basketball fan, he was on a great Ohio State team that included Jerry Lucas, Larry Siegfried and – first off the bench – Bob Knight.  After that, John Havlicek was an integral part of the Boston Celtics’ teams in the 1960s which dominated the NBA.  What I always liked about John Havlicek was the way he played; he never “dogged it” even for a moment; he was always into the game in addition to being in the game.

Rest in peace, John Havlicek.

With the first round of the NFL Draft consigned to history, you can find a jillion columns this morning giving out grades to the various picks.  Please read any or all of them as “space filler” and not as a conclusion based on principles which are grounded in certitude.  As I mentioned yesterday, I did not have my notes from last year to check, but there were about 4 players taken in the first round that I do not remember noting from my TV watching last year.  Of course, the OL from Alabama State was one of them; the Hornets are not a staple on the TV menu here in the Northern Virginia area.

Moving from hope and extrapolation into something more imminent and real, please consider the semi-final round in the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs.  Bob Molinaro had this to say about those match-ups in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“The Final Four in the NBA East – Bucks vs. Celtics and Sixers vs Raptors – is a tossup. Should make for fun viewing.”

The Bucks have been the best team from start to present in the NBA this year while the Celtics have had a yo-yo season.  When the Celtics are “up”, I can see them winning everything; when the Celtics are “down”, I wonder how they could possibly get to the second round of the playoffs.  That series will be fun to watch…

Meanwhile the Sixers/Raptors series will be interesting on the court and off the court.  The Raptors will have to deal with the deeply-rooted perception that the team is never as good in the playoffs as they are in the regular season.  The Raptors have been in the playoffs 11 times in team history.  Three times they finished first in their division and lost in the first round of the playoffs; in the last two years, the Raptors were swept out of the playoffs in this same conference semi-final round.  Meanwhile, the Sixers have to demonstrate to their fans that “trusting the process” through those meager years from 2013 to 2017 was worth that trust.

Here is another observation from Bob Molinaro that invites a comment:

“With the Kentucky Derby little more than a week away, the media favorite is Omaha Beach, with Roadster and Game Winner also picking up healthy support. So goes my deep dive into the Run for the Roses. But what do any of us know? And unless Mel Kiper Jr., starts discussing the 40 times of these thoroughbreds, most of us remain contently clueless about the Churchill Downs field. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Horse racing is such a holdover from a bygone era that it probably should be ignored, if not protested. Why should helpless horses risk their health for our idle amusement? And what’s even the point of racing animals in the 21st century? If people want to gamble, there are plenty of easier ways to lose money.”

I agree completely that horseracing is a “holdover from a bygone era”; there was a time when virtually every major newspaper had a racing beat writer – – and that assignment was one of the plum assignments to be had in the sports department.  That is not nearly the case today; most papers do not even list the daily entries for the local track let alone devote real estate on the sports pages to the race charts at the local track.

I also agree that “there are plenty of easier ways to lose money” for those who are so-inclined to gamble.  I guess the attraction is that betting on the ponies is the form of sports betting that gives the gambler the fastest feedback/results.  If I bet on the Kentucky Derby, I am likely to know for sure if I have a winning ticket or a losing ticket in slightly more than 2 minutes.  If I were to bet on a baseball game on the first Saturday in May, I would not know if I “had a winner” for several hours.  The same thinking can apply to football games, basketball games, NASCAR races, boxing matches, soccer games, hockey games, darts tournaments – – you get the idea.

The fact is that this rapid-but-not instant gratification is not enough to grow the sport of horseracing.  I think there are 3 reasons that create this situation;

  1. While horseracing provides rapid determination of winning and losing, there is a sameness to just about every horse race.  That sameness means that fans who are not inclined to wager on the races are not sufficiently intrigued by the event itself to attend the races or to watch them on TV.  I have said in the past that horseracing is sort of like sex; it is great as a participation event but not nearly as interesting as a spectator event.
  2. The rapid-but-not-instant gratification is not as concrete as it may seem.  Yes, the Kentucky Derby will only take about 2 minutes to run, but the race before the Derby will have been well more than an hour before the Derby horses beak from the starting gate.  The Derby will provide a festive atmosphere and a certain grandeur that the casual fan can find interesting and attractive; that same delay between races on a random Thursday afternoon at Prairie Meadows Race Track in Iowa is just a tad less “riveting” …
  3. There are upsets – longshots – in horseracing to be sure.  However, there are few if any “miracle finishes” that will keep fans who are not betting on the races or small-time bettors keenly interested in the late stretch run for most races.  In the NFL we have seen “The Miracle at the Meadowlands” and plenty of basketball games turn on the success or failure of a buzzer-beating shot.  If “your horse” is 10 lengths back with a 16th of a mile to run, the fact is that he is not going to win absent a warp in the space-time continuum.

I would not go so far as Professor Molinaro to suggest that horseracing should be protested or banned.  You can look at the horses as helpless animals who must do something strenuous and even potentially dangerous simply for our amusement and feel some sort of moral pangs about that.  At the same time, consider that without horseracing as an “industry” there would also not be a breeding “industry” and those animals would not be part of our ecosystem.  Thoroughbred racehorses have no practical value to humankind in the 21st Century other than to race; they cannot “pull a plow”.  So, it seems to me that if we start to mosey down the path of protesting or banning horseracing, we would likely have to do something very similar to events like the Westminster Dog Show.  And I certainly do not want to be a passenger on the train going down that track.

Finally, let me conclude this week of rants with a groaner from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times.  Honestly, the man has no shame…

“In one of the stranger sights in English soccer last season, an Aston Villa fan threw a cabbage at beleaguered manager Steve Bruce during a 3-3 draw with Preston North End.

Apparently, he thought his team should’ve been ahead.”

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



Hockey, Football And Baseball …

About 60 years ago, Dinah Washington sang:

What a difference a day makes…

Here in the DC area, hockey fans are lamenting what a difference a year makes.  In 2018 – after more than 40 years of frustration – the Capitals won the Stanley Cup and they partied all over the area.  For once, Mighty Casey had not struck out.

The Caps had developed a bad history in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  When they took a series to a 7th game – whether home or away – the Caps always seemed to invent a way to lose that game.  It was so regular an occurrence that Tony Kornheiser, in his days as a Washington Post columnist and local sports radio talk show host, came to call the Caps:

  • The Choking Dogs of April

All that negativism was supposedly washed away in the plentiful libations from Lord Stanley’s Cup last year.  And then last night happened…

  • Playing at home, the Caps led the Hurricanes in Game 7 of their playoff series.  The Caps led 2-0 after one period and led 3-1 late in the second period.  Ultimately the game went to Double OT and the Hurricanes won the game 4-3 breathing life into those old memories of the Choking Dogs of April.  It is not a happy day in the DC area.

#2 son was at the game last night.  His text messages reflected significant concern about the way the game was going when the Hurricanes scored a short-handed goal in the second period.  He also predicted OT before the game was tied in the third period.  Given the record of his texts and the outcome last night, #2 son should Google “Cassandra” as a way to reconcile what he saw and felt last night…

The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoff last year in a maelstrom of controversy and intrigue among players.  LeVeon Bell was holding out; he is now off to play for the Jets; Antonio Brown had taken his talents – and his temper – to the Raiders courtesy of a trade; that leaves Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin and Juju Smith-Schuster as the remaining soap opera cast members in Pittsburgh.  Seemingly, the Steelers are happy with this arrangement because they just extended Ben Roethlisberger’s contract by 2 years and gave him a signing bonus of $37.5M.  In total, the contract extension adds $63M to Roethlisberger’s bank account – assuming it all plays out as designed – and will carry through the 2021 season in which Roethlisberger will be 39 years old.

Behind Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ depth chart this morning are:

  • Josh Dobbs
  • Mason Rudolph

The Steelers have acted to secure their QB of the present and near future with this contract extension; looking at that depth chart, the Steelers need to pay close attention to their QB of the future situation.  If they are convinced that one of those guys is “The Guy” to take over the helm, they are in good shape.  If they are not so convinced…

The Toronto Blue Jays have called up Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.; he will make his MLB debut against the Oakland A’s tomorrow.  If you believe in genetics, this kid ought to be an offensive presence in the Jays’ lineup.  His father, Vladimir Guerrero, is in the Hall of Fame with some gaudy stats:

  • In a 16-year MLB career, he hit .318 with an OPS of .931.
  • He hit 449 HRs and drove in 1496 runs scoring 1328 runs on his own.
  • He was an All-Star in 8 seasons; he was MVP in 2004.
  • He led the AL in intentional walks 4 consecutive years.

Vlad Jr. had been hitting .367 for the Buffalo Bisons in the AAA International League…

Soon after the NFL released its schedule for 2019, the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas posted lines for all the Week 1 games.  Forget that the Draft has not yet happened nor is there any inkling as to what kinds of injuries might occur during Training Camp/Exhibition Games; the lines are up.  I am not going to regale you with all of them here, but there are 4 that have an angle to them:

  1. Skins at Eagles – 8 (46.5):  This could be an interesting attempt to find a “middle bet”.  If you take the Skins +8 here and then something bad happens to the Eagles in the run-up to the season, the line could drop a few points setting up the chance to win both bets if you later take the Eagles “minus something less than 7 points”.
  2. Chiefs – 5.5 at Jags (52.5):  Andy Reid’s teams tend to start fast …
  3. Lions at Cardinals “pick ‘em” (49):  I doubt that I would want to bet this game in April 2019 or in September 2019.
  4. Broncos at Raiders – 2.5 (43):  Jon Gruden returns to Monday Night Football – – fortunately not as the color analyst…

Finally, Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald last weekend about an event in Miami that will take place today:

“Miami Corporate Run on deck: The annual Miami Corporate Run clogs/hits downtown streets this Thursday evening. Last year’s run drew 28,265 entrants from 850 companies. Hey you all: Less running, more working!”

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



NFL 2018 Predictions – The Post-Mortem

I must be losing it in my old age; things are getting pretty loose down here in Curmudgeon Central.  Let me explain briefly:

  1. My plan for today was to do my annual NFL Draft Preview where I go through all my notes from last season’s college football viewing.  I even thought ahead to the short time I would have to write it getting back from Ireland late on Tuesday and having to have it done by Thursday.  I took my notes with me so I could start the sorting process that has to happen before I can piece together the Draft Preview.  Then I proceeded to leave all those notes in the seat pocket in front of where I sat on the aircraft flying back to the US.  Ergo, there will be no Draft Preview for this NFL Draft.
  2. While in the process of “regrouping” in terms of setting up a writing schedule, it came to mind that I never did the Post-Mortem on my NFL predictions for the 2018 regular season.  Normally, I do that in January; this year I totally forgot to do it.

And so … the best I can do today is to lament the loss of all those college football notes and move on to doing the Post-Mortem that I should have done about 3 months ago.  And by the way, if I lose my car keys and find them in the refrigerator sometime next week, I will be really scared that I am losing it.

Back in early September 2018, I made predictions about the records for all 32 NFL teams and about coaches on the hot seat.  What I will do here is to review those predictions and to give myself grades as if I were back in high school to see how I did.  Let me start with the coaches on the hot seat:

  1. I said Jason Garrett was on the hot seat and that he might get the axe if the cow boys continued to be mediocre.  The Cowboys won the NFC East and Garrett is still the head coach there.
  2. I said Adam Gase could not survive another 6-10 season in Miami.  Well the Dolphins went 7-9 and even that was not good enough.  Gase is out in Miami and newly ensconced as the head coach of the Jets.
  3. I thought that Jay Gruden needed to be 8-8 or better to survive into this season.  The Skins went 7-9 and that was good enough to keep him on.
  4. I said that John Harbaugh needed to win enough games to make the playoffs to survive into this season.  The Ravens won the AFC North division and made the playoffs and Harbaugh is still on the job in Baltimore.
  5. I said that Hugh Jackson could not survive inflated expectations for the Browns in 2018.  He was fired halfway though the season when the Browns were playing like – – the Browns.
  6. I said that Vance Joseph needed to win more than 5 games and be competitive in the losses to survive.  The Broncos won 6 games, but Joseph was fired.
  7. I said that Dirk Koetter was in trouble in Tampa because Jameis Winston had not developed the way he was supposed to under Koetter’s tutelage.  The Bucs went 5-11 and Koetter is gonzo.
  8. I said that Marvin Lewis was perennially on the hot seat but that he was probably safe for last year because he got a contract extension.  The Bengals went 6-10 but played like a hot mess for much of the season.  Lewis was “kicked upstairs” and Zac Taylor will take over on the sidelines.
  9. I wavered on Todd Bowles.  I thought that the Jets’ over-achievement in Bowles’ first year would earn him one more year given that he was going to start a 21-year old QB and that I thought the Jets would win 7 games in 2018.  The Jets won only 4 games and Bowles is gone.

Those predictions are not perfect by any means.  However, 5 of the 8 on the list are indeed gone and two of the others, Garrett and Harbaugh, won their divisions last year so they have been retained.  My assessment of Bowles’ survivability was incorrect because I vastly over-rated the Jets’ potential in 2018.  I think these predictions merit a B +.

In the AFC West, I had the Chargers as the division champs with the Chiefs in second place with both making the playoffs.  The Chiefs won the division and the Chargers finished second and they both made the playoffs.  I underestimated both teams; I had the Chargers winning 10 games and the Chiefs 9 games; in fact, both teams won 12 games.  I had the Broncos winning 8 games; they won only 6 and I had the Raiders winning 5 games while the team actually won 4 games.

There was lots of hype last year surrounding the Raiders in Year One of Jon Gruden 2.0; please note that I did not buy into that and pretty much got the Raiders’ record right for the year.  Overall, I’ll give myself a B – for the AFC West.

In the AFC South, I had the Texans winning the division at 11-5.  That is EXACTLY what happened.  I also said the Titans would finish third in the division at 9-7.  That too is EXACTLY what happened.  For the other two predictions, things did not quite work out as well:

  1. I said the Jags would take a step back from their playoff run in 2017 but that they would still make the playoffs here as a wild card.  The Jags did not just take a step back; they came totally unglued and finished the season at 5-11.
  2. I said the Colts would finish last in the division at 5-11.  What happened was that the Colts finished 10-6 and got a wildcard slot in the playoffs.

In this division, I got two of the teams perfectly right and was not in the same area code with the other two predictions.  That outcome deserves a solid C.

            In the AFC North, I had the Steelers winning the division at 10-6 followed by the Ravens at 8-8.  Actually, the Ravens finished 10-6 while the Steelers missed the playoffs at 9-6-1.  I thought the Bengals and the Browns would finish at 5-11.  The Browns went 7-8-1 and the Bengals went 6-10.

Nothing here was exactly right – – but none of these predictions was totally off the reservation.  I’ll give myself a C – here.

In the AFC East, I had the Pats winning the division at 12-4; they won the division at 11-5.  I had all the other teams in the division finishing under .500; that happened too.  I thought the Bills would be the worst team in the division; the Jets finished last – – and got their coach fired in the process.

Other than the order of the also-rans here, I pretty much had this division scoped out.  I’ll give myself a B here.

In the NFC West, I had the Rams winning the division at 12-4; they won the division at 13-3.  I had the Niners finishing a distant second at 8-8; then Jimmy G. tore up his knee early in the season and the Niners finished at 4-12.  I had the Seahawks at 7-9 but they played very well and finished at 10-6 earning a wildcard playoff slot.  At the bottom, I had the Cards at 4-12; they finished 3-13 and will draft first tomorrow night in the 2019 NFL Draft – – unless they trade down.

I came pretty close to the right records for the top and bottom of the division and missed badly in the middle – – the Jimmy G injury played some role in that outcome I do believe.  Overall, I think a D is the proper grade here.

In the NFC South, I had the Falcons winning the division at 12-4 and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Let me be kind and say that did not come close to happening.  I had the Saints finishing with the same 12-4 record which is pretty close to the Saints’ 13-3 record in 2018.  I had the Panthers at 6-10; they finished 7-9 and I had the Bucs at 4-12; they finished at 5-11.

Given the huge missed call on the Falcons, the best grade I can assign here is a D.

            In the NFC North, I had another huge miss.  I had the Packers winning the division with a n 11-5 record.  The Packers limped in at 6-9-1 and got the coach fired in the process.  I had the Vikes finishing second with the same 11-5 record.  The Vikes were 8-7-1 which is closer to my prediction than the one for the Packers; but still…  I had the Bears finishing above .500 at 9-7 but running third in the division.  The Bears went 12-4 and won the division.  The only thing that was close to correct was exactly correct; I had the Lions finishing at 6-10 which is EXACTLY what they did.

Notwithstanding that prediction for the Lions, the only grade possible here is an F – because the scale does not go any lower.

Finally, in the NFC East, I had the Eagles winning the division at 10-6; they finished second at 9-7.  I had the Giants finishing second at 8-8; that was not even close.  I had the Cowboys also at 8-8; the Cowboys won the division with a 10-6 showing.  And, I had the Skins with 5 wins and they actually won 7 games.  The only thing to crow about here is that I said the NFC East as a division would finish at 31-33 – – and that is EXACTLY what the teams did cumulatively.

I think a grade of D for the NFC East is all that I deserve…

And so, to summarize, there were 9 grades to hand out.  In order they were:

  1. B +
  2. B –
  3. C
  4. C –
  5. B
  6. D
  7. D
  8. F
  9. D

That boils down to an embarrassing 1.78 ‘Grade Point Average” which would not be sufficient to maintain my eligibility for NCAA competition.  As I said at the beginning of the predictions back in September 2018:

“Prediction is difficult – – particularly when it deals with the future.”

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



Leinster Vs Toulouse Rugby Cup

Today is a major change of focus for Sports Curmudgeon rants.  Yesterday I attended the Heineken European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final match at the Aviva stadium in Dublin.  My grandson (who served as my tutor and who answered my questions during the match), his parents and my long-suffering wife joined me in the event.  Today is reporting on my first live rugby match.

At the beginning of the weekend, there were two Irish teams on opposite sides of the bracket draw; it was possible for the weekend to end with the reality of an all-Irish final game.  Moreover, the final game could have been Munster versus Leinster.

  • [Aside:  To give you an idea of the rivalry that exists between Leinster and Munster let me tell you a story from about ten years ago when my wife and I were touring around Ireland.  We were in Dublin one weekend and happened into a pub in the afternoon when Leinster was playing Northumberland (an English team) for the European Championship.  Leinster won the game and the locals in the pub were most happy.
  • The next weekend we were somewhere in the southern part of Ireland and once again happened into a pub while Leinster was playing Munster in an Irish League game.  The score was tied at halftime and I mentioned to one of the locals there who was a Munster supporter that he must have been happy the week before when Leinster beat the English side in the championship game.  The man said very simply that he could never pull for those devils in blue (Leinster’s colors are blue and white) and that he had been pulling for Northumberland.
  • Given the history between the English and the Irish, recognize that this gentleman wanted an English team to beat an Irish team based in the rivalry between that particular Irish team and his favorite team.  Fan loyalty runs deep in Ireland…]

Munster ended any hopes for an all-Irish final on Saturday losing to Saracens (a London-based team) in the semi-finals.  So, on Sunday, there were no “distractions” for Leinster fans in terms of looking ahead to another match against Munster; just about all the 43,000 folks who made their way into the Aviva Stadium were focused on Leinster winning that day’s game against Toulouse.  I say “just about all” of the fans because there was a smattering of Toulouse supporters in attendance.

The sides were introduced to grandeur and fanfare in the form of symphonic music; the fans responded with chants of “Leinster, Leinster” [pronounced Len-ster] with the same intonation that US basketball fans use to chant “Air-Ball, Air-Ball” at basketball games.  That chant made many reappearances during the match; it was used as a way to try to exhort the team on the field to “hold the line” or to express pleasure at a long-gaining play.

With apologies to those readers here who know far more about rugby than I – and those who have played the sport while I have not – let me describe the players on the two sides from yesterday.  There seemed to be 3 categories of players:

  1. If Keith Jackson were broadcasting a rugby game, he would probably identify three players on each side as “The Big Uglies”.  These guys look like they are close to 6 feet tall and about 5 feet wide at the shoulders.  Oh, and they do not appear to have anything resembling a neck.
  2. Each side had two players who looked to me as if they were moonlighting here from their “day-jobs” as power forwards in various European Basketball Leagues.  The two players on each side who fit this description demonstrated a disposition on the pitch that would make them very effective as “enforcers” in a basketball setting.
  3. The rest of the players appear from afar like normal human athletes and all seem to possess well-above-average speed.  That footspeed is important on offense and on defense because just about every player of this description seemed adept at open-field tackling.

Toulouse seemed to dominate the action for the first 7 or 8 minutes; they held the ball for almost that entire time – – but the only scoring they accomplished was a penalty kick for a 3-0 lead.  From that point on, it certainly seemed to me that Leinster was in charge of the game.  The difference in the game to these uninitiated eyes came as a result of:

  • Leinster was the better team at open-field tackling.  More Toulouse attempts to gain ground by running to the edge of the pitch resulted in loss of ground than happened to Leinster when they tried the same thing.
  • Toulouse turned the ball over more often than Leinster did.  I don’t know the proper term of art here, but I counted 4 recovered fumbles for Leinster and only 1 for Toulouse.  More importantly, Toulouse had the ball about two yards from the Leinster goal line and tried a wide lateral pass to score the try; that pass was intercepted by a Leinster defender who ran the ball out about 30 meters before being tackled.  That ended Toulouse’s best opportunity for a try in the game.
  • Midway through the first half, Leinster “punted” to acquire field position; the Toulouse player received the punt and attempted to “punt it back” to Leinster for field position.  A Leinster player came off the wing and blocked the punt off the foot of the Toulouse player and Leinster recovered it about 10 miters from the goal line leading to a try.  My grandson in his tutorial role and other fans sitting around us in the stadium confirmed my suspicion that blocked punts of that ilk are not commonplace.

Rugby uses a video referee to confirm calls made on the field.  The time delay for such review is minimal and the fans in the stadium get to see on the stadium video board the same replay shots that the video referee(s) see.  The video referee negated a try scored by Leinster late in the first half; obviously, that was not a popular decision but with the replay on the stadium screen, the fans’ displeasure was very short-lived as it became totally obvious that a Leinster player had blocked an opponent who was attempting to tackle the ball carrier.  That is a no-no in rugby…

There was another interesting thing I noted in the match.  Whenever a team lined up to kick the ball through the uprights – – as a result of a penalty or as a conversion attempt after a try – – the video board would flash a message:

  • “Respect The Kicker”

At that point the stadium would fall silent – you could hear yourself breathe – and it would remain that way until the kick was well on its way toward the goal.  That was a distinct culture-shock for an American used to plenty of noise and raucous behavior as an attempt to distract a placekicker.

Leinster won the game handily by a score of 30-12; they were the better team yesterday.  Leinster will play Saracens in Newcastle Upon Tyne (England) on May 11 for the Champions Cup.  I shall ask my grandson for his thoughts on that game.

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



The NFL 2019 Regular Season Schedule

The NFL has released the 2019 regular season schedule with far more fanfare and hullabaloo that it merits.  However, it was a relatively slow news week in sports; so, the announcement was a welcome one.  I will not pretend to have pondered the context of every one of the 256 regular season games, but I do like to check the schedule every year to look for specific games and/or specific stretches of the season that might be particularly interesting to watch come the Fall.

Several commentators have tried to construct an argument that certain teams were ”screwed over” by the league’s scheduling department.  For the most part, those arguments are warmed over balderdash; the NFL schedule is formulaic and not whimsical.  Having said that, I do think that 3 teams have a sub-optimal segment in their schedule:

  1. Arizona Cardinals: As if the team with the first overall pick in the Draft does not have enough to overcome in 2019, the Cards will end their season with 5 games that look to be brutal.  They finish up with the Rams, the Steelers, the Browns, at the Seahawks and at the Rams.  Unless you believe that the Browns are horribly over-hyped and that the Steelers are about to implode, that is a bad way to have to end the season.
  2. SF 49ers:  They open the season with 2 road games – never optimal – and both of those games are in the Eastern Time Zone – ouch.  Then, after the third game of the season, the Niners get the earliest possible Bye Week – another scheduling aspect that is sub-optimal.
  3. Tampa Bay Bucs:  They have two tough road games – – at the Rams and at the Saints – – before they have a “home game” in London.  Oh swell…

I don’t remember where I saw this, so I cannot cite it properly here, but someone noticed that the Falcons will start the season by playing their first 9 games in domed stadiums.  True, some have retractable roofs that might be open on a nice Fall day, but it is also possible that all 9 games will be indoors.  In addition to 4 home games in their domed stadium in Atlanta, the Falcons will travel to Minneapolis, Indy, Houston, Arizona and New Orleans before playing the Panthers in Charlotte in what will surely be an outdoor game in November

What I look for most carefully when perusing the NFL schedule are those games that appear to be the “Game of the Week” throughout the season.  In reality, the “Game of the Week” is determined by how well – or how poorly – teams do once the season starts, but the pre-season view highlights a few games that need to be remembered as the season unfolds.  Here are some that look interesting to me:

  • Week 2:  Saints at Rams … After the way the playoff game between these teams ended in January, I suspect that both teams will be highly focused for this encounter.
  • Week 5:  Bears vs Raiders in London … This game gives Khalil Mack his first shot at the team that traded him away.  Could be interesting…
  • Week 7:  Ravens at Seahawks…  Earl Thomas left Seattle in less than good health – he was carted off the field – and in less than a good mood – he flipped off the Seahawks bench as he was being carted off the field.  Now he plays for the Ravens and this is his return game to Seattle…
  • Week 8:  Skins at Vikes…  Two years ago, Case Keenum led the Vikes to the playoffs and Kirk Cousins was toiling under the onerous franchise tag in DC.  Now Cousins is a highly paid QB for the Vikes and Keenum is hoping to be the Skins’ starting QB.  Interesting storyline even if the game might not be so interesting…
  • Week 8: Packers at Chiefs…  Aaron Rodgers visits Patrick Mahomes.  I like the OVER here…  Oh, and everyone will get to see this game because it is going to be the Sunday Night Game so the Skins/Vikes game can be the diurnal “Game of the Week” and this one can be the nocturnal “Game of the Week”…
  • Week 11:  Pats at Eagles…  It is a year removed from the Super Bowl matchup in Feb 2018, but there might be an edge to the game.  Also, it is late in the season and both teams figure to be contending for playoff slots…
  • Week 13:  Browns at Steelers…  Are the Browns for real?  Are the Steelers coming apart at the seams?  By this point in the season we might have some answers to those questions and assuming the Steelers find ways to “keep it together”, this late season game in Pittsburgh will be a measuring stick for how far the Browns have come on the path from laughingstock to respectability…
  • Week 14:  Chiefs at Pats…  A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game that went to OT in KC.  What else is there to say about the potential excitement for this game late in the regular season?
  • Week 15:  Jags at Raiders…  Barring some major delay in the Las Vegas Stadium construction, this will be the final game for the Raiders in Oakland.  That could be an ugly scene – – very ugly…
  • Week 16:  Steelers at Jets…  LeVeon Bell gets to renew his acquaintances with his former teammates from Pittsburgh days…

The 2 games during the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day are not so grand.  The Lions and Bears open the festivities.  Yes, this is a division game; but it appears from here that the Bears will be serious playoff contenders and the Lions will be – – well – – the Lions.  Later, the Cowboys will host the Bills in a game that has about the same rivalry history as the one between the University of Idaho and the University of South Carolina.  The evening game on Thanksgiving will be the star of the show; the Saints will visit the Falcons in a game between two division rivals both of whom should be good.

Finally, this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times harkens back to last year’s Monday Night Football telecasts:

“ABC-TV is slated to air a 10-episode series on mini-golf called ‘Holey Moley,’ with Joe Tessitore among those behind the mic.

“What, no Booger McFarland sideline reports from a golf cart?”

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



Basketball Stuff Today…

The NCAA runs two post-season men’s basketball tournaments.  Tons of people follow “March Madness”; the NCAA’s logo and brand is all over that event.  However, the NCAA also owns the NIT which used to be an even bigger deal than the NCAA Tournament but is now an ignored stepchild in terms of fan attention and interest.  However, the NCAA used this year’s NIT as a test-bed for four potential rule changes for college basketball.  I was aware of three of the “rules tests”; I just learned about the fourth.

  1. The 3-point line was moved back 20 inches:  I have thought for years that the 3-point line was too close, so I think this is a noble experiment.  I would not care of they moved it back even further.  Granted that the NIT presented a small sample size – 31 games – but the results showed that 3-point attempts per game were virtually unchanged and 3-point accuracy dropped less than 1%.  I think this is a step in the right direction, but it was not a sufficient increase in the length of the shot to make a significant difference.
  2. The foul lane was widened from 12 feet to 16 feet:  That is a 33% increase in the size of the foul lane and – theoretically – that means offensive players in the post position would have to set up further from the basket.  That also means that defenders would be further from the basket thereby increasing the driving lanes available to other players.  If that is what happened in reality, there should have been either an increase in 2-point shooting accuracy or a decrease in 3-point shot attempts as more players used those new driving lanes.  Neither of those two effects showed up in any significant amount.  Like the idea of moving the 3-point line back, this is an idea that needs to be thought upon some more.
  3. The number of team fouls was reset to zero at the 10-minute mark of each half.  Teams shot two foul shots after the fifth foul in each of the 10-minute segments:  The result here is that there were indeed fewer foul shot attempts per game.  I guess that is a goal worth pursuing.
  4. The shot clock was reset to only 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of to 30 seconds:  I did not know this rule would be under evaluation.  Frankly, I have no idea why anyone thought this was a good idea to begin with, but the rules mavens tried it out.  There was no comment after the fact that this change had any effect on scoring or shooting accuracy or anything else.  As far as I am concerned, this one has had its time on the vine; it is now time to put it to rest.

[Giant Aside:  How the NCAA came to be the owner of the former rival NIT tournament is a bit strange.  The owners of the NIT sued the NCAA under anti-trust laws claiming that the NCAA acted as a monopoly.  They filed their case and their briefs; a judge called the parties to the trial and then the parties settled the suit.  The result of the settlement was that the NCAA bought out the owners of the NIT.  So, the “alleged monopoly” got out of the lawsuit by getting even bigger – – and the judge hearing the case thought that was an appropriate way to bring this to a conclusion.  Now you see why I would never have made it as a judge…]

Sticking with the subject of basketball for a moment, Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald about a week ago:

“Lakers’ president abruptly resigns: Once an all-time great player, Magic [Johnson] has since failed pretty miserably as a broadcaster, a coach and now as a club executive. The good news? There has to be some way to blame LeBron James for this, no?

I guess you can assign some of the blame to LeBron given the instances of him distancing himself from his teammates as the season ground down to dust.  But you can’t blame him for his injury or the injuries that sidelined several of the better players on the rest of the roster.

What happened in LA was that the Lakers hired Magic Johnson to do for the franchise what Magic Johnson had done for the franchise as a player in the 1980s.  As Professor Cote noted above, Magic Johnson did not come close to performing as an NBA exec as he did as an NBA player.  You might say that the Lakers hired “Magic” Johnson as their team President, but they got “Earvin” Johnson in terms of performance.

As I have said here before, the fundamental problem with the Lakers was the roster construction around LeBron James for the 2018-19 season.  Magic Johnson shared that responsibility with Rob Pelinka who cut his teeth as a player agent and not as an NBA exec; over the course of a single season, that did not work even slightly well.  Now the Lakers are left to learn if Pelinka can act alone as a solid NBA exec.  He has his work cut out for himself.

Personally, I think the big winner in this entire drama is Luke Walton.  Consider Walton’s résumé as a coach:

  • As the interim coach of the Warriors, his team went 39-4 until Steve Kerr was able to return to the bench.
  • In 2016, he took over a Lakers’ team that had won 17 games the previous year and only 21 games in the year before that.  In Walton’s first year in LA, the team won 26 games – a 9-bame improvement.
  • In his next two years, the Lakers won more games than in the prior year.
  • Now he is the coach of the Sacramento Kings – a young team that appears to be on the rise.

If Luke Walton can get the Kings into the playoffs next year – and especially if the Lakers again miss the playoffs next year – I think he will have put a significant and permanent luster on his coaching record.

Finally, here is another comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald where he channels Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent:

“Answer: Paul Westphal, Al Attles and Jack Sikma are among the latest inductees.

“Question: ‘What makes you say the Basketball Hall of Fame lets in too many people?’”

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



Russell Wilson Staying In Seattle

Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks have reached an accord that will keep Wilson in Seattle for another 4 years.  The contract extension is for 4 years and $140M with a $65M signing bonus plus $107M of the contract guaranteed.  At $35M per year, Wilson is – for the moment – the highest paid player in NFL history.  Reports said that Wilson’s preference was to remain in Seattle; this contract lets him do that and it also secures his financial future for life and probably for the lives of his grandchildren.

Andrew Brandt has an excellent review of the negotiations that led to this contract at  By his analysis, the Seahawks also achieved some significant objectives in reaching this deal.  Brandt was also a Vice President of the Green Bay Packers back when Aaron Rodgers was a rookie and this column also reveals what he saw in the relationship between McCarthy and Rodgers from the beginning.  It is an excellent column; I commend it to your reading.

To the surprise of just about no one, a Kenyan runner won the Boston Marathon earlier this week in the time of 2;07:57.  Lawrence Cherono won the race by a mere 2 seconds over Lelisa Desisa, an Ethiopian racer.  Another Kenyan, Kenneth Kipkemoi finished third only 8 seconds behind Desisa.  This is the equivalent of a photo finish in a marathon.

The women’s marathon was also won by a Kenyan, Worknesh Degefa, in 2:23:31.  The women’s division was not nearly as closely contested as the men’s division; the second-place finisher crossed the finish line 42 seconds after Degefa broke the tape.   At the other end of the race, a 46-year old woman who was running her first marathon finished the race in something over 9 hours.  As she said after the race, the time doesn’t matter because what does matter to her is that she finished the race.

Speaking of Boston…  It has been more than 2 months since police and prosecutors announced that Robert Kraft was charged with solicitation of prostitution in Florida.  At the time of the announcement, the authorities said that his actions were discovered as part of an investigation into sex trafficking that was allegedly ongoing at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida.  According to reports, the authorities obtained their reported video surveillance of Kraft and his sex acts in part by telling a judge that sex trafficking was happening inside that facility.  My overall position on the charges here remains unchanged:

  • Prostitution and solicitation of prostitution are not major crimes in my mind.
  • Sex trafficking is indeed a very major crime.

And that overview leads me to ask two questions here:

  1. Where are the charges/indictments for sex trafficking that were the supposed focus of the investigation there?
  2. How long after making a big publicity splash by announcing the charges against a public figure such as Robert Kraft does it take to file the major charges?

According to a Washington Post report a couple of weeks ago, the investigation was not limited to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa;  Another facility – the East Spa – in Vero Beach, FL was under investigation and the prosecutors there have indeed filed sex trafficking charges against the person who “ran the day-to-day operations of that facility.”  However, there has been no such action by the prosecutors in the Jupiter jurisdiction.  In fact, Bruce Colton, the State Attorney for the district that includes Jupiter was quoted in the Washington Post report saying:

“I believe human trafficking is heavily involved in what’s going on at all these spas.  But believing it and being able to prove it in court are two different things. We feel certain human trafficking is deeply involved in these spas. We’re continuing our investigation to determine whether to file human trafficking charges.”

That sounds a whole lot less definitive that the statements made by the local police at the time they announced the charges against Kraft.  Obviously, I have no way to know this for sure, but I am pretty confident that when the authorities went to the judge asking for a warrant to plant those surveillance cameras, they made their representations to that judge just a bit more positively than is conveyed here.  Maybe my “cynicism DNA” is over-expressing itself this morning, but I am beginning to wonder if all the declarative statements made by the police and the prosecutors back in February are as founded in reality as they seemed then…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently – – and it sent me to Google to find out if this was real or not:

“Just when you thought there wasn’t room for one more sport, along comes the Lingerie Fighting Championships.

“So, what brand are the boxing trunks — Everlast or Victoria’s Secret?”

Indeed, the boxing trunks are far more closely related to Victoria’s Secret than they are to Everlast.  A brief visit to will confirm that the sport is for real and that there are more than 50 women who are competing/have competed in lingerie fighting events.  Moreover, the organization announced that it will stage 6 shows in Las Vegas this year at a facility called The NERD.  [I am not familiar with this venue despite our annual visits to Las Vegas.]  The first of those events happened on 4 April; the rest of them will take place between now and Halloween 2019.

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



Attendance Woes

The Miami Marlins drew 25,423 souls to Marlins Park on Opening Day.  The fact that the stadium was less than 70% full on Opening Day has proven already to be an ominous foreshadowing of attendance for this year.  As of this morning, the Marlins have played 10 home games and the total attendance for those games has been 105,424.  Since Opening day, the Marlins are averaging 8,889 fans per game; for one night game, the Marlins drew only 5,900 fans to the stadium.  Not surprisingly, the Marlins have the lowest average attendance for their home games so far this year.

This was the case last year too.  After 10 home dates in 2018, the Marlins home attendance was last in the major leagues at 12,622; this year’s overall average – including the throng on Opening Day – is only 10,542 meaning that the lowest draw in MLB from last year is averaging 1,520 fewer fans per game this year.

The knee-jerk explanation for this nonchalance on the part of Miami fans is that the team traded away all its good players and are putting a second-rate product on the field.  While that is certainly accurate when compared to the “big spending teams” in MLB, it surprised me to learn that the Marlins do not have the lowest payroll in MLB for this year.  In fact, three teams are paying their rosters less than the Marlins are shelling out:

  • Marlins – – $74.7M
  • Pirates – – $71.9M
  • Blue Jays – – $64.7M
  • Rays – – $52.3M

The Blue Jays provide an interesting comparison here.  The Jays are spending less on their roster than are the Marlins; the Jays have also played 10 home games so far this year; the Jays have about the same chance to win their division as do the Marlins.  And, the Jays are drawing almost double the average attendance of the Marlins:

  • Jays home attendance = 19,724
  • Marlins home attendance = 10,542

Given the large Cuban ex-pat population, I would have suspected that MLB would be a big draw in Miami; that has not been the case for at least a couple of decades now.  MLB has always been reluctant to approve the movement of its franchises absent some dire circumstances; I think those conditions may be showing themselves in Miami.  Here is the core reason that the owners in MLB should take the Marlins’ situation seriously:

  • While it may be the case that teams with miserable attendance can still show positive cash flow – not necessarily positive earnings – for any given year, it is important to owners that each franchise continues to sell for more than the current owner paid for it.  At least part of the allure of owning a baseball team is that everyone who has owned one in the past has sold it at a profit.  Less than 2 years ago, the Marlins sold for $1.2B.  It would not be a good thing if the team could not command that price if they hit the market any time soon.

The collapse of the AAF prior to the completion of its inaugural season should provide a sports historian with interesting material for a book somewhere down the line.  Until such time as someone provides us with such a recounting, consider these comments from three sportswriters around the country:

“The Alliance of American Football has a chance of failing in its first season, according a league owner.

“But no worries, there’s always another offshoot league on the way. The Legends Football League — formerly known as the Lingerie Football League — kicks off its new season Friday. Meanwhile, XFL2 is set to start in 2020.

“Not interested?

“Maybe that’s the reason the NFL is so popular.

“You have to wait until football season for it to arrive.”  [Brad Rock, Deseret News]

And …

Failing alone: The tanking of the Alliance of American Football is more evidence that spring/summer gridiron leagues need the NFL’s clout and generosity to survive, much as the WNBA is propped up by NBA owners.”  [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And …

“Sugar daddy Tom Dundon pulled the plug on the fledgling Alliance of American Football after just eight weeks.

“Or as AAF historians prefer to spin it, the final sack in AAF history.”  [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

Finally, syndicated columnist, Norman Chad had this remark about the declining level of civility in the way fans interact with athletes:

“If Vatican City were in New Jersey, the Pope likely would get heckled during Easter Mass.”

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