Spleen Venting…

I know that we are not supposed to focus on the need to “give thanks” until the fourth Thursday of November; nevertheless, I am very thankful for something that will happen as soon as this day prepares to turn into night.  At 4:00PM EDT, the MLB trade deadline will pass, and I can stop having to read about trade rumors and can stop and look at the reality of what happened as teams made whatever trades they actually wanted to make.

Along that line, it will put to merciful rest one of the many genres of a new form of sports writing that has already irritated every nerve in my body.  I refer here to any column or “listicle” that has this form of a headline:

  • X-Number of Bold Predictions For The “Fill In Sports Event/Deadline”

Let me translate that headline and give you the substance of whatever lurks below that headline:

  • A “Bold Prediction” is less tangible than a rumor.  It could be a flight of fancy or it could be a hallucination or it could be pure phantasmagoria.
  • The article below such a headline means there was a need for content on a website somewhere but there are no facts to report or analyze – – so what we need to do here is make up some “stuff” and then pretend to justify why it was made up in the first place.

Please tell me I am not the only person who has had enough of those space-wasters…

Since I am on the subject of things that have worn out their welcome, allow me to mention one more.  I don’t know about you, but I have heard too many owners, athletic directors, coaches and players announce that they have embarked on a course to “change the culture” of some organization somewhere.  Enough already.  Here is what you mean, so why not say it?

  • We have been sorry-assed losers for a while now and we are going to try something different in the hopes that we can stop being sorry-assed losers and win more games.

With those two things off my mind, I can confidently echo the frequent statement of Gomez Addams from the old TV show, The Addams Family:

  • I’m feeling MUCH better now…

Tomorrow will bring the world its first look at the 2019 iteration of Hard Knocks.  Normally, I do not watch much of that program because it is obvious to me that the coaches and players see the cameras and production crews as an interruption.  I just never get the feeling that this is what would be happening if I were indeed a “fly on the wall”.  Having said that, I might give this year’s incarnation a glimpse.  Here are 4 reasons why:

  1. This year’s episode will feature the Oakland Raiders giving me the potential to see/hear some sort of pronunciamento from Mark Davis.  That could be fun – – unless he talks about “changing the culture” …
  2. This year’s coach, Jon Gruden, may not resent the cameras; he may have been planning on ways to maximize his “airtime” for the past several weeks.  No one can think that Jon Gruden is camera-averse…
  3. I can’t wait to hear how Coach Gruden – the QB guru and developer – coaches up the likes of Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman.  The post-production folks may have to make liberal use of the “bleep-button” for that segment.
  4. Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito will be in camp.  Who knows what any of them might do next – on the field or off the field?

Scott Ostler had this observation about the upcoming Hard Knocks series in the SF Chronicle recently:

“That damn ‘Hard Knocks’ will be a distraction, says the football team that has sucked for decades, was homeless for months before sulking back to the Oakland Coliseum, and recently signed one player who arrived in a hot-air balloon, and another who will sit out two games because, according to a police report, he allegedly threatened to kill mortuary workers when they wouldn’t let him cut off his dead father’s head for research.”

Now that I have Professor Ostler’s perspective in mind, maybe this year’s Hard Knocks will be the best TV series since Cheers closed its doors…

There is a bit of good news out there in the sports cosmos this morning.  Reports say that David Ortiz has been released from the hospital after about 7 weeks in there and 3 surgeries to undo/minimize damage done when he was shot in the back in a fracas in the Dominican Republic.  The last announcement from the authorities there is that Ortiz was not the target of the shooting; nevertheless, he is the one who spent 7 weeks in the hospital and time in the ICU recovering from the effects of the shooting.

Finally, Brad Rock had this comment in the Deseret News recently regarding a baseball happening in the Dominican Republic:

“A Yankees Dominican Summer League team beat a Twins team 38-2.

“The biggest question among spectators: ‘How did the Twins score a safety?’”

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



Pre-Season Look At College Football For 2019

I am going to try something new this year – – a pre-season look at college football.  I have been doing an NFL prognostication for more than 15 years now but never did one for college football.  The reason I stayed away from college football is that I was locked into the model that I used for the NFL where I – ridiculously – try to pick the final record for every team in the league.

Being stuck in that mindset, I realized that was an impossibility for college football where there are about 130 teams and where I really do not care much about 75% of them.  But it did seem as if there was something to be done on the subject; and so, I decided to try and look at college football from a pre-season perspective a bit differently from the way I look at the NFL.  If I like the outcome, I’ll make this an annual feature.  If I don’t like the outcome, I’ll try to think of modifications to make it so that I like it next year.  If I hate the outcome, this will be a “one-and-done”.

From the outset, let me say that I cannot even pretend to know much about the roster details of any college football team.  That is a subject I will learn about as I watch college football games and read what local writers have to say about the best and worst teams in the country.  The content here is going to be much more abstract than team-by-team analysis.

Bob Molinaro had this comment recently in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot; it is almost as if he knew what I was going to write here before the first keystroke was struck:

“Quick hit: Speaking of college football, here is all the preseason blather you need in a nutshell: Every team promises to do better. Rinse and repeat.”

With all that as preamble, let me start by talking about coaching changes in college football for this season.  If you assume that 25% of the head coaches get replaced every year, that means there will be between 30 and 35 new head coaches on the sidelines this year.  I don’t care enough about a coaching change at Disco Tech to check the bios and credentials of the coach leaving the job or the new guy coming in.  But there are changes at eight major schools to keep an eye on.

  1. Colorado:  Mike Macintyre is out, and Mel Tucker takes over.  Colorado started out last year on a roll winning the first 5 games of the season including wins over Nebraska, Arizona St., UCLA and rival Colorado St.  Then the wheels came off the wagon and Colorado lost the final 7 games of the season – including a loss at home to a woeful Oregon St. team.
  2. Georgia Tech:  Paul Johnson is out, and Geoff Collins takes over.  Johnson was not fired; he surprisingly resigned his position to be with his family after a lifetime in football.  Collins comes there off two winning seasons at Temple; make no mistake, Georgia Tech is a significant step up the coaching ladder from Temple.  This could be an interesting situation to watch…
  3. Kansas:  David Beaty is out, and Les Miles takes over.  Beaty was the head coach at Kansas for 4 seasons; his teams won a total of 6 games in those 4 seasons.  Miles’ previous college jobs have been at Oklahoma St. and LSU; Kansas is MUCH lower on the food chain than either of those schools.  Notwithstanding that fact, Kansas football has exactly nowhere to go but up.  The last winning season for Kansas was in 2008; since the 2000 season the cumulative record for the Jayhawks has been 75-153.  If Les Miles wins 5 games this year, he will be seen as a miracle worker; it his team wins only twice in 2019, he will be viewed as an overpaid has-been who needs to be run out of town on a rail.
  4. Kansas St.:  Bill Snyder is out, and Chris Klieman takes over.  Snyder is an icon at K-State; his departure is a retirement and nothing else.  It would be an understatement to say that Snyder was the “face of K-State football”; he was the “soul of K-State football”.  Kleiman has the unenviable task of replacing a “legend”; Klieman comes to K-State from North Dakota State which has been a Division 1-AA powerhouse for the last 7 or 8 years.
  5. Maryland:  DJ Durkin is out, and Mike Locksley takes over.  The football program – and the entire athletic department – at Maryland was a hot mess last year.  Locksley was the OC at Alabama last year; his only head coaching gig was at New Mexico where his teams went 2-26 – – and there was more than a little off-field nonsense going on too.  This could be interesting to watch too…
  6. North Carolina:  Larry “The Hat” Fedora is out, and Mack Brown takes over.  UNC was awful last year; the overall record was 2-9. Brown returns to Chapel Hill having been the head coach there from 1988 to 1997; Brown leaves a cushy spot at ESPN to return to the coaching ranks.
  7. Ohio St.:  Urban Meyer is out, and Ryan Day takes over.  Meyer has “retired” once again; if you look at leaving a job as a head coach in college football as akin to divorce, then Meyer is the Za Za Gabor of the Gridiron.  Day coached the Buckeyes to a 4-0 record while Meyer was on “administrative leave” last season.
  8. Texas Tech:  Klif Kingsbury is out, and Matt Wells takes over.  Tech has been known for its prolific offense in recent years, but that has not produced much in terms of winning seasons. In 6 years under Kliff Kingsbury, Tech has only had two winning seasons. Matt Wells was hired to change that status and he will bring a more balanced offense to the field.  How well that might work with a team recruited to play in a different system remains to be seen.

I want to mention only one coaching change at the Division 1-AA level:

  • William and Mary:  Jimmye Laycock is out, and Mike London takes over.  Jimmye Laycock has been the head coach at William and Mary since 1980.  In his 38 seasons there, his teams have gone 249-194-2.  Moreover, 3 people from his program are currently NFL head coaches.  Sean McDermott (Buffalo) and Dan Quinn (Atlanta) were assistants under Laycock; Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) played for Laycock.  London played for Laycock and has been the head coach at Richmond, UVa and Howard before taking this job.

The 2018 season saw its share of changes in head coaches around the country.  Some of the new hires made a decent impression while others were “disappointing”.  I think there are six second-year coaches that will be interesting to keep an eye on.  I am listing them alphabetically lest anyone try to read some meaning into the order that is unintended.

  1. Herm Edwards (Arizona St.):  People scoffed when Arizona St. hired him away from ESPN, but Edwards and his staff led the Sun Devils to a bowl game and a 7-6 record.  [Aside:  The Las Vegas line for total wins for Ariz St. last year was 5.]  Edwards is not a prototypical head coach for a college team; if his system continues to work, things will be just fine in Tempe; if the system sputters …
  2. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M):  His first season in College Station was 9-4 and the Aggies only lost to Clemson by 2 points.  Every other coach on this list would be thrilled to have had an opening season like that; but that is not what the Aggie boosters opened their wallets to see.  Fisher has a 10-year deal worth $75M to coach at Texas A&M; those folks bankrolling that job expect a lot in return.
  3. Scott Frost (Nebraska):  He was hailed as a savior when he returned to his alma mater as the head coach last year.  Then the team started off 0-6; all was not peaches and cream in Lincoln, NE.  However, the team rallied and went 4-2 in its final 6 games leading Husker fans to think very positively about the 2019 season.  I don’t think another 4-8 season will make Nebraska a “happy place”; there is some pressure here…
  4. Chip Kelly (UCLA):  The Bruins were 3-9 last year and were blown out in 5 of those losses.  If you want to explain that away, you can say that Kelly has his own system for offensive football and that he inherited a squad not recruited to play his style of football.  If you want to be less kind, you can say that Kelly is more stubborn than a mule.  That record needs to improve this year – particularly avoiding losses to out of conference opponents from the All-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference.
  5. Dan Mullen (Florida):  He had Florida in the hunt for the SEC East berth in the SEC Championship Game last year; that slot went to Georgia.  Florida fans expect the same sort of meaningful football again this year.
  6. Willie Taggert (Florida St.):  His first year in Tallahassee was “unacceptable” to Seminole fans.  The team finished 5-7 and did not make a bowl game for the first time in next to forever (1982); moreover, the team looked overmatched in many of its losses six of which were by 19 points or more.  If Florida St. does not make it to bowl eligibility again this year, Taggert may be looking for work elsewhere.

One thing that must be part of any pre-season future cast is the section on “Coaches on a Hot Seat”.  I am going to put a couple of coaches here who are not on a hot seat in the sense that they are likely to be fired at the end of this season; they are here because there are certain expectations for their teams that have not been close to fulfilled so far despite overall success.

  • Chris Ash (Rutgers):  Look, no one with the brains of rutabaga expects Rutgers to be a Top 25 football program.  However, Ash has been on the job at Rutgers for 3 years and his record there is 7-29; last year the Scarlet Knights were 1-11.  The poohbahs at Rutgers may delude themselves into thinking they might actually be able to hire a good coach to come to Rutgers; and then, they might use that delusion to fire Chris Ash.
  • Randy Edsall (UConn):  On one hand his job is very safe because UConn has opted out of its conference and faces the choice of making a go of it as in Independent or dropping down to Division 1-AA – – neither of which would be an attractive lure for a competent coach.  On the other hand, his team last year was historically bad on defense allowing just over 50 points per game and about 9 yards per play to opposing offenses.  Not surprisingly, UConn was 1-11 last year…
  • Jim Harbaugh (Michigan):  He will not be fired by the folks in Ann Arbor, but the fact is that he has not achieved what Michigan fans expected when he was hired 4 years ago.
  • Clay Helton (USC):  He was 5-7 with USC last year; the last time the Trojans had a record that bad was in 2000; the last time they had a worse record than that was in 1991.  Need I say more…?
  • Lovie Smith (Illinois):  The school gave him a 2-year contract extension in this off-season so he may be safe for this year.  But here is the rub; he has been at Illinois for 3 years and his teams have gone 9-27.

The one thing that I do not like about college football is that too many top-shelf teams go out of their way to avoid playing any reasonably competitive games out-of-conference.  There will be mismatches dictated by conference alignments; when Ohio St hosts Rutgers, that is not a scheduling choice that either school has made.  However, some of the very good teams make a mockery of their out-of-conference scheduling decisions.  Here are seven (again in alphabetical order) that deserve a healthy measure of opprobrium:

  1. Alabama: Duke, New Mexico St. So. Mississippi and Western Carolina.  Duke is at a neutral site; the other three games are home games for Alabama. Really …
  2. Florida St.:  Boise St., La-Monroe, Alabama St and Florida.  Florida is a traditional game; the other three games are embarrassing choices.
  3. Ohio St.:  Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Miami (OH).  Surprise, all those games are in Columbus, OH…
  4. Oklahoma St.:  Oregon St., McNeese St. Tulsa.  A smidgen of good news here is that only the McNeese St. game is a home game for the Cowboys.
  5. Penn St.:  Idaho, Buffalo, Pitt.  All are home games; the game against Pitt is the reincarnation of what used to be a big rivalry, but still …
  6. Texas A&M:  Yes, they play Clemson out of conference.  They also chose to schedule Texas St., Lamar and Texas-San Antonio.  Please…
  7. Va Tech:  Yes, they play Notre Dame out of conference.  They also chose to schedule Old Dominion, Furman and Rhode Island.  Seriously …

Compare those out-of-conference choices with just one other team that should compete for the National Championship this year:

  • Clemson:  They play Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Syracuse and UNC-Charlotte.

Also, compare some of that cupcake scheduling against independents such as Notre Dame and BYU.  Yes, I know that Notre Dame can schedule just about anyone that it wants because it will result in a nice payday for both schools.  Nonetheless, Notre Dame could opt to schedule the Little Sisters of the Poor and Our Lady of the Amputees; the fact is that they do not, and you know they do not.  You may not be nearly as familiar with the independent schedule that BYU has assembled for itself:

  • The first four games are:  Utah, Tennessee, USC, Washington
  • It gets a tad easier after that with games against Liberty and Idaho State.

Looking over the schedules for some of the teams that appear to be “top teams” for 2019, I have identified six games in the first month of the season that should be fun to watch as well as instructive as to what may come later in the season:

  1. Oregon/Auburn (31 August):  Auburn is a competitive SEC West team and the SEC West is the best division in the best conference in the US.  Oregon has QB, Justin Herbert, returning for his senior year; he could have declared for the NFL Draft in April and might have been the first QB selected.  This is a neutral site game (Arlington, TX).
  2. LSU at Texas (September 7):  Both teams – and many of their fans – consider the Tigers and the Longhorns as serious contenders for the national championship.  I don’t agree – – but this will be an interesting game to watch just to get a yardstick on these teams.
  3. Texas A&M at Clemson (September 7):  Last year’s game was a 2-point win for Clemson.  I would not be surprised to see this game end as a “one-possession game”.  Two of the best college QBs will be on display here – – Kellen Mond for the Aggies and Trevor Lawrence for the Tigers.
  4. Washington St. at Houston (September 13):  I predict the Total Line for this game will be at least 80 points.  If you like tight defensive battles, just avert your eyes…
  5. Texas Tech at Arizona (September 14):  This should be another offensive explosion driven by the two QBs – Alan Bowman (Tech) and Khalil Tate (Arizona).
  6. Notre Dame at Georgia (September 21):  The Irish were undefeated in the regular season last year; Georgia lost twice  – once to LSU and another time to Alabama; neither loss was embarrassing.  Both teams hope to be part of the national championship conversation in November/December.

I do need to make some observations about specific teams and their prospects for the upcoming season just to prove that I can embarrass myself at the college football level as well as I do at the NFL.  So, here are five generalized team predictions (in alphabetical order) for some teams in 2019:

  1. Arizona:  The Wildcats were 5-7 last year but – presumably – they will have a healthy Khalil Tate this year.  They have a relatively soft out-of-conference lineup and the PAC-12 South is not the toughest division in the country.  I think Arizona will be a winning team in 2019.
  2. Duke:  The Blue Devils were 8-5 last year using a QB who was drafted #6 overall in this year’s NFL Draft.  Coach Cutcliffe is reputed to be a QB-whisperer; unless he has a willing and talented listener for this year’s squad, it may be a stretch to see Duke winning 8 games again this year.
  3. Kentucky:  The Wildcats were 10-3 last year and two of the three losses were to very good teams (Texas A&M and Georgia); they finished 12th in the final poll for the season.  They won playing tough defense and using a grinding offense featuring Benny Snell.  The defense may continue to be tough, but Snell and his 16 TDs are gone.  I will be surprised if Kentucky comes close to winning 10 games again this year.
  4. Nebraska:  The Huskers were 4-8 last year but they were 4-2 in the final half of their season.  Adrian Martinez developed nicely as a true freshman at QB toward the end of last year and the schedule sets up favorably in terms of home and away games.  Nebraska should be bowl eligible and may win 8 games in 2019.
  5. Tennessee:  The Vols were 5-7 last year with a new head coach and a new system.  They have a soft out-of-conference schedule that should provide 4 wins.  Their SEC schedule is difficult, but Tennessee ought to be able to win 7 games this year.

I need to mention here a specific player and program.  Jalen Hurts will be the Oklahoma starting QB after transferring there from Alabama.  Two years ago, Baker Mayfield was the starting QB there; he won the Heisman Trophy and was the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.  Last year, Kyler Murray was the starting QB there; he won the Heisman Trophy and was the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.  No pressure on Jalen Hurts this year … right …?

I need to mention here that Division III Linfield College will enter the 2019 season riding a 63-year streak of winning seasons in football dating back to 1956.  I will be keeping you abreast of their progress toward another such season in “Football Fridays” again this year.  If there is a longer streak of seasonal success in a team sport in the US, I am not aware of it.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times regarding college football – – and one of its more colorful characters:

“Washington State football coach Mike Leach, to ESPN, when asked how he’d like to be remembered when his obituary is written: ‘Well, that’s their problem … What do I care? I’m dead.’”

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



Work Together…

About a week ago, the Washington Post ran a long story on the status of the NFL/NFLPA negotiations over a new CBA under this headline and sub-head:

  • NFLPA’S Smith warns of coming labor battle – and is ready to dig in

I do not doubt that there will be acrimony in these negotiations and I do not doubt that NFLPA leader, DeMaurice Smith, will need to do more than put up a “good fight” given that he has been accused of getting a not-so-good deal for the players in the last round of negotiations.  In addition, there has been plenty of reporting over the past year or so that there is some personal animus in the relationship between Smith and NFL Commish, Roger Goodell.

However, before we get sidetracked on secondary issues such as length of practices at training camp or the number of days devoted to OTA’s in the off-season or some proposed rule change involving pass interference calls, allow me focus on the big issue first.  That big issue should lead the reporters and commentators covering these negotiations to take the advice given to Bob Woodward back in Watergate days:

  • Follow the Money

The NFL is a $15-16B enterprise, and the owners and players share that money.  THE biggest issue by far is what percentage of that money goes to the owners and what percentage goes to the players.  If the sides find a way to come to an agreement there, NO OTHER ISSUE will hold up a finalized CBA.

The second most important issue is how the NFL and the NFLPA can work TOGETHER to increase the total revenue taken in by the league.  That is important because either side can do damage to this enterprise if they go into a prolonged work stoppage and/or they engage in behaviors that turn off the fans.  The way for BOTH sides to benefit is to grow the league revenue and that means they need to work together.

The two issues outlined above can be intertwined.  As I read the current CBA – and I admit that I do not understand it fully – it seems to me that the players get 47% of one category of revenue and 48.5% of a smaller category of revenue.  Let me posit here that the players are getting 47.5% of the football revenue – however that is defined.  Obviously, each side wants a larger percentage during the life of the next CBA; moreover, the owners would like to skim some revenue off the top for things like a “stadium building and rehabilitation fund”.  The fundamental issue is that the sides may haggle over the percentage of the split, but it is in the interest of neither side to do anything that takes the game off television or takes the game off the betting boards in the various states that now allow sports betting.  To make that happen is self-immolation.

The media coverage ought not to focus on the “spoiling for a fight” aspect of these negotiations; the real story here is what are the activities going on in the background while each side holds their press conferences to air their side of the story.  Not much of substance happens in that arena; the real reporting ought to be what is happening in the talks that are taking place in private.

There is a situation ongoing in college football where – similarly – there is a relatively simple solution to a problem but any movement toward that simple solution has gotten no media traction.  The issue is the ability of players to transfer from one school to another and the waiver system that allows some of them to play without sitting out a season while others must miss a year.  Michigan coach, Jim Harbaugh, enunciated a solution that would work to resolve this issue.  Here it is:

“My opinion is that every student-athlete should have a one-time ability to transfer and will not have to sit out a year.  I’d keep the graduate-transfer rule in place that we have right now.”

That may or may not be perfect – – but it is far better than the waiver-application process via the transfer portal with subsequent approvals or denials of waiver applications by some faceless NCAA adjudication entity.  And now, here is why that simple and direct solution to this problem will never happen:

  1. The language there is clear and unambiguous.  It was stated in 34 words and not 34 pages of paragraphs and nested sub-paragraphs with multiple uses of the words, “whereas”, “however”, “moreover”, “in light of”, “accompanying” … you get the idea.
  2. More importantly, this process would require no oversight and no approval by any of the poohbahs in the NCAA hierarchy.  It would put the student-athletes in charge of their own lives/careers.  Anyone who thinks that is a prime objective at NCAA headquarters likely also thinks one needs to be a Medal of Honor recipient to order a Hero Sandwich.

As we approach August, MLB still has 5 teams on track to lose 100 games in 2019.

  1. Tigers project to lose 113 games
  2. Orioles project to lose 107 games
  3. Royals project to lose 102 games
  4. Blue Jays project to lose 101 games
  5. Marlins project to lose 100 games

Finally, here is an item I found in Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Brewers pitcher Jhoulys Chacin walked in three straight runs with the bases loaded.

“Lovers of the George Foreman Grill are just dying to know: So when is Jhoulys Chacin Wok Night?”

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



A Mixture Of Stuff …

I want to clean up some odds and ends on my clipboard today.  I’ll start with the announcements earlier this week that ESPN has added two more former football players to its commentary ranks.

  1. Mark Sanchez will call his NFL career quits and move on to the next phase of his life as a studio analyst for college football.  He will replace Mack Brown at ESPN since Brown left to take on the head coaching job at UNC.  This is a “reunion” of sorts for Sanchez.  He joins ESPN which also employs Rex Ryan as an NFL studio analyst and Ryan was Sanchez’ first coach in the NFL with the Jets.
  2. Rob Ninkovich has been out of the NFL since 2017 and he will join ESPN as an NFL studio analyst.  The announcement of his hiring indicated that he would be working on TV and on ESPN Radio.

There was not a lot of ballyhoo when NBC Sports Network hired a color analyst for its presentation of the Tour de France.  There are probably two reasons for that:

  1. The Tour de France probably draws ratings similar to infomercials for some sort of kitchen gadget that run at 3:00 AM.
  2. The analyst they hired to do commentary for a bike race was Lance Armstrong.

The analogy that leaps to mind here is that Lance Armstrong doing color commentary for the Tour de France is about as apropos as the Food Network naming Hannibal Lecter as its next Iron Chef.

Prior to the Manny Pacquiao/Keith Thurman fight last week, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the challenge facing Pacquiao (age 40) and Roger Federer (age 38) as they continue to compete against younger men in their sports:

“Ringwise: At 40, Manny Pacquiao will fight 30-year-old unbeaten American Keith Thurman on Saturday for the welterweight title. Federer is going strong at almost 38, but that doesn’t compare with what Pacquiao signed up for. Philosopher and former heavyweight Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb once said it best: ‘If you screw things up in tennis, it’s 15-0. If you screw up in boxing, it’s your ass.’”

Lorenzen Wright was a former first round pick out of Memphis by the LA Clippers in 1996.  He had a journeyman career that lasted 13 seasons.  He was found shot to death in 2010.   According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “[his] body was found riddled with gunshot wounds in a swampy field…”  I guess the police quickly ruled out the possibility of suicide.

Earlier this week, his former wife pleaded guilty to “facilitation of first-degree murder” in the matter.  That same report in the Review-Journal says that his wife masterminded a plot to kill Lorenzen Wright at his home in Atlanta but that attempt failed.  Then, his wife and another man conspired to kill Wright in Memphis which is where Wright’s body was found after he had been missing for 10 days.

Here is a link to the report in the Review-Journal.  When I read it, my reaction was along the lines of – – you have got to be bleeping kidding me…

Moving on to a topic related to today’s NBA, the current CBA there allows for something called a supermax contract to be awarded to players who meet certain criteria.  The idea is a good one; the results have been not-so-good.  The idea was to reward veteran players who are of star-caliber to sign contracts worth up to 35% of the team salary cap.  To qualify for such a supermax, here is what the player needs to do:

  • The player must be on the team that owns their rookie rights.
  • The player must have completed 8 years in the NBA
  • The player must have achieved at least one of these honors along the way – won the MVP Award in any of the previous 3 seasons – or – won Defensive Player of the Year in the year before the supermax is negotiated or won it in the two previous seasons to the negotiation – or – made one of the All-NBA Teams in the year prior to the supermax negotiations.

Those are stringent requirements; as you might expect, there are not a lot of supermax contracts out there.  The problem here is that there are five supermax contracts out there and two of them are – candidly – “albatross contracts”.

  • John Wall is signed for 4 years and $171M by the Wizards.  He is injured and will miss all next year; his value to a team is totally dependent on his speed and the injury is to his foot and Achilles tendon.  Assuming he returns to play in the Fall of 2020, he will be 30 years old at the time.
  • Russell Westbrook is signed for 5 years and $206.8M.  His value to a team depends on his athleticism; he is 30 years old now.  He was recently traded from the Thunder to the Rockets demonstrating to my mind that the Thunder recognized that he might not be worth the sort of financial commitment they made to him.

My problem with the concept behind the supermax goes beyond the devastation it can wreak on a team when something like an injury corrals 35% of their salary cap space.  My problem is that the third criterion above depends on the vote of media personnel to qualify a player for a supermax deal.  Why is that a good idea?

Finally, here is an observation related to the NBA by Brad Rock of the Deseret News:

“NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at a press conference that he values a competitive balance among teams, whereby ‘strong management is rewarded.’

“Knicks: ‘What are YOU lookin’ at?’”

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



A Sports Management Experiment

Back in early April, the Washington Wizards fired GM, Ernie Grunfeld; most Wizards fans – there are still a few of them around – figured it was about time.  Then, the Wizards either did not or could not find a GM to replace Grunfeld; they went through the Draft and through free agency with an Acting GM – the guy who was Grunfeld’s second-in command.  Yesterday, after more than 100 days in limbo, the announcement came about the new regime in Washington.  Let me tell you what the change is and then get to what it may mean.

The Wizards are owned by an entity called Monumental Sports and Entertainment.  Ted Leonsis is the major domo there.  The Washington Capitals also come under this umbrella as do some other sporting properties.  Yesterday’s announcement was a reorganization of not just the Wizards’ front office but all Monumental Sports and Entertainment.

  • They have created something they will call Monumental Basketball under that umbrella entity.  Monumental Basketball will be comprised of the Wizards, the Mystics (WNBA), the Capital City Go-Go (G-League) and District Gaming (the NBA2K video game team participating in esports).
  • They named Tommy Sheppard – the guy who has been the Acting GM for the last 3.5 months – as the GM of this new Monumental Basketball entity.  Joining him will be Sashi Brown who has NFL executive credentials as the chief planning and operations officer, Daniel Medina as the chief of athlete care, John Thompson III as leader of “athlete development and engagement” and Sashia Jones who has been with the Mystics as head of community relations.

[Sashi Brown’s “NFL executive credentials” include being the GM of the Cleveland Browns for almost two seasons while the Browns’ record sunk to 1-27.]

This is a new organizational structure for an NBA franchise; Ted Leonsis comes from the corporate world and has done lots of things “differently” over the course of his career in that world along with his time in the sports world.  Leonsis said that he had spoken with lots of folks over the past 3 months about what to do with the Wizards’ organization.  Here is an interesting quotation:

“The most interesting conversations I was having was with people with the league.  The leagues are now being filled with executives leading basketball operations that came from business.  So, I said, ‘Why can’t we do both?’  Why can’t we make big investments and go deep in basketball and then bring people into that tangential experience, but they’re really, really smart and they add a lot of value?”

Well, since no one has tried that before, that ultimate question has no answer yet.  Moreover, it may not have an answer for several years as one sees how the fortunes of the multiple entities under Monumental Basketball perform vis á vis their peers.  Leonsis heralds the diversity of this management team – in terms of race, gender and background expertise – as an asset for Monumental Basketball that is not present elsewhere.  Time will tell if that asset provides tangible returns or if that asset is only rhetorical.

Fans and local commentators tend to see this move as a plus.  After all, the standard NBA model of hiring a GM who hires a coach and letting those guys run the show the way they see fit has not worked at all for the Wizards.  The last time the Wizards – or the Bullets before the team changed its name in 1996 – ever advanced beyond the first round of the NBA Playoffs was in 1978/79.  Leonsis took control of the team after the 2010 season; since then the Wizards’ record has been 327-396; if the objective were mediocrity, the Wizards would be highly successful.  So, here is the deal as I see it:

  • Scenario 1:  This is Ted Leonsis thinking outside the box one more time.  He finally gave up on Ernie Grunfeld and in the process of making that decision he also began to think about other ways to organize the Wizards and that led him to think about the other basketball entities under his control.  He has had management successes in the past; this is an experiment worth trying; the Wizards may leapfrog the rest of the NBA in terms of innovative strategies.
  • Scenario 2:  After giving up on Ernie Grunfeld, Ted Leonsis tried to hire a new GM but was unsuccessful.  After using Tommy Sheppard as the Acting GM to run the Draft and free agency, he needed to do something more than just naming Sheppard as the GM going forward lest anyone ask what took him so long.  And thus was born this new structure that contains paeans to “collaboration” and “diversity” and …  This is a face-saving move for Leonsis and will quietly be deconstructed over time.

At the MLB Hall of Fame induction ceremony last weekend, there were 6 inductees.  That meant the people in attendance needed the patience of Job to sit through the introductory and acceptance speeches.  However, the folks who organized the day made a symbolic and strategic decision that worked perfectly:

  • Mariano Rivera – the only player elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame and the best closer in the history of MLB – spoke last.  He closed out the ceremony.


Finally, consider this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A message in a bottle — dropped overboard by a teen boy in 1969 — finally washed up on shore in South Australia.

“In other words, aimlessly adrift at sea only two years less than the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

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



Politics, Sociology – – And Sports…

I really prefer to steer clear of political commentary and topics with a huge political overhang here, but Dan LeBatard put such a topic front and center last week on his daily ESPN Radio program.  Responding to the political rally in which President Trump’s supporters chanted “Send her back…” referring to a freshman member of the US House of representatives, LeBatard had this to say:

“It is so wrong, what the president of our country is doing trying to get reelected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man – the old rich white man – feels oppressed, being attacked by minorities.”

And …

“And we here at ESPN don’t have the stomach for the fight.  We don’t talk about what is happening unless there is some sort of weak, cowardly sports angles we can run it through.”

That second quote refers to ESPN’s directive to employees that it is not their job to cover politics; they are an entertainment and sports network.

One bit of information you need to know as background for those comments is that Dan LeBatard’s parents came to the US as Cuban refugees more than 50 years ago.  And the other thing you should know is that the reaction to his commentary bifurcated into the two “camps” that you would expect here;

  • Camp 1:  You are hosting a sports show not a political or social commentary show.  Stick to your knitting and talk about sports; that is what your audience tuned in to hear.
  • Camp 2:  When a societal issue is important to you and you have a platform to make your views known, you have the right to do so and you have a responsibility to do so for the benefit of society at large.

Here is my problem:

  • There is merit to the positions taken by both camps.  If I tune into the Dan LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio, I do so with the intent of hearing about sports and/or some sort of wacky happening somewhere that has some tangential connection with sports.  If I want to listen to social/political commentary, I can easily find it on NPR on my radio.
  • In many cases where a sports commentator veers off into social/political commentary, I always ask myself what credentials that person brings to the discussion other than a live microphone.  That often ends the “controversy” for me as I proceed to ignore much of what is said.  However, in this case, Dan LeBatard is a first-generation American born of immigrant parents; he has background that lends credence to his feelings.

The controversy here is magnified by the ESPN policy of “sticking to sports”.  As is often the case when there is an intersection between sports and sociopolitical issues, Sally Jenkins provided a very reasoned and dispassionate perspective in the Washington PostHere is a link to her column from 20 July; I recommend that you read it in its entirety.

There is an adage that says, “In for a dime; in for a dollar.”  This isn’t a poker game, but I will reference that adage and turn to one more issue where sports and politics intersect these days.  In the wake of the USWNT’s World Cup win and their fight for equal pay, it did not take long for a Presidential Candidate to take up their cause.  Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) grabbed onto that equal pay cause and expanded it to say that there need be an examination of the pay inequity that exists between the NBA and the WNBA.  Senator Klobuchar has enunciated some reasonable positions and proposals as part of her campaign to be the Democratic nominee in 2020.  However, the idea that there needs to be some sort of pay equity balancing between the NBA and the WNBA is patently ridiculous when one compares the revenue generated by the two entities.

Over and above the business aspects of that debate, it should not be forgotten that the WNBA was formed by the NBA and bankrolled by the NBA through at least a decade of red ink for the WNBA.  There is a reasonable argument to be made that the WNBA would not exist in the form that it does today without the “largesse” of the NBA and former Commissioner, David Stern.

There is another complicating factor in the “equal pay” contretemps ongoing between the USWNT and the US Soccer mavens.  There was an extensive report in the LA Times written by Kevin Baxter about a week ago that makes the case that the “equal pay” controversy is much more complicated than it has been made out to be.  At one point, Baxter points out that the women are currently paid more than the men’s team is paid under certain circumstances.  Here is a link to that LA Times report; once again, I suggest that you read it to get a deeper understanding of the issues that will hopefully be resolved in mediation very soon.

Finally, I have had enough serious stuff today; so, here is a Tweet from humor writer Brad Dickson to lighten the mood a bit:

“Now that the Wallendas have walked across Times Square on a tightrope they’re planning their next, even more dangerous stunt: to check it at a resort in the Dominican Republic and stay for a full week.”

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



NBA Matters…

CBSSports.com had a report yesterday that former NBA All-Star and former Utah Jazz long-term coach, Jerry Sloan, is dying of Parkinson’s and dementia.  Jerry Sloan was the coach of the Utah Jazz from 1988 to 2011.  Here are some overviews of that coaching career:

  • In those 23 seasons, the Jazz had exactly 1 season with a .500 record.
  • In those 23 seasons, the Jazz had exactly 2 seasons with a record below .500
  • The Jazz made the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons from 1989 to 2003
  • His record with the Jazz was 1163 – 675

Jerry Sloan is in the Hall of Fame as a coach and certainly deserves to be there.  For me, Jerry Sloan was also the kind of player I loved to watch as a younger fan.  He was a defensive stand-out making the NBA First Team All-Defensive Team 4 times.  Never did I see him play at anything less than 100% effort in all his years with the Chicago Bulls as a player.

Jerry Sloan never possessed physical skills that were the equals of those of many of his contemporaries in the NBA from the mid-60s through the mid-70s.  However, it is interesting to contemplate how great some of today’s players might become if they played with the intensity and focus that Jerry Sloan put forth on the court when he was in the game.

Boy, I wish that the CBSSports.com story turns out to be wrong…

Let me stay with the NBA for a moment here…  In all the major US sports, there are a handful of team owners who stand out as negative examples regarding what a successful and fan-friendly owner ought to be.  Here are some examples:

  • In MLB “recent history” consider Marge Schott
  • In current MLB, consider Peter Angelos
  • In NFL “history” consider Jerry Wolman
  • In NFL “recent history” consider the Al Davis of the current millennium
  • In the current NFL, consider Danny Boy Snyder

In the NBA, however, there is only one gold standard that spans the history of the league.  That would be James Dolan – owner of the NY Knicks and Madison Square Garden.  James Dolan does not merely annoy/irritate Knicks’ fans; James Dolan infuriates them, insults their intelligence, and dips ever deeper into their pockets for his own financial benefit.  Other than that, he’s a great owner…

I do not have the time or the inclination to list all of the atrociously stupid decisions that the Knicks’ management has made in the last couple of decades, so let me just hit the high notes here:

  • The Knicks thought singing Jerome James to a long-term deal was a good idea.
  • The Knicks saw trading to acquire Carmelo Anthony was a good idea.
  • The Knicks hired Isiah Thomas to run the operation and that turned out to be a disaster on several fronts.
  • The Knicks hired Phil Jackson to “fix everything”.  Then, after it was clear that Jackson’s “vision” getting the team nowhere, the Knicks extended his contract before firing him and paying him the extended money he was owed.
  • The Knicks banned one of their former star players – – Charles Oakley – – from Madison Square Garden because he dared to say publicly that James Dolan did not know what the Hell he was doing and ought to sell the team.

James Dolan is not merely some rich kid who found himself in the ownership position of this franchise; James Dolan – to Knick fans – is “The Enemy” – – or at the very least, “The Bad Guy” in a long-running serial wherein the Knicks never succeed.

Take a look at the Knicks’ “strategy” over the past season:

  • They traded away Kristaps Porzingas – their best young player by a mile-and-a-half – because he was unhappy with his contract situation.  That trade got them Dennis Smith, Jr. who is a good player but not a very good player nor nearly a great player.  Plus, it got the Knicks a ton of salary cap room that they planned – less than privately – to use on at least one if not two free agents this summer.
  • They also tanked the 2018/19 season to get – hopefully – the overall #1 pick in the Draft to take Zion Williamson.  That did not work.
  • The Knicks and their cap space got exactly none of the myriad top-shelf free agents that changed teams this summer.  They wound up spending their money on bargain-basement free agents such as Julius Randle and even lesser lights.  Top-shelf free agents never gave the Knicks an interview opportunity.

Of course, James Dolan’s underlings who run and manage the Knicks on a day-to-day basis must shoulder a lot of the blame for the current malaise of the franchise.  At the same time, folks have to realize that there is one single continuous presence that connects all the dots in all the scenarios that have unfolded here and that presence is James Dolan.

I am not going to waste my time telling Knicks’ fans to keep their voices up urging Dolan to sell the team.  Such advice would be about as useful as directing a eunuch to a whorehouse.  However, I would offer this suggestion to fans of the Knicks – – or fans of the Orioles in MLB or the Skins in the NFL:

  • Your odious and incompetent owner enjoys two things – – the profits he gets from his sporting enterprise and the social stature that he obtains simply by being the owner of that sporting enterprise.
  • You – and the rest of your cohort fans – cannot realistically deny him his profits.  It would take a moron to lose money given the business situations of those teams and none of those owners are morons.
  • You can, however, deny him social stature.  Whenever the owner shows up at a game, if everyone in the stadium/arena would stand and point to him and chant “Ass – – Hole” – instead of “Air – – Ball” – that might make his social stature a bit less lofty.  Doing this on a nationally televised game – – such as the Knicks’ guaranteed game on Christmas Day – – would certainly get the sports media talking about the fan “uprising” …

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News had the opportunity to cover the Utah Jazz under Jerry Sloan and he had a comment recently that pertained to the NY Knicks.  Ergo, he is the perfect way to end today’s rant:

“A restaurant in Thailand is encouraging patrons to climb into a coffin so they can experience ‘death awareness’.

“Or they can just attend a Knicks game.”

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



Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

There is a famous logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc.  That translates from the Latin to “After that, therefore because of that”.  It is the basis of many superstitions such as growing a “playoff beard” because so long as a player is growing it, the team stays in the playoffs.  The most obvious example of this as a logical fallacy would be this:

  • Roosters crow just before sunrise – – therefore – – roosters crowing causes the sun to rise in the morning.

I mention this because it was only two days ago when I commented on the WNBA allowing two of its players to continue to play in the league despite domestic violence allegations against those players.  Today comes news that one of those players has now been suspended.  Let me be clear; my rant from 48 hours ago did not have anything to do with the suspension announced yesterday.

Let me fill in the details of the allegation and charges levied against Riquna Williams, guard for the LA Sparks.

  • On 29 April 2019 – – before the WNBA season began – – Ms. Williams was arrested and charged with assault on one individual and the threat of violence against another individual involving a firearm.
  • The arrest report says Ms. Williams forcibly entered a Florida home and struck her girlfriend, Alkeria Davis, multiple times.  Two men on the scene broke up the fight between the two women whereupon Ms. Williams took a gun from her car, placed it on the hood of her car pointed at one of the men and said “you’ll get all 18” – – referring to the number of rounds in the magazine of that firearm.
  • The case is wending its way through the judicial system; Ms. Williams has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.  Until yesterday, she was playing full-time for the LA Sparks.

As I said previously, Ms. Williams is innocent until proven guilty.  Period.  Nonetheless, imagine that the same behavior was exhibited by an NBA guard before the start of next NBA season and that the NBA guard continued to play in an uninterrupted mode until about the All-Star Break which is about the same fraction of the season that Ms. Williams was able to play for the Sparks this year.

Because there is potential victimhood on both sides of this equation – the alleged aggressor is a woman and not a male athlete – the union representing WNBA players has immediately filed a grievance on behalf of Ms. Williams asserting that she has not yet had sufficient time to defend herself against these charges that she denies having committed.  The union wants the league to continue to “look the other way” while the judicial processes take their course.  If – I SAID IF – it turns out that Ms. Williams did exactly what was alleged in the arresting officer’s report, I shall not hold my breath until the union says that it is sorry to have taken the side of a felonious abuser in this matter.  It is possible for “both sides” to act more precipitously in matters such as these.

The league suspension is for 10 games – – not a suspension until the justice system plays itself out.  And therein lies a possible way to handle situations akin to this one;

  • When a player is arrested and charged with crimes, the player can and should be suspended with his/her pay placed in escrow.  If the player is found innocent or if the charges are dropped by the prosecutors, then the player is immediately reinstated, and he/she gets the entirety of the escrow account plus accrued interest.
  • If the player pleads out to lesser charges, he/she may be reinstated – – depending on the severity of the “lesser charges” – but in any case, 90% of the escrow account would be paid to the league as a fine.
  • If the player and the accuser reach a settlement, that is a form of admission of some guilt in the matter so 50% of the escrow account will be forfeited.
  • If the player is found guilty of the crime, he/she loses all the escrowed account plus then should serve a suspension that counts against any future earnings.

These provisions – if entered into a CBA – would make it in the best interest of an innocent athlete to get the process over with as soon as possible and not drag out the process until the next off-season.

Ms. Williams’ grievance matter will go before an arbitrator.  Here are two questions that I would have for the union attorney representing Ms. Williams were I the arbitrator:

  1. Other than the fact that Ms. Williams is a dues-paying member of your union, why do you believe her side of this story as opposed to the allegations of the victims here?
  2. What new knowledge of this incident do you have that the police do not have – – and if you have such information, why have you not shared it with the police?

Now you know why I would never be agreeable to either side as an arbitrator for such disputes even though I have had some experience in similar matters in my professional life prior to retiring and taking up Internet ranting…

Switching gears …  Many people have been predicting the demise of football as evidence rolls in that concussions and head trauma have serious effects on players later in life.  According to many of these seers, the way football will wither on the vine is that there will not be sufficient numbers of players at the high school and college levels to support the NFL’s “habit” and that mothers around the country will prevent their sons from playing football.  It is the sociological outcome of the old song:

  • “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be [Dallas] Cowboys…”

In a report in the Toledo Blade earlier this month, there may be a first sign that such a trend may be building.  Toledo Christian High School will have to try to play “8-man football” this season because only 15 kids turned out for the football team at the school – – and 5 of those 15 players were rising freshmen.  Eight-man football is a thriving sport in nearby Michigan where 77 schools field 8-man teams and there are state level tournaments at the end of the season for “8-man football” as well as “11-man football”.

Finally, since I began today with the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and how it sometimes is used to justify superstitions, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Belief:  An absolute certainty that something is true.  Can range from one’s opinion as to whether there is a God to the firm conviction that space aliens are sending coded messages through your fillings.”

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



RIP Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker died earlier this week in Virginia Beach.  He was run over by a car as a pedestrian.  Whitaker was an Olympic Gold Medalist in 1984 – a boxing teammate of Evander Holyfield – and as a professional he was lightweight and welterweight champions.

Rest in peace, Pernell Whitaker…

I sent an e-mail to Gregg Drinnan thanking him for posting one of Jim Murray’s classic columns about DelMar racetrack.  In his response, he alerted me to a situation that is playing out in Canada today; I was totally unaware of this until his note arrived.  Here is the message:

“Big controversy up here right now that you may not be aware of. Calgary Stampede wrapped up Sunday. All told, the chuckwagon races claimed six horses. . . . Check out Calgary Herald or Calgary Sun websites. . . . Animal rights people going crazy. Stampede people and rodeo fans in full damage control.”

Indeed, the letters to the editor published lately in the Calgary Sun show the emotions running high on this issue.  Here is a link to some of those letters:

ESPN is in the news today with two recent announcements;

  1. The newest member of the ESPN college football announcing roster is Ryan Leaf.  Yes, that Ryan Leaf.  He has battled and seemingly overcome his addiction issues and has been working in the “sports media” field for a while on a local basis.  He will be paired with Clay Matvick on play-by-play as he does color analysis for some college games on the ESPN family of networks.  [Aside:  I must confess that I do not know Clay Matvick from a clay pigeon.]
  2. In October, ESPN is planning to launch a new podcast whose purpose will be to focus on sports news with in-depth analysis and discussion by a varying group of participants dictated by the topic.  The idea is to bring thoughtfulness and intelligence to bear on sports topics.  This sounds like podcast I might subscribe to – – if I can get #2 son to show me how to do such a thing.  This link will tell you more about this new upcoming programming:

At the recently concluded SEC Media Day, the SEC Commissioner, Greg Sankey, linked together sports betting and the mental health of athletes.  Since I did not see an immediate connection there, I went to find out how he made that linkage.  Sankey is firmly opposed to any sort of in-game wagering (which is coming to most sports) and to proposition betting (which has existed for decades with regard to many sports including college football).  He forges the link between sports betting and mental health along this axis:

  • Athletes may experience more pressure/anxiety in attempting a field goal in football or a 3-point shot in basketball knowing that the success or failure of such an attempt could change the betting outcome of the game.

I understand that Commissioner Sankey would prefer never to have a farthing be wagered on a college football game involving an SEC team.  Notwithstanding that strong preference, the reality is that loads and loads of dollars and dollar-equivalents have been and will continue to be wagered on SEC games.  Now considering that reality, let me offer two scenarios here and then pose a question related to ‘mental health”:

  • Scenario 1:  Team A leads Team B 21-20 with 5 seconds left to play.  Team B is attempting a field goal from the 35-yardline; the kicker has made field goas from as long as 50 yards in this season.  If the field goal is good, Team B wins; if the field goal is not good, Team B loses.
  • Scenario 2:  Team A is favored to beat Team B by 7 points.  Team A leads Team B by a score of 26-20 with 1-minute left to play and Team A is about to attempt a 35-yard field goal to put them up by 9 points.  Given the time, a made field goal almost assuredly gives Team A the win; a made field goal also gives Team A an excellent chance of covering the spread.

Given those scenarios, why does the kicker in Scenario 1 (no bets on the game) feel any more or any less pressure than does the kicker in Scenario 2?  It seems to me that any attempt to score points in an athletic contest involves pressure and produces anxiety if the attempt is unsuccessful.  Conversely, a successful attempt produces joy/exhilaration/etc.  I think Commissioner Sankey is off his tether on this issue.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“According to Le’Veon Bell’s 911 call, the last time the Jets running back saw those two ‘girlfriends’ who allegedly stole $500,000 of his stuff, he was leaving for the gym and they were still naked in his bed.

“In other words: Bares 2, Jet 0.”

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



The Sound Of Silence …

Sometimes silence is very loud.  There is a situation in the sporting world today where the silence is very loud indeed.  A WNBA player has been accused of domestic violence by her wife and the reaction of the team and the WNBA is to have that player continue to play while they investigate.  According to one report, Natasha Howard allegedly stabbed her wife, Jacquline Howard.  In a separate incident, another WNBA player Riquna Williams stands accused of domestic violence from an incident about 6 months ago and Ms. Williams continues to play WNBA games as well.

  • Ms. Howard is innocent until proven guilty.  Period.
  • Ms. Williams is innocent until proven guilty.  Period.

Ms. Williams was accused of a violent interaction with her ex-girlfriend about six months ago.  That incident resulted in charges of burglary with assault and battery and aggravated assault with a firearm.  Ms. Williams has plead not guilty to all charges here and the case is proceeding through the court system.

Neither the WNBA nor the individual teams in the WNBA have any legal responsibility to suspend either player here but the WNBA has the authority to choose to do so.  It has not taken that option in either case.  And that is where the silence comes into the picture:

  • Where are the protestors and demonstrators who always say that the victim must be heard and believed and respected in such situations when the aggressor is a male athlete?

Natasha Howard is a former WNBA All-Star.  Imagine if this were an NBA player of “All-Star stature” who stood accused of such behavior and who just continued to play on.  Riquna Williams’ case is further along in the justice system and the charges there are chilling to say the least and she just plays on.  Do you think there might be an outcry if this were an NFL or an NBA player in that situation?

There are many situations where the decisions reached in the justice system and the decisions reached in the “court of public opinion” are not congruent.  That could be a powerful argument for the WNBA and for the individual teams to wait until all the facts become known in the courts before issuing punishments.  However, that argument would never hold water in a matter where an NFL or NBA player threatened a woman with a firearm or allegedly stabbed a woman.  In that case, there would be an outcry in the press and in demonstrations and in threats of boycotts and …  Here, there is silence on the part of the advocates for victims and the protestors and – most importantly – on the part of the reporters who champion victims’ rights when the aggressor is a male.

Hopefully, this next item will be a tad more upbeat – – but in the end it may not.  Saratoga opened its annual summer meeting in upstate NY last week and Del Mar will open its summer meeting “where the surf meets the turf” in CA this week.  I have always said that there are the two best racetracks and race meetings in the country and it’s a shame that they have to overlap – – but that is how it is.  The sport of horseracing needs thee two meetings to accomplish two things for the sport this year:

  1. Provide the racing fans with topflight races involving some of the best thoroughbreds in training that reveal good wagering opportunities for bettors.
  2. Take the focus of the attention paid to horseracing now away from the horrendous events at Santa Anita over the past 6 or 7 months.

Based on previous race meetings, the two tracks will almost certainly accomplish the first task above.  The second one …?

While the baseball world focused on the MLB All-Star Game recently, ESPN reported on a happening in a far less visible baseball All-Star game.  MLB and the independent Atlantic League have an agreement whereby new rules and new game management procedures will be tried out in the Atlantic League.  Essentially, MLB is paying the Atlantic League to be the equivalent of a “baseball Petri dish” to try out “new stuff”.  The Atlantic League All-Star Game rolled out one of the “new things”; it used a computer umpire to call balls and strikes.  There was still an umpire at home plate, but he had an earpiece that gave him the computer’s call when he then announced to the players and fans.  [Aside:  The home plate computer umpire was not there to make safe versus out calls at home plate or to judge half-swings by batters, so a human was still required in that position.]  The umpire is also there to make the call himself if the system misses the pitch or does not make a call; in essence, the home plate umpire is the “fail-safe system”.

The Atlantic League announced that it would use “Robot Umpires” in all its games in all of its parks starting in a few weeks.  The season for the Atlantic League runs through the third week of September so there will be more than a few games using the radar/computer system to call balls and strikes for analysis at the end of that season.  Perhaps in the future, fans will have to modify their cry to “Kill the umpire!”.

  • How about “Jam the radar!”

Finally, Greg Cote had this grim but accurate observation in the Miami Herald over the weekend:

“Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league is underway. That’s where old former players try to show a disinterested NBA they’ve still got it. It’s called the Big3 because ‘Has-Beens On Parade’ sounded a bit harsh.”

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