Wimbledon Finals

I tuned in about 5 minutes late to watch the Ladies’ Final at Wimbledon over the weekend.  Serena Williams was a heavy favorite to win her 24th Grand Slam Tournament and I thought it would be worth the 60-90 minutes it would take to see her achievement.  I pretty much had the time estimate right; the match lasted an hour, but the winner was Simona Halep in straight sets, 6-2 and 6-2.  History was not made in this Finals match – unless you count the fact that this is Halep’s first win at Wimbledon – but hers was a dominant performance, nonetheless.

I was much later tuning into the Men’s Final at Wimbledon; it was the beginning of the third set when I looked in.  This match was anything but a one-sided domination; Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer “traded haymakers” for the next three sets and the outcome was in doubt until the last “game” of the final set.  The final scoring summary for the match was 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12 (7-3).

Congratulations to Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic.  I enjoyed watching both of these Final’s matches…

Former Mets’ pitcher and current baseball TV analyst, Ron Darling, wrote a book called 108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game.  In that oeuvre, Ron Darling had some less-than-wonderful things to say about his former Mets teammate Lenny Dykstra.  According to the book Dykstra went into full racist-mode against “Oil Can” Boyd who was a starter for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series between the Mets and the Sox.  Dykstra proceeded to sue Darling for defamation of character saying that Darling made up the whole story.

My expectation in situations such as this is that some sort of “financial accommodation” is reached between the parties and everything just recedes quietly into history.  It appears that is not going to happen here.

Darling’s lawyers just filed a motion with the judge hearing this case to dismiss the entire matter.  Here are two points made by Darling’s lawyers:

“Dykstra is a classic libel-proof plaintiff, whose reputation is so bad that he simply cannot be defamed.”

And …

“[Dykstra’s] overwhelming and uncontradictable public record evidence by authors, journalists and Dykstra himself in an autobiography demonstrates on the basis of his own misconduct and words and the public record of them Dykstra has already placed an ‘irremovable stain and permanent cloud’ on his own reputation.”

The reference above to Dykstra’s autobiography, House of Nails, is interesting because in that book Dykstra admits that he has engaged in blackmail/extortion at points in his life.  The quoted part above about an “irremovable stain and permanent cloud” on Dykstra’s public reputation comes from the assertions made in Dykstra’s lawsuit that started this entire exchange.

Next up … Len Dykstra will claim that he was misquoted in his autobiography about that extortion stuff.  That will be an interesting thing for the judge to contemplate…

Last week, there was a report out of the talks between the NFL and the NFLPA regarding a new CBA that the NFL owners have not given up on the idea of an 18-game regular season.  According to reports, the current proposal – presumably tailored to accommodate the players’ lack of interest in such an expansion – is that no player would be allowed to participate in more than 16 of the 18 games.  This is a bad idea on multiple levels:

  • Let me use the LA Rams as an example.  Twice in an 18-game season, Rams’ fans – and their opponent’s fans – would not get to watch Jared Goff play.  Instead they could see Blake Bortles or Brandon Allen or John Wolford play QB.  If the Rams’ opponent also opted to sit the starter in that game, you would have the moral equivalent of another NFL Exhibition Game counting toward playoff status.
  • Much of the dominance of the NFL in the US sports landscape centers on the wagering possibilities and the wagering interest.  Randomly inserting subs into lineups cannot enhance the “wagering experience”.  When I was growing up, this sort of behavior was referred to as “pissing in the soup”.

The lure here – obviously – is that an 18-game season will generate more TV money because there will be more games to put on TV; there is nothing more behind such a proposal.  Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope math for a moment.

  • The schedule would increase by 12.5%.  Let’s assume that means TV revenue would also grow by 12.5%.  [It could grow by a bigger percentage since new TV deals will be coming up in a couple of years, but hold that thought…]
  • Almost half of that revenue would require the salary cap – and salary floor – for every team to go up by the amount of the increase.
  • Assume for a moment that the salary cap comes from the TV money.  Currently, that cap is set at $188M.  That means the salary cap would go up by $11.75M per team just due to the added TV money.  That is money in the players’ pockets for every year that the 18-game season continues to exist.
  • And, don’t forget, the owners pocket the same added $11.75M because they get to keep the “other half” of the added TV revenue.

I have proposed this before, and I think my idea is a better one if the league wants to go to 18 games and the players want some accommodation regarding injuries and fatigue.

  • Play 18 regular season games AND give each team 2 BYE weeks.  That extends the regular season by 3 weeks.  The accommodation for that is to start the season one-week earlier than current scheduling; eliminate the useless empty week in the playoff schedule and move the Super Bowl back one week in February.
  • Any team playing on Thursday night will get one of its BYE weeks the week before that Thursday night game – – except for the first one of the year of course.
  • Eliminate the rule about dressing only some of the squad for each game.  Everyone on the roster who can walk should be dressed for the game; they do not have to be used, but they should all be available.
  • Using players on the “practice squad” should also be allowable and the two sides need to address how to compensate any “practice squad players” who are pressed into service in a real game.

My proposal here only applies if the lure of that TV money is too much for the two sides to ignore.  I am perfectly happy with the 16-game season as it stands.  The only change I would make there is putting in the 2 BYE weeks per team which would allow the “Thursday night participants” to avoid the dreaded 3-day turnaround for regular season games.

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“Countdown:  Switching from sport to religion, there are only 8 more Sundays until the first NFL Sunday.”

That reminds me; I gotta get cracking on those NFL season predictions…

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



NBA, MLB And NCAA – – Alphabet Soup

There was another NBA trade yesterday involving top-shelf players.  The Houston Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook from the OKC Thunder in exchange for Chris Paul, 2 first round picks and the Thunder’s option to switch first round picks in 2 other years.  Adding up all the Thunder’s trades this offseason, I believe they now have 7 additional first round picks – over and above the ones they would naturally get every year – between now and 2026.  My guess is that if the Thunder scouts and GM know what they are doing, the Thunder ought to be awfully good by 2028.

I also think that the Rockets resolved an internal problem with this trade.  Paul and James Harden appeared to have a conflict going on in Houston and if the team was going to have to choose between them, then it was Paul that had to go.  Given Paul’s monstrous contract, trading him was not going to be an easy pull; getting a top-shelf player in return is a big plus for the Houston braintrust.

Beyond that, this trade makes little sense to me.

  • James Harden and Russell Westbrook both need the ball to be the excellent players that they are.  There is only one ball in play in a game.
  • Unless the Thunder has a way to trade Chris Paul on to some other team that wants a short-term solution at point guard, I have no idea what the Thunder think he can do with what is left of the squad in OKC.

MLB returns to action after its All-Star break and there are several things to pay attention to for the rest of this MLB season – – in addition to the record of your favorite team:

  • When a team loses 100 games in a season, its winning percentage is .383.  As the second half of the season begins, there are 5 teams in MLB with winning percentages below .383 for the first half of the season.  Four of those five teams are in the AL (Baltimore, Detroit, KC and Toronto).
  • Two teams (Baltimore and Detroit) have run differential stats that are frightening.  The O’s run differential is minus-165 runs; the Tigers run differential is minus-159 runs.  The third worst team (Royals) are only at minus-90 runs.  Scary…

MLB will have only one trade deadline this year and that will be on 31 July.  There will not be any phony waiver deals in August as there have been in the past.  I think this is a good move by MLB; it makes the GMs earn their keep instead of being able to buy their way out of mistakes and misfortunes up until Labor Day.

I don’t want you to get the idea that there are only negative things to pay attention to in MLB for the rest of the season.  Here are some very positive things that could happen:

  • The division race in the NL Central is great right now.  The Cubs are in first place and the Reds are in the basement there.  Nonetheless, the separation between first place and last place is only 4.5 games.  Is any team here going to make break from the pack or will this one go into September with all 5 teams having a shot?
  • Winning a Triple Crown is a rare thing.  The last player to do that was Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and before that it was Yaz in 1967.  This year, there are 3 players in the NL who are contending for that honor.  Cody Bellinger is hitting .336 with 30 HRs and 71 RBIs.  Josh Bell is hitting .302 with 27 HRs and 84 RBIs.  Christian Yelich is hitting .329 with 31 HRs and 67 RBIs.  Keep an eye on all three …
  • The Tampa Rays continue to play excellent baseball despite having the lowest total payroll on Opening Day of this year.  The Rays are 52-39; they are in the “first wild-card slot” today; they project to win 93 games this year.  Notwithstanding their on-field performance, the Rays continue to have difficulty at the gate.  They rank 29th in average attendance drawing only an average of 15,484 fans per game.  That is a shame; the local fans are missing out on some fine baseball…

Yesterday, I ran across a story that demonstrates that the NCAA continues to have rules that do not make sense in all situations.  Here is the start of the AP report:

“Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt committed a minor NCAA violation earlier this year by tweeting out his congratulations when the high school he attended won an Alabama state basketball title.

“Pruitt tweeted ‘Congratulations Robi Coker and Plainview High School on back to back State Championships! #2muchblue #PLV’ on March 1. The tweet was deleted 37 minutes later, after a compliance official noted that it constituted an impermissible endorsement of a high school team and its coach.”

A college football coach congratulating the high school basketball team where he went to high school for winning two consecutive state championships and mentioning the coach of that team in the process of offering the congratulations constitutes a “Level III violation” of NCAA rules.  Would it be the same if he congratulated the marching band from his former high school for winning two straight state championships?  How dumb is this?  It is NCAA-dumb!

Finally, I got this one from a former colleague:

“A golfer walks into the pro shop and asks the golf pro if they sell ball markers. The golf pro says they do, and they cost $1.00. The guy gives the golf pro a dollar.

“The golf pro opens the register, puts the dollar in, and hands him a dime to use as the marker.

“This economic model is also used by governments.”

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



RIP Jim Bouton

Jim Bouton passed away at the age of 80 this week.  His career in MLB was ordinary; he won 62 games and he lost 63 games; his career ERA was 3.57; after an 8-year gap in playing, he tried a comeback that lasted part of the 1978 season.  What distinguished Jim Bouton in “baseball legend” was the book he wrote, Ball Four.  If you have not read Ball Four and you are a baseball fan, you should do so.

The book stems from a written and audio diary that Bouton kept during his season with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969.  [Aside: The team would move to Milwaukee and become the Brewers in 1970; the Pilots were a sorry bunch.]  In those days, there was little if any interest shown by baseball writers to describe/expose the behaviors of baseball players in any venue other than on the field.  Ball Four changed that.

Rest in peace, Jim Bouton.

As the Green Bay Packers prepare to open training camp in about 2 weeks, the competition to be the guy who stands by and watches Aaron Rodgers play QB for the packers comes down to DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle – – an undrafted free agent out of E. Kentucky and UConn – – and Manny Wilkins – – and undrafted free agent out of Arizona State.  Only a malevolent Act of God is going to put any of them under center for the Packers in 2019.  However, that did not stop DeShone Kizer – who was the backup QB last year – from telling PackerNews.com that he thinks he will be a starter for the Packers and will be the MVP of the Super Bowl in that role one of these days:

“I have all the confidence in the world that when I’m playing my best ball there’s no one who can stop me.  For me to compare myself to another backup quarterback who’s in or a tryout guy who comes in would be dumb of me in the sense that I would be limiting myself because I don’t see myself as a career backup in this league. I don’t see myself as Aaron Rodgers’ backup for the final era of his career. I see myself as a future Super Bowl MVP. That’s the goal that I want to head toward. That’s the level I want to play at. Therefore, if I’m competing and focused in on the backup competition, then once again, I’m limiting myself.”

It seems to me that there are two ways to react to that statement:

  1. DeShone Kizer is a young man with a specific goal in mind for his athletic career and he is keeping his attention and focus on that long-term goal and not on details or on short-term obstacles that may be in his way.  Good for him…
  2. DeShone Kizer is suffering from what Alan Greenspan once labeled “irrational exuberance”.  As a starter in the NFL, Kizer’s teams are 0-15; his career completion percentage is 53.1%; he has thrown 11 TDs and 24 INTs in his career.

I admire Kizer’s obvious determination to be the best and to achieve the pinnacle of the QB profession.  There would be little reason for a team to carry a backup QB whose career objective was to stay on in that job for the next 10 years and never get his jersey dirty.  At the same time, I have to say that his prior performance makes it hard to imagine him as a Super Bowl MVP.  Here is an analogy:

  • I could give an interview to CrankyCommentators.com one of these days and tell the world that I see myself as a Pulitzer Prize winner for sports writing.  [Aside:  Is there even such a category?]  Moreover, because I see myself achieving such a stature, I don’t worry about what others think of my current and previous rants here.
  • There is nothing wrong with having goals and aspirations – – unless one prevents oneself from recognizing that “it ain’t likely to happen” which would then turn those goals and aspirations into self-delusion.
  • For the record, I doubt that any mental health expert would conclude that I have a bagful of self-delusions about my writings.

The NBA free agency period generated lots of “blockbuster news” and that has to be good news for the NBA execs.  However, I think the NBA execs – and the NBPA leaders – need to think about the processes that are generating this news.

Clearly, the biggest story was the Kawhi Leonard signing with the Clippers combined with the trade that brought Paul George to the Clippers too.  Those two have yet to put on a Clippers jersey and participate in a single practice session but the focus on sports radio yesterday was that both could become free agents together in 3 years and move as a tandem to some other team then.  [Aside:  Maybe that’s the year I’ll win my Pulitzer Prize too?]  The folks who run the business of professional basketball – and that includes the NBPA – need to wonder if some aspects of NBA free agency are getting out of hand.

The NBA thrives because of TV money and the TV money flows because people watch NBA basketball games – not because of news in the free agency period.  What seems to be happening now is that people have started to focus on player movement and super-team creation more than they pay attention to much of the NBA regular season games.  That is a trend that the NBA execs and the NBPA leaders should want to nip in the bud.  Anything and everything that distracts from or diminishes attention to real NBA games is a threat to economic growth for the league.

Finally, apropos of nothing, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Batman:  A comic book crime fighter whose on-screen persona went from campy and irreverent in the 1960s to brooding and damn near suicidal in the twenty-first century.  Of course, this may or may not say anything about where we are headed as a species.”

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



Questions In Search Of Answers…

Let me begin today with a situation that poses a simple question:

  • What is wrong with this picture?

Issa Thiam was born and raised in Dakar, Senegal and wound up as a basketball player at Rutgers University.  Back in March of this year, he was arrested and charged with a variety of crimes involving an assault on a woman one of which involved a knife and a threat to kill the woman with said knife.  Even while law enforcement officials were investigating and processing this matter, Rutgers opted to dismiss Thiam from the team.  Last year, appearing in 25 games, Thiam averaged 3.8 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game; we are not talking about the school dismissing a lottery pick caliber player here.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this matter so far – unless you consider the original alleged activities that got the police involved in the first place.  However, about a week ago, things got curious.  Thiam appeared in court with a plea deal that would obviate any jail time for him; the details of that agreement are not important here.  The judge in the case refused to accept the plea agreement after questioning Thiam and the judge ruled that Thiam could not adequately participate in his defense because he could not adequately communicate in English.  [Aside:  Dakar, Senegal in in Francophone West Africa and Thiam’s native language is Wolof.]

The case was held over until the end of the month when the plea deal will be reviewed again with a certified Wolof interpreter present in the court.  Sounds like a victory for Lady Justice, right?  Here is the question, though:

  • Thiam was a junior at Rutgers when the alleged assault occurred.  How did he achieve junior class status as a student-athlete if he cannot adequately communicate in English?

While I am in the mode of recounting press reports that raise questions that remain unanswered, let me move to the University of Arizona.  The school announced that it intends to “upgrade the football experience” for its fans.  Various surveys and consultants have identified some things that the school might do in and around the stadium to make things more enjoyable for the folks who attend games there.  Who can possibly argue with this?

Looking over the press release that announced this effort, I came across some of the “usual suspects” for improvement whenever this type of upgrade is undertaken:

  • Improved food choices and food quality…
  • Beer and wine sales in the stadium…
  • An expanded and more luxurious Skybox…
  • Yada, Yada and Yada…

Then, there was an unusual entry on the list of improvements to the football experience planned for the University of Arizona:

“The port-a-potties on the stadium’s ground level will be replaced with first-class restroom trailers.”

Let me be clear here.  There is nothing enjoyable about a port-a-potty above and beyond the relief it provides when Nature calls.  Anything short of designating a “men’s tree” here and a “women’s shrub” there would be an upgrade.  However, the press release language makes me pose this follow-up query:

  • What are the features that make a “restroom trailer” into a “first-class restroom trailer”?

In all likelihood, I don’t really want to know the answer to that one…

I got an e-mail from a reader referencing the fact that I like to have fun with team mascots/nicknames.  His nephew has decided to attend Heidelberg University in northwestern Ohio.  Heidelberg is a Division III school and the mascot/nickname is the Student Prince.  Clever, no?  So, I wondered who their traditional rival might be to see if there might be a connection there.  That was a surprise.

Heidelberg University is part of the 10-team Ohio Athletic Conference.  There are several schools there with interesting mascots/nicknames.  In addition to the more common nicknames such as Otterbein University Cardinals and the Capital University Crusaders, consider some of these other schools:

  1. John Carroll University Blue Streaks
  2. Muskingum University Fighting Muskies
  3. Ohio Northern University Polar Bears

And, for my money, the best of the all …

  • Wilmington College Fighting Quakers – a tad oxymoronic, no?

The Ohio Athletic Conference may be Division III in athletics, but it is top-shelf in terms of creative team names…

Finally, since I mentioned port-a-potties and upgrades thereto above, here is a tangentially related item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ignas Dovydaitis, 11½ months old, outcrawled 24 rivals over a 5-meter carpeted track to capture the annual baby-racing competition in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“The winning secret, insiders say, is resisting the urge to pit for a new diaper.”

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



So Many Home Runs …

I missed the Home Run Derby last night – – but I think I have a valid excuse.  Yesterday was our 53rd wedding anniversary; so, my long-suffering wife and I were enjoying a quiet dinner while way too much attention was being lavished on batting practice.  Besides, home runs are no longer anything special in MLB games against actual pitchers who are trying to get batters out.  Consider data:

  1. The MLB record for home runs in a season is 6,105 set in 2017.
  2. Currently, MLB is on pace to hit 6,668 home runs in 2019.
  3. There are 2340 regular season MLB games scheduled.  At the current pace, every MLB game will see an average of 2.74 home runs.


The record-breaking pace of home runs hit this year has generated a lot of speculation about the ball being juiced or manufactured in a different way.  Lower seams are said to provide less air resistance adding distance to fly balls; a more perfectly centered core in the baseball nominally reduces wobble in flight and therefore adds distance to fly balls.  We could get a panel of Nobel Laureate physicists together to theorize and study this “problem” and likely come up with a dozen other hypotheses.  Who knows?  The answer may lie in one or more of these hypotheses.

I would like to offer a hypothesis that goes along another axis:

  • Suppose the players are juiced – in addition to the ball being juiced or as an isolated cause for all the home runs.

Maybe the “underground pharmacists” have opened up a significant lead on the forensic labs that do the PED testing and the players – having learned what happens if that sort of info leaks to the press – are much more circumspect about how and when they take the PEDs and are determined not to talk among themselves about where to get them or how to use them.  I am not saying this is what is going on; I’m not even saying this is probably what is going on; but MLB would be purely Polly-anna to deny that it is possibly going on.  Remember, this happened before…

Occasionally, I read a sports story and say to myself, “There has to be more to this than what is reported here.”  Here is an example:

  • A high school district in NY fired its boys’ basketball coach who has been with the school for more than 30 years and whose teams have won 414 games, 9 league championships and 4 district championships.  He has also been Coach of the Year 5 times.
  • This coach was also the school’s athletic director and he was removed from that position because the school district superintendent says he does not have the “administrative certifications” necessary to be the athletic director.
  • However, they also removed him from the position as boys’ basketball coach and there had never been any “certification problems” associated with him in that position over the course of his career.

I have no idea what administrative certifications one needs to have to be a high school athletic director nor do I have any idea if the possession of such certifications is important in carrying out the duties of such a position.  Here is what I think I know:

  • If the coach/AD does not have the proper certification now, he most certainly did not have them when he was hired/appointed to the AD position.  So, how did it become a dire necessity to replace him now?  What horrendous mishap occurred in the last few months or so that would cause this reaction – – and how might someone with proper certification have clearly avoided such a horrendous situation?
  • If there is a legal reason he must be removed as the AD, why is he also being fired as the basketball coach where he has won more than 400 games for the school?
  • The school district is looking to hire a new AD – meaning that even if the current coach/AD went out and got the proper certification he would not have that job.  Is that how an organization treats an employee with 30+ years of experience and success?

As I said, there must be more to this story.  Someone involved in this matter woke up one morning and found that his corn flakes had been pissed on.

On a brighter note, Tedy Bruschi announced that he is doing much better after suffering a stroke last week.  Bruschi also suffered a stroke about 10 years ago while a player for the New England Patriots but he recovered after a year of rehab to continue his career.  Bruschi is not one of the studio commentators for ESPN and – along with Louis Riddick – I think he is the best of what ESPN has to offer there.

Get well – and then stay well – Tedy Bruschi…

Finally, Dwight Perry chronicled this great retirement announcement in the Seattle Times recently:

“Goalie Roberto Luongo, via Twitter, on retiring from the Florida Panthers after 19 NHL seasons: ‘I’ve decided to take my talents to a South Beach retirement home.’”

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



Congratulations To The US Women’s National Team – World Cup Champs

Clearly, the obvious way to begin today is to offer unadulterated congratulations to the US Women’s National Team for winning its second consecutive – and fourth overall – Women’s World Cup.  Their win over the Netherlands team was a dominant one; the score was 2-0 but it could easily have been 5-0 had it not been for a heroic effort on the part of the Dutch goaltender.

The flow of the game was almost the mirror-image of what many had predicted.  Normally, the US team opens with a fast-paced attack, scores early and makes the opponent try to play from behind.  Yesterday, the US team started fast – – but the Dutch women stayed with them for the first 20 minutes or so and the game was tied at the half.  Normally, the Dutch women dominate the second half and they “specialized” in winning by scoring late goals in their games.  Yesterday, at the end of the game, it was the US team that dominated play.

The US women dominated the tournament itself.  Ignore the 13-0 mismatch against Thailand; the women played 6 games against worthy competition.  In those 6 games, the cumulative score was 13-3.  Next year, the USWNT will seek to qualify for the Olympics where they have won 4 Gold Medals in the past.  Given the way they played yesterday, they deserve to be odds-on favorites in those games.

Congratulations also need to be directed toward the LA Clippers for their personnel coup late last week.  Most of the pundits had the Clippers as one of the teams that Kawhi Leonard would consider signing with; none that I am aware of had them signing Leonard AND trading to acquire Paul George from the Thunder.  Here is the deal:

  • Clippers get Paul George
  • Thunder gets Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 5 draft picks that stretch out to the end of time.

Gallinari is good player; do not doubt that. Gilgeous-Alexander is a young player with lots of physical talent that he may develop – – or not.  The player who is ultimately taken with the last draft pick tendered to the Thunder in the trade is probably 10 – 12 years old this morning.  And that fact leads me to this observation:

  • The Lakers traded away a ton of future draft picks to get Anthony Davis and now the Clippers have traded away a metric ton of future draft picks to get Paul George.
  • Question:  Why would any NBA fan in Los Angeles bother to watch the NBA Draft for the next 5 -7 years?

Staying with the NBA for a moment, you can generate a vigorous bar debate over who is the best basketball player in the league today if you toss LeBron James and Kevin Durant into the “discussion”.  However, I think there is another comparison to be made between those two players:

  • Who creates the most drama and the more complicated soap opera?  LeBron or KD?

For the last 10 years, LeBron James has been the uncontested leader when it comes to drama and complicated locker room intrigues involving coaches and teammates.  However, in recent times, it seems as if Kevin Durant has taken aim at LeBron’s status in that dimension as well as the “best player” dimension.  There is reporting out there that Durant felt “disrespected” by Warriors’ fans because they cheered louder for Steph Curry than they did for him.  I doubt there are decibel level records to verify or deny such an assertion but the existence of the assertion itself is jaw-dropping.  There is also reporting out there that Durant may sue the Warriors and/or people on the Warriors’ medical/training staff for malfeasance with regard to his leg injury that culminated in a torn Achilles tendon.  Durant will be sitting out the 2019/2020 NBA season rehabbing that injury meaning he will have plenty of time on his hands to create his own episodes of As the World Turns.

I mentioned the Olympics above regarding the USWNT preparing to qualify for those games.  In a much darker context, the Olympics made the news last week when a former Rio de Janeiro governor, Sergio Cabral, testified in a court trial that he paid $2M in bribes to buy votes to get the Olympic Games sited in Brazil.  His testimony was that he gave the money to a former president of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) who delivered the votes after spreading the money around.  Cabral testified that he was introduced to this person with the understanding that the IAAF president was “open to taking bribes”.

Please understand that Sergio Cabral is not an admirable whistleblower here.  He has already been convicted of enough counts of bribery and corruption to earn him a total of 200 years in jail from all of his sentences.  Nevertheless, his admission(s) here do shine a small light into the cesspool that is the IOC and the international sports governing bodies.  Here is a link to a report in the NY Post on this mess.

Finally, the Home Run Derby will happen tonight.  Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot over the weekend.  He and I share the same view of this event:

“For me, the Derby is slightly less tedious than the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, though that’s a low bar to clear.”

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



Baseball Stuff Today …

As the time approaches for the MLB All-Star Game, I began to think about the best players of today and which active ones are likely to be Hall of Fame inductees when the time of their eligibility rolls around.  I noticed quickly that my thoughts were focused on players who already had long careers in MLB and most of those players were pretty obvious candidates such as:

  • Miguel Cabrera
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Albert Pujols
  • Max Scherzer
  • Justin Verlander

So, I decided to focus on players who were still relatively early in their careers – – but removed from a single outstanding rookie year – – whose career arc was such that they might achieve such an august status somewhere down the road.  I put young pitchers into a category of their own because young pitchers can either blossom or flame out:

  • Gerrit Cole
  • Jacob deGrom
  • Aaron Nola
  • Blake Snell

For the position players, I divided the players into three categories.  The first one encompasses the Top-Shelf Players – – the ones I think have the best shot at the HoF:

  • Nolan Arenado
  • Mookie Betts
  • Mike Trout
  • Christian Yelich

The second category contains players who are just a hair behind the guys on the top-Shelf list.  Call these guys the Highly Likely Candidates:

  • José Altuve
  • Kris Bryant

The final category contains young players who have shown brightly in their short careers but who still have some work to do in order to join the ranks of the six players listed in the two categories above.  Call these players The Aspirants:

  • Cody Bellinger
  • Bryce Harper
  • Manny Machado
  • Anthony Rendon
  • Anthony Rizzo

And there is one more category that contains players who have been excellent but who have also shown a propensity for injury.  Call these players the China Dolls:

  • Giancarlo Stanton
  • Noah Syndergaard

I am sure that I have left off someone’s favorite young player and that I will hear about it presently…

Later this month, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will make it legal for baseball fans to make “in-game wagers” on MLB games inside the State.  Pennsylvania will join Nevada and New Jersey as the three places in the US where that will be legal.  All of this stems from two things:

  1. The advances of mobile internet access technology
  2. The Supreme Court ruling that PASPA was unconstitutional

Some folks see in-game wagering as a great way for MLB to attract and capture a new wave of fans.  Young people may not like baseball’s pace of play but that same pace of play with intervals between “the action” is very compatible with in-game wagering – – perhaps on every pitch in the game.  This is not something that MLB is hoping will expand, this is something MLB is pushing for to the extent that it has a position in the hierarchy called “Executive Vice-President for Gaming”.

My position here is the same as it is for all sports gambling matters.  Laws cannot prevent it so States should regulate it and tax it.  I hope MLB gets this approved in every state in which MLB operates.  Moreover, I hope that MLB is correct and that this does create and engage a new generation of fans.  But there is a delicious irony here.

MLB has been the most aggressively anti-gambling entity among the major US sports since the days when Judge Landis arrived on a white horse to save the sport from a self-inflicted demise.  It was Judge Landis who posted the famous rule in every clubhouse and baseball facility for all to see every day:

“Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

In 2019, some are tying the long-term future of MLB to betting.  Judge Landis is scowling somewhere in the cosmos…

Finally, in keeping with today’s baseball focus, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A Washington Nationals fan trying to catch a home-run ball had it bounce off the top of his noggin.

“That’s what he gets for wearing his lucky Jose Canseco jersey.”

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



US Women Advance To Finals Of The World Cup – – Again

The US Women’s National Soccer Team advanced to the final game of the tournament for the 3rd straight time yesterday beating England 2-1.  A victory on Sunday would give the USWNT their 2nd straight Women’s World Cup Championship and their 4th title overall.  The team earned this win without the services of scoring machine, Megan Rapinoe, who sat out with a hamstring strain.  The “script” for this game was similar to the one that earned the USWNT its win over France – score first and then control the other team’s offense with a “packed in defense”.

The key moment of the game came in the 84th minute of the game when England trailed 2-1 and had a penalty kick “on the spot”.  The English player drove the ball to the lower left corner of the net, and it was corralled by US goaltender Alyssa Naeher.  There is reason for Ms. Naeher to do a bit of gloating here.

While the US women entered the tournament as slight favorites, more than a few pundits identified “inexperience at goaltender” as a potential Achilles heel for the team.  As of this morning, that inexperienced goaltender saved the victory that puts the USWNT in line for this year’s championship.

I am not going to profess to be a soccer maven here but from my observation of the game yesterday and previous games in this tournament, I think there is a woman on the team who does not get nearly the level of public accolade that she deserves.  She is Becky Sauerbrunn.  I said that the “script” for the past two games seems to have been score first and play smothering defense; Becky Sauerbrunn is one of the tenacious defenders who does the “smothering”.  She may not score goals and she did not make that penalty kick save, but she makes sure the opposition does not get many open shots at the goaltender.

Switching gears …  Last winter there was an inordinate amount of attention focused on the possible landing spots for free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.  When the dust settled:

  • Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies for 10 years and $330M
  • Manny Machado signed with the Padres for 10 years and $300M

I doubt that Las Vegas offered this as a proposition wager, but I suspect the odds would have been high if this were the proposition:

  • Neither Harper nor Machado will make the All-Star team in 2019.

Well, that is the circumstance for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, and I would in no way suggest that either Harper or Machado should be on the All-Star roster in place of any player who is there.

As the NFL teams get ready to start their training camps for the 2019 season in about 3 weeks, there are two players who are probably entering the final year of what should be Hall of Fame careers once the appropriate time interval passes.  They are:

  1. Larry Fitzgerald
  2. Frank Gore

What might fans expect from these top-shelf players whose career arcs are no longer “on the upside”?  Here is one way to approach that question:

  • Larry Fitzgerald is entering the 16th year of his career and has been a Pro-Bowl caliber receiver in 11 of his first 15 seasons.  Not many WRs in the NFL last 15 years let alone perform at that level for most of them but one that did was Jerry Rice.

So, what did Jerry Rice do in his 16th year in the NFL – his final year with the Niners before Rice went across the Bay to play for the Raiders:

  • In that season, Rice caught 75 passes for 805 yards and 7 TDs.
  • Last year, playing with a rookie QB and an inexperienced offensive line, Fitzgerald caught 69 passes for 734 yards and 6 TDs.  This year, the offensive line has to be better; the QB is a different rookie and the new coach is known to run a “pass-happy offense”.
  • I think Larry Fitzgerald in 2019 should equal or slightly surpass what Jerry Rice did in his 16th NFL season.

Finding a “comparable” for Frank Gore was a tad more difficult for me.  At age 36, Frank Gore is entering his 15th season as an NFL RB; and since 2012, he has missed a total of 2 games.  The only other comparable running back I could think of was Marcus Allen who played in all 16 games – starting 15 of them – at age 36.

  • In Marcus Allen’s age 36 season (with the KC Chiefs), he ran for 830 yards on 206 carries and scored 9 TDs.
  • Those numbers are in line with Gore’s numbers from last season so there is no reason to think he could not approach them again in 2019.  Gore will likely share a lot of the running game in Buffalo with the likes of LeSean McCoy, TJ Yeldon and Senorise Perry.  That could limit his number of touches, but it is not unreasonable to expect him to average 4.8 – 5.0 yards per touch.

Finally, Brad Rock had this observation in the Deseret News about the intersection of sports and politics:

“People say sports and politics are closely related.

“Not that close.

A White House news release last week referred to the Boston Red Sox as the ‘Red Socks.’ Another proclaimed the Sox ‘World Cup Series Champions.’

Players say they’re just honored to be invited to the ‘White Castle House’.”

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



An Early Look At NBA Free Agent Moves

There have been lots of NBA free agents “on the move” in the last 36 hours or so.  Some of the signings appear to me to be very important for the teams that did the signings:

  1. Brooklyn Nets:  They sign Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan plus they did a sign-and-trade with the Warriors sending DeAngelo Russell west in exchange for Kevin Durant.  This looks to me like a “go-big-or-go-home” move.  Durant will not play next year and there is little to suggest that he will return at age 32 to the NBA at 100% of what he was prior to his Achilles tendon injury.  Moreover, Kyrie Irving is a soap opera looking for a network to televise it.  HOW-EVAH, if those two meld and can replicate their on-court prowess a year from now, watch out for the Nets.
  2. Golden State Warriors:  They got DeAngelo Russell for Kevin Durant when it looked certain they would lose Durant and get nothing in return.  Russell will replace Klay Thompson next year until Thompson rehabs his knee injury.
  3. Utah Jazz:  They had previously traded for Mike Conley and they just signed Brian Bogdanovic.  What the Jazz lacked last year was balanced scoring and both of these guys can score.  The Jazz improved a lot.

There is always another end of the spectrum no matter what the subject may be.  When it comes to NBA free agency in 2019, the low end of the spectrum has to be the NY Knicks.  For the last year, the mantra of Knicks’ fans went along this line:

  • Tank the season and get the #1 pick and get Zion Williamson.  Did not happen.
  • Take the cap room the team has and coax Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to sign to play in Madison Square Garden.  Did not happen.  [To make matters worse, the Nets signed Durant and Irving, meaning the Knicks are now the #2 basketball team in NYC regarding star power.]
  • All that cap room the team amassed – partly due to the trade of Kristaps Porzingas to the Mavericks – was used to sign Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis and Julius Randle.  Those are good players; none are great players.

Clearly, the Knicks have fast-forwarded into “spin mode” here.  If you listen to team president Steve Mills, it almost seems as if this outcome was desirable:

“While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents.”

If you say so…

Brad Dickson had this comment on his Twitter account last week:

“The IOC is poised to add Break Dancing as an official Olympic event. I’m not making that up. At this rate soon Gardening, Drooling, Farting and Napping will all be sanctioned Olympic competitions.”

I have always thought that Sonnet-writing could be an Olympic sport nowadays.  The competitors would be given a topic and 30 minutes to compose the 14 lines that comprise a sonnet.  An international panel of people who have proven that they can spell sonnet correctly will be the judges and medals can be awarded after the competition.  They can do this like the soccer competition and have group sonnet-writing followed by “knock-out rounds”.  The IOC could do all of this in the memory of Percy Dovetonsils.  [Google is your friend…]

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald last week:

“Baseball named its 16 All-Star Game starters, excluding the two pitchers. The Democrats have more presidential candidates than baseball has starters.”

Another thing to note here is that all 16 All-Star Game starters are highly regarded in their field and can point to sustained excellence in the field of baseball.  You will probably be unhappy if you try to use that yardstick to measure the candidates who have been in the two Democratic “debates” so far.

A report in the Akron Beacon-Journal says that an entire high school football coaching staff was fired for a violation of school district policy.  It seems that the team and its multiple coaches were at a football camp and in the evenings – when none of the players were present – some of the coaches drank alcohol.  That violates a rule that says you can’t drink alcohol while at a school-sponsored event…  Here is the link to that report.

Since everyone seems to agree that none of the players were present or involved in the drinking incident(s), it would seem as if this is enforcing a rule to the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law.

Finally, here is another item from Brad Dickson’s Twitter account:

“US News & World Report ranked every state for quality. Nebraska is 9th and Iowa 14th. Minnesota is third so I doubt climate was a criteria.”

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



Another Conference Shake-Up…

They say that things happen in threes; perhaps we have an example of that right here in the world of intercollegiate athletics.  Last week, I mentioned two instances where college sports conferences made a significant change.  UConn left the AAC and Arkansas-Little Rock joined the PAC-12 as an “affiliate member” for wrestling.  Well, there is another conference shake-up in process, and I would never have known about it save for it being prominently reported by Gregg Drinnan in his Taking Note blog here.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) consists of 10 schools and 7 of them have announced that they are leaving the conference.  With that information, my antenna immediately picks up a signal that there is something fundamentally wrong with this conference and it turns out that the “problem” is not difficult to understand.  Here are the 7 schools that want out:

  1. Ferris State – – Big Rapids, Michigan
  2. Lake Superior State – – Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
  3. Michigan Tech – – Houghton, Michigan
  4. Northern Michigan – – Marquette, Michigan
  5. Minnesota State/Mankato – – Mankato, Minnesota (Duh!)
  6. Bemidji State – – Bemidji, Minnesota
  7. Bowling Green – – Bowling Green, Ohio

Those seven schools are geographically tight.  Now, consider the other three schools in the conference who would be abandoned by the defection of those seven schools:

  1. University of Alabama – Huntsville
  2. University of Alaska – Anchorage
  3. University of Alaska – Fairbanks

The seven geographically tight schools say they want to continue to compete in hockey and made no bones about the fact that they are tired of having to travel to Alabama and/or Alaska several times a year.  Here is part of their statement in announcing this move that will effectively dissolve the WCHA:

“[The 7 defecting schools] are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.”

In case you were wondering, the distance from Huntsville, AL to Fairbanks, AK via the Great Circle route is a mere 3237 miles meaning it would be a 6-hour flight if in fact there were such a flight offered.  If there were such a flight offered, I could not find it with a cursory search.

Bob Molinaro had this comment last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Picking a nit: It’s always the irritating things that never change. Like TV baseball analysts reacting to every pitch with a dissertation.”

I agree that much of the analytical commentary after every pitch in a baseball game drills down to the minutiae, but I would like to add two more things that broadcasters do that is as annoying or more annoying:

  1. Kiss Cam – and its offspring The Televised Marriage Proposal
  2. Celebrity-anointing

The networks made “Fireman Ed” into some sort of celebrity because he was able to spell “JETS” correctly; both of my sons could have done that at age 5.  The networks just conferred “fame” on a CFL fan who drinks beer from his shoe – as if that takes any special talent other than tolerating putting your foot back into a wet shoe.  And never forget “The Hogettes” whose claim to fame was that they attended NFL games dressed as pigs in drag.

The Onion always has great satirical content.  Sometimes, the headlines there summarize a situation so well that you are tempted not to read the story under the headline.  Here is such an example where the headline says it all:

  • Norfolk Tides third baseman sent down to Baltimore Orioles

Finally, as we approach July 4 later this week, Brad Dickson had this advice for everyone:

“Fireworks went on sale today. Stop complaining and go outside and stand by your roof with a hose!!”

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