A Gustatorial Delight …

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Gregg Drinnan – the former sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News and the current owner/operator/jack-of-all-trades at the Taking Note blog you see on my list of “Columnists I Read”.  He knows my affection for outrageous culinary offerings at sports venues – – and he also realizes that I might not be completely familiar with athletes who starred in the CFL and the WHL.  Here is the salient text of his e-mail:

“Chris Walby is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He was a terrific offensive lineman with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In the early 1970s, he played junior A hockey in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The Kildonan North Stars would put him in front of the opposing net on the power play and no one could move him. He was huge …

“This week, the Blue Bombers will unveil the Walby Burger.

“The new Walby Burger will be launched Thursday at Red Zone Grill locations behind sections 107 and 130. The Walby Burger includes six burger patties, six chicken tenders, six hotdogs, six pieces of bacon, cheese, pickles, lettuce, fries, onions, tomatoes, and a secret special sauce.  Limited quantities will be available.”

This concoction will cost $45 – – but that is in Canadian dollars so I guess that means it’s a bargain.  It is also billed as a “five-pound burger” which means if someone eats all of it, he/she will not need to chow down again for about 48 hours.

Based on the construction of that sandwich, you might assume that Chris Walby wore number 6 for the Blue Bombers.  Well, you would be wrong in that assumption.  Based on the contents of that sandwich, you might assume that there will be limited quantities because there is insufficient room to store all those components at the Red Zone Grill if 500 gluttons showed up and ordered one.  I think you would be correct on that assumption.  [Aside:  I started to calculate an estimated caloric content for the “Walby Burger” but my calculator overheated and went dark in the midst of the calculation…]

The NY Post had a report earlier this week saying that Stan Van Gundy would be leaving ESPN and signing on with Turner Broadcasting.  As of this morning, I have not found any other reports confirming that upcoming move, but the NY Post tends to be highly accurate when it reports on media-related news.  So, I will take that report as an accurate one.

Stan Van Gundy has been a presence on ESPN’s studio programming related to the NBA since signing on there about a year ago.  Turner Broadcasting does not do nearly as much studio programming related to the NBA as does ESPN; so, it is likely that Stan Van Gundy will do some – if not all – of his analyzing during live telecasts.  If he is as interesting in game situations as he is in studio commentary, that could mean a shake-up at Turner Broadcasting with regard to the pecking order of their analysts.  It also leaves a hole at ESPN that will need filling.

Stan Van Gundy is very good behind a microphone.  Keep an eye – or an ear – out for what his assignments are at Turner Broadcasting and for who might replace him at ESPN…

Speaking obliquely of the NBA, the league has become a financial driving force for the formation of something called the Basketball Africa League (BAL) which will begin operation in March 2020.  There will be 12 teams; each will play a 5-game schedule against each of the 5 teams in its conference.  Games will be staged in 6 cities around Africa:

  1. Cairo Egypt
  2. Dakar Senegal
  3. Lagos Nigeria
  4. Luanda Angola
  5. Rabat Morocco
  6. Tunis Tunisia

Based on records from that regular season, there will be a winnowing to a “Super Six” – the three best teams from each of the conferences made up of 6 teams.  The “Super Six” will play a round-robin format to cull the field to the BAL’s “Final Four”.  That tournament will take place in Kigali Rwanda.

Your first reaction to this sort of news might well be along the lines of:

  • So, what…?  or  Who cares?

I think that may be a tad short-sighted.  The NBA – – like the NFL and MLB – – would love to attract more interest and fandom overseas.  There are pro leagues in China, India, Australia and various European countries, but none of them have the NBA front-and-center in their operations.  The BAL could be a first for the NBA and that could be interesting and valuable even though the African audience for the BAL – and presumably for the NBA after that – is not an audience with huge amounts of disposable income to lavish on a new sports focus.  The NBA also demonstrated a pragmatic streak here when it chose to partner with FIBA in the creation of the BAL.  FIBA has expertise in dealing with the highly politicized world of “sports governing bodies” in various parts of the world; FIBA can offer the NBA a lot of “grease” in that aspect of setting up the new league.

Last season, about 20% of the NBA players on team rosters were from countries outside the US.  In the NBA Finals, Pascal Siakam – a native of Douala Cameroon – played an important role in the Championship run of the Toronto Raptors.  The NBA may be looking to increase it player pool as well as its fanbase.

Finally, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Golfer Robert Garrigus has completed his three-month suspension for using marijuana.

“Which certainly puts a whole new spin on ‘getting up and down.’”

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



Smash And Grab…

I wonder if a voodoo hex has somehow been visited upon ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.  Consider recent events:

  1. Analyst, Jessica Mendoza, was involved in a “serious auto accident” on a California freeway.  The reports say her car was “rear-ended at full speed”; she missed one of the telecasts but reportedly escaped serious injury.
  2. Analyst, Alex Rodriguez, was having dinner with some of the crew members after the telecast of the game Jessica Mendoza missed.  While in the restaurant, his rental car was broken into and the NY Daily News reported that about $500K worth of jewelry and electronics were stolen.

Play-by-play announcer, Matt Vasgersian, is probably spending a lot of time glancing back over his shoulder…

In reporting the robbery story, no one should be surprised that the NY Post took the nickname “A-Rod” and morphed it into “A-Rob”.  What is extremely surprising to me is that anyone would be waltzing around town with $500K worth of “stuff” in a car that they would then park on the street across from a restaurant.

Speaking obliquely about baseball, there are two “controversies” ongoing well under the surface of the games and the pennant races and the like.  The first one has to do with extending safety nets for the fans all the way down the foul lines.  I can understand some of the arguments on both sides of this one e.g.:

  • Fan safety must be a critical consideration.  Incidents of fan injury are rare.
  • Nets obstruct fans’ view slightly.  Fans can and will get used to it.
  • Nets will reduce incidents of fan interference.  Fans will get fewer souvenir baseballs.

This controversy could go on for a while.  What I hope is that it never becomes part of any negotiation for a new CBA between MLB and the MLBPA.  The current agreement runs through the 2021 baseball season; let us hope this one is put to bed before those negotiations commence.

The other controversy has to do with pay for minor league baseball players.  Some minor league players are suing MLB seeking to be recognized as hourly employees which would set a minimum wage for them and would also then apply various provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act – – such as payment for overtime and things like Spring Training.  According to reports, the lawsuit alleges that some minor league players earn only $5,500 for an entire season.

Let me do the math for you here.  At a minimum wage of $7.50 an hour, a figurative “burger-flipper” would earn $5,500 in just over 18 weeks.  There is ample debate today about raising that minimum wage level; I am not going to get into those muddy waters here but please note that raising that if I raise the minimum wager here, that will reduce the number of weeks of work that the “burger-flipper” needs to put in to match the salary of some minor league baseball players.

On one hand, MLB teams are not motivated to shell out more money for the full range of their minor league players.  After all, the vast majority of those players will never see the field in a major league game and therefore will never make even a minuscule contribution to the revenues of the major league team.  At the same time, one might wish that major league teams would not make such a narrowly focused economic decision here given that MLB teams are generally profitable enterprises.

Back in May, the NY Times published a piece on this issue and the minor-leaguers’ lawsuit and some Congressional involvement with lobbying efforts.  It will catch you up quickly on some of the highlights of this controversy; I recommend it to you.  Here is a link to that article.

Moving on …  I read recently that TV ratings for NASCAR events rose in 2019 as compared to last year.  The reason that caught my eye is that TV ratings for NASCAR had been in serious decline for the last few years so I read deeper into the report than I normally would to see if anyone had an explanation.  Generally, folks attribute this to a much more focused and energetic promotional endeavor on the part of NASCAR.  And, a significant component of that increased promotion for events is the role that the drivers play “off the track”.  NASCAR has a rule this year that every finisher in the top ten of a race must talk to the press after a race and NASCAR “encourages” all drivers to give interviews around the time of their qualification laps.

The increased interactions here presumably lead to more reports that keep NASCAR events in the news thereby increasing interest in the weekend racing.  The ratings are up a little more than 2% this year and NASCAR events average over 4 million viewers.  Those might seem like minimal increases but there have been significant increases in the “core markets” for NASCAR racing where the increased promotions have shown a 7% increase in viewership.

Finally, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald from a couple of weeks ago:

“The World Korfball Championships begin this week in South Africa. Korfball is two teams of eight (four men, four women) trying to throw a ball into a netless basket. In other words, its coed basketball, but with a ridiculous name.”

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



Two Pluses And Two Minuses…

Two bad ideas that I have discussed here recently were turned around yesterday.

  1. Antonio Brown learned that he would not be allowed to play football in 2019 unless he used the new “certified” helmet.  Instead of doubling down on his threat to retire, he said he would join the Raiders and get to work.
  2. The NCAA had been getting hammered on multiple fronts over the so-called Rich Paul Rule for agents who might represent collegiate athletes.  Since it was never any real skin off their collective noses who might perform agent services for players, the NCAA chose to cut their losses and rescinded the allegedly racially biased part of that rule.

So, things should be quiet on those two fronts for a while.  However, I cannot say that the NCAA is going to have an upbeat week ahead because as smart as they were to change that silly rule about agents, they stepped in a huge steaming pile of excrement with another decision.  You could almost say that the NCAA – the organization that promotes the student-athlete concept – has just taken a stand in favor of academic fraud. Let me explain…

Recall several years ago that it was discovered that UNC put its student-athletes in some courses that did not ever meet as a class and basically required no work.  To the surprise of no one, it was also discovered that said student-athletes always got high grades in those courses giving them acceptable “progress toward a degree” and an inflated GPA to maintain eligibility.  Those student-athletes were defrauded; in exchange for their participation in the revenue sports that pay for the UNC Athletic Department activities, they were on scholarship and promised an opportunity to get a college degree.  Well, that degree would be a humongous sham if in fact the courses were content-free.  And if the courses never met and required next to no work on the part of the student – – or the professors I might add – – those degrees were a sham.

When all that came to light, UNC took a lot of heat and deservedly so.  The NCAA huffed and puffed and established a Blue-Ribbon Commission headed up by Condoleezza Rice to make recommendations as to what should be done.  That august body focused on a significant loophole in the NCAA rules regarding academic fraud; that rule leaves to the individual member schools the authority to determine what constitutes academic fraud and what does not.  The Commission demonstrated its acumen by recognizing that this is the fox watching the hen house and recommended a change.  That was in 2017.

Moving with the speed and grace of a glacier, the NCAA took that recommendation and punted.  Call that rule the Moon River Rule because it has a hole in it a mile wide; that Moon River Rule will be left as is and schools can once again do what UNC did for a couple of decades until the sham courses were brought to light.  Well done, NCAA overseers.  I swear those folks could not find their way out of a porta potty even if you gave them a map, a compass and a lighted pathway to the door.

Academics took a backseat to athletics in this instance; that is hardly the first time that has occurred, but one might like to think that such happenings would be spread out in time and be episodic.  Well, if that is the case, we ought to have a long dry spell coming because there is another similar situation ongoing at the high school level in Michigan.  In this case, a student-athlete is being punished for living up to the “student” part of that descriptor and taking too many advanced courses.  Honestly, I could not make up anything that bizarre.

Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen is a wide-receiver at Walled Lake High School; he has been heavily recruited and has committed to go to Northwestern.  He has been ruled ineligible by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and his school is appealing that ruling on Yaseen’s behalf.  Here is the Cliff Notes version of the problem:

  • He has been ruled to have used up his eligibility despite being in his fourth year of high school.
  • He had been home-schooled prior to enrolling at Walled Lake High School and he took plenty of courses that were above his grade level.  His success in those courses caused the MHSAA to reclassify him as a sophomore when he entered the ninth grade; and therefore, they believe he has spent his eligibility in three seasons at Walled Lake.
  • The MHSAA has already denied a first appeal in this case and the high school has embarked on a second level appeal.
  • Yaseen will leave high school in January to enroll early at Northwestern.  You can infer from that intention and the willingness of Northwestern to have him enrolled at that time that he is a good student.

The Detroit News broke this story; here is a link to that report.  If you had to attach a headline to this story, here is what I would suggest:

  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Finally, with the NCAA standing aside to allow colleges to police themselves with regard to academic fraud and failure to live up to the fundamental purpose of a college/university juxtaposed with a high school kid being declared ineligible to play football because he took too many advanced courses and passed them, it is time to turn to The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm for a closing item today:

Education:  Sumthing that ewsed tu one tyme be valewed in the U.S. of Amurica, butt now iz not so mutch annymor.”

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



Not A Happy Start To This Week

Last week, Bob Molinaro had this comment in his weekly column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“A fine balance:  Our kids need more coaches that can create enjoyable athletic environments. So says a Utah State University study that reports that the average child today spends fewer than three years playing organized sports and quits by age 11. Financial issues also chase them away. But mostly, the kids say they aren’t having fun.”

That made me think of the old Laurel and Hardy films because that is an example of “another fine mess”.  Kids are not having fun playing sports to the point that they stop playing when they are only 11 years old and that must be caused by something other than the games themselves.  After all, the sports we are generally talking about here (baseball, football, basketball, soccer, tennis…) have all existed for a long time and all of them used to command healthy and enthusiastic participation beyond age 11.  So, I thought I had better check out this study.

The study is a collaborative effort between the Utah State Families in Sports Lab and the Aspen Institute.  Here are a few of the specific findings:

  1. In 2019, 39% of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 played some form of organized sports.
  2. A separate study done in 2008 done by the Sport and Fitness Industry Association found that 45%of kids in that age range played some form of organized sports then.
  3. Of the kids who play a sport and then stop participating, the average tenure of their participation is 2.86 years.
  4. Kids are not quitting a sport to take up another one.  The survey found that situation happened in only 15% of the cases where a kid dropped out of a sport.
  5. Kids are single threaded in sports these days.  The survey found that 45% of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 play only one sport.
  6. A major factor in their decision to quit is that they say they stopped having fun playing that sport.  [Some parents reported that their children devoted up to 60 hours per week on their sport during the sport’s season.  That’s not fun; that’s a chore.]
  7. Another factor influencing the decision is that parents yielded to cost factors associated with continued participation.

The fact that the chronological adults associated with plenty of youth sports dramatically over-react to the importance of such events has been evident for years.  It would seem from the data here that the pressure exerted by those adults is beginning to catch up with itself; participation is trending down.  I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness here; there is a major problem with youth sports in America and the biggest component of that problem is that adults have wrung all the fun out of participation by the kids.  I wish I could say I had an idea as to how to reverse that situation – – but I do not.  Here is a link to the results of this study.

As if that news was not a sufficiently bleak way to start your week, another item for today is the latest in the Antonio Brown soap opera.  Over the weekend, he threatened to retire from the NFL if he could not wear the same helmet he has worn in the past during the 2019 season and then reversed course to say he would play with the news helmet but would sue the NFL if he got a head injury wearing the new helmet they mandated.


[Aside:  I think we are about 2 more oddball incidents involving Antonio Brown before the following happens.  Terrell Owens calls a press conference; he stands at a podium with a picture of Antonio Brown projected behind him; he looks at the assembled scribes and commentators and says, “And you guys thought I was a pain in the ass…?”]


According to reports, these “new helmets” are the result of testing overseen by the NFL and the NFLPA and the “certification” of these helmets has been done jointly by the NFL and the NFLPA.  This is part of the attempt by both organizations to improve player safety – even though anyone smart enough to recognize that the acronym NFL does not have the letters arranged in alphabetical order knows for sure that pro football players will continue to suffer head injuries using the “new helmets”.

As much as Antonio Brown may think that this “new helmet” mandate is aimed at him, it is not.  Last year more than 2 dozen NFL players used helmets that will not be allowable in 2019 and – I know that Brown may not want to hear this – but at least 2 of those “other players” are more important to their teams than he is to his team.  The two “other players” I refer to here are Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

A quick summary of the 2019 Antonio Brown soap opera would be:

  • He refuses to wear the new certified helmet to protect his head.
  • He neglected to wear the proper protective clothing on his feet during cryotherapy resulting in frostbite.
  • Approximately halfway between his head and his feet is the terminal aperture to his alimentary canal; he is behaving just like that body part.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have enjoyed their quiet and focused training camp in Latrobe, PA this summer.

Finally, I began today with a comment from late last week.  Brad Dickson had this Tweet also from late last week and it seems appropriate in 2019:

“Today is National Book Lovers Day. Americans are largely ignoring the day as they prepare for the huge festivals and parades of the upcoming National Emoji Week.”

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



The Rich Paul Rule

I am sure you have heard about/read about the new NCAA ruling about qualifications for agents that will represent student-athletes and how it is directed negatively against NBA “super-agent” Rich Paul.  The issues that stick in the craw of those who have taken Paul’s side in this controversy is the mandate of a bachelor’s degree (Paul does not have one) and the requirement for all applicants to show up at NCAA HQs in person to take a qualifying test. I am going to try not to take any side in this matter because I don’t think it is sufficiently important to create any agita in my life.

When I first read that the NCAA would require agents to have a college degree, my mind went down this path:

  1. Well, of course they would emphasize a college degree; they are an association of colleges and universities.
  2. Do other sporting entities have any similar rules?

Before looking at other sports, there is a distinction to be made here.  In other sports – like pro football – the certification of agents is done by the NFLPA which is a labor union that represents the players who would acquire an agent.  Nominally, that union is there to seek for its members the best possible situations.  In no way can I contort myself to believe that the NCAA is an entity that represents the student-athletes and seeks to maximize their pleasures.  With that speed bump in the way of a set of direct comparisons, consider:

  • The NFLPA requires applicants to have inter alia an “Undergraduate AND Post Graduate degree (Masters or Law) from an accredited college/university” plus mandatory attendance at a 2-day seminar in Washington DC plus a passing grade on a “written multiple-choice proctored examination.”
  • The MLBPA does not mention educational levels as part of its criteria to be a certified agent.  There is a written exam to be passed and mandatory agent meetings called by the MLBPA during the year as part of the process to become an agent and remain certified as an agent.
  • I cannot find any listing of certification criteria issued by the NHLPA.
  • The NBPA requires applicants for provide a copy of the “highest diploma received” which I take to mean anything including the successful completion of a pre-kindergarten program.  There is also an exam given by the NBPA every January consisting of 50 multiple choice questions with a 3-hour time limit and a requirement to attend “agent seminars” for the first three years of certification.
  • The website for the Major League Soccer Players Union states simply, “Currently, we do not have agent regulations.”

My conclusion here is that the proposed NCAA hurdles to becoming an agent are not the most stringent ones out there but the educational requirement is higher than most of the other major US pro sports entities.  That is the unemotional conclusion to be drawn here – – and of course, in today’s highly rational environment, the reactions do not stop there.

Rich Paul is Black; that is an objective statement; that has also led some commentators to assert that the proposed NCAA regulation which is “obviously” targeted at him must also be racially inspired.  As I have reminded the world many times, I cannot read minds; therefore, I have exactly no idea if indeed there is a racial ingredient in this NCAA pronouncement.  I would only point out that Rich Paul would also fail to meet agent requirements set forth by the NFLPA and his failure would be for the same reason that he would not meet the NCAA standard.  And that objective fact leads me to this avenue of thought:

  • If an educational requirement set forth by the NCAA is racially motivated, then an even more stringent educational requirement set forth by the NFLPA might be considered in the same light.
  • The NFLPA represents approximately 2000 players and more than 60% of them are Black.
  • The elected head of the NFLPA – DeMaurice Smith – is a Black man.
  • I have difficulty getting my mind wrapped around the idea that the NFLPA should be thought of as somehow “deficient” on issues along a racial dimension.

Enough serious stuff; let me switch gears to a topic that is monumentally unimportant.  I speak here of the NFL Exhibition Season which got started last night – – assuming that you paid no significant attention to the Hall of Fame Game last week.  The games are meaningless, and the first game of the Exhibition Season is meaningless-squared.  The players on the field for most of the snaps are not going to be anywhere near an NFL stadium this Fall – – unless they are in Section 505 Seat 11 having purchased that ticket on StubHub.  Notwithstanding that fact, there are folks who wager on Exhibition Games and it will not be long until there is a way to play daily fantasy sports on Exhibition Games.

In reality, the only reason to pay attention to these games is an almost ghoulish one.  Players get injured in pro football games – and practices – and injuries to key players or to players who are important fixtures on a team’s depth chart can have a significant negative effect on that team’s regular season record.  For that reason, I scan the “gamers” written by reporters who were at the Exhibition Games.

Occasionally, there is an Exhibition Game without a disastrous injury that merits a second look.  Last night’s game between the Giants and the Jets fit that category:

  • LeVeon Bell has not been in a football game for about 18 months.  He did not touch the football in last night’s game either.
  • Eli Manning made a cameo appearance throwing 1 pass for 3 yards.
  • Daniel Jones went 5 for 5 for 67 yards and 1 TD in the game.

Oh yeah; the Giants won the game 31-22 – – as if that matters.

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

“The Oakland City Council voted to not collect a parcel tax this year.

“Apparently the city overflowed its coffers in 2018 just from the Raiders mailing it in.”

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



Some Head-Scratchers Today…

A news report this morning says that Geno Smith will start in the Seattle Seahawks’ first exhibition game over Paxton Lynch.  The two of them are battling it out in the Seahawks’ training camp to see which one will hold the clipboard for Russell Wilson this year.  Lest anyone doubt that Russell Wilson’s job is in no danger, Wilson will not play at all in that first meaningless exhibition game.  This “news item” is interesting to me only because I read a report about a week ago where Geno Smith told one of the reporters covering the Seahawks camp that his goal is to be a starting QB in the NFL and that this camp is about him proving that he can do that.

Taken at face value, that must mean that he expects coaches/scouts from other teams to attend Seahawks’ training camp sessions because the reality is that he will only replace Russell Wilson if Wilson is in a coma.  If his goal is to be a starting QB in the NFL, I wonder why he chose to sign with the Seahawks as opposed to some other team where the starter is not as solidly encamped.  I don’t know if his bold statement about showing he can be a starter in the NFL is braggadocio or self-delusion – – or – – if he is simply recognizing the simple fact that the injury bug is always lurking around NFL locker rooms.  We shall see…

  • My best guess is that Geno Smith will get a real chance to be a starting QB for one of the XFL 2.0 teams if/when that new league launches.
  • If that happens, then maybe Geno Smith can be “The Tommy Maddox of XFL 2.0”.

Last night, the Yankees beat the Orioles 14-2 to run their record at Camden Yards to 10-0 this season.  The outcome of the game is not important nor is the fact that it was a blow-out.  What was unusual is that Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde and high-priced lawn ornament, Chris Davis got into a kerfuffle in the dugout and players had to restrain Davis from going after Hyde.  Of course, after the game the official line is that this was just a misunderstanding and that it has all been smoothed over and it will all be “kept in house”.  Here are some data that overhang this situation:

  • Davis is 3.5 years into a 7-year contract worth a total of $161M.  The deal calls for him to get $23M preseason for the duration of the deal.
  • When the deal was done just prior to the 2016 season, it looked like a good move for the Orioles.  Davis had hit 47 home runs and driven in 117 runs the year before and in 2013 he had hit 53 home runs and drove in 138 runs.
  • In 2016, the first year of the deal, he hit .221 and struck out 219 times.
  • In 2017, he hit .215 and struck out 195 times
  • In 2018, he hit .168 and struck out 192 times
  • So far in 2019, he is hitting .183 and has struck out 110 times.

On Opening Day this year, the Orioles total payroll for their 25-man roster was $67.4M according to this analysis.  Chris Davis accounted for 34.1% of the team’s salary.  To say that he has been a disappointment for the last 3.5 years would be a monumental understatement – – sort of like saying LaVar Ball is an extrovert.  Davis was removed from the game after this dugout scene last night; it will be interesting to see if he is in the lineup when the Astros visit Baltimore tomorrow night…

Speaking of things that are coming apart at the seams in MLB, the Boston Red Sox are in meltdown mode.  They have lost 9 of their last 10 games and they are 6 games out of the second wild card slot as of this morning.  Last year the Red Sox lost a total of 54 games; here we are in early August with 8 weeks left in the regular season and the Sox have already lost 56 games.

It seems to me that the explanation for this collapse is the pitching staff.  Chris Sale is the Sox ace and he has not been “ace-like” for most of the 2019 season.  In addition, the Sox have not been successful in finding a closer to replace Craig Kimbrell who left in free agency.  I don’t men to hang all the blame there, because the rest of the Sox pitchers have not stepped up to take over when these two large holes appeared from the beginning of the season.

One more baseball note today.  Next year, the Yankees will play the White Sox in the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa.  They will construct a temporary stadium there to seat 8000 people.  This seems to expand on the idea that MLB will schedule a game in Williamsport PA around the time of the Little League World Series and will send teams to the UK to play there.  The tag line from the film Field of Dreams is:

“If you build it, they will come.”

All I can say is that MLB is not expecting too many folks “will come” if the seating is limited to 8000.  After all, the population of Dyersville, IA is just over 4000 and one would expect that many of the townsfolk might be interested in securing a ticket for the spectacle.

Finally, having mentioned the Chris Davis contract in conjunction with last night’s dugout unpleasantness, consider this comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Californians carry the country’s highest mortgage debt — an average of $347,000.

“’Cry me a river,’ say the Baltimore Orioles. ‘We still owe Chris Davis $100 million!’”

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



A New One On Me…

Baseball games have been postponed because of rain or a variety of other weather conditions.  Football games have been delayed/interrupted when there are lightening strikes in the area.  A bunch of World Series Games were delayed when an earthquake hit the Bay Area in 1989.  Today, we have a sports-related cancellation for a reason I have not previously encountered:

  • Plague-infested fleas affecting prairie dog colonies.

The Colorado Rapids will host the Montreal Impact in an MLS game this weekend.  After the game, the Rapids had scheduled a fireworks display for the fans.  Here is part of a statement issued by the team regarding the cancellation of that event:

“However, it has been recommended that the post-game fireworks display be cancelled due to the confirmed presence of plague-infested fleas affecting prairie dog colonies in the surrounding areas…

“Additionally, in accordance with the Tri-County Health Department’s recommendation for the safety of all attendees, parking lots at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park will be restricted to asphalt lots until further notice.”

The problem here is that the launch site for the fireworks would have been in a grassy area that is off-limits by order of the health authorities in the area.  And that is a sports event cancellation that is a new one for me …

This portion of the sports calendar tends to be a slow time.  You can get an indication of how slow it is by the headlines on various sports websites heralding what folks wrote about to provide content for those sites in the past few days.  Here are just a few of many examples:

  • Zion wants to play career with Pelicans.  He knows that already?
  • Anthony Davis says he is afraid of the dark.  Never travel to Fairbanks in winter.
  • Why great rotations don’t always win titles.  You must score runs to win.
  • Which Premier League club should you root for?  Come on now…

We have not done this for a while so let me propose a Quick Quiz.  Of all the programming that ESPN puts on the air over its seemingly infinite outlets, what is the most annoying/least watchable programming:

  1. First Take
  2. Any X-games event
  3. The Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest
  4. The ESPYs

100 words or less…

A recent report in the Omaha World Herald appears to have uncovered some “Title IX shenanigans”.  Title IX requires colleges to provide comparable levels of athletic opportunity/participation for male athletes and female athletes if they receive any Federal funds.  Since college football teams have about 80 players on the roster, that means there needs to be plenty of “female opportunities for intercollegiate competition” to reach a “gender balanced status”.  According to the Omaha World Herald in its report here, one of the ways that some of the big schools have achieved that balance is to carry on the books inflated numbers of women on the rosters of the women’s rowing teams.  Here are some data:

  • Wisconsin:  176 women on the rowing team
  • Michigan:  132 women on the rowing team
  • Alabama:  120 women on the rowing team
  • Ohio St.:  110 women on the rowing team
  • Clemson:  104 women on the rowing team
  • Texas:  101 women on the rowing team

Those are just the “triple-digit schools”; there are others…  You might wonder how these schools can possibly afford to have so many rowing scholarships – and you would be right to have such a confusion in your mind.  It seems that the way schools make this happen is to recruit women from the general student population to come and try out for the rowing team even if they have never pulled an oar in their lives.  Then, so long as the female recruit does not evaporate, she is listed as a member of the team and carried on the roster.  There is no way most of them will ever come close to participating in an intercollegiate rowing competition – – but if they are listed on the roster, they count toward Title IX compliance.

The report linked above quotes an attorney who has experience dealing with Title IX and compliance issues:

“Whenever women’s teams or programs are treated differently in this way, such as padding women’s teams with athletes who will never participate, or having women athletes participate in non-varsity ways like novice rowing, that is sex discrimination.”

This story probably has a few chapters still to be written…

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that deals with men and women in sports:

“A Lithuanian couple won the 28th annual World Wife Carrying Championship in Sonkarjavi Finland on July 8.

“Just think of it as the flip side to US soccer, where the women carry the men.”

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



Two Soccer Notes…

Every once in a while, I go “grazing” on the Internet to see if there are any soccer items that might be of interest here.  Last week I ran across two such tid-bits.  The first one comes from the Welsh Football League – – Division 2.  At some point in the upcoming season, the following two teams will square off:

  • Ynyshir Albions versus Ynysygerwn

Copy editors everywhere are already planning to call in sick the next day.  The entire country of Wales needs to on Wheel of Fortune just to be able to buy some vowels.

The second tid-bit comes from the Highland Football League in Scotland; one of the teams there is Fort William FC.  On 31 July of this year, Fort William FC beat Nairn County by a score of 5-2.  Here is why that is noteworthy:

  • In the 2017/18 season, Fort William FC went winless in all 34 of their league games and only managed 5 ties.
  • In 2018/19, Fort William FC started 0-5 and then the league penalized them 9 points for using an ineligible player in 3 of those games.  They could not even cheat effectively.  The team result for the 2019 season was no wins in 34 games and only 2 ties.  The team finished with negative – 7 points for the season thanks to that league-imposed penalty.

The win over Nairn County about a week ago was the first win for Fort William in 707 days and broke a 73-game losing streak.  Fort William is a small town in the western part of the Scottish Highlands; the population there is about 10,000 souls; I suspect there was a lot of celebrating there on the evening of July 31…

This year, the NBA offseason has been interesting and attention-grabbing.  While most of the drama seems to have happened, there remains one player-situation that could become a big deal before the teams report to training camp in late September.  [No.  I am not talking about the possible return of Carmelo Anthony to an NBA roster or about Jeremy Lin finding a landing place in the league.]  The player-situation I am referring to involves Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.  He is currently eligible to sign a contract extension worth $112M; the Wizards have put that offer on the table for Beal’s consideration.  That offer can be valid until the opening day of the next NBA season which is October 16.

If he declines that offer, he might choose to stay in DC and hope to be eligible for a Super Max contract in the next two years there.  He will need to make one of the All-NBA teams or be named Defensive Player of the Year (that will NOT be happening) in order to qualify for a Super Max.  Alternatively, he could engineer a trade and say sayonara to the Wizards to go and chase a championship elsewhere.  It’s not a huge deal as compared to the decisions made by the likes of Kevin Durant and Kawai Leonard – – but the movement of very good players may not be over and done with for this NBA offseason.

The intense interest in the NBA offseason has been heralded as a big win for the NBA as it keeps “league business” front and center in the sporting conversation through the summer months.  Yes, that is a good thing, but it not an unalloyed success.  Here is something that the NBA needs to recognize:

  • The NBA already has fans looking past the regular season to consider the playoffs.
  • Fans and commentators are already talking about various possibilities in the first round of the playoffs next year.
  • The NBA does not need for its fans to have any reasons to ignore more of the 1230 regular season games.

As things stand already, at least half of those regular season games are of no import and can be readily ignored – – unless you like watching dunks and 3-point shot attempts.  A serious problem facing the NBA is the inexorable fact that the league consists of two categories of teams; those that have a chance to “make a playoff run” and those that do not.  That categorization is clear on Halloween; then the season happens, and it does not conclude until after your tax return is due in the hands of the IRS the next spring.  That is a long time to hold the attention of fans while they wait for a fait accompli.

Oh, but it does not end there…  The NBA and its fans must come to grips with the fact that a new era has dawned.  Professional basketball in the US is now part of the Age of Load Management (ALM).  The inexorable fact of life in ALM is that a fan who tunes into a game – or purchases a ticket to and see a game at an arena – cannot rely on seeing star players perform even when those star players are perfectly healthy.  Now, if you think as I do that far too many NBA regular season games are nothing more than an exhibition of dunks and 3-point shot attempts, the last thing you want to see is such a contest populated by the junior varsity.  Here is the only reason I might want to watch such an event:

  • It might be interesting to see traveling called on some of the junior varsity players and then compare those calls to the ones not made when the stars come back to play in the next game.

Finally, since I mentioned above the Welsh football nightmare game for copy editors, here is a similar observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Among the twosomes playing in the LPGA Tour’s Dow Great Lakes Invitational team event: Pajaree Anannarukarn and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras.

“The Society of One-Column Headline Writers immediately filed a grievance.”

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



Meandering Thoughts…

Occasionally, I point out the intersection between sports and politics.  Here is an example of where those worlds diverge:

  • Politics:  Someone proposes a Green New Deal and that leads to bickering and rhetorical jousting.
  • Sports:  The Golden State Warriors propose a Green new deal and that leads to Draymond signing a 4-year contract extension for $100M.

Sports is just a lot more fun than politics …

Last week, an event at a nexus of sports and the law happened in Louisiana.  Of course, you recall that last year, the Rams beat the Saints in the NFL Playoffs and that was the game with the horrendous missed pass interference call in the final minute of the game.  That missed call was so atrocious that it led to a rule change regarding challenges for pass interference that the NFL put in place for 2019.  That missed call also led to several lawsuits in Federal court seeking to force the NFL to restart the game at the point of the missed call.  All those suits were summarily dismissed, and it seemed as if there was a lid on this matter.

Not so…  A Louisiana resident filed a suit in state court alleging fraud by the NFL officials; and last week, a state judge dismissed an NFL motion to dismiss the case and allowed the plaintiff to proceed to the point of taking depositions – including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  The plaintiff has stated that he will donate any damages that he receives from the lawsuit to charity; he says he does not intend to enrich himself through this suit.  He says the only objectives here are to reveal the truth and to expose the fraud.

Much as I would love to see Roger Goodell deposed, let me try to resolve this matter for the plaintiff:

  • The truth is that the two officials on that side of the field on that play missed one of the most obvious penalty calls in football history.  They blew it.  We know they blew it and they know they blew it.  Saints’ fans suffered from that botched call; Rams’ fans benefited from that botched call.  It was human error and not something that was pre-ordained.

There is one other “optic” that arises from this lawsuit and its continued existence:

  • I have never lived in Louisiana and I have no familiarity with the state laws that apply there.  However, I can say from my position of ignorance that it would not surprise me if judges in Louisiana were elected as opposed to being appointed.

Moving on …  If you are an Eagles’ fan and you are inclined to see things happening in accordance with some pre-ordained cosmic plan, consider this:

  1. In 2017, Carson Wentz was injured in an Eagles/Rams game on Dec 10 and missed the rest of the season.
  2. In 2019, Carson Wentz was injured in an Eagles/Cowboys game on Dec 9 and missed the rest of the season.
  3. In 2019, the Giants will visit Philly on Dec 9.  If you believe that bad things happen in threes…

Conventional wisdom tells us that teams in the “big markets” provide players with such greater opportunity to earn money in addition to their lucrative sports contracts that most of the best players will gravitate to those “big market teams” and leave sports leagues with huge imbalances in competition.  And indeed, in MLB with no salary cap to keep teams in those “big markets” from luring players with big salaries and in the NBA where the salary cap has more holes in it than a lace doily, there is competitive imbalance.  As always, there is the counterexample to consider.  That would be New York City – the largest city in the US and the biggest of the big markets.

There are six NYC teams in the “Big 3” of US sports and 4 of the 6 teams in NYC are clearly sub-standard now and some have been for a while now:

  1. NY Mets:  The generally accepted view is that Mets’ ownership cannot or will not spend the money that it takes to be competitive on a recurring basis in MLB.  The small market teams cry poor while the Mets’ act poor.
  2. NY Giants:  The wheels came off this wagon when they decided to oust Tom Coughlin and replaced him with Ben McAdoo after the 2015 season.  At the moment, the Giants simply stink.
  3. NY Jets:  This team has floundered for a couple of decades; the last Jets coach to have a winning record there was Al Groh who coached the team for 1 year in 2000.  Since then, the Jets are 132-156 and there has been no shortage of drama enveloping the team during that time.
  4. NY Knickerbockers:  The list of malfeasances, misfeasances and non-feasances perpetrated by owner James Dolan and the executives that he has hired over the past 20 years is as long as the river Nile.

Or, maybe, there is some sort of pre-ordained fraud that has been – and continues to be – perpetrated on the fans of NYC teams…?  Whom might we depose to get to the truth there?

Finally, since we are in August and that is the time of year when many folks take a vacation and find their way to a place on the water, let me provide a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Beach:  A place where the majestic ocean and its miles of luxurious sand are transformed into a petri dish of potential staph infections by an unruly mob of overstressed people trying to get their folding chairs and beach umbrellas to stay put, many of whom did not get the memo about how having a prodigious pot belly and wearing a Speedo simply do not mix.”

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



NFL Football/CFL Football

I want to juxtapose two items because they demonstrate the fact that the NFL enjoys stratospheric revenues as compared to other North American sports endeavors.

  1. A report at Sportspromedia.com says that Allegiant Airlines and the NFL Raiders are about to close on a naming rights deal for the Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas.  It is not final, but the report says that Allegiant will pay the Raiders $25M per year for the next 20 years.  That comes out to a cool $500M over 20 years for the privilege of slapping a logo on a stadium.
  2. Meanwhile in the Maritime Provinces of Canada the Atlantic Schooners hope to join the CFL in 2021 by playing in a temporary facility in Moncton, New Brunswick until their stadium is finished in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The “bare bones stadium” in Halifax – which would need temporary seating to accommodate CFL games – would cost an estimated $130M to construct.

If these numbers are close to accurate, the Raiders will take in more money in the first 7 years they are in Las Vegas solely from the naming rights fees on the stadium than the entire construction cost of the basic stadium in Halifax will cost.

If you want more details on the work that various folks are doing to get approvals and funding for that Halifax stadium, here is a link that will get you up to speed pretty quickly.

There is a “football experiment” under consideration here in the “Lower 48”.  The PAC-12 folks think that they do not receive sufficient national attention and that geography is partly to blame.  There are loads of football fans in the East – – particularly in the Southeast – – who do not get to see lots of PAC-12 games because they tend to be played at night in the Pacific Time Zone and folks in the east tend to be in bed long before such games are over.  So, the PAC-12 idea/experiment is to think about starting some of the conference games at 9:00 AM Pacific time.  That would put games on the air in the east at noon – going up against second-tier matchups in the Big 10 and or ACC.

This early start-time idea would almost assuredly get the PAC-12 more East Coast viewers and in so doing it would likely increase the TV revenue taken in by the conference.  In matters of this kind, it is important to keep in mind an adage attributed to Stephen King:

  • Money talks, bullshit walks.

The ADs and the school administrators in the PAC-12 will see the potential for added dollar signs and act in a perfectly normal way here.  However, I would like to suggest that they turn the volume down a bit here and do some second order thinking.

  • Starting games at 9:00AM Pacific Time means that the entire atmosphere of PAC-12 games will change.  Instead of energetic and aroused fans in the stadium who might not be able to pass a breathalyzer test because they have been tailgating/partying for 6 hours before the game, the fans will be hungover from Friday night and/or still asleep in the dorms/frat houses.
  • The fan-experience at college football games is built around energy and adrenaline and enthusiasm.  Some of those intangibles will be in shorter supply if the games start on Saturday morning at 9:00 AM.
  • If anyone were to think that none of that “energy in the stands” matters, let me suggest that someone should tune into some MAC games on Wednesday evenings.  There are few if any fans in the stands and most of them spend most of the game sitting on their hands.  Watching on TV, the vibe here is a lot closer to funereal than it is to raucous college hijinks.

There is probably more money to be made in the short term for PAC-12 schools if they make this change in starting time for some games.  However, I think that change and that increased revenue comes at a price; that price is less enthusiasm in the stands and that can lead to more empty seats and empty seats do not make for a “tasty TV experience”.

Last week there were reports in several places saying that two members of the MLB Hall of Fame would likely boycott next year’s ceremony when Derek Jeter is a shoo-in to be inducted in Cooperstown.  Supposedly, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez are still unhappy that Jeter fired them from their “advisory positions” with the Miami Marlins after Jeter and others purchased the marlins and proceeded to cut the payroll to its bare bones.

I would be hard-pressed to tell you how little I care if these guys attend or do not attend.  The day in Cooperstown is not about people who were inducted in the past; the day in Cooperstown is about the newbies.  Unless “indisputable visual evidence” surfaces in the next 6 months showing Derek Jeter inflagrante delicto with a small household pet, he is going to be elected to the Hall of Fame.  The presence or absence of two enshrined members to hear someone introduce him and then to hear his prepared remarks is hugely inconsequential.

This protest/boycott/whatever must be ignored lest it become an “acceptable thing” in the future…

There is a story this morning at CBSSports.com that ought to be a misdemeanor punishable by caning or the lash.  The headline is:

  • Bracketology:  2020 tourney field

Finally, Greg Cote channeled Carnac the Magnificent in the Miami Herald a few weeks ago:

“Answer: The U.S. championships in taekwondo and fencing are both going on.

“Question: What are two sports nobody except participants and their families will watch?”

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