Jon Gruden Channeling Al Davis?

Ever since Mark Davis handed control of the Raiders’ roster to Jon Gruden, it is fair to say that Gruden made a few moves that caused a raised eyebrow or two.

  • He traded Kahlil Mack to the Bears.
  • He traded Amari Cooper to the Cowboys.
  • He signed Antonio Brown and inherited the totality of the soap opera Brown brings with him.
  • He signed Richie Incognito who is no stranger to controversy – but who has been a solid citizen so far for the Raiders.
  • He signed Vontaze Burfict who is the poster child for self-immolation.

The Antonio Brown Experiment in Oakland is over; the Raiders need not worry about it any longer.  And if reports this morning are correct, it may be that The Vontaze Burfict Experiment in Oakland will be set aside for more than a little while.  Burfict is facing a suspension from the league; by itself, that is not news; when Burfict plays a full season without some sort of league sanction, it is a story that falls into the man-bites-dog category.  Burfict has been suspended twice for illegal and brutal hits on opposing players – one of which was Antonio Brown interestingly – and he served a suspension for testing positive for PEDs. has a report this morning citing a Tweet from ESPN’s Chris Mortenson that Burfict may be suspended for the balance of the 2019 season.

As a repeat offender for illegal and dirty hits, Burfict seems to have shown that 4-game suspensions as levied in the past are not sufficient for him to consider changing his ways.  As he was leaving the field after his ejection from yesterday’s game for another illegal hit, he was smiling and blowing kisses to the fans in Indy.  I don’t know how long a suspension the league should hand down in this instance but keeping the punishment at the 4-game level would seem to be an act that condones such behavior instead of an act that censures such behavior.

Another NFL story that gets a lot of attention week-by-week is the potential contract extension for Dak Prescott in Dallas.  I think Prescott is worth the market price for a young franchise QB because he has shown me that he has the talent and the focus to fill that role more than adequately.  I also think that the lack of a contract extension is not necessarily any lack of recognition by the Cowboys that Dak Prescott is an important element of their team structure.

It takes two sides to reach an agreement on a contract – and it might just be that Dak Prescott and his advisors have convinced themselves that it is in their best interest to stretch out these negotiations.  Of course, they would probably be willing to take a contract offer from the Cowboys that blows the lid off every previous QB deal in league history – – but absent such a blockbuster, they can hold their fire.  The term of art here seems to be the Dak Prescott will be “betting on himself”.

Prescott’s contract is up at the end of this season; if I understand the terms of his deal, he will make just over $2M this year which is more than he has made in the three years prior to this one on his current contract.  Given his performance, he has been an ever-loving bargain for the Cowboys, but they have no option year on his deal.  If there is no contract extension signed, the Cowboys would have to put a franchise tag on Prescott next offseason and the value of a franchise tag for a QB this year is $24.8M.  What that means to me is that Dak Prescott is going to get a raise to at least $25M next season; and therefore, he can – if he wishes – just play on knowing that level of recompense is about to happen.  He can look at that franchise tag as his “signing bonus” for a contract extension and layer his demands from that starting point.

Last week, I mentioned that the NCAA notified Kansas University of a handful of charges that the school’s basketball program shredded several of the NCAA’s hallowed regulations and that Kansas was going to fight such allegations.  Meanwhile, the NCAA announced its decision in another men’s basketball “situation” late last week when it put Georgia Tech on 4 years’ probation and banned the school from any post-season tournament activities for the upcoming season.

The most salacious violation of NCAA recruiting rules involves a Georgia Tach assistant coach who arranged for a potential recruit to visit the house of a program booster who then arranged for the recruit to take a trip to a strip club where the recruit had access to $300 to spend in the club.  The more mundane violation of NCAA recruiting rules involved another booster offered impermissible benefits to a player who was considering transferring to Georgia Tech to the tune of “thousands of dollars in the form of shoes, lodging, clothing, transportation and meals.”

Here are the important sanctions levied upon Georgia Tech basketball:

  • Four years on probation – and a loss of one scholarship in each of those 4 years.
  • No tournament appearance at the close of this season.
  • A fine of $5K plus 2% of the men’s basketball budget for 2019.
  • A slew of reduced permissible recruiting activities for the next 4 years.
  • “Disassociation” of the school and the assistant coach involved here.
  • “Disassociation” of the school and the two boosters involved in the actions here.

In no way do I intend to prejudge the validity of the allegations made by the NCAA regarding the Kansas program.  I would note, however, that if this is the level of punishment that the NCAA is ready to hand down to a recognizable basketball school such as Georgia Tech for behaviors that are nowhere near as flagrant as the behaviors alleged in the Kansas affair, it might be a good idea for the Kansas braintrust to consider the possibility of a negotiated settlement rather than risking a complete loss.  Just a thought…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation recently in the Seattle Times:

“The Miami Dolphins — outscored 102-10 in their first two games — are so bad that five SEC teams are already trying to get them on next season’s nonconference schedule.”

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



Football Friday – On Thursday This Week

This week, Football Friday falls on a Thursday as my wife and I prepare for our next set of weekend houseguests.  Last weekend, we were away with friends meaning that I saw only a fraction of my normal weekend football viewing “live and up close” and had to rely on a lot of replay coverage after the fact.  I will miss a lot of this weekend’s live coverage again – – but hope to return to a normal schedule for a couple of weeks after this one.

Before going through this week’s football review, let me note that the Six-Pack from two weeks ago went 5-1.  The single losing pick was taking the Chargers – 2.5 points over the Lions who won the game outright.  Here are the breakdown stats:

  • Overall Six-Pack record is now 9-3
  • Overall college games in the Six-Pack are now 4-0
  • Overall NFL games in the Six-Pack are now 5-3.
  • Past performance is no guarantee of future results…


College Football Commentary:


Two weeks ago, the Linfield College Wildcats traveled across 3 time zones to take on the Rowan University and won that game 35-14.  Last week the Wildcats traveled to Redlands CA to take on the Redlands Bulldogs and lost that game 27-19.  Linfield’s record as of today is 1-1 as they pursue yet one more winning season in football – as they have done every year since 1956.  This week, the Wildcats are on the road again in Forest Grove, OR taking on the Pacific University Boxers.  Pacific comes to the game with an 0-3 record on the season and this is the first Northwest Conference game of the year for Linfield.  Go Wildcats!

Combining college football commentary over the past couple of weeks …  UNC had won two close games to start the season with end-of-game heroics; that ended with a loss to Wake Forest 24-18.  All good things must come to an end; so says Geoffrey Chaucer.

Two weeks ago, Kansas beat BC handily 48-24.  Given that Kansas had lost to College of Charleston 12-7 the week before that, I would call this result something more than a “mild surprise”. Here is a bigger surprise:

  • This was the first time in almost 11 years that Kansas had won a road game against a team in a Power 5 Conference.  That last road win for Kansas took place in the latter stages of the George W. Bush administration.

Georgia and Notre Dame squared off in a big game for both schools.  It was so big that the stadium in Athens, GA was not large enough to accommodate all the Georgia fans who had tix for the game plus the 8500 folks who bought ticket allotments for Notre Dame.  The solution was temporary bleachers added to Sanford Stadium bringing the total capacity for this game to 92,750.

This game was a big game for Georgia and a huge game for Notre Dame.  Notre Dame acquitted itself well in this road game despite losing by a TD.  It was the Game of the Week.

Syracuse took on W. Michigan – and normally, that game would not merit even a glance let alone a comment.  However, Syracuse was placed in the Top 25 in the first week of the season and proceeded to shut out Liberty University in the opening game.  Not a big deal …  Then, Syracuse lost two games in a row having its doors blown off by Maryland in Week 2 and then by Clemson in Week 3.  The combined score in those two losses was 104-26.  Based on those results, it is fair to suggest that Syracuse is not “Top 25 material” but how bad were they?

  • Syracuse 52   W. Michigan 33

The Auburn/Texas A&M game paired two very good teams against each other.  Auburn won the game 28-20 and the game looks closer than it really was because the Aggies rallied to score 17 points in the 4th quarter.

The Pitt Panthers did the CFP a humongous favor last weekend beating UCF 35-34.  It was the first regular season loss for UCF in about 3 years and what it did was to alleviate any lobbying pressure on the CFP Selection Committee come December to take UCF seriously as a potential national champion.

  • I give UCF all the props and high marks for their aggressive out-of-conference scheduling.  Signing on to take on Stanford and Pitt in successive weeks is bold scheduling.
  • Having said that, their next 8 games are against their AAC sister schools – and none of them are meaningful on a national stage.  I am being most polite when I say that, too…
  • This loss means that UCF might only be “considered” for a CFP slot if Pitt is also under consideration – – and that is simply not going to be the case.
  • Ergo, Pitt handed the CFP Selection Committee a trump card to hold off any bleatings and pleadings from advocates of teams like UCF who “belong in the CFP.”

Before you drink that Kool-Aid, check out the rest of the UCF schedule here.

Cal beat Ole Miss 28-20 on the road in Oxford, MS.  The Golden Bears are now 4-0 and just might be the class of the PAC-12.  The Cal defense is for real and it is that unit that has taken the major role in formulating this 4 game winning-streak to start the 2019 season.  That was anything but the case at Cal during the Jeff Tedford Era there…

Speaking of the PAC-12, Utah was on the road and favored over USC; that does not happen often, but it was the case last week.  The game had serious implications for the PAC-12 South Division race and USC won the game outright using a 2nd string QB.

THE most bizarre result from last week had to be the UCLA win over Washington St. by a score of 67-63.  How bizarre was this game?

  1. UCLA scored 50 points in the second half to come from behind to win.
  2. Washington St. led by 32 points in the third quarter – – and came from ahead to lose.
  3. Washington St. QB, Anthony Gordon threw for 9 TDs in this game – – and he was the losing QB.
  4. Washington St. allowed 2 TDs on special teams.
  5. Washington St. turned the ball over 6 times in the game.

SMU beat TCU 41-38.  This is a major rivalry game that does not get the national focus that other rivalry games do.  These schools are only about 40 miles apart – the distance from Dallas to Fort Worth.

Wisconsin beat Michigan 35-14 – – but the game was not nearly this close because Michigan scored its 2 TDs very late in the game when the outcome had long been a foregone conclusion.  I saw a bit more than half of this game as a replay which was a good thing because I knew the outcome and that allowed me to ignore some of the “follow the ball” plays and focus on things like coverages and line play.  Here is what I saw:

  • Wisconsin ran the ball down Michigan’s throat and beat Michigan physically at the line of scrimmage on offense – and on defense.
  • In Jim Harbaugh’s successful collegiate coaching stops before Michigan – University of San Diego and then Stanford – the team trademark was to win using smashmouth football.  Michigan lost this game because Wisconsin was much the more dominant physical team.

Going into the 2019 season, there were more than a handful of pundits who thought that Michigan would be a contender for a CFP invitation.  After seeing last week’s performance, there is no way I can see that happening and that brings me to wonder about Jim Harbaugh and his tenure at Michigan.

  • Yes, he is an alum who was the quarterback for a successful Michigan team that defeated Ohio State in 1985.
  • Yes, he was successful in the collegiate ranks AND at the NFL level taking the Niners to a Super Bowl after the 2012 season.
  • Nonetheless, he has been at Michigan for a tad over 4 years now – – at a tidy $7.5M per year don’t you know – – and he has yet to beat Ohio State or Michigan State or Wisconsin on a regular basis.
  • At what point do the folks who are ponying up that $7.5M per year begin to ask if this is all there is to the “Jim Harbaugh Experience”?


NCAA Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Penn St. – 6.5 at Maryland (62.5):  The Terps had last week off as a BYE Week and if you look at the schedule, you will realize that the team has to have been pointing to this game since the beginning of Spring Practice 6 months ago.  If Maryland pulls out a win here, this would be THE biggest win in Maryland’s tenure in the Big 10.  I am not convinced that this year’s Penn State team is one of its finest products.  I am tempted to take Maryland on the Money Line at +200 – – but I will resist that temptation and take the game to stay UNDER.

(Fri Nite) Arizona St. at Cal – 4.5 (41.5):  As noted above, the Cal defense is for real; the oddsmaker thinks that both defenses will dominate the opposing offenses here.  This is an important game in terms of PAC-12 standings for both teams.

UConn at UCF – 44 (64):  Such is the competition in the AAC for UCF from here on out in the 2019 season …

Buffalo – 2.5 at Miami (OH) (46.5):  What is interesting here is that Miami opened the week as a 2-point favorite.  Miami lost last week by 71 points to Ohio State and they opened here as a favorite…?

Ga Tech at Temple – 8 (49):  The interesting aspect here is that the coach at Temple last year is now the coach at Georgia Tech.

NC State at Florida State – 6.5 (61.5):  Here you have two VERY unreliable teams.  This game could be a blowout in favor of either team – – or it could go into quadruple OT…

Rutgers at Michigan – 28 (49.5):  The Wolverines struggled against Army and then lost badly last week (see above).  Most likely, they take out their frustrations against an over-matched Rutgers’ team here.

Washington St. at Utah – 6 (57):  Both teams lost last week (see above).  The Cougars’ loss was either “embarrassing” or “devastating”.  We will find out how they play in this road game against a good opponent…

Ole Miss at Alabama – 38 (61):  Cal held Ole Miss to 20 points last week.  I would not be shocked to see Alabama to hold Ole Miss to 10 points this week.

Mississippi St. at Auburn – 10 (47):    Is this a “trap game” for Auburn?  They have Florida next up on their dance card.  If the Tigers keep their focus, they can win this game handily…

UVa at Notre Dame – 12.5 (48.5):  Notre Dame lost to Georgia but showed in that loss that they are one of the top teams in the country.  UVa is not at that same level of competition.  I like Notre Dame to take care of business at home, so I’ll put them in the six-Pack to win and cover.

Ohio St – 17 at Nebraska (67):  I am not yet committed to the “Nebraska hype”; I think Scott Frost needs a bit more time to assemble a team that can take on the top-shelf teams in the Big 10.  Even on the road, I’ll put Ohio St in the Six-Pack to win and cover.

UCLA at Arizona – 7 (71):  Last week, the total score in the UCLA game was 130 points.  Three weeks ago, the total score in the Arizona game was 105 points.  Just saying …


NFL Commentary:


            About a week ago, I commented on the fact that there were two NFL games on the same weekend that had greater than 20-point spreads attached to them and that I could never recall such a thing in the past.  I have often referred to a reader of these rants in Houston who maintains sports records and data far beyond anything I might have access to.  I received an e-mail from the “Houston reader” shedding light on that situation:

“My computer records go back to 1993 and this is the first week since then where two teams were favored by 17 points or more.

“Prior to that, Week 5 of the 1987 season (Oct. 11-12) with replacement players in the strike-shortened year was the last time we had two 20-plus-point favorites in the same week.

“Since 1993, according to my records, only seven NFL games have closed with a point spread of 20 points or higher and those teams are 7-0 SU [Straight Up], but just 1-6 ATS [Against the Spread].

“Favs were the home team in each game:

1993 – SF -23.5 Cincy (21-8) Week 14

2001 – St. Louis -20 Carolina (48-14) Week 9

2007 – NE -24 Philly (31-28) Week 12

2007 – NE -20.5 NYJ (20-10) Week 15

2007 – NE -22 Miami (28-7) Week 16

2011 – NE -21 Indy (31-24) Week 13

2013 – Denver -26.5 Jax (35-19) Week 6”

Thank you to the Houston reader for the clarification here.

Two weeks ago, the Bucs beat the Panthers 20-16 in an ugly game.  Watching parts of the replay of that game, I made the following notation on my clipboard:

“Sorry.  Cam Newton does not look right to me.  Whatever injury he had last year is not fully healed.”

I am not a physician or an expert in kinesiology by any stretch of the imagination.  That notation simply means that to my eyes, he was not playing with the same “natural movement” I had come to expect from him in a football field; his throws looked labored and wrong.  Unfortunately for Cam Newton – and Panthers’ fans – I might have been correct in my assessment.  Carolina has already lost two home games and Cam Newton will miss his second consecutive game this week.  Things are not looking up in Charlotte…

Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently.  It is indeed one of those inexplicable matters of mathematics:

“Stat-ic: The Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and Ravens’ Lamar Jackson both finished their Week 1 games with perfect passer ratings of 158.3. But as Troy Aikman wondered on air Sunday, how can a quarterback have a perfect rating if he’s thrown some incompletions? A mystery for the ages.”

By the way, both the Lions and the Bills are undefeated going into Week 4 of the NFL season.  Raise your hand if you had that situation obtaining back in August.  I certainly did not.

The Jets and the Niners have their BYE Weeks already.

  • The Jets have started 0-3 and have to hope that this week off will give Sam Darnold time to return to the field after his bout with mononucleosis to lead the Jets against the Eagles in Philly next week.
  • The Niners have started the season 3-0 with two of those wins coming on the road.  They will use the week to prepare for a visit by the Browns next week.


NFL Games This Week:


(Thurs Nite) Philly at Green Bay – 4 (46):  The Eagles have a ton of injuries and are simply not playing very well.  The Packers are not playing all that well either on offense, but the Packers defense has been responsible for the team’s 3-0 start to the season.  The Eagles have not been able to mount any serious pass rush so far this year and if Aaron Rodgers is given plenty of time, this game could get very ugly very quickly.  The Packers at home are always a tough out.  In this situation, I think they are the dominant team; so, I’ll put the Packers in the Six-Pack to win and cover.

Carolina at Houston – 4 (47):  The Panthers recorded 8 sacks against Kyler Murray last week.  The Texans’ O-Line is not the source of the Texans’ strength; it had better find a way to protect Deshaun Watson in this game.  Kyle Allen will make his second start for the Panthers at QB – both of those starts coming on the road.

Cleveland at Baltimore – 7 (45):  Browns/Ravens games are always layered in emotional rivalry; in this case, the game is critical to the Browns; a Ravens’ win here would give the Ravens a 2-game lead over the Browns in the AFC North race plus the tie-breaker for the moment in that race.  The Ravens are the better team overall – – despite the offseason hype that was heaped onto the Browns.  Baker Mayfield has been disappointing so far this year; he has a QB Rating of 70.3.  To give you a perspective on what a QB rating of 70.3 might mean, consider these career QB ratings:

  • Kordell Stewart 70.7
  • Bill Nelson 70.3
  • Trent Dilfer 70.2
  • Vince Ferragamo 70.1

Washington at Giants – 2.5 (49):  The only redeeming feature of this game is that it is a division game.  Neither team is very good.  The Skins never seem to play well in the Meadowlands which is frightening to contemplate given how badly they have played in other venues this season.  The question here is direct:

  • Can Daniel Jones maintain his “mystique” and play to the level of the mania that accompanied his debut? 

Oh, and by the way, he will have to try to do that without Saquon Barkley…

I will resist the temptation to take the OVER in this game even though I recognize that both defenses here stink.

Chargers – 15.5 at Miami (44):  In the first three games of this season, the Dolphins have been outscored 133-16.  This is a “body clock game” for the Chargers and the spread is more than 2 TDs.  There isn’t any doubt where the talent lies in this game, but I would touch this game as a betting proposition any more than I would pet a cobra.

Oakland at Indy – 7 (45):  The Raiders have not looked good since the first game of the season; the Colts played well against the Falcons last week.

KC – 6.5 at Detroit (53):  Both teams here are undefeated – although the Lions have a tie on their record.  This game has the potential to light up the scoreboard because both teams bring stronger offensive units to the field than defensive units.

New England – 7 at Buffalo (42):  This is another game between two undefeated teams – – and it is a division game.  That qualifies this as the Game of the Week.  The last time the Bills started a season at 3-0 was in 2011.  So far in 2019, the Pats’ defense has yet to allow a TD – even though the Jets scored 14 points last week.  The Bills’ defense is excellent also.  I see this as a low-scoring game; I see that the spread here is a full TD; I see that the Bills are the home team with an excellent defense.  All that leads me to put the Bills plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Tennessee at Atlanta – 4 (46):  The Falcons are the better team here and that is why this game is not a wagering proposition.  The Titans will play up to or down to the level of the opposition.  The Falcons seem to have too many weeks where their talent goes into hibernation.  Consider these stats and you will understand why there is no way to bet on this game:

  • Marcus Mariotta was sacked 9 times last week by the Jags.  That is absurd…
  • Matt Ryan has thrown 6 INTs in 3 games so far in 2019.  Really?

Tampa Bay at Rams – 9.5 (49):  This is another game with the potential to turn ugly.  Last week, Daniel Jones led the Giants to a win over the Bucs scoring 32 points.  If the Giants can go “north of 30 points” on the Bucs’ defense, why can’t the Rams go “north of 40”?

Seattle – 5 at Arizona (48):  The Seahawks simply laid an egg last week against the Saints; the Seahawks cannot afford to play like that very often.  The Seahawks lost that game despite outgaining the Saints 515 yards to 265 yards; it is not easy to come out as the loser in a game like that.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals are not as bad as the Dolphins, but they are demonstrably in the lower echelon of the NFL – particularly on defense.  I think the Seahawks will rebound this week, so I’ll put them in the Six-Pack to win and cover.

Minnesota at Chicago – 2.5 (38):  This game is an important division game in the context of the NFC North race.  It was a strong contender for the Game of the Week.  Both teams will bring excellent defensive units to the field and each team will bring a QB to the field who has “underperformed expectations”.  Offensive scoring in this game should be infrequent.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, the key to the game appears to be:

  • Which excellent defense is going to make which underwhelming QB look worse?

Jax at Denver – 3 (39):  This was the runner-up game for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Neither team has shown much this year; they are not division rivals.  If forced to come up with a reason to care about this game, here is the best that I can do:

  • Will Jalen Ramsey have recovered sufficiently from his “flu” to play in the game?
  • Will Von Miller and/or Bradley Chubb finally record a sack in this game?

Pretty thin gruel there…

(Sun Nite) Dallas – 2.5 at New Orleans (47):  This is a big game for both teams; the winner will likely have “open water” between their position atop their division and the second-place team in that division.  People focus on the Cowboys’ offense and the stars on that side of the ball; quietly, the Cowboys’ defense has only allowed 44 points in the first 3 games of 2019.

(Mon Nite) Cincy at Pittsburgh – 4 (43.5):  How can it be that ESPN has gotten another rotten egg game for Monday Night Football?  Last week it had the Bears/skins snoozer; this week it gets a Bagel Game – where both teams bring Zeros to the game in the win column.  Does the NFL have a vendetta against ESPN?  Is there a warlock out there somewhere who has placed a hex on the MNF schedule?  This game is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Let me present how these teams arrived at this game with 0-3 records:

  • The Bengals led in the 4th quarter in two of those losses – and then gagged the game away.
  • The Bengals have rushed for 126 yards in 3 games this season.
  • The Steelers lost 2 of their games by 4 points or less after losing a blowout game to the patriots in Week 1.
  • The Steelers rushing defense is in the bottom 5 in the NFL.

The Bengals have lost 9 consecutive “prime-time games” on the road.  Maybe the best reason to tune into this game is to see what form of self-immolation Andy Dalton will employ to stretch that streak to 10 consecutive prime-time losses on the road?

Oh, by the way, in case you think that I am over-reacting to the miserable slate of games offered to and by ESPN on Monday Night Football this year, here is a bit of foreshadowing:

  • October 28, 2019 the MNF game will be Dolphins at Steelers

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Penn St./Maryland UNDER 62.5
  • Notre Dame – 12.5 over UVa
  • Ohio St. – 17 over Nebraska
  • Packers – 4 over Eagles
  • Bills +7 against Patriots
  • Seahawks – 5 over Cardinals.

Finally, let me close today with an observation by H. L. Mencken – often referred to as The Bard of Baltimore – regarding college football:

“College football would be more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students – there would be a great increase in broken arms, legs and necks.”

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



2019 – A Season Of Futility – – Squared?

The MLB regular season is all but over.  However, there is a game on the schedule for today that is of interest here in Curmudgeon Central because it is a benchmark game in terms of futility.  The Seattle Mariners – a team that I have traveled across the country to see more than a dozen times – are a bad baseball team.  They started the season winning 13 of their first 15 games; and then, the wheels came off the wagon.  As of this morning, the Mariners record is 66-91; they are a mere 37 games out of first place in the AL West.  Today, the Mariners play the first-place Houston Astros who have wrapped up the division championship, and that game is one to watch.

Being in the same division, the Mariners and the Astros are scheduled to play each other 19 times.  Today is the final time in 2019 the teams will meet.  After losing to the Astros last night, the Mariners’ record against the Astros in 2019 stands at 1-17.  If they lose again today, that would leave the Mariners record against the Astros at 1-18 which you would think would be the futility standard for a modern MLB team.

But it would not be the futility standard …  Earlier this month, the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians concluded their 19-game schedule against each other, and the Tigers lost 18 of those games.  If the Mariners lose again today, neither the Mariners nor the Tigers will be in the record books alone for their ineptitude in the 2019 season.

Sticking with MLB for the moment, the Padres fired manager Andy Green last weekend with 8 games left to go in the season.  Granted, the Padres had higher expectations for 2019 than winning 70-75 games; however, making the change with 8 games left to go in the season seems awfully petty.  I am not saying that firing Andy Green was a bad idea; his record with the Padres from 2016 until last weekend was a less-than-inspiring 274-366.  What advantage might accrue to the Padres now that they did not wait for another 8 games to announce his termination?

Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently related to MLB:

“Sarcasm ahead: Before Giancarlo Stanton returned to the lineup Wednesday, the Yankees’ highest paid player – $26 mil – had appeared in nine games this season. The team was so badly crippled by the absence of his bat that the Yankees are en-route to winning a mere 100-plus games. You get the drift. Another slugger who isn’t worth his asking price.”

Moving on … the biggest story of the day is probably the announcement by the NCAA that they have charged Kansas University with 5 “Level 1 violations” of NCAA rules and they have also asserted that there was “lack of institutional control” at Kansas during the time the alleged infractions were happening.  This is a big deal for a lot of reasons:

  1. Kansas is a blue-blood NCAA basketball program.  The first coach at Kansas was none other than Dr. James Naismith who is regarded as the inventor of the game of basketball.
  2. Current coach, Bill Self, has been the head coach at Kansas since 2003 and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
  3. Kansas has won its conference championship 61 times – – approximately every other year over the history of the program.  The team has had a winning record in 97 of its 121 seasons.
  4. Each of the five “Level 1 infractions” would carry with it penalties of reduced scholarships plus seasons banned from post-season play.
  5. If – I said IF – Coach Self is found to be materially guilty, he could be forced out of his job and slapped with a show-cause order – meaning that any other school that wanted to hire him would have to appeal to the NCAA to do so lest it inherit the same penalties levied on Kansas.

The biggest deal of all are the words “lack of institutional control”.  That is what the NCAA used to invoke the so-called “Death Penalty” on SMU’s football program in the 1980s.  Basically, it shut down the program and allowed all the players to transfer; the football program at SMU.  The school was not allowed to play any games for 1 year and then not allowed to play any home games for another year.  The school lost a total of 55 scholarships spread over multiple years and no “off-campus recruiting” was allowed for two years.

SMU was a big-time football program at the time.  Since returning from the death penalty, SMU football has been hugely unsuccessful; there have only been 5 winning seasons since football resumed at SMU in 1989.

Kansas and Bill Self have loudly proclaimed innocence here and it does not appear that this controversy will go quietly into the night.  The NCAA has its own reasons to take a hard line on this matter.  Remember, the NCAA super-sleuths are responsible for turning up exactly nothing related to these charges.  Whatever the NCAA has accused Kansas of doing was handed to the NCAA on a silver platter by the FBI and Federal prosecutors using taxpayer dollars.  Without that federal investigation of criminality in the college basketball recruiting process, the NCAA would still be sitting on their collective thumbs at NCAA HQs in Indianapolis, IN.

The image of the NCAA and its ability to enforce its own monstrously complex set of rules is akin to that of Inspector Clouseau.  I would assume that that the NCAA mavens would prefer to shed that imagery but the only way for them to do so will be to see to it that someone takes a fall for the violations that the NCAA alleges to have occurred.  After all, if the police and the authorities do not – or cannot – send Inspector Clouseau to jail after he drops the Pink Panther out of his handkerchief, then it is the police who are the bumbling fools and not Clouseau himself.

This saga will go on for a while; there will be threats; there will be venting of spleen; there will be high drama.  Here is what I think I know going into all of this:

  1. College basketball players – at Kansas and at other schools – are now and have been paid money under the table.  NCAA rules forbid that.
  2. The NCAA – lacking subpoena powers and the ability to acquire search warrants as is proper – cannot enforce its own rules without dumb luck handing them irrefutable evidence.
  3. I do not see how the NCAA can “save face” or emerge from this appearing to be in control of the sport(s) it purports to oversee without a visible and recognizable person or entity facing serious sanction(s).  Kansas and Bill Self seem to have been chosen by the NCAA overlords to be those visible and recognizable ne’er-do-wells.
  4. Sooner or later, the NCAA will find it advantageous to expand its assertion of authorities here and my guess is that the University of Arizona is next on the list.

Stay tuned…

Finally, having dealt with allegations of cheating and skirting the rules today, please consider this comment from Brad Rock formerly of the Deseret News regarding another sporting cheater:

“Lance Armstrong trolled Mike Pence on Twitter, saying he ‘just blew the doors off’ the Vice President while passing him on a bike path in Massachusetts.

“Armstrong now plans to enter the Cub Scout Olympics to see if he can sweep the sit-up and softball toss competitions.”

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



Hi There; Remember Me…

While I was on hiatus, September 19 passed into history and plenty of folks celebrated National Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Brad Dickson took the opportunity to comment on that happenstance as follows:

“Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I have a better idea. How about Talk Like an English Major Day.”

One other story that broke in my absence involves what appears to be the collapse of another pillar in the business edifice constructed by LaVar Ball.  It has been a while since Lonzo Ball fired Alan Foster as his agent.  Foster was a partner with LaVar Ball in the creation and development of the Big Baller Brand; Lonzo Ball has accused foster of “misappropriating” a little more than a million dollars of Lonzo’s money.  That has apparently caused friction within the Ball family and that “drama” has yet to play itself out.

In the past week or so, the NY Post has reported that there are also financial irregularities surrounding LaVar Ball’s Junior Basketball Association (JBA) – an entity that existed for a season even though you may not have realized it.  The JBA was supposed to be the sporting enterprise that would strike a dagger into the heart of the NCAA because it was going to give top-flight high school players a way to play basketball and make money for that year they had to “cool their heels” between high school and the NBA.  The JBA was supposed to be the death knell for college basketball’s one-and-done.

I argued when the JBA was announced with great fanfare that college basketball had a huge advantage over the JBA that was not likely ever to be overcome.  College basketball has tradition and TV exposure and it would have taken the JBA years if not decades to approach college basketball on those dimensions.  Zion Williamson is a perfect example; he had the option of playing in the JBA last year.  Once the college season was over – as was the JBA’s season – how many basketball fans knew about Williamson as opposed to anyone and everyone involved in the JBA?

According to the report in the NY Post, many players were stiffed out of paychecks and some players allege that stats for the league were cooked up to favor those players that LaVar Ball and/or Alan Favor preferred.  The report is based on interviews with 5 of the players in the JBA and a former employee of the league; based on those interviews, the author asserts:

“… a picture of the league’s rampant dysfunction and possible fraud becomes clear.”

Here is a link to the report.  It is a sad commentary for many of the players in the league who were not paid what they were promised and who have now used up their NCAA eligibility by having signed a professional contract.

Recall about a month ago, I mentioned that Bob Davie – head football coach at New Mexico – convinced the Athletic Department to rescind a cost saving rule it had instituted and allow Davie and the football staff to have the New Mexico football team stay at a local hotel the night before home football games.  The argument used then was concocted to make it appear that staying in that hotel the night before a game was a “player safety issue”.  Let me just say that argument was “thin” and leave it at that.

There was a recent report based on requests for public records that shows what some schools paid to put up their football teams at local hotels the night before a home football game.  One of the schools cited in the report was the University of Florida in the 2018 season.

  • The team reserved 48 rooms in the hotel.
  • Meals for the team – and staff – were catered.
  • Cost of lodging and meals was approximately $6800.

Florida played 7 home games in 2018, so the hotel bills totaled about $48,000.  Evidently, Florida was frugal in terms of cost containment here; the report cited another school – not identified specifically – that paid “more than a quarter million” in these lodging expenses.  The report is based on records retrieved from 93 schools in Division 1-A and it goes into much finer detail than just the cost of the rooms for lodging the night before a game.

Here is a link to this report.  I suggest that you take a few moments and read it in its entirety.  The spirit of the NCAA rules about “student-athletes” is that the “student athlete” should not receive any benefit for being an “athlete” that is not commonly available to every other “student” at the school.  When you check out some of these “perks”, you will see that the spirit of that NCAA regulation is often honored in the breach.

Last week, the Patriots released Antonio Brown and Brown announced his retirement from the NFL with the intention of returning to Central Michigan to finish his studies in pursuit of his degree.  I really wish that I could believe this was the last we may have heard from and about Antonio Brown – but I seriously doubt it.  Maybe the NFL needs a new “list”?  It has the PUP List – the Physically Unable to Perform List; how about establishing the MUC List – the Mentally Unable to Conform List?  Whatever…

Finally, since I began today with a comment from Brad Dickson, let me make this rant symmetrical and close with another of his comments:

“A headline in this morning’s Wall Street Journal: ‘Head Of Planned Parenthood Out After 8 Months.’  If it’d been 9 months you’d have had something.”

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



Oddities Upon Oddities…

Once again, briefly today…

I cannot cite exact stats here, but I can say that I do not recall ever seeing a week like this one on the odds boards for weekend football games.  Seeing spreads on NFL games in excess of 3 TDs is rare enough that one can go an entire season without ever seeing one of them.  This week there are two games with humongous spreads:

  • Jets at New England – 23 (43.5):  The Jets are down to a rookie third-string QB going against a Pats’ defense that has not allowed a TD in the first two games of the season.  I would be surprised to see the Jets score more than 10 points in this game – – unless of course the Pats are leading by 35 at the end of the 3rd quarter and play their scrubs for the entire 4th quarter.
  • Miami at Dallas – 22 (47):  If I were forced to make a pick in this game, I would take the OVER because the Cowboys might do that all by themselves.  The Dolphins are doing a bad job at pretending that they are trying to win football games this year.

Monday night’s game will be interesting when the Bears visit the Skins.  The Bears’ offense has been pedestrian-at-best so far this year; some folks are beginning to wonder aloud if Mitchell Trubisky is indeed a franchise QB.  Meanwhile, the Skins’ defense has not been able to stop anything more robust than a runny nose so far this year.  In the first two games, the Skins defense has allowed opposing offenses to convert 65% of the third-down situations facing those offenses.  Something here has got to give…

Going into last week’s game against Temple, Maryland was undefeated and had outscored its two opponents 142-20.  Temple is a better football program than the Asthmatics Institute, but do not confuse Temple with a team that would strike fear in the hearts of the top-shelf college programs.  Maryland proceeded to implode last week losing to Temple 20-17.  Maryland QB, Josh Jackson, had been lighting up the scoreboard in the first two games; last week he was 15 for 36 for a total of 183 yards and 1 INT.  Maryland had been ranked #21 in the country after the first two blowouts; they are no longer in the Top 25…

File this next item under:

  • Things You Cannot Make Up On A Bet

The Miami Heat have been playing their games in an arena that sold its naming rights to American Airlines.  The airline has decided not to continue that sponsorship; therefore, the naming rights are up for bidding.  One of the bids has come from BangBros which is an Internet pornography site based in Miami; their bid is for $10M for the next 10 years.  That should give you an idea of the profits available to such websites.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“IndyCar racing will introduce hybrid engines in 2022, the circuit announced.

Which certainly gives ‘making a late-race charge’ a whole new meaning.”

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



More Troubles For Horseracing

Briefly today because I do need to get to be bed get some sleep…

Horseracing is – to be as positive as I can be – a sport in decline.  It is under attack from animal rights activists and it is a sport that does not appeal to millennials.  The animal rights activists had a field day earlier in the Spring when about 30 horses died at Santa Anita in racing and training “incidents” – that have yet to be explained sufficiently to blunt the criticisms of the track and the sport.  Now, it turns out that there is a less obvious – but still fatal – set of circumstances unfolding this Fall at Belmont racetrack across the country from Santa Anita.  USA Today reported here that 3 horses died at Belmont in the first two days of the current Fall meeting there.  Moreover, in the 40-day meeting that recently concluded at Saratoga, 11 horses died at that track.  Every PETA member worth his/her skin has been waiting for news of this ilk.

You could still chalk all of this up to odd circumstances and maintain there is “nothing organically wrong with horseracing”; this is all just malevolent happenstance.  But how then might one explain that the  California Horse Racing mavens had a failed drug test in hand for last year’s Triple Crown winner which should have made him ineligible to run in the Kentucky Derby – – but they sat on that information and let it slide.  The NY Times is far better known for its investigative reporting than it is for its sports reporting.  In this case the Times did investigative digging into a sports story and turned up more of the stuff that comprises the seamy underbelly of horseracing.  You can read the entire story here; the reporter is Joe Drape, and this is a well reported and well-focused exposition.

The big issue here is that it seems clear that trainer Bob Baffert – – one of the most decorated trainers and most influential people in the sport – – was given a pass with his horse that flunked the drug test.  That brings in the element of “privilege” into the matter and it makes everything seem even more sordid than it needs to seem.

The Breeders’ Cup races are going to be at Santa Anita in about 6 weeks. It could be the death knell for horseracing if a horse “goes down” on TV and must be euthanized on the track that has already claimed several dozen equine lives this year.  The California Horse Racing mavens won’t be able to explain that away with a wave of the hand and a reference to the “rules and procedures for failed equine drug tests”.

Mike Bianchi put a punctuation mark on all this nonsense in the Orlando Sentinel last weekend:

“Can you believe the California Racing Board buried Justify’ s positive drug test just so the horse could win the Triple Crown? Who do these people think they are — college football coaches?”

The Miami Dolphins followed up their 59-10 embarrassing loss in Week 1 with an even more dismal 43-0 loss in Week 2.  Supposedly, multiple players on the Dolphins have told their agents to try to get the players traded elsewhere in the NFL.  Obviously, I say that as third-hand information at the very best but if these reports are accurate there is a humongous problem facing the NFL regarding the “integrity of the game”.  There have been two teams that were 0-16 for a season in the last decade or so.  However, neither the Lions nor the Browns set out to do anything of the sort.  They did that because those two teams were truly awful.  The Dolphins are also awful – – AND – – the Dolphins are making decisions with their roster that makes it difficult for folks to believe that the team actually wants to win football games in 2019.  There is a palpable difference between an awful team and a team that is going out its way to make itself awful.

Our house guests hit the hay early enough for me to get this short rant written, proofed and posted.  I don’t know if/when a block of writing time will appear later this week.  We shall see…

Finally, let me close today with some words from comedienne, Lily Tomlin:

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

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



Writing Schedule Disruption

We have house guests who will arrive on Sunday (15 September) and stay through Thursday (19 September).  Then on Friday (20 September) we leave for a weekend trip with other friends not to return until the following Monday (23 September).

I doubt I will have time to do much writing next week – – and I am positive that I will not have the time to compile the data let alone to actually write a Football Friday next week.

Then, we have a different set of house guests arriving on the following Thursday (26 September).

The bottom line is that the writing schedule for the next two weeks will be sporadic.  There will definitely not be a Football Friday next week (20 September) but I will try to do one early in the week after next week.  Oh, and in the middle of all this social stuff, I have dental appointment and a doctor’s appointment.

I plan to come up for air around October 1….

Stay well everyone.


Football Friday 9/13/19

There are great confluences in the world such as:

  • Chocolate and peanut butter
  • The Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers
  • Buddy Holly and The Crickets

Today commemorates a significantly minor confluence of events.  Football Friday takes place on Friday the Thirteenth.  All triskaidekaphobics can stop reading here…

Before going into this week’s offering, let me look back on last week’s Six-Pack.  The record was 4-2.  The two losses were Seattle – 9.5 over Cincy and Pittsburgh +6 against New England.  Neither of those two games was even close.


College Football Commentary:


Linfield College begins its 2019 season this weekend traveling cross-country to play Rowan University in pursuit of yet another winning season in football.  Go Wildcats!

Starting off on a sort of sad note, Les Miles is no longer undefeated in Lawrence, KS.  Coastal Carolina came visiting last week and left with a 12-7 victory.  Kansas started the season with a game against a Division 1-AA school (Indiana State) and a Sun Belt school (Coastal Carolina).  That is the easy part of their schedule; from here on out, they play Boston College this weekend and then 9 games against Big 12 rivals.

Last week, I said that the winner of the Arkansas/Ole Miss game might be looking at its only SEC conference win for the year.  Well, Ole Miss won that game handily by 3 TDs.  If I am correct that Arkansas will go winless in the SEC this year, that will make it 2 years in a row that the Razorbacks will be the doormat of the SEC.  I guess it’s a good thing that Frank Broyles is no longer around to see what has become of Arkansas football.

Speaking of an SEC team that has started out poorly, please take note of Tennessee.  The Vols led BYU 16-13 with 30 seconds to play; BYU had the ball at its own 20-yardline; it was 3rd and 6 for the Cougars.  That is when the Tennessee defense decided to give up a 64-yard pass play that set up the game-tying field goal with 2 seconds to go to send the game to OT.  Not surprisingly, the Vols lost in the second OT 29-26.  Tennessee is now 0-2 for the season with losses to Georgia State and BYU; this week Tennessee hosts Tennessee-Chattanooga in what has to be a must-win game because the next 4 games on Tennessee’s dance card are:

  • At Florida
  • Vs Georgia
  • Vs Mississippi State
  • At Alabama

A loss this week might have the Vols looking at an 0-7 start to the 2019 season…

Missouri beat West Virginia 38-7; please do not confuse Missouri with the powerhouses in the SEC; Mizzou is one of the lower-middle class of that conference.  That leads me to wonder what the [bleep] is going on with football in Morgantown WV?  The Mountaineers had their hands full with Division 1-AA James Madison two weeks ago and then got blown out here.  Not a good omen…

Purdue beat Vandy 42-24 in a game where Purdue QB, Elijah Sindelar merely threw for 504 yards in the game and Purdue WR Rondale Moore contributed to that total by catching 220 yards worth of that total.  Purdue was one-dimensional in the game, however.  Running the ball produced only 31 yards on 18 attempts.

In what was probably the best game of the weekend, LSU went to Texas and beat the Longhorns 45-38.  Times are changing in Baton Rouge.  Who can remember LSU going on the road and winning a shoot-out game against a ranked opponent?  That did not happen often.  Using a spread offense this year, QB Joe Burrow looks like a modern QB.  He shredded the Texas defense going 31-39 for 471 yards and 4 TDs.  The Tigers get a breather this week against Northwestern State.  The line for that game opened at 51.5 points…

Alabama beat New Mexico St. 62-10 and did not cover the 54.5-point spread on the game.  New Mexico St. has now lost its first two games (Washington St. and Alabama) by a combined score of 120-17.  Next up for the Aggies is a visit by San Diego St. – a team that beat UCLA last week.  I suspect that New Mexico St. would be a 9-point underdog to Conjoined Twins College if such a team were on their schedule…

Since I mentioned that San Diego St. beat UCLA 23-14 last week, let me point out two things here:

  • This is the first time in school history that San Diego St. has beaten UCLA in a football game.
  • UCLA is 0-2 to start the season with this week’s task – a visit by Oklahoma – making it look like an 0-3 start to the season.

Chip Kelly’s image as a football innovator and dominant coach is going to be just a bit tarnished by the end of this year…

Staying with PAC-12 teams for the moment, Cal rallied from a 10-3 halftime deficit to beat Washington 20-19 in a game that was delayed by lightening/rain in Seattle for a bit more than 2 hours.  Washington was the consensus choice to win the PAC-12 North this year but this game showed that the Cal defense is for real and that the Cal running attack is serious.  Cal ran the ball 36 times for 194 yards against a good Washington defense.

Utah beat Northern Illinois 35-17 using defense and a controlled offense to win the game.

Oregon crushed Nevada 77-6.  In Week 1, Oregon lost at the end of the game to a ranked Auburn team.  In Week 1, Nevada upset Purdue out of the Big 10.  This game was 35-6 at halftime – – and then things got worse for the Wolfpack.  Not only did Oregon run up 621 yards on offense, the Oregon defense held Nevada to a total of 173 yards total offense.

Hawaii beat a PAC-12 team for the second week in a row.  Oregon St. – not one of the elite PAC-12 teams to be sure – ventured across half the Pacific Ocean and lost the game 31-28.  The margin of victory cane on a last second field goal by a kicker who had missed three field goal attempts earlier in the game.

Colorado rallied in the second half to beat Nebraska.  The Huskers led at halftime 17-0; the final score had Colorado prevailing 34-31 in OT.  I guess the Nebraska defensive unit did not remember to take the field after the halftime festivities…

Brad Dickson had a Tweet about this game musing about the possibility that Ralphie the Buffalo could go into retirement at the end of the season:

“This is Ralphie’s last season. Next year he’s being replaced by a plant-based mascot.  How obnoxious is Ralphie? Even PETA said, ‘Go ahead – use him for animal experiments.’”

Brad Dickson graduated from the University of Nebraska if you had not already figured that out…

ACC teams had some setbacks last week.  Maryland beat Syracuse like drum 63-20.  Maryland scored 79 points in Week 1 against Howard; the question was whether they might be able to do that against a “real” defense.  I guess the answer is “Yes.”  Syracuse was ranked in the Top 25 for what that is worth going into the game.  Maryland ran the ball 45 times for 354 yards on the ground and a total of 650 yards on offense.  The schedule for Maryland over the nest six games looks manageable:

  • At Temple
  • Vs Penn State
  • At Rutgers
  • At Purdue
  • Vs Indiana
  • At Minnesota

Florida State won their game last week – – but it was not a feelgood time in Tallahassee.  The final score was Florida State 45 and Louisiana-Monroe 44 – – in OT no less.  The game was in Tallahassee so all the Seminole fans and boosters could see this game in all its ugliness.  Florida State led 24-7 at the half; the game looked as if were in the bag.  The margin of victory was a missed PAT by La-Monroe in that OT period.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but La-Monroe was supposed to be a “breather” on the Florida State schedule not a “nail-biter”.  La-Monroe is a Sun Belt team and playing against that caliber of competition, 2012 was the last winning season for La-Monroe.  The game was an embarrassment for Florida State.

Clemson is an ACC team that did not soil the sheets last weekend.  Clemson played a good Texas A&M team and beat the Aggies 24-10.  It took a Texas A&M TD in the final 10 seconds of the game to make the game as close as it was – and to give the Aggies a classic backdoor cover against a 17.5-point spread.  Glancing at the Clemson schedule from here on, I really don’t think they are going to face a team ranked in the Top 25 until – possibly – in the ACC Championship Game.  I am not banging on Clemson’s scheduling; that assessment is a cold-hearted view of ACC football for the 2019 season.  Pencil Clemson in as the #1 seed in the CFP this year…

In Big 10 action, it took Michigan 2 OTs to beat Army 24-21.  From my perspective, Army outplayed the Wolverines for most of the game.

Ohio State trucked Cincy 42-0.  After Cincy beat UCLA in Week 1, some people said that the Cincy defense was really good, and we would be hearing about it all season long.  Ohio State ran the ball for 270 yards here and threw it for another 234 yards.  There was one humorous moment in the game:

  • A player for Cincy made a tackle and the name on the back of his jersey was “Tucky”.
  • I said to one of my Las Vegas comrades that I hoped his parents had not named him “Ken”.
  • They did not; the player is Ethan Tucky

Penn State beat Buffalo 45-13.  The unusual stat from this game is the Buffalo had the ball for about 43 minutes; normally, a team that holds the ball that long wins the game.  Not here…

After a dominating win in Week 1 over UMass, I said that Rutgers was stepping up in class with Iowa on the other side of the ball.  The final score was Iowa 30 and Rutgers Nil.

UCF beat FAU last week 45-17.  There was another unusual stat to come out of this game:

  • UCF completed only 7 passes in the game.
  • Those passes went for 245 yards and 2 TDs.


Games of Interest this week:


Clemson – 28 at Syracuse (65):  Maryland dropped 63 on Syracuse last week; this game is going to be ugly.  The Total Line here opened at 57 and has risen by 8 points during the week – – very unusual.

Oklahoma – 22 at UCLA (73.5):  This has the potential to be another ugly blowout.  The Total Line here opened the week at 66.5 points; it has risen 7 points during the week.  The oddsmakers are rarely that far wrong about public sentiment on such lines.  Oh, by the way, after facing Oklahoma this week, UCLA will get to try to stop the Washington State offense next week.  It is not going to be a happy time in Westwood any time soon.

New Mexico at Notre Dame – 35 (64):  The interesting thing about this game is that New Mexico coach, Bob Davie, will not travel with the Lobos to South Bend.  Davie had a “health incident” after last week’s game and in a statement, he said that the EMTs probably saved his life.  Davie was an assistant coach and an interim head coach for a game at Notre Dame about 25 years ago…

Florida – 8 at Kentucky (48):  Florida had a “breather” last week against Tennessee-Martin; Kentucky had an easy time with E. Michigan.  Here two good defensive teams from the SEC East will bang on one another for about 3 hours…

Maryland – 7 at Temple (67):  Temple has had 2 weeks to prepare for this game after handling Division 1-AA Bucknell in its opening game.

Hawaii at Washington – 22 (59):  This is the third consecutive PAC-12 opponent for Hawaii and they have beaten the first two.  Can they complete the trifecta here?  I doubt it because they are not at home for this game; Washington is a better team than either Arizona or Oregon St.; Washington should be highly motivated coming off a conference loss to Cal last week.  Purely a hunch, but I’ll put Washington in the Six-Pack to win and cover.

Cal Poly-SLO at Oregon St. – 14.5 (76):  Oregon St. has lost its first two games losing badly at home to Oklahoma State and then to Hawaii on the road.  If – I said IF – they lose here to start 0-3, the schedule ahead looks bleak for them.  On the Oregon State website, they have the PAC-12 Championship Game listed as a TBD on December 6.  There are two words that describe Oregon State participating in that game:

  • NOT – – and – – HAPPENING

Texas – 32 at Rice (56):  Rice has lost its first two games to Army and Wake Forest.  Texas scored 38 points on LSU’s defense last week – – even though that was not enough to produce a win.  This game will be over by some point early in the 2nd quarter.

Florida Atlantic – 2.5 at Ball State (65):  Ball St. is 1-1 – losing to Indiana in the opener and then demolishing Division 1-AA Fordham last week.  Florida Atlantic is 0-2 but those two losses have been to Ohio State and UCF.  I like FAU to win and cover here, so I’ll put it in the Six-Pack.

UMass at UNC-Charlotte – 20 (67.5):  UMass is 0-2 having been blown out by Rutgers and then by Southern Illinois.  Any team that loses to UMass this year deserves all the scorn it will get…

Alabama – 25 at S. Carolina (62):  Because of an injury to starting QB, Jake Bentley, the Gamecocks will start a true freshman at QB against Alabama.  Good luck with that…

Florida State – 7.5 at Virginia (58):  The Seminoles looked dispirited and disorganized last week against La-Monroe.  Virginia beat Pitt to open the season and then stomped on Division 1-AA William and Mary last week.  The undefeated team at home is getting points from a winless team on the road…  All right, then.

Oklahoma – 23.5 at UCLA (73.5):  It will be a long day – – and a long season – – for Chip Kelly.  This game should get completely out of hand quickly.  Here is another game where the Total Line has risen during the week; it started out at 66.5 points and is now up a full TD.


NFL Commentary:


Last week, Skins’ coach Jay Gruden did not put Adrian Peterson on the active roster.  Reports in the local media very politely said that Peterson was “upset” by that decision.  Rumors are flaring about how and why this happened; I have no idea if any of these are close to accurate so take the one you like best – – or make up one of your own.

  • Rumor 1:  Jay Gruden wanted to cut Peterson and use that roster spot elsewhere but was directed by “upstairs” in the Skins’ organization to keep him.
  • Rumor 2:  Peterson is very intense on the sidelines lobbying for more carries for himself.  Jay Gruden does not like to be distracted from his play calling duties, so he kept Peterson in street clothes for Game 1.
  • Rumor 3:  Peterson is good friends with Skins’ estranged tackle, Trent Williams, and they have a mutual business interest in Houston.  The Skins’ Front Office wants to minimize Peterson’s role with the team because they see him as a conduit of information to Williams

Here is what I know…  The Skins decided to use Derrius Guice as their featured RB this year – – and of course he injured his knee and had surgery yesterday; he is out between 4 and 8 weeks  Now, the Skins can either use Peterson in that role or try to patch together a running game that features Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood and Craig Reynolds (currently on the Practice Squad).

[Aside:  NFL running backs get a lot of injuries.  Derrius Guice missed all last year with a knee injury and now will miss a big chunk of his second year in the league.  The Skins’ scouts and “Draft Board mavens” have shown a propensity to draft RBs who come to the league “pre-injured”.  Guice missed a significant part of his junior season at LSU with – – wait for it – – a leg injury.]

The Miami Dolphins are fielding a junior varsity level team this year aiming for a top draft pick in 2020.  Coach Brian Flores has asserted multiple times that the team is not “tanking” despite the fact that the Front Office in Miami has traded away most of the players who have any trade value.  There was a most appropriate signing by the Dolphins this week:

  • The Tanking Dolphins signed free agent defensive end, Cornelius “Tank” Carradine.

If someone wrote that into a movie script, the film director would have it deleted as too obvious…

Last week, the Jags lost at home to the Chiefs 40-26.  QB Nick Foles had to leave the game in the first quarter with a broken collarbone and the prognosis is that he will be out 8 weeks.  His sub was Gardner Minshew who played last year for Mike Leach at Washington State.  Minshew acquitted himself well going 22-25 for 275 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.  The fact is that the Chiefs’ pass pressure was tepid last week; this week Minshew will face the Texans who play better defense.

I saw a bit of LeSean McCoy with the Chiefs and while he may not be ready to be a feature RB carrying the ball 25 times a game anymore, he played well.  He ran the ball 10 times for 81 yards and caught 1 pass for 12 yards.  Not bad for a 31-year old RB…

I want to say a word here about Nick Foles.  He is a devout religious man who has said in the past that he intends to become a pastor once his football career is over.  That is a noble undertaking – certainly more noble that writing things called Football Friday and posting them on a website.  Notwithstanding the fact that I am not devoutly religious, I might point out here that God may have a message for Nick Foles that he might want to consider:

  • Nick Foles has had good health and plenty of success when playing for Philly and living in the Philly area.
  • Nick Foles has had limited success and some injury issues when playing for St. Louis, KC and/or Jax.
  • Maybe Nick Foles should consider taking his ministry to the Philadelphia area…?

During the NFL offseason, the Cleveland Browns were the roster building winners.  They traded for Odell Beckham, Jr, and acquired Jarvis Landry to catch those passes from Baker Mayfield.  They will get Kareem Hunt as part of their backfield once his 8-game suspension is served.  Their defense drew lots of very positive accolades.  The Browns were the trendiest Super Bowl pick on the board.  And then they started to play the regular season games…

The Browns trailed the Titans 15-13 with about 2 minutes left in the third quarter.  Then the roof caved in:

  • Defense gave up a 75-yard pass in the flat to Derrick Henry.  Titans 22-Browns 13.
  • Defense gave up 2 short TD passes from Marcus Mariotta to Delanie Walker.  Titans 36-Browns 13.  Time left is 9:03 in the fourth quarter.
  • Baker Mayfield tosses a Pick Six.  Titans 43-Browns 13.  Time left is 3:02 in the fourth quarter.
  • Add these up and you find 28 unanswered points by the Titans in a game that had a 2-point differential with 17 minutes on the clock…

By the way, Baker Mayfield threw 3 INTs in the game and was tackled in the end zone for a safety.  Mayfield and his Browns’ teammates have done a lot of woofing in the offseason about their prospects and about other players in the league.  When it was time to play for real, the Browns reverted to – – being the Browns.

Bob Molinaro had this to say about the Browns in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“America’s Team: No franchise is getting more early media play than the Browns. Between Weeks 2 and 5, Baker Mayfield and Co. are featured on Monday and Sunday night games three times.”

Let me turn to another miserable performance by an NFL team last week – – this one also by a team that year-over-year continues to find new ways to disappoint its fanbase.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Detroit Lions.

For 3 quarters of their game against the Arizona Cardinals with that new-fangled air raid offense, the Lions throttled that offense.  The longest “drive” for Cards was 11 yards in the first half.  At the end of 3 quarters, the Lions led 17-6.  Then the Lions reverted to – – being the Lions.

In the 4th quarter, they gave up almost 200 yards of offense to the Cardinals who managed to tie the score at 24 to send the game to overtime.  Time expired with both teams having kicked a field goal on the overtime period, so the game goes into the record books as a tie.  This game was played in Arizona and I swear you could smell the funk all the way up to Las Vegas…

The Miami Dolphins quest to stink out the joint in 2019 was on track last week losing to the Ravens 59-10.  The Dolphins showed no particular aptitude in any phase of this game; it was a rout from start to finish.  Even when John Harbaugh pulled QB, Lamar Jackson, from the game and substituted RG3, the bleeding did not stop.  Here is RG3’s stat line:

  • 6-6 for 55 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs
  • He also ran the ball 4 times for 9 yards.

There was an unnecessary bit of piling on here.  Leading 35-3 near the end of the first half, John Harbaugh called for a fake punt which resulted in 60-yard run that set up yet one more first-half TD.

The Bills/Jets game was “ragged” – to be polite.  There were plenty of mistakes by both teams that kept the game relatively close.  The Jets led 6-0 at the half and 16-3 after 3 quarters.  Then the Bills rallied to win the game 17-16.  The Jets’ kicker last week was Kaare Vedvick; he missed a field goal and a PAT in this game that was decided by a single point.  Vedvick was cut by the Jets and is now looking for work…  One bright light from the game is that Jamison Crowder – signed by the Jets as a free agent in the offseason – caught 14 passes for 99 yards.

The Bears lost to the Packers 10-3 on Thursday night to open the season.  Mitchell Trubisky soiled the sheets in this game; he kept going to check down receivers and the Packers were having none of that.  Trubisky’s stat line was 26-45 for 228 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT; that is only 5.1 yards per pass attempt.  The Bears’ defense is good enough to keep them in games for most of the season, but that offense has to do a lot more than it showed last Thursday night.  Three points in 60 minutes don’t feed the bulldog…

[Aside: The Bears traded up to take Mitchell Trubisky in the draft.  In that same draft, we saw the Chiefs trade up to take Patrick Mahomes.  Seems as if the Chiefs’ scouts and draft strategists had an advantage over their Bears’ counterparts there…]

The Falcons lost badly to the Vikes last week.  They were pushed around by the Vikes offense and had difficulty gaining any traction against the Vikes’ defense.  Matt Ryan threw the ball 46 times and produced 12 points.  Kirk Cousins only threw the ball 10 times and produced 28 points.  The Vikes ran the ball 38 times for 172 yards.  Somewhere, Woody Hayes gave this game a fist pump…  This was an old-fashioned butt-stomping.

Even thought the Colts lost to the Chargers in Week 1 30-24 in OT, the Colts showed a lot stronger than many folks might have imagined given the late pre-season retirement announcement by Andrew Luck.  Let me be clear; I do not think that Jacoby Brisset is going to lead the Colts to a Super Bowl win next February.  At the same time, he showed last week that he is not a stumblebum who cannot tie his shoes and whistle a tune at the same time.  Austin Ekeler stood in as Melvin Gordon’s replacement for the Chargers and scored 3 TDs for the Chargers.  Melvin Who?  On the Colts’ side of the ledger, Colts’ RB, Marlon Mack carried the ball 25 times to gain 274 yards rushing.

The Niners beat the Bucs despite a lackluster offensive showing by Jimmy G and his cohorts.  Jameis Winston contributed significantly to the Niners win tossing 3 INTs and 2 of them were of the Pick-6 variety.  (He also fumbled the ball twice just to keep everyone in the stands and watching at home on TV awake and alert.)  Bruce Arians was supposed to be the guy who could teach Winston to be more careful with the ball.  One game is too small a sample to declare that supposition a failure – – but it surely was a failure for Week 1.  Since entering the NFL in 2015 Jameis Winston has been the “interception leader” in the NFL.

The Seahawks beat the Bengals in Seattle by a single point.  A win is a win, but this is not a positive omen.  The Seahawks defense gave Andy Dalton his biggest passing day of his career with 418 yards – – and that was without AJ Green catching the passes.

The Eagles were sleepwalking in the first half trailing 17-0 and then 20-7 at halftime against the Skins.  Nonetheless, this game exposed a significant weakness for Skins.  – – the secondary does not cover deep very well.  DeSean Jackson caught TD passes of 51 yards and 53 yards.  The second half was totally different; the Eagles were dominant.  The Skins DL is the source of most fan-pride in this area.  Against the Eagles the unit was AWOL.  Two stats to consider:

  1. On third down, Carson Wentz was 12 for 13 for 178 yards and 3 TDs.
  2. Eagles also ran the ball for 116 yards in the game.

[Aside:  DeSean Jackson is now one of only two players in NFL history to catch 30 or more TD passes of 50 yards or longer.  That “other player” is Jerry Rice.  Jackson now has 31 TD catches in this category; Rice retired having caught 36.]

The Pats humiliated the Steelers 33-3.  They ran the ball at will and they threw it wherever they wanted.  By the way, Tom Brady can still throw the ball downfield when he wants to…  There was an interesting coaching decision in this game:

  • The Steelers had the ball at the Pats 2 yardline in 3rd quarter trailing 20-0.
  • The Steelers chose to kick a field goal – – which kept it as a 3-score game
  • Really?

Ben Roethlisberger finished the game with a QB Rating of 65.6.  I am dubious about QB Ratings when it comes to hair splitting, but 65.6 is a bad rating.  Former Steeler QB, Kordell Stewart had a career QB Rating of 70; any time Roethlisberger has a game below an average game for Kordell Stewart, that is a bad day for the Steelers.   Sony Michel had a dull game for the Pats with 15 carries for 14 yards.

The Saints beat the Texans at the buzzer last week – – but the story here is that the Texans have not solved their OL issues even with Laremy Tunsil at left tackle.  Deshaun Watson was sacked 6 times in the game.  That is not how you win in the NFL – – and more importantly – – that is not how you keep your franchise QB ambulatory.

The Raiders looked very good in beating the Broncos.  I was very impressed with the way their OL stood up to the Denver pass rush.  The Broncos went inside the Raiders 10 yardline twice in the early stages of the game only to come away with field goals.  That cannot be a common occurrence if the Broncos hope to win games this year.


NFL Games this week:


Indy at Tennessee – 3.5 (44):  This is a big game in the AFC South.  If the Titans win, they will start out 2-0 and the Colts will start out 0-2.  The Texans and the Jags both lost last week and they face each other this week – – so one of those teams will also start 0-2.

Chargers – 2.5 at Detroit (48):  This will be a “body clock game” for the Chargers.  However, I think they are the better team and will cover this spread even on the road.  I’ll put the Chargers to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

Buffalo – 1.5 at Giants (43.5):  The spread opened as a “pick ‘em” game.  The Bills defense was very good last week; if their offense can show up a bit earlier than the 4th quarter this week, the Bills should prevail.  I’ll put the Bills in this week’s Six-Pack to win and cover on the road.

Arizona at Baltimore – 13 (46):  The Total Line here opened at 41.5 points and soared to this level pretty quickly.  This is a game matching two “scampering QBs”; Kyler Murray looked miserable for 3 quarters of the game last week and then looked sensational in the 4th quarter.  Lamar Jackson dominated the Miami junior varsity defense.

New England – 19 at Miami (49):  The spread opened at 14.5 points and has been climbing all week; I would not be shocked to see it go even higher.  Do not forget, however, that in each of the last two seasons, the Pats lost to the Dolphins in Miami – – even though the Pats went to the Super Bowl both years.  I hate double digit spreads in NFL games but just for fun, I am going to follow an old Groucho Marx adage:

  • If it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck.

This looks and smells like a blowout.  I’ll put the Pats in this week’s Six-Pack to win and cover here.

Dallas – 6 at Washington (46.5): This spread opened at 4.5 points and has been creeping upward all week.  The Cowboys are clearly the better team, but the Skins always get up for this game in Washington.

Jax at Houston – 8.5 (43):  The Jags will give Gardner Minshew his first NFL start here on the road against a good Texans’ defense.  The Jags’ defensive unit has done a lot of woofing about how they are an agglomeration of bad asses; with Nick Foles on the shelf, that defense needs to show up in a big way.  I think that line is fat.  I’ll put the Jags plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Seattle at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (47):  The Steelers looked awful and lost last week; the Seahawks looked bad – but won last week.  The Steelers need this game badly.

SF at Cincy – 2 (45):  This spread opened with the Niners as a 1-point favorite and then flipped.  This is the second consecutive road game in the Eastern Time Zone for the Niners 

Minnesota at Green Bay – 2.5 (43.5):  Call this the Game of the Week.  Both defenses looked very good in Week 1.  The Vikes’ offense was dominant while the Packers’ offense sputtered in Week 1.  I see this as a low-scoring game that will be in doubt until the final possession.

KC – 7 at Oakland (53.5):  The Raiders’ defense was excellent last week against Joe Flacco and the Broncos.  This week, that unit faces a slightly different challenge with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

New Orleans at Rams – 2 (52):  This is a ”revenge game” or a “vindication game” depending on which team you like better.  I have no idea who is going to win this game – – but if you must think about a wager here, I would be tempted to take OVER.

Chicago – 2 at Denver (40):  Based on Week 1 performances, this should be a dreary game; both offenses were AWOL.  This is a big game for the Bears.  If they lose and start 0-2, they will be two games behind the winner of the Vikes/Packers game in the NFC North.

(Sun Nite) Philly – 2 at Atlanta (52.5):  The spread opened as a “pick ‘em” game.  Can the Falcons really be as bad as they looked last week against the Vikes?  Can the Eagles really be as bad as they looked in the first half against the Skins?

(Mon Nite) Cleveland – 6.5 at Jets (44):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  There are plenty of interesting pairings in Week 2 and somehow ESPN gets this pile of doggy-dooty for MNF.  That was my thinking BEFORE it was announced in mid-week that Sam Darnold has mononucleosis and will not play this week – – and maybe for several weeks.  Jets’ fans need to say hello to Trevor Simien at QB.  Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense will try to do to the Browns what the Titans’ defense did last week.  The best thing to do with this game is to flush it.

So, let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Washington – 22 over Hawaii
  2. Florida Atlantic – 2.5 over Ball State
  3. Chargers – 2.5 over Lions
  4. Bills – 1.5 over Giants
  5. Patriots – 19 over Dolphins (just for fun)
  6. Jags +8.5 against Texans

            Finally, since one of the features here is a Six-Pack of possible wagers, let me close with Damon Runyon’s commentary on betting:

“It may be that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong – but that is the way to bet.”

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



Boom Or Bust

If you had any doubts that this is MLB’s “Boom or Bust Era”, here is a datum:

  • The regular season does not end until 29 September.  Nonetheless, with 17 days still to go in the regular season, MLB set a record last night for the total number of HRs in a season.  The old record – set in 2017 – was 6,105 home runs.

Speaking of the impending end of the MLB regular season, the news that Christian Yelich will miss the rest of the season with a broken kneecap pretty much ends the debate as to the NL MVP for 2019.  Until the revelation that Yelich would miss the final 3 weeks of the season, I thought it was a two-horse race for the MVP honor.  Now, I think Cody Bellinger is a shoo-in for that award.

Some of the TV ratings data have come in for the first week of the NFL season and the numbers do not support those who think that the Age of Football in America is over:

  • The opening game between the Packers and Bears on Thursday night saw a ratings increase of just under 15% from last year.
  • Moreover, the ratings maintained their high level throughout the game even though it was a defensive struggle that ended with a 10-3 score.  [More on that later…]
  • The two Monday games also drew higher ratings.  Having the Texans and Saints playing in New Orleans after the events of last year’s playoff debacle there surely helped those ratings.  This “early” Monday game had ratings up almost 24% from last year when the game was the Lions versus the Jets.
  • Seeing the Raiders in the aftermath of their Antonio Brown saga probably drew a few eyeballs to that late Monday game.

I think it is interesting to note that the ratings for games often decline as the game goes on.  Those declines were smaller for this season’s opening games than in the past and this is my hypothesis as to why that is the case:

  • In 2019, sports betting is readily available to people who do not live in or who have traveled to Nevada that weekend.  Sports betting is now conveniently located near large population centers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with more “convenience” coming soon.
  • I suspect that means that more people had wagers on the games last weekend; and when you are betting with the spread or on the Total Line, the game on the TV in front of you can remain “in doubt” up until the final play of the game.

If I am correct, then TV ratings – and the persistence of those ratings – should be up for much of the season.  Since TV ratings are large revenue drivers for the league, that could be a significant omen as they enter into negotiations with the networks for the next set of media rights contracts.  I believe the current network deals need to be renewed in 2022.

People who believe – or want to believe – that the Age of Football in America is in decline can point to live attendance figures to bolster their assertions(s).  Last year, the average attendance at an NFL regular season game was 67,050; that was the lowest average live gate for the NFL in 8 years.  However, the important thing to note here is that live attendance is not the revenue driver that television is.  Let’s do some math:

  • If the average seat costs $100, then those 67,050 folks attending all 256 NFL regular season games produced a total revenue of about $1.72B.  That is a lot of cheese – – until you realize that the revenue is an average over 32 teams and so each team would take in about $54M.
  • The network TV deals are also split evenly among the clubs and those deals bring each club a tad more than $220M.
  • Even if you add in the parking fees and the beers consumed, there is no way that the live gate is comparable to the TV revenues.

In fact, I could be convinced that the NFL would not mind a bit if the live attendance dropped even more so long as TV ratings climbed a bit.  Over the past decade, the NFL teams have done just about everything they could to make the “home TV experience” as good as – or better than – the “live game experience”.

Forget the vagaries of the weather – particularly in places like Buffalo in December or Arizona in early September – the league has made the home viewing experience superior to the live game experience:

  • It is more convenient – no traffic and parking hassles
  • You can see the plays better on a big screen HD TV than you can at the stadium
  • You can select the people with whom you will see the game
  • There is less likelihood that a fight will break out in your living room as compared to the stands.
  • You can watch The Red Zone Channel if that is your thing, [Aside: It is not my thing; I never watch the Red Zone.]
  • Add to all the above that it is cheaper for the fan to stay home and watch the game.  Oh, and that could mean that the fan has a little more cash to “get down” on a game or two that he will want to watch to its conclusion…

The total number of fannies in seats for NFL games last year was 17.2M.  There are lots of people who attend multiple games so I would be surprised if the number of different folks going to a stadium to see a game was over 12 million.  Compare that to an estimate – surely inflated to the high side given the estimate’s source – by the American Gaming Commission that 38 million people will wager on an NFL game sometime this season.

The conclusion here is that NFL Football is a TV series and it is a TV series that is enjoyed by a wide and loyal audience.  Everything that enhances that TV series makes the NFL an even bigger player in the entertainment segment of the economy and society.  The Age of Football in America is not over yet.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in last week’s Miami Herald:

“The Ironman 70.3 World Championships were held Saturday in France. I’d planned to compete, but decided at the last minute to wait in a long line for one of those Popeye’s chicken sandwiches instead.”

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



Another Soap Opera Plot Twist?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back and read the NFL news summaries …  I thought – until last evening – that the only interesting plotline going forward regarding Antonio Brown was the possibility that he might not blend into The Patriot Way thereby setting up a divorce process that would be short-and-sweet.  How wrong was that?

The latest is that Antonio Brown has been accused of forcibly raping his former trainer on 1 occasion in 2017/ 2018 and sexually assaulting her in 2 other incidents.  The Pats assert that this is the first they have heard about this behavior; Brown professes innocence and his lawyer says that Brown:

“… will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including all of his rights in countersuits.”

You can read the details of this woman’s allegations in a dozen places; suffice it to say here that it will be interesting to see how the NFL handles these allegations and these investigations and balances that with Antonio Brown’s eligibility.

Speaking of Antonio Brown, if anyone were to create an award named the “Antonio Brown Yoo-Hoo I’m Over Here Look At Me Award”, I believe we would have our first nominee for that award to be given at the end of the NFL season.

  • Odell Beckham, Jr. wore a wristwatch – supposedly worth $350K – during the Browns/Titans game last weekend.  He says he is going to continue to do that in future games.

I have a question here …  a watch could be used as a weapon and it certainly might inflict a totally accidental injury; so how is that allowable under the NFL rules?  If a player were to wear a pair of brass knuckles that had a watch built into the crossbar piece, would that also be an allowable accoutrement on the field?  Sheeeesh…

When I got home from Las Vegas on Monday, I had time for a nice dinner with my long-suffering wife before settling down to watch the ESPN doubleheader for Monday Night Football on opening week.  Here are a couple of observations:

  1. Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland – in the booth and liberated from the sideline roving “Boogermobile” from last year – are an improvement over the three-man booth with Jason Witten.  My problem with this duo is that it does not eliminate a significant flaw for the viewer/listener who knows even a smidgen about football.
  2. Let me put this in a nutshell.  Every 5-yard run or 3-yard pass completion in the flat – even if either play results in a first down – is NOT an Earth-shattering event that demands a high-decibel and breathless call on the air.  Joe Tessitore – and to a lesser extent Booger McFarland – need to dial that level of commentary back and save it for the REALLY meaningful plays in the game.

Technically, I misspoke above.  The ESPN announcing booth is really a 2.5-man booth this year.  They have a retired NFL referee, John Parry, in there to be used on an “as needed” basis and here is the deal on John Parry:

  • John Parry speaks English very competently instead of “Rulebook” which is an arcane language used only by game officials, rules analysts and roger Goodell when he wants to shut down a line of questioning.

A good telecast of a well-officiated game would keep John Parry in the background collecting whatever his contract calls for on a per game basis simply because he is not needed.  But he looks to be a good addition to the ESPN announcing team for Monday Night Football.

ESPN deployed a “B-Team” crew to do the Raiders/Broncos game as the second half of the double header.  In the past, ESPN has botched the choice for that assignment; simply recall when Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic did the late game and you will understand what I mean by “botched the assignment”.  Steve Levy was very good on play-by-play; I think I prefer him to Joe Tessitore despite Levy’s lack of experience in that sort of role.  Louis Riddick was also very good as a color analyst.  Brian Griese was OK as a third voice in the booth – – but my preference would have been to have Levy and Riddick do the game as a pair and not as a trio.

USC accepted the resignation of Lynn Swann as the Athletic Director there.  Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he is never going to be inducted into the Athletic Director’s Hall of Fame should one ever be created.  Let’s review the bidding here:

  • USC Athletic Directors seem to get the job because they were star football players for USC back in the glory days.  That explains the selections of Mike Garrett, Pat Haden and Lynn Swann.  None brought any “Athletic Director experience” of any significance to the job.  If the school wants to follow that recruitment model, may I suggest that OJ might have some time on his hands soon once he finds the real killer(s).
  • Swann’s most notable post-football career accomplishment was to run for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2006 and to lose that election in a landslide.
  • Swann was supposed to make USC athletics relevant again without incurring any scandals along the way.  USC athletics are nowhere near as relevant as they have been in the past and there have indeed been scandals during his tenure.  We had the rich parents bribing coaches to indicate that the rich parents’ kids might be athletically relevant to gain an admission advantage; we had the FBI probing the USC coaching staff for improper/criminal basketball recruiting…

Finally, since I wondered why officials allowed a player to wear a wristwatch during a game earlier today, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Argentina’s women’s basketball team was forced to forfeit its Pan American Games contest against Colombia for showing up in white uniforms instead of blue.

“And you thought the NFL’s fashion police were strict?”

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