Another Mini-Football Friday

It is the Friday after Thanksgiving; the turkey carcass is in the process of becoming turkey stock; I have come out from under my tryptophan-induced stupor; and, that means there is just enough time left in the day to do a mini-Football Friday.

There was no Six-Pack last week, so the cumulative results still stand at:

  • Overall:  28-18-2
  • College:  15-6-1
  • NFL:  13-12-1


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats saw their season come to an end last week in the first round of the Division III football playoffs.  They lost to Chapman college 68-65 in triple overtime.  Linfield ends its season with an 8-2 record; Chapman goes forward in the tournament with a 10-0 record to date.

Bob Molinaro had this college football observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

The mediocracy: Assuming No. 3-ranked Clemson reaches the College Football Playoff semifinals, a team that’s currently unranked will represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl. Not a good look for an already maligned conference.”

I wondered why that would be the case and did a bit of digging – – and learning.  The Orange Bowl and the ACC have a contract that says the ACC will provide its highest rated team to the Orange Bowl with two exceptions:

  1. If the highest rated ACC team is involved in the CFP, then the second-highest rated team would go to the Orange Bowl.  That will be the case this year if Clemson is invited to the CFP as is expected.  No other ACC team is ranked in the Top 25; moreover, every other ACC team already has 3 losses or more going into this final weekend of the regular season.
  2. If the Orange Bowl is slated to be the venue for a first round CFP game, then the Orange Bowl will feature the two teams selected by the Committee.

Looking at the records of the ACC teams involved my lack of keyboarding skills to also look at the records for teams in AAC where there are currently 4 teams with 2 or fewer losses going into the final weekend of the regular season.  Those 4 teams are:

  • Cincinnati  10-1
  • Memphis  10-1
  • SMU  9-2
  • Navy  8-2

I am not going to suggest that the AAC is a better football conference than the ACC – except that in this particular year, that conference might just be tougher at the top than the ACC.  The difference comes at the bottom of the two conferences where I would argue that the AAC is weaker than the ACC.

However, I will cite – and heap scorn upon – several of the ACC teams with “only 3 losses” this year for their cupcake scheduling.  If the fans and alums at these schools are not embarrassed, they ought to be:

  • Virginia: They scheduled Old Dominion, William and Mary and Liberty.
  • Va Tech: They scheduled Old Dominion, Furman and Rhode Island.
  • Wake Forest:  They scheduled Utah State, Rice and Elon.

One can be upset with some aspects of the CFP and the arbitrariness of the decision ultimately made by the Selection Committee, but the CFP allows for plenty of interesting “debate” and interesting creations of scenarios for what might happen “If…”.  So, let me do some flights of fancy here:

  • LSU is undefeated and they play Texas A&M this weekend.  The Aggies have lost 4 games this year but that is a deceiving stat.  The losses have come against Clemson, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia; three of those teams are in the Top 5 and Auburn is ranked 16th in the country.  LSU will play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.  If LSU loses both games, they will likely be out of the CFP; if Georgia loses again (Ga Tech this week and then LSU) they will likely be out.  The fun will come if Georgia and LSU win this week and then Georgia beats LSU.  Would that put two SEC teams in the CFP?
  • Oklahoma and Baylor each have one loss in the Big 12.  The Sooners lost to Kansas State – a team with 4 losses.  Baylor lost to Oklahoma.  These two teams will meet again in a conference championship game.  Both teams need to win this week to get to that game with only 1 loss because no one from the Big 12 will get a second look from the Selection Committee with 2 losses.   In fact, I am not confident that the Committee would put Baylor in the CFP even with a win over Oklahoma in two weeks because of the outrageously soft out-of-conference schedule that the Bears set for themselves.
  • Clemson is the only ACC team with any possibility of being in the CFP.  They will have to beat South Carolina this week and then beat the winner of this week’s Va/Va Tech game.  Those appear to be likely outcomes, so I think Clemson is going to be one of the CFP selections.
  • Utah is the only hope for the Pac 12, and I am not sure that they will be selected even with a 12-1 record and the conference championship in their pocket.
  • The Big 10 is another interesting conference.  Ohio State will be in the conference championship game, but they have Michigan – in Ann Arbor – this weekend; that is a rivalry game against a very good opponent.  In the West Division, Wisconsin and Minnesota will decide Ohio State’s opponent in the Championship Game.  Suppose it is Wisconsin versus Ohio State AND suppose that Ohio State loses to Michigan.  Then if Wisconsin beats Ohio State in the championship game, Ohio State will have two losses and so will Wisconsin.  Could that shut out the Big 10 from the CFP?

This sort of thing can never happen in the NFL because there are tiebreakers for teams that come into play when records are the same; there is no “committee”.  And that is one of the beauties of college football…

Here is my projection:

  • LSU wins out and goes to the CFP.  Georgia with 2 losses is out.
  • Alabama beats Auburn this week but is not selected by the committee.  The cries of anguish will be heard round the world.
  • Clemson wins out and goes to the CFP
  • Ohio State wins out and goes to the CFP.
  • Oklahoma and Utah win out and the Selection Committee picks Oklahoma to be the one-loss team in the CFP simply because Oklahoma has a longer history as a college football “powerhouse”.

If LSU stumbles this week or down the road this year, it will be a strange situation for LSU.  For the past decade, LSU has been a team that won on defense and running the ball; this year, they are throwing it all over the place and scoring tones of points – – but the defense is “porous”.  LSU is tied for second in the country in scoring averaging 48.5 points per game.  However, LSU is uncharacteristically:

  • 43rd in the country in scoring defense
  • 31st in the country in rushing defense – allowing 129.7 yards per game
  • 72nd in the country in pass defense – allowing 232.7 yards per game.

There were two shocking outcomes from last week’s games.  The first one had some potential “national consequence”; Arizona State beat Oregon 31-28 giving the Ducks their second loss of the year and ending any chance that they could sneak into the CFP.

The second shocking outcome was Florida International beating Miami (Fla) 30-24.  At one point, FIU led 23-3 and held off a Miami rally to win the game.  There is a delicious irony here in addition to the shock value of Miami losing this game:

  • The FIU coach is Butch Davis – – who was at one point the coach at Miami until he was run out of town by folks who were not satisfied with his wins and losses.

One other game from last week needs a comment.  Washington State and Oregon State got together in a game where both coaches must have agreed to leave their defensive units in the locker room.

  • Washington State won this game 54-53.
  • The total offense by both teams was 1227 yards.
  • Oregon State scored 29 points in the 4th quarter to take the lead
  • Washington State won on a 2-yard TD run with 2 seconds left on the clock.

I am exhausted just thinking about all that…


The SHOE Candidates:


I will condense the candidate list from 12 to 10 this week.  I will also identify a couple of teams that will definitely be in the SHOE Tournament no matter what happens this weekend.  Stand by to learn about some bad football teams:

  1. Akron:  Their season is over at 0-12.  They are the only winless team in Division 1 college football.  Then Zips are IN the SHOE Tournament.
  2. Arkansas:  Their record stands at 2-9 with Missouri on tap this week.  Missouri is 5-6 on the year and is a 2 TD favorite over Arkansas who has already fired the coach and will be looking for a miracle worker starting in about two weeks.
  3. New Mexico:  Their record stands at 2-9 and they have just come off a big loss to Air Force.
  4. New Mexico State:  Their record stands at 2-9.  I know they are on a 2-game winning streak, but those wins came at the expense of Incarnate Word and UTEP.  This week, they are a 14-point underdog on the road to Liberty – a team that has already beaten the Aggies 20-13 in Las Cruces.
  5. Old Dominion:  Their record stands at 1-10 but that win was over a Division 1-AA school.  They are a 10-point home dog this week against Charlotte.
  6. Rutgers:  Their record stands at 2-9.  They were shut out last week by Michigan State and that is the 4th time the Scarlet Knights have been shut out in a conference game this year.  Those two wins, by the way, came over UMass and Liberty.
  7. South Alabama:  Their record stands at 1-10.  They lost to Georgia State last week and are a 12-point home underdog to Arkansas State later today.
  8. UConn:  Their record stands at 2-9.  They lost last week to a not-very-good E. Carolina team 30-24.
  9. UMass:  Their record stands at 1-10.  They are dead last in the country in scoring defense allowing 52.7 points per game.  The team ranked second worst in this statistic (New Mexico State) gives up “only” 40.3 points per game.  The Minutemen are IN the SHOE Tournament.
  10. UTEP:  Their record stands at 1-10 – – and they lost to New Mexico State last week.  They finish their season at home against Rice – a team that has been on this watch list since it started.  Rice is a 7-point road favorite…


College Games this Week:


            This is rivalry week; there are lots of games where the outcome may not impact the polls or the CFP Selection Committee – – but the outcomes will be a huge deal for alums and boosters.

(Fri) Washington St at Washington – 7 (64):  This is the Apple Cup game; basically, it is for bragging rights in the State of Washington.

Georgia – 28 at Georgia Tech (46.5):  This is the traditional way for these two teams to close out the regular season.  The outcome here does not appear to be in doubt.

Vandy at Tennessee – 23 (46):  Tennessee has rallied in the latter parts of this season and will get a bowl bid this year.

UNC – 10 at NC State (56):  Big rivalry game and also a meaningless game in terms of the “big picture”.

Ohio State – 8 at Michigan (49.5):  This is the Game of the Week.  It is an important game for the polls, and it is a huge rivalry game.  I like Ohio State to win and cover here so I’ll put that in this week’s Six-Pack.

Clemson – 27 at South Carolina (51):  Clemson needs to win – – and they should do so handily.

Indiana – 7 at Purdue (57):  I believe this game decides the possession of the old oaken bucket for a year.

Texas A&M at LSU – 17 (64.5): No historical rivalry here – – but a very important game nationally.

Louisville at Kentucky – 3 (52.5):  Rivalry game – – but I prefer to watch these two schools go at it in basketball rather than in football.

Alabama – 3.5 at Auburn (50):  Normally, this would be the Game of the Week – – but not this year.  The oddsmaker sees this game as low scoring; Auburn has a VERY good defense.

Oklahoma – 13.5 at Oklahoma State (69): This is a big rivalry game.  The Sooners need the win, but they have to realize that State is much better at home than on the road.

Notre Dame – 14.5 at Stanford (46):  I think Stanford has packed it in for the season.  I like Notre Dame to win this one comfortably so I’ll put the Fighting Irish in this Week’s Six-Pack.

Florida State at Florida – 17.5 (54):  This is as big a rivalry as any on the card for this weekend.

Oregon State at Oregon – 20 (66):  They call this game “The Civil War”.  Oregon will need to get over its crushing loss to Arizona state last weekend.


NFL Commentary:


            Greg Cote recognized the passing of a former kicker in the NFL with this comment in the Miami Herald:

“Former Vikings kicker Fred Cox, who later invented the Nerf football, died at 80. Cannot confirm Fred will be buried in a foam casket.”

There were some disappointing performances in NFL games last week.  In no particular order:

  • The Raiders played nonchalantly two weeks ago against the Bengals – – but they won.  They were beyond nonchalant last week – reaching almost to a state of indifference – and lost to the Jets 34-3.
  • The Cowboys coaching decisions and special teams play against the Patriots was better than pathetic – – but not much better.
  • The Packers were shellacked by the Niners.  Did we overrate them earlier this year?
  • The Broncos were dominated by the Bills.  Denver had the ball 10 times in the game.  They punted 8 times and turned the ball over one other time.
  • The Falcons lost to the Bucs 35-22.  This is the same Falcons defense that held the Saints to 9 points and the Panthers to 3 points in the previous two weeks.  Really?
  • The Lions lost to the Skins in Washington continuing their streak of never winning in Washington.  Skins’ only TD came on a kickoff return; Lions turned the ball over 4 times in the game.  Only descriptor that comes to mind here is UGLY.

With a win last week and another win on Thanksgiving night, the New Orleans Saints have wrapped up the NFC South Championship.  They will host a playoff game and remain in contention for a BYE Week and for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

With a loss last week and another loss on Thanksgiving afternoon, the Cowboys have left the door open in the NFC East.  The Cowboys have not looked “alert” in the past two weeks.


NFL Games this Week:


We are finished with BYE Weeks in the regular season.  Six teams played yesterday; the other 26 teams will compete this weekend.

Green Bay – 6.5 at Giants (44):  Do not be fooled by the ineptitude of the Packers’ offense last week against the Niners.  This is the Giants’ defense this week and the Packers should be able to move the ball efficiently and effectively.  I like the Packers to win and cover here so I’ll put the Packers in this week’s Six-Pack.

Washington at Carolina – 10 (38):  Believe it or not, the Skins at 2-9 can still win the NFC East if a thousand things break their way.  After they lose here, that possibility will go away.

SF at Baltimore – 5.5 (45.5): This is the Game of the Week.  I am not willing to say it is a preview of the Super Bowl next February, but both teams will deservedly be in the playoffs.  Too bad this is a “body clock” game for the Niners; it would be better if this were a late afternoon game in Baltimore…

Tennessee at Indy – 1 (43):  The spread opened the week at 3 points and has been dropping all week.  One Internet sportsbook has the game at “pick ‘em” today.  Who knows which Titans’ team will show up this week?

Philly – 9.5 at Miami (44):  Eagles playoff hopes pretty much boil down to winning the NFC East.  They can do that if they win out.  If they cannot beat the Dolphins, they just do not belong in the playoffs.  I’ll put the Eagles in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.

Oakland at KC – 10 (51):  This would be the Game of the Week if two other things were not operative:

  • The Niners/Ravens game may not be a huge division game like this one, but it should be a better game between two good teams.
  • The Raiders have underperformed two weeks in a row.

The Chiefs are coming to this game off a BYE Week and Andy Reid’s teams historically play well off a BYE Week.  The Chiefs hold a one-game lead over the Raiders in the AFC West and – unusually – the Chiefs are sub-.500 at home this year.

Tampa Bay – 2.5 at Jax (48):  Two teams at 4-7 battle it out for supremacy in Northern Florida.  Ho-hum …

Jets – 3 at Cincy (41.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Notwithstanding the Jets’ 3-game winning streak, this game is of no importance.  Andy Dalton returns to the starting QB position after Ryan Finley showed he is not ready for the job.  I think the Jets’ defense can win this game, so I’ll put the Jets in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.

Rams – 2.5 at Arizona (47):  Was last week’s utter collapse against the Ravens the signal that the Rams’ time has come and gone?  Could be…

Chargers – 3 at Denver (38):  This line opened at 1-point and popped up to this level almost immediately.  The Chargers had last week off; the Broncos managed to score all of 3 points last week.  I’ll put the Chargers in this week’s six-Pack and lay the points.

Cleveland – 2 at Pittsburgh (38.5):  The spread opened with the Steelers favored by 2 points.  Even now, the line is all over the place from Browns – 3 to “pick ‘em”.  Somehow, the Steelers are still involved in playoff discussions.  Does Mike Tomlin have any fairy dust left in his pocket to pull this game out?

(Sun Nite) New England – 3 at Houston (46):  If the Texans are going to win this game – – and they only lead the Colts and Titans by one game in the AFC South – – every Houston player will need to play at full potential.  Remember that the Titans and Colts play Sunday afternoon so a loss for the Texans here will put them in a tie with the winner of that game.

(Mon Nite) Minnesota at Seattle – 3 (50):  It should be an excellent MNF game.  Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level this season and Kirk Cousins has played very well the last month or so.  However, this is a prime-time game against a team with a solid winning record on the road.  Those are not good omens for him and the Vikes.

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack.  I seem to have taken all favorites this week:

  1. Ohio State – 8 over Michigan
  2. Notre Dame – 14.5 over Stanford
  3. Packers – 6.5 over Giants
  4. Eagles – 9.5 over Dolphins
  5. Jets – 3 over Bengals
  6. Chargers – 3 over Broncos

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




Administrative Note

There will be no rant tomorrow.  Thanksgiving is a day for family, feasting and football – – not ranting about sports.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Stay well.  See you on Friday.

More On Flex Scheduling …

Yesterday, I suggested that a form of flex scheduling might help the NBA’s flagging regular season TV ratings.  Two readers sent e-mails asking for more details on the NFL’s flex scheduling.  I don’t know all of the details, but according to reports, here are some of the salient features:  [As a reference, the original NFL schedule for last week had the Eagles/Seahawks game as the Sunday Night Game but NBC and the NFL “flexed” the Niners/Packers game into that slot and put the Eagles/Seahawks game back to a 1:00 PM EST start.]

  • The Flexing Option only applies to games originally scheduled for Sundays.  Any game scheduled for a Monday, Thursday or Saturday will not be moved.
  • The Flexing Option does not apply for the entire season.  One report says it is allowable after Week 5; another report says it is allowable from Week 8 forward.
  • Once a decision to flex a game has been made, the announcement of the change will be made 12 days before change in game time to alert fans – – and to a lesser extent the players and coaches of the 4 teams involved.
  • In Week 17, the flex decision can be made with only 6 days’ notice because the idea is to have that Sunday Night game have some sort of playoff impact.
  • It is the NFL that makes the final flex decisions in consultation with all the networks that have TV rights for Sunday games.

Obviously, this sort of thing had to be negotiated into all the TV rights deals done between the NFL and the various networks but that would not seem to be the same hurdle for the NBA should it choose to make such a change.  The two networks doing regular season games do not overlap so the only decision would seem to be which telecast to put on the “national feed”.  If there is a need to change a starting time, that decision would have to be made in advance for the fans with tickets, but I cannot believe that is an impossibility.

I think I’ve expended enough time, energy and keyboarding on that subject because the NBA is obviously not going to implement it.  If they were, it would be in progress already since it is so simple…

Switching subjects, the upcoming NFL free agent season could be interesting this year given the potential availability of QBs with plenty of experience – – and plenty of question marks.  In alphabetical order, here are the ones I can think of:

  • Terry Bridgewater:  The Saints needed him to start 5 games this year; the Saints won all 5 of those games.  Last year, he signed a 1-year deal with the Saints for $7.2M to be Drew Brees’ backup.  This year, he will be a highly desirable commodity at age 27.
  • Andy Dalton:  The Bengals benched him to look at Ryan Finley as a prospect – and seem to have decided that Finley is not the answer so Dalton will be back under center.  Dalton will make $17.7M next year if the Bengals keep him; I think they will – and they should.  Andy Dalton is 32 years old; if he is indeed a free agent, he should attract interest from several teams.
  • Joe Flacco:  Last year, the Ravens chose to move on from him and go with Lamar Jackson; the Broncos hoped he would be the franchise QB they have not had for quite a while.  Technically, Flacco will still be under contract with the Broncos but with his salary in the $20M – $24M range, the likelihood is he will be released and will not get any offers of that magnitude.  Joe Flacco is 34 years old…
  • Marcus Mariota:  He has certainly underperformed the expectations for a guy taken #2 overall in the draft; he has also had the injury bug in his career.  However, he is only 26 years old.  He won’t get any $25M per year offers in free agency, but he will get offers.
  • Cam Newton:  There are lots of reports that the Panthers are ready to move on from Newton and that injuries have caught up with him.  His current deal is 5-years for $103.5M and next year’s installment would be $19.1M.  If he gets a positive report from the medics about his foot injury and his surgically repaired shoulder, I think the Panthers will keep him around.  Newton has a lot of mileage on the tires, but he is only 30 years old.
  • Jameis Winston:  He was the guy taken #1 overall in the same year Marcus Mariota was taken #2.  Winston has been brilliant at times; he has also been frustrating.  In his 4 ¾ years in the NFL, he leads the league in INTs with 78; that averages out to 16.5 INTs per season.  This is the least predictable situation of the ones listed here.  Personally, if I were the Bucs and had a shot at one of the good QBs in the Draft, I would move on – – but they will need to make their decision well in advance of the Draft…  Stay tuned to this one.

The college basketball season is underway and there have already been three shocking results involving college basketball bluebloods losing on their home court.

  • Kentucky lost at home to Evansville
  • Last night, Duke lost at home to Stephen F. Austin – – in OT
  • Earlier this year, UCLA lost at home to Hofstra by 10 points.

If the basketball gods are indeed focused on shaming blueblood programs on their home court this season, I would keep an eye on this game:

  • Wofford at UNC on Sunday 15 December…

Finally, speaking of college basketball, here is an observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

In passing: As college basketball season warms up, once again topping the list of most-often-used redundancies is the phrase ‘young freshman.’ Aren’t they all?”

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



NBA On TV Today …

I want to talk about the NBA today; so, let me begin with an observation from Bob Molinaro last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Must-miss TV: It won’t help sagging NBA ratings that the injury-plagued, can’t-tell-the-players-without-a-scorecard Warriors — now 3-13 after a 142-94 national TV loss to Dallas — are scheduled for two dozen more nationwide appearances. You’d think ESPN and TNT would alter their schedules to avoid the league’s most unwatchable team. Not even Steve Kerr wants to watch this team.”

The prevailing media narrative is that the NBA is at the cutting edge of everything and that the NFL is mired in the Jurassic Period – – except that the NFL figured out how to do “flex scheduling” about 15 years ago and the NBA has not caught on yet.

Bob Molinaro is right; the NBA’s ratings are indeed sagging this year as compared to last year which was a down year as compared to the prior year.  You are not likely to hear much about that on ESPN, but the numbers don’t lie:

  • Eight of the first 10 games aired on TNT had lower ratings than the comparable game from last season.
  • Nine games this year (counting ones on ESPN and TNT) have failed to attract 1 million viewers according to Nielsen.  In all of the last regular season, there were only 19 games with that small a viewership; we are only about 20% into this season.

It is still far too early to make gloom-and-doom extrapolations for NBA TV performance this season, but I do think there are a few factors that play into the early season ratings decline:

  • There are 30 NBA teams; in about 24 of those markets, there is no realistic hope of the local team making it to the NBA Finals let alone winning it all.  With MLB just ended and with college football and the NFL hitting the most interesting parts of their seasons, those fans in those markets are turning to things that are more interesting.
  • The players don’t care about these early regular-season games either.  Forget the fact that you can watch players “dogging it” on the floor in just about every game you watch; remember that “load management” for star players has been going on for the last two to three weeks.  “Load management” is management-speak for “playing hooky”.  The big difference though is that if a kid plays hooky, a truant officer may be out looking for him to put him in school; in the NBA, the coaches, owners and league officials go out of their way to justify it.
  • Highly visible star players – – Kevin Durant and Steph Curry as examples – – are injured and not on display while the most highly anticipated player since LeBron James – Zion Williamson – is also injured and not on display.

Among all these problems – – which are not getting very much play in the mass media – – NBA Commish, Adam Silver, is musing over scheduling changes some of which are:

  • Cut the regular season from 82 games to 78 games.  [Good start, Commish.  Now, get serious and cut the regular season to anywhere between 58 and 65 games.]
  • Create an in-season tournament involving all 30 teams.  The idea is to use regularly scheduled games to identify six division winners and then to add two teams based on the best other records and have that lead to a single-elimination round among those 8 teams.  [It is not clear to me that this will generate interest in markets where the team is on track to win 20-25 games in a season nor is it clear why the players would give a rat’s ass about this event.  Color me disinterested…]
  • Making the 7th and 8th slots in the NBA playoffs a play-in event.  The idea here is that the regular season will determine the teams finishing 7th thru 10th in each conference.  Under this idea, numbers 7 and 8 would play single elimination for the 7th seed and then the teams finishing 9th and 10th would play for the 8th seed.  [Currently 16 out of 30 (53.3%) teams make the playoffs.  Under the new proposal, 20 of the 30 teams (66.6%) of the teams would make the playoffs.  This is the Great Leap Backwards.]

Note that simple flex scheduling – the thing that the troglodytes in the NFL do – is not on the table for discussion.  The NBA is awash in cash thinks to the new TV rights deals that they signed several years ago; the owners are making money and the players are being highly compensated.  So, instead of worrying about how everyone involved here can make even more money – – surely not a bad idea for a business entity – – where is the thinking that says:

  • One way to make more money is to make the product better so that more people will want to consume more of it?

As they sometimes say in sports radio, “I’ll hang up and listen to your answer…”

And for the record, the NFL’s implementation of flex scheduling is far more complicated than the NBA’s implementation would generally be.  In order to move a game from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night, teams in 4 cities have to adjust and fans in 2 cities have to adjust their plans.  For many of the NBA games one could imagine flexing, the only change would be which city to send the national broadcasters to.  In plenty of cases, the starting time would not change at all.

Finally, in keeping with NBA stuff today, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

Another NBA milestone: LeBron became the first player in NBA history to have a triple-double against all 30 teams. That requires two things: 1) Being really good, and 2) Switching teams a fair amount.”

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



Some Far Out Stuff Today …

I have said here more than a couple of times that I do not want to see MLB expansion simply because there is already not enough good pitching to go around and adding two new expansion teams would put about 24 more “minor league pitchers” in major league uniforms.  Having said that, it surely looks as if momentum is building for some sort of MLB expansion.  There are organizing committees and the like in places like Portland and Nashville and the Research Triangle “studying” the feasibility of having a team in those areas.  Do not count Las Vegas out of any sort of discussion of this type; returning a team to Montreal to play in a modern facility there is also a possibility.  And then, last week, news broke about another aspirant.

Pat Williams has a long history in pro sports in the US – – mostly in basketball – – and he is now involved in a group that would seek to bring MLB to Orlando, FL.  I am sure there is sufficient money in the Orlando area to arrange for a stadium and to buy into MLB.  The negative question that hangs over any potential franchise in Orlando is basic:

  • So, how are the other MLB franchises in Florida doing these days?

The Marlins and the Rays can’t draw flies.  That problem is endemic to both areas; even when the teams are good enough to get into the playoffs, they reside at or near the bottom of MLB in terms of attendance.  A common explanation given for that situation is that there are always so many other recreational things to do in Florida that it is difficult for a baseball team to be a “center of attention” for 81 home games.  Well, last time I checked, there are plenty of diversions in Orlando to give residents – and visitors – there options regarding their recreational time and money.

Orlando folks point to the fact that it is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country based on Census Bureau stats.  Currently, Orlando ranks as the 22nd largest market area in the country.  Sounds good until you also check and see that Miami is the 16th largest market area in the country and Tampa/St. Petersburg is the 12th largest market area in the country.

Pat Williams has a name for his putative baseball team – – the Orlando Dreamers.  If they do come into existence and suffer the same fate as other Florida franchises, they will soon be known as the Florida Nightmares.

Obviously, I think a franchise in Orland is a bad idea.  Scott Ostler had this item in the SF Chronicle last weekend about another bad idea in baseball that seems to have been acted upon:

“Is baseball the stupidest sport? Bad question. It’s not even close. Only in baseball, this kind of thinking: ‘I’ve got an idea. We steal signals from opposing catchers with a spy cam. Nobody will know, except all 25 of our players, the manager and coaches, bat boys, the camera crew, and people we tell in bars when we’ve had too many, so it will be easy to keep it a secret, as long as none of those people have a conscience or character. Nobody on the outside will ever bust us, unless they have ears or look at a box score. We could win some games, and the only downside is that if we get caught, we’ll all be branded cheaters, liars and losers forever. Let’s do it!’”

I must admit it; that is a difficult argument to pick apart…

In a similar line but in a different sport, Vontaze Burfict has questioned the integrity of NFL games saying that some are “rigged” and the way the league effects the rigged games is to have the officials call penalties that determine the outcomes of those rigged games.  Three quick thoughts here:

  1. Vontaze Burfict is serving a season-long suspension as we speak.  His reinstatement has to go through the Commish who wants to hear about “rigged games” about as much as Chris Christie wants to be Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, sports and Nutrition.
  2. Somewhere, Tim Donaghy is smiling…
  3. The spate of bad calls this season – as shown by replay after the fact – will cause some folks who are prone to believe conspiracy theories to take this seriously.  If that kind of thinking spreads, the “gambling interest” in NFL football will diminish and – even though the NFL would never admit this even under waterboarding – the biggest factor that spurred the growth of the NFL to be the dominant sports enterprise in the US is the degree to which people bet on game outcomes.  This “indictment” goes to the heart of the “integrity of the games”.

Another NFL player has voiced a similar concern – but in a much more nuanced way.  Richard Sherman sort of wondered aloud if the officials were flagging him for penalties he thought he did not deserve because he is an outspoken member of the NFLPA Executive Committee.

I am not saying that it would be impossible to “rig” an NFL game – – or even a bunch of NFL games.  Nor am I saying that any attempt to “rig” an NFL game would be done without any officials being aware of the “rigging”.  Here is where I am on these sorts of things:

  • To convince me of a grand conspiracy – one that would have to involve league execs and probably some of the officials in the league – I need evidence that is probative.  It is not nearly sufficient to assert the existence of the alleged conspiracy and then point to no evidence of its existence as proof of its existence.

Finally, since much of today’s rant deals with things like cheating and the rigging of games which would be despicable and immoral acts, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm at the other end of the spectrum:

“Chaste:  Morally pure; decent.  A quality known in the dating scene as a waste of your time and effort.”

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



A Mini-Football Friday 11/22/19

Time constraints for this week allow only for a mini Football Friday this week and no room for a Six-Pack.  Half a loaf is better than none…  In fact, half a loaf may be more than can be delivered next week with the intervention of Thanksgiving.

Last week, the Six-Pack was under .500 for the first time this year.  The record was 2-3-1.  Here is how the Six-Pack has done so far this season:

  • Overall:  28-18-2
  • College:  15-6-1
  • NFL:  13-12-1


College Football Commentary:


Last week, the Linfield College Wildcats finished their regular season with a 24-17 win over George Fox University.  Linfield was 8-1 for the season and as Northwest Conference Champions, they will play in the NCAA Division 3 playoffs.  Their first-round opponent this weekend is Chapman University, the champions of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  Chapman’s record this year is 9-0; they score an average of 37.1 points per game and allow 16.9 points per game.

These teams have two common opponents.  Both defeated Whitworth during the season.  Chapman beat Redlands 21-18 back in October; Linfield’s only loss for the season was to Redlands in September by a score of 27-19.  Go Wildcats!

Undefeated seasons ended for two teams last week:

  1. Minnesota lost to Iowa – at Iowa – 23-9.  The Big 10 West just got a lot more interesting.  Minnesota has 1 loss in conference and Wisconsin has 2 losses in conference.  Both the Gophers and the Badgers are solid favorites this week.  Then, the two teams meet on November 30 at Minnesota.  Assuming both teams win this week, that game will determine the Big 10 West champion.
  2. Baylor lost to Oklahoma 34-31 at Baylor.  Both teams have 1 loss for the season and those losses are both in conference.  Baylor led this game 28-3 early in the 2nd quarter but the Sooners pitched a shutout in the second half to win the game.

Reacting to the Baylor result on Facebook, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times posted this comment:

“Baylor blew a 28-3 lead in losing to Oklahoma.

“Adding further insult, the Atlanta Falcons immediately sued the Bears for trademark infringement.”

Penn State beat Indiana last week setting up the Game of the Week for this weekend.  Penn State travels to Columbus, OH to take on the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes.  Penn State has one loss in conference – – to Minnesota – – but a win here would give them a tie-breaker’s edge over Ohio State in the Big 10 East.  Yes, the Nittany Lions do have a conference game after this one, but it is a home game against Rutgers – – so this game is the de facto Super Bowl game for Penn State.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has a real opponent on deck after Penn State leaves town.  The Buckeyes close out their season against traditional rival, Michigan, in Ann Arbor a week from Saturday.

Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines dispatched Michigan State last week 44-10 leaving the Spartans with a 4-6 record for the season.  The schedule makers for the big 10 may have seen this coming because they set up Sparty to finish with games against Rutgers this week and Maryland next week.  Bowl-eligibility is very possible in East Lansing…

Clemson remained undefeated breezing by Wake Forest 59-3.  ACC football is plain vanilla except for Clemson…

Florida State achieved bowl-eligibility with its 6th win of the season over Alabama State – a team the Seminoles ought to be embarrassed to schedule.  The final score was 49-12.

Iowa State beat Texas 23-21 last week; both teams now have 4 losses for the season.  Texas was ranked #19 going into this game and certainly did not play the way a ranked team should be expected to play.  Texas scored 2 4th quarter TDs to take the lead with 5 minutes left to play.  The Longhorns lost the game after allowing a 10-play drive to set up a 36-yard game winning field goal as time expired.

Kentucky beat Vandy 38-14; that is the 5th win for the Wildcats.  They can become bowl eligible with a win in either of their final two games against Tennessee-martin (this week) or against rival Louisville (next week).

Georgia beat Auburn 21-14.  Georgia will play in the SEC Championship Game as the East Division winner.

Alabama beat Mississippi State 38-7 but QB Tua Tagovailoa dislocated and fractured his hip and is out for good.  Any of the NFL teams who were quietly “Tanking for Tua” were not happy with that result.


The SHOE Candidates:


We are beginning to develop some clarity at the bottom of the college football barrel after last week.  I will stick with a list of 12 candidates for the 8 slots in the imaginary SHOE Tournament this week – – but it sure looks like about half of the slots have inhabitants…

  • Akron:  They lost again last weekend to E. Michigan and they lost again on Wednesday night this week to Miami (OH).  Akron is the only winless Division 1-AA team in the country at 0-11 and will close out their season next week against Ohio University.  Akron will be in the SHOE Tournament.  Cumulative score so far is 383 – 123.
  • Georgia Tech:  Ga Tech lost to Va Tech last week 47-0.  However, they survived a 13-point rally in the 4th quarter by NC State to win last night.  Their third win on the season may have eliminated them from SHOE consideration – something that will not annoy the players, coaches or alums.
  • New Mexico State:  They won their first game of the season last week over Incarnate Word.  ‘Nuff said…
  • Northwestern:  They demolished UMass last week.  They still belong in this candidate list, but that dominant performance against a “true bottom-feeder” probably means they don’t belong in the SHOE Tournament itself.
  • Old Dominion:  They did not lose because they had a BYE Week.  This week’s opponent is Middle Tennessee State.  See below for a comment there…
  • Rice:  They won their first game of the season last week over Middle Tennessee State 31-28.  The Owls scored all their points in the first half and hung on to win.
  • Rutgers:  They lost to Ohio State 56-21.  Is there a sign of life in the Rutgers’ team?  They scored 21 points here; in their previous 6 Big-10 games, they had scored a total of 24 points.
  • S. Alabama: They lost again last week to fall to 1-9 on the season.
  • UConn:  They did not lose because they had a BYE Week.
  • UMass:  They lost to Northwestern (a SHOE candidate) last week 45-7.  Prior to that game, Northwestern had been averaging 12 points per game.  UMass closes out the season against BYU – another shellacking likely.  I will be shocked if UMass is not in this year’s SHOE Tournament.
  • UTEP:  They lost again last week to fall to 1-9 on the season.
  • Vandy:  The Commodores lost last week to Kentucky.  They have 2 wins this year and face East Tennessee State this week, a team that is Division 1-AA with a record of 3-8.  A loss here will put Vandy in the SHOE Tournament for sure.

Action for SHOE candidates this week presents some interesting things to look for.

  1. UTEP and New Mexico State meet in a game they call the “Battle of I-10” for the Interstate highway that connects El Paso and Las Cruces.  I wonder if the folks at Florida and Florida State take umbrage here…
  2. ODU plays Middle Tennessee State this week.  That is the team that lost to Rice last week.  Maybe Middle Tennessee State becomes a SHOE candidate with a loss here?  Maybe this is a second win for the Monarchs?
  3. UConn plays E. Carolina – a team with only 3 wins on the season – this week.  Maybe this is a second win for the Huskies?


College Games of Interest:


Michigan – 9.5 at Indiana (51.5):  Wolverines must not look ahead to Ohio State next week…

Texas A&M at Georgia – 13 (44):  That’s a big spread for what looks to be a low-scoring game.

E. Carolina – 14.5 at UConn (66): SHOE Tournament interest only…

BYU – 40 at UMass (68.5):  SHOE Tournament interest only …

S. Alabama at Georgia State – 10 (52): SHOE Tournament interest only …

Purdue at Wisconsin – 24.5 (48):  Badgers must not look ahead to showdown with Minnesota next week.

Minnesota – 14 at Northwestern (40.5):  Gophers must not look ahead to showdown with Wisconsin next week.

Oregon – 14.5 at Arizona State (52.5):  Oregon leads the PAC-12 North comfortably.

Utah – 22 at Arizona (57):  Utah leads the PAC-12 South by one game over USC.

UCLA at USC – 14 (65):  USC is still in the PAC-12 South race.

Cal at Stanford – 2.5 (40):  This rivalry provides a “Game of Interest” every year…

Texas at Baylor – 5.5 (59.5):  Baylor cannot afford another conference loss…

SMU at Navy – 3.5 (67.5):  Two “under the radar” teams that are very good.

Michigan State – 20.5 at Rutgers (43):  SHOE Tournament interest here plus potential impact on Mike Dantonio’s continued employment as head coach at Michigan State.

North Texas – 6.5 at Rice (55):  SHOE Tournament interest only…

Arkansas at LSU – 43.5 (69):  These two teams are in the same division in the same conference – – but they are miles apart in terms of quality.

UTEP at New Mexico State – 7.5 (55.5):  Major SHOE Tournament interest here…

ODU at Middle Tennessee State – 14.5 (47):  Major SHOE Tournament interest here…

Penn State at Ohio State – 18 (57.5):  That is a big spread for what is the Game of the Week.


NFL Commentary: had a report earlier this week that Marvin Lewis is one of the “hot candidates” for an open NFL head coaching job when that coaching carousel starts to spin.  If you are surprised by that assertion given the status of the Bengals in his final years and their current doormat status, please remember that he took over the Bengals in 2003 when the entire franchise was a laughingstock and he made it respectable.  Between 2003 and 2018, he took that laughingstock franchise to the playoffs 7 times.

What I find interesting about that report is that it swims upstream in the current NFL where the trend most definitely is to find a young offensive-minded wunderkind to be the next head coach for a downtrodden franchise.  Lewis is definitely a “defensive guy” and he is 62 years old.

Speaking of the Bengals, here is a comment on that subject from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Quick hit: Until 0-9 Cincinnati gets off the schneid, let’s call them the Bagels.”

If you watched the Chiefs/Chargers game in Mexico City on Monday nite, I assume that you observed the condition of the field.  Kickers and runners where kicking up large divots on at least half of the plays.  That made me wonder how bad the field had to be last year when the league moved the venue out of the stadium in Mexico City and put it in Los Angeles on several days’ notice.  I thought the field this year was a substandard facility.

Last week, the Bills thumped the Dolphins 37-20 putting an end to the 2-game win streak for the Dolphins.  Before the kickoff, Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald:

“Suddenly an 0-7 team seen as tanking is a 2-7 team in jeopardy for not getting the quarterback its wants in the 2020 NFL Draft on account of unexpected success. And poor Dolfans aren’t sure how to feel. What a truly weird-ass season.”

Last week, the Broncos led the Vikes 20-0 at half time and had held the Vikes to 58 yards passing in the first half.  Then everything went south…  In the second half, Kirk Cousins threw for 261 yards and 3 TDs as the Vikes rallied to win the game and stay with the Packers in the NFC North race.

In a game with precisely zero significance regarding the playoffs, the Jets beat the Skins 34-17.  The Skins’ 2 TDs in the 4th quarter accomplished two things:

  • It broke a streak of 16 straight quarters where the Skins had failed to find the end zone.
  • It made this game look a lot closer than it was.

The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-27; coupled with an Eagles’ loss, that puts the Cowboys on top of the NFC East for the moment.  However, consider that the Cowboys’ defense gave up 27 points to the backup QB for the Detroit Lions.  That is not a good reflection on the Cowboys’ defense…

The Falcons beat the Panthers 29-3.  Are we living in Bizarro World – – or were the Falcons of September and early/October the inhabitants of Bizarro World?  The Falcons have given up only 12 points in the last two weeks to a pair of teams that possess good offenses.  Prior to those two games, the Falcons were giving up an average of 31.25 points per game.

Three top-shelf teams – the Niners, Pats and Ravens – all won last week.  The Raiders aspire to top-shelf status in 2019 and they too won last week, but their win was labored even against the woebegone Bagels – – er Bengals.

Last night, the Texans beat the Colts 20-17.  That puts the Texans a game up on the Colts for the moment.  The Colts have 5 losses this year; the Texans have 4; looking at the AFC standings, it looks as if 11-5 may be necessary to make the playoffs in the AFC.


NFL Games This Week:

There are 4 teams enjoying their BYE Week this week:

  • Arizona:  The Cards are playing competitively and need for their defense to improve to start winning games.
  • Kansas City:  Their half-game lead over the Raiders in the AFC West is seriously in jeopardy this week as they try to get themselves healthy.
  • LA Chargers:  Sorry, but that loss on Monday was the end of their playoff hopes for 2019.
  • Minnesota:  They trail the Packers by half a game now and will be pulling for the Niners to beat the Packers on Sunday.


Miami at Cleveland – 10.5 (45):  I suspect that the clock has struck midnight for the Dolphins after a 2-game winning streak and they will go back to being pumpkins – er … doormats.

Denver at Buffalo – 3.5 (38):  This spread opened at 5 points and has been dropping all week long.  The Total Line opened at 35 points and has risen steadily all week.  I suspect that the Broncos will have plenty of difficulty scoring on the Bills’ defense; the Bills have difficulty scoring just about every week.  Lots of punting and field goal tries here…

Pittsburgh – 6.5 at Cincy (39.5):  Steelers are on the fringe of playoff relevance; a loss here will mean the end of their season.  The Bengals just stink…  The Steelers need this game to remain relevant.  The Bengals have conclusively shown themselves to be irrelevant.  Seriously now, do you really want to spend 3 hours watching these two teams go at it?

Giants at Chicago – 6.5 (39.5):  Here is the existential question:

  • Is the Giants’ defense lousy enough to yield more than 20 points to the inept Bears’ offense?

Oakland – 3 at Jets (46.5):  The Raiders squeaked by the lowly Bengals last week with a half-hearted effort.  They are in the thick of a playoff race and do not need a loss to a bad team because they took that bad team lightly.

Carolina at New Orleans – 10 (47):  The spread here opened at 7 points and has been rising all week.  One Internet sportsbook has the line at 11 points as of this morning.  The Saints were awful two weeks ago and rebounded last week; Panthers were awful last week.  Both of those “awful performances” came against the Falcons.  Hmmm…  A win for the Saints here all but ends the NFC South race.

Tampa at Atlanta – 4 (51.5):  Which Falcons team will show up Sunday?  How many INTs and lost fumbles will Jameis Winston contribute to this effort?  Avert your eyes…

Detroit – 3.5 at Washington (40.5):  The Lions have NEVER won a game over the Skins in Washington.  Last road win for Lions over Skins was in 1936 when the team was in Boston.  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week – – although it got some competition from the Giants/Bears game.  Dwayne Haskins versus Jeff Driskel; be still my heart.

Jax at Tennessee – 3.5 (41.5):  The word that comes to mind here is “Boring” …  Titans are on track to have a shot at finishing 9-7 for the fourth consecutive season.  The best “angle” I can come up with for this game is:

  • Battle of the Big Backs:  Leonard Fournette versus Derrick Henry

Like I said, “Boring”

Dallas at New England – 6.5 (45):  Two division leaders; and yet, this is not the Game of the Week.  Pats’ run defense will need to play well here to stop Ezekiel Elliott.  Cowboys’ defense remains suspect.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay at SF – 3 (48):  This game was flexed from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night.  This game also pits two division leaders against each other and the combined records for these teams is 17-3.  That makes this the Game of the Week.  The key matchup here will be the front four of the Niners against the OL of the Packers.

Seattle at Philly – 1 (47.5):  This spread opened at 3.5 points for reasons I could not possibly explain.

  • Factors favoring the Eagles:  Home field; body clock game for Seahawks.
  • Factors favoring Seahawks:  Everything else.

Eagles’ season is on the line here and I think the wrong team is favored.

(Mon Nite) Baltimore – 3 at LA (46.5):  This game may not have the luster of the Packers/Niners game, but it has the potential to be as fun to watch as any game this year.  Come on now, Aaron Donald and his cohorts against Lamar Jackson $ Co…

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



The Baseball Hall Of Fame Ballot For 2019

The Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for 2019 is out.  This is the first year of eligibility for Derek Jeter.  If he does not get on this induction cycle, they should drug test everyone who voted against him.  I wonder if Jeter’s candidacy has what the politicos call “coattails”.  Jeter was the Yankees’ captain from 2003 to 2014.  Can his momentum getting into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot inspire folks on the Veterans’ Committee to elect a former Yankees’ captain – – Don Mattingly – – to the Hall as well?

For the record, five former Yankees’ captains are already in the Hall of Fame

  1. Clark Griffith
  2. Wee Willie Keeler
  3. Frank Chance
  4. Babe Ruth
  5. Lou Gehrig

The other player on the ballot I think should get in – – but likely will not – – is Curt Schilling.  He started 19 post-season games over his 20-year career and his record in those games was 11-2.  In those games he pitched 133.1 innings with an ERA of 2.23; he struck out 120 batters and only walked 25.  Personally, that looks dominant enough for me…

Switching gears…  Often, I – and other sports commentators – speak of coaches or managers who are “on the hot seat”.  In fact, it is an annual feature in my NFL preview rants here.  However, there should be the same level of scrutiny attached to that group of players who have drawn attention to themselves in one way or another and who may not have lived up to the standards implied by the attention drawn by themselves.

Note, I am also talking here about players who get overly inflated contracts from teams that decided to overpay them and about players who were drafted much sooner than they should have been.  In those cases, the player is on a hot seat as a result of the actions of others.  But that seems fair because coaches are on a hot seat because of the actions/failures of others too.

As a first pass at this idea, let me limit my musings to NFL players for the moment.  If this idea is inspiring in some way, I may extend it to baseball and basketball sometime down the road.  In alphabetical order:

  • Odell Beckham, Jr.:  He brought attention to himself in myriad ways during his days with the Giants and then convinced the Browns to pay him big bucks – reported to be $95M with $65M guaranteed.  So far, in 13 games for the Browns, he has caught 48 passes for 692 yards and 1 TD.  Those are pedestrian numbers…
  • Le’Veon Bell:  After sitting out all of the 2018 season, engaging in a public spitting match with the Pittsburgh Steelers over a new long-term contract, and producing/releasing his first rap album, he signed on with the Jets as a free agent for 4-years and $52.5M with $25M fully guaranteed.  So far, in 10 games for the Jets, he has carried the ball 161 times for 508 yards.  He has also caught 46 passes for an additional 309 yards.   His 3.2 yards per rushing attempt is less than his season average at any time in his career AND his 6.7 yards per reception is also lower than his season average at any time in his career.  Those are not the numbers one might have expected…
  • Jared Goff:  His performance has regressed from last season to this one after the Rams signed him to a contract extension of 4 years and $134M with $110M guaranteed.  In 10 games for the Rams in 2019, the following stats are down from the previous two seasons – – completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards per pass attempt, yards per completion, QB Rating.  In those same 10 games for the Rams in 2019, the following stat is up from the previous 2 seasons – – interception percentage.  That cannot be the level of performance envisioned by the Rams when they signed that contract extension…
  • Marcus Mariota:  He is in the final year of his rookie contract after being drafted #2 overall in 2015.  He was to earn $20.2M this season and he has already been replaced as the starter by Ryan Tannehill – a QB I refer to as a Lake Woebegone QB because he is slightly above average.  Because he was so highly regarded coming into the NFL, he is likely to get a contract with someone during the NFL’s free agency period – – but it will not be anything near the 9-figure deals that are being handed out to top-shelf QBs these days.  The next time he gets a chance to start, he needs to shine – – lest the sun set on his career.
  • Mitchell Trubisky:  He is only in his third year in the NFL and my inclination is to avoid judgements on player development so early in a career.  However, in 2019, Mitchell Trubisky has been certifiably awful.  He has only averaged 5.6 yards per pass attempt and only 9.0 yards per catch; those are substandard numbers for a starting NFL QB.  In 10 games this season, the Bears have only scored more than 20 points twice – – and one of those times was against a woeful Washington team.  Trubisky is not yet any sort of “salary cap burden” for the Bears – – but he is an on-field burden that the defense must carry.
  • Jameis Winston:  He is in the final year of his rookie contract after being drafted #1 overall in 2015.  He was to earn $20.9M this season and the Bucs need to decide if they are going to sign him as their long-term franchise QB soon.  From the time he entered the NFL, Winston has shown signs of brilliance – – and signs of dysfunction.  Going into last week’s game against the Saints, Winston had thrown a league-leading 14 INTs; he proceeded to throw 4 more last week.  He augments his interception numbers with fumbles; he has committed 11 of those in 2019.  Having been the overall #1 pick in the draft, he will find employment in the NFL – – but his last 5 games in 2019 will need to be eye-popping if he hopes to get any contract offers that might make splashy headlines.

Finally, here is a cogent observation from Brad Rock, formerly with the Deseret News:

“A Puerto Rican doubles bowling team has been stripped of its gold medal at the Pan Am Games for a doping violation.

“How that would help pick up a 7-10 split is anyone’s guess.”

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



Football Officiating

We have all done more than a little complaining about NFL officiating this season – – and a lot of it is driven by compelling visual evidence that the officials “got it wrong”.  Instant replay was supposed to cure all those problems; to put it simply, it has not.  We have to come to grips with a sporting parallel to Al Gore’s screed,

  • An Inconvenient Truth.

Take a deep breath; put yourself in your happy place; take a sip of coffee and absorb these next two statements:

  1. Many of the worst officiating mistakes – and the decisions not to overturn those mistakes upon review – result from basic human error.
  2. It is not possible to remove the spectre of human error from any endeavor that involves humans.

College football provided an example of fundamental human error on the part of officials earlier this season.  In the Washington State/Cal game, officials threw a flag for “hands to the face” on a return play.  They enforced the penalty and the teams ran the next play.  Here is the problem:

  • The officials enforced the penalty on the wrong team.  [That resulted in a 57-yard swing in field position.]
  • The officials realized their mistake after the next play had been run – meaning that, by rule, there was no going back and correcting the mistake.
  • The officials informed the Washington State bench of the error during the game.

That is about as bad as it gets – – and there is no way to guarantee that it will never happen again so long as human beings are used as officials and as the replay overseers for the games.

The referee in the game – the crew chief – was suspended by the PAC-12 for a game and the other members of that crew were “downgraded” by the Conference for whatever that is worth.  I have no problem with the discipline there.

This season at the NFL level, there have been too many examples of missed calls and decisions not to overturn said missed calls to list them here.  Those mistakes have led to multiple cries for the NFL to dip into its $15B revenue tsunami to come up with fixes for these “gaffes”.  At some point, the weeping and gnashing of teeth will be sufficiently loud that the NFL and the NFLPA will have to make some revisions in how the game is officiated.  Be very wary when that time comes if they tell you that whatever they propose to do will “fix things”.  Sadly, it will not.

There are three officiating improvement suggestions that have been voiced so many times as to become trite.  They will come to the surface again at the end of this season when reports emerge about the deliberations of the NFL Competition Committee.  Let me list them here and comment:

  1. Microchips in the ball
  2. Sky Judges
  3. Full Time NFL officials

In principle, putting microchips in the balls would assist with ball placement and measurements for first downs and touchdowns – – did that ball break the plane before the knee was down?  It could also be used to determine if a field goal or PAT that goes higher than the goal post upright is good or not.  There is only one way to find out if this technology offers sufficient benefits to justify the cost and maintenance of the systems and that is to try it out in game conditions.

  • Memo to the NFL:  If you think this is even a marginally good idea, try it out in a bunch of those meaningless Exhibition Games that you continue to foist off on fans.

A “sky judge” is a fancy way to describe another official (another human official) in the “press box” who has a link to the referee so that the “press box official” can buzz the referee on the field and tell the official on the field that the last play needs to be reviewed.  Sounds good on the surface…  Here is how I view a “sky judge”:

  • He/She is one more person who can challenge a call on the field – – except the “sky judge” has an infinite number of challenges, not just two.  Perhaps this will improve the accuracy of officiating; certainly, it will make the games run longer and have a choppier rhythm.  And most importantly, the “sky judge” is subject to human error as are the officials on the field.

Related to the possible existence of a person with an unlimited number of replay challenges, please consider this observation on replay challenges from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad:

“The day synchronized swimming incorporates replay challenges, I’ll know it’s all but over.”

The idea of “full-time officials” for the NFL has been around for at least 25 years that I can recall.  The problem with implementing that solution to the problem is that it does not put in place any means to provide those newly hired full-time-officials with what they need most to improve their performance.  Having officiated sports (mostly basketball) and having tried to teach young folks how to officiate games, there is no substitute for active participation in real games played at the speed of real games.

Full-time officials can spend hours upon hours studying the rulebook; at the end of two years on the job full time, I would expect that some of the officials could recite the rule book with less than three prompts.  That familiarity is a plus – no doubt about that.

Full-time officials can spend hours reviewing film and working on officiating mechanics that are developed for the purpose of putting officials in the right place to make the calls they need to make.  Mechanics deal with where the officials should be during a play and what areas of the field each one is responsible to monitor.  It would do no good at all to have all 7 officials focused on something on the near sideline as a play proceeds down the far sideline; officials need to practice where to be and how to look for rules violations during live action.  Full-time officials can practice these mechanics over and over until they are “hard-wired” into their collective brains.

As you think about those last two paragraphs, remember that full-time officials will be “on the job” for 8 hours a day and about 230 days a year.  (I am being generous in the amount of vacation time allowed here.)  In that time, there will be 20 days wherein the full-time officials will be actually officiating NFL games for about 4 hours.  [The best of those officials will do more work in the playoffs; 20 games are the baseline for all the full-time officials.]

Therein is my problem with full-time officials.  What they need to be doing more than 20 times a year – remembering that only the 4 Exhibition Games are practice for those full-time officials – is unavailable to them.  Let me now present you with

  • An Inconvenient Truth 2

The thing that will do the most good in terms of improving on-field officiating is a chimera; it does not exist.  NFL officials need to officiate games involving real players who are playing at real speed and with real intensity.  It helps if they “officiate” scrimmages at practice; it helps if they officiate XFL games.  But the real stuff – what they must be able to handle – is not available to them in any imaginable practice/rehearsal setting.

Let me suggest here that all prospective solutions to this “problem” be subjected to the criterion suggested in the beginning of the Hippocratic Oath:

  • First, do no harm…

Try the microchips in the balls during Exhibition Games; the only “harm” I can see there is that it might be a costly experiment that shows little likelihood of being worth further pursuit.

Try a “sky judge” in the Exhibition Games while you are at it.  The added cost is minimal; it would be a small sample way to test the benefits derived and the unintended consequences incurred.

Before hiring full-time officials – – and necessarily fire those current officials who do not choose to accept full time employment by the NFL – – find out for sure what the loss of experience/competence is going to be.  We have seen what “replacement refs” look like and it is not pretty.  Currently, the NFL has a roster of 122 officials; 23 of those officials (19% of the roster) have been officiating NFL games for 20 years or more.  I would surely want to know that I would not lose all or most of that experience by mandating full time employment for NFL officials.

There is no doubt that officiating football in college and in the NFL can be improved – but it can never be perfect.  When considering changes to the way games are officiated, it is important not to believe that there is a silver bullet out there to kill off all the demons and turn football officiating to an uplifting place such as might exist in a Disney princess movie.

Finally, since I have stated that perfection is not possible in sports officiating, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Perfectionist:  The worst kind of boss; the best kind of sex partner.”

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



Oddball Stuff Here…

Today is World Toilet Day.  It is a day sponsored by the United Nations every year that intends to inspire “action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help attain Sustainable Development Goal 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030.”  According to the website dedicated to this event, 4.2 billion people live “without safely managed sanitation”.  That is approximately 55% of the people on the planet – and the UN thinks this will be resolved by 2030.  Good luck with that.

Oh, by the way, the “theme” for this year appears to be:

  • No one left behind.


There is an international sports story percolating at the moment.  Rick Maese had a report in the Washington Post recently about some conflict that exists between the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti-Doping Agency.  This story has more than a few threads that have gone beyond “interwoven” and have arrived at the stage of “entangled”.  At issue is a bill introduced into the US Congress that would allow the US to apply fraud and racketeering laws to conspiracies to dope athletes.  For a thorough explanation of the issues, here is a link.

I am of two minds on this matter.

  1. The IOC and WADA oppose the legislation saying it goes too far.  The IOC and WADA are not the most trustworthy entities on the planet, and I am loath to align myself with their positions on any matter more nuanced than the rising of the sun in the east.
  2. Enacting broad legislation into law in the US opens the door to prosecutorial zeal and over-reach – neither of which is beneficial to society.

The fact is that doping exists; the doping-cheaters are always one step ahead of the doping-authorities and people who believe that situation is going to be changed by legislation are simply dopes.

OJ Simpson is back in the news.  Don’t get excited, he has not yet found the real killers; this is about a totally different matter.  TMZ reports that OJ has filed suit against The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas over an incident from several years ago.  According to the lawsuit, the hotel escorted OJ off the premises and presented him with a note saying that he was banned from the hotel for life due to drunken and disorderly conduct in the hotel.  Evidently, word of this incident and banishment got out and OJ now claims that he was defamed by the hotel because he was neither drunk nor disorderly in the casino.

Given the interactions of OJ Simpson and the US system of jurisprudence over almost the last 25 years, I personally think it would be extremely difficult to defame his character over a matter of inebriation.  According to a report ion the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the suit seeks at least $30K plus undetermined punitive damages and attorney’s fees.  Maybe – given the amount of time he has spent there – OJ Simpson has come to like being in a court room…  Hopefully, this matter will go away quietly because – truth be told – this really does not matter.

The Super Bowl halftime show next February will feature Shakira and Jenifer Lopez as the headline acts.  Knowing that these next comments will bring scorn and derision upon me, I’ll state them anyway:

  • I would not know Shakira from Shaquille O’Neal – – except for the fact that I know why Shaquille O’Neal is famous.
  • Until I did a Google check about two minutes ago, I had no idea that Jenifer Lopez was a singer.  I thought she was an actress and a celebrity who was engaged to Alex Rodriguez.

Given those two admissions of ignorance, you can safely deduce that I will not be magnetically drawn to the TV set to watch his extravaganza while the coaches and players are cooling their heels in the locker rooms.  Here is my perception of Super bowl halftime:

  • It is a 30-minute break in the reason everyone has tuned into this telecast in the first place and it has nothing to do with that basic reason.
  • It is a time for the audience to take a bathroom break – – assuming that all of us are watching in a place where toilets and sanitation facilities are not only readily available but are also properly functional – – and then to grab another beer to recharge one’s kidneys.

Admit it; until 30 seconds ago, you did not think there was a linkage between World Toilet Day and the Super Bowl halftime show…

Finally, in keeping with today’s celebration of World Toilet Day plus my personal perception of the real purpose of halftime during the Super Bowl, it seems appropriate to close with a focused definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Toilet:  A type of chair without which many people would never get any reading done.”

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



A Down Day …

I know you have seen and read about the Myles Garrett/Mason Rudolph incident in abundance by now.  Much of what I have heard and read has fallen into one of three buckets:

  1. Condemnation of Garrett:  What he did was criminal in any other setting and he is lucky he did not maim or even kill Rudolph by his actions.
  2. Attempted mind reading:  What action(s) by either party caused this scene to spin so far out of the norm.
  3. Seeking a precedent:  Rehashing the John Roseboro/Juan Marichal free-for-all from the 1960s

Rather than add to any of that, let me point you to a column written by Jerry Brewer in the Washington Post.  It is a bit different than anything that falls into any of the categories above and it is extremely well written.  Here is the link; I recommend you read it in its entirety.

Reacting to the revelations that the Houston Astros were stealing signals during the 2017 season – and post-season – Dwight Perry offered suggestions for remakes of some of the classic movies about baseball over the weekend in the Seattle Times:

“Cameras in the Outfield”



“Bang the Can Slowly”

To which, might I add:

  • A Cabal of their Own
  • Bullpen of Spies
  • The Shame of the Astros

Another story that has gotten a ton of exposure recently involves the NCAA and Memphis’ prize recruit James Wiseman.  The NCAA ruling is that Wiseman is ineligible because his family got $11,500 to help fund their move to Memphis while Wiseman was still in high school.  If indeed that happened without any other circumstances surrounding the “transaction”, the NCAA’s ruling is certainly consistent with its rules governing recruitment of athletes.  However, there is an aspect to this story that doesn’t ring true to me; someone needs to explain this to me:

  • The allegation is that the $11,500 money-transfer came to the Wiseman family from Penny Hardaway, who – wait for it – is the head basketball coach at Memphis University.

So, riddle me this…  If there is sufficient evidence of this improper transfer of money to support an NCAA finding that James Wiseman is ineligible, why is Penny Hardaway not doubly to blame here?  After all, Hardaway is an adult and presumably recognizes the impropriety here.  I simply do not understand this one…

In yesterday’s Washington Post, there was a report that the ESPN program, High Noon, “faces an uncertain future at the evolving network.  High Noon is high brow discussion of sports issues; it is the antithesis of First Take; on an intellectual scale, it is 5 levels above Get Up!  The hosts are Pablo S. Torre and Bomani Jones; you can listen to either of them in settings other than their own program and you will conclude immediately that they come at whatever the topic may be from a different starting point than most other commentators.  Here is my analogy:

  • Two of ESPN’s college basketball voices are Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas.  How long do you have to listen to them to reach the conclusion that these guys are “different from each other”?

According to the report in the Post, both Torre and Jones have contract renewals coming up next year and of the quartet of sports “debate” shows offered by ESPN in the late afternoon, High Noon draws the smallest audience.  [Aside:  The other three programs in question here are “Highly Questionable”, “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption”.]

Let me go on record here saying that I think High Noon is second only to Pardon the Interruption in that quartet of ESPN shows and I would miss it if it were to disappear.  For the record, I would not even notice if Highly Questionable went the way of My Mother the Car.  Moreover, if the poohbahs at ESPN even begin to wonder if Pardon the Interruption belongs on their airwaves, that will mean that the clan consisting of the likes of Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and Michael Irvin have won the day.  Should that become evident, I would have to scale back my consumption of sports on TV and restrict it to watching live games and replays of live games.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Despair:  An utter loss of hope; a feeling of uselessness.  Often brought on through contact with a greeter at Walmart.

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