An “Epic Fail”…

I try to keep politics out of these rants; that will not be possible today because politics lies at the heart of the topic.  Earlier this week, reports say that the LA Lakers applied for and received a $4.6M loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Federal legislation to help small businesses survive during the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19.  To their credit, the Lakers have returned that money to the SBA.  With the money returned to the government so it might be distributed to small businesses that really need those funds, one can consider this a Shakespearean comedy and just say All’s Well That Ends Well.  Except that is not the case…

Forbes said prior to the onset of the pandemic that the Lakers’ franchise was worth $4.6B.  Surely their profit for their current fiscal year will be damaged by the pandemic and the franchise value may drop the next tine Forbes applies its methodology.  Nevertheless, it would take an extreme contortion of logic to think that the Lakers were in the category of “small businesses” to receive pandemic assistance at this time.

The granting that loan was a monumental screw-up; I believe the current jargon would call it an “epic fail”.  So, riddle me this:

  1. Who thought it was a good idea for the Lakers to apply for said loan?
  2. Who thought it was a good idea to grant the LA Lakers a “small business loan”?

Let me take the first question first.  Either someone in the Lakers’ organization figured out that they would qualify for the loan under the guidelines or someone outside that organization told them the same thing.  If it was an “internal source”, that reveals something about the person that is not flattering; but at least, the return of the money shows that there is a sense of honor and fair play in the organization at some higher level of decision making.  If it was an “external source” – – like maybe a lobbyist hired by the Lakers to represent their interests in Washington? – – that plumbs new depths of shadiness for a person.  Given all of the wrangling and the reporting of that wrangling that led to the passage of this legislation, no person smart enough to know that Mount Rushmore is not a rock group could mistakenly think that any of this money belonged in the Lakers’ account.

It is unlikely that we will ever know the answer to Question 1 above.  That is too bad, but it is not nearly as bad as the fallout from addressing Question 2.

The fact is that the Lakers qualified for this loan under the CARES Act; so, when they applied for it, they got it.  They did not violate the law; they did not even stretch the law; they went to a bank that was handing out these SBA loans and presented their application and they received the funds.  As they approached the bank, they may have been wearing a mask as is the guidance in these days of COVID-19, but I am sure they did not also level a firearm on any bank officer as part of the “loan process”.

There is no reporting that the bank granted that loan in error.  If that is indeed the case, then the bank has minimal culpability here; they granted a loan to a legally practicing business that met the guidelines for that loan.  Maybe the folks involved in the processing and approval of that specific loan might have done a double take at the recipient and sent that application much higher in the bank’s organization for approval, but that is about all I would fault them for.

We are getting closer to the source(s) of the problem here.  Clearly, the criteria set by the SBA by which businesses would qualify for these loans turned out to be “less than perfect”.  [Note: I am trying to be politically correct and sort of generous with some of my remarks today.]   In addition to finding out that the Lakers got a big chunk of the loan money provided, we also know now that a lot of money went to large restaurant chains as opposed to local “Mom and Pop” restaurants.  Like the situation with the Lakers, those entities qualified under the criteria set by the SBA; those chain restaurants did not violate the law; the problem lies in the criteria.

But that is not the end of the line in the hunt for culpability in this mess.  Let us look at the source of all that money, the $2.2 Trillion contained in the CARES Act.  That came from the same place that all government money comes from – – the Congress of the United States.  So, what do we know about that?

  • The CARES Act itself is 880 pages long.  Here is a link to the text of that Act in case anyone has 3 days’ worth of time they do not know what to do with.
  • Contained in all of that verbiage and motivated by all the dealing and compromising required to reach some sort of consensus here, there are not sufficiently clear statements to the SBA to hand this money out to small businesses that are actually small businesses.

Why is all that a big deal?  The Congress of the United States will soon turn around and tell everyone that they are going to provide oversight as to how this money is spent and administered.  Really?  There has not been a single suggestion that the “Lakers’ loan” or any of the other loans to large chain restaurants violated the CARES Act.  So, when the Congress “oversees” how and why this miscarriage of logic happened, is it likely to point any fingers at itself for nonfeasance – – the failure to put language in those 880 pages spelling out where the money was supposed to go?

I had a former colleague who had a yardstick that he used in measuring the value and the likely success of complex development projects.  Here is that yardstick:

  • If you cannot tell me in 3 simple declarative sentences what you want to achieve, you will never get where you think you want to go.

The majority of the 535 Congressthings had their fingers in this mess.  When they stand up and point those fingers at others to assign blame and when they stand up and solemnly promise to get to the bottom of this “mischief”, please hold up a large mirror for them so that they can see the problem.

Finally, in keeping with today’s political theme, let me present a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Election:  An ongoing part of the democratic process in which politicians and the post office team up to make sure American citizens have enough leaflets.”

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



The Legacy Of The XFL?

In the fifth round of the NFL Draft last weekend, the Panthers took Kenny Robinson, a safety from West Virginia.  Robinson is noteworthy because he played football in the XFL this season until the league had to declare bankruptcy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.  [Aside:  It is unkind and unproveable to assert that the XFL would have gone bankrupt anyway and that COVID-19 merely hastened the process.]  Most of the other XFL players were not eligible for the NFL Draft because their NCAA eligibility had expired in previous years coincident with the expiration of the NCAA eligibility.  Robinson was still eligible because he was an underclassman who left WVU as a result of allegations related to academic fraud.  In a sense, those allegations provided him with a benefit. Interesting…

With the demise of the XFL – save for the legal proceedings involved with the bankruptcy filing and the lawsuits that are certain to come to life as a result of that filing – I want to look at several of the things the XFL introduced to professional football and to sort out the ones I think the NFL should adopt.

The best innovation from the brief history of the XFL was the transparency and the speed of its booth reviews; the NFL should find a way to mimic what the XFL did there and adopt it immediately.  The transparency is easy to achieve; it takes a camera in the replay booth along with an audio feed to the airwaves.  With those minimal intrusions, XFL viewers could hear the communication between the booth and the referee on the field and it could see the camera shots that the replay official was using to make his determination.  I have been on a sufficient number of journeys around the sun to know that this will not eliminate conspiracy theories among fans – – but it should reduce the number.

In the XFL there were no PATs.  After a touchdown, the scoring team had 3 options:

  1. It could run a play from scrimmage at the 2 yardline; if it reached the end zone, that was worth 1 point.
  2. It could run a play from scrimmage at the 5 yardline; if it reached the end zone, that was worth 2 points.
  3. It could run a play from scrimmage at the 10 yardline; if it reached the end zone, that was worth 3 points.

I like this rule because it replaces a less-than-exciting place-kicking play with another play from scrimmage – which is what a fan tunes in to see.  Moreover, the ability to select from the menu of where to place the ball introduces another layer of strategy to the game and I do not see how that would be a negative factor.

The XFL kickoff rule is a plus for player safety because it reduces the number of full speed collisions on those plays.  Here is a link to a report that has text and graphic representations of the kickoff rule in case you did not watch any XFL games on TV.  This rule should indeed increase player safety; at the same time, it is a significant departure from a fundamental part of the game.  I would lean to the side of player safety here since there is precedent in football history for changes to the kickoff rule in pursuit of that goal.  Recall that the flying wedge used to be part of kickoff return strategy; so, changes to the kickoff rules should not be considered sacrosanct.

In the XFL, double forward passes were allowed if the first of the two forward passes on a play was completed behind the line of scrimmage.  I only saw one team try this one time and I was not so horrified by it that I ran screaming from the TV set and hid under my bed.  The only objection I have to this rule is that it gives another advantage to the offensive unit and I do not think that the field needs to be tilted in that direction any more than it is now.

Another XFL rule innovation is not innovative at all.  The XFL adopted the college football rule requiring only 1 foot to be inbounds for a completed pass.  Again, this provides the offense with another advantage.  Personally, I think that there have been enough rule changes with that intent and result.

Regarding production of the game itself for TV, the XFL added another sideline reporter to the mix – one on each side of the field – and they instituted ingame interviews with players and coaches.  Such a bad idea…  Sideline reporters and the insights they bring to the game are even less exciting that PATs.  If you stick a microphone in the face of a QB who just threw an INT and ask him what he saw on the play – – obviously not the defender – – you should quickly realize that none of the answers increase understanding on the part of the viewer or the reporter.  And Heaven forbid you should ask a player who just lost a fumble how he feels at the moment…

Another production innovation was to allow viewers to listen in on the electronic communications between coaches and players.  Those were interesting for about the first half-dozen times they added that audio feed to the broadcast.  After that, it was much ado about nothing because it was all jargon/gibberish.

So, the breakdown of seven XFL innovations creates three layers for the NFL to consider:

  • Replay transparency:  Adopt it.
  • Eliminate PATs:  Adopt it.
  • XFL kickoff rule:  Adopt it.
  • Double forward passes:  Save this until NFL defenses catch up to NFL offenses and the league mavens think they need to inject more offense into the games.
  • One foot inbounds for completed passes:  See Double forward passes above.
  • Additional ingame sideline reporting:  Drive a wooden stake into the heart of this idea.
  • Access to coach/player electronic communication:  Sounds like it would be interesting – – but it isn’t; don’t do this.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this to say about another competition that was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak:

“As if all the other shutdowns weren’t enough, now they’re telling us there won’t be a Scripps National Spelling Bee this year.

“There are no words …”

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



NBA Reopening Plans – – Sort Of…

The NBA has a tentative plan for its reopening – – sort of.  I say “sort of” not to mock or deride their announcement of a plan but to recognize what the league itself knows:

  • Events created by the COVID-19 pandemic can demand changes in plans and behaviors.  The NBA told the teams at the end of its description of a phased opening that it “may push this timing back if developments warrant.”

The reopening plan calls for practice facilities to open in a measured way starting on May 8th.  The idea of a “measured way” can be recognized by some of the limits on what can happen in the practice facilities as of May 8th:

  • The practice facilities are intended to provide venues for “limited individual workouts”.  Head coaches and assistant coaches are not to be present for these “limited individual workouts”.
  • No more than four players may be present in the practice facility at a given time.
  • There are to be no scrimmages.
  • Players must wear a mask when not working out.
  • Any team employee – such as part of the training staff – present in the facility must wear masks and gloves and must remain 12 feet away from any players or one another.

Obviously, the NBA is taking the lead among major US sports to move toward reopening and it is doing it cautiously.  Over and above the league’s caution, there is one other important caveat involved here that can override this announced date to begin reopening:

  • Practice facilities will only be opened in places where the activities permitted in those facilities would comply with state and local regulations such as stay-at-home orders.  [Translation:  The NBA has no interest in being a scofflaw and getting into an adversarial posture with mayors and governors.]

May 8th is ten days from today.  For every team to be able to open its own practice facility and not go looking for one in a different venue, a lot of states and local jurisdictions are going to have to lift existing stay-at-home orders.  There are 30 NBA teams; if I have counted correctly, they “reside” in 21 states, the District of Columbia and Ontario, Canada.  Just to highlight the complexity of that issue, as of this morning:

  1. The Oklahoma City Thunder would be able to follow the NBA rules on May 8th as there are plans for Oklahoma to reopen before then.
  2. The LA Clippers and Lakers play in a city where the mayor has said he cannot envision the return of sports to the city before Thanksgiving.

Without attempting to choose sides in the debate between epidemiology and economics, I think we can all agree that the positions currently taken by the officials in Oklahoma and Georgia differ significantly from those taken by the officials in California and New York.  Moreover, it is not likely that the NBA will be the go-between to resolve calmly and rationally those significant differences.

One of the phrases that has become commonplace in English over the past couple of years is to label statements and ideas as “aspirational”.  I am completely fed-up with that label because what it really means is that the statement or the idea getting the label has now been shown to be “ignorant” or “impossible” – – but we would not want to say such a nasty thing about a person or an idea and we call it “aspirational”.   Bullspit!

I think this is the exception that proves the rule.  I think the NBA’s reopening plan is indeed “aspirational”.  The NBA knows that this timeline may not happen; they probably know that this timeline is unlikely to happen; at the same time they are “hopeful” – which is a synonym for “aspirational” while “ignorant” and “impossible” are not – that they can begin to get back to normal starting on May 8, 2020.

Another sport – not nearly as visible as the NBA – has announced its plans to resume competition.  USA Swimming – the national governing body for swimming here – said that it will resume regional events in August leading up to national events in November 2020.  Those events from August through November are part of a process that will lead to the competition that selects the US Olympic Swimming Team for next summer’s Games in Tokyo.

Once again, the announcement of these plans is tentative and depends on any restrictions that may exist at the state and local levels.  A statement issued by the CEO of USA Swimming makes it clear that things might have to change:

“I think everything is taken with a grain of salt and maybe even more than one grain of salt. “We’re trying to bring normalcy back when it’s not normal, and we know that. But we have to have a Plan A, a Plan B and even a Plan C.”

Finally, why are “reopening plans” worthy of comment?  Let me leave you today with an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times:

“Think those Nebraskans are football-crazy? This year’s Cornhuskers’ spring game drew a crowd of 20,000.

“That’s 20,000 — as in people remotely tuning in to watch a simulated eSports version after the real game was canceled.”

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



NFL Draft Observations…

I don’t know who came up with the idea to assign grades to the NFL Draft the day after it was over.  Presumably, he/she did not realize what a scourge would be released upon the sporting public when everyone glommed onto that format and made that “analysis” seemingly mandatory for the day after the Draft.  In addition to the format having become its own cliché, there are two other fundamental problems with such things:

  1. Perhaps as many as half of the first-round picks will be severe disappointments let alone players taken later.  The problem here is that we will not recognize that for about two seasons.  Assigning grades now presumes the ability to see into the future to make such determinations – – but if one could do that, there would never be any draft busts.
  2. With all due respect to the myriad authors of these pieces, how many of them can honestly say they have watched the 100 or so players taken in rounds 5 through 7 play football?  If you have not done that, what might be the basis for grading a team’s Draft at this point?

I think these two limitations are reflected in the Draft Grade Column that appeared in the Washington Post yesterday.  Here is the grade distribution for the 32 teams:

  • Three teams got an A or an A-minus.
  • One team got a D.
  • Twenty-eight teams got grades from C-minus to B +


I shall not be awarding grades here, but I do want to comment on the Draft and the coverage of the Draft.  Remembering the reality that plenty of players taken in this year’s Draft will be mediocre at best as an NFL player, I thought it was interesting to hear the ESPN and NFLN draft analysts lavish praise on virtually every pick.  It was somewhere in the sixth round on Saturday when I returned to the TV having poured myself a glass of wine and heard one of the analysts off-screen describe one of the picks by saying that the Colts had gotten themselves “a real player here”.  That must be good news in Indy because it would have been embarrassing for the Colts to have drafted a figment of their imaginations.  Sigh…

I liked the format of this Draft a lot; in fact, I like it better than the format where they hold the draft in the presence of several hundred thousand mouthbreathers.  Moreover, the home shots of players and families reacting to Draft news was infinitely better than having a reporter assigned to stick a microphone in front of a player and ask, “So, how does it feel to be a (fill in the blank)?”  Occasionally, they might mix in something like, “So, growing up in Asshat AK, did you ever think you would be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft?”  I much prefer to see the player/family reactions and to skip the stupid interview questions.

When Alan Greenspan was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he once warned investors not to succumb to “irrational exuberance”.  That malady finds its way into NFL Drafts too.  Lamar Jackson compared the Ravens’ first round pick – – Patrick Queen – – to Ray Lewis.  Jackson dubbed Queen as “Ray Lewis, Jr.”


I have some observations regarding the Draft to present here.  Please do not expect depth of insight or anything remotely like that:

  • Browns:  They signed an undrafted free agent, AJ Green who is a DB.  If he makes the team, it is possible that AJ Green (Browns) might wind up covering AJ Green (Bengals) twice a year.
  • Chiefs:  They probably wanted to have a rhyming theme to this year’s draft because two of their draftees have first names of L’Jarius and Thakarius.
  • Eagles:  They must have been trying to corner the market on players named Jalen.  They took two of them in the first two rounds and they have Jalen Mills already on the roster.
  • Eagles:  They drafted a linebacker from Temple named Shaun Bradley.  They have to hope this works out better than the last time a Philly team took a player named Shawn Bradley…
  • Eagles:  They drafted Prince Tega Wanogho in Round 6 and signed Prince Smith as an undrafted free agent.  Remember, this is the team that also had King Hill as a backup QB for about 6 years in the 1960s.
  • Eagles:  They need WRs.  They drafted 3 of them and traded for a fourth.
  • Giants:  They need offensive linemen.  They drafted 3 of them last weekend.
  • Rams:  The Eagles drafted two players named Jalen; the Rams drafted two players named Terrell.
  • Panthers:  They gave up 29.4 points per game last year; only the Dolphins allowed more points scored for the season.  In this year’s Draft, the Panthers had 7 picks and took 6 defensive players.
  • Vikings:  Somehow, they amassed 15 picks in this Draft.

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this observation about a form of Draft coverage that I missed:

“Showtime has ex-NFL QB Mark Sanchez in a new digital series talking with top quarterbacks in this draft. Wait a second. Isn’t that like putting top thespians in an acting roundtable hosted by Adam Sandler?”

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



Draft Retrospectives…

Watching the NFL Draft take place last night in some sort of virtual reality was interesting enough; most importantly, it took place in the present tense as opposed to being a replay of some previous event of the same ilk.  You can find a jillion reports this morning analyzing which team “got it right” and which team “got it wrong” last night completely ignoring the fact that it makes little sense to try to evaluate a draft for about the first two years after it happens.  However, enough time seems to have passed to revisit a recent draft and point out what appears to be a severe mistake.

In the 2017 Draft, the Jags had the 4th pick.  The Jags have had a Top 5 so often that one might assume there is an arcane clause in the NFL Bylaws assuring the Jags of such a status.  Actually, the clause is not that arcane; teams get Top 5 picks regularly when they stink year after year after…  The Jags were bad in 2016; hence their “elite status” in the 2017 Draft.

The Jags took Leonard Fournette with that pick.  He has been in Jax for 3 seasons; in that time, he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry and 73.1 yards per game.  Also, in that time, Fournette has shown some meathead tendencies to the point where there are myriad reports that the Jags are trying to trade him but there are no takers.  At best, the Jags got a big physical specimen of a running back with the #4 pick who turns out to post nothing more than decent stats and has behavioral issues that have gotten him suspended.

If that were all there were to the situation, you would have to say the Jags wasted such a high pick.  But as the guy on the infomercial always says:

  • “But wait … there’s more!”

Here are just some of the players the Jags ignored when they had that 4th pick in the 2017 Draft:

  • Jamal Adams taken at #6
  • Christian McCaffrey taken at #8 [Also a running back I might point out…]
  • Patrick Mahomes taken at #10
  • Marshon Lattimore taken at #11
  • Deshaun Watson taken at #12
  • Marlon Humphrey taken at #16
  • TreDavious White taken at #27
  • TJ Watt taken at #30

That is just a sampling of what the Jags did not want to take with that #4 pick; that list does not extend into anything beyond the first round of the 2017 Draft but it should be noted that all of those passed-over players have already been to a Pro Bowl.  [For what it’s worth, these RBs taken much later in the 2017 Draft have also been to Pro Bowls – Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Connor and Tarik Cohen.]

Another perspective from previous NFL Drafts demonstrates how short NFL careers are for many players.  Consider the players taken in the overall #1 position from 2010 through 2015:

  • 2010 – Sam Bradford – not on any NFL roster this morning
  • 2011 – Cam Newton – now a free agent looking for a place to land
  • 2012 – Andrew Luck – retired
  • 2013 – Eric Fisher – still with the KC Chiefs, the team that drafted him
  • 2014 – Jadeveon Clowney – now a free agent looking for a place to land
  • 2015 – Jameis Winston – now a free agent looking for a place to land

The oldest player on that list is 32 years old.  Sic transit gloria mundi …

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are going to fill a bit of the void in the sports world by staging another exhibition match as a made-for-TV spectacle.  For this encore performance, the two golfers have added an interesting twist; they will each have an “amateur partner” making it a two-on-two competition.  The “amateurs” will be Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Turner Sports will produce and broadcast this event.  It will take place sometime in May at an as-yet-to-be-determined venue because the producers have made it clear that this will only happen in a place where the event will comply with all health strictures and with all governmental regulations.  All proceeds from the event have been pledged to COVID-19 relief efforts.

I have made it clear on many occasions here that watching golf on TV is not one of my favorite things.  I will watch the final round of a major tournament – sort of – but that’s about it.  I will probably watch this event for the same reason that I was enthusiastic about watching last night’s NFL Draft – – it is a live event and not something pulled from the video archive at Turner Sports.

Meanwhile the PGA is looking at a restart for its tournaments sometime in mid-June.  That announcement prompted Greg Cote of the Miami Herald to make this comment:

“The PGA Tour is planning a mid-June return with no fans, assuring the look and ambiance of it will have all the excitement of a Tuesday practice round. Meantime, GolfTV reported exclusively that the gum Tiger Woods chews on a golf course is orange-flavored Trident. Run to the store and start hoarding!

Emphasis was in the original …

Finally, since I mentioned “short careers” for NFL players above, let me close today with a pertinent entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Elderly:  Of advanced years.  Or, as it is known in the entertainment industry, twenty-seven.”

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



Muffet McGraw Retires…

Muffet McGraw announced her retirement as the women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame.  She has been on the job there since 1987 after 5 years as the women’s basketball coach at Lehigh.  Overall, her teams’ combined record was 936 – 232; her teams won more than 3 games out of 4.  Notre Dame won the National Championship twice in her tenure there and made the Final Four seven other times.  She is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bonne chance, Muffet McGraw…

MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred announced yesterday the culmination of his investigation into the Red Sox involvement in sign-stealing.  The outcome – and the punishments handed down – are anti-climatic when compared with the news related to the Astros for the same offense.  Here are the sanctions:

  • The Red Sox will lose a second-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft – whenever that takes place.
  • The Sox video replay operator, J.T. Watkins is banned from baseball through the end of the 2020 season – if there is one – and Watkins will not be allowed to perform video replay duties during the 2021 season.
  • Fired Red Sox manager Alex Cora did not receive any extra punishment as a result of this investigation; his banishment from baseball through the end of the 2020 season – if there is one – for his involvement in the Astros’ cheating scheme remains in place.

Recall that the Astros were fined $5M as a team and that the Astros lost 4 draft picks a few months ago.  Basically, Manfred’s decision here means that he determined that what the Red Sox did was wrong but that it was not nearly as wrong as what the Astros did.  Here is a link to the Executive Summary of Manfred’s report and decision in the matter from

Because of the significant disparity in the punishments handed down and the absence of any opprobrium directed at any Red Sox players or coaches, I figured that the NY press would not be thoroughly happy with this result.  An article in this morning’s NY Post corroborated that suspicion.  The article begins with this sentence:

“Was J.T. Watkins just another scapegoat?”

Not surprisingly, this morning’s New York Times took a far more measured approach to the story and reported on the details of Manfred’s decision and how it was communicated inside MLB’s highest levels.  That is why the NY Post sports section is much more fun to read – – if not more accurate.

I am confident that within the next day or so there will be stories in the NY tabloids railing against the “cheating Red Sox” and quoting Yankee players and managers and whomevers about how the Red Sox accomplishments are tainted.  I want to get out front of those stories here; when they appear, here is what I hope someone reporting the story has the integrity to respond:

  • How many KNOWN PED cheaters were on those Yankees’ rosters in the late 90s and the early “aughts” when the Yanks were winning all those pennants and World Series?
  • And how many were there that everyone knew were “using” but no one could prove it in a court of law?
  • Physician, heal thyself…

The NFL Draft starts tonight, and it will be done via video conferencing and streaming and all that kind of new age stuff.  The potential for a hiccough exists.  So, let me take a moment here to highlight a few oddities from NFL drafts over the years.  I am not a football historian by any stretch of the imagination; I leave that sort of title to folks like Dan Daly and Ray Didinger and “the reader from Houston”.  Here are “draft glitches” I can recall:

  • The NFL Draft began in 1936.  The Eagles had the overall #1 pick and drafted Jay Berwanger; he refused to play for them.  The Eagles had the overall #1 pick in 1937 too.  They drafted Sam Francis who also refused to play for them.  Things were tough in Philly in the mid-30s…
  • In the mid-40s, the Skins drafted a player in the first round, but he was a junior in college and at the time was not eligible for the draft.  So, the next year, the Skins again took him in the first round.  He decided not to play professional football.  Sounds like a serious lack of communication there…
  • About 20 years ago, the Vikes missed the time-limit for making their selection.  They did not lose the pick, but their snafu allowed two other teams to hustle and make selections before the Vikes could get their card up to the podium.

However, I believe that the ultimate “draft glitch” award belongs not with any NFL team; it belongs to the Canadian Football League where in two consecutive drafts in the 1990s, teams selected players who were dead at the time of the draft.  That will be tough to top…

Finally, Dwight Perry had two more comments regarding sports and social distancing in the Seattle Times recently:

“Overzealous college boosters, embracing the spirit of social distancing, are now including a tiny bottle of sanitizer with every $100 handshake.”

And …

“The ‘Field of Dreams’ ghosts, tired of waiting for a statewide quarantine edict, are reportedly social-distancing six cornrows apart.”

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



College Basketball Will Survive

I want to talk about college basketball today notwithstanding the fact that there was no NCAA Tournament this year nor are we anywhere near the NBA Draft.  The issue at hand is that a 5-Star high school recruit named Jalen Green has decided to take up an NBA offer to play in the G-League for a year – reportedly for a salary of $500K – instead of going to college to play basketball there for “tuition room and board”.  Some folks have jumped to the conclusion that this is the demise of men’s college basketball.

I think they are wrong; in fact, I think this will highlight the value of college basketball as a competitive sport worth watching and as a way for top-shelf talent to develop their skills and their “brands”.  Let me explain…

I have never seen Jalen Green play basketball; I take his 5-Star Rating as a fact and I recall that some previous 5-Star Rated players have turned out to be great while some others have turned out to be mediocre.  I will stipulate here that he will be great; I wish him good fortune in his basketball career.

Having said that, college basketball survived the absence of players such as:

  • Kobe Bryant
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Dwight Howard
  • LeBron James
  • Shawn Kemp
  • Moses Malone

I suspect the game of college basketball will also survive the absence of Jalen Green.  Even if the NBA changes its rule about drafting players to allow every high school basketball player who wants to “jump directly to the NBA” to do so, I think college basketball will survive.  I don’t think it will take too many years of high schoolers having free access to the NBA for the lesson to be learned that it is far more difficult to earn your way to playing time – and a continued roster spot – in the NBA than it is to declare for the draft and to be drafted.  Plenty of players drafted under the current “more restrictive” system spend little or no time actually in the NBA.

College basketball will also demonstrate that it is a better place for a player to develop his “brand”.  There were G-League games on TV this year and I would find them as I grazed through the channels on my cable TV sports package.  I could not tell you the attendance at any of the game snippets I saw but of this I am sure:

  • Had I been in the arena at tip-off time and decided to “count the house” in the early parts of the game, I would have completed my count and settled back to watch the game with about 9 or 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

No one goes to those games – and the TV ratings for G-League games were better than infomercials for miraculous new vacuum cleaners that air at 3:00 AM but not a lot better.  The new wave of high school phenoms earning a tidy $500K to play basketball will do so in relative anonymity.  That does nothing positive for “developing one’s brand”.  There is a recent example of this:

  • LaMelo Ball is supposed to be a top Draft pick this year.  He gained fame a few years ago when Lavar Ball and Lonzo Ball were ubiquitous in every media outlet.  LaMelo took his talents to Lithuania and Australia and arrives at the Draft with a certain level of “fame”.
  • Compare that to Zion Williamson from last year at this time who played part of a season at Duke.

Being totally objective, Zion Williamson had a far more defined and refined “brand” when he came up to the Draft.  I believe that will continue to be the case so long as there is a March Madness – as I hope there will next year in the absence of a second wave of COVID-19.  The allure of college basketball is its competition and its player development.  Those aspects of college basketball will not go away because Jalen Green is playing in the G-League next year.

By the way, it was not all that long ago when Brandon Jennings decided to skip college basketball and to play a year in one of the European Pro Leagues.  Jennings was drafted and played about 10 years in the NBA for a handful of teams.  He too was alleged to be setting a trend that would severely hamper college basketball and change things radically.  I suggest that Jalen Green and Brandon Jennings are remarkably similar in that aspect of their careers and their “brands”.

Moving on …  A few days ago, the NY Post reported that Joe Buck had turned down a $1M offer to do “play-by-play” from a porn site.  I suspect that some of you think this is a joke, so here is the link to that report.  The porn site:

“…has created a special section on its website for sports commentators to provide live play-by-play commentary for live adult cam shows for blind and visually impaired users …”

How politically correct and incorrect at the same time…

Finally, a timely observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Not that college athletics are totally sticklers for the 6-foot rule or anything, but even William & Mary are social distancing.”

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



2020 NFL Pre-Draft Analysis – Defense

Picking up where I left off from yesterday, today will focus on defensive players I saw last year who could find themselves drafted by an NFL team by Saturday night.  Here is the schedule for this year’s Draft – which will be conducted entirely online for the first time.

  • Thursday, 23 April:  Round 1 Begins at 8:00 PM EDT
  • Friday, 24 April:  Rounds 2 & 3 Begins at 7:00 PM EDT
  • Saturday, 25 April:  Rounds 4-7 Begins at Noon EDT

You can watch the event on ESPN and/or NFL Network for all 3 days.

I will begin today with Defensive Linemen.  As with yesterday’s presentation, I will put these players in alphabetical order because I do not want anyone to infer any sort of ranking here except when I specifically call out a round I think the player will be drafted.

  • Derrick Brown – Auburn: “Big and quick.  “Strong against the run and gets plenty of internal pass pressure”.  “Should go first round”.
  • K’Lavon Chaisson – LSU: “Good pass rusher, fast enough to chase down runs to the opposite side”.  “Not real good on power runs coming at him”.  “Probably a 2nd round pick.”
  • Raekwon Davis – Alabama: “Great against the run, not a lot of interior pressure on pass plays”.  “Second round?”
  • AJ Epenesa – Iowa: “All over the place in Holiday Bowl Game; unstoppable”.  “Obviously did not do that every game or he would be heralded as much as Chase Young.  Who knows?”
  • Leki Fotu – Utah: “Excellent playing the run”.  “Not fast at all and not much interior pass pressure”.  “Take in the late rounds.”.
  • Neville Gallimore – Oklahoma: “Super quick off the snap.” “Uses hands and arms to get penetration”. “Probably goes in the mid-rounds”.
  • Davon Hamilton – Ohio State: “Impressive interior pass rusher”.  “Good enough against the run”.  “Take in 2nd or 3rd round.”
  • Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina: “Screen graphic said 315 lbs., still very quick off the ball and decent pursuit of runners and QBs.”  “Not a bowling ball DT; he’s very tall”.  “First or second round pick?”
  • Chase Young – Ohio State: “Super quick off the ball and speed for an outside rush”.  “Not nearly so good defending run play straight at him”.  “Obviously a first-round pick”.

Chase Young follows in the footsteps of “The Bosa Bros” as a pass rushing monster for Ohio State.  I wonder who the Buckeyes have on the roster who will follow in these footsteps.

Moving on to the Linebackers …

  • Malik Harrison – Ohio State: “ILB big and strong against the run”.  “Not very fast – pass coverage limitations”.  “Probably a late round pick”.
  • Khalid Kareem – Notre Dame: “Good run defender.”  “Good pass coverage.”  “Not much pressure for an OLB.”  “Late rounds.”
  • Terrell Lewis – Alabama: “Good speed and pass rush moves”.  “Defends the run well”.  “Pass coverage out of the backfield, he’s average”.  I would say he is a mid-round pick but because he went to Alabama he will probably go in the second round.
  • Kenneth Murray – Oklahoma: “Big, fast and sure tackler”.  “Like pass coverage for a guy that big”.  “First round pick.”
  • Patrick Queen – LSU: “Good speed for blitz situations and for pass coverage”.  “Good enough against the run”.  “Second or third round?”
  • Isaiah Simmons – Clemson: “Excellent pass rush; plays the run and defends passes.”  “What can’t he do?”  “Has to go early in 1st round”.

I think that Isaiah Simmons is the defensive player in this draft who will have the most impactful NFL career; he just did everything on defense except play nose tackle.  I know that everyone has Chase Young penciled in as the top defender in this draft and I am not disputing his talents or his ability when I say that I think Isaiah Simmons is even better.

The Defensive Backs are next:

  • Terrell Burgess – Utah: “Tough defender; hard hitting tackler”.  “Not fast but seems to know where the ball is going so he gets there on time”.  “Plays safety”.  “Late round pick”.
  • CJ Henderson – Florida: “Big CB with good speed”.  “Solid pass defender deep and short”.  “Not much of a tackler on run plays to his side”.  “1st or 2nd round”.
  • Darnay Holmes – UCLA: “Small but fast”.  “Good coverage good closing speed”.  “Size is a problem?”.  “Late round pick; if he were bigger he’d go earlier.”
  • Xavier McKinney – Alabama: “Guy is everywhere – always around the ball”.  “Sure tackler and very good in coverage”.  “Plays safety in college”.  Looks like a 1st round pick to me”.
  • Jeff Okudah – Ohio State: “Good size and speed”. “Plays lots of man coverage in college”.  “Good enough as a tackler on run plays”.  “Has to go in the 1st round”.
  • John Reid – Penn State: “Good cover guy but very small”.  Maybe worth a late round pick?”
  • Antoine Winfield – Minnesota: “Excellent speed”.  “Covers well and tackles well enough”.  “Plays safety and problem is size; he is awfully small for an NFL safety”.  Take a flier on him in the late rounds.

Before I leave the defensive backs, let me make a comment about one here for whom I have no “performance notes” – – but I do have this note:

Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn): “Every copy editor and play-by-play announcer in an NFL city hopes this guy is drafted by a team in ‘the other conference’.”

I have exactly one Place Kicker in my stack of notes:

  • Rodriguo Blankenship – Georgia: “His placekick attempts all seem to go right down the middle – – very accurate”.  Team that needs a kicker can grab him in the late rounds”.

That’s it, folks; that’s all I have.  No none alerted me to a defensive player at a small school so I can’t tell you to watch for Joe Flabeetz from Teensy Tech as the Draft unfolds this weekend.  So, let me leave you with a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding a way that NFL broadcasters may reflect these COVID-19 times:

“NFL broadcasters, in keeping with the coronavirus theme, will henceforth refer to busted coverages as ‘social distancing.’”

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



2019 NFL Draft Preview – Offense

About 45 years ago, Howard Cosell characterized the NFL Draft this way:

“…the most overrated, over-propagandized annual event in American sport.”

He was probably right.  Nevertheless, I will be paying attention to the draft later this week because in 2020 it is sports reality and that is a commodity in rare supply these days.  The telecast over a three-day span is not fantasy; it is not bloviating opinion; it is reality and it will take place in the present tense.  Hallelujah…

Let me do a quick reset here for those who have joined on in the last year.  I like college football, so I watch it on television.  As I watch, one of the things I do is to look for players who – I think – have a shot to play in the NFL and I keep a small notepad with me to make notes.  Then, I take those notes and relate my impressions and opinions here before the draft takes place.

This is NOT a mock draft; this is just a compendium of notes that I took during college games last Fall.  [Aside:  There are two players named here because readers informed me of their abilities.  They will be clearly indicated.]

Because all this information comes from watching games on TV, there will be plenty of players that I have nothing to say about.  Obviously, the Power-5 schools are on TV a lot more than other teams; obviously, I live in the Eastern Time Zone, so I see eastern and midwestern teams more frequently than I do far west teams.  Moreover, I often only see a team play one game and maybe that is not the day when a prospect played his best game.  I can assure you that any omission of a player from this list is not an act of disrespect.

I notice that I have fewer notes this year as compared to previous years; I have no idea why that is the case, but it is what it is.  This year will at least be better than last year when I had to forego this tradition because I accidentally left all my notes in the seatback pocket of an airplane.  Time get started…

I shall begin with the Quarterbacks.  I will do them in alphabetical order:

  • Joe Burrow – LSU: “Very accurate on long throws; hits receivers in stride.”  Everyone has him going to the Bengals with the first pick; sounds good to me…
  • Jake Fromm – Georgia: “Announcers really love him, he’s OK but not anything better than OK.”  If he is still available in the 4th or 5th round, he’s worth a shot.
  • Justin Herbert – Oregon: “Love his athleticism and arm strength; he makes the out pattern to the wide side of the field look like an ordinary throw.  Not fast but moves in the pocket well.”  I think he should go early in the 1st round.
  • Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma: “Big question mark.  Accurate short passer but long completions were to receivers open by 5 yards.  Not a lot of throws like that in the NFL.”
  • Jordan Love – Utah State:  I mention him here because he has gotten a lot of attention over the past month or so; some reports say that Bill Belichick covets him as Tom Brady’s long-term replacement in New England.  I have no notes on him because I don’t think I ever saw a Utah State game last season.  Sorry…
  • Shea Patterson – Michigan: “Lots of hype coming to college football but looks ordinary to me.”
  • Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama: “Good mobility; accurate on short throws and long throws.”  “Always finds someone open.”

Injuries are a way of life in football.  Tagovailoa will enter the NFL “pre-injured” and that ought to concern a team that takes him early in the draft.  When healthy, he is a serious candidate to be a franchise QB for a team for a long while; the problem is that he has already had 3 surgical procedures before taking a snap in an NFL Training Camp.

Let me move on to the Running Backs – again in alphabetical order:

  • Eno Benjamin – Arizona State: “Not a big guy; carries the ball a lot; runs hard every down.  Quick and decisive cuts.  Not so good at pass blocking.”  I think he is worth a late round pick.
  • AJ Dillon – Boston College: “BIG back; runs hard; not gonna break big runs but looks like a durable back”.  [Aside:  No notes on pass catching or blocking.]
  • JK Dobbins – Ohio State: “Runs hard; runs through contact; always falling forward.”  [Aside:  No notes on pass catching or blocking.]
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire – LSU: “Big threat as a receiver”.  “Quick to the hole”.  I think his speed and pass-catching abilities gets him taken late first round or second round.
  • Anthony McFarland – Maryland:  Not big, but this guy is fast and he can catch the football.”  I think he can be a third-down back in the NFL.  He could go in the 3rd or 4th round just because of his speed.
  • Zac Moss – Utah: “Built like a bowling ball; runs hard; tough to bring down.  Not a speed back.”  “OK as a blocker.”
  • Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin: “Big back and fast”.  “Picks up blitz well.”  “Looks like a 1st round pick to me”.

Next up will be the Wide Receivers.  For the last couple of months, I have been reading reports that this year’s draft is very deep in quality wide receivers.  My notes would seem to agree with that assessment because I have ten WRs with notes on them – – plus one player suggested by a reader.

  • Brandon Aiyuk – Arizona State: “Big receiver and VERY fast”.  “Also returns kicks for Ariz St.”  “Mid-round pick?”
  • Chase Claypool – Notre Dame: “Looks more like a TE; said he weighs 230 lbs.”.  “Fast enough to be WR in the NFL?” “Worth taking in late round as a TE.”
  • KJ Hamler – Penn State: “Small but VERY fast”.  “Mid rounder who will either blossom or bust.”
  • Tee Higgins – Clemson: “1st or 2nd round for sure.”  “Screen graphic said 6’4” and 215 lbs.; I believe it”.  “Good hands”.
  • Justin Jefferson – LSU: “Versatile – – open on long balls and open in short passing game”.  “Excellent hands”.  “1st or 2nd round”.
  • Jerry Jeudy – Alabama: “Fast and good hands.  “Big enough with long arms”.  He looks like a first-round pick to me.
  • CeeDee Lamb – Oklahoma: “Gets open all the time but not the fastest WR I have ever seen.  Good size and hands.”  “Has to go in first or second round.”
  • Denzel Mims – Baylor: “Big with great hands.  Aggressive going for the ball”.  “Fast enough to play in the NFL.”  “Worth a mid-round pick.”
  • Michael Pitman – USC: “Big, long arms, decent speed”.  “Possession receiver”.  “Late round pick?”
  • Henry Ruggs – Alabama: “Super fast but not very big.”  “Defense stretcher.”  “2nd round pick.”

As promised, here is a player nominated for mention by a reader via email.  The player is Stephen Guidry – Mississippi State.  Here is the pertinent part of the email I received from the reader:

“You won’t take note of him if you watch the Bulldogs because there isn’t a QB in Starkville who can throw worth a damn.  But he has good hands and he’s tough when they get the ball anywhere near him.”

Time for the Tight Ends.  It would appear to be a meager crop this year…

  • Hunter Bryant – Washington: “Always open and catches anything that comes to him”.  “Not a good blocker”.  “Mid-round pick?”
  • Cole Kmet – Notre Dame: “No speed but good hands for short passing game”.  “Blocked well on pass plays where blitz came on his side”.  “Maybe a late round pick.”
  • Thad Moss – LSU: “Big, strong, good hands.”  “Quick but not fast.”  “Doesn’t block much”.  “Early round pick.”

Before I start with the Offensive Linemen, I need to explain that I lump all of them into one category since the NFL tends to move players from position to position in this unit.  In addition, I want to present a cogent observation made by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot about a month ago:

Great class: As always, attention at the NFL draft will sharply focus on quarterbacks, but what intrigues more teams are the half-dozen or so outstanding offensive tackles worthy of first-round selections. After quarterback, isn’t the O-line the most important element for a contending team?”

  • Trey Adams – Washington: “Solid run blocker; not a lot of speed to lead plays to the opposite side”.  “Late round pick”.
  • Tyler Biadasz – Wisconsin: “Excellent pass blocker.”  “Played center for Badgers.”  “Early round pick?”
  • Shane Lemieux – Oregon: “Excellent power run blocker; solid pass blocker”.  “Not very fast”.  “Worth a 3rd round pick?”
  • Caesar Ruiz – Michigan: “Excellent blocker – quick to get to a double team assignment”.  “Late first or second round pick?”
  • Andrew Thomas – Georgia: “Big and strong.  Really good pass blocker”.  “Probably a first-round pick.”
  • Jedrick Wills – Alabama: “Big man (screen graphic said 310 lbs.)”.  “Quick for his size and blocks well for both run and pass plays”.  “Has to be a first-round pick”.
  • Isaiah Wilson – Georgia: “Another huge man on UGA OL”.  “Excellent blocker on power run; pass blocking is good not great”.  “Take in 2nd round?”

I had no Punters in my notes, but this is where that second player mentioned via email enters the picture.  Here is the email referring to Alex Pechin – Bucknell.

“Bucknell is never on TV so you won’t see them and besides, they stink.  But they have a punter who gets lots of practice and he gets off at least one 50-yard punt every game and sometimes a 60-yarder.  Alex Pechin is his name.  He won’t get drafted but some team should invite him to camp for a tryout.”

I went and Googled “Alex Pechin Stats” and learned that:

  1. He averaged 47.6 yards per punt last season.  So, he must have had more than a few punts over 50 yards in length.
  2. Indeed, Bucknell was not very good last year; the record there was 3-8.  Pechin did indeed get plenty of practice; he punted 65 times for the season.
  3. He double majored in biomedical engineering and management for engineers.  He also was the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year in each of the last three seasons.

Tomorrow, I will go through the defensive players from last year’s notes.  Until then, let me leave with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Doughnut:  A food created in response to the notion that if something has 20 grams of sugar, 25 grams of fat and 425 calories, then it should be made available in groups of twelve.”

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



From The WNBA Draft to the Hippocratic Oath

Somewhere in Bristol CT, an executive on mahogany row might have a smile on his/her face this morning.  ESPN has a live sporting event to put on TV tonight and it just might be better than the abomination that was the NBA H-O-R-S-E tournament.  Then again, it might not be a big attraction because the underlying sport is not a big attraction.

Placed on “the mothership” – ESPN itself and not one of the satellite channels – the WNBA Draft will unfold.  This is a real event happening in real time; what takes place there is genuinely news; the question for ESPN is this:

  • Since only a small fraction of the normal viewers of ESPN have any idea who these players are and what is the status of the 12 teams in the WNBA, will folks tune in to see it simply because it is real and not historical?

According to several reports I read this morning, the presumptive #1 pick tonight will be Sabrina Ionescu who played at Oregon last season and was unanimously selected as the AP Player of the Year.  Notwithstanding that achievement, I have no idea who she is and how she plays.  According to those same reports, there are a handful of other players who are likely to fill out the first 5 or 6 picks in this draft; I do not recognize a single name in those reports.

That situation is why the NFL and the NBA Drafts are widely followed as TV events; we know most of the players in the draft because we have seen them play.  The WNBA Draft – and the MLB Draft – suffer by comparison because we have not seen most of the players in competition.  Tonight may be a bit different because of the lack of any sort of sports programming that has been live over the last month or so.  ESPN certainly hopes so …

Earlier this week, the Governor of Florida declared pro ‘rassling to be an “essential service” thereby classifying pro ‘rassling with things like police, fire, hospitals, grocery stores and the like.  Here is how the folks who make such determinations in Florida expanded the definition of “essential services” to permit pro ‘rassling to be included:

“Essential services inter alia shall include “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience – including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production – only if the location is closed to the general public”.

As to the reason for such an expansion of the definition of “essential services”, the governor said that pro ‘rassling services are “critical” to Florida’s economy.  There is no punch line here; this is news and not a joke…

I have written here several times that I genuinely want the return of sports to our society because I miss them, and I enjoy them.  I have also written that I do not believe that sports should be restarted any time soon because the COVID-19 situation has been slowed down but it has not been resolved.  Every once in a while, I run across a piece that argues for an early reopening of sports in the US because of some putative healing power or social bonding effect that derives from professional sports.

In such pieces, you can be certain to find references to the fact that MLB and the NFL played their games during WWII – even though many of the best players were serving overseas in that war.  Another historical citation often used is that the NFL staged games only a couple of days after President Kennedy was assassinated and many of them point to rapid return of MLB to NYC after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers.  All these things are historically accurate; none of them are concocted or contorted.  The do differ from the current situation in a fundamental way however:

  • The MLB and NFL games played in the US during WWII did not have an adverse effect on the war effort in Europe or the Pacific.
  • The NFL games played after the Kennedy assassination did not endanger the newly sworn in president nor did it hinder the recovery of John Connally who was also wounded in that event.
  • The return of MLB to NYC in the aftermath of 9/11 did not affect the structural integrity of any other structures in NYC thereby endangering other residents and workers.
  • The premature resumption of sports-as-we-know-them thinking that they have some societal palliative value could very well make the pandemic worse. 

When we think about restarting sports in the US, we ought to take a page from the folks in the medical profession who take the Hippocratic Oath.  I am incapable of translating the original text of this ethical exposition, but supposedly the opening line says:

“First, do no harm.”

Let me suggest that sports execs and TV execs and politicians – – like the Governor of Florida – – adopt that fundamental principle whenever they need to make any decision that relates to the sports cosmos.  Sports are fun; sports are integral to many lives and to society; sports are a significant part of the economic engine; sports are important.  And stopping this pandemic is even more important…

Finally, Bob Molinaro has this report in his column this week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Idle thought: I began social distancing years ago when somebody would approach and try to tell me about his fantasy football team.”

Me too…

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