COVID-19 And The Tennessee Titans

Here is a link to my rant from just over two weeks ago in case anyone wants to read it for context.  I wrote this back on 14 September, just after the NFL had gone through Week 1 of the regular season, here are two excerpts from that rant:

“There were 13 NFL games yesterday –  following the season opener last Thursday night –  and there is some behind-the-scenes action going on today that is very important to the NFL.”

And …

“… this week there will be testing and re-testing around the league to see if the NFL’s testing regimen to date has been sufficiently tight so as to keep the virus away from players and coaches who are involved in the games.  Just as it is logical to look at an NFL game and identify it as a potential virus super spreader event, it is equally logical to look at an NFL game and assume that if no one involved has the virus to spread then there will be no spreading of the virus.”

The NFL teams/players made it through the first two weeks of the season with a minimal COVID-19 impact.  Then came Week 3 and the testing after those games showed an outbreak of cases on the Tennessee Titans.  According to reports, eight new positive tests came back on Tuesday (3 players and 5 staff members); the league and the players’ association are working with the testing folks to be sure these are not “false positives”.  Remember, that happened earlier in the NFL ‘s testing history.

Last Sunday, the Titans played the Vikings and so it is possible that one or more of the newly detected infections might have been communicated to a member of the Vikings because epidemiologists have determined that an infected person may spread the virus before that infected person shows any symptoms of having the virus in his system.  That has to be the nightmare scenario for the NFL, the players, their “broadcast partners”, fantasy team owners, Las Vegas casinos and just plain old ordinary football fans.

The NFL has responded at first by “shutting Tennessee (Titans) down until Saturday”.  That directive from the league means that players, coaches and other “football people” cannot be in the Titans’ facilities.  The league and the players’ union are working together on this; frankly, if there is to be any positive outcome from a 2020 football season affected by COVID-19, it could be that the league and the union learn how to work together on solving a problem without turning the process of resolution into a Texas Chain Saw/Loser Leaves Town/Death Match akin to something scripted by the WWE.

Most of the Las Vegas sportsbooks have taken the Titans/Steelers game and the Vikings/Texans game scheduled for this weekend off their boards.  Many of the offshore Internet sportsbooks still have the game live on their boards, but at least one of them has taken it down.  It seems to me that there are different considerations for those two games:

  • Vikings/Texans:  If the Vikings show no new infections after exposure to the Titans last week, you could make the case that this game might be played safely.  As noted above, even though an NFL game might be seen as a potential “super-spreader event”, if there are no infected people involved in the game, there will be no spreading.  Amid all the turmoil and testing, the Vikings may have lost a day or so of “normal preparation” for the game, but that is equivalent to playing a game on a “short week” so it is not an outrageous disadvantage to the team.  In a so-called “abundance of caution”, the game could also be postponed; this decision is another area where the league and the union might work together to come to a joint resolution of the issue.
  • Titans/Steelers:  On the assumption that these 8 new infections are not “false positives”, I do not see how this game can be played this weekend.  Even if all 8 of these folks are cleared to get back to football action by tomorrow, I think there would be a significant competitive disadvantage for the Titans in playing the game due to a loss of two days of preparation.  There are reports that say the Titans’ coaches have alerted players that if need be, they will play on Sunday even if they have no practices for the week and only a walk-through on Saturday.  I think that is a bad idea.

The NFL rules and schedules and protocols exist in large measure to assure that one team is not obviously at a disadvantage at the time of the kickoff for a game.  That is an unspoken part of the league mantra that “On any given Sunday …”  In the extreme scenario cited above where the Titans have no practices for the week, that would be a disadvantage at the time of kickoff that could not be “swept under the rug”.  I understand that there are real reasons why the league wants to stay on schedule; the NFL is not like MLB in the sense that a postponed game can usually be made up without a lot of fanfare as a double-header – even a double-header with each game shorter than a normal game – later in the season.  Consider:

  1. Both the Steelers and Titans are undefeated now and both could be in the mix for a playoff slot and playoff seeding come January.  The NFL tiebreakers are sufficiently complex without having to add situations where two of the teams in the mix may have played one or two fewer games than the other potential playoff teams.  [This assumes that the game canceled this weekend cannot be made up somewhere down the road.]
  2. If for some reason, both the Vikings/Texans game and the Titans/Steelers game must be postponed, that sets up a rescheduling situation that could ripple out over much of the league.  I will not even try to figure  out how that might be resolved; it might take “IBM Watson” to go through all the permutations and combinations of schedule options to come up with a reasonable solution here; that is well over my pay grade.  Intuitively, rescheduling the Vikings/Texans game should be the more difficult task because the teams are in different conferences meaning schedule overlap becomes more complicated.

This is the sort of challenge scenario that the league and the union had hoped to avoid but one that someone had to have planned for.  We will never know all of what is not taking place – and will take place over the next few days – inside whatever they are calling the COVID-19 Command Center.  What we will be able to do is to judge how effective the actions taken yesterday and in the next several days are in the preservation of the 2020 NFL regular season.

Finally, let me attempt to get out of here on a lighter note.  Bob Molinaro had this observation related to the NFL and television advertising in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“TV timeout: What do you make of Bill Belichick in those Subway commercials? I think he’s remarkably lifelike.”

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



Some Of This; Some Of That…

The LA Clippers fired Coach “Doc” Rivers.  As I have said here before, the Clippers were huge disappointments in the NBA playoffs losing out to the Nuggets after leading 3 games to 1 in the quarterfinals.  However, unless there is a large “palace revolt” ongoing inside the team that we do not know about, it is surely not clear to me that Rivers was primarily responsible for that collapse.  [Aside:  And IF there is a “palace revolt ongoing”, I would need to know a lot of the details before picking sides between Rivers and the “Revolutionaries”.]

“Doc” Rivers has been an NBA coach for 21 years and has won 58% of the games he coached. His teams have been in the playoffs 16 of those 21 seasons and he won an NBA Championship with the Celtics.  I am not sure there is a “free-agent coach” out there looking for work with a stronger résumé.  One of the nominally insightful phrases in modern parlance is:

“Haters gonna hate.”

My parallel to that deep and insightful observation is:

  • The Clippers gonna clip.

Moving on to the world of college football, there has been scrutiny to a microscopic level applied to the decision makers at schools in the BIG-10 and the PAC-12 as those conferences worked to reinstate football this Fall.  Lost in all of the scrutiny and analysis is a decision by the Mid-American Conference – – the MAC – –  to return to the gridiron this fall.  The MAC is one of the so-called “Group of Five” conferences in football which is a polite way of saying that they are a minor league of college football who often serve as punching bags for the top-shelf programs who pay them to come and take a beating at the big-boys’ stadium for the entertainment of the big-boys’ fans/alums.  The MAC was the first Division 1-A Conference to cancel football back in the late Spring/early Summer, but now we can say accurately and in rhyme:

  • The Mac Is Back.

The truncated season for MAC teams will be 6 games long and all games will be against conference opponents.  The season will start on a Wednesday night – – 4 November – – and most of the MAC games will be on weeknights until after Thanksgiving when games will move mainly to Saturdays in December.  According to reports, the players, coaches and staff for the MAC teams will be tested for COVID-19 four times a week using tests that produce rapid results.  Moreover, there will be no attendance or tailgating at the venue site for any of the MAC games this Fall.  The schools have restrictions in place aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus as a result of the “return to football”; diligence will be necessary in order that those restrictions will be effective.

I would imagine that there were smiles in and around EPSN HQs in Bristol, CT when this decision was made.  Now ESPN will have live MAC games to put on the air on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for a short period meaning fewer replays of various “30 for 30” productions and/or reruns of Texas/Oklahoma games from 1991.

Granted all the conferences that are now back in the business of college football are playing shortened schedules and mainly in-conference schedules, but of the 130 schools in Division 1-A, only three schools will not participate at all in this 2020 football season:

  1. New Mexico State
  2. Old Dominion
  3. UConn

Based solely on last year’s performance, none of those three teams will be sorely missed.  Here are their records from 2019 and a couple of “trends”:

  • New Mexico State – – 2-10.  The Aggies have had 2 winning seasons since 2000.
  • Old Dominion – – 1-11.
  • UConn – – 2-10.  The Huskies have won 3 or fewer games in 7 of the last 8 seasons.

Since I mentioned ESPN in passing above, let me segue here to another recent announcement involving the Worldwide Leader in Sports.  I ran across a report that contained this language:

“ESPN has announced two multi-year agreements with both Caesars Entertainment Inc. and DraftKings Inc. The partnerships will include co-exclusive link integrations through ESPN digital platforms connecting fans to sportsbooks.”

At the most basic level of understanding here is my interpretation of those two sentences:

  • “ESPN and two companies that make money via sports wagering are going to work together in a way that will let ESPN earn some of that money because the other two companies figure that having ESPN on board will increase the amount of money they will make even after sharing some of it with ESPN.”

Other than that basic level of understanding, I have no idea what will happen that I will notice as a result of these multi-year agreements.  Additionally, the idea of something being “co-exclusive” is not immediately obvious to me nor do I understand the concept of “link integrations” other than to say they are probably much more appropriate than “link segregations”.

I need a nap…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this commentary related to sports and COVID-19 and live attendance in his Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times recently:

“Because of coronavirus restrictions, only 1,000 fans per day will be allowed into this year’s French Open at 35,000-seat Roland Garros Stadium.

“In other words, plenty of good seats not available.”

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



Sports, Television And Money

This week will see the start of the MLB Playoffs and it will see the start of the NBA Finals.  Am I the only one who thinks there has been minimal energy or pizzaz associated with this year’s NBA Playoffs to date?  The Nuggets/Jazz series was interesting and produced there or four very good games but most of the rest of the games and series have been marginally better than “ordinary”.  What brings this to mind this morning is a headline on a report at

“Allen Iverson says he regrets not having a better relationship with Kobe Bryant: ‘Killers respect killers’”

Seriously?  The NBA Finals are about to start, and that report makes it onto the front page of today?  There is nothing more interesting happening related to professional basketball?  [NOTE:  I did not say “more important”; I said “more interesting” thereby setting a much lower bar.]

Kobe Bryant died in a tragic accident with his young daughter eight months ago.  One might concoct some linkages between Iverson and Bryant:

  • Bryant is from the Philly area and Iverson played most of his career in Philly.
  • Bryant and Iverson were in the same NBA Draft Class.
  • Bryant and Iverson are both in the Hall of Fame.

A feature story of that kind might have been interesting – not important, mind you – a week or so after the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and his daughter.  Eight months later … it does not even merit a hearty “Meh!”

Bob Molinaro had a succinct reaction to the elimination of the Clippers from these NBA Playoffs in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Oversell: Anyone who watches sports knows that TV talkers throw around superlatives like confetti at a gender-reveal party. After the Clippers’ surprising elimination, a noted NBA insider said that Paul George failed to play like a superstar. That’s because he’s not now nor has ever been a superstar.”

Preach on, brother…

As I mentioned above, the MLB Playoffs will begin tomorrow, and the Miami Marlins are in the mix.  In the first round of the expanded 2020 playoffs, the Marlins will play a 3-game series in Chicago against the Cubs.  In order to keep the schedule compressed and to avoid some travel, the first round series will be played exclusively in the home park of the higher seeded team.  The Marlins have not been part of the playoff picture since 2003 and last season, the Marlins’ record was 57-105.  Nevertheless, they are in the playoffs this year.

Speaking of MLB, the NY Post reports that Warner Media – the owner of Turner sports – has signed a deal with MLB that extends MLB’s presence on TBS for seven more years through 2028.  The full package will bring $535M per year in revenue to MLB.  In future years, TBS will be the major broadcaster of playoff games in terms of number of games although the World Series will still be part of the FOX package.  This deal comes a year ahead of the expiration of the current Warner Media/MLB deal which is interesting because the ESPN/MLB broadcast rights deal is set to expire this year and I have not seen any reports on negotiations there.

The new Warner Media/MLB deal will include a nationally televised Tuesday night game next year and a new studio show on TBS featuring Ernie Johnson, Curtis Granderson, Jimmy Rollins and Pedro Martinez.  I have heard from all four of those men in baseball commentary situations and all four of them are insightful and entertaining.  Unless a situation develops where two or more of them develop a blood feud off camera, I would suspect that program will be worthwhile viewing.

Meanwhile, there are other reports about an extension/renewal of a TV contract that I am far less enthusiastic about.  Last week, reports surfaced that FOX Sports was about to sign Skip Bayless for a reported “small raise” over his current $6M per year salary.  Bayless teams with Shannon Sharpe on FS1 in a concocted debate show format called Undisputed.  The program name is ironic in the sense that Bayless and Sharpe never agree on anything including:

  1. The day of the week
  2. The compass point at which the sun sets – – and/or – –
  3. Who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong.

This sarcasm is not directed at Skip Bayless individually or at Undisputed specifically; I do not like any of those faux debate program formats such as  Speak for Yourself (FS1), and First Take (ESPN).  It does not take me long to tire of listening to two people who cannot or will not agree with each other about anything.  If I found that sort of thing interesting, I would plop myself down in the gallery of the US Senate every day and listen to the august members of that organization speak past one another.

About 60 years ago, then FCC Commissioner, Newton Minnow told an audience of broadcast execs that television programming was a “vast wasteland”.  I shudder to think what he might say about sports programming on TV in 2020 were he still a sentient being exchanging oxygen in the biosphere…

Finally, Dr. Harry Edwards is a noted sociologist who has spent a long time as an observer and a critic of sports as they impact Black athletes’ lives.  Over the weekend, I ran across a Tweet from him related to the decision by the PAC-12 schools to reverse course and play football this Fall:

“For PAC12 programs to use ‘our student-athletes want to play’ as a PRINCIPAL reason for restarting football/fall sports programs while soft-peddling COVID risks to athletes, denying MONEY considerations significantly driving this decision is disingenuous , delusional,& dangerous.”

Preach on, brother…

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



Football Friday 9/25/20

We have rolled around to another Friday meaning it is time for another Football Friday.  To get things started, let me review last week’s Six-Pack – which was really only a Five-Pack.

  • College:  1-1-0
  • NFL:  2-1-0

That brings the season totals to:

  • College:  3-2-0
  • NFL:  5-1-0
  • Combined:  8-3-0


College Commentary:


The news of the day – – not all that unexpected – – is that the PAC-12 will emulate the Big-10 and reverse course to play football this Fall.  The season will be shortened to 7 games and all those games will be against PAC-12 opponents.  No fans will be in attendance for any games – – at lest for now – – and the conference will stage a conference championship game just in time for the CFP Selection Committee to consider a PAC-12 representative in that playoff structure.

The PAC-12 conference has 6 schools in Oregon and California where there have been severe limitations on gatherings of people as a response to community spreading of COVID-19.  Those restrictions have eliminated the possibility of football practice or football games but there appears to be an easing of those restrictions in sight allowing the PAC-12 to anticipate a football season.  Hopefully, that 2020 season can be seen through to a conclusion.

As I noted above the Big-10 is also returning to action on the football field.  There was, however,  a hiccough in the events surrounding the announcement of their reinstatement of a football season:

  • The day after the announcement of the return of Big-10 football, Wisconsin announced that 40 players on the football roster and the football staff had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Big-10 is not alone in this situation.  Notre Dame – –  playing an ACC football schedule this season – – had to cancel its game this week against Wake Forest because of a coronavirus outbreak.  The city of Boulder, CO has just issued new restrictions that apply to the University of Colorado campus there due to a rash of COVID-19 cases.  Even though the motivation behind the various conferences desire to return to football is crassly economic, you have to give the schools credit for trying to put together a patchwork of a season.  So, in the absence of disastrous consequences from a return to the field that could have been avoided by sticking to the original plan to sit out the 2020 season, let us not make perfection the enemy of progress.  The slogan for the 2020 college football season ought to be:

  • Something is better than nothing.

The SEC returns to the field this weekend playing a conference-only schedule.  LSU is the reigning national champion.  All it must do in order to repeat this year is to navigate a difficult schedule through the SEC West Division while digesting:

  • The loss of their Heisman-winning QB
  • The loss of their offensive coordinator
  • The loss of their defensive coordinator
  • The loss of a lot of talent now on display on Sunday afternoons.

It would appear that the SEC West will come down to LSU and Alabama while the SEC East will focus on Florida and Georgia.  The Georgia Bulldogs have an interesting QB situationo0n their hands.  The presumed starter for this year opted out due to COVID-19; the presumed backup QB has what the team described as a “knee issue” and that has demoted him on the depth chart.  So, the starting QB for a team with big ambitions this year is a redshirt freshman named D’Wan Mathis.

  • Welcome to the spotlight, son.  This is your chance to show everyone you are D’Wan.

There are a couple other SEC-focused items that will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds:

  1. The two teams in Mississippi have new coaches and both bring reputation with them.  Lane Kiffin takes over at Mississippi after a highly successful stint at Florida Atlantic and some other more “controversial” coaching stops along the way in his career.  Mike Leach brings his law degree and his fascination with pirates to Mississippi State along with a penchant for wide open passing offenses.  Both schools are in the SEC West.
  2. Arkansas in the SEC West and Vandy in the SEC East do not play each other.  Therefore, it is reasonable to keep an eye on both teams to see if they can win a game this year.  Arkansas is a 28-point underdog this week against Georgia and Vandy is a 30-point underdog this week against Texas A&M.

I know the season for many schools is only 2 weeks old but there are two teams that have made me take notice – – and not in a good way.  The first is Syracuse.  Two years ago, Syracuse averaged 40 points per game and close to 500 yards per game on offense.  The defense was marginal so the team was not any sort of national powerhouse, but they were interesting, and they were not a team you could count out easily.  So, what is the Syracuse status in 2020?

  • The team is 0-2 having lost to UNC and Pitt
  • In two games Syracuse has scored a total of 16 points – – giving up 52 points
  • In two games Syracuse has gained a total of 373 yards on offense.

The other team that has begun the season in a state of disarray is Middle Tennessee.  Consider:

  • The Blue Raiders lost to Army 42-0 then lost to Troy 47-13.  [Aside:  In a scheduling oddity, they will play Troy again on November 21st.]
  • The Blue Raiders have given up 290 yards rushing per game – – 5 yards per carry.
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders’ offense has only averaged a total of 212.5 yards per game.

In case you are wondering, Syracuse and Middle Tennessee do not play each other this year…

The run defense for Middle Tennessee is awful but early season stats can be deceiving.  Two of the leading run defenses at this stage of the season belong to Texas (gave up only 1.3 yards per carry against UTEP) and to Texas Tech (gave up only 1.17 yards per carry to Houston Baptist).  Texas and Texas Tech meet this weekend and rush defense stats aside, I think the game will be a high scoring affair (see below).

Here are a few quick comments about game results from last weekend:

  • Oklahoma St beat Tulsa 17-7.  Another Big-12 team that aspires to “national stature” did its reputation no favors here.  It is not as bad as than other conference-mates losing to Sun Belt teams, but the game was closer than it should have been if OK St. deserved to be ranked as the #11 ranked team in the country.   Tulsa recorded 6 sacks in the game; let me go out on a limb here and suggest that there will not be 2 first round picks from the Tulsa defensive line taken early in the NFL Draft next spring.  The Cowboys’ defense played well; they held Tulsa to 7 points and 0-11 on third down conversions and 1-4 on fourth down tries.
  • Navy beat Tulane 27-24.  The story here is that Navy trailed at the half 24-0 and came back to win with a field goal in the final 5 seconds of the game.  Navy may have salvaged their season with that comeback.  In the first game of the season, Navy was blown away by BYU 55-3.  Navy is off this week and plays Air Force in Colorado Springs next week.
  • Pitt beat Syracuse 21-10.  Pitt was a 21.5-point favorite in the game; they would not have covered even if the defense had pitched a shutout.   Pitt won despite seven penalties, three missed field goals and two turnovers. Aside from a 69-yard touchdown pass, the Panthers defense allowed 102 yards on 55 snaps.
  • BC beat Duke 26-6.  The stats say the game should have been closer.  BC’s offense totaled 384 yards; Duke offense totaled  350 yards.  The big difference was turnovers.  Duke lost the ball 5 times in the game – – 3 fumbles and 2 INTs.
  • UCF beat Georgia Tech 49-21.  This result makes the Fla St. loss to Ga Tech in Week 1 look even worse.  UCF amassed 643 yards of offense and averaged 7.0 yards per play for the game.  Five turnovers by Ga Tech did not help its cause.
  • Clemson beat The Citadel  49-0:  Trevor Lawrence played the first quarter and one series in the second quarter; then he watched the rest of this game.  The score was 49-0 at the half and neither team scored after that.  The Clemson defense only allowed 140 yards total offense for the game.
  • Miami beat Louisville 47-34.  Both teams had exactly 483 yards total offense for the day.  Once again, turnovers were important; Louisville turned it over 3 times and Miami did not turn it over at all.  It was a sloppy game in the sense that there were 18 total penalties enforced.
  • UTEP beat Abilene Christian 17-13.  UTEP is now 2-1 for the season.  That is a milestone because the total number of games won by UTEP over the last 3 seasons has been 2 games.  Granted, the two wins this year have come at the expense of Division 1-AA schools and the loss was a blowout loss to Texas by 56 points, but nonetheless, there are 2 wins in the record books for the UTEP Miners.


College Games of Interest:


Florida St. at Miami – 11 (53):  There was a time when this game might de3termine the national champion for the year.  Not nearly so in recent years and surely not so this year.  Miami scored 47 points against Louisville last week; if they do that here, they will win in a walk.  Is the Louisville defense really that bad – – or is Miami really an offensive juggernaut?  Perhaps some answers here.  The Seminoles will be without head coach Mike Norvell who is in quarantine after texting positive for the coronavirus.

Georgia Tech – 7.5 at Syracuse (53.5):  The Syracuse offense has been AWOL so far this year (see above).  Georgia Tech has not been an offensive monster this year either.  I like this game to stay UNDER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Texas – 17 at Texas Tech (71):  As noted above, early season stats for rush defense may be misleading here; this game will have plenty of offense and plenty of scoring.  The Red Raiders gave up 500+ yards passing to Houston Baptist in their opening game and still won; Texas has a solid passing game with Sam Ehlinger at QB and I have to think that the Texas defense will be just a tad better than the Houston Baptist defense.

Iowa St. – 3 at TCU (44):  Iowa St. disappointed in its opener losing outright to La-Lafayette as an 11-point favorite.  TCU is a defensive team, so this does not look like a fortunate situation for the cyclones on the road.  This should be a low-scoring game and I like to take points in low-scoring games.  I’ll take TCU plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

K-State at Oklahoma – 28 (60):  K-State lost its opener to Arkansas State; Oklahoma is significantly better than Arkansas State.  The Sooners’ freshman QB, Spencer Rattler, has completed 82.4% of his passes so far this year.  This will be an organized ass-kicking.

Mississippi St at LSU – 17 (57):  The Mike Leach Air Raid Offense versus the reigning national champions with plenty of program losses to overcome.  Of course, this is a “Game of Interest”…


NFL Commentary:


Surely, you have read about the epidemic of injuries in NFL games last weekend; lots of top-shelf players got hurt last week and some folks have concluded that this injury breakout points to the need for Exhibition Games before the regular season.  I do not understand that reasoning on two levels:

  1. The injuries last week occurred on the field in a game.  How would playing “more games” translate to fewer injuries?
  2. If – I said IF – the argument is that Exhibition Games provide for more
    “football fitness”, how would those games benefit the top-shelf players who do not participate in them for more than a series or two?

Teams that harbor playoff hopes for 2020 and who started out 0-2 face a must-win game this week if they are to stay alive in a playoff chase.  Starting at 0-3 is a tough handicap to give the other teams in your conference/division.  I am looking at the Eagles, Texans and Vikings as teams that are 0-2 but thought they would be in the playoff picture for 2020.  On the other hand, teams like the Giants, Jets, Bengals and Lions who are also 0-2 should not have been thinking of themselves as “playoff teams” for this season.

Granted the season is young, but the NFC East is looking like the NFL Least.  The Eagles have looked clueless and they have had a lot of injuries; the Cowboys were dumb lucky to avoid an 0-2 start thanks to the Falcons’ propensity to lose big leads; the WTFs are a scrappy bunch of average talent players and the Giants scared no one even before Saquon Barkley went down for the season last week.

The Niners beat the Jets handily 31-13 despite the following injuries that made the Niners seem like the remnants of the Light Brigade after “the charge”.

  • Deebo Samuel, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford and George Kittle did not even suit up for the game
  • During the game, the Niners lost Raheem Mostert, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Jimmy G suffered an ankle injury that had him sit out the second half.

The Jets are in trouble.  Even with the Niners using their JV for much of the game, the Jets’ defense gave up 359 yards to the Niners’ offense.  Both teams ran the ball 29 times.  The Niners gained 182 yards on those attempts; the Jets gained 104 yards on theirs.  Moreover, the game was not nearly as close as the score indicates; the Jets got a meaningless TD in the final 2 minutes of the game.

The Bucs beat the Panthers 31-17.  This game was not in doubt; the Bucs led 21-0 at the half.  The good news for Panthers is that they put up a fight in the second half.  The good news for the Bucs is that their offense looked much more polished than in Week 1.  The Bucs defense recorded 5 sacks in the game.  Panthers’ QB, Teddy Bridgewater threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble.

The Colts beat the Vikes 28-11.  The Vikes looked bad for the second week in a row.  The offense was simply a no-show; Kirk Cousins was scrambling for his life – – and he is not much of a scrambler.  He was sacked for a safety in the game and threw 3 INTs.  The Vikes total offense was 175 yards.  Meanwhile, the Colts – – without Marlon Mack out for the season with a leg injury – – ran the ball 40 times in the game and simply dominated the Vikes defense.    Vikes’ coach Mike Zimmer said after the game:

“Right now, we’re not very good at anything.”

  • Memo to Coach Zimmer:  While that is true, that is not something you want the GM and owner to be pondering.  Ka-beesh…?

The Titans beat the Jags 33-30.  Gardner Minshew threw for 339 yards and 3 TDs in the game keeping it in doubt until the final whistle.  The problem for Jags was that Ryan Tannehill threw 4 TDs in the game and Stephen Gostkowski redeemed himself from his Week 1 disastrous performance with 2 long field goals here including a 49-yard game winner with a minute to play.

The Bills beat the Dolphins 31-28.  Josh Allen threw for 400 yards here and Stefon Diggs caught 8 passes for 155 yards and a TD.  Miami put on its own offensive show with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 328 yards and WR. Mike Gesicki catching 8 passes for 130 yards and a TD.  In 2 games, Josh Allen has  729 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing more than 70% of his throws.  Impressive …

The Bears beat the Giants 17-13.  This game was about as exciting as the score would indicate.  These were not great defensive efforts on display; these were marginal offensive efforts.  I said last week that this was the Dog-Breath Game of the Week and it lived down to that label.

The Rams beat the Eagles 37-13.  The Eagles looked bad for the second week in a row; their defense had no answers here.  The Rams ran for 191 yards and amassed a total of 449 yards on offense. Rams forced three turnovers in the game including two more INTs by Carson Wentz.

The Cowboys beat the Falcons 40-39 with a comeback that seemed to come from a Hollywood screenplay.  The Falcons’ defense is certified now as ranking somewhere between non-existent and pathetic.  The Falcons led 20-0 in first half and 29-10 at the half.  This is not as bad as losing the Super Bowl after leading 28-3 – – but its close.  Special teams did not help either allowing Cowboys to recover an onside kick that allowed the defense to lose the game at the very end.  The Falcons’ defense has given up 953 yards in 2 games along with 78 points.  If that is not bad enough for you, consider this:

  • The Falcons are the first team in NFL history to score 39 points, commit zero turnovers, and lose the game.
  • Before last Sunday, teams with those stats were 440-0.

The Packers beat the Lions 42-21.  The Lions scored 14 points early and had a double-digit lead – – again – – and came from ahead to lose the game – – again.  At one point the Packers had scored 31 unanswered points.  Ouch!  I read somewhere that Lions have now had a double-digit lead in 4 straight games and lost them all.  That too has ever happened before in the history of the NFL…

The Steelers beat the Broncos 26-21.  The Steelers dominated early but the Broncos kept coming back for more even with Jeff Driskel subbing for Drew Lock who was injured in the first quarter.  The Steelers’ defense was dominant here with 7 sacks and 2 turnovers.

The Ravens beat the Texans 33-16.  The Ravens just ran the ball down the Texans’ throats all day long gaining 230 yards on the ground.

The Chiefs beat the Chargers 23-20 in OT.  It took a fourth quarter comeback for the Chiefs to send this to OT even though Chargers had to go with rookie QB Justin Herbert after Tyrod Taylor’s warm-up injury.    Herbert threw for 311 yards, threw a TD pass and ran for a TD.  That is not a bad debut performance even in a losing effort.

The Cards beat the WTFs 30-15.  This game was not as close as it looks.  The WTFs scored 2 TDS – – missed PATs both times – – late in the game when the Cards were just waiting for the clock to run down.  Kyler Murray had 352 yards from scrimmage and accounted for 3 TDs.

The Seahawks beat the Pats 35-30.  This was certainly an exciting game to watch; both teams played well; both teams are very good.  Russell Wilson threw about 5 absolutely perfect passes hitting the receiver in stride when the receiver was closely covered.   Wilson now has thrown 9 touchdowns and only 11 incomplete passes for the opening two games of the season.  Yowza!

The Raiders beat the Saints 34-24 opening their new home field on a positive note.  Derek Carr and Darren Waller dominated the game; Waller caught 12 passes for 116 yards and a TD.  Not having Michael Thomas, who was sidelined with an injury, obviously affected the Saints’ offense; nonetheless, the Raiders were clearly the better team that night.  Louis Riddick pointed out that Malcom Jenkins was not having his best game; that was an understatement; Jenkins was victimized more than a few times on pass plays and run plays.  The Raiders had the ball for 36:18 in the game.


NFL Games:


As was the case last week, there has been a lot of line movement this week.  Maybe that is due to the rash of injuries last week; maybe the books have not figured out the public’s sentiments about various teams yet.  I will not try to delve into the mind-reading world and attempt to explain these movements; I will simply note them here. 

Las Vegas at New England – 5.5 (47.5):  This spread opened at 3.5 points and has climbed slowly to this level over the week; one sportsbook has the game at 6 points this morning. The Raiders have looked good to start the 2020 season, but this is a “body clock” game on the east coast starting at 1:00 PM and the Raiders played last on Monday night giving them a short week.  This game was under consideration as the Game of the Week.

Rams at Buffalo – 2.5 (47):  Here is another “body clock game” and a second road game in a row for the Rams.  Both teams are 2-0 and both have looked good doing it.  I like this game to stay UNDER 47 points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Houston at Pittsburgh – 4 (45):  This is a must-win game for the Texans; they have lost to the Chiefs and the Ravens in the first two games and now face a defense that is as good if not better than either of the previous foes.  I do not trust the Steelers’ offense much, but that defense is legit!

SF – 3.5 at Giants (41.5):  The spread for this game opened at 6.6 points and dropped quickly to this level.  Both teams have serious injury issues, but I like the Niners’ ability to deal with injuries on their roster better than the Giants’ ability.  Here is yet another “body clock game” but still I like the Niners to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Tennessee – 3 at Minnesota (50):  The Total Line opened at 45.5 points and the spread opened at 1 point.  The Vikes’ defense needs to find ways to get off the field.  In two games this season, the total time of possession for the Vikes is only 40 minutes; no wonder they are 0-2.  Meanwhile, the Titans are 2-0 but have not looked like world-beaters in either victory.

Washington at Cleveland – 7 (45):  The spread here opened the week at 4 points, and it has been climbing all week.  One sportsbook has it at 8 points this morning. The Browns can run the ball; the WTFs have a good young defensive line.  Therein lies the outcome of this game.

Cincy at Philly – 4.5 (47.5):  This game got serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Both teams are winless and neither has looked more than marginally competent in their two losses.

Chicago at Atlanta – 3 (47):  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Here we have an offense guided by Mitchell Trubisky playing head-to-head with a Falcons’ defense that invents new ways to lose games.

Jets at Indy – 11.5 (44):  The spread here opened the week at 6.5 points and has been climbing steadily all week; you can even find it as high as 12.5 points at one Internet sportsbook this morning.  The Jets are awful, but I do not think the Colts are a value as a double-digit favorite.

Carolina at Chargers – 6 (43.5):  The Panthers have lost twice and played hard in both games; but this is a long trip for them, and Christian McCaffrey will not play.  I think the Chargers defense will stop the Panthers.  I like the Chargers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Detroit at Arizona – 5.5 (55.5):  The Total Line opened here at 51.5 points and jumped to near this level very quickly.  I cannot see the Lions getting another double-digit lead to squander here nor can I see them winning this game.

Tampa Bay – 5.5 at Denver (42):  Tom Brady never plays well in Denver.  So what?  I simply do not believe that he is allergic to the latitude, longitude and/or elevation of Denver, CO.  The QB matchup here is Tom Brady versus Jeff Driskel – – with Blake Bortles as the backup.  Yes, the Broncos signed Bortles this week.  Sigh…

Dallas at Seattle – 5 (57):  Both teams have seriously good offenses; both teams are still working on developing a good defense.  This will be an exciting game to watch; there should be points aplenty.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay at New Orleans – 3 (53):  The Saints’ home field advantage is seriously diminished with the absence of the fans and the noise.  The Saints did not play well last week against the Raiders and have a short week of preparation here.  I think the wrong team is favored here.  I like the Packers to win outright so I’ll take them plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) KC at Baltimore – 3.5 (54):  The Game of the Week is on MNF.  There will be two excellent QBs on display here; neither defense will have the luxury of “taking a play off”.  Speaking of defenses, I like the Ravens’ defense a little better than the Chiefs’ defense.  Just sit back and enjoy this game; I think the Ravens will win and I think we could well see a rematch in the AFC Championship Game in January.

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

  • Georgia Tech/Syracuse UNDER 53.5
  • TCU +3 versus Iowa State
  • Rams/Buffalo UNDER 47
  • Niners – 3.5 over Giants
  • Chargers – 6 over Panthers
  • Packers +3 versus Saints

Finally, Dan Daly offered this observation in a Tweet a couple of weeks ago regarding the ownership situation in Washington:

“Snyder bought Saks Fifth Avenue and in 20 years turned it into the Dollar Store.”

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



Rest In Peace Gayle Sayers…

News came yesterday that Gayle Sayers had died.  Lots of people know of Gayle Sayers because of the made-for-TV movie, Brian’s Song; as a football player, there is a lot more to know about Gayle Sayers.  He is of course in the Hall of Fame; for those who are too  young to have seen him play, it is a shame.  His career was a short one because knee surgery in the 1960s is not what it is today.  Nevertheless, on December 12, 1965 the Chicago Bears beat the San Francisco 49ers 61-20 and Gayle Sayers had a game for the ages:

  1. He caught an 80-yard TD pass.
  2. He ran for 4 TDs ranging from a 1-yard run to a 50-yard run.
  3. He returned a punt 85-yards for a TD.
  4. His stat line for the day was 9 rushes for 113 yards and 4 TDs plus 2 pass receptions for 89 yards and 1 TD plus 5 punt returns for 134 yards and 1 TD.
  5. He totaled 336 “all-purpose yards” and 6 TDs for the day.  [Aside:  They had not invented the category of “all-purpose yards” back then.]

Gayle Sayers was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders was born – – only he was bigger than Barry Sanders.  He was that exciting to watch…

Rest in peace, Gayle Sayers.

The truncated MLB regular season is coming to an end this weekend.  Given the expanded MLB playoffs this year and the desire to have the World Series end by Halloween, there will be no tie-breaker games played this year.  MLB has announced the tie-breaking rules for this year and if two teams are tied for a playoff slot – or seeding with the playoffs – here are the tiebreakers:

  • Head-to-head record – – only applicable to two teams in the same division since there has been no inter-divisional play this year among the “hybrid MLB divisions”.
  • Higher winning percentage against teams in their traditional divisions.  If there is still a tie, then the team with the higher winning percentage in its last 20 games gets the nod; if that is a tie, then go to the last 21 games and so on…

If more than two teams tie for a playoff slot or seeding within the playoff structure, here are the tiebreakers:

  • Combined head-to-hear record among the tied teams – – only applicable to multiple teams in the same hybrid division for 2020.
  • Higher winning percentage against teams in their traditional divisions.  If there is still a tie, the same procedure as above will apply starting with winning percentage over the final 20 games of the regular season.

In the AL, 6 of the 8 playoff teams have been decided already; their seeding in the playoff structure is not cast in stone yet, but we know that the A’s, Indians, Rays, Twins, White Sox and Yankees will be in the playoffs.

The NL is quite different.  As of this morning, we know that Braves, Cubs Dodgers and Padres will participate in the playoffs.  The other 4 playoff slots are mathematically up in the air because only two NL teams have been eliminated.

The St. Louis Cardinals will be a controversial playoff team should they get in.  They will have played only 57 games while other teams will have played 60 games.  This is due to the extensive coronavirus postponements involving the Cardinals early in the season, but with all the teams so closely bunched in the NL, the absence of those 3 games will likely cause consternation in the fanbase of teams that lost out to the Cardinals in the tie-breaking system.  Whatever.  This has been a goofy sports year since mid-March; just add that to the 2020 “goofy list”.

According to a report in the NY Post, MLB has also decreed that there will be no alcohol allowed in clubhouses as part of any post-season or playoff celebrations.  MLB wants players to celebrate on the field (outdoors) and to put on masks as soon as they enter the clubhouse.  The idea is to maintain COVID-19 protocols and attempt to avoid community spreading of the virus within any of the teams.

Since most of today has been about MLB, let me take the rest of the space here to list a couple of things that surprised me regarding the truncated regular season that will end this weekend:

  1. The performances exhibited by the Astros and the Nationals have been a huge negative surprise.  The Astros have played .500 baseball for 2020 and I thought they were a lot better than that.  Meanwhile the Nationals – the defending World Series champions – have posted a record of 23-33 as of this morning.
  2. The performances exhibited by the Padres and the White Sox have been a huge positive surprise.  Only the Braves and Dodgers in the NL have scored more runs than the Padres this year.  The White Sox would project to a normal season record of 98-64; the last time the White Sox won 90 games in a season – let alone 98 – was in 2005 – the year they won the World Series.

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

“Mike Trout, with his 300th round-tripper, just passed Tim Salmon as the Angels’ all-time home-run leader.

“So how’d this team ever miss out on drafting Mike Carp and Kevin Bass?”

[Aside:  The Angels also missed out on drafting Neal Finn because he was dead by the time the Angels came into existence as a franchise.]

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



A Little Baseball History…

A couple of days ago, I mentioned MLB’s “Double-Bubble” model for the baseball playoffs this year and that all the World Series games would be played at Globe Life Field.  Yesterday, I was chatting with a former colleague and sporadic reader of these rants who told me that he had just read that 75 years ago the same thing happened with World Series games all being played in one place; he wanted to know if I knew anything about that.  I did not; I said that 75 years ago we were in the midst of World War II and that could have been the impetus for such a move by MLB.  And, I told him I would do some checking on the subject.

[Aside:  The basis for my “World War II guess” is that I remember that they played the Rose Bowl Game in Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke campus one year due to security concerns arising from large gatherings of folks on the West Coast during World War II.]

Notwithstanding my logical deduction above, that is not nearly the reason why the 1944 World Series games were all played in one stadium.  The reason is far simpler:

  • The 1944 World Series featured the St. Louis Cardinals playing the St Louis Browns.
  • Those teams played their home games in the same stadium – – Sportsman Park.
  • Ergo…
  • By the way, the Cardinals won that Series 4 games to 2.

In the process of uncovering that bit of baseball history, I came across a couple other tidbits to pass along this morning:

  1. Twice before the 1944 World Series all the Series games were played in the same stadium.  In 1921 and 1922, the Yankees and the NY Giants met in the World Series; at that time, both teams played their home games in the Polo Grounds in NYC.  So, all the Series games in those 2 years happened in one park.  The Giants prevailed in both of those World Series.
  2. The first time a World Series featured two teams from the same city – – but ones that did not share a stadium as their home field – – was in 1906 when the Cubs and the White Sox played each other.  The White Sox won that Series 4 games to 2.

Moving along to college football, the SEC will begin play this weekend.  The teams will play a conference-only, 10-game regular season with 1 game against each of its Division opponents in the conference and 4 games against opponents from the other Division.  The schedule includes a BYE Week for each team within the season and an open date for every team on December 12.  Those openings may be needed to reschedule games that might need to be postponed due to COVID-19.  The SEC Championship Game will be held on December 19th.

This week, the SEC issued its policies and procedures for dealing with games in these times of COVID-19.  These policies and procedures look good on the surface – – but they have more ambiguity than I would prefer to see.  For example:

“To play a football game, the SEC has established minimum thresholds of at least 53 scholarship players available to participate and the following minimum number of position scholarship players available to begin a game: seven (7) offensive linemen (which includes one center), one (1) quarterback and four (4) defensive linemen. “

That makes sense and sounds good until you go further into the policies and procedures and find the following:

“The impacted institution has the option to play the game with fewer than the 53 scholarship players or fewer than the minimum number of position players listed above if it elects to do so. Otherwise, upon approval by the Commissioner, the game would be rescheduled or declared a no contest.”

So, which is it?  The team must have those minimum number of players ready to play or maybe it has various other options available to it?  And then, the official statement from the SEC contains this wording:

“In addition, should an institution determine there are compelling reasons why it cannot begin a contest regardless of the scholarship and position minimums above, the institution may request to have the game rescheduled or, if the game cannot be rescheduled, for the game to be considered a no contest by presenting data (including total number of players not available to participate) outlining reasons why the game should not be played as scheduled. The final decision to reschedule or declare the game a no contest is vested only with the Commissioner.”

As I said above, the SEC will commence play this weekend.  Beyond that, there seems to be enough wiggle-room and sleight-of-hand contained in the “rules” governing the conduct of the 2020 season to allow or disallow just about any sequence of events.  My advice is to just sit back and enjoy the games that are played whenever they are played and under what circumstances they are played.  Any attempt to understand the whys and wherefores regarding these rules is destined to produce agita.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment recently related to the conflict between Nebraska and Big-10 officials over the cancellation – and then the reinstatement – of the 2020 football season this Fall:

“I wouldn’t say Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren feels vindictive toward the Huskers, but the new schedules were just released and Nebraska plays at Ohio State seven times.”

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



Heavy Fines Handed Down …

Yesterday I said that the NFL was going to fine coaches for not wearing masks on the sidelines during games.  Evidently, the league decided to make an example of three coaches who were serious offenders in terms of violating that aspect of the health and safety protocols because according to a report by Adam Schefter:

  • The league fined Pete Carroll, Vic Fangio and Kyle Shanahan $100K each for not wearing a mask.
  • And it fined the clubs of those three coaches and additional $250K each on top of what the coaches will cough up.

I guess the message here is that the NFL is serious about the COVID-19 protocols and that it does not want to deal with coaches appearing as scofflaws on the sidelines.  I have not seen the Jets/Niners game yet, so I have no sense of the degree to which Shanahan was “in violation” but I agree that Carroll and Fangio were “serially unmasked’.

  • Memo for Jack Del Rio:  Wearing your mask around your neck and covering your Adam’s Apple is not in compliance with the protocol.  Defensive coordinators are not paupers, but they do not make what head coaches make; $100K could be a significant financial hurt.

While on the subject of the NFL, the Detroit Lions have now lost their last 11 consecutive games.  Yes, I know that Matthew Stafford was out for many of those losses; but still, 11-game losing streaks are not to be ignored.  That is especially the case when just about every NFL fan recalls that in 2008 the Lions went 0-16 for the season and that there were 19 consecutive losses surrounding that winless season.  For the last decade or so, I and other commentators on the NFL have banged on the Bengals and the Browns and the WTFs for the ineptitude of those franchises.  Somehow, the Lions have not received a similar level of scorn – – but they deserved it.

Since that disastrous 0-16 season in 2008:

  • Lions are 74 – 103 – 1 as of this morning
  • They made the playoffs 3 times in those 11 seasons and lost in the Wild Card Round.
  • They are working on their 3rd head coach in those 11 seasons.

That is sufficiently inept to put the Lions’ franchise in the cross hairs for some imaginary “Scorn Weapon”, but the Lions demonstrate incompetence over a much longer time scale:

  • The Lions’ last playoff win was in 1991.
  • Prior to the playoff win in 1991, the playoff win before that one was in 1957 when the Lions won the NFL Championship and then traded away QB, Bobby Layne.
  • The Lions joined the NFL in 1930; from that season through 2019, the combined regular season record for Lions teams is 555 – 657 – 33 (winning percentage = .445).

The Detroit Lions have earned a place in the public’s Hall of Shame as a franchise as much as do the Bengals, Browns and WTFs.  It is time that they receive their due…

Now that I am in a “Negative Nancy Mood”, allow me to ask if it is too soon to pose this serious indictment in the form of a rhetorical question:

  • Is Adam Gase as bad a head coach of the NY Jets as was Richie Kotite?

Yes, I know; that is a shocking question.  Take a moment and clear your head and think upon the current situation of the NY Jets.  Adam Gase came to the Jets after 3 seasons with the Dolphins where the team record was 23 – 25.  His credential at the time was as a “good offensive mind” and a “guy who had a relationship with quarterbacks”; the Dolphins had a young QB in Ryan Tannehill and that seemed to be a competent narrative.  When he was let go in Miami, the same aura brought him to the attention of Jets’ ownership.

Looking at that “credential” a bit more analytically, Gase indeed was the offensive coordinator and the guy working with the QB on a team that won the Super Bowl.  However, that team was the Denver Broncos and that QB was Peyton Manning at age 39.  Let me suggest that Peyton Manning had as much to do with the offensive success for the Broncos in 2015 as did Adam Gase.

In last week’s loss to the Niners, the Jets trailed 24-3 with less than 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  Obviously, the Jets’ win probability at that point is pretty small, but the Jets had the ball on the Niners’ 8-yardline with a 4th and goal situation.  At that point, the game is a “3-TD Game” for the Jets to win it; time is getting short; Adam Gase chooses to kick a 25-yard field goal to make the score 24-6.  So in addition to needing the Jets’ defense to pitch a shutout from that point on, instead of needing “3 TDs to tie the game”, the Jets now needed “2 TDs + a 2-point conversion + a field goal to tie the game”.

Yes, I know; neither of those outcomes was ever going to happen.  However, kicking that field goal was almost a form of capitulation; it is not as if getting those 3 points would prevent the team from the ignominy of being shut out.

I wonder about the Adam Gase narrative as an offensive genius and QB-guru.  Ryan Tannehill got a lot better once he left Miami and Coach Gase’s tutelage.  Sam Darnold has not yet learned to play with matches let alone set the world afire.  Moreover, Gase and the team’s best running back – LeVeon Bell – have been at odds for about a year now and there are plenty of reports that the “team chemistry” in the Jets’ locker room smells like rotten eggs.

I recognize that comparing Adam Gase to Richie Kotite is harsh so let me put a less severe query in front of Jets’ fans and NFL fans:

  • Just what is it that Adam Gase does for a living?

Finally, let me close with an NFL observation by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

New rule: No longer is anyone allowed to call the Dallas Cowboys ‘America’s Team’ with a straight face.”

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



Coach Deion Sanders…

A few months ago, Deion Sanders and the NFL Network parted ways.  Reports said that it was a combination of things that led to the divorce:

  1. The network did not offer Sanders a raise when his contract was up as the network was in a belt-tightening mode
  2. Sanders had suggested that he wanted to move on and try his hand at coaching a football team.

Sanders quietly took a job as the offensive coordinator for Trinity Christian High School in Texas where – coincidentally – his son is the quarterback for the team.  The team has played 5 games so far this season and has a 3-2 record, but the offense has been plenty effective scoring a total of 211 points in 5 games.  That coaching résumé along with Deion Sanders’ presence in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame landed him the job of head coach for Jackson State.  That announcement came on Sanders’ podcast over the weekend.

Jackson State is a Division 1-AA program and plays in the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC).  That is the conference that has Grambling State and Southern University and Mississippi Valley State along with other HBCUs.  In the last 20 years, Jackson State has been the SWAC champion 1 time and the runner-up 4 times; however, since 2013, Jackson State has never had a winning season.

The SWAC is not playing football this Fall but the plan is to play a shortened schedule next spring starting in late February.  All the SWAC football schools are in the vicinity of the Gulf Coast so blizzard conditions are not likely even though it will still be winter when the games begin.

Up at the NFL level of football, the league was not happy after Week 1 with lots of TV images showing coaches on the sidelines without their masks on.  Of course, they need to lower the masks to yell instructions to players, but many coaches were just waking the whole time on the sideline with the mask down around their necks.  In addition to that being a violation of the health and safety protocols, it is not the kind of optic that the league seeks to project since it will be playing most of its games with no fans allowed in the stands.

The league sent a memo to all the teams saying that coaches could be fined if they did not wear their masks.  If that is the case, the NFL bank account that holds the funds paid in by player and coaches fine should be well endowed at the end of this week.  I watched all or part of 5 NFL games from Thursday through Sunday night and even if I limited my citation of “coaches not wearing masks” to the ones who were blatantly in violation of that edict, there would be at least a dozen coaches and assistants sending checks to the NFL this week.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had an idea for bringing this situation under control:

“The NFL sent out a memo threatening to punish coaches who don’t wear face coverings at all times on the sideline during games.

“An even better deterrent: automatic 15-yard facemask penalties!”

That might work even better than fining coaches…

MLB has announced the venues for the league playoffs and the World Series for 2020.  Basically, this is a “Double-Bubble” arrangement.  The teams involved in the AL division round and ALCS will stay in Southern California and play games in Petco Park and/or Dodger Stadium.  The teams involved in the NL division round and the NLCS will stay in Texas and play games in Minute Maid Park and/or Globe Life Field.  The World Series will be held at Globe Life Field.

The underlying idea here is to have the teams travel as little as possible; community exposure increases the potential for infection from the coronavirus and MLB – along with the MLBPA – would prefer to avoid that situation.  This year, there will be a round of playoffs before the division round and that round will be a 3-game series with all three games in the home field of the team with the higher winning percentage.

MLB is hard-over to have as many playoff games as possible to provide as much revenue as possible to the teams.  Hence, the expanded playoff rounds.  If you look at the MLB standings as of this morning, I think you will see why I hope – against hope – that this expanded playoff format is a one-off for the oddball 2020 season.

If the playoffs started today, here are the bottom 3 teams in the AL who would qualify and what might be their record extrapolated to a full 162 game season:

  • Cleveland – – 89 – 73 (respectable)
  • Houston – – 82-80  (shameful)
  • Toronto – – 82-80  (shameful)

The National League has 4 teams contending for the final 2 playoff slots, but the situation is worse than the one in the AL:

  • Philadelphia – – 82-80  (shameful)
  • Cincinnati – – 81-81  (seriously?)
  • Milwaukee – – 81-81  (seriously?)
  • San Francisco – – 81-81  (seriously?)

Finally, here is another observation from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler had to be scratched from a start after he tore the nail of his right middle finger while putting on his pants.

“As any good Philadelphian knows, what good is a guy if he can’t use his middle finger?”

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



Football Friday 9/18/20

Seventy years ago, Buffalo Bob Smith would begin kids’ TV show by asking, “What time is it?”  The answer from the audience would come back:

  • “It’s Howdy Doody time!”

Fast forward to the present here in Curmudgeon Central and ask me, “What day is it?”  The answer, of course, is:

  • It’s Football Friday!

Before venturing into this week’s commentary, let me review the results from last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  2-1-0
  • NFL:  3-0-0
  • Combined:  5-1-0

            Lest anyone think that I am going to crow about that opening weekend record, I must admit that if I were in the business of picking a “50-Star Mortal Lock Of The Week” within the Six-Pack, I would have named Iowa State as last week’s game with that label.  You guessed it; that was the loss from last week.  And that is why I do not do things like that…


NCAA Comments:


Of all the college conferences, the SEC was always steadfast in the idea that it would play football this Fall, and that COVID-19 could be accommodated – if not controlled – as the schools did that.  Teams in the conference have not been anything near transparent in terms of revealing testing results; and frankly, without a conference mandate, that is not surprising.  That is why a statement from LSU coach, Ed Orgeron, was unexpectedly candid:

  • “Not all of our players, but most of our players have caught it.  I think that hopefully they won’t catch it again, and hopefully they’re not out for games.”
  • Most of the LSU players have caught it?  That is a lot of people and that surely makes one think that the virus can spread through a team effectively.
  • Hopefully, they won’t catch it again?  That is the SEC football equivalent of, “Let them eat cake.”
  • Hopefully, they’re not out for games?  Clearly, the man is focused on the well-being of his “student-athletes”.

I am not picking on LSU or Coach Orgeron here.  Over at Texas Tech – in the Big 12 – news broke last week that a total of 75 Tech football players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the players returned to the campus in late June.  College football games are happening and we can enjoy those games – or at least some of them – but it would be Pollyannish to think that the existence of those games means that the schools have found ways to control the coronavirus.

Florida State lost its opening game last week to Georgia Tech by a score of 16-13.  Some folks went overboard and called it the “Upset of the Week”; it was not; in fact, this is the fourth year in a row that Florida State has lost its first game of the season.  The game was surprising:

  • Florida State scored 10 points on its first two possessions of the game.
  • After that, Florida State had the ball 9 more times and managed only a field goal.
  • On those 9 added possessions, the Seminoles amassed a total of 139 yards of offense – – 15.4 yards per possession.
  • Meanwhile, Georgia Tech was seemingly trying not to win this game having 2 field goal attempts blocked in the process.

Opening the 2020 season could not have been fun for the Big 12 as a whole.  Yes, Texas and Oklahoma blew out their opening day patsies as expected.  The Longhorns beat UTEP by 56 points and the Sooners rolled over Missouri State by 48 points.  Much of the rest of the news was not good:

  • Iowa State was an 11-point favorite and lost by 17 points to La-Lafayette – – from the Sun Belt Conference.
  • Kansas State was favored over Arkansas State – – another Sun Belt Conference team – – and lost by 4 points.  By the way, Arkansas State came into the game having lost its opener to Memphis the week before.
  • Kansas lost at home for the second year in a row to Coastal Carolina this time by 15 points.   Coastal Carolina is another Sun Belt team.   That 15-point loss was not as close as it looks; Kansas trailed 28-3 at halftime and scored meaningless points in garbage time.
  • Texas Tech did win their game against Houston Baptist University by a slim 2-point margin.  Houston Baptist is a Division 1-AA team in the Southland Conference.  [Aside:  There are 13 schools in the Southland Conference.  I was able to identify all of 3 before resorting to Google.  How many can you name?]  To make things worse, the Texas Tech defense was a no-show for the game.  Houston Baptist gained 594 yards of offense and 566 of those yards were through the air.

Syracuse lost to UNC 31-6 last week; that was not totally unexpected.  Nonetheless, the Syracuse offense put on a less-than-fully-competent show.  They had the ball inside the UNC 25 yardline 4 times and managed a total of 6 points for the game.  The game was in doubt at the start of the 4th quarter when the score was 10-6; the Syracuse defense kept the game within reach for 45 minutes and then the floodgates opened.

Pitt beat Austin Peay 55-0.  I mention this game only because the teams agreed – and the officials agreed – to play 10-minute quarters for the second half of the game.  Pitt led at the half 42-0; the outcome was in little doubt.  The Pitt defense allowed a total of 1 yard rushing in the game on 22 attempts by Austin Peay.

West Virginia beat E. Kentucky 56-10.  I mention this game only because the Mountaineers had 11 of its players out with positive COVID-19 tests.  Clearly, this was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.

Army dismantled La-Monroe last week.  Army had 436 yards rushing and 29 yards passing.  Those 29 yards came on one play – – the only pass completed by the Cadets for the day.  I said for last week’s Six-Pack that La-Monroe’s horrid run defense from last year would be in trouble against Army’s run game.


College Games of Interest:


Wake Forest at NC State – 1 (52.5):  This is State’s first game of the year; last year, the Wolfpack offense was anemic on its better days.  Wake played Clemson last week and lost 37-13.  The problem is not the margin of that loss but the fact that 10 of Wake’s 13 points came in the 4th quarter when the game was already decided.  I am tempted to take the UNDER here – – but I will resist that temptation.

UCF – 7 at Georgia Tech (62.5):  UCF is one of the very good “Group of 5” teams; they may not have the stature and tradition of Florida state, but they are probably a better team.  This will be a reality check for Tech in its home opener.

BC at Duke – 6 (51):  This is the opener for BC; moreover, it is the first game in the Jeff Hafley Era at the school.   Duke has a loss on its record this year – – but that loss was to Notre Dame and Duke covered the spread in that game.  I like Duke at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Miami at Louisville – 2.5 (64.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 61 and has risen steadily as the week went by.  Louisville could not stop the run last year; it ranked 112th in the country in run defense.  However, last week they shut down the run against W. Kentucky.  Miami can run the ball and did so effectively against UAB last week.  I do not want to think about a wager on this game, but the run stats could be illuminating here…

Syracuse at Pitt – 21.5 (50):  Pitt romped last week; Syracuse was less than impressive.  The Syracuse defense played well for 45 minutes last week and it has to be stouter than the Austin Peay defense last week that the Panthers dominated.  That line looks fat to me; I like Syracuse plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

La Tech at So. Mississippi (59):  This is the season opener for La Tech so there is nothing to go on in terms of making a pick.  So. Miss opened two weeks ago and lost to South Alabama in such a dispirited game that the So. Miss coach resigned the next day.  So, this is the first game under the interim coach who was on the staff that prepared the team to lose that opener.  No way would I make a pick here, but the outcome might be illuminating…

USF at Notre Dame – 25.5 (48):  The Irish failed to cover against Duke and did not dominate.  Meanwhile, USF scored a grand total of 27 points against The Citadel last week; I do not expect them to light up the scoreboard in South Bend.

Speaking of The Citadel, they are matched up against Clemson this week and the Tigers are a 46-point favorite.  Good luck…


NFL Comments:


The Washington WTFs sit alone atop the NFC East.  Raise your hand if you thought that might ever happen in 2020.

There are reports that the Browns might be interested in trading Odell Beckham, Jr.  Obviously, I have nothing to offer regarding the veracity of those reports, but I do wonder if there would be a big market for Beckham.  He certainly talked and played his way out of NY and it seems as if his pouting combined with his play in Cleveland may be wearing thin.  But do other teams want to take on that sort of drama?  Here is my criterion for this story:

  • If Bill Belichick – who needs a playmaking WR badly – does not express any interest, then either the Browns never REALLY dangled him or even Bill Belichick is not ready to take on the “OBJ Soap Opera”.
  • Stand by for more data…

Here in Curmudgeon Central, the chronicling of “Bad News” is standard fare.  There was plenty of “Bad News” from Week 1 in the NFL so let me put it in sort of a “Lightening Round”.

  • Stephen Gostkowski kicked the winning field goal with seconds left in the game for the Titans – – but the reason that was necessary was that he had missed 2 field goal attempts and a PAT earlier in the game.  Oh, and he had another field goal attempt blocked.
  • Baker Mayfield’s passing attack produced 4.8 yards per completion last week.  That is not per attempt; that is per completion.  Really?
  • The final 35 minutes of the Eagles/WTFs game was absolutely brutal.  Carson Wentz held the ball way too long on just about every pass attempt and the Eagle’s OL – injuries be damned – was horrible yielding 8 sacks in the game.
  • The Bucs’ offense was lopsided.  There was no running game to support the passing game.  If you remove a 21-yard run by Ronald Jones, the rest of the Bucs’ fun game was 25 carries for 65 yards.  Tom Brady was the second leading rusher for the day.  ‘Nuff said…
  • DeAndre Swift dropped a game winning TD pass.  You have seen that replay 5 times by now.  That was just awful.
  • The Jets’ offense was not good against a good Bills defense.  Yes, the Jets have a young and still developing QB; yes, the Jets’ offensive line needs to improve to become mediocre; yes, the Jets’ pass catching corps leaves something to be desired; yes the Jets’ best RB, LeVeon Bell is on the IR now.  With all that said, the Jets posed no real threat last week.  The run game they must have to make the passing game marginally effective produced 52 yards on 15 carries; the longest run for the day was 8 yards.  The Jets’ time of possession last week was 18 minutes and 44 seconds!

I want to pose a rhetorical question here based on the Week 1 Pats/Dolphins game:

  • If the Pats are going to continue to run Cam Newton 15 times per game, how many games until he goes on the shelf?

Last Night, the Bengals and Browns played an entertaining game; the Browns won 35-30 meaning the Bengals covered the 6-point spread.  The Browns’ defense throttled the Bengals’ run game holding the Bengals to 39 yards on 24 carries.  That forced Joe Burrow to throw the ball 61 times in the game.  For that effort he amassed 316 yards and 3 TDs.  But that is no way to treat a rookie QB in the NFL…

The Seahawks beat the Falcons 35-28.  The Falcons gained 506 yards on offense and still lost; that is clearly not a good omen.  In addition, the Falcons failed on 4 fourth-down plays in the game.  Russell Wilson was 31-35 and 322 yards 4 TDs and 0 INTs.  Not a bad day for any QB…

The Packers beat the Vikes 43-34; it was not that close.  The Vikes’ defense is supposed to be good; good defenses do not lose games when their offense scores 34 points.  Aaron Rodgers was 32-44 for 364 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs.  Not bad…  Davante Adams caught 14 passes for 156 yards.  Also, not bad.

  • Interestingly, the Vikes’ time of possession was 18:44; same as the Jets.  Somehow, the Vikes managed to score 34 points in that time of possession while the Jets scored only 17.  Hmmm…

The Patriots beat the Dolphins 21-11.  The Past defense held the Dolphins to 270 yards total offense for the game and the Dolphins turned the ball over 3 times. Meanwhile, the Pats’ ran the ball for 217 yards (5.2 yards per attempt) and achieved 18 first downs by running the ball.

I mentioned the Eagles/WTFs game above.  Let me add here props to WTFs’ Coach Rivera for living up to his “Riverboat Ron” nickname by going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Eagles’ 4 yardline with the game tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter. Washington scored three plays later to take the lead for good.

The Ravens dominated the Browns in Week 1 by a score of 38-6.  This was an organized ass-kicking from start to finish.  Odell Beckham Jr (Trade rumors?  See above) was targeted 10 times in this game and caught only 3 passes.  Baker Mayfield did not impress at all (see “Bad News” above).  Now, look at the score for the game; realize that the Ravens actually had less time of possession in the game than did the Browns – – very slightly less but still less.

The Chargers beat the Bengals 16-13.  The Bengals missed a game-tying field goal at the end of the game that would have sent it to OT.  Joe Burrow was OK in his first NFL game – nothing spectacular but OK.  The Bengals did give him a running game for support in Week 1; they ran the ball for 122 yards on 28 carries.  The Chargers run game was even more productive gaining 155 yards.

The Jags best the Colts 27-20.  This game was a disaster for the Colts.  Philip Rivers threw 2 INTs and the Colts had the ball inside the Jags’ 15 yardline twice without scoring on either drive.  RB, Marlon Mack, had to be carted off the field and is done for the year.  Gardner Minshew was the Jags’ offensive hero.  He went 19 for 20 for 173 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.  The Colts produced 445 yards offense while the Jags amassed 271 yards offense.  Those stats point to a win for the Colts, but those 2 INTs by Rivers were killers.

The Raiders beat the Panthers 34-30.  This game was as close as the score would indicate.

  • Raiders’ total offense = 372 yards  Panthers’ total offense = 398 yards
  • Raiders’ first downs = 23  Panthers’ first downs = 22
  • Raiders’ time of possession = 31:12  Panthers’ time of possession = 28:48

The Saints beat the Bucs 34-23 lowering the temperature in “Tompa Bay” at least for a while.  The Saints won despite Drew Brees only throwing for 160 yards.  Two INTs (one a Pick-Six) by the defense helped a lot.  Brady was OK in his debut in Tampa, but Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski were non-factors in the game.  Evans caught 1 pass for a 2-yard TD and Gronk caught 2 passes for 11 yards.  It was a sloppy game.  There were 15 penalties enforced for a total of 22 yards; both teams were penalized for more than 100 yards.

The Cards bat the Niners 24-20.  The Cards’ defense was the story here even though the Niners gained 382 yards of offense.  That defense held Niners to 2-11 on third down conversions and 0-2 on fourth down conversions.  Kyler Murray played as expected with 230 yards passing and 91 yards rushing, and DeAndre Hopkins caught 14 passes for 151 yards.

The Rams beat the Cowboys 20-17.  Other than Aldon Smith who played really well on defense, the rest of the Cowboys’ defense was pretty mediocre here.  Jared Goff was efficient all night long; the Rams ran the ball at will gaining 153 yards on the ground and giving the Rams 35 minutes and 38 seconds in time of possession.  Meanwhile, Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald stood out for the Rams on defense.  The Cowboys lost TE Blake Jarwin to torn ACL; he is out for the year.  They also lost MLB Leighton Vander Esch to a broken collarbone and that will require surgery.  He may return this year, but no timeline was given.

The Steelers beat the Giants 26-16.  The Giants’ defense needs work – – particularly in the secondary, but the Giants are not a rag-tag bunch of guys off the streets who masquerade as a pro football team.  I am not ready to anoint Daniel Jones as a star, but he shows me that he is going to be better than a lot of other QBs taken in the first round over the last several years.  The Steelers’ defense is a certified monster, but the Steelers took several injuries on offense in this game.  If they turn out to be long-term injuries, that could come back to bite the team.  There was a telling point in the game.  The Giants recover a muffed punt at the 3-yardline in first quarter and only get a field goal.  You kind of knew than what the game outcome was going to be right there.  By the way, the Giants had negative-3  yards rushing for the 1st half.

The Titans beat the Broncos 16-14 on a last second field goal (see “Bad News” for Stephan Gostkowski above).  All I can say about that game is:

  • What a slog … !


NFL Games:


Just a note about the lines this week; there has been an unusual amount of significant movement.  It is commonplace to see spreads move a point or even a point and a half in a week; total lines can move even 2 points in a week and few eyebrows will go up.  Check out this week…

Rams at Philly – 1 (46):  The spread here opened with Philly as a 3.5-point favorite; this morning the line is all over the place.  The line here is the most common one but you can find the Rams favored by as much as 1.5 points and you can still find Philly as a 2-point favorite.  Whatever…  Given the way the Eagles’ OL stunk out the joint in Week 1, I cannot imagine how they plan to contain Aaron Donald in this game.  If I were to pick this game – – which I am NOT going to do – – I would take it to stay UNDER.

Carolina at Tampa – 8 (47.5):  The Panthers gave up 34 points to the Raiders last week; I think the Bucs’ offense is as good as the Raiders’ offense.  The Panthers scored 30 points last week and I do not expect the Bucs’ defense to shut them down.  I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Denver at Pittsburgh – 7 (40.5)  This spread opened at 5 points and I can find it this morning at various levels between 6.5 and 8 points.  Meanwhile the total Line opened the week at 43 points and dropped to this level very quickly.  Both teams are playing off a short week, but Denver has a long trip to arrive at the game site.  I do not see the Broncos’ offense doing a lot of business against the Steelers’ defense and I do not think the Broncos’ defense can hold the Steelers down for 60 minutes.  I like the Steelers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Atlanta at Dallas – 4 (54):  The spread opened the week at 7.5-points and the total line opened at 50 points.  Those are major line moves.  The Falcons’ defense looked bad last week – – but so did the Cowboys’ offense.  That is the matchup that will determine this game because I fully expect Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense to score at least 25 points and maybe closer to 35.  Lots of question marks here except for one.  There is no question that if the Cowboys win, Jerry Jones will heap praise on his guy – – Mike McCarthy.

SF – 7 at Jets (41):  Both teams lost their opening game last week and the Niners have a 3,000-mile journey to get to the game.  So why the full touchdown spread – – and why has the line gone up from 5.5 points to this level?  As noted above, the Jets’ loss last week was not just a mark in the loss column; it was a glimpse into a team that might be preternaturally bad.  I will not take the Niners in this situation and I cannot take the Jets until I see a lot more positive thing there.

Buffalo – 5 at Miami (41):  I think the Bills are the better team, but they are on the road and they are not yet – in my mind – reliably good.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was not particularly good in Week 1 throwing 3 INTs.  He may be playing for his job with Tua Tagovailoa over there on the bench.

Minnesota at Indy – 3 (49):  This Total Line opened at 46 point and has been climbing all week long.  Both teams disappointed in Week 1.  One of them will dig a hole for themselves when this game is over.

Detroit at Green Bay – 6 (49.5)  The Total Line here opened at 46 points and jumped to this level quickly.  Since the Lions’ defense made Mitchell Trubisky look like a Pro Bowler in the 4th quarter last week allowing a 17-point lead to disappear like donuts from Sally Struthers’ pantry, I cannot imagine that Aaron Rodgers will be shut down.  By the same token, the Packers’ defense gave up 34 points to the Vikes in about 18 minutes of possession last week and Matthew Stafford is as good as Kirk Cousins in directing an offense.  This should be a shoot-out.  I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Giants at Chicago – 5 (42):  I shall anoint this contest as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  These are two bad teams and two inconsistent teams.  The only meaning for this game is to determine which one is less worse on this particular day.  Ho-hum…

Jax at Tennessee – 7.5 (44):  The spread for this game opened at 11.5 points.  It is a battle of the undefeateds; that is about the only hype I can give to this game.  If the Jags were to win outright here and go to 2-0 for the start of the season, look at their schedule.  The next two opponents for the Jags are the Dolphins and the Bengals neither of which are fearsome opponents.  If the Jags win here, they might start the season at 4-0.  Seriously…  The titans’ offense was anemic last week even though Derrick Henry ran the ball 31 times.  This game is not as bad as the Giants/Bears game above, but I would not waste 3 hours of my life watching it.

Washington at Arizona – 7 (47):  I think the Cards are significantly the better team here and they are at home.  That defensive line for the WTFs will have to chase Kyler Murray around in 105-degree heat.  One team here will suffer its first loss of the season – – and it will not be the home team.

Baltimore – 7 at Houston (50):  The NFL schedule maker must hate Bill O’Brien; they pen the season against the Chiefs and then come back with a game against the Ravens.  The Texans looked over-matched against the Chiefs last week; I think that will be the case here too.

KC – 8 at Chargers (47.5):    The spread for this game opened at 6.5 points and the total Line was 50.5 points.  The Chargers’ defense is a good unit and it will have to keep this game close because I cannot see the Chargers’ offense coming back from a big scoreboard deficit.

(Sun Nite) New England at Seattle -4 (44.4):  Last week, Russell Wilson threw the ball on 64% of the Seahawks’ plays; that is way above average for play calling in Seattle.  Meanwhile, Cam Newton ran the ball 15 times for the Pats last week; that is more than Tom Brady ran the ball in about two months’ worth of games for the Patriots last year.  Newton gained 75 yards on those carries last week; the last time Tom Brady gained more than 756 yards in a full season was back in 2011 when Brady ran 43 times for 109 yards in 16 games.  This is the Game of the Week.  It will be interesting to see how two defensive-minded coaches decide to play each other.

(Mon Nite) New Orleans – 5.5 at Las Vegas (49):  Michael Thomas will not play in this game; I think that is why the spread is only 5.5 points.  The Raiders’ defense had trouble with Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers last week; even at age 41, Drew Brees is a more formidable threat than Teddy Bridgewater.  The Raiders will need to control the clock by running Josh Jacobs again and again – – and then again.  If this becomes a shoot-out, the Raiders will be outgunned.

If you have been keeping count, you will notice that this week’s Six-Pack is actually a Five-Pack.  Rather than toss in another pick that I really do not like very much, I will just keep calling these things “Six-Packs” with the understanding that the numbers may not square with rigorous accounting standards.  So, let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Duke – 6 over BC
  • Syracuse +21.5 against Pitt
  • Panthers/Bucs OVER 47.5
  • Steelers – 7 over Broncos
  • Lions/Packers OVER 49.5

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



Clippers Gonna Clip …

Basketball is up for discussion this morning and the Los Angeles Clippers are the first topic on the agenda.  The Clippers have been around for 50 years – the first 8 of those years known as the Buffalo Braves.  In those 50 seasons of basketball, here is an overview of the franchise “success”:

  • They have made the playoffs a total of 15 times out of 50 possible appearances.
  • They have lost in the first round 7 times.
  • They have lost in the conference semifinals 8 times.
  • They have never played in the conference finals – let alone won a conference championship.

Here is about the best thing you can say about the history of the Clippers’ franchise:

  • They have earned more accolades than the Washington Generals have.

I mention that history because the Clippers have again been eliminated from the NBA playoffs in the conference semifinals this year after holding a 3-games-to-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and managing to gag away three shots at advancing to the conference finals.

  1. Game 5:  Clippers led by 16 and lost by 6 being outscored 38-25 in the 4th quarter.
  2. Game 6:  Clippers led by 19 and lost by 13 being outscored 34-19 in the 4th quarter.
  3. Game 7:  Clippers led by 12 and lost by 15 being outscored 22-15 in the 4th quarter.

In case your calculator is not working, the Clippers were outscored by a combined score of 94-59 in the fourth quarters of those deciding games.  Of course, the Nuggets have earned the praise they are receiving for these comeback wins, and the Nuggets will advance to the Western Conference finals to play the Lakers.  Having said that, the Clippers have also earned the scorn they are getting.

The Clippers – on paper – assembled a “super team”; players used their leverage to come together in LA with Doc Rivers as the coach with the idea that they would take over the town from the Lakers and propel the franchise to new heights.  As Lee Corso is wont to say in a different venue:

  • Not so fast, my friend.

The two superstars who provide the most light – – and heat – – for this “super team” are not your prototypical superstars.

  • Kawhi Leonard is a great player but he is not an emotional leader; he leads by example.  On those occasions when the example is less bright, the path to victory is less clear.
  • Paul George is a very good player who has referred to himself as “Playoff P”.  In 10 NBA seasons, George and his team have been to the playoffs 9 times (good) and have reached the conference finals 1 time (not so good) and won the conference title zero times (not good at all).

Charles Barkley put his own punctuation on the label, “Playoff P”…

“You can’t be calling yourself ‘Playoff P’ and losing all the time.  They don’t call me Championship Chuck.”

The Clippers have attributed their loss in this series to “conditioning issues” and a “lack of shared experiences”.  Pardon me, whilst I yawn.  If the Clippers played in Texas instead of California, their season would be labeled:

  • All hat; no cattle!

The other “basketball issue of the day” is the announcement of the general outline for the college basketball season for 2020 – 2021.  March Madness was the first major casualty of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020; as of this morning there is a plan to stage March Madness in 2021 – – although it might turn out to be May Madness or even June Jousting.  At least the college basketball mavens have a plan.  That is better than how the college football mavens dealt with staging a season in 2020; for the football folks, it seemed as if they thought the virus would go away if they just ignored it and hoped for the best.  [It did not.]  For basketball, there are still plenty of unknowns to be resolved, but at least there is a plan for everyone to use in making conference and individual school decisions.

The NCAA men’s basketball college season will begin on November 25th, 2021.  That is 69 days from today.  Coaches and players may adjust their behaviors to be ready for the season to start then.  Administrators and basketball mavens will need to use that time to ponder some of the “what-ifs” and “how-abouts” that come with the season starting then such as:

  • Will conferences play out-of-conference opponents?  If some do, is it necessary for all of them to do that?
  • Will there be a minimum testing and tracing protocol that all teams/conferences must achieve?  If not, can a school refuse to play an opponent with an “inferior” testing and tracing protocol”?
  • Will there be fans at the games?
  • Will there be the full menu of “December Invitational Tournaments” in far-flung venues around the globe?  If not, can schools make up for scheduled games that evaporated from their schedule?
  • Will there be rules about modes of travel and away-from-campus stays?

Nothing on that list – or other items facing the basketball mavens – is insurmountable but coming to a smart and actionable set of answers in 69 days means there is no time for lollygagging.  The importance of getting this right is significant for players and fans; I think it is also significant for the NCAA.

I am certainly not privy to the accounting ledgers at NCAA HQs, but March Madness drops almost $1B in the NCAA’s coffers every year.  That money is shared among the schools to be sure, but there is also a chunk that goes to the NCAA itself so that it can do all those wonderful things that it does.  The NCAA has had to furlough employees and curtail some activities this year; I suspect that foregoing another $1B in revenue might border on a catastrophic event for the NCAA as an institution.

  • Memo to College Basketball Mavens:  Get on it now.  Get it right.  Your continued livelihood may depend on it.

Finally, since today was devoted to basketball, here is a comment obliquely related to basketball from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-NBA tough guy Charles Oakley will be a contestant on the next iteration of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

“We’d be more inclined to tune in if he shared the dance floor with Bill Laimbeer.”

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