Rest In Peace Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Marvelous Marvin Hagler (that was he legal name) died last weekend at the age of 66.  He was the undisputed middleweight boxing champion from 1980 to 1987.  There have been great middleweight boxers over history and Marvin Hagler belongs in the pantheon of those great fighters.  In 1985, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns met for Hagler’s championship; that fight has come to be knowns as “The War.”  The first round was a slugfest from bell to bell; Hagler suffered a severe cut in the second round as both fighters continued to punish each other.  In the third round, Hagler finally knocked Hearns down; the referee stopped the fight when Hearns collapsed into his arms as he wiped off the gloves.  It was the best boxing match that I remember seeing.

Rest in peace, Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Last week, I mentioned in a rant that the NCAA Tournament Final Four had taken place in Madison Square Garden seven times the last being in 1950.  I received a detailed message from the reader in Houston over the weekend which allows me to “revise and amend my remarks.”  [Hey, if those gasbags in the US Senate can do it, so can I.]  The reader in Houston is the unchallenged champion of sports history in these parts, and here is the pertinent part of his email to me:

“Please note that from 1939 through 1950, there were only eight teams in the NCAA Tourney and to call it a “Final Four” for those years is almost ludicrous compared to the current terminology where a team has to win numerous rounds to get to the “Final Four”, making “Final Four” sound prestigious to say the least. (On a side note, I never heard of a reference to the “Final Four” or “March Madness” until the 1970s when the tourney went mainstream on the networks when Brent Musburger first used the terms on air. Before then, we always used the term “semi-finals” for what now is known as the “Final Four”.)

“Back in those days, the “Final Four”, as we refer to it today, was not held in the same city. There was an Eastern Regional consisting of four teams and a Western Regional of four teams with each regional in a different city. The Regional winners would then meet at the designated site for the championship game several days to a week later.

“Over the early years, Eastern Regionals were held in cities such as Philly (1939), Indy (1940), Madison, WI (1941), New Orleans (1942), and New York City (1943-1950) with the Western Regionals being held in San Francisco (1939) and Kansas City, MO (1940-1950).

“During the early years, the finals were held in Evanston, IL (1939), Kansas City (1940-1942), and New York City from 1943 through 1950, except for 1949 when the finals were held in Seattle, WA.

“In 1951, the tourney was expanded to 16 teams and the rest is history, as it increased over the years to the current number. Because of the college point-shaving scandal of 1950-51, Madison Square Garden was no longer used as the home of the championship game, although in subsequent years earlier rounds of the tourney were held at the Garden.

“So to say that the “Final Four” took place seven times in MSG is incorrect, though in 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1950, the runners-up at the two regionals did meet in a National Runner-Up game for third place prior to the championship game at the Garden.”

I enter a plea of “Guilty” to the charge of presenting a glib and insufficiently researched point last week, Your Honor.  Thanks to the reader in Houston for this clarification and expansion.

A high school football coach in Georgia may have erred to the point of blasphemy.  Rush Probst is the head football coach at Valdosta High School and a You Tube video that appears to be Probst, the person says that the University of Georgia pays recruits to come to Georgia and pays certain star players to remain at the school.  Valdosta Georgia is in the heart of “SEC Territory” where college football is taken as seriously as anywhere else in the country.  Georgia’s fans are as rabid and as committed as any in the SEC; they will rise to the defense of their school if an outside accuser makes such a charge – – but to have one come from a school in the State of Georgia is not something to be expected.

Allegedly, Coach Probst said that Georgia coach, Kirby Smart< is aware that Georgia boosters pay “up to $150K” for players and very specifically that Nick Chubb received three payments of $60K to sign on with Georgia and then to stay at the school as opposed to declaring for the NFL Draft.  Obviously, Georgia is investigating the situation because if they do not investigate, the NCAA will.

Let me be clear about several points here:

  • I have no idea if Coach Probst is the person speaking on that You Tube video.
  • I have no insight into how recruiting is done at Georgia or any other college football program.
  • IF what Coach Probst says on that video is true and can be shown to be true, it will represent a tectonic shift for college football’s image of amateurism.
  • Coach Probst names a person as the “handler” – the intermediary – between Georgia coach  Kirby Smart and the player.  It will be interesting to see/hear from that person on this matter.

One thing I am rather certain about regarding this situation is that Coach Probst is not planning to apply for an assistant coaching position at an SEC school any time soon…

Finally, the remarks allegedly made by Coach Probst reminded me of a statement by the Greek Philosopher, Plato:

“Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools because they have to say something.”

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



Pre-Tournament Musings…

This is certainly not the place where one finds liturgical or theological enlightenment.  Nonetheless, this is the day of the year that might be termed the “Day of Wrath” (from Dies Irae) because this is the day following Selection Sunday.  Maybe we should name it the Monday of Mourning?  The main focus of the sports world today is a non-issue; far too much attention is paid to the teams that were snubbed by the Selection Committee and left out of the basketball tournament.  Big deal!  The team considered to be 69th in the country and left out of the tournament field was not going to win the tournament anyway.

You will not find me weeping and gnashing my teeth over such nonsense.  Rather, I prefer to focus on the fact that the NCAA is going to try to pull off a full tournament field of 68 teams in a semi-bubbled environment in Indianapolis.  It will not be easy; and if it goes off without any sort of disruption, it will be a huge surprise.  Given the number of teams that had to interrupt their regular season schedules to accommodate COVID-19 infections, the odds of seeing 67 games go on without incident are not good.

One sort of positive thing to come out of this regular season is that players and coaches had to learn to adapt on the fly to new situations.  There were so many game cancellations and “schedule adjustments” that the normal regimented and orderly progression of a season was never maintained.  Maybe that can be a long-term benefit for many of these players in life…

The so-called mid-majors of college basketball may well have been disproportionately disadvantaged by all of the “schedule adjustments”.  The paucity of interconference games this year did not give some of the smaller basketball schools a chance to play a game or two against the basketball bluebloods; that deprived those smaller schools the opportunity to demonstrate their potential to be competitive at a higher level.  That circumstance did not come about through malicious intent – – unless you want to ascribe that intent to the coronavirus.

A positive thing to watch for in the tournament this year is Gonzaga’s quest to finish the season with a tournament championship plus an undefeated season.  The Zags are 26-0 in the regular season; they need to win 6 more games for a perfect season.  The last team to finish a regular season undefeated and then to cap it off with a tournament championship was Indiana in 1976.  Since then, three teams have arrived at the tournament with unblemished records but have lost in the tournament.  Those were:

  • 1979 – – Indiana State lost in the Final Game
  • 1991 – – UNLV lost in the Final Four round
  • 2015 – – Kentucky lost in the Final Four round

Bob Molinaro had an interesting take on Gonzaga’s quest this year in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Over: The abrupt end to Duke’s slim postseason hopes has a negligible national impact, but all hell would break loose within the sport if a positive test derailed Gonzaga or another serious contender. It gives new meaning to ‘survive and advance.’”

[Aside:  How many “bracketologists” back in December prognosticated that both Duke and Kentucky would fail to make the tournament?  Let that demonstrate the value of such soothsaying…]

For what it is worth, Rick Pitino’s Iona team is in the tournament this year; this is the fifth school he has led to the NCAA tournament.  Rick Pitino may not be the perfect role model for your kids, but he can coach basketball teams.

What I like to do with the tournament brackets is to have some fun with team mascots and players’ names.  Even in years when there is regularity, I do not have a great track record for picking brackets; so, I find other ways to amuse myself while waiting for the games to begin.  For example:

  • We could have two Final Four games that are ‘Predator versus Prey”.  You could have the Michigan Wolverines against the Creighton Blue Jays and the Villanova Wildcats against the Oregon State Beavers.
  • In Round 1, we have a game between the Ramblers (Loyola-Chicago) and the Ramblin’ Wreck (Georgia Tech).
  • We might see a “reptilian” final game should it come down to the Maryland Terrapins and the Drexel Dragons.
  • We could have a second-round game between Oklahoma St. (OSU) and Oregon State (OSU).  Moreover, one of those schools might possibly make it to the Final Four where it could face Ohio St. (OSU).
  • The Final Game could be a contest between ethnic mascots – – the San Diego St. Aztecs versus the Iona Gaels.
  • An Elite Eight game could pair the Michigan St. Spartans against the UNC-Greensboro Spartans.
  • Perhaps the Final Game will be completely ursine matching the Baylor Bears and the UCLA Bruins.

In addition to mascot pairings, there are plenty of potential intrastate rivalry games to happen in the tournament.

  • Florida and Florida St. could meet in the Final Game.
  • Michigan and Michigan St. could meet in the Elite Eight.
  • Ohio and Ohio St. could meet in the Final Game.
  • Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. could meet in the Final Game.
  • Oregon and Oregon St. could meet in the Final Game.
  • Virginia and VCU could meet in the Elite Eight.
  • Virginia and Va Tech could meet in the Final Game.

Player names have always been a part of my pre-tournament musings.  This year I will consider All-Tournament Teams made up of players based solely on the way their names fit into categories that I have concocted in my head.  This is just for fun.  Let me begin with players that have what I call Mirror-Image Names – you can reverse the order of their names and it still sounds like a player name:

  • Bryan Antoine – – Villanova
  • Carson Barrett – – Purdue
  • Keller Casey – – Oklahoma
  • Brandon Cyrus – – UC-Santa Barbara
  • Tytist Dean – – Liberty
  • Kent Gilbert – – Tennessee
  • Ben Gregg – – Gonzaga
  • Donovan Gregory – – Appalachian St.
  • Blake Henry – – Colgate
  • Jace Howard – – Michigan
  • Jehloni James – – Georgia Tech
  • Trey James – – Iona
  • Jarod Lucas – – Oregon St.
  • Chase Martin – – Purdue
  • Cody Riley – – UCLA
  • Demetrius Terry – – Cleveland St.
  • Jalen Terry – – Oregon
  • Aiden Terry – – Rutgers
  • Cameron Thomas – – LSU

My next All Tournament Team is the Artist’s Palette Team:

  • Leaky Black – – UNC
  • Eugene Brown III – – Ohio St.
  • Gabe Brown – – Michigan St.
  • Greg Brown – – Texas
  • Kobe Brown – – Missouri
  • Xavion Brown – – Appalachian St.
  • A.J. Gray – – Hartford
  • Josh Gray – – LSU
  • Raiquan Gray – – Florida State
  • Bryant Greene – – Appalachian St.
  • Tarik Silver – – Oregon St.
  • Fabian White, Jr. – – Houston
  • Isaiah White – – USC
  • Jalen White – – Ohio

[Aside:  With five players named “Brown” here, it is a shame that Brown University is not in the tournament field this year.]

Next up is an All-Tournament team where player names have a Biblical Connotation:

  • Immanuel Allen – – Abilene Christian
  • Noah Baumann – – USC
  • Christian Bishop – – Creighton
  • Moses Flowers – – Hartford
  • Weston Church – – Oklahoma St.
  • Gideon George – – BYU
  • Jonah Jackson – – Drake
  • Isaac Likekele – – Oklahoma St.
  • Noah Locke – – Florida
  • Elijah Lufile – – Oral Roberts
  • Isaiah Miller – – UNC-Greensboro
  • Joshua Morgan – – USC
  • Micah Peavy – – Texas Tech
  • Ismael Plet – – Oral Roberts
  • Malachi Rice – – Georgia Tech
  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – – Villanova
  • Samson Ruzhentsev – – Florida
  • Jericho Sims – – Texas
  • Moses Wright – – Georgia Tech

I always look for players with Alliterative Names.  This year, using names and schools, I found several “Trifectas” where the alliteration has three components.  I am still in search of a “Grand-slam alliteration” such as Tom Terrific from Texas Tech.  Maybe next year…

  • Akok Akok – – UConn
  • Angelo Allegri – – UNC Greensboro
  • Alphonso Anderson – – Utah St.
  • Avery Anderson III – – Oklahoma St.
  • Adonis Arms – – Winthrop
  • Aguek Arop – – San Deigo St.
  • Austin Ash – – Iowa
  • Buddy Boeheim – – Syracuse
  • Bryceson Burns – – Drake
  • Colton Cashaw – – Iona
  • Colin Castleton – – Florida
  • Cade Cunningham – – Oklahoma St.
  • Deven Dahlke – – Drake – – Trifecta !
  • Dain Dainja – – Baylor
  • Damien Daniels – – Abilene Christian
  • Davonte Davis – – Arkansas
  • Devin Davis – – Creighton
  • Darius Days – – LSU
  • Dexter Dennis – – Wichita St.
  • David Didenko – – Georgia Tech
  • Drake Dobbs – Liberty
  • Ferron Flavors, Jr. – – Oklahoma St.
  • Gage Gomez – – UC-Santa Barbara
  • Hakim Hart – – Maryland
  • Kolton Kohl – – Abilene Christian
  • Jalen Jackson – – North Texas
  • Jaime Jaquez, Jr. – – UCLA – – Trifecta !
  • Josiah-Jordan James – – Tennessee – –  Trifecta !
  • Jason Jitoboh – – Florida
  • John Jones – – Texas Southern
  • Johnny Juzang – – UCLA
  • Kuba Karwowski – – Utah St.
  • Liam Lloyd – – Grand Canyon
  • Mawot Mag – – Rutgers
  • Marten Maide – – Liberty
  • Montez Mathis – – Rutgers
  • Mardrez McBride – – North Texas
  • Mac McClung – – Texas Tech
  • Mason McMurray – – Ohio
  • Michael Meadows – – Eastern Washington
  • Mahki Morris – – Abilene Christian
  • Pearson Parker – – Colgate
  • Reggie Raynor – – UNC Greensboro
  • Sheldon Stevens – – Oral Roberts
  • Townsend Triple – – BYU

I can concoct an All-Tournament Team with namesakes of US Presidents:

  • Bryson Bush – – Wichita St.
  • Jonathan Jackson – – Liberty
  • Tray Jackson – – Seton Hall
  • Damien Jefferson – – Creighton
  • Jalen Jefferson – – Mount Saint Mary’s
  • Malik Jefferson – – Mount Saint Mary’s
  • Meechie Johnson, Jr.  Ohio St.
  • Britton Johnson – – Alabama
  • Jayden Nixon – – Virginia
  • Rico Ozuna-Harrison – – Michigan
  • Coletrane Washington – – Drexel
  • Duane Washington Jr. – – Ohio St.

People go to college to prepare themselves for careers in life.  Here are some players in this year’s tournament where I wonder if their name indicates what they will do with the rest of their lives:

  • Geo Baker – – Rutgers – – Pastry chef
  • Adrian Baldwin, Jr. – – VCU – – Piano tuner
  • Chudier Bile – – Georgetown – – Liver transplant surgeon
  • Andre Bottoms – – Norfolk St. – – Scuba instructor
  • Jalen Bridges – – W. Virginia – – Civil engineer
  • Drew Buggs – – Missouri – – Entomologist
  • DJ Burns, Jr. – – Winthrop – – Firefighter
  • Nate Buss – – Winthrop – – Transportation specialist
  • Lamont Butler – – San Diego St. – – Obviously…
  • Jett Canfield – – Creighton – – Pilot
  • Kofi Cockburn – – Illinois – – Barista
  • Aaron Cook – – Gonzaga – – Celebrity chef
  • Adrian Delph – – Appalachian St. – – Oracle?
  • Abe Eagle – – Gonzaga – – Boy Scout Leader
  • Aleem Ford – – Wisconsin – – New car sales
  • Justin Forrest – – Appalachian St. – – Sawmill foreman
  • Javion Hamlet – – North Texas – – Actor
  • Royce Hamm, Jr. – – Texas – – Abattoir foreman
  • Luke House – – Drexel – – Architect
  • Kaleb Hunter – – UNC Greensboro – – Anything but a gatherer
  • Julius Marble II – – Michigan St. – – Sculptor
  • Miles McBride – – W. Virginia – – Wedding photographer
  • Takal Molson – – Seton Hall – – Brewer
  • Moses Moody – – Arkansas – – Bond trader
  • Andrew Muse – – Appalachian St. – – Poet
  • Justyn Mutts – – Va Tech – – Dog breeder
  • Woody Newton – – Syracuse – – Carpenter
  • Nana Opoku – – Mount Saint Mary’s – – Childcare specialist
  • Eli Parquet – – Colorado – – Flooring installer
  • Omar Payne – – Florida – – Chiropractor
  • Jamorko Pickett – – Georgetown – – Fence installer
  • Abel Porter – – Ohio St. – – Too easy…!
  • Micah Potter – – Wisconsin – – Too easy again …!
  • Joey Potts – – Oregon St. – – Chef
  • Keegan Records – – Colgate – – Statistician
  • Colton Reed – – Liberty – – Oboist
  • Mason Robbins – – Oklahoma St. – – Bricklayer
  • Brandon Slater – – Villanova – – Roofer
  • Javonte Smart – – LSU – – Professor
  • Camerohn Steele – – Abilene Christian – – Metallurgist
  • Jayden Stone – – Grand Canyon – – Geologist
  • Read Streller – – Oklahoma – – Librarian
  • Seth Towns – – Ohio St. – – Urban planner?
  • Sam Towns – – Oho – – Cartographer?
  • Tyler Underwood – – Illinois – – Typewriter repairman
  • Jordan Usher – – Georgia Tech – – Obviously …
  • Franz Wagner – – Michigan – – Composer
  • Rocket Watts – – Michigan St. – – NASA engineer
  • Deshang Weaver – – Oral Roberts – – Fashion designer
  • Tom Welch – – Loyola Chicago – – Jelly maker

I also like to create a Copy Editors’ Nightmare Team.  It can also be a challenge for play-by-play broadcasters too:

  • Ochai Agbaji – – Kansas
  • Chibuzo Agbo – – Texas Tech
  • Max Agbonkpolo – – USC
  • Warith Alatishe – – Oregon St.
  • Rati Andronikashvili – – Creighton
  • Martynas Arlauskas – – Gonzaga
  • Giorgi Bezhanishvili – – Illinois
  • Nyzaiah Chambers – – Norfolk St.
  • Damian Chong Qui – – Mount Saint Mary’s
  • Okay Djamgouz – – Drake
  • Ayo Dosunmu – – Illinois
  • Victor Iwuakor – – Oklahoma
  • Abayomi Iyiola – – Arkansas
  • Efstratios Kalogerias – – Norfolk St.
  • Modestas Kancleris – – Creighton
  • Balsa Koprivica – – Florida St.
  • Sandro Mamukelashvili – – Seton Hall
  • Asbjørn Midtgaard – – Grand Canyon
  • Emeka Obukwelu – – Arkansas
  • Eugene Omoruyi – – Oregon
  • Osayi Osifo – – Florida
  • Osun Osunniyi – – St. Bonaventure
  • Victor Radocaj – – Eastern Washington
  • Yahuza Rasas – – Texas Southern
  • Ryan Tankelewicz – – UNC Greensboro
  • Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua – – Baylor
  • Aher Uguak – – Loyola-Chicago
  • Paxson Wojcik – – Loyola-Chicago
  • Szymon Zapala – – Utah St.

I found five names in my looking around that are interesting – – but do not fit on tournament teams.  So, I will just list them here:

  1. Dajuan Harris, Jr. is a guard on the Kansas team.  Too bad he is not a twin; if he were, his brother could have been named “Da-udda-juan”.
  2. The Drexel coach is named Zach Spiker.  How is he not the volleyball coach?
  3. The Oregon St. coach is named Wayne Tinkle.  Moving on…
  4. Tony Perkins is on the Iowa team.  I thought I saw him in the movies…
  5. Reggie Miller is on the Abilene Christian team.  I did not realize he had any NCAA eligibility left…

Finally, let me close with a tournament overview by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times :

“Virginia joined Duke on the sideline at the ACC basketball tournament after a positive COVID-19 test, and Kansas is similarly out of the Big 12 tourney.

“So can we just end the suspense early and proclaim the virus as this year’s national champion?”

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



Random Ruminations Today …

I read recently that ESPN had offered Skip Bayless a 4-year contract at $8M per year to return to ESPN when his contract with FOX Sports runs out in July – – and that Bayless turned that down and will stay with FOX.  Supposedly, ESPN’s plan was to reunite Bayless with Stephen A. Smith on the First Take concocted-debate program.  Ever since Bayless left ESPN for FOX in 2016, Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman have been the faux antagonists on First Take.

In staying with FOX, Bayless will continue to argue with Shannon Sharpe every weekday morning on a show that is strangely named Undisputed given that the two hosts argue about everything.  Sharpe’s contract with FOX also expires in July but there has been no announcement regarding his status.

However, there is a report that Skip Bayless may expand his presence on FS-1 beyond the mid-morning Undisputed wrangling.  Supposedly, Bayless would be cast in the role of a “debate judge”.  He would listen to the argumentation presented by other sports yakkers on FS-1 and declare a winner in the concocted debate.  If such a program were to come into existence, FS-1 would be inundated with debate format programming; there could not possibly be enough controversial sports topics worthy of discussion to fill four to six hours per day five days a week.  The lineup would include:

  • Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe for 3 hours in the morning.
  • Speak For Yourself with Marcellus Wiley and Emmanuel Acho for 2 hours in the late afternoon.
  • Whatever They Call This New Skip Bayless as a Debate Judge Show for some period of time 5 days a week.
  • The only place to find enough controversy to fill that amount of time with blather that is only sometimes relevant would be in the two houses of the US Congress…

[Aside:  I mentioned Emmanuel Acho above.  He delivers his arguments with the force and verve of an evangelical preacher even if the content of his remarks is no more controversial than a weather report.  Sometimes I begin to laugh when he is “making his points” because of his delivery and I miss out on the content.]

The ACC basketball tournament has been contaminated by the coronavirus twice in the past couple of days.  Duke had to withdraw from the tournament earlier this week when there was a positive COVID-19 test within the Duke basketball program; early this morning, UVA had to withdraw from the tournament and forfeit its semi-final game to Georgia Tech because there was a positive test for a player on the UVA team.

Duke is an unlikely at-large entry into this year’s March Madness.  If they do get an invitation, it will be a basketball equivalent of a “Lifetime Achievement Award”; this year’s Duke squad is not nearly as powerful as the ones that fans have come to expect for most of the Mike Krzyzewski Era in Durham.  Virginia is another story…

Virginia is going to get an at-large invitation and should wind up with a solid seeding in the national tournament.  However, reports say that the positive COVID-19 test in the UVA case was a player who participated in the Cavaliers’ last game on Thursday against Syracuse, so the team could be down an important player for the NCAA tournament games.  The NCAA protocol for COVID-19 and the teams arriving in Indianapolis for the games requires all players, coaches and staff traveling with the team to have seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests before they arrive in Indianapolis.  Tournament games begin next Friday, and UVA has at least 1 player who may not be able to meet that criterion to go with the team to Indianapolis for the first-round games.

For the record, Virginia is the reigning NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion going back to 2019 given the fact that the coronavirus shut down the 2020 tournament completely.  That gap in crowning a champion is the first one since the NCAA basketball tournament came into existence in 1939.  The tournament began with 8 teams and stayed at that number from 1939 until 1950.  The field went through continuous expansion and reached 64 teams in 1985 and has been set at 68 teams ever since 2011.  Here are a couple of “fun facts” about the basketball tournament:

  • UNC has had a #1 seed more often than any other school.
  • Play-in games began way back in 1984 when there were 52 teams in the tournament and the top 16 teams were given Byes.  That left 36 remining teams requiring 4 play-in games to cut that “remaining field” to 32 teams.  The 32 teams would then cut to 16 teams and meet the teams on a Bye.
  • The lowest seeded team to win the National Championship was Villanova in 1985.  That is the year the Wildcats beat Georgetown with Patrick Ewing in a major upset; Villanova had been an 8-seed in that tournament; Georgetown was a 1-seed.  Georgetown was a 9-point favorite in that game and lost by 2 points.
  • Only once has the Final Four been made up of all the #1 seeded teams – since the expansion to 64 teams in the field.  That was in 2008 and the schools were Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and UNC.
  • The Final Four has taken place 7 times in Madison Square Garden in NYC but the last time it was there was in 1950.
  • Naturally, here in Curmudgeon Central we look for frustration factors whenever possible.  There are schools that have never participated in the NCAA tournament but for teams that have been there, Dartmouth has the longest stretch between appearances.  Dartmouth was in the tournament in 1959; they have not been there since then; they will not be there again this year because the Ivy League canceled its entire basketball season.

Finally, with the basketball tournament virtually upon us, consider this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Think there might be a future Baskin & Robbins endorsement for Oklahoma State basketballer Ferron Flavors Jr.?

“Looks like he’s banking on it: Flavors wears jersey No. 31.”

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



Added Football Upheaval At Kansas

Two days ago, I wrote about the firing of Les Miles as the head football coach at Kansas after an investigation at LSU – the last school where he was the head football coach – found some disgusting behaviors on his part.  I said at the time that Miles deserved to be fired for what he has allegedly done even though it was long ago and at a different school AND THAT Kansas fans and alums ought not to expect much in the next selection of a coach because it is the same folks doing the searching/interviewing/hiring.

Well, now maybe the fans/alums at Kansas have a glimmer of hope.  The school announced yesterday that the AD who hired Les Miles and who missed the boat twice – – he missed the disgusting behaviors and he missed by hiring a new coach who went 3-18 in his two years on the job  – – has also been fired.  I have no idea if there is anything “untoward” in his time at Kansas that would merit the firing of Jeff Long from the AD job, but I do know that his record of seeking and hiring college football coaches is less than laudatory.

  1. He hired Bobby Petrino.  Good coach; not so good husband; not nearly so good at lying to cover up his improper behaviors.
  2. He hired Bret Bielema.  Decent coach; not so good working with administration and alums; now involved in a civil lawsuit with the school that Long represented when he hired Bielema.
  3. He hired Les Miles.  Had a good coaching run at LSU and a miserable time at Kansas; his off-field behaviors at LSU were disgusting at best.

As is customary today, truth seems never to be front and center when people make statements in the midst of these sorts of events.  Here is what some of the Kansas Chancellor had to say about the newly fired AD, Jeff Long:

“I want to wholeheartedly thank Jeff for his service to KU. When we hired Jeff, he was charged with modernizing our athletics department and ensuring our coaches and student-athletes continue to have the resources they need to succeed. This was no easy task, and he far exceeded our expectations.

“Jeff guided Kansas Athletics to progress in student-athlete healthcare, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete academic achievement, all while managing significant challenges not of his own making.  Most important, Jeff was unwaveringly dedicated to students, coaches and staff, and he represented KU with integrity and compassion. For that, we thank him, and we wish him the very best.”

If all that were absolutely true, Jeff Long would still have a job at Kansas.  It is as simple as that…

Moving on …  Pro Football reported that the CFL and the XFL may find ways to “collaborate” in the future.  Both leagues are in “less than robust condition”.  The XFL exists only because it was purchased at a bankruptcy sale by a consortium led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; the CFL lost its 2020 season to COVID-19 and hopes to start its training camps in May 2021 – – but there are still public health issues that could make that impossible.  The XFL holds no such aspirations for 2021; the XFL will not have a 2021 season and has characterized its 2022 season as “on hold” as of now.  Both the CFL and the XFL face existential crises now; presumably, some of the folks who make strategic decisions for these leagues believe that come sort of “collaboration” can benefit both entities.

Here is part of an upbeat statement on this subject by Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the CFL:

“Canada has an exciting game and devoted fans, and our discussion with the XFL provides a tremendous opportunity to build on that strong foundation.  We look forward to exploring how we might work with one of the most innovative sports brands in the world to grow the game, engage fans in new ways, and reach new audiences. We look forward to seeing what possibilities our discussions might uncover, and to sharing those with our fans as the process unfolds.”

I like to watch the CFL version of pro football.  The CFL game is quite different from the NFL game in terms of pacing and game strategy while the essential elements of the CFL and NFL games remain the same.  The XFL has sought to carve out a niche of its own in terms of the product on the field seeking not to be simply “NFL- Lite”.  Perhaps, there can be ways for the two leagues to “collaborate”.

However, I must signal a cautionary note here:

  • In the mid-90s, the CFL tried to expand into the “Lower 48” of the US.
  • That foray lasted all of 2 seasons.
  • Let me just say that throngs of fans here in the US do not turn out to mourn the day that their CFL team dried up and blew away.
  • [Aside – and for the record:  I journeyed to Baltimore to see the Baltimore Stallions play during their brief existence.  I enjoyed the game; Ienjoyed the CFL in the US.  I do not mourn the demise of the Baltimore Stallions.]

I have no idea what it might mean for the two financially troubled leagues to “collaborate”.  History tells me one mode of their “collaboration” is not likely to work for very long.  On the plus side of this potential “collaboration”, Dwayne Johnson was once part of the CFL; he was a defensive end for the Calgary Stampeders for a short time before the CFL tried its “Southern Expansion”.  It will be interesting to see how this story continues and grows – – assuming that it does either of those two things.

Finally, consider this item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times.  This represents a way for the XFL and the CFL to avoid as they seek to emulate the success of the NFL.

“NFL teams are required to provide three-dozen sliced oranges for visiting teams, The Athletic reported.

“Players’ parents, however, are not allowed to accost coaches over their kids’ playing time.”

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



Sports Telecasts In Covid-19 Times

Over the weekend, I was grazing through the channels on my cable subscription and happened across the PGA event of the week.  I did not linger awfully long because golf on TV is not a way that I spend a lot of my time, but I was immediately aware of something “new” in the telecast.  There were real live fans in attendance, and I could hear them.  It was not a soundtrack pumped into the telecast; these were reactions from actual human beings on site at the event.  That got me to thinking about other sports on TV and how their telecasts have been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, in no particular order:

  • Golf:  I have never thought that the goofs who yell “Get in the hole!” on every drive off the tee added much to the telecast, but the polite applause accompanying routine shots gave a sense of reality to the contest last weekend.
  • NHL:  I do not watch as much hockey as I do many other sports, but the telecasts seemed pretty much the same with soundtracks as opposed to live fans in the arena.
  • NFL:  The absence of dozens of gratuitous crowd shots and minimized sideline reporting made the games more enjoyable; the soundtracks were so obviously phony that they detracted from the presentation.  The net change here is a wash…
  • College Football:  Frankly, seeing the way some games had fans in the stands without masks and clearly not exhibiting social distancing made me feel uncomfortable given the COVID-19 situation in the Fall of 2020.  I found myself wanting to avert my eyes during the crowd shots with fans jamming together to cheer for their team on camera and on cue.  Not a good look there…
  • MLB:  The telecasts last year were not significantly different with empty stands and/or cardboard cutouts.  The piped in audio was not nearly as artificial in baseball telecasts as it was in other sports.  I must admit that having seen a few innings of some Spring Training games this last week has given me the urge to go and see a baseball game live this year.  The presence of live folks on the camera shots makes me envious; I did not have that feeling last season.
  • NBA:  The most glaring change in the telecasts to me was the absence of celebrities in their courtside seats behaving in ways to draw attention to themselves as if they were part of the game itself.  The audio soundtracks were often handled clumsily so there was a feeling that what I was watching was not “real”.
  • College Basketball:  This is the sport where the biggest difference existed for me.  Watching Duke play a home game without the “Cameron Crazies” packed into the stands screaming and jumping up and down for the entirety of the action just seemed wrong.  However, limiting crowds was/is the right thing to do…
  • Tennis:  The little of it that I did watch seemed to be pretty much the same presentation without fans as it was with fans in the stands.
  • Horse Racing:  Other than crowd shots during Triple Crown events or the Breeders’ Cup races, TV cameras do not focus on fans in attendance.  [Aside:  As a denizen of the grandstand and “down by the rail” at many racetracks, I can assure you that there are good reasons for the cameras to focus attention elsewhere.]  The typical race telecasts on TVG looked the same in 2020 as they have for as long as horse racing has been on TV.
  • English Premier League:  I missed the fans singing their traditional songs.  I had never realized that I had paid attention to that part of the telecast before until it was not part of the telecast and I wondered where it had gone.
  • Australian Rules Football:  I did not notice any difference in the telecasts here.  The thing that I would hate to see happen in this sport is if they change the “costumes” of the guys at the goal who signal with their hands if there is a goal or a behind.

With increasing availability – and administration – of COVID-19 vaccines, the television presentations of sports going forward will likely drift back to what they were prior to 2020.  On balance, that is probably a good thing.

The Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott reached a “long-term deal” yesterday.  I put quotation marks here because the deal is for 4 years and many contracts for NFL franchise QBs extend well beyond that term.  Notwithstanding the relative brevity of the deal, there are some big numbers and restrictive covenants associated with it:

  • Total contract value with the attainment of all incentives could be as high as $164M.
  • Guaranteed money comes to $126M.
  • Signing bonus is $66M.
  • There is a no-trade clause.
  • There is a clause that prevents the Cowboys from using the franchise tag on Prescott at the end of this contract.

Looking at the max value of the deal, Dak Prescott will make $41M per year on average; looking only at the guaranteed money, he will average out to $31.5M per year.  Either way, that is a whole lot of cheese AND at the end of this deal, Dak Prescott will be only 31 years old and can take another bite of the “free agency apple” at that time.  My first reaction to reading about this deal was that Prescott and his people made Jerry Jones blink in their game of chicken over a long-term deal.  Indeed, the Cowboys get some QB stability here – – but not for long.  And then this free agency/new contract opera will fire up again.

Then, I thought again.  Jerry Jones has demonstrated two things over the 30+ years he has owned the Cowboys:

  1. He seems to over-value his football personnel expertise just a bit; his role as the team’s GM has been spotty in terms of roster building.
  2. His financial performance is anything but spotty; Jerry Jones takes large financial gambles inside football and outside football and he wins an inordinate fraction of those financial bets.

So, when I look at this as a “financial risk” taken by Jerry Jones, I have to think he has an angle on it.  Maybe he already knows how big the next set of TV rights deals are going to be for the NFL and where the salary cap is heading?

Finally, since I began today with comments on telecasts, let me close with this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Sure sign we’ve been in lockdown too long: The Milwaukee Bucks unveiled a  ‘Hand Sanitizer Cam’ featuring a superimposed bottle ‘squirting’ fans in the stands.”

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



Coaches, Athletic Directors And Owners … Oh My!

Les Miles is out as the head football coach at Kansas; according to reports, the parties here “mutually agreed to part ways”.  I take that to mean they have agreed to buy out Miles’ contract at a discounted value, but I have no direct knowledge of the terms and conditions there.  The issue causing this separation is a report that surfaced a few days ago related to an investigation at LSU.  According to the report, Miles behaved inappropriately toward women there when he was the head coach at LSU.

If the investigation at LSU is accurate and complete, Les Miles should have been fired by LSU if they had known at the time what was ongoing inside the football program.  There is some indication that some of this malfeasance was known because the report suggests that the AD at LSU wanted to fire Miles “for cause” as far back as 2013.  [Aside:  Miles stayed in that job until 2016.]

The fact that Les Miles had compiled a record of 3-18 at Kansas over the past two years did not give him much ammunition with which to put up a fight here.  The Jayhawks were 0-9 in the truncated 2020 season and 3-9 in Miles’ first season on the sidelines.  Moreover, 8 of those 9 losses in 2020 were by 15 points or more.  Jeff Long, the AD at Kansas, tried to put a smiley face on this matter with this statement:

“I am extremely disappointed for our university, fans and everyone involved with our football program.  There is a lot of young talent on this football team, and I have no doubt we will identify the right individual to lead this program. We will begin the search for a new head coach immediately with an outside firm to assist in this process. We need to win football games, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”

I recognize that Jeff Long had to say what he did, but that statement makes clear that the athletic department at Kansas is not particularly efficient nor effective.  Consider 3 points:

  1. Granted the investigation at LSU and the report dealing with the investigation had not happened in 2019 when Miles was hired at Kansas, but the events took place years before that.  So, might it be fair to say that the athletic department did not perform sufficient due diligence in that hiring process?
  2. Athletic Director Long said they will use an “outside firm to assist” in finding a new coach.  Really?  The athletic department did not have a contingency plan in the event that Coach Miles was trampled by a runaway buffalo?  Kansas is in one of the Power 5 conferences; it is the doormat of that conference; any young and upcoming coach who might make Kansas respectable would goose up his career and his coaching value immensely.  And the AD at such a school does not have a couple such young coaches on his radar and the phone numbers of the agents for those young coaches on his rolodex?  To me, that is stunning…
  3. Jeff Long – presumably with the assistance of an “outside firm to assist” – hired Les Miles for the coaching job two years ago.  The imperative to “win football games” was surely there at that time as well as now.  Nonetheless, the outcome of that coaching search resulted in a two-year record of 3-18.  Now, the same process will swing into action again.  Hope springs eternal …

There was another report from yesterday that made me shake my head.  According to that report, Jeffrey Lurie – Philadelphia Eagles’ owner – directed the team’s coaching staff and team personnel people to “build around Jalen Hurts” as the team QB in 2021.  Let me set the stage here:

  • Jalen Hurts started 4 games in 2020; the Eagles were 1-3 in those 4 games.  In the game the Eagles won – over the Saints in New Orleans – Hurts played well and looked like a solid pick in the second round of the 2020 Draft.  In the next 3 games his performances were not nearly as compelling – – but until the final game against the WTFs, he did not embarrass himself or the team.  In that final game he and the rest of the team and the coaching staff basically threw up all over their shoes.
  • The jury is out on Jalen Hurts as an NFL QB.  He may be the next Russell Wilson; he may alternatively be the next Brock Osweiler; there is simply insufficient evidence to make that call in March 2021.

Assuming that the report on is accurate, Jeffrey Lurie is on a dangerous trajectory here.  He supposedly has been a sports fan all his life and has owned the Eagles for about 25 years.  In terms of the expertise needed to “make a call” on who ought to be the team’s starting QB, I believe I have listed all his credentials there.  And that is why this is a dangerous trajectory and that is why Jeffrey Lurie should step back, take a deep breath and cast his gaze on two of his fellow team owners.  Two other owners have inserted themselves into the determination of their teams’ QBs and neither franchise was the better for it.

  1. Daniel Snyder has reportedly done this 4 times in his 20 years of owning an NFL team.  The QBs he “championed” were Jeff George (at the end of George’s career), Patrick Ramsey (who Snyder claimed to have “discovered”) RG3 and Dwayne Haskins.  The team record during Snyder’s ownership – along with his QB “guidance” – is a cumulative 139-196-1.
  2. Jimmy Haslam reportedly did this only once when he supposedly over-ruled his folks conducting the Draft and had them select Johnny Manziel with the Browns’ second pick in the first round in 2014.  Haslam has not been known for top-shelf selections in other areas of the “football side” of the franchise either and the team record in full seasons since he took over in mid-stream in 2012 is a cumulative 39-88-1.

Jeffrey Lurie hired a GM, personnel folks, scouts and a coaching staff presumably with the thought in his mind that those folks know more about football than a fanboy does.  Jeffrey Lurie has two negative examples of what may happen when owners make player decisions not in consonance with the decisions of the “football people”.  Instead of caveat emptor (Buyer beware!) this seems to be a situation of caveat dominus (Owner beware!)

Finally, having mentioned two NFL owners – and potentially a third – who may fall victim to the sin of hubris, let me close with a pertinent observation by historian Erik Larsen:

“The Lusitania is a monument … to the hubris of the era. I love that, because where there is hubris, there is tragedy.”

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



“Amateur Sports” Today …

An item in Bob Molinaro’s column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot reminded me that I have not spent sufficient time here talking about “amateur” sports recently.  Here is the item that triggered me:

Gub-mint unleashed: By a vote of 36-0, the Kentucky state senate passed a bill allowing high school seniors to stay for another year and play sports. Silly, right? Picture years from now, an old man boasting to his grandchildren that the best time of his life was his fifth year of high school.”

I do not know what is worse here – – the idea of bringing back high school kids for another year in school so they can play sports or that the recorded vote in the Kentucky state senate was 36-0.  None of those chronological adults in the state senate thought this might not be a great idea to put into law?

I know that the nominal Class of 2020 and 2021 caught a tough break with COVID-19 interrupting their acts of glory on the field and on the court and in the pool.  I recognize that politicians would surely not want to do anything that would not cater to the suffering that all those high school athletes might have endured in the past year.  I believe that politicians would want to be able to wave a magic wand and make it all better for all those kids who lost out on athletic glory for reasons beyond their control.  And now I would pose this question to the state senators from Kentucky:

  • What have you done to the athletes in the Class of 2022 who would have been the “top dogs” on their high school teams but will now have to cede some of that limelight to these returning super-seniors? 
  • How might you plan on making that up to the Class 0f 2022?  Where might this end beyond the idea that high school in Kentucky goes from 9th grade through 13th grade?

In another wing of the “amateur sports” silliness of the moment we have the fact that the NCAA will indeed hold an NIT Tournament again in 2021.  There was a day when the NIT was far more prestigious than the NCAA basketball tournament; those were the days before the invention of “TV Dinners”.  The NIT has been relegated to the category of “afterthought-at-best” for about 60 or 70 years; its death knell was when it sued the NCAA for “monopolistic practices” and then settled that suit just before trial by agreeing to be bought out by the NCAA.

In a “concession” to COVID-19, the NCAA decided that this year’s NIT field would be reduced from 32 teams few if any fans gave a fig about to 16 teams that “aspire to relevancy”.  Because when this year’s tournament was being organized, New York – – home of Madison Square Garden where the NIT flourished in its glory days and where the NIT Finals had taken place in its declining years – – was being extremely cautious about fans in arenas, the NCAA chose to move the NIT games to Texas.

Given the proclamation of the Texas Governor last week, Texas is now “100% open” meaning that the NIT games can take place in indoor venues with full capacity seating and with no mask mandates or health screenings or – – you fill in the blank here.

  • Memo to the NCAA:  Your junior varsity post-season men’s basketball tournament now has the potential to be a highly visible pandemic super-spreader event.  If you think that it is a good thing to have attached to “the NCAA Brand”, may I suggest that linking “the NCAA Brand” to Typhoid Mary is not a good thing?

No charge for that advice…

Once again, Bob Molinaro has cut through the fog here to provide clarity on the core issue(s) here:

Tex-mess: Now that the college basketball anachronism called the NIT has been moved from New York to wide-open Texas, expect some teams to take a pass. Not to mention that the three-week-long NCAA women’s tournament must deal with mask-less Texans. Good luck, ladies.”

The NY Times had a report last week about a new basketball league for players who have graduated from high school – – whatever that may mean in Kentucky is no longer clear – – who want to do something other than play a one-and-done year in college basketball.  Please recall that LaVar Ball had set up one of these enterprises in the recent past; I suggest that it should be remembered as the Constipation Basketball League – – because it passed quickly.

Here is the new idea…

  • The Overtime Elite League will offer high school players salaries of $100K (plus some benefits on top of that salary) to skip college and play for the League.  It would employ approximately 30 players but not on fixed teams.  It would almost be like a “barnstorming league” where teams would be fluid from game to game.
  • For a much more complete description of the basis for the new league check out this link to the NY Times article that describes it.

I believe that this is the hurdle that the Overtime Elite League – or any other league that seeks to monetize the performance of high school basketball players – must surmount:

  • It must provide to the high school player taking that $100K salary and thereby forfeiting any NCAA eligibility an equivalent exposure of that player and the “brand” that player seeks to develop.
  • Saying exactly nothing about which of the two is the “better player”, which player entered the NBA with more hype/recognition?  Zion Williamson or LaMelo Ball?  And remember, LaMelo Ball was being touted by his father and his older brothers for about 4 years before he was in the NBA Draft.
  • The Overtime Elite League – or any other entity of that stripe – will need to find ways to allow its’ star players to become ‘household names”.  As a test, answer this question.
  • Give me the names of the high school players who opted not to play college basketball this year and took NBA backed G-League contracts.  I shall not hold my breath while you go to Google to find those names…

Finally, I often close these rants with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm.  Since turnabout is fair play, let me share today, this definition of “sarcasm” sent to me by a former colleague:

“Sarcasm:  The ability to insult idiots without them realizing it.”

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



Changing The Rules?

Later this month, the NFL owners will convene, and they will have at least 4 rule change proposals on their agenda.  For a new rule to be adopted, 24 of the 32 owners would need to approve.  Three of the four rules are toward the radical end of the spectrum; the fourth is actually retrograde.  Today, I will take a dive into these four rules proposals; let me start with the “retrograde” proposal.

  • This change would “simplify” overtime games by returning to the “sudden death” mode.  Teams flip a coin to begin overtime and the first team to score in any fashion wins the game.  If neither team scores in a 10-minute overtime period, the game goes in the books as a tie.

That rule gives a significant advantage to the team that wins a coin flip and I do not like that aspect at all.  It also puts a premium on a team’s defensive performance because the team that kicks off in OT has to defend against the opponent advancing to the defense’s 30-yardline because that is “field goal territory”.  Placing a premium on defensive play is a plus for me.  On balance, I prefer the current rule that requires each team to posses the ball unless the original possession results in a TD or a safety.

The second rule proposal has been on the table before and failed to get the necessary 24 votes to implement it:

  • In the fourth quarter, onside kicks would be replaced by a team attempting a “fourth-and-15 play” from its own 35-yardline. If the play succeeds, the team maintains possession and continues its drive from wherever the play ends; if unsuccessful, the defense gets the ball wherever that play ends.

I have no love for onside kicks, but I also do not like adding such a contrivance as a conjured up “fourth-and-15 play” out of thin air.  Frankly, I really do not care how the owners deal with this proposal.

The third and fourth rule change proposals are closely related, and they are radical changes to the way overtime games would happen.  These changes have been labeled “spot and choose”.

  • At the beginning of overtime, there is a coin flip.  The team winning the toss would declare where the ball will be put in play; the team losing the choice would choose to play offense or defense from that point on the field.
  • Variation #1:  The game is sudden death from that point; any score wins the game, but the OT period is limited to 10 minutes.  If neither team scores, the game is a tie.
  • Variation #2:  The OT period runs 7 minutes and 30 seconds no matter who scores first.  The winner is the team that is leading when the overtime clock reaches zero; there can be multiple scores in the overtime period.  If the score is tied when the clock reaches zero, the game is a tie.

I like the idea of “spot and choose” for two reasons.  It does not give a significant advantage to the team winning a coin flip and it adds another element of strategy to the game.  For example, suppose Team #1 wins the toss and it has a dominant defense.  It could choose to put the ball at the 5-yardline giving Team #2 the choice of an awfully long field or the choice of giving Team #1 the ball at the 5-yardline which is chip shot field goal range in the sudden death variant.

Because I prefer for tie games to be decided by playing the same game that produced the tie in the first place, I would prefer Variation #2 above.  Sudden death is a concocted circumstance, and I would prefer to have a game wind up as a tie than to stray too far from the normal football game that got us to the point of overtime.  [Aside:  This is why I do not like penalty kicks in soccer; shootouts in hockey; runners on second base in extra innings in baseball …]

I do not see the owners going back to sudden death such that one team faces the possibility of never possessing for ball; I believe the current argot here would be “a bad optic”.  The owners did not like the idea of replacing the onside kick once before and I cannot recall a circumstance where an onside kick generated a huge controversy in the last year or so.  Therefore, I cannot see why any of the opposing owners would have changed their mind on the issue.  I would be surprised if either of those rules makes it into the books for 2022.

“Spot and choose” is such a radical idea that the owners are either going to love it and adopt it or they will hate it such that no one will ever propose it again.  That is the rule proposal to keep an eye on as the owners’ meeting gets closer.  That is an issue where an “NFL Insider” might be able to shed some light on the thought processes of supporters and/or opponents here.

Finally, as the NFL owners ponder the implications of these rule proposals, let me suggest they keep in mind these words from George Bernard Shaw:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

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



No News Is … Well … No News

There was “breaking news” yesterday regarding the Washington Football Team’s cheerleading squad.  No, the “breaking news” had nothing to do with the now 8-month long investigation into sexual harassment and “toxic workplace” allegations brought against the team – and obliquely against the owner.  And no, there was not any announcement that the NFL had agreed with various activist groups that the results of that investigation – – whenever and if ever it is completed – – would be made public with only minor redactions.  Instead of any important “breaking news”, here is what went down regarding that issue yesterday:

  • The WTFs will not have a cheerleading squad this year – – and presumably into the future – – but will replace that unit with a co-ed dance team.

I know; it is enough to take your breath away…

That announcement is about as important as nose hairs on a statue; cheerleaders for NFL teams are worthless and co-ed dance teams for NFL teams are no better.  At its absolute best, consider this announcement by the team – and obliquely by the NFL – as a means to divert attention to the fact that after 8 months of “investigating”, there are no findings regarding sexual harassment and a “toxic work environment” for female cheerleaders there.

In an earlier part of my professional life, I had the responsibility of conducting inquiries into formally filed workplace grievances.  It was not nearly the most fun part of my career, but I survived it.  Never once did I have a “case” that required 8 months of “digging” to come up with whatever facts could be gleaned along with the perceptions/opinions of parties to the grievance and close peripheral parties.  I have no idea what 8 months of billable hours by a law firm looking into this matter might mean in terms of a cash outlay by the team and/or the league; but sight unseen, I would have taken the job fixed price for half of that total.

Regarding the current “announcement” that the NFL media managed to turn into “Breaking News”, here are a few statements that give you an idea of the pablum involved:

“With [a co-ed dance team] comes inclusivity, diversity and in my mind, as an entertainer, athleticism.  My desire is to create a team that is all of that — inclusive, diverse, coed, athletic — to set the gold standard in the NFL. We’re looking for that super athlete that can dance, perform tricks and stunts and manipulate whatever props that will create a really great show.”  [Petra Pope – newly hired by the WTFs as a senior advisor to create game-day entertainment for a more modern franchise.]

“Change can be extremely difficult.  I appreciate the passion that the ladies have and can relate to that passion because I’ve been a mentor for thousands of dancers over my career.  As we progress to a reimagined era, the choreography will be much more athletic. We welcome the dancers of the past to audition, and if they have that skill set, they’re welcome to join us. [Petra Pope – addressing the fact that former cheerleaders had been “released” and might not be included in the new squad.]

The new team president for the WTFs, Jason Wright, said that the team was trying to emulate the NBA experience and to provide a game-day experience that was similar to the NBA.  Here is his take on this announcement:

“As we set out to modernize the Washington Football gameday, it’s important that we develop a top-notch entertainment program that keeps our fanbase excited and connected to the game and the team.”

  • Memo to Jason Wright:  If 20% of your gameday fans would even notice the absence or presence of cheerleaders or dance squads, I would be shocked.  Your gameday experience will be enhanced much more by better food, cheaper parking and a better product on the field.  No charge for that advice…

Meanwhile, as MLB’s Spring Training has moved ahead from workouts to exhibition games that too many folks will take as portents of things to come in September/October 2021, please think back just a few days to appreciate the content of this item in Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times:

“Tim Hunter of Everett’s WRKO Radio, on the first day of spring training: ‘The day that pitchers and catchers start complaining about having to come back sooner than the rest of the team.’”

And as we draw close to the event that most folks seem not to want to happen – – the NBA All-Star Game – – consider these pragmatic words from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

New rule: Any NBA player who complains that a colleague was snubbed in the All-Star selection process must name the player he’d remove from the team.”

Why didn’t I think of that?  My credentials as a curmudgeon have taken a significant hit there…

Finally, apropos of nothing other than my liking for H.L. Mencken, here is one of his observations from about 80 years ago that still has resonance:

“The typical American of today has lost all the love of liberty that his forefathers had, and all their disgust of emotion, and pride in self-reliance.  He is led no longer by Davy Crocketts; he is led by cheer leaders, press agents, word-mongers, uplifters.”

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



A Chastened Curmudgeon

In the wake of yesterday’s rant about excessive Tiger Woods media coverage, I received a critique from someone who has been a friend for about 60 years.  At one time in his life, he was a staff writer for People magazine – – in the days when People was arguably the most influential magazine in the country.  Here is the relevant portion of his e-mail critique:

“I have no complaints about your story. I rather like it.  But … you should realize that what you were trying to do — diminish the importance of celebrity in our society — is hopeless.  I  beg you to forsake this noble crusade.  You will lead a happier life if you do so.

“Tiger Woods is as important to America as Princess Diana was to Great Britain.  Well, almost.  But he was and is at the very top of the pantheon of publicity-worthy Americans.  The stories will never cease, and America will mourn — maybe flags at half-mast — when he finally rolls his car over and dies in flames.

“You know what?  I’ll miss him, too.

“Last comment:  As a columnist, you should pick the fights you have a chance of winning, and this isn’t one of them.  And if you continue to do such stories because you believe it is in the public good to speak out, you probably should mention somewhere high up in the piece that you know it is a battle you cannot win but you believe the fight is a good and noble one.”

Color me chastened.  I shall try to resist the temptation to fulminate on this topic too often in the future.  I guess I am as obsessed about my view of this situation as are the golf writers who cannot cover any aspect of the game unless it is through the prism of Tiger Woods.  Point taken …

There is another category of “sports celebrity” that receives coverage on a sporadic basis.  Tiger Woods is not in this category; Tiger Woods does not need the coverage to live a contented life; members of this “other category” need to be part of the conversation.  My favorite person in this “Need to be seen/heard category” is José Canseco.  About once every 6 months, I can count on him to do or say something outrageous that puts him in the spotlight for a day or so.  My favorite of his antics was when he suggested that he had a plan to expand the US economy by 25% and suggested to former President Trump that he be named either Treasury Secretary or Fed Chairman (I forget when post he “sought”.)

Another sports figure who seems to be squarely in the “Need to be seen/heard category” is Terrell Owens.  However, if T.O. wants to climb the ladder in that category, he will need to expand the spectrum of the outrageousness of his publicity seekings.  To this point, T.O. seems to have only 3 main behaviors that might put him in the news for a day or so:

  1. He can toss out some “new morsel” of information about his feud with Donovan McNabb.
  2. He can proclaim that he could be a #1 receiver in the NFL today if a team gave him a chance.
  3. He can continue his boycott of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The first of those behaviors has a long shelf-life.  The second one is fast approaching its sell-by date.  The third one has pretty much run its course.  Anyone who cares even marginally about T.O.’s boycott of the Hall of Fame knows the story and realizes that there is minimal meat on that bone.  T. O. tried to resurrect that story about a month ago and it went over like a roast beef recipe in a Vegan cookbook.

In case you missed it, T. O. remains well beyond chagrined that he was not elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and was even more miffed this year confronted with the fact that Calvin Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.  Recall that T.O. boycotted the induction ceremony in Canton, OH and staged his own ceremony at his alma mater – Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Here is a prediction:

  • Next year – and the year after that – when the electors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame announce the new members for the Hall of Fame proximal to the Super Bowl, T. O. will find a way to get a reporter or a sports radio host to give him an opportunity to opine on a player who was elected or one who was not elected – – but T. O. is sure he should have been.

I have no idea if his “take” will be full of sound and fury – – but I am confident that it will signify nothing.  [Hat Tip to Billy Shakespeare there…]  However, the folks on “Radio Row” at the Super Bowl will feast on the opportunity to fill a segment with whatever is the pronouncement of the day from T. O. and he will bask in a few days of limelight.

Now here is the head-exploding circumstance for T.O.  Should this come to pass, he will be on radio shows and SportsCenter and in papers around the country for the better part of a week:

  • Donovan McNabb – – the Hatfield to Owens’ McCoy – – is a finalist for induction to the Hall of Fame.

That would combine two of his tree categories for getting his name in the news; it would be a second Christmas in the Owens’ household…

Finally, since today’s rant has dealt with “celebrity” and “celebrity status” to a large degree, let me close with an observation about celebrity from historian, Daniel J. Boorstin:

“A sign of celebrity is that his name is often worth more than his services.”

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