Bad Ads 2021

In the final days of the year, many folks take a moment to reflect on the events of the past year and consider changes in their lives to make next year better than the previous one.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, there is a variant on that sort of retrospection.

A lot of time here is spent watching sporting events on television; as a consequence of that behavior, lots of ads for various products and services are foisted upon my person.  A few are humorous/entertaining; many are tolerable; and some are downright BAD.  At the end of each year, I take time to look back on the really Bad Ads from last year and naively hope that next year’s crop of ads will not contain as many bad ones as the past year did.  But of course, that hope never materializes in the New Year…

To set the tone here, allow me to begin with an observation from George Orwell”

“Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”

Who am I to argue with George Orwell…?

If  you ever try to read the fine print contained in the latter parts of a TV ad or try to understand the sped-up speech at the conclusion of a radio ad, you may never have gotten through the process in real time.  Therefore, let me give you a generic summary of any and all of them that you can keep in mind the next time you see or hear this sort of thing:

  • “Whatever you just saw/heard about the product or service represented in this advertisement is not nearly as beneficial for you as the ad may have led you to believe the product or service is.  Since that is the case, these disclaimers are here for our protection lest you try to sue us for a jillion dollars at some point down the road.”

There are companies that run dumb ad campaigns, and you can count on them every year as much as you can count on death and/or taxes.  Old Navy will always produce an ad around Holiday Time showing people clumsily dancing around in clothing that no one should be seen wearing in public; they did it again this year.  Lexus will do an ad with their cars having a large red ribbon on the roof sitting in a driveway; they did it again this year.  Mercedes Benz will try to convince you that Santa uses their vehicles to deliver presents to kids; they did it again this year.  However, all the “Bad Ads” were not in the “old reliable category”; this year we had some new nonsense added to the soup.

Have you noticed that just about everything you might consume as a dietary supplement these days comes in the form of “gummies”?  A friend pointed it out and I started noticing that you can have a laxative gummy and hair/skin supplement gummies; and an ashwagandha gummy to relieve stress.  I asked my friend what ashwagandha is and his response was that he did not know but thought it might just mean that it tastes like ass.  Good enough for me…

Speaking of foul-tasting things, Power Ade started putting numbers on their bottles because they say, “There’s power in numbers.”  I would be more highly motivated to buy Power Ade if they made that swill taste better.  Hmmm…  Are they adding ashwagandha?

Mike’s Hard Lemonade announces on each can that it is “gluten free.”  If anyone who has an actual gluten allergy needs to be told that a liquid concoction containing seltzer water, lemonade and alcohol does not have gluten, then that moron is doomed to many bouts of digestive system distress.

A competitor in this product space had an equally stupid ad campaign.  Bud Light Seltzer figured out that the Bud Light logo/name made people think it was beer, so they hired Nick Mangold to “block it out”.  Two questions here:

  1. If you think it needs to be “blocked out” perhaps you should redesign and relabel the brand?
  2. Do you think the people who created this ad and the people who accepted it to market their product were blockheads?

In case you were wondering, the answer to both queries above is “YES!”

  • [Aside:  This is not exactly an ”ad” but I have a dictionary app on my phone and the app needs to be updated about twice a month.  Are there that many new words being added to the English language?]

There was an ad for Behr paint where the folks removed all the furniture from their house because it might detract from one’s view of the color of their paint job.  I have an important message here for the execs at Behr paint who green-lighted this ad:

  • The people in this ad are buttholes; if they are your spokesthings, I will definitely look elsewhere for my paint simply because I prefer not to become a butthole.

Mattress First tried to tell me that all my problems were due to “Junk Sleep”  Whatever that is supposedly explains why some doofus left his laptop on the bus – – actually on top of the bus as portrayed in the ad.  And that is supposed to convince me that folks who work for Mattress First will give me sound advice on which mattress to buy…  Seriously?

DirecTV Streaming has ads with Serena Williams wherein she morphs with movie characters to do nonsensical things like fight off malicious tennis ball shooting robots and or play tennis against 10 opponents in “The Matrix”.  How is that supposed to get me to want to subscribe; all I would want to do is watch Serena Williams play real tennis.

Subway has an ad where Tom Brady makes a cameo appearance.  Given all I have read about Brady’s fanatic focus on his diet and nutrition, I somehow doubt that I might spot him and/or Giselle in line waiting for a 12-inch tuna sub there.

There is an ad for Applebee’s encouraging folks to use this restaurant as a date-night destination. So, I must conclude that Applebee’s has identified a target audience comprised of  eleventh graders whose dates do not like pizza?

Chipotle informs me that they make “real food” using “real ingredients” in their “real kitchens”.  Actually, I would be more impressed if they managed to make tasty food that was good for you out of imaginary ingredients in kitchens that only exist in the seventh dimension.

I will just leave you with these words and you will know immediately which advertising ne’er-do-well I am referring to:

  • “We have the meats!”

Now just to be sure there is no misunderstanding, I do not care what the ad says, but there are thousands of people and places that “Out Pizza the Hut” on a daily basis.

If I counted correctly, there are 22 potential side effects to watch out for if you take the drug, Keytruda.  And after that litany, the screen says that these are not all the possible side effects.  That leaves me to imagine if it is possible that taking Keytruda might cause me to develop a second set of nostrils in the middle of my forehead…

To prove that I am not the only person who finds some ads so stupid that they need to be called out, here is a Tweet from humorist and social critic, Brad Dickson:

“It’s probably not PC to say but the commercial for the Hug Project where Cox mails you some kind of vest that you hug while Facetiming to simulate actual touch has to be the stupidest thing ever. It’s pet rock level dumb.”

Premium Plus adult diapers claim a nighttime advantage over other brands.  Premium Plus absorbs 6 cups of liquid as opposed to others that do not absorb 4 cups of liquid.  Excuse me, but if you are passing more than 4 cups of liquid at night – – 4 cups is often called a “quart” – – you may have a more serious medical condition than simply bed-wetting…

Coors Light declares itself as the official beer of no longer wearing a bra.  A woman takes a beer out of the fridge and then removes her bra without removing her top and tosses it aside.  Whatever…

Modelo tries to convince me that some guy had “fighting spirit” and that is what got him to achieve his status as a tattoo artist and graffiti creator.  I seek neither status, so I have no reason to want to try your beer that is somehow associated with that guy.

Subaru had a series of ads wherein dogs were “driving” Subaru vehicles around in various environments.  Those ads went far beyond the level of stupid/obtuse and approached the level of ludicrous/thick-headed…

The GMC Denali has a driver assisted mode that takes over driving the vehicle.  So, what does the ad for this feature show the driver and passengers doing with their now abundant “free time”?  They are rhythmically clapping to “We Will Rock You”.  At least the driver of the vehicle is not a dog…

Lincoln had an ad where a guy drives home and finds his property covered in snow from a snow-making machine on his roof.  He lives in a desert setting with palm trees.  So, the message I take away here is that if you buy a Lincoln Aviator – – which is a gas-guzzler – – it is expected that you will adopt those habits and perform environmental disasters in all walks of your life.  Sign me up…

Let me interrupt this litany to ask a simple question:

  • If Red Bull gives you wings, how come I never see anyone with wings flying around overhead?

Liberty Mutual has not completely weaned itself from Limu Emu and Doug; based on some of the new “characters” they have tried to introduce, maybe that is not all bad.  The dumbest one was the guy standing in front of the Statue of Liberty dressed up as a cell phone that is set to vibrate which makes him gyrate as if afflicted by St. Vitus Dance.  Only thing it made me wonder was if  he fell into the water behind him would the phone short out and electrocute him.  I was hoping…

Progressive insurance shows exactly no interest in moving on from Flo and her colleagues who have achieved stratospheric levels of annoyance.  I can say categorically to the folks at Progressive that if I never again hear or see anything about “Flotection” it will be three weeks too soon…

When something – anything – is advertised as “new and improved”, it can only mean that the product sold previously under that label was not good enough.  And then, you need to recall that the previous not-good-enough product was advertised as being something you did not want to live your life without.  So, now you are supposed to take seriously the ads for the new and improved product…

Experian’s “BOOOST” ad with some dude and his pet cow riding a roller coaster that gets stuck upside down is about as stupid as can be.

There is an ad for the laxative Colace that I just saw for the first time last week.  The ”slogan” at the end of the ad is, “#2 should be easy to do.”   Color me disgusted…  And if anyone even suggests putting this ad in juxtaposition with the Charmin Toilet Paper bears, they should be consigned to Dante’s Seventh Level of Hell.

It took Verizon about 15 years to come up with a recurring ad character more annoying than the “Can-You-Hear-Me-Now” Guy.  However, they achieved that feat this year with the new lady pitchperson who was all dressed in red for the Holiday ads.  The  poor woman must have some sort of physical deformity because she looks as if she has a baseball bat up her butt when she walks.

Not to be outdone, T-Mobile has introduced a cast of characters in their ads who exhibit enthusiastic idiocy – – as if that is some sort of ideal state of mind…

I saved for last some ads and comments on the ad campaign for USAA.  I am not a mind-reader, but some of the decisions made by various folks involved in this ad campaign make me wonder:

  • USAA is for the military community and their families.  I am not part of the “military community”, but I would certainly think that anyone who is in the service or who has been in the service knows of USAA’s existence; so, informing them of the existence of USAA as something for them seems pointless.  Moreover, telling me about USAA is equally pointless since I cannot join even if I wanted to.  So, why spend the money to produce and air those ads?
  • Rob Gronkowski appears in a couple of ads for USAA where he tries to “sign up” even though he is ineligible.  Were he to be successful in his endeavors – he is not – he would be in a position where he could be charged with fraudulently obtaining benefits from the government and that is a felony.  So, my question here is very simple.  Who convinced “Gronk” that this was a good way to “advance his brand”?
  • In one specific USAA ad, a member named “Martin” is happy to get rapid response and service from USAA after his home and his truck were damaged in a hailstorm.  That is a good message until you look at the scene portrayed in the ad and notice that the truck was damaged because it was parked outside the garage attached to “Martin’s” house.  Ergo, “Martin” is a moron for not putting his truck in the garage when a hailstorm was on its way…

All these horrid ads infested the airwaves this year leaving me to wonder why the Budweiser Clydesdales have been sent to Elba.  I guess those ads are considered too high class these days.  Sigh…

I began today with an observation about advertising by George Orwell.  Let me close with another observation, this time by author Stephen Leacock:

  • “Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”

Happy New Year to all.  The past two years have been overly “eventful”; my wish for 2022 is for it to feature a modicum of “tranquility” with a side order of better advertising on my sporting events.

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



Football Friday – – On Thursday 12/30/21

The scheduling is totally off kilter this week so here on a Thursday is a significantly truncated version of Football Friday.  As usual, I shall begin with the outcomes of last week’s Six-Pack.

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:  4-2-0
  • Total:  4-2-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-1  Net ”profit” for the week is $298.

And those results bring the cumulative results from the start of football season to:

  • College:  14-19-0
  • NFL:  30-31-2
  • Total:  44-50-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  4-10  Net “loss” for the season is $minus-177

College Football Games of Interest:

(Sat 3:30 PM EST) Cincy vs Alabama – 13.5 (57) :  This is an important game for the pecking order of college football.  Perceptions could change dramatically with a Cincy win – – or even a nail-biter with the Bearcats losing in the final minutes.  Most folks expect a blowout; I think Alabama is the better team – – but Nick Saban has not been whining much in the last week or so and his teams play a lot better when he whines about how good the upcoming opponent is…

(Sat 7:30 EST) Georgia – 8 vs Michigan (45):  I have had nothing but positive things to say about the Bulldogs’ defense this year and I take none of it back.  Nevertheless, I think that line is fat.  I’ll take the Wolverines plus the points in the CFP semi-finals even if I think Georgia will win the game; put it in the Six-Pack.

NFL Commentary: 

            The NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in the 1978 season; this year marks toe inaugural of the 17-game season.  And this “expansion”/ “lengthening” reminds me of a handicapping challenge at the horseracing track.

  • “The Four Horse” is undefeated against this level of competition at 1-mile over the past 18 months.
  • Today’s race against this level of competition is at a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
  • Can “The Four Horse” hold on for an extra sixteenth of a mile?

Come Monday night in the NFL, there will be the completion of 16 games for all the NFL teams.  We will be able to look at the standings and see which teams would be in or out as of the “16-game schedule”.  But what is going to happen to those standings with an extra “sixteenth of a season” on tap for next weekend?

The NFL is absolutely not paying me a farthing to put it that way – – but the reality is that the games this week – – and next week too – – should pose some significant drama for the league to trumpet to its “broadcasting partners”.

So here is a summary of last week’s action…

Dolphins 20  Saints 3:  The  Dolphins lost 7 in a row earlier this year and now are on a 7-game winning streak.  Tell me that is something you see in any random year…  Last week, the Dolphins feasted on a Saints’ offense missing two starting tackles and the team’s 4th string QB – – Ian Book.  It was a mismatch; Book was sacked 8 times.  Here is how former Washington Times columnist and NFL historian Dan Daly saw the game:

“You watch a QB all night with BOOK on the back of his jersey, and all he makes you think of is Chapter 11.”

Bengals 41  Ravens 21:  The Bengals now lead the AFC North by a full game – – plus the tiebreaker over the Ravens who are in second place there.  Joe Burrow lit up the Ravens’ secondary to the tune of 525 yards and 4 TDs.  The Ravens remain in the playoff picture – – but not as prominently as they did a month ago before they went on their current 4-game losing streak.

Bills 33  Pats 21:  It was a convincing win for the Bills, and it puts them atop the AFC East based on the divisional record tiebreaker as of this week.  Josh Allen had a great game here throwing for 314 yards and 23 TDs.

Jets 26  Jags 21:  These are two bad teams going nowhere in 2021 – – and perhaps for the next several years as well.

Falcons 20  Lions 16:  The Falcons kept faint playoff hopes alive by winning here but it was not a convincing win considering that the Lions at 2-12-1 kept the game within one score using their backup QB for most of the game.  By the way, the Lions “covered” in this game and that brings the Lions’ record ATS (against the spread) to 10-5 for 2021.

Texans 41  Chargers 29:  The only thing to say here is:

  • “How the Hell did that happen?”

Rams 30  Vikes 23:  With this win the Rams took over first place in the NFC- West and guaranteed themselves a playoff slot.  The Vikes are a game behind the Niners and the Eagles in the NFC wildcard race.  Jimmy Garoppolo has a torn ligament in his thumb so the Niners will need to see what they have in high draft pick, Trey Lance, starting this week.

Eagles 34  Giants 10:  This game was 3-3 at the half and it looked as if the Eagles could not get out of their own way on offense for the entirety of that first half.  Whatever the Eagles’ coaches said to the team at halftime needs to be bottled and patented because the team came out in the second half and simply embarrassed the Giants for 30 minutes of football.

Raiders 17  Broncos 13:  It was not a pretty win, but the win keeps the Raiders as potentially relevant in the AFC wildcard chase.  The Broncos are not mathematically eliminated with this loss but their status this morning is the moral equivalent of elimination.

Bears 25  Seahawks 24:  The Seahawks led 24-14 at the start of the 4th quarter and gagged the game away.  Nick Foles quarterbacked the Bears for the win by throwing for 250 yards and 1 TD in the game.  By my calculation, the Seahawks are now eliminated from the playoffs as are the Bears.

Colts 22  Cards 16:  That is the third loss in a row for the Cards and it moves them out of the lead in the NFC West.  The win puts the Colts squarely in the middle of the AFC wild card race – – with a not-so-minor development this week:

  • Carson Wentz tested positive and went on the Covid Reserve List and is not expected to be available this week.

Jonathan Taylor kept his streak alive; for the 9th time this year, the Colts have won when he rushed for 100+ yards in the game.  When he fails to do so, the Colts’ record is 0-6.

Bucs 32  Panthers 6:  The wheels are coming off the Panthers’ wagon about now.  They do not have a franchise QB – – even when all their QBs are healthy – – and it shows.

Chiefs 36  Steelers 10:  The Steelers spotted the Chiefs a 23-0 lead at halftime and – unsurprisingly – had no real chance to overcome that burden.

Cowboys 56  Football Team 14:  This was a complete and total ass-kicking from start to finish.  The Cowboys were significantly better on offense and on defense and on special teams.

Packers 24  Browns 22:  The Packers had 4 INTs in the game; and yet, it came down to a final possession by the Browns to decide the outcome.  In addition to the 4 INTs, the Packers’ defense managed to sack Baker Mayfield 5 times.  This win belongs to the Green Bay defense…

Titans 20  Niners 17:  Even with the loss the Niners remain in the NFC wildcard race and would be the 6th seed if the season ended today.  Unfortunately for Niners’ fans, there are 2 more games to play with Trey Lance at QB.  Here is my take on that situation:

  • If he were ready for meaningful NFL action, Kyle Shanahan would have had him under center before it was dictated to Shanahan by injury.

Before I get to this week’s games, let me do a curmudgeonly look at the Bottom Quarter of the NFL – – the eight teams I think are the worst:

  • Ranked 25th – – Football Team:  They were awful against the Cowboys and had two defensive tackles throwing punches at each other on the sidelines.
  • Ranked 26th – – Seahawks:  Is Russell Wilson trying to make his departure from Seattle less traumatic for fans there?
  • Ranked 27th – – Lions:  This team plays hard and plays opponents close; not every team on my list can pretend to make that statement.  The roster needs a significant talent upgrade
  • Ranked 28th – – Texans:  Somehow, they have won 4 games this year with a roster that has been gutted like fish.
  • Ranked 29th – – Jets:  The roster is a mess.
  • Ranked 30th – – Giants:  The roster is also a mess.  Not a great day to be an NFL fan in NYC…
  • Ranked 31st – – Panthers:  What started out as a competitive and promising team in September has become a sorry sight in December.
  • Ranked 32nd – – Jaguars:  Who else?  Fans there may delude themselves into believing that a new coach is all they need.  Wrong…

NFL Games: 

Raiders at Colts – 8 (45):  This could have gotten serious attention as the Game of the Week  until Carson Wentz came down as covid-positive.  For the Raiders, I believe this is an elimination game; the Colts are much more likely to be in the playoffs but their hopes of winning the AFC South evaporate with a loss here.  I expect there to be a lot of Jonathan Taylor running the ball in the game; how well can the Raiders’ defense handle that?

Giants at Bears – 6.5 (37):  The Giants arrive at the kickoff on a 4-game losing streak and neither Jake Fromm nor Mike Glennon looked particularly competent last week against the Eagles.  The Bears are hardly a juggernaut, so I am loathe to take them needing a full TD margin to collect the win.  Watch the game if that is the game in your viewing area – – but bet on this one with extreme caution…  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Bucs – 13.5 at Jets (45):  The Bucs lost several key players – – Lavonte David, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans – – last week.  Leonard Fournette is questionable for this game and Coach, Bruce Arians, tested positive for Covid-19.  So what?  They are playing the Jets…

Falcons at Bills – 14.5 (44.5):  So many angles for this game:

  • The Bills could easily suffer a letdown game after beating the Pats last week to take over 1st place in the AFC East.
  • The weatherman says the high for Sunday will be 31 degrees and there should be snow showers in the afternoon.  The Falcons are a “dome team”; those are not “dome conditions”.
  • This is pretty much an elimination game for the Falcons.

The spread has been this high all week – – long before the weatherman could give a credible forecast.  So, how come?  Well consider that in the 8 losses so far by the Falcons this year, 5 of those losses have been by 18 points or more.  When they lose, they often lose embarrassingly BIG.  On the other hand, the Bills have been an up-and-down team all season long; they have looked like Super Bowl material in some weeks and a team about to pocket a high draft choice on other weekends.  This is a hunch, but I think that line is fat even in blustery winter weather on the shore of Lake Erie; I’ll take the Falcons plus that pile of points on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Cards at Cowboys – 6 (50):The Cowboys are flying high after putting 56 points up against the Football Team last week.  Meanwhile the Cards appear to be in self-immolation mode.  Putting all that into perspective, the Cowboys are not as good as they looked to be last week, and the Cards are not nearly as bad as their record over the previous 3 games might indicate.  Having said all that, the Cowboys are on a positive trajectory and the Cards are “reeling” to say the least.

Panthers at Saints – 7 (39):  Notwithstanding last week’s debacle, the Saints can still make the playoffs – – with lots of dominoes falling just right.  The Panthers are toast for 2021 and it will be interesting to see the patience level that owner David Tepper has with a coaching staff and team that started out very strongly making it appear as if there would be significant improvement over last year.  The key matchup here is the Panthers’ OL against the Saints’ DL.  I wonder how much “max-pressure defense” the Seahawks’ braintrust can tolerate.

Eagles – 3 at Football Team (45.5):  On one level, the Eagles’ chances to make the playoffs are simple and straightforward.  If they win out, they are in the playoffs; no doubt about that.  The Eagles dominated the Football Team a couple of weeks ago running the ball for more than 220 yards in that game.  If the Football Team cannot devise ways to avoid a similar rushing outburst, the Eagles will win here and be on the cusp of a playoff slot.

Chiefs – 5 at Bengals (50).  This is clearly the Game of the Week.  The Chiefs have wrapped up the AFC West race and the Bengals lead the AFC North by a game after last week’s win over the Ravens.  I see an offensive shoot-out between Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow in this one.  I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jags at Pats – 15 (41):  The spread here opened the week at 17 points; that number actually attracted enough Jags money to erode the number to this level.  The Pats’ defense should befuddle both Trevor Lawrence and the Jags’ play caller; the only question in my mind is how badly will the Pats’ offense abuse the Jags’ defense.  I’ll take a flyer here and pick the Pats to run it up on the sorry-assed Jags; yes, I’ll lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Dolphins at Titans – 3.5 (40):  The Dolphins have won 7 in a row; I think that comes to a grinding halt here.  It will be a low scoring game because both teams have excellent defensive units.

Broncos at Chargers – 6 (46):  Both teams are teetering on playoff elimination after both teams stunk out the joint last week.  The Chargers loss to the Texans by 12 points was beyond ugly; the coaches have had plenty of reason to chew on the players for that stinkaroo.  The Broncos are not in great shape either; their hope will be to run the ball against an anemic Chargers’ rushing defense.

Texans at Niners – 14.5 (46):  The Texans refuse to roll over and play dead even when they are on the losing end of a big spread.  The Niners are going to have to deal without the services of Jimmy G for at least a week due to “ligament damage” in the thumb of his throwing hand.  I am tempted to take the Texans with that many points.

  • “And lead us not into temptation …”

Lions at Seahawks – 7 (43):  The Lions are 2-12-1 in the standings, but they are 10-5 against the spread.  The Lions are talent-deficient, but they do play hard for coach Dan Campbell.  Frankly, I think the Seahawks have figuratively tossed in their jock straps for the season, but the Lions have not.  I like the Lions plus the points here even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Rams at Ravens – 3.5 (46):  It looks as if Lamar Jackson will be available for the Ravens this week.  Is that spark along with the urgency of potential playoff elimination enough to lay points against the Rams?

(Sun Nite) Vikes at Packers – 6.5 (49):  The Packers can have the only BYE Week in the NFC playoff schedule this season but to make sure that belongs to them, they need to keep winning; to me, that means the Packers will not take their foot off the gas.  I like the Packers to win and cover here; put that in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Browns – 3 at Steelers (41):  Both teams have outside chances to make the playoffs; I will be surprised if either of them actually makes it there.  This is possibly Ben Roethlisberger’s final game in Pittsburgh – – or anywhere else in the NFL for that matter.  Maybe that emotional spark catches on with others on the field…?

So, let me review the Six-Pack:

  • Michigan +8 against Georgia
  • Falcons +14.5 against Bills
  • Chiefs/Bengals OVER 50
  • Lions +7 against Seahawks
  • Packers – 6.5 over Vikes
  • Pats – 15 over Jags

And for your amusement, consider this Money Line Parlay:

  • Eagles @minus-170
  • Packers@minus-280
  • To win $116 on a $100 wager

            Finally, let me close here with Brad Dickson’s comment about the passing of John Madden earlier this week:

“John Madden just arrived in Heaven.  It took longer because he traveled there in a Winnebago.”

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



Rest In Peace, John Madden

John Madden died suddenly yesterday at the age of 85.  No immediate cause of death was reported.  To say that he had a flamboyant persona would be a significant understatement; John Madden commanded attention.

He is most deservedly in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  His coaching career in the NFL consisted of a 10-year span with the Oakland Raiders where he accumulated a record of 103-32-7.  His teams were better than .500 in every season and the Raiders were in the playoffs in 8 of those 10 years.  In 5 consecutive seasons from 1973 to 1978, the Raiders were in the AFC Championship Game, and they won the Super Bowl in 1976.  After coaching, he began his broadcasting career that spanned 3 decades.  Personally, I believe that the broadcasting team of Pat Summerall and John Madden as the voice of professional football on television was a significant part of the explosive popularity of the NFL in the 1980s and 1990s.  As a testament to his broadcasting abilities, he was hired on at some point by every network that had NFL games to air.

Rest in peace, John Madden…

There is an Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post by Charles Lane about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.  While I think he misses one important point, I believe the piece is worth reading because what he says is fundamentally correct.  Here is the link.

The problem with the argument that Americans should not tune in to watch these Games because they are being held in a country that is repressive and dictatorial misses the point that lack of eyeballs here in the US will not change the hearts and minds of the rulers in China.  Here is what a “TV-boycott” of the Winter Games will do:

  • It will financially hurt NBC who has already paid the IOC for the telecast rights.

Charles Lane suggests that this will “teach a lesson in the costs of collaboration” with such repressive regimes.  Maybe so, but not for a while; the NBC deal with the IOC runs through the 2032 Olympic Games which have not yet been sited.

I have no dog in this fight; I am not an investor in NBC.  However, I am a believer in taking actions that have direct effect whenever possible.  In this case, the idea of “reading a book” instead of watching the Olympics does not have any real effect on the folks that Messr. Lane perceives as the “bad guys”.  The IOC is – and has been for years – corrupt to its core.  The Chinese government exercises its governance in ways that have no parallel here in the US.  Those institutions can be disliked and opposed – – but a TV boycott of the 2022 Olympics is an impotent gesture at best.

Having said that, I will probably watch about 15 minutes of the TV coverage of the Games next year for a reason that Charles Lane does not cite in his piece.  I do not find the events in the Winter Games to be entertaining.  So, at the bottom line, Charles Lane and I will behave in the same way – – but for very different reasons.

Finally, let me close today with a view of the Olympics offered up by screenwriter John Ridley:

“If the Olympic Games ever served a true altruistic purpose, they have long since outlived it.  Yeah, the pursuit of athletic excellence, sportsmanship and international goodwill is pretty noble.  But the modern Olympics are at best a vehicle for agitprop; at worst, a scandal magnet.”

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



Football Friday 12/24/21

I suspect that this will be the last Football Friday for 2021 because next Friday will probably be devoted to the annual Bad Ads compilation that is traditionally the final rant of the year.  However, I will keep options open…

Of course, I have to begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:   3-3-0
  • Total:  3-3-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  0-1  Net loss = $100

Those results bring the season totals to:

  • College:  14-19-0
  • NFL:  26-29-2
  • Total:  40-48-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  3-9.  Net loss =  $475


College Football Commentary:


I saw my first college football game live and in person on Thanksgiving Day in 1948,  not to worry; I was safe; the dinosaurs had all been dead for at least a dozen years back then.  Because I came to enjoy football in its many forms – –  collegiate, NFL, Canadian, USFL, XFL, et. al. – – I have wondered over the past year or so if the game I came to like, and follow would survive in any form that I might recognize five years from now.  My answer is that it will survive but in a form that will be dramatically different from what existed on that very cold Thanksgiving Day in 1948 when a 5-year-old kid and his father took in the game from around the 20-yardline.

The existence today of NIL (Name Image and Likeness) rights and deals for athletes would have been Fantasyland for athletes in 1948 – – and even indeed athletes in 2008.  I read one report that said that Alabama QB and Heisman winner, Bryce Young had an NIL deal worth more than $1.2M to him and his family.  Those values make players significantly more “portable” than they ever were; Bruce Young with his “million dollars in the bank” can opt to play college football wherever the Hell he damned well pleases.  Good for him…  Potentially, not so good for college football as a whole…

Another major change is the existence of the CFP as the means to determine the national champion.  For years, the way that was done was by a poll of writers who covered college football and/or a poll of the coaches of college football teams.  Neither “set of experts” was willing or able to put in the work to see every team that might be a viable contender for a top spot in the polls so there were rarely times when everyone agreed as to who the best team of the year was.

Enter the much maligned BCS.  It was hugely flawed – – but it was better than deciding the national champion by polling simply because that title was determined by the outcome of a real live college football game.  Many people hate the BCS; but they ought acknowledge that it was a less-flawed means of determining a national champion than had existed in the pre-BCS era.

And now we have the CFP with a four-team playoff bracket.  That is viewed as “insufficient” by many observers who want that tournament expanded to 8 or 12 or even 16 teams.   My preference would be to expand to 8 teams, but no one is going to listen to my arguments as to why that is the ideal tournament size; TV money availability will drive the outcome here.  Frankly, the showing of Cincy in this year’s CFP with the Bearcats representing all those “little guys who never get any respect” will be important for the public’s view regarding an expanded CFP;

  • If Cincy loses to Alabama in the semi-final round by 4 TDs, the narrative will be that the “little guys” cannot compete with the “big boys” and the world needs to come to grips with that meritocratic fact.
  • If Cincy plays Alabama tight – – or even beats Alabama – – the pressure for a major expansion of the CFP will be more than the power brokers for college football can withstand.
  • For the record, as of this morning Alabama is a 13.5-point favorite in that game on New Year’s Eve.

I think that anyone who suggests that college football is on a precipice and that a fall over that precipice will destroy the game itself is hyper-ventilating.  College football will survive; indeed, I believe it will flourish for the balance of my time on this orb rotating the sun; but it is going to survive in a different form that what I knew about for the 60 years between 1948 and 2018.


NFL Commentary:


I was watching the Eagles/Football Team game on Tuesday night in Philly and noticed a big difference between the Eagles at home and the Football Team at home.  In Philly when there were crowd shots, it was often impossible to see any fan decked out in burgundy and gold colors; the crowd was easily 95% “green and white”.  Such is not the case for the Football Team in their home games at FedEx Field.  It is not unusual for games there to have 40-50% of the crowd sporting the colors of the visiting team – particularly if the opponent is within driving distance of Fed Ex Field such as Baltimore, Philly, Pittsburgh, NYC.

Speaking of that game – one of the ones postponed last weekend on account of a covid outbreak within the Football Team – there is an “integrity of the game issue” for the NFL poohbahs to keep in mind.

  • The spread for that game opened last week at Eagles – 3 points.
  • When the outbreak was announced and the list of players revealed, the line went as high as Eagles – 13.5 points
  • Then when the game was postponed, the line dropped to Eagles – 8 points.
  • When it was announced that the Football Team would start and play Garret  Gilbert at QB, the line jumped again to Eagles – 12 points.

If “certain select individuals” knew ahead of time about those announcements and lists of infected players, they would have a big edge on the general public when it comes to wagering.  I am NOT saying anything like that happened, but it could happen.

  • Memo to NFL and NFLPA:  Be very judicious and very secure about decision making regarding game postponements and the like.  “Integrity of the game” could involve more than “game fixing”/”point shaving”.

Please note that the final game score had the Eagles winning by 10 points.  The spread spent time on both sides of that outcome by sizeable margins…

Based on the games available to me in the last two weeks, I have seen the Cowboys play two weeks in a row.  I am not a doctor or a physical therapist by any means, but I honestly believe that Dak Prescott is injured and playing through an injury that has not been acknowledged.  [Aside:  I have said in the past that I thought both Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton were playing with significant injuries and those observations turned out to be factual.]  Here is what I see when I watch Dak Prescott:

  • There is little if any zip on any pass he tries to throw downfield.
  • He is missing badly on a lot more short passes than he did in previous years.

I don’t know if he has a real shoulder injury – – the one that kept him out of all the Cowboys’ Exhibition Games – – or if the leg injury that kept him out of a game earlier this year is preventing him from planting and using his lower body properly.  Someone far more experienced in analyzing QB motions would have to answer that, but I think there is something wrong with him that needs “fixing”/’healing”.

Now let me say something to Cowboys’ fanboys that might seem counter-intuitive:

  • You fanboys need to hope that I am spot on here.

The reason I say that is rooted in simple economics.  If Dak Prescott has been completely healthy and injury free for the past couple of weeks, then the Cowboys have a rotting albatross carcass hanging around their collective necks.  According to Prescott is signed through the end of the 2024 season and represents a Dead Cap hit of more than $77M next year.  It is far more advantageous for the Cowboys as a franchise to have Dak Prescott performing as he is due to injury than it is to have him performing this way because of some sort of regression or topping out in ability.  I will say it again, I think Dak Prescott is playing while injured…

Far, far, far too much has been and is being made about Michelle Tafoya’s presence or absence from the Sunday Night Football presentation.  As is always the case when discussing the gravitas and/or the criticality of any and all sideline reporters, there are a couple of fundamental questions that has to be asked – – and answered with sometimes embarrassing candor:

  1. Does anyone anywhere tune into Sunday Night Football to see whoever is the sideline reporter for the game?
  2. How many TV sets will “turn off” if any sideline reporter is no longer part of the telecast?
  3. Conversely, how many extra viewers will NBC attract if it has a certain sideline reporter assigned to the game as opposed to some other sideline reporter?

I do not pretend to know what the story is about Michelle Tafoya and Sunday Night Football and her potential future endeavors with NBC or with any other broadcast network.  It does not give me any pleasure to reveal this – nor does it embarrass me in the least – but:

  • I do not care who the sideline reporter(s) is(are).
  • They can use Michelle Tafoya or Michelle Branch or Cliff Branch or Cliff Clavin to report from the sidelines- – or they can use no one; it makes no damned difference to me.

Some pertinent – – and some not so pertinent – – comments from last week’s games…

Eagles 27  Football Team 17:  The Eagles totaled 519 yards on offense here and dominated in the running game.  In fact, the Eagles gained one more yard rushing than the Football Team amassed in total yardage.

Rams 20  Seahawks 10:  The Rams’ defense held the Seahawks to 214 yards of total offense and only 134  yards passing.  Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this observation:

“Sticky-fingered Cooper Kupp, who is having a record-breaking season for the L.A. Rams with 113 catches, 12 TDs and 1,489 receiving yards — all tops in the NFL — has more receiving yards than every receiver combined on the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Messr. Molinaro was clairvoyant with that comment because Kupp scored the only two TDs for the Rams in this game and both came on throws from Matthew Stafford that definitely required “sticky fingers”.

Raiders 16  Browns 14:  This was an ugly game, but Al Davis was looking down on the stadium in Cleveland and reminding the Raiders to “Just win, baby!”  The Raiders’ defense definitely showed up here holding the Browns to 236 yards on offense.  Both teams are now 7-7 and both retain outside chances to make the playoffs.

Vikings 17  Bears 9:  This was another ugly game; the Vikes were outgained on offense almost two-to-one and still won the game.  The Vikes’ total passing yardage was an embarrassingly low 61 yards.  The Bears turned the ball over 3 times here and simply made a mess of their drives; here is how the Bears’ eleven possessions went for the game:

  1. Three plays – – PUNT
  2. Five plays – – LOST FUMBLE
  3. Eight plays – – LOST FUMBLE
  4. Twelve plays – – FIELD GOAL
  5. Four plays – – MISSED FIELD GOAL
  6. Five plays – – PUNT
  7. Three plays – – PUNT
  8. Four plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  9. Eleven plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  10. Eight plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  11. Nine plays – – TD with no time remaining

Lions 30  Cards 12:  This was a monumental bed-wetting by the Cards.  That is two losses in a row for the Cards leading to a tie atop the NFC West with the Rams; both teams are 10-4.  The win for the Lions deprives them for now of the top pick in the Draft next spring; as of today, they will pick second.

Texans 30  Jags 16:  As of now, the Jags will pick first next Spring.  Obviously, the team did not rejoice sufficiently in the firing of Urban Meyer to come out and beat a woebegone opponent here.

Cowboys 21  Giants 6:  With this loss, the Giants have now had double-digit losses in each of the last 5 seasons.  The team announced that Daniel Jones is out for the rest of the year with a neck injury.  The Giants’ scouting department needs to get down to some serious business here…

Bills 31  Panthers 14:  The stat sheet looks like a much closer game than appeared on the scoreboard.  The Panthers turned the ball over on downs 4 times in the game.

Dolphins 31  Jets 24:  The Jets led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter and 17-7 halfway through the second quarter.  However, it was to no avail.  With their 3-11 record this year, the Jets could still find their way to the top pick in next Spring’s NFL Draft.  The Jets’ offense was a no-show for the second half; here are the Jets second half possessions:

  • Three plays – – PUNT
  • Six plays – – PUNT
  • Three plays – – LOST FUMBLE
  • Three plays – – PUNT
  • Three plays – – PUNT
  • Four plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS

Steelers 19  Titans 13:  The Steelers only gained 168 yards of offense in the game, and they still won.  The Titans held the ball for just over 39 minutes and held the Steelers to 2 of 11 on third-down conversions – – and they still lost.  The Titans have a 1-game lead – – plus the head-to-head tiebreaker – – over the Colts in the AFC South with 3 games left to play.  The Steelers at 7-6-1 are still playoff hopefuls.

Niners 31  Falcons 13:  The Niners’ ground game won this one; the Niners averaged 5.1 yards per carry as opposed to 2.7 yards per carry for the Falcons. The Niners at 8-6 have a good shot at the NFC playoffs; the Falcons at 6-8 would need to win out and get a lot of pieces to fall just right to make the playoffs.

Saints 9  Bucs 0:  The Bucs were embarrassed in this one.  They won the stat sheet rather handily despite three significant in-game injuries but never scored or threatened to score.  The Bucs defense held the Saints to 11 first downs and only 3 of 16 third-down conversions.  And still, the Bucs lost the game.  Nonetheless, the Bucs hold a 3-game lead over the Saints in the NFC South with only 3 games to play.

Packers 31  Ravens 30:  Once again, the Ravens lost on a failed two-point conversion late in the 4th quarter.  That Ravens’ loss allows the Bengals to claim the top spot in the AFC North on the basis of a tie-breaker – – but the Ravens and Bengals meet this week…

Bengals 15  Broncos 10:  I believe this loss eliminates the Broncos from the AFC West race, but they are mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race.

Colts 27  Pats 17:  The Pats were shut out for three quarters but rallied to close the score to 20-17 with a little over 2 minutes left in the game.  Then Jonathan Taylor took a handoff and ran 67 yards for a TD to put the game on ice.  The Pats hold on to a 1-game lead in the NFC East as of today.

Chiefs 34  Chargers 28 (OT):  Patrick Mahomes threw for 410 yards – and 3 TDs – and added another 32 yards rushing in the game.  Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill combined to catch 22 passes for 339 yards and 3 TDs.


NFL Games:


Watching the Titans/Niners game last night I was amazed at how aggressive the Niners’ defense was and simultaneously by the lack of any concerted effort by the Titans to exploit that aggression.  On offense, the Niners seemed incapable of doing anything wrong for the first 18 or 20 minutes of the game and then the offense became passive and almost sleep-walking.  I did not get that at all…

AJ Brown was a monster in the game catching 11 passes for 145 yards.  And I have a question here:

  • When the Texans waived linebacker, Zach Cunningham, he was not claimed by at least 25 teams in order for the Titans to be able to get him.  How is he not a starter on most if not all of the teams that passed on him?


(Saturday 4:30 PM EST) Browns at Packers – 7.5 (46):  I do not see the Browns’ 19th ranked offense racking up lots of yardage on a pretty good Packers’ defense.  Yes, I know the Browns will get a bunch of guys back to action from the dreaded covid list, but I think Aaron Rodgers will do them in.  I do not believe this is a playoff elimination game for the Browns – – but it is close.  The Packers need to keep winning to get a playoff BYE and only home games in the NFC playoffs.  I thought about this one as the Game of the Week but chose elsewhere.

(Saturday 8:15 PM EST) Colts at Cards – 1 (49):  Here is another game that got consideration as the Game of the Week because both teams need to win to maintain their playoff status.  The Cards were awful last week; the Colts rode Jonathan Taylor to break the Pats’ 7-game win streak last week.  The Cards have not “been right” for a while now; they started the season at 7-0 and have gone 3-4 since then.  This is a big game for both teams…  Here is an interesting stat I ran across:

  • Colts are 8-0 this season when Jonathan Taylor rushes for 100 yards or more
  • Colts are 0-6 this season when Jonathan Taylor rushed for less than 100 yards.

Bucs – 11 at Panthers (43.5):  The Bucs will miss Chris Godwin and Mike Evans on offense; their absence was part of the offensive melt-down last week against the Saints.  I don’t think there will be a lot of scoring here, but I trust Tom Brady more than I do Cam Newton to put a few points on the board.  However, I think that line if fat; I’ll take the Panthers plus the points at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

Giants at Eagles – 10 (40.5):  The Giants won the last time these two teams met in the Meadowlands; I don’t see that happening again with either Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon under center for the Giants.  However, I do not trust the Eagles’ offense to cover a double-digit spread either.

Chargers – 10 at Texans (45.5):  The Chargers lost in OT to the Chiefs last week; the Texans are nearly as formidable an opponent.  The Chargers are in a good position to make the playoffs as a wildcard, but they do need to win this game to maintain their status; the Texans are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Lions at Falcons – 5.5 (43):  The Lions raised their record against the spread to 9-4 with their win last week over the Cards.  I am tempted to pick them here because the Falcons are 1-5 in home games this year.  However, the Lions are 0-6-1 on the road…  Whatever; I succumb to temptation here; I’ll take the Lions on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Ravens at Bengals – 3 (45):  The winner of this game will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC North with two games left in the season.  Lamar Jackson will probably be back for the Ravens which is a plus, but the Ravens’ secondary is depleted too much to hold the Bengals down.  This should be a great game to watch.

Rams – 3 at Vikes (49):  This is a big game for the Vikes in the sense that a loss could mean missing the playoffs entirely.  The Rams have had two good defensive games in a row; the question here was whether they could keep Dalvin Cook from running wild thereby setting up the Vikes’ passing game; that is no longer the question because Cook is on the covid reserve list and will not play Sunday.  The spread moved only marginally on that news and I find that surprising.  The Vikes are much better as a home team; this too will be an interesting game to watch.

Jags at Jets “pick ‘em” (41):  Do I even need to point out that this is unquestionably the Dog-Breath Game of the Week?  The Jags are winless on the road this year; the Jets are 2-5 at home.  That is enough of an edge for me; I like the Jets to win here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bills at Pats – 2.5 (43.5):  The spread here opened the week with the Bills as 1-point favorites.  If the Pats win, they will lock up the AFC East title and will be in the running for the overall #1 seed in the AFC playoffs.  If the Bills win, they will tie the Pats on top of the division and will negate the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage the Pats now hold.  This is my Game of the Week.

Bears at Seahawks – 6 (43):  The Bears are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; you can really stretch your imagination and find a way that the Seahawks can make the playoffs – – but in reality, this game is pretty meaningless.  Russell Wilson had a less than stellar game last week; I think he will bounce back here at home; I’ll take the Seahawks to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Steelers at Chiefs – 10 (45):  The Steelers cannot afford a loss if they want to believe they can still make the playoffs.  The Chiefs need the game to maintain their position as the top seed in the AFC playoffs.  The Chiefs seem to be having a “covid outbreak” and last I saw both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were on that covid list.  Will they both be able to play or not?  With the spread hanging in at 9 points, the oddsmakers seem to believe they will be on the field.

Broncos at Raiders “pick ‘em” (41):  I believe the loser of this game is eliminated from the playoffs.  Both teams have hurdles to overcome.

  • The Raiders have a short week to prepare for this game thanks to rescheduling last week’s game against the Browns.
  • The Broncos will start Drew Lock in place of Teddy Bridgewater at QB due to injury.

Purely a hunch, but I think the Raiders will find a way to win a close game; put that in the Six-Pack.

(Sun Nite) Football Team at Cowboys – 9.5 (47):  The good news for the  Football Team is that Taylor Heinicke will probably be eligible to come off the covid list and play QB; that is important.  The bad news for the Football Team is that they have a very short practice week and a road game here against a team looking to lock up the division race and stay in the picture for the overall #1 seed in the NFC playoffs.  Yes, I know I said above that I think Dak Prescott is playing injured; nonetheless I don’t think the Football Team can keep up here; I’ll take the Cowboys at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Dolphins – 1.5 at Saints(39):  Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have won 6 games in a row to give them a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs after starting the season at 1-7.  The Saints’ defense was dominant last week against the Bucs and the Dolphins offense is ranked 24th in the league sandwiched between the offensive juggernauts known as the Jets and the Falcons.  Yesterday afternoon, the Saints were 3-piont favorites and I was poised to take them to win and cover – – until the covid list was announced and both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemien are on it.  It appears that the Saints will play Ian Book at QB here.  No way am I making a pick here…

And here are two Money Line Parlays for you:

  • Raiders @minus-110
  • Cowboys @ minus 470
  • Bills @ +115   To win $398 on a $100 wager.


  • Chargers @ minus-450
  • Eagles @ minus-450
  • Jets @ minus-120   To win $174 on a $100 wager.

Here is a quick review of this week’s Six Pack

  • Panthers +11 against Bucs
  • Jets “pick ‘em” over jags
  • Seahawks – 6 over Bears
  • Raiders “pick ‘em” over Broncos
  • Cowboys – 9.5 over Football team
  • Lions +5.5 against Falcons

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

“The Cowboys CeeDee Lamb has been fined more than $20,000 for having the shirttail of his jersey exposed during a game.

“It’s called the Untuck Rule.”

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



Odds And Ends…

Let me take today as an opportunity to purge my clipboard of items that have accumulated there over the past several weeks.  I do not know what my writing schedule will be next week; so perhaps this is going to be a way for me to start afresh in the new year.  Consider the following as a “warning”:

  • If you see any sort of common thread among the items in this piece, it is purely by accident.

The University of Pennsylvania – my alma mater – has a transgender woman on its women’s swim team.  Lia Thomas had been a member of the Penn men’s swim team for 3 years prior to declaring as a transgender person.  She has gone through the NCAA regimen of year-long testosterone suppression and was declared eligible for the women’s team.  Lia Thomas is setting records as a female swimmer.  As you might imagine, her situation has led to controversy.

Last week, the Editor in Chief of Swimming World wrote an Op-Ed where he compared Lia Thomas’ accomplishments as a female swimmer to the accomplishments of other athletes who used Performance Enhancing Drugs.  Here is the core of the problem according to this Op-Ed:

“Despite the hormone suppressants she has taken, in accordance with NCAA guidelines, Thomas’ male-puberty advantage has not been rolled back an adequate amount. The fact is, for nearly 20 years, she built muscle and benefited from the testosterone naturally produced by her body. That strength does not disappear overnight, nor with a year’s worth of suppressants. Consequently, Thomas dives into the water with an inherent advantage over those on the surrounding blocks.”

Take a moment and read the Op-Ed here; it does not matter if you agree with the position or not, it is a well-written piece that asserts its position strongly but not stridently.

Moving on…  Jim Kaat was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year at the age of 83.  Kaat had a lengthy career as a pitcher and is still active as a broadcaster.  His view on analytics in baseball today reflect his age and the game as it was when he was playing:

“My big wish, and I don’t know if it’ll happen in my baseball lifetime, is that they take the exit velocity, launch angle, all the shifting, and throw that away and just throw the ball out there and say, ‘Hey, use your intuitive skills and let’s go play ball for nine innings.’ They have all these statistics. For me, the biggest statistic has always been if we get 27 outs and we have one more run than the other team, we win the game.”

Life was simpler back in 1959 when Kaat first arrived in the major leagues and baseball did not have anything near the depth of statistical analysis that it does today.  In the end, Kaat is correct; the standings will be decided by the team with the most wins and not by any of the thousands of numerical calculations that go into things like Weighted Runs Above Average or Win Probability Added or Fielding Independent Pitching.  At the same time, his wish is unlikely ever to be fulfilled; for those like Jim Kaat who are not fans of baseball analytics, the genie is out of the bottle, and the genie does not want to go back inside.

Probably the most visible manifestation of modern analytics is “The Shift”; it certainly gets a lot of criticism from a portion of the baseball community.  I am not enamored of “The Shift” but I am a bit skeptical about rules that might try to eliminate it or marginalize it.  So, just for fun, here is a proposal:

  • First, you have to define what “The Shift” is and what it is not.  That definition has to be unambiguous – like the distance from home plate to first base; it has to be right or wrong without any grey area.
  • After that definition is written into the rule book, allow both defensive teams to deploy “The Shift” a fixed number of times per game and no more.  Maybe a team can use it against 6 batters in a game.  If that is too many for your taste, how about 4 times per game?  Do I hear 3 times…?
  • Just a thought…

Switching gears …  I have mentioned this before, but I want to emphasize it again:

  • The best thing that happened to sports broadcasting in 2021 was the debut of the “ManningCast.”

I thoroughly enjoy those telecasts and I fear that their popularity and their critical acclaim are going to spawn a series of imitators and I think all of the imitations are going to lack what I see as the fundamental ingredient in the “ManningCast” that makes it so good:

  • The two participants are friends and have been for a long time.  Their banter has a quality of familiarity and closeness that cannot be feigned; it is as critical to the show’s success as water is to life.

There is an analogous situation in sports broadcasting that supports my argument here.  Pardon the Interruption (PTI) has been on ESPN for more than 20 years now; in a sense, it defined the concept of a “debate format” for sports broadcasting for better or for worse.  For me, it is still the gold standard of sports commentary on television.  I believe that the reason it has been a success since its debut in 2001 is that Kornheiser and Wilbon had been friends – and had worked alongside each other on the Washington Post sports staff – for more than 20 years before the show went on the air.  That depth of friendship and mutual respect cannot be manufactured overnight.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close here with John Barrymore’s definition of love:

“Love is the delightful interval between meeting a beautiful girl and discovering that she looks like a haddock.”

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



College Coaching Musical Chairs – A Year Later…

As I was grazing around on I noticed articles about the recent episode of college football coaches playing their own version of musical chairs.  One article examined how and to what extent Lincoln Riley has “won over” recruits, alums and players at USC in a mere 3 weeks.  Another looked at the overall picture of college football coaching changes and what it all could mean.  Brian Kelly generated enthusiasm at LSU when he showed up and tried to speak with a southern twang.  Mario Cristobal has been welcomed back at Miami as if he were the prodigal son. The common – and dominant – thread in all of the articles/reports on the subject is optimism; every school and every coach is positive that things are better today than they were a few weeks ago.

When Alan Greenspan was Chairman of the Fed, he warned investors about what he called “irrational exuberance”.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, it is commonplace to see and call out situations that appear to exhibit “irrational exuberance” – – and the state of college football coaching seems to fit that bill this morning.

A year ago, there was another game of “College Coaching Musical Chairs”; and, last year, there was also widespread optimism throughout the land.  So, how did all those coaching changes work out?  Glad you asked; I can provide an overview – not a detailed analysis – of last year’s moves and it does not support any sort of feeling that is close to “irrational exuberance.”

Here are some of the coaches who changed jobs and generated unbridled glee just a year ago.  This is not an exhaustive list; it is a list made up of new coaches I found with the time available to me to do searching.  I present them here in alphabetical order lest anyone think there is a ranking here:

  • Shane Beamer went 6-6 at South Carolina.  That record may not look great, but no one had any expectation that the Gamecocks would be anything special.  Two of those 6 wins came against Florida and Auburn; in both cases the Gamecocks were significant underdogs.  On a grading scale, I would give Beamer a solid B+.
  • Bret Bielema went 5-7 at Illinois.  That is an improvement in the first year of a new program there and the Illini did beat Penn State in 9 OT periods.  Given the improvement level, I would give Bielema a B.
  • Jed Fisch went 1-11 at Arizona.  Granted not much was expected from that team, but they got hammered too many times to call this anything but a stone-cold disaster.  I give Fisch an F for his first  year and I will put him on a hot seat for next year even before the ball drops in Times Square.
  • Brian Harsin went 6-6 at Auburn.  The first three-and-a-half quarters of the game against Alabama were mighty impressive until the clock struck midnight and Alabama came back to win the game.  Other than that, Auburn was “Meh!” in 2021.  I would give Harsin a Gentleman’s C.
  • Josh Heupel was 7-5 at Tennessee.  Instead of the Vols being an underperforming team for whom other schools throw a pity party, this team was competitive and there is hope for improvement in Knoxville.  I give Heupel a solid A for year one on the job.
  • Lance Liepold went 2-10 at Kansas.  Considering that the Jayhawks won a total of 3 games in the last two seasons combined I would give Liepold another Gentlemen’s C.
  • Steve Sarkisian went 5-7 at Texas – – including a loss to Kansas where the Longhorns gave up 56 points.  This was dumpster-fire bad.  I give Sarkisian an F for the season.

That is admittedly a small sample, but it would certainly seem as if new coaches should be cautiously welcomed to their new positions and not idolized before they have accomplished anything.  The grades I put on those hirings from a year ago look more like grades on a bell curve than they do as unquestioned upgrades.  My conclusion is that hiring a new coach is like a crapshoot; sometimes it works like a charm; other times you go bust.  I am reminded here of author G. K. Chesterton’s view of optimism:

“… the noble temptation to see too much in everything.”

Moving on…  I read a report where the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer said – among lots of other things – that there is no evidence that the coronavirus is transmitted on the field.  I guess I should believe that statement as presented because I cannot imagine that anyone has tried to detect transmission under those conditions, nor can I concoct in my mind a controlled scientific test for such a hypothesis.  For example, one test might be to take two teams with players who are totally clean after numerous covid tests and have them play a game – – but inject one of the players with a dose of the live virus.  Then after the game, test all the players again for several days.  Even something like that is not certain to answer the question posed here, but you can see that setting up such an experiment can involve lots of things that scientists would be reluctant to do.

We do know that one vector for covid transmission is airborne, and we logically conclude that proximity to someone who has the virus is more likely to lead to airborne transmission than what has come to be called “social distancing.”  It surely seems to me that football is an activity that creates plenty of situations wherein random groups of players come into close proximity with one another on just about every play in the game.

So, while I believe there is no evidence of covid transmission “on the field”, it is illogical to me for anyone to conclude that playing football with or against another player who is infected with the coronavirus is a safe undertaking.

Finally, harkening back to the optimism generated by hiring a new coach, here is Dwight Perry’s view of how another of those hiring panned out:

“Jacksonville spinmeisters say coach Urban Meyer is out because of health reasons: Turns out the Jaguars were sick of him.”

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



Coming Full Circle

Today is the winter solstice; in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the shortest day and the longest night of the year.  This astronomical phenomenon happens every year.  That regularity reminded me to look back at this day in 2020 to see what was happening in the sports world then; sadly, that retrospective has an eerie angle to it.

Last year on December 21st, the NHL and the NHLPA had come to an agreement about how and when they would start a long-delayed NHL regular season.  They had a start date and they decided to separate the Canadian and the US teams into separate divisions and that there would not be any “cross-border games” due to the pandemic.

So, what is going on in the NHL on December 21st of this year?  Well, the league and the players’ union are still dealing with scheduling issues relative to the pandemic.

  • The NHL has postponed all cross-border games from last Sunday through Thursday of this week due to travel restrictions.  There are 12 games involved in this postponement action bringing the total number of postponed games in the NHL this season to 39.
  • The Detroit Red Wings have had a sharp outbreak of covid-positive tests and the league has shut down that franchise completely through December 26th.  The facilities are shut, and players have been sent home for the Holidays.
  • In a separate – but related – set of negotiations, the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed that NHL players will not take part in the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in February 2022.  In addition to giving the league more flexibility for rescheduling postponed games – the number is likely to grow from the current 39 games – the abstinence from the Olympics offers another potential benefit.  Imagine if a bunch of NHL players went to China and tested positive over there; that could trigger quarantine restrictions imposed by the Chinese government and possibly by the US and/or Canadian governments as the players finally come home.  That could be disastrous for the current NHL season.

Having seen the fact that the NHL was experiencing covid issues similar to ones they had to deal with a year ago, my mind began to think about the other major US sports and what their status is now.  MLB is in a state of blissful ignorance with regard to covid these days.  There is a lockout; there are no team activities; everyone is focused on CBA negotiations or the lack of CBA negotiations.  To the extent that anyone involved with MLB or the MLBPA is concerned about scheduling issues, that concern would be focused on when the next baseball season might start and how many games will it have.  In terms of covid, baseball is unaffected.

The NBA folks are probably nervous today.  There has been an uptick in the number of covid-positive tests for players forcing the postponement of 5 games this week.  The Bulls had a team outbreak and had to postpone two of their games from last week and one report I read said that the Nets currently have 10 players in the league’s “health and safety protocol” including the Nets’ Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and the recently activated and unvaccinated Kyrie Irving.  That information alone would cause concern for the league and the players, but the timing of this increase in positive covid tests comes just as the NBA gets ready for its annual Christmas Day extravaganza.

Christmas Day has become a showcase for the NBA; for many folks, it is a turning point in their sports calendar; that is when the NBA begins to ascend in importance for many folks with 5 games on TV from about noon to midnight in the Eastern Time Zone.  Teams selected to play on Christmas Day are seen as “the chosen ones”.  The NBA does not want to have to postpone any of those 5 games on Christmas Day and TV execs surely do not want that to happen either because those games bring nice ratings to ESPN and ABC; however, with the Nets’ “Big Three” in the protocol along with Giannis, games involving the Nets and/or the Bucks will not be nearly as compelling.  Yes, both the Nets and the Bucks are scheduled for Christmas Day and if there are no “special circumstances” found regarding star players, they will not be active on Christmas Day.

The most obvious way for the NBA to get out of this situation is to reduce the number of covid tests it administers to its players, coaches and staff.  Fewer tests will not mean a thing related to the spread of the virus, but it will trigger fewer players in the protocols and more players on the floor.  I certainly do not advocate this as an appropriate league response to the situation, but I would not be surprised if that idea had not crossed Adam Silver’s and Michelle Roberts’ minds.

And what of the NFL?  Well, last weekend was the first time there were enough players on several teams testing positive that the league had to postpone games by two days.  There will be two games played today – a Tuesday.  That is a significant schedule burp for the NFL.  Moreover, it comes at a time when the NFL has announced that it has indeed cut back on its testing frequency for asymptomatic players.  Moreover, the league is considering the display of symptoms to be necessary for a player to e ineligible to play; that means – potentially – that a covid-positive player could be on the field if he does not have a fever, cough, etc.  Given the nature of football and the amount of “close contact” involved in a football game, it would seem to me that such a situation would be advantageous for viral spread.

Over the past year, we seem to have done what the Earth has done over the past year; we have traversed a large circle and come back to a similar place.  This coronavirus and its multitudinous variants have not been eradicated or even contained.  It appears that the latest variant is more communicable than the original virus but not nearly as deadly.  We understand the means by which we can mitigate the spread of the virus but not prevent that spread.  And all of those bumps in the road along the great circular journey we have taken with the virus has led to a lot of “Covid-fatigue”.  It seems to me that a lot of people are just “tuning out” and taking the stance that they want life to be as it used to be, and they want no more restrictions or CDC recommendations or the like.  That may be a tolerable path for many to follow in a situation where the omicron variant is less deadly than others – – but what about the next mutant strain???

Finally, we have come this full circle full of experience from the journey; so, let me close with this observation by Ambrose Bierce:

“Experience, n:  The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.”

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



Talkin’ Baseball …

Like the song says, I am going to be “Talkin’ Baseball” today – – but not about Willie, Mickey and the Duke.  I have commented before that the NY Mets have seemingly had a very difficult time finding someone to be their President of Baseball Operations; they have been searching for someone to take that job for about a year now.  The idea expressed by new owner Steve Cohen when he closed on the purchase of the team was to hire that Team President who would then assemble a management team under him of a GM and then a Field Manager.

According to Albert Einstein:

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Using that yardstick, Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson must be awfully smart, because they just changed course radically.  About a month ago, they announced that they will not hire anyone as a Team President but would only look for a structure with a GM to hire a Field Manager.  They accomplished that task several weeks ago and announced their new field manager last week.  Buck Showalter will take over the NY Mets once MLB gets back to business.  I think this has the potential to be a brilliant hire on the part of the Mets – – and simultaneously, it has the potential to end very badly.  Let me explain…

Buck Showalter is 65 years old; this is Showalter’s fifth MLB managerial job.  He is definitely an “old-school” baseball lifer.  One of the first challenges he has with this job will be dealing with the team’s new owner.  More than a few baseball reporters have suggested that one of the major stumbling blocks the Mets have faced in finding new executives for the Front Office has been a sense that Steve Cohen is going to be a “difficult boss” who loves to use Twitter.

The good news here is that Showalter has been there and done that – – minus the bit about Twitter – – because his first managerial job was with the Yankees when George Steinbrenner owned and operated the team.  It is almost frightening to think of what Steinbrenner might have done with a Twitter account, but Showalter managed the Yankees from 1992 until 1994 in the aftermath of the strike that year that canceled the World Series.  So, the good news is that Showalter has had experience compartmentalizing his dealings with a mercurial boss and his dealings with the team on the field.  The bad news is that if Cohen and Showalter do not get along to the point where Showalter gets fired after public clashes, it will cement Cohen’s reputation as a “difficult boss”.

  • [Aside:  Showalter also managed the Orioles for 9 years dealing with owner Peter Angelos for an extended period of time in the process.  I remember a former colleague saying that after dealing with Steinbrenner and Angelos, Buck Showalter should have a surplus of Grace on the books when he meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.]

Another challenge for Showalter is the pitching staff the team has assembled for him.  The Mets’ starting rotation could be spectacular with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer as the #1 and #2 starters – – in whichever order you prefer.  However, an old school baseball guy might recall the 1948 Boston Braves whose pitching staff was characterized famously as:

  • Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.

You cannot doubt the skills of either deGrom or Scherzer if you have paid even a little attention to baseball over the past several years but there are question marks that should not be ignored:

  • deGrom will be 34 years old in mid-June.  In 2021 he was only able to start 15 games for the Mets.  The reported diagnosis was a strain of the ulnar collateral ligament.  For those who are uninterested in anatomy and physiology, that is the ligament that is the “Tommy John Ligament”.  The existence of the major league lockout prevents deGrom from dealing with the team doctors and trainers as they work on rehab that would – hopefully – obviate a second Tommy John surgery for deGrom; he had that operation back in 2010.
  • Scherzer will be 38 years old in late July.  In the playoffs last year, he had to be replaced as the starter for the Dodgers because he said he had “overcooked his arm” in a previous game.  Scherzer has been in the major leagues for 14 seasons and has pitched over 2500 innings during his career.

Certainly, there is no need to panic there – – but managing the pitching rotation could become a challenge for Showalter as the season progresses.

I think a third challenge – and potentially the biggest one – for Showalter will be dealing with the return of Robinson Cano to the clubhouse.  Cano missed all of the 2021 season on suspension for a failed PED test.  I will stipulate that Showalter’s previous managerial times will give him background skills for dealing with this kind of situation, but Cano could provide a burr under Showalter’s saddle outside the realm of his integration into the club house.

As I said, Showalter is an “old school” baseball lifer.  Cano is not renowned for his hustle; when he hits a ground ball to the infield, he will often jog about a half dozen steps toward first base and then walk toward the dugout without ever getting near the bag.  I do not read minds, but I have an idea that will not sit well with the “old school” baseball lifer in the dugout.  Keep an eye out for “insider reports” on this topic.  Cano is signed through the end of the 2023 MLB season.

Finally, Dwight Perry noted another challenge for the NY Mets in his column in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“Hope the Mets signed 18-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Miriojaycey-Rachidnycander Ray Jean Tadeo Benita.

“Good luck trying to get him to fit all that on an autographed baseball.”

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



Football Friday 12/17/21

As I commence my 79th journey on Planet Earth around the sun, I cannot think of a better thing to kick off the trip than a Football Friday.  As usual, things start here with a review of last week’s Six Pack:

  • College: 0-1-0
  • NFL:  3-1-1
  • Combined:  3-2-1
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-1  Net “profit” = $23

The cumulative results for the season are:

  • College:  14-19-0
  • NFL:  23-26-2
  • Combined:  37-45-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  3-8  Net “loss” = $375


College Football Commentary:


With the season over and the lack of any surprising news about the coaching game of musical chairs, there is only one comment for this week:

  • I really enjoyed watching the Army/Navy game last week.

The game was completely different from your typical college football game in 2021 and that added to the enjoyment.  Darrell Royal and Woody Hayes would have been proud of the game; the teams ran the ball first and foremost and threw the ball only  when pressed to do so.  It may have been more “exciting” to watch Kansas beat Texas 56-55 earlier in the season, but this game was equally interesting to me.

There is an Internet meme out there showing Army and Navy squared off at the line of scrimmage.  The caption on the picture says:

  • The only football game where every player is willing to die for everyone watching the game.

Go Army!  Go Navy! – – and Go Air Force! too.


NFL Commentary:


The biggest news of the week has to be the abrupt firing of Urban Meyer as the head coach of the Jags.  His record in less than a season of NFL football was 2-11 and to say that his time in Jax was “controversial” would be like saying Pavarotti could sing a bit.  It appears that the final straw was an assertion by a former kicker for the Jags who said that Meyer kicked him during a practice while saying:

“Hey, Dipsh*t; make your [bleeping] kicks.”

When the kicker objected and told Meyer not to kick him again, Meyer’s response was supposedly:

“I’m the head coach.  I’ll kick you whenever the [bleep] I want.”

Maybe there was a time when football coaches thought and acted that way and it was generally acceptable behavior.  Such is not the custom in 2021; so even if this story is exaggerated a bit, it is not something that can be ignored these days in light of everything else that has gone wrong during Meyer’s tenure with the Jags.  Here is the statement by Jags’ owner Shad Khan about his decision to look for another head coach:

“After deliberation over many weeks and a thorough analysis of the entirety of Urban’s tenure with our team, I am bitterly disappointed to arrive at the conclusion that an immediate change is imperative for everyone.  I informed Urban of the change this evening.  As I stated in October, regaining our trust and respect was essential. Regrettably, it did not happen.”

All this business about “trust” and “respect” is nice, and it provides a patina of beneficence to the situation, but I think most of it is just that – – a patina.  I believe there are two things at the core of this decision which – if they were markedly different – would make Urban Meyer’s off-center behaviors tolerable if not laudable.  They are:

  1. Bottom line is the Jags are 2-11.  If they were even 6-7 coming off a horrible season in 2020, that level of “progress” would tilt the balance in favor of the coach and his “unusual” ways.  However, the Jags are not 6-7 and eight of their eleven losses have been by double-digits.  You cannot squint hard enough to make the situation in Jax look any better than miserable
  2. Concurrent with fact that the Jags have been dominated on the field is the observation by folks who follow and cover the NFL that Trevor Lawrence is not improving measurably from week to week.  Unless Lawrence was spectacularly lucky for three years of college football to complete two-thirds of his passes and throw for more than 10,000 yards, his performance this year is simply awful.  Yes, the NFL is a more difficult environment, but Lawrence has been looking like a fourth-round pick hoping to hold onto a job as a clipboard holder than like a first overall draft pick.  The Jags need him to develop, and he is not doing that.

Plenty of NFL coaches last only one year with a team but Meyer joins a much more exclusive club here.  I can only think of three other NFL coaches who did not finish the first year of their employment:

  • Bill Belichick with the Jets (his tenure in that position was measured in hours)
  • Lou Holtz with the Jets
  • Bobby Petrino with the Falcons

Back when Meyer signed on with the Jags, reports said the deal was for 5  years at “between $10M and $12M per year.”  If that money were “guaranteed”, then Shad Khan’s decision to fire Meyer this week would cost him something on the order of $40-50M.  Shed no crocodile tears for Messr. Khan; Forbes estimates his net worth at a cool $8.7B…

Earlier in this week before Urban Meyer was fired, I read a report about the futility of the Jags on the field.  That report said that in the last 7 gamed, the Jags had only scored a total of 28 points meaning they were playing from behind an awful lot.  Now that Meyer is fired, and I had a time to reflect on the lack of progress made by Trevor Lawrence that lack of progress looks even worse.  Lawrence’s miserable NFL stats include lots of “garbage time” yardage wherein the defense knows the outcome of the game and is throttled down to a degree.

One bit of bad news for Jags’ fans is contained in these events but not highlighted.  Shad Khan has owned the Jags for 10 years now.  In those 10 years, he has hired:

  • Mike Mularkey – – lasted 1 season and went 2-12
  • Gus Bradley – – lasted  4 seasons minus 2 games and went 14-48
  • Doug Marrone – – lasted 4 seasons +2 games and went 23-43
  • Urban Meyer – – lasted 13 games and went 2-11.

That list tells me that the person making the decision about who to hire to be the head coach of the Jags is not particularly adept at the task.  And that is the same guy who is going to perform that task again this off-season.  A former colleague who is a psychologist was wont to say:

  • “The single best predictor of future human behavior is past human behavior by that same human being.”

The other story of the week is another chapter in the investigative reporting done by the Washington Post into the “toxic work environment” in the Front Office of the Washington Football Team under its previous moniker.  The latest report says that owner, Danny Boy Snyder actively sought to impede the investigation done by Beth Wilkinson for the NFL.  There is a lot of “stuff” in the latest report and rather than trying to summarize it to the point that I leave out pertinent information, let me link to that report here and suggest you get yourself a cup of coffee – or a beverage of your liking – and read it for yourself.

This story is not over; the Post reporters have not moved on to find other things to occupy their time and energy – – and no, I have no idea what the next set of revelations might be.  However, I would like to address what was the first thing that came to mind for callers to Washington sports radio shows the day the story hit the papers:

  • Can this be the tipping point that forces the NFL to make Danny Boy Snyder sell the team?

For those of you who do not live in this area, you must understand that for a significant majority of the fans of the Washington Football Team there are two  things that they wish for beyond all else:

  • A Super Bowl victory
  • A new owner for the team
  • And for some, a new owner is equal to or greater in value than the Lombardi Trophy.

With that as a predicate, let me say that I doubt seriously that the latest revelations are anywhere near sufficient in gravity to start the ball rolling toward a forced sale of the team by Danny Boy Snyder.  I think there are three reasons to take that position:

  1. Snyder’s actions – even if they are as bad or worse than has been reported – have not cost the other owners any money.  The TV deal is not smaller than it would have been had he not been in the league.  The CBA did not have any hang-ups because the players objected to his presence as an owner.
  2. Snyder’s teams have not been dominant for the last 20 years or so of his stewardship.  There is no basis for jealousy on the part of other owners nor any reason for them experience schadenfreude as Snyder “twists in the wind”.
  3. Danny Boy Snyder is valuable to the other owners because he is the league’s “sh*t magnet”.  Let me explain…

A former colleague attended West Point; he graduated with a degree in electronic engineering; served his time in Viet Nam; resigned his commission to go to grad school and became an excellent program manager.  He often said that at West Point, the most popular guy in the platoon was the guy who screwed up the most; that cadet became the target and focus of attention and discipline by the tac officer meaning other cadets got marginally less scrutiny than they would have if the tac officer had spent equal time and energy on everyone in the platoon.  That person was referred to as the “sh*t magnet” because whenever anything bad had to come down on someone for screwing up, the first place the tac officer looked was the “sh*t magnet”.

My colleague said that once a “sh*t magnet” had been established in a platoon by the tac officer, the identity never shifted so it then became important for the other members of the platoon to see to it that the “sh*t magnet’s” screw-ups were not so egregious as to get him thrown out of the Academy.  If that happened, someone else would then assume that role and no one wanted to take the chance it might be him.

There is no way that any NFL owner under the influence of a working truth serum and hooked up to a polygraph would ever admit to thinking about another owner as the league’s “sh*t magnet.”  But every time one of them – or anyone for that matter – thinks about another person’s misfortunes and says to themselves, “There but for the Grace of God go I,” there is a subtle recognition of that other person as a “sh*t magnet”.  In that sense, I think the other NFL owners have no interest in finding another owner for the Washington Football Team because one of them might then become the next NFL “sh*t magnet”.

Looking quickly at last week’s games…

Rams 30  Cards 23:  The Rams got a needed victory here to close down the NFC West race a bit despite being outgained on offense by almost 100 yards.  The difference here was in turnovers; the Rams intercepted Kyler Murray twice and the Rams’ offense never turned the ball over.  The Cards still lead the Rams by a game in the division but with their 9th win of the year, the Rams are almost guaranteed a slot in the playoffs even if they do not catch the Cards.

Falcons 29  Panthers 21:  The stat sheet for the game is even except for the fact that the Panthers turned the ball over 3 times (including a Pick-Six) and the Falcons only turned it over once.  The Panthers fired offensive coach Joe Brady before this game and head coach Matt Ruhle said that the basis was a difference in football philosophy.  Well, the offensive philosophy on display in the absence of Brady manifest itself as 334 yards total offense and a platoon system at QB with Cam Newton and PJ Walker. Really…?

Browns 24  Ravens 22:  The Browns led 24-6 at the half and then were shut out in the second half. Lamar Jackson left the game early with an ankle injury and was replaced by Tyler Huntley who produced a more-than-adequate stat line:

  • 27of 38 for 270 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

Huntley’s only costly mistake was that he was the victim of a defensive superfecta by Browns’ DE, Myles Garrett.  On a play deep in Ravens’ territory, Garrett sacked the QB, stripped him of the ball, recovered the ball, and returned it for a TD.  That would be a good day for many defensive ends; Garrett did that all on one play.  The AFC North is now almost a tossup after 14 weeks of play:

  • Ravens  8-5-0
  • Browns  7-6-0
  • Bengals  7-6-0
  • Steelers  6-6-1

Cowboys 27  Football Team 20:  This win belongs to the Cowboys’ defense; they held the Football Team to a total of 244 yards on offense for the day and forced 4 turnovers in the game.  The Cowboys have not mathematically clinched the NFC East race, but they would have to suffer a collapse of massive proportions to lose that race.

Titans 20  Jags 0:  Here is how bad the Jags were on offense in this game:

  • Rushing yards:  8 yards on 8 attempts
  • Total yards:  194 yards on 48 plays (4 yards per offensive snap)
  • Time of possession:  23 minutes and 4 seconds
  • Turnovers:  4 – – all of them INTs by Trevor Lawrence

The Jags never got to the Red Zone in the game and the Jags only crossed the 50-yardline twice in the game.

Chiefs 48  Raiders 9:  On the first play of the game, the Chiefs’ defense forced a fumble, recovered it and returned if for a TD.  Then things got worse for the Raiders…  The Chiefs forced 5 turnovers in the game that led to 28 points.  The halftime score was 35-3 and even that was embarrassing; on the final play of the first half with the score 35-0, the Raiders opted to kick a 26-yard field goal – – meaning the ball was inside the Chiefs’ 10-yardline.  That is tantamount to running up a white flag of surrender.  In addition, in that first half alone, the Raiders committed 7 penalties costing them 75 yards  Since losing to the Titans in late October, the Chiefs have gone 6-0 and the defense has led the way.  In those 6 games the Chiefs have given up a total of 65 points or 10.9 points per game.

Saints 30  Jets 9:  The Jets only trailed 13-6 when the fourth quarter began.  The Saints ran the ball for 203 yards in the game including 73 yards by QB Taysom Hill.  Jets’ QB, Zack Wilson, struggled in the game completing only 19 of 42 passes for 202 yards.  The Jets got into the Red Zone 3 times in the game and scored 0 TDs…

Seahawks 33  Texans 13:   It was 16-13 at the half; then the Seahawks’ defense pitched a shutout for the second half.  Texans’ QB, Davis Mills, was 33 of 49 for 331 yards in the game and that led coach David Cully to announce that Mills would be the starter for the Texans for the rest of the 2021 season.  Here is what Dwight Perry had to say about that in the Seattle Times:

“Rookie Davis Mills has been named the 2-10 Houston Texans’ starting QB for the rest of the season.

“That’s the sports equivalent of someone pulling the pin on a grenade and handing it to you.”

Broncos 30  Lions 10:  So much for the possibility that the Lions might execute a winning streak…  The score was 17-10 at the half; here are the results of the Lions’ possessions in the second half:  [WARNING: This is not a pretty picture.]

  • Lost Fumble
  • Turnover on Downs
  • Turnover on Downs
  • INT
  • Final Whistle

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ offense was a model of efficiency on the day.  They got to the Red Zone 5 times and scored 5 TDs.

Chargers 37  Giants 21:  This game was not this close; the Giants scored 14 meaningless points in the final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter when the outcome had long been decided.

Bucs 33  Bills 27 (OT): This game was an aerial show; combined the two teams dropped back and threw the ball 100 times for the day.  The two QBs completed 67 of those pass attempts for a combined 644 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT.  The biggest difference on the stat sheet for the game was in third-down conversions.  The Bucs converted 8 of 16 while the Bills converted only 2 of 13.  Nevertheless, the time of possession was a total of 13 seconds in favor of the Bills for the game.  This was the most entertaining game to watch on Sunday…

Niners 26  Bengals 23 (OT):  Here is another game that was dead even on the stat sheet save for 2 turnovers by the Bengals (lost fumbles) and 0 turnovers by the Niners.  The win keeps the Niners playoff chances alive, but they trail the Cards by 3 games with only 4 left to play meaning they are all but eliminated from winning the NFC West.

Packers 45  Bears 30:  Justin Fields had a mediocre day throwing the ball; he had 2 TDs and 2 INTs.  However, he was also the Bears’ leading rusher in the game gaining 74 yards on 9 carries.  The Bears led 10-0 early in the second quarter and led 27-21 at halftime; then the Packers scored 24 unanswered points in the next 25 minutes of the game putting it on ice.

Vikes 36  Steelers 28:  The Vikes dominated the first half; the Steelers dominated the second half.  Not much else to say about this one…


NFL Games:


The good news is that there are no more BYE Weeks in the 2021 season.

The scheduling quirk of Saturday games begins this week with Saturday games on NFL Network.

Last night’s game was an offensive showcase; the teams combined to gain a total of 924 yards on offense.  It took overtime to give the Chiefs the win because the stat sheet was as even as could be.  The Chargers lost the ball on downs three times in the game and each time they had a makeable field goal as their option.  Analytics say they made the “right decision”; the problem is that the game outcome went counter to the numbers.

Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill had big games.  Hill caught 12 passes for 148 yards and a TD.  Kelce caught 10 passes for 191 yards and 2 TDs including the game winner in OT.  This victory gives the Chiefs a 2-game lead in the AFC West.

A quick aside here before I get to this week’s games…  I am going to find six selections from the list only because there is something about a Six-Pack that requires six selections.  I may have to violate one of my “principles” and opt for selecting a team in a game with a double-digit spread.  The card this week is simply a mess and the covid lists for various teams makes it impossible to know who will actually be able to play.

(Sat 4:30 PM EST) Raiders – 1 at Browns (38.5):  This spread opened with the Browns as a 6-point favorite; then the Browns saw 11 players and head coach Kevin Stefanski go on the covid list this week.  Baker Mayfield is one of those players on the list.  As of this morning, the Browns have a total of 13 players on the covid list and the Raiders have none.  This is a must-win game for the Raiders if they want to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.  I am not enamored of the Raiders over the past month or so, but this looks like a situation where they will face the Browns’ JV team.  I’ll hold my nose and take the Raiders to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:20 PM EST) Pats at Colts – 2.5 (46):  This is my Game of the Week, and it is on a Saturday night on the NFL Network which is unavailable in lots of homes.  The Pats have won 7 games in a row and hold a 2-game lead in the AFC East; the Colts trail the Titans by 2-games in the AFC South and the Titans hold the tiebreaker; this is not an elimination game for the Colts, but it is an important one.  The Pats won their last game two weeks ago over the Bills by running the ball all the time; I do not think they can be as successful doing that against the Colts’ defense.  By the same token, I do not think the Colts can count on Jonathan Taylor to dominate the game against the Pats’ defense.

Football Team at Eagles – 12.5 (44):  This spread opened with the Eagles as 3-point favorites and then the covid lists started to grow in Washington.  As of this morning there are 20 players on the list for the Football Team including 6 defensive linemen.  Who knows who will be playing or not playing in this game?

Panthers at Bills – 11 (44.5):  I can see the Panthers’ defense putting up resistance here, but I cannot see the Panthers’ offense doing any meaningful business against the Bills’ defense.  The “two-platoon QB concept” from last week is not the answer

Jets at Dolphins – 9 (41):  The Jets are a mess; there is no way to ignore that reality.  I am not impressed by the Dolphins’ offense, but I am even less impressed by the Jets’ defense.  I’ll take the Dolphins at home to win and cover with only marginal enthusiasm; put it in the Six-Pack.

Cowboys – 10.5 at Giants (44):  The Cowboys appear to have gotten things back on track; they dominated the Football Team last week.  On the other sideline, the Giants are in disarray.  I like this game to go OVER because I see the Cowboys scoring in the 30s here; put that in the Six-Pack.  Only because I need to find six selections on this list let me try another one here.  I’ll also take the Cowboys to win and cover on the road; put that in the Six-Pack too.

Packers – 5.5 at Ravens (43.5):  The Ravens only have 2 players on the covid list – – but their injury list looks like the old Manhattan Telephone Directory.  That spread tells me the oddsmakers expect Lamar Jackson to play in the game; we shall see.  This game got some consideration as the Game of the Week since it matches two Division leaders.

Titans – 1 at Steelers (43):  This is not an elimination game for the Steelers – – but it’s close.  Meanwhile the Titans have a 2-game cushion in their Division, so the “urgency factor” is clearly on the Steelers’ sideline.

Texans at Jags – 4.5 (39):  I don’t care if one of the teams in some other game  has so many players on the covid list that they have to quickly sign up local high school kids to play this Sunday; this game would still be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The spread for this game is all over the place with the Jags being favored by 5 points at some sportsbooks and by as few as 3.5 points elsewhere.  There must be something more interesting for you to do compared to watching this mess of a game.

Cards – 13.5 at Lions (47):  The Cards lost on Monday night and now have to go on the road on a short week of preparation.  Normally, that is a reason to play the opponent – – but there are two realities to this matchup:

  1. The Cards are 7-0 on the road this year.
  2. The opponent is the Detroit Lions.

Falcons at Niners – 9 (46.5):  Neither team is consistent week to week.  The Niners are the better team and might win this game by 3 TDs – – or they could lose outright.  The Falcons are 5-2 on the road this season and the Niners are 2-4 at home this season.  You would need Ouija board to unravel this one…

Bengals at Broncos – 3 (44):  Both teams need to win this game badly to stay in the playoff picture.  Neither team has an extensive covid list for this week and I think the game will come down to the Bengals’ offense versus the Broncos’ defense.  The Bengals have lost 2 games in a row so the coaching staff there has been able to chew on the players to get them ready here.  I’ll take the Bengals on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Seahawks at Rams – 5.5 (45.5):  The Rams won a huge game on Monday over the Cards; I smell a let-down game coming here.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks have won 2 games in a row and have shown some energy in those wins scoring a total of 63 points in those two games.  Purely a hunch, but I’ll take the Seahawks on the road plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun Nite) Saints at Bucs – 11 (46.5):  This spread varies significantly from sportsbook to sportsbook; this morning I can find it as high as 12.5 points and as low as 10 points; this number seems to be the fulcrum.  If the Saints lose here, they will be eliminated from the NFC South race and their wildcard chances will take a serious hit as well.  The Bucs are clearly the better team, but I do not like them nearly enough to lay that many points in a game that is far less meaningful to them than it is to the Saints.

(Mon Nite) Vikes – 4.5 at Bears (45):  The Bears are 4-9 and yet, they are still mathematically in the playoff race in the NFC.  Do not waste your time searching for how that can happen; it will not happen.  Obviously, it starts with the Bears “winning out”.  The Vikes are 6-7 and are in the thick of the wildcard scrum; the Vikes have been playing close games all year and seem never to miss a chance to make the game go down to the final drive or even the final play in the fourth quarter.

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

  • Raiders – 1 over Browns
  • Dolphins – 9 over Jets
  • Cowboys/Giants OVER 44
  • Cowboys – 10.5 over Giants
  • Bengals +3 against Broncos
  • Seahawks + 5.5 against Rams.

And here is a Money Line Parlay for your viewing pleasure…

  • Bills @ minus-600
  • Dolphins @ minus-400
  • Cowboys @ minus-500
  • Bucs @ minus-500
  • Bengals @ +140     A $100 wager here wins $404

Finally, in the aftermath of the Niners game in Seattle two weeks ago, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle offered this Tweet:

“I’d like to thank the Seattle Seahawks for fighting global warming by keeping press box at 30 degrees. Looking for dog with a flask of brandy.”

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



The MLB Lockout – – Looking At A Bleak Future

The MLB lockout continues into its third week of existence.  Since there is not yet a serious threat to the detriment of the normal baseball calendar, lots of people are simply focusing attention elsewhere; if this mess is not settled – or if at the least there are not reports of negotiating progress to reach a settlement – by February 1st, lots of fans will start to try to catch up on how this mess came to be and to choose sides.  I already know that there is enough to dislike about both the owners’ side and the players’ side of this stand-off that my preference would be for both sides to lose.  The problem with my wishful thinking is that the only way for both sides to lose is for me to lose too; they would have to cancel the 2022 season.

I read a report right after the lockout was announced on December 2nd that said the two sides met for 7 minutes and then adjourned to do whatever each side is wont to do when there is no CBA and there is a need for a new CBA – – but they are not negotiating.  That report cemented in my mind that I want both sides to lose and suffer at the end of these negotiations even though I am pretty sure that will not happen.

Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times back when the lockout was fresh:

“Baseball owners locked out the players when their CBA expired Dec. 2.

“Things got so heated, one union rep was credited with an exit velocity of 120.8 mph leaving the last bargaining session.”

So, after 25 years without any lockouts or strikes, how did things get to this stage?  I will not pretend to know the inner workings of either side in this matter, but I do think that a work stoppage of some kind – – lockout or strike – – was foretold by the “COVID negotiations” back in 2020.  Back then, here is a sequence of events that did not put an aura of “good will” over and around the interactions of the owners and the union:

  • In March 2020 when things were initially locked down and events like March Madness had to be canceled, the owners and players agreed that players’ salaries for 2020 would be pro-rated to the number of games played.  That agreement seemed to me to be clear and obvious and never hinted to me that it could be hugely problematic.
  • By the time it became clear that most jurisdictions were not going to allow fans to attend MLB games for much if not all the whole of the 2020 season, the owners sought to renege on that agreement and wanted the players to take less than a pro-rata share of their salaries.  Unsurprisingly, that did not go down well with the players and the union.

[For the record, the 2020 regular season was 60 games meaning players were paid 37.04% of what their contract called for.]

  • As soon as the owners used that gambit, the union began to push for as long a season as possible for the obvious reason that would put more money in the pockets of its members.  The owners – looking at next to zero ticket revenue – obviously objected to that and tried to minimize the number of games to be played.
  • The two sides could not even come to a compromise on the issue of the length of the 2020 season and the only way it was fixed at 60 games is that Rob Manfred as Commish issued a fiat that it would be 60 games – – period, exclamation point.

In retrospect, I should have realized at that moment that there was no way on the planet that the two sides were going to agree on a new CBA without some sort of aggressive labor action by one side or the other.  However, I naively thought [hoped?] that as functioning adults who are partners in a business with annual revenues of $10B, the two sides would see their way clear to getting a deal done.  Forget that…  there is obviously no deal in place, and I am beginning to wonder about that assumption of the existence of “functioning adults”.

As time passes and there is reporting on the negotiations and on the lack of progress in those negotiations, you will certainly read reports about the owners’ finances.  Because MLB teams are not owned by publicly traded corporations, the degree of transparency into teams’ finances is severely limited.  In the NFL, fans can get a tiny peek through the curtains because the Packers are publicly owned and must report a lot of specifics because of that public ownership.  That does not obtain for MLB.

And that lack of transparency will become a major stumbling block in the negotiations with the union claiming huge profits for owners based on whatever and however they do the math while the owners will “cry poor” and use their own math to demonstrate their plight.  When things get into that phase of reporting on negotiations, please keep this in mind:

  • Using perfectly legal accounting practices, it is possible for accountants to make profits appear as losses and vice-versa.  Items such as “amortization” and “depreciation” and “recapture” can turn simple cash-flow calculations into a labyrinth of numbers.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

I bring that up because when all of this becomes front and center in the reporting, what you must remember to do is not to believe either side when they represent profits and losses.

  • The owners are highly motivated to minimize their gains and they have the cover to make things look the way they want them to look.  Do not be surprised or offended when they take advantage of the situation here.
  • The union cannot be trusted in this realm either because they too have a vested interest in the bottom line AND remember they do not have all the numbers because the owners have not shared them.  The union cannot complain about lack of transparency and simultaneously claim to know enough details to present credible figures.
  • BOTH sides are prevaricating here and the only way either side presents an accurate picture is either by accident or by dumb luck!

I have suggested this before and I continue to believe that this is a path to stability for MLB and the MLBPA even though I know it will never happen.

  • Baseball needs a salary cap and a salary floor.  That means owners will need to do revenue sharing similar to the way the NFL does it and it means that the NFLPA will have to tell the myriad player agents to go suck eggs.  I shan’t hold my breath waiting for either of those two things to happen.
  • A cap-and-floor salary structure will improve competitiveness and will discourage tanking .   It will also create new forms of baseball contracts that are adaptable to the new cap-and-floor structure.
  • This regimen works in football, basketball and hockey; I think it will work in baseball too – – but neither side will even pretend to consider it.

Finally, I’ll close today with an observation by George Orwell:

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play.  It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence; in other words, it is war minus the shooting.”

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