Martin Luther King, Jr. And Benjamin Franklin

In addition to today as a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 17th is also the birthday of Benjamin Franklin.  So, as a remembrance of Ben Franklin, if someone annoys you today, just tell them to go fly a kite.

Speaking of annoyances, why is it that some folks cannot/will not admit they were wrong with previously stated extrapolations of facts?  Everyone makes mistakes – – particularly me.  One of these days soon, I will revisit my NFL pre-season projections for every team and point out where I was right – – and importantly – – where I was dead wrong.  The potential for error is significant when trying to predict the future.  So, if/when someone sets out on that path, they need to admit when they are wrong.

About 5 years ago the NFL’s TV ratings took a hit; those ratings had been monotonically increasing for years but then they took a dive.  In a rush to find an explanation for that circumstance, more than a few “insiders” and “pundits” took the position that this was a sign that the public’s fascination with the NFL was leveling off because of the dangers of CTE to the players.  Some even suggested that at some future date down the road, there would not be enough players willing to play pro football because their mothers would not allow them to play as youngsters.

Well, over the last 5 years or so, the NFL’s TV ratings have rebounded and the numbers are now available for the Calendar Year 2021:

  1. Of the 100 TV programs with the largest viewing audience in 2021, 91 of them were NFL games.
  2. The average NFL game audience was 17.1 million people.  That average includes meaningless games involving two bad teams that drew miniscule audiences.
  3. The TV audience for the Oscars Award Program in 2021 was 9.2 million people – – about half the average NFL game.
  4. On Christmas Day, the NFL and the NBA had games on at the same time.  The Browns/Packers game drew 28.6 million viewers; the Lakers/Nets game drew 5.8 million viewers.
  5. Game 6 of last year’s World Series drew a TV audience of 11.8 million viewers which is only 70% of the audience for the average NFL game.
  6. The early Thanksgiving Day game this year featured the Lions (0-9-1 at the time) versus the Bears (3-7-0 at the time).  That utterly meaningless game between two bad teams had an audience of 28.2 million people.

So, for all the folks who saw CTE as a surefire harbinger of doom for the NFL and for football itself, what have you to say now?  What happened to that narrative drumbeat over the past 5 years – – other than the suggestion that some of the data offered up by some of the “researchers” were interpreted in a highly subjective fashion?

I have no idea what the long term future of the NFL is if you take “long term” to mean 25-50 years.  However, I am confident that the NFL will survive as a business entity so long as it can deliver that many eyeballs to its broadcasts on a reliable basis.  The revenue from those broadcasts is mainly what allows approximately 2000 NFL players to share in a wage pool that is close to $6B – – and that monetary incentive will likely assure the NFL a deep pool of willing and able players.

Changing lanes here a bit, it appears that ESPN is going to try to create a Sunday Night Baseball version of the MannningCast.  Readers here know that I love the ManningCasts because Peyton and Eli bring knowledge, humor, fun and a measure if irreverence to the presentation.  They are different and they are fun to watch because of their personalities and their relationship to each other.  Replicating that would be difficult under any circumstances.

What ESPN seems to have planned is to pair Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez in the roles of Peyton and Eli Manning.  As I said above, it is difficult to predict the future, but when I put those two in juxtaposition in my head, my first response to the suits at ESPN would be:

  • Good luck with that!

Michael Kay has been doing  Yankees’ telecasts on the YES Network for about 20 years and was part of the Yankees’ radio broadcast team for several years before that.  He is a bit of a “homer” – – but that is to be expected given the platform from which he does his job.  I will assume that he can shed that perspective particularly when ESPN has him doing his “faux-ManningCast games” involving the Yankees.  That is only part of Michael Kay’s challenge.  Can he be witty as the “top-banana” in the act or as the foil in the act?  I have never heard/seen that side of his personality; I think it could be a step hill to climb.

A-Rod on the other hand has indicated to me that he is more than willing to be critical of plays and players on the field; he has even been critical of pitchers and their play even though I cannot find any pitching stats for A-Rod at  And if you find A-Rod as “witty” or “light-hearted” in his broadcast persona, then you and I have very different definitions of those terms.  The Mannings are critical of certain players and specific plays; to my ears, A-Rod is not merely critical, he is didactic.  That is fine once in a while, but didactic can become annoying if it is not used sparingly.

I wish no evil on ESPN; that network and its sister networks provide me with plenty of entertainment and information.  Nevertheless, my guess is that this experiment in game presentation is not going to be nearly as successful as the ManningCasts have been.  We shall see…

Finally let me close today with words from both Dr., Martin Luther King and Benjamin Franklin:

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” [Dr. King]

And …

“Well done is better than well said.” [Dr. Franklin]

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



Football Friday 1/14/22

Last week’s Football Friday was littered with meaningless games and participation by players whose recognition would have had to have grown tenfold for them to be categorized as “unfamiliar”.  This week’s Football Friday involves 14 teams that will take the games very seriously and players who have routinely played for the teams this season to get those teams into playoff status.  Last week was only slightly better than the final week of the Exhibition Season; this week will be riveting.

Let me begin with the results of last week’s Six-Pack – – plus one other pick:

  • College:  1-0-0
  • NFL:  2-4-0
  • Total:  3-4-0
  • Money Line Parlay:  0-1  Net loss for the week = $100

And that brings the cumulative results for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0
  • NFL:  36-36-2
  • Total:  51-56-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  5-11  Net loss for the season = $161


College Football Commentary:


There is little happening in college football at this time of the year other than recruiting efforts by coaches to get high school players to commit to the coach’s school and/or to convince a player in the “transfer portal” to land at the coach’s school.  That whole process is uninteresting to me until the music stops and all the recruits and transfers have settled into their new positions.  So, there has been a paucity of commentary on the college front in these offerings over the past month or so.

However, there was a Tweet I ran across that I wanted to share just because it is amusing.  Brad Dickson was a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald; he still lives in Omaha and often comments on Nebraska football – – which is akin to a religious cult at times in parts of Nebraska.  Here is his reaction to a “rumor” making the rounds in the heartland:

“On message boards some Husker fans are speculating about Zac Taylor possibly leaving the Cincinnati Bengals to return and coach Nebraska. Let me put it this way: there are better odds that Richie Incognito is named the next pope.”

For the record:

  • There have been 13 Popes named Innocent.
  • There have been 0 Popes named Incognito.


NFL Commentary:


Earlier this week, I mentioned a lawsuit filed by a fan against the Giants and Jets claiming false advertising and deceptive practices because they call themselves the NY Giants/Jets but play and practice in New Jersey.  I said then that the same thing applies to the Bills, the Football Team, the Cowboys and the Niners – – off the top of my head.

The reader in Houston added to the list in an email sent to me the day after my observation:

“The LA Rams and Chargers play in Inglewood, CA.

“The Las Vegas Raiders play in Paradise, NV. (FYI – the Las Vegas Strip is not in Las Vegas, but in a pair of unincorporated towns called Paradise and Winchester.)

“The Miami Dolphins play in Miami Gardens, FL

“In addition, there are six teams (Arizona, Tampa Bay, Carolina, New England, Tennessee, and Minnesota) who have a state or region in their name instead of the city. That means there are 16 NFL teams playing their home games “legitimately” in the city in their name.”

Thanks as always to the reader in Houston for the additions and clarifications.

Last week, I noted that some of the fans in Jax were planning to wear clown costumes to the final game there.  Dwight Perry also knew of those plans and had this comment in the Seattle Times:

“Jacksonville Jaguars fans plan to attend Sunday’s season finale dressed as clowns to protest the team’s ineptitude.

“Hey, it was either that or humiliate themselves by wearing their Jags jerseys.”

Perry did not spare his local franchise of scornful comment in his column.  Taking note of the team’s less-than-wonderful record at the end of December, he had this comment:

“The Seahawks — going nowhere fast at 5-10 — should switch to a buzzard on their helmets for the rest of the season.”

For the record, the Seahawks “rallied” from that record to finish the season at an unsatisfying 7-10.

Looking at the scheduling for this week’s 7 playoff games, please remember that the distribution of the games into the available time slots provided by the “TV broadcast partners” was done by the league.  With that in mind, let me suggest that the scheduling mavens for the NFL never paid much attention in geography class in middle school nor have they any meteorological training.  I offer the following as supporting evidence to that statement:

  • The game in Tampa will take place at 1:00 PM EST.
  • The Tampa forecast is for a high temperature of 70 degrees with some thundershowers.
  • The game in Buffalo will take place at 8:15 PM EST.
  • The Buffalo forecast is for temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees with some wind.
  • The game in KC will take place at 8:15 PM EST.
  • The KC forecast is for temperatures in the 20s with some wind.

The Prosecution rests, Your Honor…

Now that the rest of the NFL season involves only 14 of the 32 teams, it made sense to me to look at how these teams fared against one another in the regular season.  Ignoring the teams that were at or near break-even against their “playoff peers” here are the  best and worst of the records:

  • Packers – – 5-1
  • Bucs – – 4-1
  • Chiefs – – 6-3  (Over half of the Chiefs’ opponents made the playoffs)
  • Bengals – – 4-2
  • Bills – – 2-4
  • Cowboys – – 2-4
  • Steelers – – 2-5
  • Rams – – 2-5
  • Eagles – – 0-6

[Disclaimer:  I aggregated all those records by hand so I could be off somewhere in the process due to “human error” which is often a euphemism for “being a dumbass”.]

As the playoff games begin, I want to cite here again an item I have saved from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot from a year ago.  It was published before the start of last year’s playoffs and surely seemed to be accurate then, so …

New rules: It’s curious how during NFL postseason games almost nobody on the offensive line holds, pass defenders get away with grabbing receivers, and rarely is anybody detected for illegal blocks on kick returns. It appears that the refs are following orders to let ‘em play. But if a laissez-faire approach is good for the playoffs, why not just let ‘em play all season?”

Taking a quick glance at last week’s games…

Vikes 31  Bears 17:  The Bears led 17-10 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Then two TD passes by Kirk Cousins and a Pick-Six by Andy Dalton produced this final result.  Meh!

Browns 21  Bengals 16:  Joe Burrow sat out the game and Brandon Allen demonstrated why he is the backup QB in Cincy.  The Bengals generated only 182 yards of total offense and here is Allen’s individual stat line:

  • 15 of 29 for 136 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

Case Keenum was the Browns’ QB for the day; he did not exactly light up the scoreboard here and the difference in the game was the rushing  yardage:

  • Bengals – –  79 yards on 18 carries
  • Browns – –   205 yards on 41 carries

Lions 37 Packers 30:  Aaron Rodgers played the first half; Jordan Love played the second half.  If Love is seen as the “future franchise QB” in Green Bay, he must be showing some great talent in their practices because his one game where he subbed for Rodgers for COVID reasons and this second half have not been impressive.  Here is his stat line for last week:

  • 10 of 17 for 134 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

Jags 26  Colts 11:  The loss sends the Colts home and out of the playoffs; Carson Wentz played a miserable game here but before all the blame gets heaped on him consider that the Colts defense – – a highly regarded unit for most of the year – – allowed Trevor Lawrence to complete his first 11 passes; gave up 318 yards of total offense and gave up 26 points to a team that had not scored more than 24 points in the previous 16 games.  The Jags were the lowest scoring team in the NFL for 2021.

[Aside #1:  The Money Line odds for the Lions last week were +900 and the Money Line odds for the Jags were +1100.  Had someone parlayed those two picks and wagered $100, he would have won $11,900.]

[Aside #2:  No, I did not have that…]

Steelers 16  Ravens 13 (OT):  This game had all the aesthetic qualities inherent in firing squad.  The Steelers move on to the playoffs and the Ravens stay home having lost their final 6 games in a row in 2021.  That sounds awful but there is a glimmer of hope in there:

  • Lamar Jackson missed some time in those six games due to an ankle injury
  • Five of those 6 straight losses were by 3 points or less.

Bucs 41  Panthers 17:  The Bucs only led 17-10 after 3 quarters.  Never believe that players are not aware of personal stats or bonus thresholds.  Tom Brady saw to it that Gronk got his catches/yardage needed for a $1M bonus in the game.  Gronk caught 7 passes for 137 yards here.

Football Team 22  Giants 7:  A truly meaningless game where the Giants produced only 177 yards of total offense and turned the ball over 3 times.  In those circumstances, it is surprising the Giants only lost by 15 points.

Titans 28  Texans 25:  The Titans secured the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs with this win; the Texans finished the season with a 4-13 record, but they did not quit.  The Titans led 21-0 at the half but the Texans rallied to make the score 21-18 with about 12 minutes left in the game.  From there, the teams traded TDs to produce the final score.

Dolphins 33  Pats 24:  The win gives the Dolphins a sweep of the Pats in 2021 and it gives the Dolphins a winning record at 9-8 despite suffering a 7-game losing streak in mid-season.  None of the above saved Brian Flores’ job as the Dolphins’ head coach.

Bills 27  Jets 10:  The score was 13-10 at the start of the fourth quarter.  The Bills had two possessions in the 4thquarter and got a TD on both of them.  [Aside: They also had a final possession to run the clock out.]  Meanwhile, here were the results of the three possessions by the Jets in the 4th quarter:

  • 6 plays leading to a PUNT
  • 3 plays leading to a PUNT
  • 3 plays leading to a PUNT

Saints 30  Falcons 20:  The Saints had the ball for 39:17 in the game thanks to Alvin Kamara carrying the ball 30 times for 146 of the Saints’ 195 rushing yards.  The Saints converted 8 of 16 third-down tries while the Falcons only managed to convert 3 of 10.  The fact that the Falcons turned the ball over three times did not help their cause even a little bit.

Seahawks 38  Cards 30:  The Seahawks gained 431 yards on offense here; where was that offense earlier this year?  The score was 24-24 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  On their last 3 possessions – – other than kneeling out the clock – – the Seahawks scored 3 TDs.  Here are the results of the last 3 possessions by the Cards:

  • 4 plays leading to a LOST FUMBLE
  • 14 plays leading to a 30-yard FIELD GOAL
  • 14 plays leading to a 36-yard FIELD GOAL

Niners 27  Rams 24 (OT):  The Niners produced 449 yards on offense and the Rams only managed 265.  Normally, games like that do not go to OT.

Chiefs 28  Broncos 24:  This game was dead even on the stat sheet.  An 86-yard scoop-and-score in the middle of the 4th quarter by the Chiefs provided the margin of victory here.

Cowboys 51  Eagles 26:  The Cowboys are the better team here when both teams are playing their “regulars”.  The Eagles sat several of their “regulars”, so this game turned into a practice session pretty quickly.

Raiders 35  Chargers 32 (OT):   This was the perfect way for the NFL to have its final regular season game come to its conclusion.  The Raiders generated almost 100 more yards on offense than the Chargers did, but the Raiders also accumulated 108 yards in penalties on 10 violations.  The overtime period saw three scoring plays (all field goals naturally); that is not commonplace for NFL OTs.


NFL Playoff Games:


(Sat 4:30 PM EST)  Raiders at Bengals – 6 (49):  The Bengals last won a playoff game at the end of the 1990 season, and they have missed the playoffs entirely for the past 5 seasons.  [Aside:  That last win in 1990 came at the expense of the Houston Oilers.]  They are favored here because Joe Burrow, JaMar Chase, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon make for a big-time offense; the Bengals average 27.1 points per game.  The Raiders’ pass defense ranks 13th in the league giving up 222.9 yards per game.  Meanwhile, the Raiders’ passing game is not as potent, but it will play against the 26th ranked pass defense of the Bengals which allowed 248.4 yards per game.  I think the two passing offenses will decide the outcome.  The Raiders are accustomed to playing tight games this year; 7 of their 10 wins were one-score games and four of those one-score wins were overtime games.  The Raiders are on a 4-game winning streak and the total margin of victory in those 4 wins was 12 points.  The Bengals defeated the Raiders in the regular season in Las Vegas by 18 points but that was 8 games ago.  Purely a hunch, I think the Raiders keep this game close; I’ll take the Raiders plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack

(Sat 8:15 PM EST)  Pats at Bills – 4 (43.5):  The Bills bring a 4-game winning streak to the game.  These teams split their meetings in the regular season with each team winning on the road.  The Pats have been better on the road than at home; they are 6-2 on the road and only 4-5 at home.  Go figure…  As noted above, this game will be played in COLD weather but without the sort of windy conditions that prevailed when the Pats beat the Bills in Buffalo back in December.  Each team has a fairly obvious defensive key:

  • Pats’ rookie QB, Mac Jones, has been better at home than on the road despite the teams home/road record.  The Bills could load up to stop the Pats’ run game and force Jones to beat them in “adverse conditions”.
  • The Bills’ running game survives because oftentimes Josh Allen is their leading rusher.  Allen rushed for 763 yards this year on 122 carries (6.3 yards per carry).  The Pats could easily adopt the same strategy as the Bills and load up to stop the run and put a spy on Josh Allen.

It looks to me as if the Bills are peaking as they enter the playoffs on a 4-game winning streak.  I know that Bill Belichick’s teams do not usually make early playoff exits, but I think the Bills are the better team right now; I like the Bills to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.  I need another pick to fill out the Six-Pack so … even in the frigid weather forecast for this night game, I will take the game to go OVER the total; put that in the Six-Pack too.

(Sun 1:00 PM EST)  Eagles at Bucs – 9 (45.5):  The Eagles can run the football; they led the NFL in rushing gaining 159.7 yards per game on the ground.  On paper, it would appear that this would play into the Bucs’ hand since the Bucs had the third best rush defense in the league allowing only 92.5 yards per game.  However, the Bucs had nice leads for large portions of games this year meaning that the opposition was favoring a pass offense to catch up.  The Eagles’ defense cannot allow this to become a shoot-out; in that circumstance, the Bucs would hold significantly superior firepower.  The Bucs will be without Chris Godwin (injury) and Antonio Brown (goofball), so the Bucs’ offense is hampered slightly.  However, Mike Evans will be on the scene.  Moreover, the Eagles defense against tight ends over the middle this year has been less than air-tight, and the Bucs have 3 tight ends – Gronk, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard – who should have big days.  The Bucs have won 5 of their last 6 games but they have only faced one “better than average offense” in that stretch; here are their victims:

  • Panthers
  • Bills
  • Falcons
  • Colts
  • Giants.

The loss in that run was to the Saints who only scored 9 points but still won the game.  I like this game to go OVER the total; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 4:30 PM EST)  Niners at Cowboys – 3.5 (51):  The Niners can run the football too; they average 127.4 yards per game and when the running game is working, they just keep on keeping on.  If the Cowboys’ defense does not force the Niners to throw the ball more often than they want to throw it, the Niners will win the game straight up.  As noted above, do not be fooled by the Cowboys’ 51 point outburst last week; that was against practice squad members of the Eagles team.  I was also impressed by the Niners’ defensive Front 7 in last week’s win over the Rams.  I think the Niners can win the game straight up so I will take them with the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 8:15 PM EST)  Steelers at Chiefs – 13 (46):The Chiefs beat the Steelers like a drum in Arrowhead Stadium on the day after Christmas by a score of 36-10.  If any of the players have repressed that memory, I suspect that Mike Tomlin and company will be sure to bring back those memories.  The Chiefs’ defense is up-and-down this  year; if they take the game less than 100% seriously on defense, this could be a nail-biter.  The Chiefs’ defense allows 368.9 yards per game putting it at 27th in the NFL.  I am not a fan of the Steelers’ offense by any means – – but the Chiefs’ shortcomings on defense can keep this game close.  On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs’ offense is elite and even the excellent Steelers’ defense is unlikely to render it merely average.  I cannot see the Steelers winning this game, but I have no interest in making a selection with that big a spread in a playoff game.

(Mon 8:15 PM EST)  Cards at Rams – 4 (49) :  Like the Pats/Bills game, this game presents two teams that split their regular season encounters with each team winning on the road.  Neither team comes to this game playing strong, consistent football.  The Cards lost 4 of their last 5 games and the Rams arrive on a 2-game losing streak.  Both teams rely on strong defenses to be successful; I assume both defenses will show up intending to dominate the opponent; ergo, I like the game to stay UNDER the Total; put it in the Six-Pack.

And here are two Money Line parlays to consider:

  • Bills @ minus-200
  • Chiefs @ minus-700
  • Bucs @ minus-375  to win $118 on a $100 wager.

And …

  • Raiders @ +190
  • Niners @ +145  to win $611 on a $100 wager.

Finally, here is one more item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“At ‘Star high-school quarterback blissfully unaware he’ll be Jets starter 4 years from now.’”

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



Suggestions To Break the MLB Lockout Impasse

The MLB lockout continues and there are not active negotiations ongoing between the two sides.  I will go out on a limb here and suggest that absent any negotiating sessions, there will not be a resolution to this labor/management impasse.  So, when I ran across this column in the NY Post  by Ken Davidoff it caught my attention.  In the column, he tries to suggest compromises that the two sides might make in order to get to a new CBA even though neither side would get everything it wants to get.  Here is a link to his column; it is worth reading in full.

Let me be clear from the start; I do not agree with all of his proposals – – but that is exactly the point to be made now.  The time for rhetoric and posturing is in the past; the issue now is not if a suggested path forward is “perfect” or even “desirable”; the issue now is if a suggested path forward is “acceptable in exchange for some other modification of position by the other guys.”

Davidoff suggests payroll floors for all MLB teams.  I think this is a great idea but surprisingly it is as unappealing to the union as it is to the owners.  You would think that if teams like the Orioles, Marlins and Rays had to bump up their payrolls by as much as 100-150% over a 5-year period, the union would like that.  Rather, it seems that the union reflexively dismisses the concept of a salary cap and sees a salary floor as an opening to also have a salary cap.

That is a point where I part company with the union position.  Salary caps along with salary floors work in other professional sports; the players in the NFL and the NBA and the NHL are not being exploited and used up as chattel property without fair and reasonable compensation.  Obviously, there would need to be a lot of haggling over what the numbers might be for cap and floor; and just as importantly, there would have to be some grace-period exemptions for teams to come into compliance should it come to be.  But this is something that both sides should want to achieve somewhere down the road – – so get started now because it might take 10 years of negotiating to get it done.

Davidoff suggests increasing the threshold for baseball’s “luxury tax” as a balancing act for the salary floor that he proposes.  Absent getting to a “Cap-and-Floor” structure, the increase he proposes in the luxury tax target point makes sense.

Davidoff suggests increasing the minimum salary for MLB players by more than 100% in 2022 and by about 300% by 2026.  I cannot imagine how the union would oppose such a position; the question is what might the union be willing to give to the owners in exchange.  I think the increases proposed would be helpful to young players who are a long way from getting to free agency; that would be a lot of votes in the union to ratify whatever else might be in the new CBA.  This change would also make it easier to assure that low-payroll teams start to approach a reasonable salary floor – – but then again, the union hates the idea of a salary floor.

Davidoff has a suggestion in his column regarding a change in the arbitration system.  I confess that I do not understand baseball arbitration rules anywhere near well enough to understand what he is proposing here and why it might or might not be a resolution that either side might like or dislike.  He says that his suggestion would diminish the relevance of agents; if that were to be the case, I could get behind it.

Davidoff wants to modify the MLB Draft so that teams are not rewarded for long-term tanking and perennial losing.  Maybe his suggestion is the best way to accomplish this end via the Draft and maybe there is a better idea out there; I don’t know.  However, I do think that his final conclusion here is definitely something that would be beneficial to MLB:

“Massive losing must be disincentivized.”

Davidoff favors a 14-team playoff and universal DH.  I disagree on both points.  I have never liked the DH rule and I still do not like it.  The only way I would even begin to consider expanded playoffs with 14 teams would be to cut back the regular season from 162 games so that the regular season can begin after April1, and the World Series can end before Halloween.  I really do like the idea of an orderly reduction of regular season games from the current 162 games to 144 games over a 5-7 year period.

Davidoff wants to eliminate the draft-pick penalties for teams signing top-shelf free agents.  I like that idea; the team losing the free agent can have a supplemental pick in the Draft but the team signing that free agent need not lose a pick.

Davidoff favors 7-inning doubleheaders so long as COVID is a problem.  He addresses the issue of “the fan who pays a 9-inning price for a ticket only to get a 7-inning game” with a creative suggestion.  Each fan gets a $15 coupon to be used for food in the stadium as compensation for the shorter game.   That is the kind of creative thinking that seems absent from the two sides who have to reach an agreement here.

Davidoff also suggests putting in pitch clocks and I think that is a great idea.  He cites data from pitch clock experiments in  Low-A minor leagues that showed more than 20 minutes being cut from average game time.  I attend AA games in Altoona every summer where there is a 20-second pitch clock and has been for several years.  The games move along much more quickly than MLB games do AND no pitcher has had to be helped off the field with his arm hanging by a thread.

Thanks to Ken Davidoff for this essay; I can only hope that the combatants read it and open their minds to the points he makes because without open minds, this contretemps will not resolve itself.

Finally, the two sides in this “battle” are still focused on ideal outcomes for their sides and that leads me to close today with a view of idealism from William F. Buckley, Jr.:

“Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality the cost becomes prohibitive.”

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



Stadium News Today …

A fan in NYC has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court seeking $6B in damages and a court ordered return to NYC by the Giants and the Jets.  The suit alleges false advertising, deceptive practices and interstate wire fraud on the part of the two teams.  [It is the interstate wire fraud allegation that lands this in the Federal court system.]  The Giants have played their home games in New Jersey since 1976 and the Jets have shared a stadium there with the Giants since 1984.  Obviously, the Giants think that the suit is “without merit” and they swear that they will defend their position vigorously.  If there has been a response from either the Jets or from the NFL as a whole, I have not found it.

The charges in this suit have a patina of credibility only because the Giants and Jets call themselves “New York” but never actually play there and both teams have their practice facilities “across the river” in New Jersey.  That got me thinking about other NFL franchises where the team does not play in the city they claim in their team’s name.

  • Given where I live, the Washington Football Team – – or whatever they will name themselves in the near future – – would be guilty of the same egregious behavior.  The team’s stadium is in Landover, MD; the team’s practice facility is in Ashburn VA.

[Aside:  When Jack Kent Cooke owned the team and built the stadium, he tried to create his own locality name; he called the location of the stadium, Ral-John, MD, after his two sons Ralph and John.  The name did not stick.]

  • The Dallas Cowboys play their games in Arlington, TX and their practice facility is in Frisco, TX.
  • The Buffalo Bills play their games and have their practice facilities in Orchard Park NY – – a small suburb just south of Buffalo, NY
  • The San Francisco 49ers left town several years ago and moved to their new stadium in Santa Clara, CA which is much closer to San José than it is to San Francisco.

I cannot think of any other NFL team that would run afoul of a victory by the plaintiff in this lawsuit, but I have not gone to verify the mailing addresses of every team’s stadium and practice facilities.

Dwight Perry took note of this suit and its allegations and had this to say in the Seattle Times:

“A fan has filed a $6 billion lawsuit against the Jets and Giants for deceptive practices, on the grounds that they:

  • a) call themselves New York but play in New Jersey
  • b) claim to play professional football.”

Speaking of stadiums – sort of – I read a report that the city of Miami and the folks who own/operate the MLS team in Miami – – InterMiami – – have reached a deal for a new stadium for the team.  The stadium would be part of a larger commercial development project and would include:

  • The stadium that would seat up to 30,000 folks
  • A shopping mall
  • A park
  • A hotel.

The total cost would be about $1B and the team’s contribution to the deal would be the cost of the land which could be in the $35-50M range.  That seems like a hefty price tag for a project centered on a soccer stadium – – unless this means that soccer has finally arrived on a sound financial footing in the US.

Miami as a city must love to build stadium/arena venues.  The Dolphins, the Marlins, the Heat and the Panthers each play in their own venues; now InterMiami will have a new crib of its own too.

Yesterday, I said that the NY Giants seemed to be ready to stick with Joe Judge for at least one more season.  That changed overnight; Judge is out as the coach of the Giants and GM Dave Gettleman “retired” so the Giants will do a full restructuring of the football side of the house.  The plan is to hire a new GM and to have that GM go out and hire a new coach.  Frankly, that makes more sense than hiring a new GM and telling him to find a way to make nice with the existing coach whose record with the team is a less-than-laudable 10-23-0.

Just as Dolphins’ fans might be justified in skepticism about the capabilities of their owner to hire a new head coach as detailed yesterday, Giants’ fans should worry about the processes at work in NYC.  The last three Giants’ head coaches since ditching Tom Coughlin have lasted two years or less on the job and the results have not been pretty:

  • Joe Judge – – 10-23-0
  • Pat Shurmur – – 9-23-0
  • Ben McAdoo – – 13-13-0

The pressure will be on the new GM – – not just for hiring a competent and lasting head coach.  In addition, the Giants – – a team with significant talent upgrade needs – hold the overall #5 and #7 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.  The new GM needs to get those picks right; the way Dan Jenkins would describe it; the picks need to be:

  • Dead solid perfect.

Finally, since I used an observation from Dwight Perry above, let me crib another comment of his from the Seattle Times:

“Point: Let’s expand the College Football Playoff field.

“Counterpoint: So we can have even more riveting games like Alabama 27, Cincinnati 6 and Georgia 34, Michigan 11.”

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



Congratulations To The Georgia Bulldogs

After four decades of wandering in the college football wilderness, the Georgia Bulldogs became the national champions last night.  Using that construct, Kirby Smart as the leader of the Bulldogs would be analogous to Moses except Moses never got to live out his days in the Promised Land.  Congratulations to Georgia; they played an outstanding football game and beat a worthy opponent.  I will not be surprised in the least to see more than a handful of Georgia players taken in the NFL Draft in April this year surely to include:

  • Nakobe Dean
  • Travon Walker
  • Devonte Wyatt

Yesterday was Black Monday – – the day after the final NFL regular season game and the day where coaches get fired for failing to meet expectations notwithstanding any degree of realism contained in those expectations.  Before I get into who got fired and all that sort of thing, let me offer up a viewpoint that I do not think you will see anywhere else.  There are two NFL coaches who should get some recognition when NFL insiders vote to select the Coach of the Year and I doubt that either will get much attention:

  1. Rich Bisaccia – – Raiders
  2. David Culley – – Texans

Rich Bisaccia took over the Raiders’ job in a time of turmoil when the most common reaction to the announcement of his name as the interim coach was “Who the Hell is he?”  And all he did was to keep the team together such that the Raiders made the playoffs

David Culley played a 17-game schedule with a roster that had been gutted and left in the hot sun to rot.  The standings reflect the degree of “roster rot” but the standings do not reflect that the team played hard long after any glimmer of hope for a break-even season was extinguished.

The Broncos fired Vic Fangio after three seasons with the team; the Broncos’ record in the Fangio Era was 19-30 and there were no playoff appearances.  Fangio got the job in the first place because of his credentials as a Defensive Coordinator and a lot of that expertise carried over into his time in Denver; the Broncos’ defense was fine.  The problem is that the team never paired that good defense with anything better than a mediocre offense; in 2021, the Broncos only scored 19.7 points per game.  The Broncos also fired Offensive Coordinator, Pat Shurmur over the weekend but I really do not think that will solve the Broncos’ problems.  The team needs a serious upgrade at QB for any coach there to be fully successful.

The Vikes fired Mike Zimmer after 8 seasons with the team; the Vikes’ record in the Zimmer Era was 72-56-1 which looks pretty good until you look more closely and see that the Vikes were only 33-31 in the last 4 seasons.  Like Vic Fangio, Mike Zimmer was a “defense guy” when he got the job; over the past two seasons, the Vikes’ defense has been straight up BAD; this year the Vikes’ defense ranked 30th in the NFL in total defense and 24th in the league in points allowed per game.  The Vikes also fired their GM, Rick Spielman, over the weekend so this move represents a major housecleaning for the team.

The Bears fired Matt Nagy after 4 seasons with the team; the Bears’ record in the Nagy Era was 34-31 with two playoff appearances and only one losing season.  Like the Broncos, the Bears have a very good defense; they ranked 6th in the NFL in Total Defense last year.  Even so, the team finished with a 6-11 record and like the Broncos, they need a major upgrade at the QB position.  The Bears also fired GM Ryan Pace who contributed to the Bears’ problems at QB.  Pace traded up to take Mitchell Trubisky with the #2 overall pick and then traded up to get Justin Fields in last year’s draft.  Added to those “investments” are the draft assets traded away to acquire Khalil Mack making the goal of “fixing the offense” a significant challenge.

The Dolphins fired Brian Flores after 3 seasons with the team; the Dolphins’ record in the Flores Era was 24-25.  The Dolphins had a wining record in each of the last two seasons, so this move was a surprise to me.  Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Dolphins’ major weakness is at the QB position and firing the coach usually does not manifest itself into a significant QB upgrade; so, I do not get this move at all.  Several reports say that Flores lost a “power struggle” within the organization.  The Dolphins owner is Stephen Ross; he has owned the team since 2009; whoever gets the job will be the 7th head coach hired by Ross.  That alone should raise an eyebrow or two; and then, when you look at the list of his coaches, you begin to wonder about how he makes those sorts of decisions:

  1. Tony Sparano – – he was “inherited” by Ross when he bought the team
  2. Todd Bowles – – interim coach when Sparano fired in mid-season
  3. Joe Philbin – – replaced Bowles who went 2-1 as the interim coach
  4. Dan Campbell – – interim coach when Philbin was fired in mid-season
  5. Adam Gase – – ‘nuff said
  6. Brian Flores – – team started the season 1-7 and wound up 9-8
  7. ??? – – good luck to the “new guy”…

The Giants appear to be sticking with Joe Judge for at least one more season, but Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman is retiring making that management situation fluid indeed.  Judge is a polarizing figure to say the least; he talks tough but the play on the field does not match his rhetoric.  The NY Giants have been in the NFL since 1925; Joe Judge is the first head coach of the Giants to oversee 6 consecutive losses by double digits; if you think that sort of thing can or will be ignored by fans in NY, you are sorely mistaken.

Finally, apropos of the rumored “power struggle” in Miami, consider these words from Mark Twain:

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.  This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.”

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



Monday Morning Musings…

The Australian Open will begin a week from today; it has already become a soap opera.  The world’s #1 ranked player on the men’s side of the draw, Novak Djokovic, is an avowed anti-vaxxer; notwithstanding that fact, he was granted a visa to enter Australia but when he arrived last week, the government there sought to revoke the visa over Djokovic’s unvaccinated status.  To hear his family tell it, he was held under conditions that would violate the Geneva Convention if applied to POWs; in actuality, he was “quarantined” in a hotel.  Earlier today, a judge in Australia re-instated Djokovic’s visa – – so you would think the saga has come to an end.  Cue Lee Corso:

  • Not so fast, my friend …

After the ruling, a lawyer for the Australian Government said that  the Australian Immigration Minister “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelation.”  According to the AP that would not only keep Djokovic out of the tennis tournament next week but could also bar him from entering Australia for 3 years.  I have no idea what all of this portends or means except for this:

  • The fat lady is still in her dressing room warming up her vocal cords.

Prior to the hearing earlier today, Brad Dickson assessed Novak Djokovic’s situation this way:

“Novak Djokovic will not be allowed to play in the Australian Open because he is unvaccinated. The news isn’t all bad for Novak. He just signed to be the new backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.”

Next item…  As far as I am concerned, last night’s game between the Raiders and the Chargers puts to bed permanently all cries of anguish and outrage and all postures of victimhood by members of Raider Nation over the “Tuck Rule”.  It took a couple of decades or so, but last night the Raiders got their make-up call.  There was a pass interference call made on a play where the ball was not within 20 yards of the contact that drew the flag; the Raiders’ receiver might have been able to catch the ball if he were actually the Marvel Superhero, The Flash.  Absent that condition, that was an incomplete pass, and the contact was not germane to the play.

  1. The “Tuck Rule” call led to the elimination of the Raiders from the playoffs in 2001.
  2. Last night’s pass interference in the end zone call put the Raiders into the playoffs in 2022.
  3. The books are balanced, no more bleating from Raider Nation fanboys.

That call got me to thinking about NFL officiating again.  There has certainly been an overabundance of complaints about the NFL officiating this year and there exists plenty of video evidence that makes the league and its officiating administrators admit after the fact that a call was blown.  I know from experience that officials make mistakes; but for some reason, there seem to be more bad calls than there have been in the past save for that abominable time with the “Replacement Refs”.

So, I wonder if protocols for officials related to COVID had any effect on their preparation and/or the makeup of the crews assigned to the various games.  I have exactly no information and have not read any reports saying that league protocols have been a problem for officials and officiating crews – – but I do wonder.  Officiating is a joint endeavor just as football is a team sport.

Enough about officiating and legal entanglements – – I hope.  Tonight, is the CFP Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia; this is the pairing I wanted to see in this game about 2 months ago.  I will not pretend that I have seen multiple games involving all the good college football teams this year, but I have seen plenty of college football and these are the two best teams this year.  I hope tonight will put a punctuation mark that is appropriate for this college football season.

Here is the line for tonight’s game:

  • Georgia – 3 vs Alabama (52.5):

This game is extremely important to Georgia coach, Kirby Smart, for a variety of reasons.  One reason is that Smart got the job at Georgia six years ago because of the job he had done as the Alabama defensive coordinator under Nick Saban for ten years.  In the six years Smart has been at Georgia, he has faced Alabama 4 times – – and lost them all.  His reaction when questioned about that record is simple and straightforward:

“I ain’t the only guy losing to Saban.”

[Aside:  Nick Saban has coached against teams piloted by former assistants at Alabama 26 times.  His record in those games is 25-1.]

Georgia’s fanboys will probably go berserk if the Bulldogs lose to Alabama again tonight, but they really should not.  Kirby Smart has built a program at Georgia that will be a solid contender for the CFP every year even if the CFP never expands beyond 4 teams.  Georgia has already won the SEC East 4 times in 6 years, and this is Georgia’s second trip to the CFP Championship Game since Smart arrived.

The Georgia defense was embarrassed in the SEC Championship Game won by Alabama 41-24.  I do not think that is going to happen again and I do not think Georgia will light up the scoreboard on the Alabama defense.  I like the game to stay UNDER; there are no other games from which to create a Six-Pack; so just put that selection on my tab.

Finally, John Simon was a critic of art, drama and film for various magazines including New York and National Review.  His characterizations of actors and actresses was often blunt and unflattering as per:

“Linda Blair, not a very talented or prepossessing  youngster then, is even less interesting now, though considerably more bovine; I doubt whether a post-pubertal acting style can be made out of mere chubbiness.”

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



Football Friday 1/7/22

            Since this is the first Friday in 2022, it is appropriate that I set the year on a proper course and deliver the first Football Friday of the year.

[Aside:  And before I get any snarky emails from a former colleague in Pismo Beach, let the record show that I have no plans for “Tennis Tuesdays” in 2022.]

Here are the results of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-1-0
  • NFL:  4-1-0
  • Total:  4-2-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-0  Net “profit” for the week = $116

Here are the cumulative results since the start of the season:

  • College:  14-20-0
  • NFL:  34-32-2
  • Total:  48-52-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  5-10  Net “loss: for the season = $minus-61


NFL Commentary:


In last week’s game against the Bears, the Giants net passing yardage was minus-10 yards.  Remember that in the NFL, yards lost on sacks is subtracted from the yards gained passing to arrive at the net passing yards.  I read somewhere that Ryan Leaf had a game with minus-19 yards net passing so I went to try to find the game.

I assumed that event must have happened during Leaf’s stint with the Cowboys because I recalled that those games were “less than successful”.  But I was wrong; that performance came in Leaf’s rookie year with the Chargers.  The game venue was KC and here are the pertinent stats:

  • 1 of 15 for 4 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Sacked 2 times for total loss of 23 yards
  • Net passing yards = minus-19 yards.

I mention the Giants’ futility because it was only 6 games ago when the Giants fired Jason Garrett as their Offensive Coordinator and installed Freddie Kitchens as the play-caller.  Last week may have been the nadir of the season for the Giants but here is stark reality:

  • In the 6 games since Jason Garrett was fired, the Giants have scored 5 TDs on offense.
  • In their last 25 offensive possessions, the Giants have scored exactly 1 TD.

There are situations where firing a coach – or a coordinator – resolves a problem.  Those situations are not commonplace; Jason Garrett was not the stumbling block for the Giants on offense this year; the problem is substandard play by too many players on the offensive unit.  There is no need to remind me; I know that QB, Daniel Jones, got hurt and is out – – but most folks who have paid attention to the NFL for the last 5 years know that Mike Glennon cannot be a team’s QB for weeks on end; it simply won’t work and that is what the Giants’ braintrust installed as its “backup plan”.  There is only one difference between Mike Glennon and Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch:

  • Glennon is still in the NFL cashing a check.

After watching the Steelers/Browns on Monday night and enduring the seemingly incessant focus on the possibility that this would be Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game, I came to appreciate even more a comment last weekend by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times on the subject.  It was short and to the point – – which cannot be said about the broadcasters earlier this week:

“QB Ben Roethlisberger said “this could be it” — he’ll likely play his final home game Monday night after 18 seasons as a Steeler.

“If anybody knows it’s time, it’s a guy known as Big Ben.”

In 2021, the Saints set a record for defensive futility giving up 7042 yards.  That was in a 16-game season but now the league plays a 17-game season.  It does not appear as if any defense is going to threaten that total of yards allowed; going into the final week, the Jets have the most porous defense in the league giving up 6336 yards; I doubt they will give up 700 yards this weekend.

However, in future years, that number could be eclipsed and that is why it is important to focus on the “per-game” stats in situations such as these  Consider:

  • The Saints gave up 440.1 yards per game in 2012
  • A team giving up 7043 yards in a 17-game season would *only* give up 414.3 yards per game.

Speaking of bad defense, the Ravens have the worst pass defense in the league in terms of yards per game allowed – – 281.7 yards per game allowed.  Some might point to injuries as the source of this ignominy; others might criticize the defensive game planning.  I prefer to think about it this way:

  • The Ravens’ defensive backs are doing their part to demonstrate ways to counter the spread of COVID-19 by playing pass defense with social distancing.

Baker Mayfield will undergo shoulder surgery and will not play in the final Browns’ game this week.  He has been playing with an injured left shoulder for just about the entire season; his performance has suffered significantly.  There are “reports” that the Browns might “move on” and that Mayfield could be available to other teams looking for a QB.  Adam Kilgore covers the NFL as a whole for the Washington Post went so far as to write this earlier this week after Monday night’s performance against the Steelers:

“And then came Monday night.  Injured or not, eliminated from contention or not, supported by listless performances and shoddy play-calling or not, Mayfield delivered a declarative performance in the Browns’  24-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He removed any sheen of ambiguity about his future.  The Browns cannot sign Mayfield beyond the fifth-year option for 2022 they exercised back in April, and they need to explore moving on from him this offseason.”

OK, let me assume that Messr. Kilgore is right in his assessment and let me add the Browns to a list of twelve teams that might/should be looking to upgrade themselves at QB.  Here is my list:

  1. Broncos – – Bridgewater is good but an upgrade would be welcomed there
  2. Browns – – assuming Mayfield has worn out his welcome there
  3. Dolphins – – Tua’s lack of consistency is a problem
  4. Football Team – – Heinicke is fine as a backup to fill in for a game or two
  5. Giants – – if Jones is not the answer, the other QBs on the team are certainly not.
  6. Panthers – – the Darnold Experiment flamed out
  7. Raiders – – lots of fans think Carr is an impediment; not I; how about the GM?
  8. Saints – – is Winston the answer – – because Hill is not
  9. Seahawks – – could this be the “Russell Wilson Offseason of Discontent?”
  10. Steelers – – Roethlisberger is done; the backups there inspire little confidence
  11. Texans – – who knows what will happen there?
  12. Vikes – – has Cousins worn out his welcome there?

That is one-third of the league on my listing – – and I purposely left off teams with rookie QBs or ones where the young QB has not played enough to give the coaches aa solid basis for evaluation – – such as Justin Fields with the Bears or Trey Lance with the Niners. The important thing to note here is that there are not necessarily enough “quality QBs” to fulfill those teams seeking an upgrade and that leads GMs to “reach” for a QB in the Draft or to make a trade that is destined to be less-than-satisfactory.

Moving on to last week’s games:

Steelers 26  Browns 14:  Najee Harris won this game for the Steelers with 188 yards rushing and a TD.  I said above that Ben Roethlisberger is done; here is the stat line he produced in this game:

  • 24 of 46 for 123 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.
  • That is 5 yards per completion and less than 3 yards per pass attempt.

As to Baker Mayfield’s performance in that game, forget the overall stats which were not particularly attractive; simply consider this:

  • Mayfield completed his first pass attempt for a 20-yard gain
  • He then threw 10 consecutive passes that were incomplete – – one of them was intercepted.
  • He took 9 sacks in the game – – not all his fault but a couple were totally his fault.

Bills 29  Falcons 15:  The Falcons led 15-14 at the half and then got shut out in the second half.  Josh Alen only had 120 yards passing in the windy snowy conditions of the game, but he also added 81 yards rushing to the Bills’ offense.

Pats 50  Jags 10:  Can the season end soon enough for the Jags and their fans?  Mac Jones threw 3 TDs in the game; Trevor Lawrence threw 3 INTs in the game.

Rams 20  Ravens 19:  Matthew Stafford played like the football equivalent of daredevil, Evel Knievel.  He threw for 300 yards and 2 TDs; he also threw 2 INTs – – one of them a Pick-Six.

Bengals 34  Chiefs 31:  JaMar Chase ran roughshod over the Chiefs’ secondary with 11 receptions for 266 yards and 3 TDs.  The Chiefs’ secondary could be their Achilles Heel.  Both teams’ offenses were clicking here; total offense for both teams in the game was 889 yards.

Raiders 23  Colts 20:  Derek Carr led a drive in the final 2 minutes to set up the winning field goas as time expired.  This was in improbable win for the Raiders; consider these happenings:

  • Raiders lost the turnover battle 2-0
  • Raiders lost a TD on a reversal by replay officials
  • Raiders allowed Jonathan Taylor to rush for more than 100 yards; Colts were 9-0 whenever that happened in 2021.

Bears 29  Giants 3:  Mike Glennon produced minus-10 yards of passing offense in the game (see above).  For icing on the cake, he also threw 2 INTs.  The Bears dominated in a game where they only produced 249 yards of offense.

Titans 34  Dolphins 3:  So much for that 7-game win streak for the Dolphins.  Tua was 18 of 38 with an INT in the game.  Meanwhile, the Titans – – without Derrick Henry remember – – ran the ball for 198 yards on 40 attempts.

Eagles 20  Football Team 16:  This game was a replay of the first meeting between the two.

  • Football Team runs out to a lead.
  • Eagles pitch a shutout in the second half and win the game

The Football Team had the ball 4 times in the first half and got a TD and 3 Field goals out of those 4 possessions.  Here are the second half possessions for the Football Team:

  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 6 plays and a PUNT
  • 7 plays and a TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 11 plays leading to an INT.

Bucs 28  Jets 24:  The Jets led 24-10 with about 7 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter but the defense could not close it out.  For the day, the Bucs gained 467 yards on offense and Tom Brady threw for 405 of those yards.

Chargers 34  Broncos 13:  The stat sheet for the game looks a lot more even than the result shown on the scoreboard. The biggest statistical difference is that the Chargers converted 9 of 15 3rd down tries while the Broncos were successful on only 3 of 11 attempts.

Saints 18  Panthers 10:  The Saints’ defense should be the ones doing the celebrating.  After the Panthers had 10 points on the board with 13 minutes to go in the second quarter, the Saints’ defense took over; here is what happened to the Panthers’ offense from that point on:

  • 3 plays leading to a LOST FUMBLE
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 4 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 10 plays leading to a MISSED FIELD GOAL
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 11 plays leading to an INT.

Cardinals 25  Cowboys 22:  The Cowboys’ offense was not very consistent here; it produced only 45 yards rushing for the game.  Kyler Murray put on a show here accounting for just over 300 yards from scrimmage and throwing 2 TD passes.

Niners 23  Texans 7:  Trey Lance was the QB here and the Niners amassed416 yards on offense.  His stat line was:

  • 16 of 23 for 249 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT

Seahawks 51  Lions 29:  The Seahawks’ offense had been dormant for much of 2021 but they dominated here; the Seahawks ran the ball for 265 yards and threw for an additional 232 yards.  The Seahawks led 38-7 with about 14 minutes left in the 3rd quarter; the Lions “rallied” to make the score look less awful that the game actually was.

Packers 37  Vikes 10:  The QB matchup was Sean Mannion vs. Aaron Rodgers; it was not a fair fight.  The Packers’ defense loaded up to stop the run because they did not fear the Mannion-orchestrated passing offense.  The result was that the Vikes gained only 27 yards rushing for the game.  The Vikes had the ball 11 times in the game; here are the results:

  1. 5 plays leading to a TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  2. 3 plays and a PUNT
  3. 3 plays and a PUNT
  4. 3 plays and a PUNT
  5. 3 plays and a PUNT
  6. 9 plays leading to a FIELD GOAL
  7. 3 plays and a PUNT
  8. 6 plays leading to a TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  9. 8 plays leading to a TD
  10. 3 plays and a PUNT
  11. 7 plays leading to a TURNOVER ON DOWNS

The Packers dominated time of possession 38:33 to 21:27.


NFL Games:


This week, the NFL games are more than a little bit like Exhibition Games prior to the start of the regular season.  Teams that are in the playoffs may – – or may not – – play their regular starters for some or all the game.  Even teams out of the playoffs might want to “get a look” at some young players for purely evaluative purposes.  Some coaches may believe – – rightly or wrongly – – that the outcome of this one game is pivotal to their retaining their job for next year.  Making picks this week makes me realize why the Oracle at Delphi always gave cryptic answers to questions posed…

(Sat 4:30 PM EST) Chiefs – 10 at Broncos (45):  The Chiefs can still get the #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs, but they must win this game to keep that hope alive.  The Chiefs secondary had a bad day last week ( see above) but this week they are playing Drew Lock and not Joe Burrow/JaMar Chase.  Here is a trend you may find interesting:

  • The Chiefs have won 12 games in a row over the Broncos and Patrick Mahomes has never lost a game to the Broncos.
  • Last time Broncos beat Chiefs was in Week 2 of 2015.

I think the Chiefs will score – – and then score again – – and then score some more; I like the Chiefs to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:15 PM EST) Cowboys – 7.5 at Eagles (43):  Both teams are in the playoffs so I have no idea who will play and how long they might play for either team in this game.  Maybe you will be seeing Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts play QB in this game – – or maybe it will be Cooper Rush against Gardner Minshew II.  The NFL flexed a meaningless game to the Saturday Nite prime time slot because the Cowboys for sure and the Eagles to a lesser extent virtually guarantee top shelf ratings.  Cha-ching!

Packers – 4 at Lions (44.5):  The spread opened on Tuesday with the Lions as 2-point favorites at home; by Wednesday morning, the line had moved to Packers – 3.5 and it seems to have settled in at 4 points for the balance of the week.

Bears at Vikes – 3.5 (44.5):  This is a meaningless game; both teams will be watching the playoffs on TV.  Maybe the semi-interesting story line is that both coaches are on VERY hot seats.  The Vikes will have Kirk Cousins back off the COVID-reserve list for the game; the Bears have The Troika of Mediocrity at QB on terms of Andy Dalton, Justin Fields and Nick Foles.

Pats – 6 at Dolphins (40:  These teams met in Week 1 and the Dolphins prevailed in Foxboro 17-16.  The Pats are in the playoffs and could possibly be the AFC East champs by Sunday night.  The Dolphins are out of the playoffs, and this could easily be a “payback game” for the Pats’ coaching staff.  I think the Pats take a lead here and then do not take their foot off the gas; I’ll take the Pats on the road to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Colts – 15.5 at Jags (44):  For the Colts, this game is “Win And You’re In”; for the Jags this game is a merciful end to a reeking season.  If the Colts’ defenders really take this game seriously, they could well hold the Jags to single digits.  Having said that, take a look at these recent trends:

  • Jags are 2-2 against the Colts in their last 4 meetings
  • Jags are 2-27 against the rest of the NFL over that same time span
  • Colts won the first meeting of these teams this year by 6 points

There are reports that a group of fans in Jax plan to attend the game wearing clown costumes to show what they think of the Jags this season.  That may be the most interesting aspect to this game…

Jets at Bills – 16 (41):  The Bills will be the AFC East champs with a win here; they will be a wildcard team with a loss and a win by the Pats.  The Jets will be playing for “pride” whatever that means in a season where the Jets’ record is 4-12 and they have been outscored by 177 points.

Panthers at Bucs – 8 (42):  The Panthers’ season has collapsed; the Bucs are in the playoffs.  However, the Bucs’ performance last week against the sorry-assed Jets was not the kind of game a playoff team wants to have as a “momentum-builder.  I see Tom Brady and Bruce Arians setting this one up as a “statement game”; I like the Bucs to win big; put it in the Six-Pack.

Titans – 10 at Texans  (43):  A win for the Titans here will put them in the AFC Playoffs as the #1 seed meaning a BYE Week and home games until/unless they lose.  Seven weeks ago, these teams met and the Texans – – the Texans – – won the game 22-13.  That means the Titans’ coaching staff can chew on the players to put out full effort here.

Football Team – 6.5 at Giants (38.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  To be most generous, both teams have “disappointed their fans”; to be more accurate, both teams stink.  It is possible that the Giants will give Jake Fromm his second start of his career; it simply has to be an improvement over his first start, right?  The Football Team carries a 4-game losing streak to the kickoff; the Giants are on a 5-game losing streak.  The Football Team is 3-5 on the road; the Giants are 3-5 at home.  This game is what I call an “AYE Game”:

  • Avert Your Eyes !

Saints – 4.5 at Falcons (40):  The Falcons are out of the playoffs; the Saints can still get in with a win here and some help.  Everyone says that QB is the most important position in the NFL; and with that as a “guiding principle” let me say that Matt Ryan is a better QB than either Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian.   I’ll take the Falcons at home plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Steelers at Ravens – 5 (41):  The Ravens are eliminated from the playoffs; the Steelers can still get in with a win here and some help elsewhere on the schedule.  Can the Ravens’ league-worst pass defense stand up to the clearly limited Steelers’ pass offense?  That is the question that makes this game interesting…

Bengals at Browns – 6 (38):  The Bengals are in; the Browns are out.  The Browns will start Case Keenum at QB; the Bengals might play Joe Burrow because their seeding in the playoffs is not yet determined.  If Burrow does not play, the Bengals will go with Brandon Allen.

Seahawks at Cards – 6.5 (48.5):  The Cards can win the division with a win here and a Rams’ loss.  For the Seahawks, this game is nothing more than a final paycheck for the 2021 season.  The Cards played well last week in beating the Cowboys – – but they had not looked even remotely close to “good” for several weeks prior to that game.  The Seahawks blew the doors off the Lions last week but still gave up 29 points to a team that only averages 18 points per game.  I think the Cards use this game to “get sharp” for the playoffs; I like them to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

Niners at Rams – 4 (44.5): This is my runner-up for Game of the Week, and it did not miss that label by more than a nose.  The Niners need the win to get in the playoffs; the Rams need the win to secure the NFC West title; the Rams have won 5 in a row.  A key to beating the Niners is to stop their running game.  The Rams’ run defense ranks 6th in the NFL; the burden is on them.

(Sun Nite) Chargers – 3 at Raiders (49.5):  Call this the play-in game for the AFC Playoffs; the winner is in, and the loser gets to wallow in the shame of losing this one; in poker terminology, both teams are all-in for this one  This is the Game of the Week.  The Raiders are at home, and they have the better defense; they give up an average of 30 yards per game less than the Chargers.  I like home teams that have the better defense when they are underdogs; give me the Raiders plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

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

  • Chiefs – 10 over Broncos
  • Pats – 6 over Dolphins
  • Bucs – 8 over Panthers
  • Falcons +4.5 against Saints
  • Cards – 6.5 over Seahawks
  • Raiders +3 against Chargers

And “just for the halibut”, here is a Money Line Parlay for this week:

  • Chiefs @ minus-500
  • Bucs @ minus-370
  • Pats @ minus-270  to win $109 on a $100 wager

Finally, comedian and social commentator, Mort Sahl, died late last year.  Here is one of his social observations about the evolution of American culture:

“In the Forties, to get a girl you had to be a G.I. or a jock.  In the Fifties, to get a girl you had to be Jewish.  In the Sixties, to get a girl you had to be Black.  In the Seventies, to get a girl you’ve got to be a girl.”

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



Picking Nits…

Yesterday, I received 3 emails from friends alerting me that MLB Network will not renew Ken Rosenthal’s contract there and – in essence – fire him from his position.  Most stories on this matter say that Rosenthal is the MLB equivalent of Adam Schefter in that Rosenthal has real MLB inside sources through which he routinely breaks stories.  According to the NY Post, a major reason for this ”separation” is that Rosenthal wrote several less-than-flattering columns about Commissioner Rob Manfred last year when there was a stalemate about how to conduct the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

The common narrative on sports talk radio seems to be that MLB Network made a big mistake here because of Rosenthal’s stature in the baseball writers’ community.  I am sure that no one here will be surprised to learn that I do not think this is a big deal; here is why:

  • Ken Rosenthal is a serious journalist.  He tries to dig up as many facts as he can about situations and then he reports those facts.  Given his long-time association with baseball, his opinions based on the facts that he uncovers carry weight.
  • MLB Network is not a journalism enterprise; it never was and it never will be.  MLB Network is a 24/7 infomercial seeking to promote and advance MLB.  It is owned by MLB and the owners; it is a house organ; it is promotional in nature not reportorial.

MLB Network can and will carry out its specific “mission” with or without Ken Rosenthal.  They made no mistake there.

Ken Rosenthal will continue to be a senior baseball journalist who breaks stories as he writes columns in The Athletic and appears on various other TV and radio outlets.  His stature has not been diminished in the least; I doubt he will bear a grudge.

I believe this entire matter is full of sound and fury and signifies nothing…  [Hat Tip to Willie Shakespeare for that…]

The baseball story for today that I think is being underreported is the lack of negotiating by the leagues and the MLBPA to get a new CBA.  One report I read said that the two sides had not met for even an hour of negotiating time since the lockdown was put into effect.  I have no expertise in labor law or labor negotiations, but I feel confident in making this statement:

  • There is a low probability of progress if the two sides do not meet and actually negotiate.

Folks, I know that deadlines are the best way to “get deals done” but there are so many “problem areas” identified in this set of negotiations that I wonder if there is time enough to work them out before pitchers and catchers would normally report to Spring Training camps.  I am beginning to worry that Spring Training will be delayed; and if it is delayed significantly, that would delay the start of the regular season.

  • And if that happens, you can add another issue to the pile of ones needed to be resolved – – how long will the season be, and will player salaries be pro-rated?


Another story that has consumed far too much time on sports talk radio in the DC area yesterday was the announcement by the Washington Football Team that they will reveal their new team name and team colors and team logo on February 2nd, 2022.  Immediately upon opening the subject, one of the shows heard from a caller who had concluded that the new name will be the Washington Hogs – seriously.  He said that would be a link back to the “Glory Days” of the franchise which are important to Danny Boy Snyder AND that the team chose that day for the announcement because it is GroundHOG’S Day.  Some folks have far too much time on their hands…

I think there is another part of the team announcement that is more important than whatever they name the team.  After all, the team name will be what it is, and folks will either get used to it or mock it for a long time; that is a situation that will resolve itself.  However, the Washington Football Team demonstrated in its announcement that it cannot wean itself away from publicity stunts.

  • The announcement will be made to the public on The Today Show.

When you think of the intersection of sports, TV and “buzz”, how far down the list of possible intersections would you have to go to get to The Today Show?  All I can say is that the choice of venue by the team is better than The View – – but not by a whole lot.

There is one other item this morning that involves the Washington Football Team.  After the Eagles beat the Football Team at Fed Ex Field last Sunday and as Jalen Hurts was walking from the field to the locker room, a throng of Philly fans leaned over the railing to slap hands with Hurts.  The railing collapsed causing a bunch of fans to fall down to the walkway.  Hurts was not injured; he helped those fans to their feet and took photos with them.

FedEx Field is a dump.  It had all the charm of a cinder-block mausoleum the day it opened in 1997; even that iota of charm is long-gone.  But there is a difference between a lack of comfort/charm and railings that collapse.  And so, for PR purposes, the NFL and the Football Team have announced that there will be a full investigation of the incident with the obvious goal of seeing to it that nothing like this happens again.  However, since this involves the Football Team, it does bring two questions to mind:

  1. Will this investigation be as thorough as the one done regarding allegations of sexual harassment/assault in the Skins’ Front Office?
  2. Will there be a written report this time?

Finally, here is an interesting perspective from author/humorist, Don Marquis:

“Bores bore each other too, but it never seems to teach them anything.”

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



The CFP Semi-Final Games

This is what I had planned to write about yesterday before the “Antonio Brown Saga” took center stage on the US sports scene:

  • Unfortunately, the semi-final games of the College Football Playoff (CFP) were “Meh!” and nothing more.

The first game – – Alabama/Cincy – – had a chance to be an important game regarding the hierarchy of college football.  Cincy was 13-0; they had a win over Notre Dame in South Bend in early October; beyond that, their schedule was not particularly challenging to be very polite.    But Cincy had dominated most of their opponents beating five of them by more than 30 points.  They were – by record – the most accomplished team in the so-called “Group of 5” football conferences in recent years and the CFP Selection Committee put them in the CFP semi-finals to take on the #1 seed, Alabama.

If the Bearcats had even played Alabama to a close game, it would have been foundationally shaking for college football; could it be that the “little guys” really were close in capability to the “big guys” and merely lacked recognition and exposure?  That question did not come into focus last Saturday because at the end of the first two possessions by Alabama, there was no doubt as to the outcome of this football game.  The final score of 27-6 does not indicate the level of dominance that Alabama showed in those moments after the ball was snapped – – no matter which team did the snapping.

Soon after the opening kickoff, ESPN showed a Cincy fan in the stands proudly/defiantly holding a large sign that said:

               Power 5  =  Opinion

                13-0  =  Fact !

While his sign may be correct in the broad sense, his Bearcat team was not up to the task of making a game where he might have been tempted to display the sign more than once.  For the record, here are a few more FACTS from that game:

  • Total Offense Alabama = 482 yards; Total Offense Cincy = 218 yards
  • First Downs Alabama = 26;  First Downs Cincy = 13
  • Average gain per rush Alabama = 6.4 yards  Average gain per rush Cincy = 2.8 yards
  • 3rd down conversions Alabama = 5 of 13;  3rd down conversions Cincy = 2 of 12.

The game was an organized ass-kicking without the score being run-up on the loser.  What this showed is that the AAC Champ did not belong in a game with the SEC Champ with any sort of prize on the line; Cincy looked like one of the lower-tier SEC teams against Alabama.

Last year in the COVID-shortened college football season, Cincy went to the Peach Bowl and played Georgia to a tight game losing 24-21 after leading 21-10 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Some folks pointed to that game and said it proved that Cincy was an elite team notwithstanding the fact that the Bearcats lost the stat sheet and a two-score lead in the 4th quarter.  This year’s CFP loss has not brought out a significant degree of cynicism about Cincy’s place on the national stage.  I think the fanboys and the media need Cincy to be a narrative for hope among the lower ranks of college football; here in Curmudgeon Central, the recognition is that popular narratives are rarely driven by truth.

The other game – – Michigan/Georgia – – looked to be the more interesting of the contests because it pitted Michigan’s strong running game against Georgia’s Front Seven on Defense.  That never really materialized as a dominant feature of the game because the Bulldogs ran out to a 27-3 lead at halftime and rendered the Wolverines’ run game moot.  Georgia also dominated the game when it mattered; the Bulldogs converted 8 of 15 tries on third down and then converted another 4th down try to maintain possession.

This loss – lopsided as it was – does not indicate that the Big-10 and/or Michigan does not belong in the CFP landscape.  This loss merely indicates that Michigan played a better team last Saturday and could not keep up.  Michigan beat some solid teams this year including Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin; that is a very different “strength of schedule” than the one Cincy brought to the field last weekend.

My anticipation was for Michigan/Georgia to be a close game; I took Michigan +8 points in last week’s Six-Pack; I never expected this to be a laugher for almost three quarters of the game.  Georgia simply was dominant here.

Back in mid-October – – after Alabama had lost to Texas A&M – – I remember saying that I thought the best two teams in the country were Georgia and Alabama and that I hoped to see them face each other twice this year.  My wish will come true next week; Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on December 4th and the two teams will meet again next week on January 10th for the National Championship.  This is what the CFP was supposed to do – – pit the two best teams in the country against each other in a final game to determine the national champ on the field.  They got it right this year!

Finally, as we head into 2022, Dwight Perry had this message for football fans in New York:

“For New Yorkers who missed seeing the ball drop in Times Square on Friday night, the Giants and Jets play on Sunday.”

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



Another Antonio Brown Saga…

Happy New Year, everyone…

The year got itself off on karmic trajectory yesterday when Antonio Brown had a meltdown on the Bucs’ bench, took off his pads; disrobed down to his waist, threw his gloves and shirt into the stands and “pranced” off the field  waving to the fans.  Had this happened after the final whistle signaling a Bucs’ victory, this is no big deal.  The problem is that it happened in the third quarter of a game where the Bucs trailed the Jets.  I presume that there has been something like this in the annals of the NFL – – but nothing comes to mind.  Not even Terrell Owens’ antics reached this level of oddity.

I found three notes in my email inbox this morning and all of them basically asked the same question:

  • Is this the end of the line for Antonio Brown?

My answer is that this probably ends his NFL career – – but we sadly may not have heard the last of Antonio Brown.  Let me explain and try to look at how we got where we are…

Antonio Brown came to the NFL in 2010 out of Central Michigan; he was a late-round pick by the Steelers.  He stayed in Pittsburgh through 2018 and was producing Hall of Fame numbers there.

  • He was selected for the Pro Bowl 7 times
  • He was a first team All-Pro 4 times
  • He had more than 100 receptions in 6 consecutive seasons
  • He led the NFL in receptions and in yards receiving twice.

And then it came apart at the seams starting with him live-streaming on Facebook from inside the Steelers locker room after a big win for the Steelers.  I am not sure why that was in violation of “NFL policy” but it was, and it seems to have set in motion the dismantling of Brown’s Hall of Fame career.  The Steelers fined Brown and he “accepted” the fine but clearly did not recognize what he was doing.

During the 2018 season, Brown got into a verbal tete á tete with Ben Roethlisberger at a practice and wound up throwing a ball at the QB and walking out of the practice.  That display got him benched for a game and that season was Brown’s last one in Pittsburgh.  After his departure, there were multiple reports that this sort of erratic behavior had been noted by the team and the players for several seasons; those two public incidents were not the only “issues”.

Jon Gruden in Oakland needed a WR and talked himself into taking on Brown who had earned the label “mercurial” at that point.  Gruden even said that he had coached Jerry Rice with the Niners and that he thought Antonio Brown was Rice’s equal – – at least.  Well, at least Jerry Rice never had a problem with the helmets that the league used…

In the interest of player safety, the NFL changed the specs on the helmets that players would wear in future games.  Call it PR if you must, but this was a player-safety initiative and it had at least some buy-in from the NFLPA.  Antonio Brown wanted to wear his own helmet and the league would not let him do that; he took that news like a spoiled brat.  He quit practice and even tried to disguise his old helmet as an “approved model”; as you might imagine, that did not work.

Later in the offseason of his discontent, you may recall his “frostbitten feet”.  He bought himself a cryogenic therapy machine and went into it barefoot and got frostbitten.  So, he then had foot problems and head problems because he still demanded to be allowed to play in his old helmet.  As the season was ready to start, it seemed as if all was quiet on the Antonio Brown front; he had a new helmet that he could tolerate and his feet were healed – – but before he could play for the Raiders, he threatened to punch out Raiders’ GM, Mike Mayock.  Even with all that, Brown was ready to play in the Raiders’ opening game until out of the blue, he asked for the Raiders to release him.  In doing that, he voided about $30M in guaranteed money that the Raiders would have owed him.  Really, he did that.  The Raiders must have seen the handwriting on the wall, and they did what Brown asked them to do and released him.

Next in line as a team ready “rehabilitate” the supremely talented WR would be the New England Patriots.  That residence lasted exactly 1 game; Antonio Brown was accused of sexual assault and rape by a woman in Florida.  Bill Belichick probably saw that the rest of that season would be dominated by news of and questions about Antonio Brown causing what for Belichick would be those “dreaded distractions”; so, he released Brown after a game.

The NFL suspended Brown for 8 games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, but Brown signed on with the Bucs in mid-season and helped them win last year’s Super Bowl.  For a change, the last offseason produced no head-scratching revelations about Brown or any of his behaviors until the middle of this season when he tried to present a forged vaccination record and earned himself a 3-game suspension from the NFL.  Note here that the Bucs did not discipline him for pretending to be COVID vaccinated even though their coach is a two-time cancer survivor with a compromised immune system.  And then Brown did his walk-off routine in the middle of a game yesterday.  Bruce Arians wasted no time after the game to say that Antonio Brown was no longer part of the Bucs’ organization.

So, is Antonio Brown finished?  Well, let me ask that question differently.

  • Mike Tomlin, Jon Gruden, Bill Belichick and Bruce Arians have given up on Antonio Brown.  So, what other coach/coaching staff might look at that history and say to himself/themselves, “No problem; we got this covered; bring him on.”?

There are two answers to that query:

  1. If a coach is as secure in his position as someone like Tomlin or Belichick, he might take a shot at this problem-child.  Maybe someone like Andy Reid or Pete Carroll?
  2. If a franchise is so desperate to win, it might take a flyer on Antonio Brown.  Maybe the Jags or the Jets or the Lions?

Personally, I think Antonio Brown has worn out his welcome around the NFL.  His physical talent got him tolerated by the Steelers for several seasons and enticed three other franchises to sign him on – – but there’s a limit.  My opinion is that Antonio Brown has gotten himself so far out on a limb that even a football naïf like Danny Boy Snyder would not take him on.  I think Brown is toast as a football player.  However, he also appears to be someone in need of a life-coach; the trajectory of his life – – not just his football career – – at the moment is pointed in a destructive direction.

Finally, since today’s rant is all about football, let me close with this quip by comedian, Phyllis Diller:

“The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.”

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