Get Ready For The NFL Combine

The NFL is a master at controlling the publicity machine for its product.  This may be the off-season, but the NFL has spaced out events along the calendar that it markets/hypes in ways that make those events far more meaningful than they really are.  The first of those concocted events is the NFL Combine that is held in Indy starting tomorrow.  In an unusual twist, the NFL was threatened with a boycott of the Combine by agents who represented approximately half of the players who were invited to participate.

How did that come about?  It seems that there are specialty coaches and trainers out there whose niche practices involve preparing players for the specific regimens presented by the Combine.  These specialists are highly valued by both players and their agents but the NFL Covid protocols originally put forth for the Combine would not have allowed these specialists to be at the Combine to work with and “coach up” their clients.  Here you had the makings of a labor/management dispute that might disrupt the Combine and the TV show that the Combine creates for NFL Network.  Unlike their counterparts in MLB, the agents and the players association and the league figured out how to resolve the issue like adults by modifying the Covid protocols in a way that is acceptable to everyone.

So, the show will go on – even though I will probably not watch more than 5 minutes of it – from March 1st through March 7th.  The first days are devoted to player/team interviews; the actual workouts go from March 3rd through March 6th.  An invitation to the Combine – and participation in the drills there – is important for draft eligible players who are not already identified by teams as first round picks.  Some simple math will tell the story here.

  • Each team gets seven picks that means the basic draft is 224 players.
  • Add in some compensatory picks and maybe the draft class gets as big as 250 or 260 players.
  • The league has invited 324 players to the Combine this year.
  • Ergo, sixty players or so who go to that Combine are not going to be drafted.  Participation in the drills is important and just getting an invitation is important too.

This may sound counter-intuitive, so let me explain my next point.  Everyone seems to think – and I concur – that this is not a vintage year for QBs coming out of college.  Nonetheless, there are several teams in the NFL that need to figure a way to upgrade themselves at the QB position – whether it be the Steelers who lost Ben Roethlisberger to retirement or the Bucs who lost Tom Brady the same way or it be the Panthers or the Broncos or the Commanders who just need significant improvement there.  With the overall impression that this is a less-than-stellar crop of graduating QBs, the workouts and the interviews become even more important than usual for both teams and players.  There have been some significant flameouts in first round QB selections over the years and it sure looks as if there can/will be more this year.

Compare that sort of “problem-solving behavior” with what is ongoing with the MLB negotiations.  After wasting about 6 weeks of potential negotiating time from early December until mid-January and then meeting only perfunctorily until mid-February, the two sides are reported to be “far apart” as an on-time start of the regular season is now in serious jeopardy.  There was a report in the Washington Post yesterday that Commissioner Rob Manfred and Players’ Association Chief, Tony Clark, met with each other for the first time in weeks and what they supposedly decided was that the two sides needed to meet more frequently and for longer periods to hammer out the issues.

  • Pardon my ignorance, but what other possibilities might those two “leaders” have considered as potential avenues to reaching a new CBA?  Maybe they could negotiate some issues via seances?  Maybe they could send messages back and forth via carrier pigeons?

I suspect that neither the owners nor the players fully grasp the degree to which they are alienating fans.  Yes, I know that there are always blowhard fans who swear they will never even watch another game on TV because they are disgusted with the nonsense put out by “billionaires versus millionaires.”  Forget those fans; they are sounding off simply to hear themselves bloviate.  But there is a tone and tenor this time around that is not taking sides in the dispute but that is expressing something along these lines:

  • Baseball as a game has its problems.  The games take too long and there is not enough action in the games to maintain interest for many fans.  There is a cadre of baseball fans who clearly would prefer the league and the players union to focus their efforts on improving the on-field product instead of finding new and different ways to disagree with each other.

When you read a report on the status of the negotiations, take a moment and read some of the comments by folks who comment in terms other than the superlative.  When I try to do that, I come away with the idea that some of those fans are on their way to “abandoning” baseball as their “sport of choice” AND that a major part of the reason for that choosing is the nonsensical  inability of the owners and players to come to an agreement that will allow fans to just enjoy baseball.

Here is some reality:

  • Max Scherzer is one of the more militant players involved in the negotiations.  When all is said and done, he will make more than $40M per year for the next three years to pitch – – or not pitch – – for the NY Mets.  No crocodile tears needed.
  • The LA Dodgers will have a payroll well north of $200M and will not be heading for the poorhouse with about 34,500 fans showing up for every home game.  Notwithstanding what the accountants report on the tax returns and all the reporting is perfectly legal, the LA Dodgers are not “losing money.”
  • The fan in the stands would love to “trade places” with either the players or the owners – – but the vast majority of the fans recognize that they do not have the ability to “trade places” with the players…

Finally, let me close today with an item from Dwight Perry’s column last weekend in the Seattle Times:

“The next time ‘Do you believe in miracles?!’ — coined by Al Michaels 42 years ago last week — will next be uttered when:

  • the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl

  • baseball owners come out the winners in the players strike

  • the Russians go an entire Olympics without testing positive.”

Or as a fourth possibility:

  • when Rob Manfred throws a surprise birthday party for Tony Clark…

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



Post-Mortem: NFL Pre-Season Predictions…

As I continue the process of weaning myself away from Football Fridays, I will take the opportunity to use a Friday as the time to look back to last September when I made all my predictions for the upcoming NFL season.  I made predictions about NFL coaches who were on the hot seat; I predicted that Father Time might catch up with some very good players and I predicted the final records for all 32 teams.  Making predictions is easy – – so long as there is no accounting for those predictions down the road.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, we believe in accountability.  In addition, I have no difficulty admitting when I am wrong as I usually am in endeavors such as these.  So, I will review what I predicted and grade myself on the various categories of the predictions here the way report cards were given out when I was in school.

Let the carnage begin…  I had eight coaches on my hot seat list.  However, three of them were there with a very specific caveat.  I said that Matt LaFleur could have been on the hot seat if his relationship with Aaron Rodgers totally deteriorated.  It did not.  I said Mike McCarthy needed a playoff slot to meet Jerry Jones’ expectations for the team and thereby keep his job.  The Cowboys made the playoffs and McCarthy is still the coach of the Cowboys.  I said I fully expected Zac Taylor to be the coach of the Bengals next year (in 2022) but the pre-season expectations for the Bengals were so sky high that he might fall victim to them.  The Bengals met all of the pre-season expectations and Taylor will be the coach in Cincy next year.

I did not see the complete flame-out that Urban Meyer delivered to Jax.  I do not feel too badly about that since I do not recall reading anywhere that he would not make it through the season in his first year with the Jags.  I also missed on Brian Flores’ departure from Miami and – to be candid – I still do not see why he was fired and replaced by someone whose résumé is underwhelming.

I hit on four of the coaches who were fired at the end of the season:

  1. David Culley – Texans
  2. Vic Fangio – Broncos
  3. Matt Nagy – Bears
  4. Mike Zimmer – Vikes

I missed on one coach I thought would be fired without a playoff slot.  I had Kliff Kingsbury in that category and he is still the coach of the Cards despite staring the season at 7-0 and then going 4-7 in the final 11 games.  Mark this down; Kingsbury will be on my hot seat list in 2022…

So, for the category of “Coaches on the Hot Seat” I will give myself a solid “B” .

            The next prediction category had to do with Father Time catching up to some recognizable players.  Here is the list – – and how 2021 went for those players:

  • Calais Campbell:  He continued to play well – – but he was not selected to the Pro Bowl as he had been for the previous 7 consecutive seasons, and he registered only 1.5 sacks for the season which is the fewest since his rookie season in 2008.
  • Ezekiel Elliott:  He is still a productive running back – – but his rushing yards per game and his total yards per game were lower in 2021 than in any prior season.
  • Derrick Henry:  He had carried the ball 681 times in the previous 2 seasons and this year he got hurt and missed 9 regular season games.
  • A.J. Green:  I totally missed on this one; Green caught more passes in 2021 than he did in 2020 or in 2018 and his yards per catch were increased as well.  He missed all of the 2019 season with an injury.
  • Ben Roethlisberger:  I doubt that any objective observer of the NFL in 2021 would not acknowledge that Big Ben’s Hall of Fame career was  over and done with at the end of the season.
  • Andrew Whitworth:  He played in 15 of the 17 regular season games and was not a “weak link” on the Rams’ offensive line.  Count that one as a missed prediction.

My assessment here is that four of the six Father Time predictions were on target and two were not.  In the world of soothsaying, that deserves a grade of “C”.

Now comes the time when I have to face up to my specific predictions for teams and divisions.  I will start with the AFC East.  Here are my predictions:

  • Bills – – 13-4
  • Pats – – 10-7
  • Dolphins – – 9-8
  • Jets – – 3-14

I have the teams finishing in the exact order they would up the season and I have two of the teams – – Pats and Dolphins – – with their exact record.  I had the Bills winning two more games than they did, and I had the Jets winning one game fewer than they did.  Overall, I will give myself a grade for the AFC East of an “A”.

The next division I covered was the AFC North.  Here are the predictions:

  • Ravens – – 12-5
  • Browns – – 12-5
  • Steelers – – 9-8
  • Bengals – – 5-12

Other than the prediction for the Steelers who finished 2021 with a record of 9-7-1, every other prediction here is an unmitigated disaster.  I hang my head in shame.  The grade for the AFC North is a well-deserved “F”.

Next up was the AFC South and here are the predictions:

  • Titans – – 11-6
  • Colts – – 9-8
  • Jags – – 3-14
  • Texans – – 2-15

The Titans won the division with a 12-5 record and the Colts finished second at 9-8.  Moreover, the Jags finished exactly at 3-14.  The only miss here was the fact that the Texans won 4 games this year instead of the two I had predicted.  I believe the proper grade for the AFC South predictions is an  ”A”.

            The last division in the AFC was the AFC West.  These were the predictions:

  • Chiefs – – 14-3
  • Chargers – – 10-7
  • Raiders – – 7-10
  • Broncos – – 5-12

I over-estimated the Chiefs – – but they still won the division by 2 full games; I underestimated the Raiders significantly; they won 10 games not only 7.  I think the grade for the AFC West predictions is a “C”.

Continuing on with the predictions for the NFC, I began with the NFC West.  Here are the predictions:

  • Seahawks – – 13-4
  • Niners – – 10-7
  • Rams – – 10-7
  • Cards – – 9-8

Obviously, I had by head in an anatomically impossible place when I evaluated the Seahawks back in September.  They finished last in the division with a 7-10 record.  Both the Rams and the Cards won two more games than I had predicted but I did hit the Niners record on the head.  Overall, my grade for the NFC West is a “D”.

Next up was the NFC South and here is how I read those tea leaves:

  • Bucs – – 14-3
  • Saints – – 10-7
  • Panthers – – 6-11
  • Falcons – – 5-12

I over-estimated the Bucs and the Saints by one game each and the Falcons were better than I thought by two games.  In my defense, all the teams here were pretty close to what I expected in terms of how the division would wind up.  Overall, I think the grade for the NFC South should be a “B”.

The next division I took up was the NFC North.  These were my prognostications:

  • Packers – – 13-4
  • Vikes – – 8-9
  • Bears – – 6-11
  • Lions – – 3-14

Ladies and gentlemen let me bask in the glory of those predictions for a moment here.  OK, basking time is over…  The only error in my record predictions for these four teams is that I had the Lions finishing at 3-14 when they actually finished at 3-13-1.  The grade for the NFC North is an “A+”.

            Having basked in the glory of success for a moment, let me now sink into the muck and mire of some bad predictions for the NFC East.  Please try not to giggle when you look at these predictions:

  • Football Team – – 10-7
  • Cowboys – – 9-8
  • Giants – – 7-10
  • Eagles – – 5-12

In this unmitigated disaster of predicting, the closest I came to reality were the Football Team, Cowboys and the Giants; those predictions were off by “only” 3 games; the Eagles prediction was off by 4 games.  As I gather up my dunce cap to go and sit in the corner of shame, I will accept that the grade for the NFC East must be an “F”.

            Let me review the “grades” in order to come up with a “Grade Point Average”

  • A+ = 1
  • A = 2
  • B = 2
  • C = 2
  • D = 1
  • F = 2

GPA = 2.35

Hey, that beats the GPA earned by the future US Senator John “Bluto” Blutarsky at Faber College…

Having dispatched the specific numbers in the predictions, let me now go back and find tidbits in there that turned out to be right on or dead wrong.

In assessing the upcoming season for the Patriots, I said:

“I am not ready to anoint Mac Jones as a star QB at the NFL level – and truth be told he does not have an outstanding set of pass-catchers with him – but I do believe that he can operate in the Josh McDaniel offensive milieu.”  That turned out to be accurate.

            Speaking about the NY Jets and Zach Wilson, I said:

“Zach Wilson shows a lot of promise, and many folks think he will be a star in the NFL for a decade or so.  Even if that is completely correct, it is not going to matter much in 2021; he will see lots of pressure behind an offensive line that was damaged by an injury to Mekhi Becton.”  Zach Wilson was sacked 44 times in 13 games in 2021.

Regarding the Baltimore Ravens, I said:

“Lamar Jackson took a half-step back last year; I think he takes a full step ahead this year.”  Actually, Jackson took another half-step backward in 2021 before he was injured for the final 5 games.

I completely whiffed on assessing the Browns in September.  Here is probably part of why that was the case:

“What the Browns need most is for that defensive unit to improve from last year; the offense was fine, but the defense was just okay.”  The Browns’ defense this year was fine; it was the offense that let the team down.

Regarding the Colts’ prospects in 2021, I said:

“The early part of the 2021 season could be “make or break” for the Colts.  Here are the first 5 weeks: host Seahawks, host Rams, at Titans, at Dolphins, at Ravens.  Ouch!”  After the first five games in 2021, the Colts’ record was 1-4.  Ouch indeed…

Here is part of what I said about the Chiefs in the upcoming season:

“For the first 7 weeks they host the Browns, at the Ravens, host the Chargers, at the Eagles, host the Bills, at the Football Team, at the Titans.  I think the Chiefs will be 5-2 at that part of the season and then assert themselves in the mid-season and down the stretch.”  Actually, the Chiefs were only 3-4 at that part of the season before coming on stronger than I had anticipated in the latter parts of the schedule.

I had this assessment of Sam Darnold as the Panthers’ QB very wrong:

“I am not nearly as sour on Sam Darnold as many other commentators seem to be; I think he was saddled with a mediocre roster and a goofy coaching staff in NYC.”  Darnold only started 11 games for the Panthers in 2021 before being benched.

Here is everything I had to say about the Bears back in September:

“I think the Bears will finish third in the division at 6-11.  Then, the Bears will be looking for a new head coach in the offseason.  Maybe Justin Fields is their QB of the future, but Andy Dalton is their QB of the present and with what is around Dalton that is a ticket to mediocrity.”  That seems to have been pretty accurate.

Here is part of what I had to say about the Football Team:

“Is Ryan Fitzpatrick good enough at age 38 to play an entire season under center effectively?  He need not be a star; he needs only to be steady and effective.  I think he can get it done.”  Ryan Fitzpatrick played less than one game before being injured; he completed 3 passes for the season for a total of 13 yards.

            Here is a mixed bag of observations related to the Eagles:

“There are plenty of question marks here including who their QB is, the game management skills of their new head coach, the corps of wide receivers and the corps of linebackers.  I am not a “Jalen Hurts-hater”, but I am not sold on his ability to be a #1 QB in the NFL.  Joe Flacco’s days as the QB of a contending NFL team are in the past.  Gardner Minshew is Jalen Hurts with a better arm and worse legs.”  Hurts got the team to the playoffs, but I still do not see him with a high ceiling.  The coach could have been a bit better on game day, but he also could have been a ton worse than he was.  I stand foursquare behind my assessments of Joe Flacco and Gardner Minshew.

I will close today with Winston Churchill’s assessment of Clement Atlee because after you have seen how I fared on my predictions for the NFL season, you will probably agree that Sir Winston could easily have said something similar about me:

“Mr. Atlee is a very modest man.  But then, he has much to be modest about.”

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



Random Thoughts Today…

As we approach the final days of Black History Month, I have noticed several pieces that list the best Black baseball players of all time.  I saw my first baseball game in 1948; my family did not even have a TV set at the time.  We got a TV soon after that and I have watched baseball since then.  That goes back a long way – – but baseball goes back a lot further.  So today, I will give you my list of the best Black baseball players that I saw play.  That means there is no one here from the Negro Leagues simply because I never saw a Negro League game.  It also does not include Satchel Paige because I only saw him once or twice on TV when he was probably 50 years old.  The list is alphabetical:

  • Henry Aaron – – In addition to 755 home runs, his career batting average was .305
  • Ernie Banks – – The best shortstop I ever saw
  • Roy Campanella – – An eight-time All-Star and a three-time MVP
  • Larry Doby – – An All-Star seven times
  • Bob Gibson – – Great pitcher, great athlete, intense competitor
  • Ken Griffey, Jr. – – He made the game look easy, but it is not easy.
  • Tony Gwynn – – He and Ted Williams are the best pure hitters I ever saw.
  • Reggie Jackson – – He went to a high school that was in the same division as my high school.
  • Willie Mays – – Selected to the All-Star team 20 times, his career OPS was .940.
  • Joe Morgan – – He was an MVP in two consecutive seasons
  • Frank Robinson – – An All-Star 12 times, he was the NL MVP (’61) and the AL MVP (’66)
  • Jackie Robinson – – His societal importance tends to overshadow his baseball prowess
  • Ozzie Smith – – A great defensive player who was always fun to watch
  • Frank Thomas – – He was called “The Big Hurt” and it was appropriate

That is my list.  I intended the list to include a dozen players but could not winnow down the list any more than this.  So, in the end, it is a Baker’s Dozen – – plus one.

Thinking about great baseball players in the past reminded me that Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had an interesting perspective on MLB in the present:

“Critics say Major League Baseball has devolved into too many strikeouts and too little action.

“But enough about the bargaining sessions.”

Speaking of those CBA negotiations, let me offer a tiny ray of sunshine here on a day where it is snowing as I look out my window.  According to several reports from folks covering the CBA talks, the two sides have agreed on three issues.  These three are minor points in the negotiations and do not have any major impact on the real sticking points here – – those that effect how many dollars will go to players and how many dollars will remain in the pockets of the owners:

  1. The two sides have agreed to a universal designated hitter.  Since I hate the DH, I obviously do not like this outcome – – but if it is a starting point to get the negotiators off the dime and on to a signed CBA, so be it.
  2. The two sides have agreed to implementing a draft lottery in baseball.  I have not seen the details as to how that would work but it is intended to reduce the incentive for teams to tank in order to get a better draft pick.  The NBA has a lottery system, and it does not seem as if the lottery is fully effective in eliminating tanking there.
  3. There will be a change in the draft-pick compensation for teams signing free agents.  In the last CBA a team signing a free agent could be penalized by losing a draft pick.  That is going to be eliminated. I am not sure why that is a big enough deal that it was a sticking point in the first place but let us thank God for small favors now that it is resolved.

Moving on …  The hot rumor of the day – – not confirmed but widely reported – – is that ESPN has hired Troy Aikman away from FOX to become the color analyst for Monday Night Football.  I have seen no word regarding what happens to the three guys who have done MNF for the last several years, but it is not reasonable to think that ESPN is going to present us with a 4-person announcing team.  Let me assume the rumor is correct here; here is how I think the next shoes might fall:

  • Clearly, either Brian Griese or Louis Riddick – – and possibly both – – will have to be reassigned by ESPN.
  • I wonder if play-by-play guy, Steve Levy, has sufficient gravitas to be Aikman’s partner.  Ergo, might ESPN be looking to make a change in that position also?  Remember, Al Michaels is a “broadcasting free agent”…
  • Who at FOX gets to work with Joe Buck for NFL games?  Looking at the current folks on FOX, my two favorite choices would be Greg Olsen and/or Jonathan Vilma.  My absolute least favorite would be Mark Schlereth; he never shuts up.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with an observation by Ambrose Bierce that I ran across just yesterday:

“Conservative, n.  A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”

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



NBA Stuff Today …

You can always count on humorist Brad Dickson to find a way to merge current events in the sports world with current events in the world at large.  Here is one of his Tweets from yesterday:

“Biden’s really getting tough with Putin. He just threatened to send Juwan Howard to the front lines.”

Last season, the New York Knicks made the playoffs finishing 4th in the Eastern Conference; Julius Randle was named the Most Improved Player in the league and coach Tom Thibodeau was named Coach of the Year in his first season on the Knicks’ bench.  It was quite a turnaround for the Knicks.  In the two previous seasons combined, the team won a total of 38 games; last year the team record was 41-31.  That sort of performance would generate excitement almost anywhere, but things tend to be magnified in NYC so expectations for this season were sky high.

Let me be kind and say that the Knicks have not quite delivered on those lofty expectations to date this season.  As of this morning the Knicks record is 25-34; they are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and are 3.5 games below the line that would earn them a play-in shot at the playoffs.  Julius Randle has not “continued to improve” his stats  year over year as should be expected for a player that won the Most Improved label last season; the phenomenon of regression to the mean is very real even in situations where fans may not wish for it to be.  Randle’s season has not been disaster; that would be far too harsh a judgment, but the reality is:

  • Points per game – –  down 4.6
  • FG %-age – – down 3.5%
  • 3 Pt FG %-age – – down 10.5%

Randle has taken a lot of heat for those numbers but nothing quite like the heat felt by Coach Thibodeau.  Reports in the NY press have it that folks in the Knicks’ Front Office want to pin the blame for the unsatisfactory season on Thibodeau and want him fired for it.  In my mind, that is ridiculous.  One of the main reasons that the Knicks surprised folks last year was a healthy Derrick Rose; might it not be remotely possible that the Knicks’ misfortunes this year could be tied to the fact that Derrick Rose has been injured since early December and has missed 33 games this year?

The NBA Coach of the Year is decided by a vote of sportswriters from all around the league; Thibodeau has won the award twice in his career.  That process is clearly subjective, but it does represent the thinking and the observations of people outside the Knicks’ organization.  Those people thought that Thibodeau did the best coaching job in the league last year.  Now, there are supposedly folks “upstairs” in the Knicks’ organization who think that Thibodeau lost a bunch of his “basketball-IQ points” over the offseason and that he should be jettisoned.  Seriously …?

The New York Knicks have won exactly one playoff series since the 2000-2001 season.  Jeff Van Gundy left the Knicks in mid-season in 2001 and since then the Knicks have had 14 head coaches in the intervening 21 years.

  • Maybe – just throwing this out as a hypothesis – the Knicks Front Office and the team owner do not know what to look for when they go out on the market to hire a head coach?

If that hypothesis has any validity, why should anyone in NYC who is a Knicks’ fan think that firing a two-time winner of the Red Auerbach Trophy will result in a coaching upgrade on the Knicks’ bench next season?

Meanwhile out in LA – another city where expectations and fan reaction are magnified – the Lakers are almost as disappointing as the Knicks.  The Lakers’ record this morning is 27-31; they are in that part of the Western Conference standings where they would get to play themselves into the playoffs.  However, LeBron James has had some nagging injury woes tis season; Russell Westbrook has simply not fit in with the team and has even been benched for critical times in games this season and Anthony Davis is hurt yet again.  Notwithstanding that sort of player performance/availability issues, there are rumblings that Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel will not be back next season.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times assessed the Lakers’ situation this way:

“A cargo ship packed with luxury cars caught fire and is aimlessly adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Sort of the nautical equivalent of the L.A. Lakers.”

The “problem” in NY and in LA is the same “problem”.  The roster is not well constructed.  In NY, Tom Thibodeau wants his team to play solid defense and win games by limiting how many points the other guys score.  When the Knicks’ Front Office chose to acquire Kemba Walker in the last off-season they gave Thibodeau a player who cannot play the way Thibodeau wants his team to play.  Walker’s calling card in the NBA is as a scorer; his defense is best described as “accidental” because that is more polite than saying even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.  Kemba Walker is not a bad player; the “problem” is that he cannot do what he is asked to do for the Knicks.

In LA, the roster is composed of three superstars and a bunch of guys.  Moreover, the three superstars do not bring different skill sets to the court.  None of them are shut-down defenders; all of them love to shoot three-point shots and unless Russell Westbrook can dominate the ball, his effectiveness as a scorer is limited.  And none of that should be counted as debits on Frank Vogel’s coaching ledger.

Finally, I found this item in Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Taking Note, recently:

“Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: ‘Dr. Oz vs. Dr. Phil in an old-time steel cage match — no way to root, right?’”

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



Is Today Tuesday – – Or Twos Day?

The Gregorian calendar – the one used by most of the world today – began because of a papal edict in October 1582.  It had to be an accident such that almost 440 years after the institution of the new calendar, the day symbolized as “2/22/22” would fall on a Tuesday.  Or maybe there was some sort of alien intervention they have been keeping secret all these years…?

If you follow college basketball even a little bit, you know by now that Michigan coach Juwan Howard and members of the Wisconsin coaching staff got into a “physical confrontation” and Howard threw a punch.  Here is the short form of how this came to be:

  • Wisconsin led Michigan by 15 points with about 30 seconds left in the game.  Wisconsin had the benchwarmers in the game to finish it out.  [Good and proper move.]
  • Howard ordered his team to press.  [Perfectly within the rules of the game but a futile gesture at best.]
  • Wisconsin players on the court could not handle the press so Wisconsin coach Greg Gard called a timeout.  [Perfectly within the rules of the game but hardly necessary.]
  • In the “handshake line” the coaches exchanged words making sure the other guy knew that none of that late game nonsense was appreciated and things escalated quickly from there.

[Aside:  The “handshake line” is symbolic nonsense; the expressions of “good game” by the winners and the losers is anything but heartfelt.  Getting rid of the “handshake line” would be a big plus for college basketball when they go through the rules’ change process this off-season.]

Juwan Howard has been suspended for 5 games – which is for the rest of the regular season.  Greg Gard will not be suspended but will pay a $10K fine.  Both were in violation of the Big-10 “sportsmanship policy” but only Howard actually threw a punch which landed gently on a Wisconsin assistant coach.  So, the debate item of the day would be formally presented in this way:

  • Resolved:  Juwan Howard received a punishment whose severity matches the impropriety of his action(s).

The reason this statement would never make it as a real debate topic is that there are three possible sides to take.  Howard’s punishment is “just right;” Howard’s punishment is “too severe;” and Howard’s punishment is “too lenient”.  Call this a Goldilocks’ debate topic if you will.

My position is that the punishment is a bit lenient.  No, I do not think Juwan Howard should be terminated as the Michigan coach and cast aside by the Big-10; that would be going overboard.  I do think that he should be suspended for any and all tournament games that Michigan may play this year (both the Conference Tournament and the NCAA or NIT Tournaments).  This is not Juwan Howard’s first physical confrontation with an opposing coach; he and Mark Turgeon got into it last year and the two had to be physically restrained.  Howard’s punch in this incident was harmless; the recipient cannot have suffered any physical injury from it.  Nonetheless, recidivism should be punished far more severely than a “first offense” lest the behavior become more frequent.

There is another point here.  When I watched the replay of the “handshake line” and the subsequent melee, my mind immediately focused on an item that I had on my clipboard for future comment in a rant.  It turns out that the city of Rome, NY had to cancel the balance of two youth basketball leagues due to “poor parent behavior.”  One league was for 3rd and 4th Grade Boys and the other league was for 5th and 6th Grade Boys.  It was not a single incident that caused the cancelations; over the course of the season; two coaches had already resigned from their positions due to “parent interactions” and it turned out that the program overseers thought it necessary to assign a police officer to be at all the game venues.  Here is a link to the report on this situation in the Rome Sentinel.

Two hundred kids participated in the two leagues; those kids are being deprived of an activity they obviously enjoy because some chronological adults cannot behave like actual adults.  As someone who officiated hundreds of recreation league games for kids, the action taken by the authorities in Rome NY is very disheartening to me because I have seen how much enjoyment kids derive from such games.

And that is another reason why I believe Juwan Howard’s punishment is too lenient.  His loss of control and his demonstrated behavior has been seen now by millions of people some of whom are predisposed to turn a basketball game into a melee.  It is wrong when it is a game at the Big-10 level and it is wrong when it is a game at the 3rd and 4th Grade Boys level too.

Switching gears now…  Let me return to a topic I have commented on previously – the Lia Thomas situation and the women’s swimming competition.  I am sorry to bring this up because I am certain that many folks have heard more than enough about the matter.  However, I have come to a conclusion as to how we can accommodate transgender individuals in athletic competitions.  For years – and continuing into the current times – it has been acceptable and even enlightened to arrange for separate competitions for men and women.  The number of sports where women and men compete separately far outnumber the sports where they compete on an equal footing.  So, if that is acceptable and sustainable, then why not expand the concept to include:

  • Cis-Males
  • Cis-Females
  • Trans-Males
  • Trans-Females.

Seems to me like “problem solved”…

Finally, let me close today with some advice for those parents in Rome, NY who caused the cancelation of those basketball leagues.  The advice comes from Voltaire, and it explains how one succeeds in the world:

“To succeed in the world, it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”

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



A Lack Of Leadership On Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day.  Great Presidents exhibit leadership in times of difficulty; not-so-great Presidents fail to do so.  Not to worry, I have no intention of turning today’s rant into a political jeremiad; I mention this point because in the narrow world of sports, we are seeing the continuation of a lack of leadership in one of our major sports.  Naturally, I am referring to Major League Baseball.

The owners declared a lockout back in early December.  Pitchers and catchers were supposed to report to Spring Training a week ago; Spring Training games were supposed to begin a couple of days from now.  The regular season is scheduled to start at the end of March.

So, what happened…?

  • Between the beginning of December and last weekend, the two sides negotiating the new Collective Bargaining Agreement only managed to find time on their busy schedules to meet a handful of times.
  • Pitchers and catchers could not report to Spring Training camps that were locked out.
  • The first week or so of Spring Training games have already been canceled.
  • Supposedly, if there is no agreement which will allow Spring Training to begin by February 28th, the regular season will not start on time.

Most of the national media have chosen to blame Commissioner Rob Manfred for this debacle.  Make no mistake, Manfred deserves a huge helping of opprobrium today and that helping should be slathered in a gravy derived from mule snot.  At the same time, let us not forget to serve a similar helping of that concoction to Tony Clark as the head of the Players’ Association.  In order to have meaningful negotiating sessions, it takes all parties to the dispute to come together and at least try to come to a resolution of the problems.  Tony Clark has not exactly been pushing for the sides to burn the midnight oil to get to a degree.  Recall that – according to reports – when Manfred and the owners proposed to have a Federal mediator brought in to try to assist in the negotiations, it was Clark and the union that would not agree.

I said above that this situation represents the continuation of a lack of leadership in baseball.  Here’s why…  Baseball had significant “labor unrest” from the 1970s through 1994 when a mid-season strike by the players caused the cancellation of the end of the regular season and the World Series.  Then there was a period of calm on the management/labor front for about 25 years until 2020 – The Year of COVID-19.  How or why that viral species managed to resuscitate the old labor/management anger in baseball is a mystery to me, but it did.

Take yourself back to the earliest days of the pandemic; we had lockdowns because there were no vaccines or effective medicines available.  We were not even sure about the transmission modes for the virus; handwashing became for a while the national pastime.  Just about every sport was on hiatus – – but by summertime it seemed that baseball could begin a “return to normalcy” with games played in front of empty grandstands.  I assert that would have been a huge win for baseball itself had both the owners and players chosen to avail themselves of that opportunity; both sides found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The owners cried poor; without fans in the stands, they would be paying players based on an economic model that assumed the live gate revenue stream would be intact.  The players pointed to their signed contracts and demanded nothing less than a full pro-rata share of that contract for games played in the regular season.  And with that divide, the MLB season in 2020 was a meager 60 games.

Think back on another point in the early summer of 2020.  With virtually all US sports in mothballs, the TV networks were scrambling to fill air time.  They were showing Korean League baseball on a routine basis because if they did not do that, they would be rummaging around in their archives to show reruns of My Mother the Car.  [Aside:  If you do not recognize how desperate the TV execs would have to have been to do that, Google is your friend.]  I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that ESPN was deep into negotiations to acquire the rights to Saudi Arabian camel racing simply as a way to put live sports on the air.

Baseball had the opportunity to seize the day and to become the first sport to get back on the air and they found a way not to allow that to happen.  And that was a significant mistake on the part of both sides.  Baseball as a sport has seen its TV audiences shrink; there are myriad hypotheses as to the causes there but one of the causes is that the baseball fanbase is losing older folks and not replacing them with younger folks.  Many people attribute that aging of the fanbase to a lack of interest in baseball by young sports fans.

If major league baseball were to have been the only live major US sport on TV for the months of June, July and August of 2020, there was an opportunity to engage and attract younger audiences who might have grown tired of watching college basketball reruns from 1986.  That younger audience did not get that opportunity; the delayed “Opening Day” in 2020 was on July 23rd when the NFL Training Camps were already in progress.

The owners would not take short-term losses in exchange for the opportunity to attract new fans who could add to live gate revenues and TV audiences down the road.  Players would not shave even a farthing off of their pro-rata contract demands.  And that set the stage…

Now,, the two sides cannot agree on how many teams will make the playoffs in baseball.  They cannot agree on revenue sharing among the major league teams.  They cannot agree to have a mediator try to get them to a resolution of the situation.  There is a huge failure of leadership on both sides of the table and fans should not take sides in the matter.  For anyone who thinks that one of the sides is “less culpable” then the other – – thereby making it one’s favorite in the situation – – let me suggest that all one does there is to identify the tallest of the Seven Dwarfs.

Major League Baseball needs positive and effect leadership on this President’s Day; it has seen none of that from the combatants in the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.  In fact, it seems that that two sides have fallen into the habit of opposing any and all things favored by the other side simply out of habit.  That leads me to conclude with this observation about “habit” from author Marcel Proust:

            “The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity.”

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



RIP P. J. O’Rourke

P.J. O’Rourke died earlier this week. He was a humorist and satirist par excellence.  He was an early contributor to National Lampoon and eventually its editor in chief.  Other writings found their way into publications with varied audiences such as Car and Driver, Playboy and Rolling Stone while still finding time to be a panelist on NPR’s program Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.  His conservative/libertarian views were never mainstream but reading his defenses of such positions was always entertaining.

Rest in peace, P. J. O’Rourke.

Having been off the air for the last 4 days, let me loop back and comment on things that happened several days ago.  During the Super Bowl game, there was a minor “dust up” on the sidelines when Aaron Donald pushed Joe Burrow out of bounds.  I said to the folks I was watching the game with, that was the time when replay would actually be valuable.  The officials had to “break up” a confrontation and that confrontation had nothing to do with “game action” since the play had been whistled dead.  That should trigger and instant replay all by itself with two specific purposes:

  • First and foremost, who started the kerfuffle?
  • Second, did anyone else join in or respond/retaliate to the start of the kerfuffle?

Based on replay, the referee can determine who started it and what he did.  That could lead to a penalty – – or even to an ejection.  Same goes for players who retaliated in some way that was disproportionate to the instigation.  Normally, I am not a fan of replay since it stops the game and sometimes does not unambiguously “get it right”.  But in this case, I believe that replay has a larger beneficial effect on the sport.

  • All it will take is a couple of ejections of key players from a game for the coaches to begin to pay a lot more attention to “controlled aggression” as opposed to “unconstrained aggression”.

Next, I want to talk about the NBA trade that sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a couple of first round draft picks to the Nets for James Harden and Paul Milsap.  Fans and sports radio commentators in Philly are basically in ecstasy over the trade; one of them said that there was no team in the league that could now match up with the Sixers’ triumvirate of Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tobias Harris.  From his point of view, only a cruel twist of fate might keep the Sixers from the NBA championship this year.  I hope that no regular reader here will be surprised to learn that I am far less optimistic about this player exchange than that.

First, the Sixers just get a whole lot worse on defense than they were a week ago – – and that is with Ben Simmons refusing to play for the team for “mental health reasons”.  Going all the way back to his college days at Arizona State, Harden was an offensive force and a defensive liability.  However, as his NBA career progressed and he became a dominant offensive force, his defense eroded to a similar extent.  My personal assessment over the past year or two is that Harden no longer even tries to expend much energy on the defensive end of the floor; he gives up points almost to the extent that he creates points.

So, comparing Harden to Ben Simmons – – who similarly created no points and allowed no points while on the sidelines this season – -, the trade would be seem to be a wash.  But wait; there’s more…

James Harden has found himself “at odds” with a variety of very good players in the NBA when Harden and those other very good players had to share the court and the ball.  Perhaps the names Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving resonate with  you…  Harden has maneuvered a trade for himself twice in the last 14 months; what is it about James Harden’s recent history to make one think that he and Joel Embiid will become inseparable bosom buddies?

Maybe all those “Harden rough spots” will be ironed out in Philly.  This trade seems to have had a “Lourdes Effect” on healing since Ben Simmons’ mental health issues appear to have been miraculously abated by moving him to a team about 100 miles to the northeast of where he used to be.

Moving on…  About three weeks ago, the first sportsbook connected to an MLB stadium opened at Nationals Park in Washington DC.  The book is operated by BetMGM, and it is linked to an app available from Bet MGM that allows for in-game wagering on Nats’ games so long as the wagers are placed withing a two-block radius of the park.  According to the announcement of the sportsbook’s opening:

  • The 4,000-square-foot on-site sportsbook will offer full-service beverage and dining options, six betting windows, betting kiosks, and 40 big-screen TVs year-round.

This is only one such manifestation of MLB’s new cozy relationship with new “corporate partners” who happen to be in the sports betting “industry”.  If you want to look for hypocrisy, look no further than baseball’s gambling relationships today and the continued ostracization of Shoeless Joe Jackson and/or Pete Rose.

Finally, I began today noting the passing of P.J. O’Rourke; let me close with two of his observations about the American human condition:

“No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity.”

And …

“There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible. “

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



On Hiatus…

I will be “off the air” for the next week.  My long-suffering wife and I are going to the Maryland Eastern Shore for some sightseeing and seafood.  Maybe I will be back in time to write next Friday (Feb 18); if not, I’ll be back on Monday (Feb 21)

Stay well, everyone…

Football Friday 2/11/22

I managed to make it through the two-week gap between Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl without mentioning the upcoming game or the storylines surrounding the upcoming game.  Actually, the biggest NFL news in this two-week stretch was totally focused off-field:

  • Tom Brady is retiring.
  • New allegations of sexual assault involving Washington Commanders’ owner Daniel Snyder.
  • Brian Flores sues the NFL and three specific teams

Now it is time for a Football Friday focus on more upbeat stuff.  Let me begin as usual with a review of the abbreviated Six-Pack from two weeks ago:

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

Those results bring the cumulative records for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0  [Unimpressive]
  • NFL:  46-38-2  [It is “in the black” even with the vig.]
  • Total:  61-58-2  [It is “in the red” with the vig.]
  • Money Line Parlays:  7-13  [Nevertheless, this shows a profit of $267.]

Obviously, there will be no Six-Pack this week.  I will make a selection in the game, and I will cobble together a parlay bet using the Money Line odds and a prop bet or two.


College Football Commentary:


There is an interesting situation ongoing at Auburn university.  Head coach Bryan Harsin is under fire there and players are “entering the transfer portal” en masse along with assistant coaches jumping ship.  Auburn boosters cannot be happy that the team finished the season 6-7 – the first time since 2012 the Tigers were below .500.  That negativity is only magnified by the fact that Auburn lost its last 5 games in a row.

The “come-from-ahead defeat” in the Iron Bowl last year had to be a gut-punch for the Auburn faithful because it came on the heels of two losses in a row to Mississippi State and South Carolina – – not exactly powerhouses.  Moreover, earlier in the season Texas A&M and Georgia both beat the Tigers by three scores or more.  Last year was Harsin’s first year at Auburn coming there after seven successful years at Boise State where his teams went 69-19.

But that is not the worst of it…  Harsin’s contract was signed last year; it was reportedly a 6-year deal worth $31.5M; that works out to be $5.25M per year.  Just a few weeks ago, Auburn gave basketball coach Bruce Pearl a contract extension worth $50M over 8 years.

  • Do the math there and the head basketball coach at an SEC school is going to make more money per year than the head football coach.
  • That is heresy in SEC country.


NFL Commentary:


One storyline for the game deals with Joe Burrow should he lead the Bengals to a win.  That would make Burrow the only player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, an NCAA National Championship and a Super Bowl.  When I first heard that statement, I thought it could not possibly be right after 55 years of Super Bowls – – but it checks out.  Joe Namath won a Super Bowl and a National Championship but did not come close to winning the Heisman which went to John Huarte in 1964.

I have seen a lot of speculation that Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a Super Bowl game (215 yards) might be eclipsed in this game.  Two WRs here have had breakout games in the last month or so that might threaten the mark:

  • JaMarr Chase had 266 yards receiving against the Chiefs in Week 17 of the regular season.
  • Cooper Kupp had 189 yards receiving in the Rams win over the Bucs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

It would be embarrassing for the Bengals if Kupp were to break Rice’s record in the game on Sunday.  Jerry Rice’s record happened in Super Bowl 23 – – the Niners beat the Bengals in that game.  If a record that stood for 30+ years and was set against the Bengals were to be broken against the Bengals again, that would not be a happy thing for folks in Cincy.

When the Bengals beat the Titans to advance to the AFC Championship Game, they did so despite allowing the Titans to register 9 quarterback sacks.  That ties an NFL playoff record:

  • Chiefs sacked Bills’ QBs 9 times in January 1967.
  • Niners sacked Bears’ QBs 9 times in January 1985.
  • Browns sacked Jets’ QBs 9 times in January 1987
  • Chiefs sacked Oilers’ (now Titans’) QBs 9 times in January 1994.

The big difference here is that the Chiefs in ’67, the Niners, the Browns and the Chiefs in ‘94 all won those games where they recorded 9 sacks.  Somehow, that was not enough for this year’s Titans.

Time for a Quick Quiz…  Which play call was the dumbest one in NFL playoff history:

  • The Chiefs and Andy Reid opting to run a play from the 1-yardline at the end of the first half against the Bengals with no time outs and only a few seconds on the clock


  • The Seahawks and Pete Carroll not handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the Patriots’ 1-yardline at the end of Super Bowl 49.

Fifty words or less…  My answer is the Seahawks call was worse because it was the Super Bowl and not a Conference Championship game and because it was at the end of the game not in the first half.  That is my answer, and I am sticking to it…

And mentioning that game segues into the next area for comment.  Al Michaels will be calling the game on Sunday, and he also called the Seahawks/Pats Super Bowl game back in 2015.  This will be his last game with NBC; his contract is up, and NBC is going to move on and put Mike Tirico on the microphone for the Sunday Night Football package starting next year.  Just a few comments on that issue alone:

  • Mike Tirico is a good play-by-play announcer; Al Michaels is a great play-by-play announcer.
  • Reportedly, Michaels was on board with this transition back when NBC hired Tirico away from ESPN thinking that at the end of his contract he would retire at age 77.  According to rumors, that is no longer the case and Michaels is supposedly weighing options to “take his talents elsewhere”.
  • All of that is good news for NFL fans and not-nearly-so-good news for NBC.

The most prevalent rumor is that Michaels will sign with Amazon – – yes, THAT Amazon – – because Amazon will have the rights to Thursday Night Football starting next season.  Another tantalizing rumor has it that Troy Aikman will bolt from FOX and join Michaels as the Amazon announcing team.

What is interesting to me in all this is that most rumors have ESPN “standing pat” with their Monday Night troika and 10 more ManningCast episodes on ESPN2 for next season.  At the same time, Louis Riddick from that Monday night troika has an interview with the Steelers for their open GM position.  There are loads of moving parts in the announcers’ shuffle this year; for me, the best news is that Al Michaels is probably not going to ride off into the sunset.  From my perspective, Al Michaels still has his fastball working…

Here are comments on the Conference Championship games from two weeks ago…

Rams 20  Niners 17:  It was another nail-biter of a game keeping with the theme of the NFL playoffs ever since the mass blowouts in the wildcard round.  The Rams dominated the stat sheet outgaining the Niners by 114 yards.  The Niners led 17-7 to start the fourth quarter but that quarter belonged to the Rams:

  • The Niners had 3 possessions in the 4th quarter; they went Punt, Punt, INT.
  • The Rams had 4 possessions in the 4th quarter; they went TD, FG, FG, kneel out the clock.

The Rams were without any time outs for the final 10 minutes of the game.  They tried two challenges in the second half and lost both and they wasted a time out by not getting the play called into the huddle in a reasonable time.  I cannot recall ever seeing an NFL team with no time outs left with that much time left on the clock.

Bengals 27  Chiefs 24 (OT):  The bad call of the day was the call I referenced in the Quick Quiz above.  The Chiefs led 21-10 and had a chip shot field goal in front of them – – and they did not take the opportunity.  It happened too early in the game to say definitively that it determined the outcome, but those points would have looked awfully good in terms of game momentum.  The Chiefs’ offense simply went dormant in the second half – and in the OT; here are the outcomes of the Chief’s possessions after halftime:

  • 5 plays and a PUNT
  • 5 plays and a PUNT
  • 2 plays and an INT
  • 3-and out
  • 3-and-out
  • 14 plays leading to a FG
  • 3 plays and an INT

Lots of people pointed to defensive adjustments made by the Bengals at halftime that put the brakes on the Chiefs’ offense.  If that is indeed the case, that is an indictment of Eric Bienemy as the offensive coordinator/play-caller for the Chiefs.  Remember, Bienemy is the poster child for “deserving Black coaches” who seem not to get head coaching offers.  Then go look at the offensive output for his offense in the second half and OT of a Conference Championship Game…


The Super Bowl Game:


(Sun 6:30 PM EST  Rams – 4 vs. Bengals (48.5):  These lines started out at these numbers two weeks ago and have oscillated around these numbers by only a half-point either way for the entire time.  The oddsmakers really read the mood of bettors for this game very accurately.

Obviously, there will be a lot of focus on the Bengals’ OL and how it protects Joe Burrow from a strong Rams’ defensive pass rush.  Remember, this is the OL that gave up those 9 sacks to the Titans’ defense…  I think that is going to be a problem for the Bengals for much of the game; Burrow bailed out the OL in the Titans game; does he have any pixie dust left in his pocket?

Nonetheless, I think one key to this game is everyone in the Rams’ secondary not named Jalen Ramsey.  No matter who Ramsey is assigned to cover on a play, he is going to do a good job more than 90% of the time.  However, if Jalen Ramsey is a triple scoop hot fudge sundae, the rest of the Rams’ defensive backfield is low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt.  If those “other guys” do not kick it up a notch in this game, Joe Burrow could throw for 450 yards – even if he gets sacked a half dozen times along the way.

Another key will be the Rams’ ability to run the football against the Bengals run defense which ranked 5th in the NFL in the regular season giving up only 102.5 yards per game but that defense has allowed 127.3 yards per game in the Bengals 3 post season games.

My selections are:

  • Bengals +4
  • Bengals/Rams OVER 48.5

My Parlay suggestion for the weekend:

  • Bengals on the Money Line @ +180
  • Cooper Kupp’s longest pass reception OVER 27.5 yards @ minus-110
  • $100 wager wins $435

            As noted above, this is the last of this season’s Football Friday offerings.  Also noted above is the fact that there ought to be significant shuffling of NFL game announcing assignments once next season kicks off.  So, let me end this final Football Friday with the lyrics that Dandy Don Meredith would croon on Monday Night Football about 50 years ago when the outcome of a game was no longer in doubt:

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over
They say that, ‘All good things must end’
Let’s call it a night, the party’s over
And tomorrow starts the same old thing again…”

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



Not An Uplifting Rant for Today…

There is a disturbing common thread in two stories related to the sports world that broke in the past day or so.  That common thread is alleged sexual assault.  Let me start with the story that has – at least for the moment – a measure of positivity associated with it; the headline for that story is that LA Dodgers’ pitcher, Trevor Bauer, will not face criminal charges coming out of a police investigation into allegations of sexual assault.  That investigation took five months; there were two incidents cited in the allegations; here is how the LA Times reported the bottom line in the matter:

“The district attorney opted not to file assault charges in the first encounter in April and domestic violence charges in the second encounter in May, determining there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bauer committed a crime.”

MLB has held in abeyance an investigation of its own deferring to the police and district attorney as they investigated what could have been a crime.  Presumably, the league will now proceed with its own investigation and draw conclusions of its own where the standard may be different from “prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”  MLB has a policy regarding domestic violence/sexual assault, and it gives the Commissioner the power to suspend a player accused of such behaviors even if the player is never formally charged or convicted of the charges.  Given that circumstance, this matter is not fully resolved.

Now I would certainly hope that the Commissioner would put any investigative action and/or any consideration of a suspension on the back burner at least until the Commissioner and his counterpart at the MLBPA find a way to get a new CBA to end the lockout.  In a sense, every major league player is “suspended” at the moment given the lockout situation; any action taken now to suspend Bauer would begin to resemble Dean Wormer’s infamous “Double Secret Probation”.

There is an added wrinkle to the MLB investigation.  The LA police investigated allegations leveled by a woman from San Diego.  There is another woman in Ohio who has also alleged sexual assault by Bauer at some time in the past.  The LA authorities did not investigate that situation for lack of jurisdiction, but it is on the table for MLB and its investigators.  I said there was a measure of positivity in this situation:

  1. Trevor Bauer will not be charged – let alone be convicted – of sexual assault in Los Angeles.
  2. The district attorney’s final statement is open and available for public scrutiny.

And that second point is precisely what is missing from  the other breaking story related to sexual assault in and among the world of sports.  In the past couple of days, a woman told the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform in a “congressional roundtable” that she was sexually assaulted by Daniel Snyder – owner of the Washington Commanders.  This is an accusation over and above the smarmy level of behaving like a Peeping Tom at a cheerleaders’ photo shoot; this woman claimed that Snyder put his hand on her thigh and later tried to push her into his vehicle against her will.

[Aside: I am not sufficiently familiar with the mechanisms of the House of Representatives to tell you want a “congressional roundtable” is unless it is nothing more than a circular piece of furniture in the Capital Building.]

Recall that there has been outrage with the team and the league that previous allegations of a toxic workplace in the team’s Front Office have not produced a finding that is available for public scrutiny.  In that matter, the team set out to investigate itself until the league took over that process.  In what must be the “Tone Deaf Announcement of the Year to Date”, the Washington Commanders announced that it had hired investigators to check in on those charges.  The NFL had to step in again and make it clear that it would be the league doing the investigating in this matter and not the team investigating itself and its owner.

Here is how Commissioner Goodell explained the situation:

“I do not see any way that the team can do its own investigation of itself.  That is something we [the NFL] would do.  We would do it with an outside expert that would be able to help us come to the conclusion of what the facts were and what really, truly happened so that we can make the right decision from there.”

Naturally, someone wanted to know if there would be a “written report” that would be made available at the end of this new investigation given that there was no such thing at the end of the prior league investigation.  Without going through the meandering answer to that question, the bottom line is that the Commissioner did not say there would be such a report for public consumption, and he did not rule out the possibility either.  My suggestion here is:

  • Don’t hold your breath.

The fact is that both the “Bauer situation” and the “Snyder conundrum” are not going away.  Bauer may or may not be charged in the “Ohio incident” just as he may or may not be suspended by MLB.  However, he has two more years on his contract with the Dodgers so it is reasonable to expect that he will be playing major league baseball somewhere down the road.  Snyder owns an NFL team, and it would take some monumental finding of criminality here to concoct a scenario where the NFL “rids itself” of Daniel Snyder.  Like Trevor Bauer, it is reasonable to expect that we will continue to hear from and about Daniel Snyder in the future.

Finally, since everything today revolves around sex, let me close with observations about sex from two commentators:

“Is sex dirty?  Only if it’s done right.”  [Woody Allen]

And …

“Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope?  If he knows anything about it, he shouldn’t.”  [George Bernard Shaw]

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