The Texans Hire Lovie Smith…

Soon after posting yesterday’s rant, I saw a report that the Texans had hired Lovie Smith to be their new coach.  My first reaction was that it was extremely convenient that the team chose to hire a Black head coach considering Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the league and three individual teams.  And then I read the following statement from Flores’ lawyers:

“Mr. Flores is happy to hear that the Texans have hired a Black head coach, Lovie Smith, as Mr. Flores’ goal in bringing his case is to provide real opportunities for Black and minority candidates to be considered for coaching and executive positions within the NFL.  However, we would be remiss not to mention that Mr. Flores was one of three finalists for the Texans’ head coach position and, after a great interview and mutual interest, it is obvious that the only reason Mr. Flores was not selected was his decision to stand up against racial inequality across the NFL.”

Let me simply say that what is obvious to Flores’ lawyers is not necessarily so obvious to me.  Lovie Smith had a bad coaching stretch at the University of Illinois from 2016 through 2020  and he was part of the coaching staff for the Texans who were less than fully successful in 2021.  Having said that, Lovie Smith’s overall NFL record is above .500 (89-87-0); his teams have been to the playoffs three times and to the Super Bowl once.  No offense to Brian Flores but he has none of those accomplishments on his résumé.

[Aside:  I give Lovie Smith bonus “style points” for getting to the Super Bowl game with Rex Grossman as his QB.  I give him a  pass for losing that Super Bowl game to the Colts and Peyton Manning.]

Now, do I think Lovie Smith is going to be successful next season with the Texans?  Absolutely not.  The Texans need a total rebuild and they continue to have the Deshaun Watson mess on their hands.  I doubt that a reincarnated Vince Lombardi would do much with the Texans’ squad over the next couple of years.

Next up … I ran across a summary of the points covered in the standard contract that players will sign if they want to be part of the rebooted USFL.  Recall that the initial dispersal of player for that league will take place later this month.  Here are a few of the high points:

  • Players sign a contract with the league, not with individual teams; and the salary structure is formulaic.
  • Players earn $600 a week in mini-camp and training camp.
  • Active players for regular season games earn $4500 per game.  [The league plans a 10-game regular season.]
  • Roster players not active for a regular season game earn $1500.
  • Players on teams that win a regular season game get a bonus of $850.
  • Players on the team winning the USFL Championship Game get a bonus of $10,000.
  • Player contracts run through December 31, 2022, and the USFL has the option to extend the contract for 1 year through December 31, 2023.
  • USFL players will be released from their contract if they are signed by an NFL team – – and only an NFL team.  With the potential appearance of XFL 3.0 on the calendar for 2023, the USFL wants to avoid having their rosters raided by that league.  The same goes for the CFL; at the same time, this is a nod to the NFL that the USFL is not seeking an antagonistic relationship with the NFL.
  • Players who sign the USFL standard contract become eligible for online college classes and degree credits at Strayer University and Capella University.
  • Players who sign the USFL standard contract sign away their name, image and likeness rights to the USFL for merchandizing and promotional activities.

I found that structure interesting on several levels.  Players are not going to get rich playing in the USFL at the beginning.  For the foreseeable future, only players who attract attention from an NFL team such that they get an NFL contract will make “big bucks”.  However, players who avail themselves of the college courses offered for free could set themselves up for bigger earnings once the player’s football career/aspirations are in the past.  In addition, players get enrolled in a group health insurance plan for the duration of their USFL contract.

There was one specific thing in the report I read that I found interesting.  The USFL has a Players’ Handbook that spells out things like the league’s drug policy and its PED policy and its player conduct policy.  In that Players’ Handbook, it says explicitly that players are required to stand for the National Anthem at the games.

One other football-related note today… Titans’ wide receiver, AJ Brown, said that he was contemplating a baseball career in addition to his NFL career.  Brown once caught the attention of the San Diego Padres scouting staff and he was a two-sport athlete in high school.  Brown said that he would do better in baseball than Michael Jordan did.

  • Memo to AJ Brown:  Set the bar a bit higher, my man.  Michael Jordan spent 1 year in AA minor league baseball and hit .202.

If AJ Brown said he would do better at baseball than either Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson did as two-sport athletes, he would get plenty of MLB attention.

Finally, here is a comment from humorist Brad Dickson regarding TV coverage of some Winter Olympics events:

“The best job in the world is figure skating announcer. You can just make it up. ‘She did a triple Lutz and is now going into a reverse Rupaul. Oh! It’s a quadruple Ed Asner!’”

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



A Suggested Add-On To The Rooney Rule

In light of Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams alleging racism in the hiring processes inside the league, the Rooney Rule has come under scrutiny once again.  I am on record for the last 20 years or so saying that the rule is well intentioned and one that would not be remotely necessary in a more perfect world.  At the same time, the rule is far too easily obeyed in fact while being evaded in spirit.  And most importantly, the Rooney Rule has no teeth; if a team or an owner flaunts the rule, the penalty might be a “million dollar fine” that owners can pay out of petty cash.

A recent addendum to the Rooney Rule came into play this week when the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel to be their head coach.  McDaniel had been the offensive coordinator of the Niners and McDaniel is biracial.  The Niners are being rewarded for hiring/promoting a minority individual to a coordinator position that was the springboard for that individual to obtain a head coaching position.  The Niners will receive a third-round draft pick this year and another third-round draft pick next year; I don’t know if it is proper to call those picks “compensatory picks” or “reward picks”.  This is an attempt by the NFL to incentivize adding minority individuals to the pipeline that eventually turns out the 32 men who occupy head coaching positions at any given moment.

Yesterday, Jason LaCanfora posted an opinion piece on saying that perhaps what the Rooney Rule really needs is meaningful punishment for teams that violate the rule with things like sham interviews.  Here is the start of that column:

“The overriding principle driving the Rooney Rule has been that if you incentivize diversity sufficiently, then the hierarchy of the NFL will begin to more closely resemble society at large.

“But what if that theory is flawed?

“What if it is proven to be naïve? What if it’s actually having the opposite effect on the hiring process?

“What if the expanded Rooney Rule is merely creating more interview opportunities, but the outcome of these searches is becoming increasingly one-sided in favor of white candidates than ever before?”

You can find the entire column here; it is worth reading because it makes the case that what exists now needs alteration/repair.  It is easy to say that there need to be consequences for violating the rule and maybe it is too easy to align oneself with that idea.

The difficulty here is that the Rooney Rule seeks to regulate intent.  The rule is procedural; a club with a vacancy at certain levels of  a team’s hierarchy must interview at least one and often two minority candidates for that vacancy.  That is not exactly a high bar to cross for a hiring official – particularly one who has already made up his mind who he wants to hire before any interviewing takes place.  Complying with the letter of the rule is almost trivial if the hiring official wants to skirt the intent of the rule which is to give minority candidates a fair shot at vacant positions.

It is easy to award added draft picks to teams as noted above because the end result is transparent.  It is rarely if ever transparent when one tries to measure or regulate intent.  I often say here that I cannot read minds; well, neither can any person or group of persons who might be tasked to be the watchdog for “interviewing intent”.  In theory, Jason LaCanfora is onto something; there need to be punishments as well as rewards in this arena.  However, I would not want to be the person who has to make the punishment call.

One more thing about the media coverage of this year’s NFL coaching carousel needs a comment.  Most commentators focus on the fact that until Mike McDaniel was hired, there was only one Black head coach in the NFL (Mike Tomlin).  That is correct but it is incomplete because the Rooney Rule specifies the need to interview minority candidates not just Black candidates.  To that end, the hiring of McDaniel in Miami brings the minority coaching list up to four.  While that may or may not be the level that commentators believe is ideal, four minority coaches are significantly better than one or two.  [The two non-Black minority coaches are Ron Rivera and Robert Saleh.]

I want to offer a different approach that might be used in addition to a more transparent application of the Rooney Rule to put more minority candidates in the head coaching pipeline.  The entry level positions in the coaching business are graduate assistants at the college level and minimum-wage-at-best interns with NFL teams.  That is where people who want to be football coaches get their start.  That career decision usually gets made soon after college and my sense is that some minority candidates find themselves in economic circumstances that do not allow them to take either sort of entry level job because they need a higher paying job.

Restricted flow of minorities into entry level positions must influence the numbers and ratios of minority coaching candidates at various levels of maturation as the years pass.  So, perhaps the NFL should invest some money in the form of stipends to minority individuals who want to take one of those entry level coaching positions such that the stipend makes the economic circumstances for minority candidates something more manageable.  Let me be clear; this will NOT be a magic wand that will resolve this issue in a year or even a decade.  What such a program MIGHT do is make the Rooney Rule obsolete some day – – on the assumption that NFL owners are not inherently incorrigible racists.

Just a thought…

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this reaction to the new name attached to the Washington NFL franchise – – the Commanders:

“A Commander? To some old-timers, reader Kevin Love reminds us, a Commander is a Philip Morris cigarette back in the 1960s. The TV commercial jingle was, ‘Have a Commander, welcome aboard!’ Selling point: A special vacuum ‘gently cleans every bit of tobacco.’ You still got lung cancer, but it was a tidy lung cancer. And when you checked into the hospital, they welcomed you aboard.”

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



Baseball Negotiations – – Not A Pretty Sight

Pitchers and catchers were supposed to report to Spring Training camps on the 15th or 16th of February this year; given the state of the negotiations regarding a new CBA, that looks to be an impossibility – – even if all the teams have gone to the effort to transport all the “stuff” needed to hold Spring Training to the venues where it should be taking place.  Based on various reporting, here is my understanding of where the negotiations have gotten to:

  • One of the so-called “core economic issues” relates to young players known as “Super Two” players.  Such players have more than two but less than three years of credited service time in the major leagues and some – not all – of those players can qualify for arbitration even with shorter service time than is normal.  The issue at hand is a pool of bonus money that could be  used to increase salaries for some “Super Two” players without resorting to arbitration.  The amount of money in the pool is obviously a bone of contention and there seems to be no clear agreement as to how the bonus pool might be allocated among eligible players.  One report on the gulf that exists here as to the size of this bonus pool said that the owners proposed a $10M pool and the players suggested a $105M pool.  This could take a while…
  • Service time manipulation – the practice of MLB teams to keep players in the minor leagues just long enough that they do not accumulate a full year of service time in the majors so that their free agency date is postponed a full season – is also a sticking point.  MLB has proposed giving bonus draft picks to teams that do not manipulate service time.  While that sounds like a fig leaf to me, I must admit that I do not have a better idea.
  • MLB wants to expand the playoffs to 14 teams – an idea I think is a bad one.  The union opposes that seemingly only because it is a bargaining chip for them to try to pry a concession from owners elsewhere in the CBA.  If that were not the case, I do not see how or why the union would want to have fewer of its players in the playoffs where more players can qualify for bonuses in their contracts for making the playoffs.
  • The universal DH is also an issue.  Feh!
  • Naturally, the union wants the minimum salary for players increased and the owners want to increase it to a much lesser extent.  No surprise there…
  • There is reported to be a “significant gap” in the payroll threshold after which teams pay the “luxury tax”.  This is important because luxury tax money is shared with “small market teams” and the union’s position is that some of those teams are pocketing the money and not using it to try to sign players to market value contracts.
  • There is also contention over another revenue sharing practice in place where local TV and radio revenues for the teams are pooled and shared nominally to give the small market teams a stronger footing in bidding for free agent players.  The issue here is that some teams never do seem to use that money in that way.

The owners are meeting this week in Orlando, FL; presumably, the negotiation team will bring the “plenary session” of the owners’ meeting up to date on all these issues – – and others that are interwoven in the fabric of the talks.  Commissioner Rob Manfred is scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday of this week; perhaps the best we can hope for is that he sheds more light than heat on what is going on here.

One of the major problems I have had with baseball’s CBA negotiations over the years is that the fundamental issues never seem to change very much.  The two sides fulminate at each other and eventually come to a sort of agreement that merely puts a band-aid on the wound and leaves in place all the fundamental disagreements.  Then, five years later, they go into the memory banks and drag out the old issues and begin fulminating again.  This time around, the two sides – – and I mean BOTH sides – – seem to have chosen to play the game of chicken very close to some real calendar imperatives.

If the start of Spring Training is delayed, that probably also delays the start of Spring Training games.

  • If Spring Training games are started significantly later than scheduled (Feb.26th is on the books now) that could delay the start of the regular season.
  • Now imagine a late start in April combined with “expanded playoffs” and the choice becomes a shorter regular season or World Series games bumping up against Thanksgiving.
  • And if the regular season has to be shortened, that will add another “economic issue” to the negotiations – – how will player contracts be paid out or pro-rated…

This situation is a stone-cold mess.  And the two sides here need to take a moment for introspection and reflection on the fact that the truncated 2020 season should have demonstrated to them that fans can live without baseball.  There was plenty of turmoil in in the US in 2020 and none of that turmoil was in response to the absence of baseball until July.

Let me return to a fundamental theme I have offered here in the past.  MLB and the MLBPA should be much less antagonistic to each other than they are now – – and have been for the last 40 years.  The two sides are, in reality, partners – not opponents – in producing and distributing a “television series”.  The reason top players are routinely making $30M a year or more is TV network money; it is not the marketing genius of the owners, and it is not the athletic genius of the players; it is both working in concert.  That sort of camaraderie never seems to surface…

Finally, since today’s rant has focused on reporting about the two sides in a labor negotiation, let me close with this observation by humorist, H. Allen Smith, that should provide you with a guide as to how to read such reporting:

“When there are two conflicting versions of the story, the wise course is to believe the one in which people appear at their worst.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports



USA Swimming – – Transgender Policy

The football season is not quite over and today is a Friday.  However, I have known since September when football season began that this would be a week without a Football Friday simply because I refuse to consider the Pro Bowl with any greater seriousness than I do Exhibition Games.  I originally thought the way to avoid a Football Friday while keeping a focus on football for today would be to do my annual post-mortem on those NFL predictions I made 5 months ago.  But I changed my mind; I’ll do the post-mortem next week sometime.

There is an issue in other sports that I think deserves attention far more than my football prediction retrospective.  Earlier this week, USA Swimming – the regulatory and governing body for swimming here – issued a new policy to establish eligibility criteria for transgender athletes in “elite events”.  Clearly, this action springs from the controversy created by the transgender woman swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, Lia Thomas.  Here is my understanding as to how a transgender swimmer will need to be “certified” for elite competition in the future:

  • Three “independent medical experts” will decide if the athlete’s prior physical development as a male gives her a competitive advantage over cisgender women swimmers against whom the transgender swimmer will be competing.  Please do not ask me how those folks will make such a determination – – but somehow, they will do so.  The cynic in me thinks that the demand for Ouija Boards will skyrocket…
  • In addition, the athlete will have to demonstrate that the concentration of testosterone in her blood has been below a set limit (5 nanomoles per liter) continuously for 36 months prior to the time of “certification”.

These rules will only apply at “elite levels” and not at every age group and every level of competition.  Lia Thomas is competing at an “elite level” of women’s swimming; she underwent two years of testosterone reduction/hormone replacement therapy as was required by the NCAA; and to this point in the swimming season, she owns the fastest women’s time in several events.

Let me say something carefully here.  In 2022, it is extremely easy to be charged with “transphobia” if one says anything that might be even slightly critical of anyone in the transgender community.  Nevertheless, I have to proclaim my lack of medical credentials and my lack of sociology credentials while I similarly must assert what I have observed over the 78 years I have been on Planet Earth:

  • In athletic events where muscular strength and/or foot speed are critical elements, there is a significant advantage for males over females at the elite levels of the sport.
  • Olympic level male shot-putters can put the shot further than women at that level.
  • Olympic male sprinters can run a specified distance in less time than women at that level.
  • You can fill in at least another dozen or more events here where those observations are true to form in every circumstance…

The difficulty for women’s competitions arises from the disparity in performance from the best male performance to the best female performance.  That gap is large enough for the following situation to obtain:

  • The male record for the marathon stands today at 2 hours 1 minute 39 seconds.
  • The fastest female time recorded – it was in a mixed gender race, so it is not considered the women’s world record – is 2 hours 14 minutes 4 seconds.
  • The winning male time in that mixed gender race was 2 hours 5 minutes 45 seconds.
  • Ten male runners finished with faster times than did the winning female.
  • Now, suppose one or two of them decided to declare themselves as transgender females.  That marathon winner – and her world record – would be out the window.
  • By the way, this happens in other events besides the marathon…

My problem here is not with transgender athletes in either direction; my problem is that there is an inevitable advantage for a transgender female athlete over cisgender female athletes in specific sports.  And no amount of political correctness is going to change that.  I believe that women’s sports may be devalued – maybe even obliterated – if some of the sports do not simply declare that transgender vs. cisgender competition is fundamentally unfair to the cisgender athlete.

This is not a simple problem because I also happen to believe that every person of every gender and sexuality should have the opportunity to compete in any sport that is legal.  However, the unstated but underlying premise of any event that you can call a sport is the fact that the playing field is level.  And I believe that if a male at birth goes through puberty and develops his athletic skills and strengths post puberty, that athlete will make for unfair competition for cisgender females in certain sports.

I wish I knew how to square the circle here; I do not.  Maybe three years of testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per liter is the answer – – but color me skeptical.  Maybe a three-person medical panel can unravel all of this – – color me a lot more skeptical.  I may not have the solution here, but I am confident that “advocates” for anything other than fair competition are not going to make the solution any the easier to find.

Finally, since this has all been about “man” and “woman” in the context of athletics, let me close with a view of man and a view of women:

“Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile.”  [Albert Schweitzer]

And …

“Women should be obscene and not heard.”  [Groucho Marx]

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



Brian Flores Sues the NFL

Brian Flores has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against the NFL and three specific teams in the NFL – – the Broncos, Giants and Dolphins.  The common thread that runs through the allegations in the suit is the existence of a hiring bias against minority head coaching applicants; but the allegations against the specific teams are more specific and in one case as serious as a heart attack.  I will try to open up the charges made here and offer commentary that comes from a position of legal ignorance but sociopolitical awareness.

The charge against the Broncos evidently involves an interview Flores had for the head coaching job there in 2019.  Flores claims it was not genuine and took place only so the Broncos could say that they had followed the letter of the “Rooney Rule”.  Flores says that John Elway – the Broncos’ GM at the time – arrived late to the meeting and was disheveled and gave the appearance that he had been “out the night before”.  Obviously, the Broncos and Elway see that event very differently.  Unless there is some other evidence to be evoked and/or testimony from others at the meeting to corroborate Flores’ allegation(s), this charge seems pretty thin to me.

The charge against the Giants is similar in the sense that Flores alleges that the Giants interviewed him only to comply with the “Rooney Rule” and that there was no intent on their part to hire him under any circumstances.  Earlier this week, I wrote that it was understandable to me that the Giants’ first-time GM would hire someone he knew well and had worked with.  I see that decision as the new GM establishing a comfort zone for himself and that should not be illegal.  However, the timing is important there.  If – as Flores alleges – he was interviewed AFTER the Giants’ new GM had made his decision and was negotiating a deal with another applicant, that puts this situation in a very different light.

The charge against the NFL is that the “Rooney Rule” is a complete sham, and that systemic racism exists in the processes by which head coaches – and to a slightly lesser extent offensive and defensive coordinators – get those jobs.  I absolutely agree that the “Rooney Rule” is a fig leaf for the NFL; it covers up – minimally – the existence of an old-boys-network that has branches incorporating owners, GMs and head coaches.  I also assert that the “Rooney Rule” is not codified anywhere in the law; so, I am not sure how or why that matter should come before a judge.

I have to pause here for a moment:

  • I am  not an attorney, but I understand that, in legal proceedings, precedent(s) are most important.
  • There is precedent on the books that the FBI and DoJ prosecutors found a legal theory that held up allowing them to use laws governing interstate wire fraud to try and convict folks who had violated NCAA basketball recruiting rules.
  • I see a definite parallel between the NCAA rules violations and the “Rooney Rule” circumvention – – so maybe this allegation against the NFL has legs?

The three charges outlined in brief above are not pretty; in fact, they would have to be cleaned up more than a bit to earn the label “smarmy”.  The charges against the Dolphins – and Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross specifically – get close to “existential threat territory”.

First, Flores alleges that Ross wanted him to violate the NFL’s tempering rules to “recruit a prominent quarterback”.  Flores refused and sometime later Ross invited Flores to join him on Ross’ yacht.  Meanwhile, the “prominent quarterback” would just happen to be visiting the marina where the yacht was docked so that Flores and the quarterback could have a perfectly acceptable “chance encounter”.  Once again, Flores refused to take part in this less than proper set-up.

That charge demands an NFL investigation – – one where there is a detailed report of the investigation and findings of the investigator that are shared with the public.  Remember it is the public that provides the basis for the $15B or so that the NFL takes in every year; they have some reason to claim that the owners are playing by the rules that govern competitiveness on the field.  Some fans may not care nearly as much about the issue(s) that drove passage of the “Rooney Rule”, but every NFL fan wants the game on the field to be on the up and up.

That last statement brings me to the second allegation in the suit against the Dolphins.  Brian Flores alleges that Stephen Ross offered him $100K per game that the Dolphins would lose last  year in order to enhance their draft position.  [Aside:  Hue Jackson has not said so directly but in Tweets he has strongly intimated that he too had a similar offer from the Browns’ ownership when he was the head coach in Cleveland.]  Let me say the following as clearly as I can:

  • IF THAT CHARGE TURNS OUT TO BE TRUE, the NFL must force a sale of the Miami Dolphins’ franchise immediately.

The NFL never wanted to admit that gambling on NFL games was a major factor in creating interest in the games and support for the teams – – until of course sports gambling became an industry in half the states and sportsbooks became a new revenue source for the league.  That “gambling factor” continues to exist and has been magnified in the past several  years.  The single best way for the NFL to destroy that foundation piece of its popularity is for the ”betting public” to begin to suspect that game outcomes are determined somewhere other than on the field.  That situation nudges up to “existential threat territory”.

There have been forced sales of franchises in US sports in the past.  Marge Schott and Donald Sterling were forced to sell their baseball and basketball teams respectively; Jerry Richardson may not have been forced to sell the Carolina Panthers as pointedly as Schott or Sterling, but it is fair to say that the league offered him encouragement to sell the team and made the process of the sale as streamlined as possible.  Given everything that those folks did to get on the wrong side of their leagues and their peers, none of that threatens the product that the league presents to the public as its raison d’etre.

The level to which these allegations can be shown to be true should have a significant effect on how Brian Flores “goes down in history”.  This is potentially a watershed moment for the NFL; this is lots worse than the “toxic work environment” that may have existed in the Front Office of the Washington Football Team; this is worse than “Deflategate” or “Bountygate”.  At the very least, Brian Flores must be seen as someone who was willing to damage – or even destroy – his own career as a football coach in the NFL to try to resolve a problem that he sees as very real and very wrong.

I have cited this before, but it bears repeating here.  A former colleague used to say:

  • Leadership is acting with integrity on that which you know to be true.

Using that yardstick, Brian Flores should be seen now and in the future as a leader.

Finally, let me close with a completely unrelated item that involves the NFL:

  • Yesterday, we saw the introduction of the Washington Commanders – the new name for the team formerly known as the Washington Football Team.
  • It was nice touch for the team to name itself after President Biden’s dog.

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



Bouncing Around Today

Let me get two “breaking news” items out of the way first…

  1. Tom Brady confirms that he is indeed retiring.  Lost in all the accolades and retrospectives on his career is a vote of thanks we owe to him that he did not announce his retirement a year before making it happen thereby exposing the world to a Farewell Tour.  Thanks – and Godspeed – Tom Brady.  BTW, please save the date 5  years from now when you will need to be in Canton, OH to don the coveted – – yet ugly – – yellow blazer they put on Hall of Fame inductees…
  2. The Washington Football Team characterizes its name change as a “reintroduction” of the franchise.  Cutting through the argle-bargle, the new name will be the Washington Commanders.  After two years of “process”, that is the new name; try to contain your exuberance…

Yesterday afternoon, I found an email in my inbox from “the reader in Houston”.  Since I did not recall writing about anything related to “sports history” yesterday, I wondered what tidbit he was adding to yesterday’s rant.  Rather than adding to or correcting a historical comment, he simply quoted the opening line from yesterday and added to it:

“’I do not recall how or why I began a string of searches on’

Perhaps you were looking to see how much NBA salary money was being lost by players missing games either by injury, rest, or for personal reasons, just like you did for MLB. The NBA may surpass the 2021 MLB figures.

This is not the reason I went looking – – but it was enough of a tease to send me back to to see what “the reader in Houston” meant.  As is always the case, he is onto something there.

  • For the 2021 MLB season, teams paid out $$871,443,647 to 852 players who missed a total of 48,029 games due to placement on the Injured List.  I believe my observation at the time was something like, “That’s a lot of cheese…”
  • For the NBA season to date, there are similar staggering numbers. makes a distinction in the case of the NBA that was not present in their MLB compilation; there are three lists; one is for players who are injured another is for players who do not play so they can “rest” and the third is for players who have missed games for “personal reasons”.
  • For games missed due to injury, 464 players have missed 4,631 games and have received $568,370,291 in salary.  The NBA regular season is about 65% over so that salary number projects to be about $874M.
  • For games missed due to “resting”, 25 players have missed a total of 50 games and earned $4,010,706 while “resting”.  If that keeps on the same pace, that money projection is another $6.2M.
  • For the “personal” list, 27 players have missed 274 games while earning $81,809,966.  That figure projects to be $126M at season’s end.

So, the total amount of money paid to NBA players while not playing so far this year is $654,190,963.  Using a crude linear extrapolation, the end of the regular season will see that total rise to $1.0B.  Indeed, it looks as if the NBA teams will pay out more than the MLB teams did last year to non-performing players.

And this brings to mind LeBron James’ comment from several years ago equating the NBA owners’ behaviors with people who have a “slave mentality”.  I have exactly no credentials as a historian, but I do not recall ever reading or hearing about any slaveholders – here in the US or anywhere else in the world – paying out a total of $1.0B to their slaves for not working.  Moreover, LeBron James has utilized the tool of “free  agency” to take his talents to various cities at his own choosing.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that – – but if the owners had a real “slave mentality”, the concept of “free agency” would not exist.

Lest someone accuse me of taking LeBron’s words out of context, here is what he said on his HBO program, The Shop:

“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality. And it’s like this is my team you do what the “bleep” I tell y’all to do. Or we get rid of y’all…”

And just to close out that issue, let me observe that Michael Jordan as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets was probably surprised to learn that he is an “old white man”…

Moving on …  As you get ready to watch or read about the winter Games that are ready to roll in Beijing, look carefully at all the snow on the ski slopes.  It is beautiful and it is unnatural.  There is almost no snow that has fallen from the sky around Beijing this year; almost every flake of snow you see is artificially created and deposited on the slopes.  Basically, that is snow created from liquid water that is “frozen” in what amounts to giant refrigerators and then blown into the air by giant fans so it can fall to the ground where needed.  That process has been ongoing for months.

I cannot wait until someone decides to calculate the carbon footprint for all that artificial snow.  Let the handwringing begin.

Finally, speed skating is an event in the Winter games.  So, let close today with a comment from Brad Rock who is now retired from the Deseret News.  I have had this one on my clipboard for some time now:

“The world short track speed skating champion has been banned a year for pantsing a teammate.

“Lim Hyo-Jun pulled the prank on a younger skater in front of other South Korean athletes, violating sexual harassment rules.

“So now you know. No matter how high you go in sports, you’re never far from your junior high gym class.”

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



Quarterback Uncertainty…

I do not recall how or why I began a string of searches on – and maybe I should have realized this even before starting down that path – but a significant fraction of the NFL playoff teams this year have QBs whose tenure with the team is in question beyond next year.  Consider:

  • Tom Brady – – under contract for ‘22 with voidable years after that so UFA
  • Derek Carr – – under contract for ’22; UFA in ‘23
  • Jimmy Garoppolo – – under contract for ‘22, UFA in ‘23; rumored out in SF.
  • Kyler Murray – – under contract for ‘22; Cards have 5th year option in ‘23.
  • Aaron Rodgers – – under contract for ’22; voided year in ’23 so UFA then
  • Ben Roethlisberger – – could have been UFA in ‘22 but retired instead
  • Matthew Stafford – – under contract for ’22; UFA in ‘23

There were fourteen teams in the playoffs; seven of those teams had quarterback-uncertainty staring them in the face as they began playoff runs.  Some playoff teams in the playoffs had a different form of “quarterback-uncertainty”; for example, is Jalen Hurts the long-term answer for the Eagles at QB?

This sort of thing is interesting to me from different perspectives:

  1. Normally, I think of successful teams as ones that have stability; half of this  year’s playoff teams could face significant “roster turmoil” should their starting quarterback become a UFA after next season.
  2. From a player – and agent – perspective, there would appear to be a significant “supply” of QB talent that could be available in the next off-season.  So, does that cause some of these QBs to seek contract extensions now when the “supply” does not outstrip “demand” very badly?

Adding to the potential “supply” side for QBs in 2023, Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield will also be UFAs based on their current contract situations.

Next up …  There has been a recurring promo on the NFL’s playoff telecasts this year that is so obviously false that I wonder how the announcers do the live read without stammering.  According to the promo, “The 88 best players will square off in the Pro Bowl on February 6th in Las Vegas.”  For that to be remotely correct two situations would have to obtain:

  1. No player on either the Rams or the Bengals is one of the 88 best players in the NFL.  Those players will take part in the Super Bowl a week after the Pro Bowl, but none will be in the Pro Bowl.
  2. Legitimate participants who belong in the Pro Bowl due to their excellent play would have to show up and play as opposed to “opting out” and being replaced by other players of lesser ability and accomplishment.

It should not be difficult to convince anyone who has paid attention over the past season that neither of those two conditions are even close to being fulfilled.  However, I guess it is not nearly as “compelling” a promo if one were to speak the truth about the upcoming Pro Bowl telecast:

“Eighty-eight very good players will line up and take the field in Las Vegas on February 6th to play in the Pro Bowl – – a game with as much physicality as flag football but performed by much better athletes than you will ever see in a flag football game.”

Let me present some of the replacements on the Pro Bowl roster that I know of – – and I do not follow this stuff nearly closely enough to pretend that this is a complete list.  In each case the replacement is a really good player – – but maybe not quite as good as the guy he is replacing:

  • Russell Wilson is replacing Tom Brady
  • Kirk Cousins is replacing Aaron Rodgers
  • Dionte Johnson is replacing Ja’Marr Chase (Chase will be in the Super Bowl)
  • Hunter Renfrow is replacing Keenan Allen
  • Josh Sweat is replacing Nick Bosa
  • Vita Vea is replacing Aaron Donald (Donald will be in the Super Bowl)

I will not be watching the Pro Bowl next weekend.  I think I shall devote that time slot to begin organizing my financial records in preparation for filing my Income Tax Return.  As odious a task as that is, it looks like an appealing alternative to me right about now.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in his column last week in the Seattle Times:

“Islanders Hall of Famer Clark Gillies, who died at 67 on Jan. 21, when once asked where his native Moose Jaw was located: ‘Six feet from the moose’s ass.’”

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