The NFL Draft Is Underway…

The first round of the NFL Draft happened last night.  When the entire Draft is over on Sunday, we will have achieved two milestones in the NFL offseason:

  1. Mercifully, the ubiquitous yet meaningless Mock Drafts for 2022 will stop.
  2. Fans across the country will enter a brief phase of euphoria over the new roster additions for their favorite teams.

I suspect that coaches and GMs around the league will see the end of the Draft as the time to do some pending business in terms of roster building.  There are still hundreds of free agents out there who could be signed to patch holes in rosters that the Draft did not necessarily fill adequately – – or reliably.  There seem to be two main categories of free agents still out there looking for work:

  1. Players with a lot of miles on the tires whose best days are in the past but who can still play professional football.
  2. Younger players who have been deemed expendable – – or at least not worth re-signing – – by a previous employer.

Just to give you and idea of some of the available talent in Category 1 above, here are ten players I found very quickly on the free agent list:

  1. Odell Beckham, Jr.
  2. Brian Bulaga
  3. Jadeveon Clowney
  4. Akiem Hicks
  5. T.Y. Hilton
  6. Melvin Ingram
  7. Julio Jones
  8. Jarvis Landry
  9. Tyrann Mathieu
  10. Carl Nassib

Here is a link where you can find all the outstanding NFL free agents as of now.  If you venture there, I promise that you can find another list of 10 veteran free agents whose careers would indicate that they still have enough left in the tank to help a team in the 2022 season.

No one on that list is going to be the league MVP next year; at the same time, barring injury, all those players can make positive contributions to whatever NFL team acquires their services.  There may not be any pizzazz to this aspect of roster-building as compared to making splashy trades or making a bold draft pick, but this is an important time for NFL execs and coaches.

In addition, low-key free agent signings are as important as developing a “Draft Board” for a team.  Looking at that free agent list in the link above, I saw two signings that had slipped by me because they were not splashy – – but I think both players could be positive acquisitions for their new teams:

  • DJ Chark left the Jags and signed a 1-year deal worth $10M with the Lions.  I am not going to pretend that I have watched Chark intensively over the course of his career with the Jags over the last 4  years.  However, I have seen him play enough to know that he is a speed burner who averaged more than 12 yards per catch with the Jags in his career.  The Lions have a possession receiver – – Amman-Ra St. Brown – – and adding a speed guy to their attack should be helpful.
  • Jordan Whitehead left the Bucs and signed a 2-year deal worth $14.5M with the Jets.  When I saw the Bucs’ games, I thought Whitehead was more important for that defense than either of the Bucs’ much more heralded CBs – – Antoine Winfield and Carlton Davis.  The Jets need help in their defensive backfield, and I think they made a good choice signing Whitehead.

I have one other NFL offseason observation for today and it has to do with two outstanding WRs who have been traded in the offseason.

  • Devante Adams is no longer a Packer catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.  He will be a Raider in 2022 catching passes from Derek Carr.
  • Tyreek Hill is no longer a Chief catching passes from Patrick Mahomes.  He will be a Dolphin in 2022 catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa.

I think this will be an interesting experiment; Adams and Hill are better pass catchers than anyone that either QB has ever had.  The other side of the coin is that both WRs are going to have to deal with QBs who have not ever been considered peers with the QBs the WRs have left behind.  Let the games begin – – and the experiments commence…

Finally, with the NFL Draft having begun last night, there are 32 football players who have achieved hero status in the cities of the teams that drafted them in the first round.  So, let me close today with these words about heroes from H. L. Mencken:

“Nowhere in the world is superiority more easily attained, or more eagerly admitted.  The chief business of the nation, is the setting up of heroes, mainly bogus.”

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



TV Sports And Cognitive Dissonance…

About 5 years ago, NFL TV ratings were down significantly, and NBA TV ratings were on an uptick.  That was also a time when you could not go more than a week without reading a gloom-and-doom themed column about CTE and how – maybe – there would be no football players available at some point in the future for the NFL to use and abuse.  [Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be football players.]  Ignoring the absolute numbers and only looking at the “trends” and then extrapolating them, there were more than a few pundits who proclaimed that the NBA would soon be on an equal footing with the NFL.

Well, let me present you with some data from 2021/2022:

  • The NBA saw a 19% growth in its average TV audience in the regular season.  The average NBA game had an audience of 1.6M and there was a significant growth in the number of women watching NBA games this year.  According to one report I read, women make up one-third of the NBA TV viewership.
  • Sounds good … and yet …
  • The average NFL audience in the 2021 regular season grew ever so slightly and the average TV audience for an NFL regular season game was 16.1M.  Yes, the average NFL audience was a factor of 10 greater than the average NBA audience.

Notwithstanding the significant NBA growth and the meager increase for the NFL in terms of average TV audiences, the NBA has a lot of growing to do to be considered even a minor “threat” to the NFL.  And at the end of this year, we will get a direct head-to-head comparison.

  • Christmas Day has belonged to the NBA for years.  They televise games from noon to midnight; even though the NBA regular season begins before Thanksgiving, Christmas Day is when the NBA announces itself and puts itself out there.
  • In the past, the NFL has tended to avoid playing a full schedule on Christmas Day.  Not so in 2022, according to reports, the NFL regular season schedule for 2022 will have an NFL triple header on Christmas Day.

Looking ahead, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year.  In the past, when Christmas fell on a Sunday, the NFL would play most of its games on Christmas Eve and play only a single game – or possibly two games in the afternoon – on Christmas.  Supposedly, the schedule for this week will be to play 12 games on Saturday afternoon, 1 game in prime time on Saturday night and the 3 remaining games on Sunday making the TV schedule for Christmas Day look very much like the one for Thanksgiving Day.

And that will put the NFL triple-header in direct opposition to the NBA extravaganza.  I am pretty sure that the NFL games will dominate the ratings that day.  Just one data point to explain my level of confidence here:

  • In 2021, on Thanksgiving Day, the Raiders/Cowboys game in the late afternoon time slot had a TV audience that averaged 38.3 million viewers over the course of the game.

[Aside:  I predict that the NFL Draft later this week will draw a TV audience that is greater than the average NBA game from last season (1.6 million viewers) by at least a factor of 3.  We shall see…]

There is another “calendar twist” this year about which I have yet to see any reporting.  When Christmas falls on a Sunday, so does New Year’s Day.  If I have counted correctly, that would be Week 17 of the upcoming NFL season meaning there could be several games with playoff importance on the same day that college football plays its New Year’s Day bowl games.  Now that would be the definition of your “Football Extravaganza”…

There is another NBA “story” out there that begs comment.  Kyrie Irving proclaimed that he would re-sign with the Nets – – presumably meaning a contract extension since he has an option year left on his current contract – – to stay with the team and help manage it along with Kevin Durant, the team GM and the team owner.  Please note three things:

  1. Irving “managed” this year’s team by sitting out most of the games and then by providing three listless performances in the four-game sweep that eliminated the Nets from the playoffs.
  2. Several years ago, Irving told the Celtics he would re-sign with them and stay with the team for the long term – – if the team would have him back was how he put it.  Less than a year after signing that new contract with Boston, he finagled his way out of town to join the Nets.
  3. Irving’s statement of team management included four people – – himself, Durant, the GM and the owner – – but conspicuously avoided having a head coach or any coach in the management group.

Kyrie Irving is a great basketball player when he puts his mind to it; historically, his mind has a tendency to wander.  Look back on Irving’s actions/decisions over the past several years and then try to square all of them with this statement that he made about wanting to be with the Nets and part of its management:

“You know, sometimes I feel like the noise on the external world or outside noise can seep in, and, you know, I’m not the type of person to allow that to happen. So as we build together as a squad, I just think we need to be tougher mentally and just more honest about what we want to accomplish and just stick to the goal, stick to the mission.”

I have exactly no credentials in psychology, but the dictionary definition of cognitive dissonance is this:

“The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”

Finally, having looked at calendar holidays earlier on and having just used a dictionary definition, let me close with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

July Fourth:  An excuse to get drunk, light things on fire, and perhaps even lose one or more of the digits on your hands, all the while knowing you can blame it on loving your country.”

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



Mostly Baseball Today…

Mark Emmert has announced that he will step down from his position as the President of the NCAA on 30 June 2023 or when his replacement is hired – – whichever comes first.  I think everyone knows the level of esteem I have for the NCAA as an institution so let me step aside and snicker after I put Dr. Emmert’s words here so you can read them for yourself.

“Throughout my tenure I’ve emphasized the need to focus on the experience and priorities of student-athletes.  I am extremely proud of the work of the Association over the last 12 years and especially pleased with the hard work and dedication of the national office staff here in Indianapolis.”

Moving on …  While I was in Ireland, Miguel Cabrera got his 3000th major league hit; only 33 players in baseball’s 150-year history have done that.  However, that is not all he accomplished with that base hit because last season Cabrera hit is 500th MLB home run.  The “3000-hit club” is exclusive; the “500 HR/3000-hit club” is elite.  Here are the 6 players who had previously achieved both milestones:

  1. Henry Aaron
  2. Willie Mays
  3. Eddie Murray
  4. Rafael Palmeiro
  5. Albert Pujols
  6. Alex Rodriguez

Interestingly, two of those players are not in the Hall of Fame.  A-Rod only got 35% of the votes for entrance last year and the threshold is 75%.  After Palmeiro’s infamous finger-wagging testimony before Congress about steroid use and his subsequent positive test, I suspect he will never make it to the Hall.  However, Cabrera and Pujols would seem to be first ballot shoo-ins once they retire and spend 5 years cooling their heels waiting to be eligible to appear on the ballots.

One more thing about Cabrera …  He – like many other excellent players – played for the Marlins before being traded.  Many folks will recall just a few years ago when the Marlins outfield consisted of Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich – – and then they were all traded away.  What might have passed into dim memory is that the Marlins once traded Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for 6 prospects:

  • Burke Badenhop
  • Eulogio de la Cruz
  • Camron Maybin
  • Andrew Miller
  • Mike Rabelo
  • Dallas Trahern

Maybin played for 15 seasons in MLB for 10 different teams.  Andrew Miller had a 16- year career in the majors with 7 different teams.  However, none of the players involved in this trade – including Dontrelle Willis – had anything resembling a Hall of Fame career.

Speaking of baseball, it appears that the latest analytics-driven change to the game is no longer “The Shift”.  It appears that with increasing frequency, teams are shifting their infield AND are putting one of the shifted players in as a fourth outfielder to cut down on the outfield gaps where extra base hits might happen.  This would seem to be a smart defensive strategy for some hitters meaning that the “Umbrella Outfield” might reduce scoring in games where it is employed.  If that is the case, then perhaps the “Umbrella Outfield” is not something that will enhance the popularity of the game.  This is something to watch…

Dwight Perry had two items in his column last weekend in the Seattle Times regarding the Oakland A’s:

“The Oakland Coliseum, home to the Athletics, has been invaded by an estimated 50-100 feral cats. Animal control has been trapping the squatters, spaying or neutering them and returning them to the ballpark.

“On the plus side, the Coliseum no longer has a rat problem!”


“The A’s drew crowds of 3,748 and 2,703 — their worst two gates since 1980 — last week in back-to-back games, cats not included.

“Team publicists, not missing a beat, retroactively proclaimed them Social Distancing Nights.”

I have never been in favor of using taxpayer money to build stadiums for billionaire team owners who then get sweetheart lease deals to play in the new facilities.  At the same time, I never think that it is “proper” for a team owner to hold a local jurisdiction hostage by threatening to move the team if no new stadium is made available.  However, the Oakland Coliseum presents a special situation.

  • It is a horrible place to play.  The facility has been sub-standard for at least the last 15 years – – and maybe the last 25 years.
  • The attendance is awful.  Yes, the team stinks so fans who go to the games would need to enjoy the “game experience” to be repeat customers.  That is unlikely to happen.
  • The owner and the city fathers have been going through a kabuki theater routine about a new facility/franchise move for at least the last 5 years.  Enough of that nonsense; those folks need to make some sort of deal or the A’s need to pick up and move somewhere else.  This is an embarrassment for MLB.

Finally, I will close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Jury Duty:  Part of the very backbone of the judicial system that sets the United States apart from every other democratic country, this is a proud and honorable civic duty that all Americans should do everything in their power to get out of.”

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



Thoughts On Jay Wright’s Retirement

They say that a bad penny always turns up.  Well, I guess that makes me like a “bad penny” because I have returned from Dublin and will be back at the keyboard here in Curmudgeon Central notwithstanding the lack of clamor for me to be so.  Ironically, we experienced 7 consecutive days of sunshine in Dublin and now on our first day back in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC, there is total cloud cover in the sky and the weather forecast has a 70% chance of rain later in the day.

I have a bunch of catching up to do, so let me begin with some thoughts about the retirement of Jay Wright as the Villanova head basketball coach.  I do not know Jay Wright; I have never met Jay Wright.  I do know several people who have known him for years and I have communicated with two of them since I read the news of Wright’s retirement.  Both were shocked – – as was I – – at the announcement and all three of us think that college basketball is now missing a positive influence in the game.

Wright never competed in the college basketball “one-and-done sweepstakes”; he took players who were “3-star and 4-star” recruits who demonstrated that they were smart and that they were willing to be coached by someone who was genuinely committed to making them better players and better persons.  And with those “lesser recruits”, Wright won two national championships while graduating a whole lot of the players who stayed at Villanova with the program.  What Jay Wright did was to take the spirit of the NCAA rules and to abide by that spirit and still find ways to beat other teams who followed the rules as interpreted but gave the spirit of the rules a wink and a nod.

In 21 seasons at Villanova, Jay Wright made the Final Four four times and won the national championship twice.  Playing in the highly competitive Big East for 21 seasons, his teams won 72.5% of their games.  The man can coach, and he can develop players; the numbers say that, and the eyeball test confirms that.

I read speculation that his retirement from Villanova has a Machiavellian motivation.

  • The Lakers need a coach.
  • Current Sixers coach, Doc Rivers, seemingly wants that job.
  • Ergo, Jay Wright is now available to take the Sixers’ job should it come open.

As I said, I do not know Jay Wright; and as I have professed here many times, I do not read minds.  However, it does seem to me that if Wright really wanted a shot at the Sixers’ job in Philly, all he would have to do is place a phone call to the Sixers’ GM once Rivers departed to get himself an interview for the job.  His contract with Villanova would not be an insurmountable barrier.

Personally, my guess – and I do mean guess  – – as to the reason why he retired last week is that the landscape of college sports has changed dramatically in the last couple of years and maybe he just does not like what he sees as the new terrain.  Let me be clear, there are two major changes in collegiate sports in the US which are positively motivated.  Unfortunately, as with many things that are fundamentally good ideas, there are ways to take the edge off their beneficence.

  • The first major change is having athletes get paid for their name, image and likeness (NIL).  Fundamentally  this is totally fair and probably should have been in place long ago.  The problem is that the NCAA has turned over governance of this issue to anyone and everyone – – demonstrating conclusively to me that the NCAA is genuinely useless as a governing body.  And the lack of governance means there are already huge abuses of the system.  According to reports, boosters at Texas A&M pooled $25M this year to be paid out to football recruits.  That was not the intent of NIL ab initio.
  • The second change is the transfer portal.  Of course, players should be able to move from one school to another just as chemistry majors can transfer from one school to another.  However, the transfer portal has no costs associated with it nor is there any standardization regarding qualifications to be allowed to transfer – – as would be the case for most chemistry majors seeking to transfer schools.  In the current environment, any player can decide to transfer if he is unhappy with the selection of condiments available in the student union cafeteria for his hamburgers.

I am not saying that NIL payments and the transfer portal are malicious and need to be expunged from college sports.  I am saying that when you have a fifth-year graduate student playing in games at his fifth different school, there is something in the system that just might need to be corrected.  The same goes for boosters amassing a recruiting war chest of $25M to get themselves a football team.

My guess – – remember it is a guess – – is that Jay Wright sees where this is going and that he decided it is not where he wanted to go.  It is not nearly as easy to determine coach’s salaries as it is to determine pro athletes’ salaries, but if my calculations are correct, Wright has earned more than $30M over the last decade.  To me, that means he is financially secure and does not need to spend time in his life doing something he prefers not to do.

  • [Aside:  If I am even nearly correct in my estimate of his earnings above, that also means he does not need a coaching offer from the Sixers to keep body and soul together.]

Personally, I will miss Jay Wright as part of the national college basketball picture.  I think that the game itself will miss him even more than I will.  Sic transit gloria mundi…

Lest I lose “curmudgeon cred” here with my praise for Jay Wright, let me offer one bit of criticism.  For years Jay Wright’s presence on the sidelines was one of class;  you could easily have labeled him as “Armani Jay” with his classically tailored suits and ties.  He looked as if he had just finished a “fashion shoot” as he arrived at the arena for the game.  Last year, Jay Wright took to wearing what looked like a sweat suit and walking shoes on the sidelines.  I liked “Armani Jay” a whole lot better than last year’s “Gym Clothes Jay”.

Finally,  since I have just returned from a week in Ireland, let me close today with an observation about Irish people by Samuel Johnson:

“The Irish are a fair people – they never speak well of one another.”

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



Wolves And Chickens…

I am still in Dublin, but this will be the final communique from across the Atlantic for this visit.  We have brought five consecutive days of sunshine to the city; so I expect the Chamber of Commerce and/or the Tourist Bureau here to offer to host us on a regular basis once they find out the cause of this outbreak of blue-sky days.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and their current owner, Glen Taylor have drawn the ire of animal rights activists.

  • During the play-in game between the Timberwolves and the Clippers, a protestor tried to glue herself to the court.  [Aside:  Yes, you read that correctly.]  During the administration of a free throw, the game had to be halted as a protester ran onto the floor and attempted to glue her wrists to the court.  Security guards grabbed the woman and got her off the court and the area was cleaned.
  • When the Timberwolves made it to the next round of the playoffs against the Grizzlies, play was interrupted again when another protestor chained herself to the basket as an act of protest.  Security guards unchained the woman and five of them carried the woman out of the arena.  While she was chained to the basket, the woman threw animal rights leaflets on the floor and she wore a tee shirt that said, “Glen Taylor Roasts Animals Alive”.

Here is my best understanding of the situation.  Glen Taylor owns a farm that raises chickens in addition to owning the Timberwolves – – which he has just sold .  Evidently, there was an outbreak of avian flu at one of his farms and the group that is orchestrating these protests alleges that Taylor’s farm – – and therefore Taylor himself by extension – – killed 5 million chickens by shutting off the ventilation systems in their habitat.

Taylor will no longer own the Wolves after they finish playing this season.  The new owners will be a consortium led by Alex Rodriguez.  Reports say that the new owners paid $1.5B to buy the franchise – – so I suspect that Glen Taylor will be able to withstand the loss he incurred from having to dispose of those infected chickens.

Finally, let me close with this observation about chickens by Oscar Wilde:

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them accurately.”

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



Sunshine In Dublin…

Greetings from Dublin, Ireland where we have experienced three consecutive days of full sunshine.  We left the US on Sunday night, but I did bring a few notes with me to allow for brief commentary until we get home early next week.

I watched a bit of the opening weekend action in the USFL before leaving the US last Sunday night.  Here are five notes I made during the telecast:

  1. The two teams are playing the game in an organized way.  It looks as if the teams have been practicing and playing together for a long time – – which is not the case.  That is a credit to the coaching staffs.
  2. Given the recent record of Spring Football Leagues, it should be considered a major accomplishment if the USFL simply makes it to a second season next April.
  3. Players are delivering enthusiastic performances.  Motivation is likely that they want NFL observers to see them hustling and making plays as often as possible.  Every player here wants to “graduate” to the NFL.
  4. Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt as an announcing team were very good.  Klatt sometimes rattles on, but they let the game speak for itself to a large measure.  They were certainly better than many of the college football announcing crews out there.
  5. I am already tired of the “helmet camera”.  Just because technology allows for that to be part of the telecast does not mean it enhances the telecast.

Speaking of TV announcers, there was some good news last week about one of them.  Dick Vitale got to “ring the bell” when tests showed him to be cancer-free.  Vitale had been diagnosed with lymphoma and he also had surgery to remove a melanoma, but after several months of treatment, he went through a PET Scan, and it came up clean.

Vitale is 82 years old; plans call for him to return to the airwaves for ESPN starting next college basketball season.

The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs is working to remove Native American mascots from various public schools in the State.  It appears that the next target will be schools named “Thunderbirds” because that name represents a mythical bird that is an important part of the culture of several tribes in the State.  I wonder how this Commission will react when the Air Force Thunderbirds land at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs…

Finally, here is an observation from Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“There is an art, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.  Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.”

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




Even the oldest baseball stadium in the country can adapt to change.  As the Red Sox get ready for their home opener, there are new additions to the “Fenway Park Experience”.  There is a new studio for NESN – the regional sports network that televises Red Sox home games; a new terrace in right field gives fans an overlook to the entire park; a new and larger video board is in place in right-center field; there are new menu items and … Fenway Park is going cashless.  All purchases inside the park will now be credit card or debit card or “touch payments” e.g., Apple Pay.  Photos of the new facilities at the park look very inviting; the required use of credit cards and other electronic payments at concession stands should be efficient but I wonder how efficient that will be for the guys who are walking the aisles hawking popcorn or hot dogs during the games.  We shall see…

Some of Fenway’s new culinary offerings include:

  • MingsBings – – vegan patties made from chopped cauliflower, vegan cheese, hot sauce and a “crispy crust”.
  • Fluffer Nutter Fries – – you don’t want to know…
  • Cheeto Hot Dogs – – did they pull ingredients out of a hat to create this concoction?
  • Apple Fries – – fresh apple fritters are great; how fresh are these going to be?

I mention these changes because they take place at a facility that is 110 years old; even the guardians of that tradition find ways to modernize.  That stands in contrast to the situation that exists with the local NBA team here in Washington DC – – the Washington Wizards.  Their season is over; they finished 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference and missed the play-in game round by 8 games.  The Wizards do not always miss the playoffs, but it has been next to forever since anyone thought they were a threat to make it to the Finals let alone win it all.

I get to see the Wizards more than any other NBA team because more of their games are on TV in this area than any other team.  For the last several years the Wizards’ greatest deficiency has been their inability to stop opponents from scoring barrels of points.  Finally, after years of nonchalant defense – and some highly paid players who just did not show even a minor interest in playing defense – the team set out on a “new course” this past season.  The chronic non-defenders were sent elsewhere, and the team hired Wes Unseld Jr. to be the head coach.  Unseld has royal bloodlines in this part of the world AND he brought with him a reputation as the “defense guy” that made the Denver Nuggets’ defense a significant part of that team’s identity.

So, what happened…?  This year’s Wizards’ team had a worse record than the year before and it gave up more points.  After the season was over, both Unseld and GM Tommy Sheppard declared that defensive improvement was going to be the focus of the team during the off-season.

  • Plus ça change, plus ça même chose.

The Wizards did not play well on defense this year but there was improvement if you watched the players instead of focusing on the stats.  Last year – and in several preceding years – when opponents moved the ball from side to side on offense, the Wizards defenders would stand around and observe the ball motion almost as if hypnotized by the motion.  The players on the team making the most money did not do much on defense so there was nothing in the way of an example for the rest of the team to follow when the other team had the ball.

This year, the players were active on defense; this year’s problem was that the players on the Wizards’ roster taken as a whole are just not good defensive players.  They would try to get into a position to impede an opponent; however, most of the time they were late in getting there and often when they did get into position on time, the opponent merely drove around them.

If “defensive improvement” is going to be the focus of this off season for the Wizards, I think that GM Tommy Sheppard is going to have to make some fundamental roster changes; I am not sure that the current roster is capable of playing top-shelf defense because it looked to me as if lots of them were trying to do just that in Coach Unseld’s system.

  • [Aside:  The current Wizards’ roster is a “Sesame Street” roster brought to you by the letter “K”.  The Wizards employ Kristaps Porzingas, Corey Kispert, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the alliterative Kyle Kuzma.  All of them play here in the Nation’s Kapital.  Maybe they should try to hire “Coach K” as a konsultant?]]

Moving on …  I ran across another tidbit about the upcoming FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar this Fall.  Evidently, the authorities there have said that they will “confiscate” any gay pride flags that show up because “homosexuality is not welcome in Qatar.”  The report I read said that male homosexuals could face up to 3 years in prison and/or punishment by lashes according to the penal code in Qatar.  Your views on that sort of punishment may vary from mine, but I think those sorts of punishments make homosexuality far more than “unwelcome” in Qatar.

From reading that report, I wonder about two things:

  1. If Joe Flabeetz from somewhere other than Qatar is there to attend the matches and displays an easily recognizable gay pride flag, would he be subject to arrest and charges of homosexuality in addition to the loss of his flag?  The report I read made no mention of the degree of acceptance given to free expression in Qatar.
  2. What might happen if a player on a team not from Qatar were to score a goal and in his emotive celebration, he lifted up his shirt and displayed a gay pride flag emblazoned on his undergarment?

Finally, since I mentioned some food items above that appear “questionable” to me, let me close today with an observation by famous chef, Charlie Trotter:

“Cuisine is only about making foods taste the way they are supposed to taste.”

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



Baseball, Football And Basketball Today…

Baseball is a different game in 2022 as compared to 1972 – – just to pick a time in the past.  Here is something that happened yesterday which caused a minor dithering in the baseball cosmos:

  • Clayton Kershaw threw a perfect game through 7 innings consuming only 80 pitches striking out 13 batters in the process.
  • The Dodgers led the Twins 7-0 at that point.
  • Kershaw was taken out of the game.  The Dodgers managed to “hold on” and win the game 7-0.

That simply would not have happened in 1972.  There is a piece of baseball lore wherein Bob Gibson – a pitcher around the time of 1972 – was having a rough day and his catcher, Tim McCarver, went to the mound to talk to Gibson.  At that point Gibson supposedly told his teammate and long-term catcher to “Get the [bleep] off my mound!”  Imagine a time travel machine wherein it was Gibson who had that perfect game going after 7 innings with only 80 pitches was in the dugout and receiving the information that he would not be taking the [bleeping] mound at the start of the 8th inning.  My vision of the Dodgers’ dugout under such circumstances would be one of mayhem.

By the same token, the Dodgers’ manager – or any other manager in 1972 – would never have thought of pulling a pitcher who had a perfect game cooking after 7 innings.  In all of MLB since 1900, there have only been 21 perfect games thrown which averages out to about one every 6 years; in fact, there was a 34-year period where no one tossed a perfect game.  No manager in 1972 would have done what Dave Roberts did  yesterday – – and yet, that is the prevailing thinking in baseball today.

In NFL news yesterday, the Las Vegas Raiders committed themselves to Derek Carr as their QB for the next several years at least.  Carr signed a 3-year contract extension worth $121.5M saying  that he was happy to make it “team friendly” so that the Raiders could keep other key players necessary to maintain competitiveness in the AFC West.  Carr’s present contract has 1 year left so Raider fans should not be speculating about “who will be the Raiders’ QB” for the next several years.

I would not try to make the case that Carr is the best QB in the NFL; in fact, he is not even the best QB in the AFC West.  But he does not get sufficient recognition for his talents.

  • Since taking over the QB job for the Raiders in 2014, the Raiders have played 129 regular season games.  Derek Carr has started 127 of those games.
  • Carr has averaged 250 yards per game over his career; his TD/INT ratio is 2.25; and he has been selected for the Pro Bowl 3 times.

There is another QB-related story cooking in the NFL.  Baker Mayfield told the host of the Ya Neva Know podcast that he feels “100% disrespected” by the Browns.  Mayfield played last year with a torn labrum in his left shoulder; he did not have a good year and the Browns missed the playoffs.  Mayfield underwent surgery immediately after the season and he says that he was told that the team was committed to him returning and being the starting QB for the Browns.  Then, the Browns went out and traded to acquire Deshaun Watson…

Here is my view of the situation in Cleveland:

  • Watson – once he shakes off the rust from a year on the shelf – is a better QB that Mayfield.  The Browns upgraded – – if all you consider is the physical skills of the two players.
  • The Browns spent a ton of draft capital to get Watson – then gave him a monster contract that is fully guaranteed – and it would make sense for the Browns to try to get some of that draft capital back by trading Mayfield.
  • Mayfield’s comments on that podcast do not enhance his value on the trade market even a little bit.  If the Browns’ braintrust had a master plan in place to get some value for Mayfield as part of the move to acquire Watson as their QB, I think that master plan just  hit an iceberg and is taking on water.

Meanwhile over in the NBA, the speculation about who will be the new Lakers’ coach has come up to a simmer already.  I do not care to comment on the half-dozen names that have already been thrown out as potential candidates, but I do have two observations:

  1. For the Lakers to get themselves a coach who is already under contract with an NBA team – – Nick Nurse and/or Quin Snyder for example – – they will need to trade for him.  The Lakers have no draft picks in 2022 and only a second round pick in 2023; that is not exactly a big enticement for the team that has a desirable coach already under contract.  Moreover, the Lakers’ roster does not have a surfeit of desirable players who might be offered to “sweeten the pot”.
  2. Comments in the last couple of days by Russell Westbrook were not constructive.  In essence, he said that under the team direction fostered by Frank Vogel, he had to sacrifice some of his game in order to play to the system.   Were it not for the fact that his preferred style of play is not going to complement the styles of his other star-power teammates, one might see that as a commitment to make things a lot better next season.  However,…

Finally, today is my long-suffering wife’s birthday.  I will close today with a quip by American humorist, James Thurber, that will give you an idea of how things are in our household:

“I hate women because they always know where things are.”

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



Sports Television And Sports Radio

There are just so many sporting events that can be presented live as they happen and there are myriad media outlets that adhere to the format of “All Sports … All The Time”.  Recognizing the two truths above means that sports media outlets must present lots and lots of “studio programming” in between the presentation of live games.  A fleeting thought went through my mind along the lines of my sitting down for a few days and watching/listening to all the programming and then commenting on it.  It took me a nanosecond to figure out that I would never make it through the first few hours of such an “assignment”, so I have been tuning in sporadically and taking notes leading to today’s commentary.

On ESPN after hours of overnight SportsCenter presentations, the network begins its day of programming with Get Up!; over at FS1, the morning offering is First Things FirstGet Up! got off to a rough start about 3 or 4 years ago with a blend of program hosts that just did not coalesce; I said at the time that ESPN made a serious mistake in ditching the successful Mike and Mike in the Morning program to create this vehicle for Mike Greenberg.  I was wrong; once the network cleared the set of extraneous folks who rarely added much to the conversation, Get Up! became informative and often entertaining at the same time.

First Things First at FS1 has also seen cast evolution over the past couple of years.  My problem with the program – – and the reason I greatly prefer Get Up! as my morning sports viewing experience – – is that I have never warmed to Nick Wright as a reporter or commentator or whatever label you prefer to put on him.  There are people in this world who are “opinionated but lovable”; to me, Nick Wright is merely “opinionated.”

Once those early morning shows are out of the way, both ESPN and FS1 sink to unwatchable depths.  The totally faux debate shows come on and either one can strain your credibility in the first 15 minutes of airtime.  On FS1, you will quickly come to realize that Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless would find a way to disagree over the proposition that Tuesday comes after Monday.  On ESPN, they present Stephen A. Smith bombastically dueling a tag team of debate opponents depending on the day of the week and time of the year.  It does not take long to realize that tag team of “opponents” is only there to set up Smith’s sometimes manic presentations.

  • If someone were able to sit through three consecutive days watching either of those shows in its entirety, I will tip my hat to him/her as a person with greater stamina and tolerance than I possess.

In mid-day, ESPN reverts to SportsCenter notwithstanding the fact that on just about every day of the year nothing of importance has happened since the overnight SportsCenter programs wrapped up.  But over at FS1, they put Colin Cowherd on the air for 3 hours.  Colin Cowherd is interesting in small doses; if you stay with the program from start to finish, you will quickly realize that a lot of the topics repeat themselves and Cowherd’s “takes” on those issues do not change from segment to segment.  Having said that, The Herd is a lot more interesting that a cobbled together SportsCenter show.

However once SportsCenter wraps up again, ESPN puts Max Kellerman on the air for an hour with a program called This Just In.  I have no idea why the program carries that name because it rarely involves reporting on an event that just happened, but Kellerman is worth watching because he is smart, articulate and measured in his commentary.  My first inclination was to wonder why this program was only  an hour in length, but I have come to believe that it is better for Kellerman to deal with a few issues a day instead of spreading him thin over a multiplicity of topics.

When Kellerman goes off the air, ESPN goes to sports-specific studio programming on “The Mother Ship”  and has relegated Jalen and Jacoby to ESPN2.  If I want NFL studio programming, I will find it on NFL Network; if I want NBA studio programming, I will find it on NBA TV.  Jalen and Jacoby is hardly compelling TV, but I would choose it over ESPN’s afternoon offerings.

FS1 is equally unwatchable once Colin Cowherd signs off.  There was a time when Speak For Yourself featured Cowherd and Jason Whitlock; that was always interesting commentary.  When Cowherd was replaced by Marcellus Wiley, the program continued to be provocative and interesting.  When Whitlock left and was replaced by Emmanuel Acho, I lost interest – – and going back recently to see if I might rekindle that interest resulted in no change in my opinion.

At 5:00PM Eastern Time, ESPN goes with Around the Horn and then PTI.  ESPN is the better programming to start the day and it is the clear winner with its end-of-the-day programming here.  I have enjoyed both programs for a long time now and the “opposition” over at FS1 – – Fox Bet Live – – would have to improve by 200% to achieve the status of LAME!

On the radio side of things, Washington DC is a wasteland.  There are three sports stations here and the only one with consistently interesting fare is ESPN Radio.  The other two stations carry programming that ranges from juvenile to nerdy.  I have reason to hear sports radio occasionally in places like Philly, NYC and Seattle; all I can say is that fans in those cities should appreciate what they have on the air because it is far superior to what we have here in the Nation’s Capital.

I just want to make one comment about ESPN Radio’s morning program Keyshawn, JWill and Max.  When this program began with Zubin Mehenti on the air instead of Max Kellerman, the show was disjointed.  Keyshawn Johnson was loud and random in his comments; Zubin Mehenti came across as a “fanboy”; Jay Williams either could not get a word in edgewise or chose not to say much.  I did not like the program at all.

Today, Keyshawn Johnson has grown into the role of a studio host who has opinions but who also asks questions about things where he may not be an “expert”.  Jay Williams found his voice and contributes significantly to the program.  Max Kellerman is a more interesting contributor that Mehenti was.  This program is worth dropping in on; I would not have said that 3 years ago.

Finally, since most of today has dealt with television programming, let me close with three observations about television:

“Television – a medium.  So called because it is neither rare nor well done.”  Ernie Kovacs

And …

“I must say I find television very educational.  The very minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.”  Groucho Marx

And …

“Television is now so desperately hungry for material that they’re scraping the top of the barrel.”  Gore Vidal

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



Technology To The Rescue …

The Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal happened in 2017 and 2018; the ramifications of those events continue to reverberate in MLB.  As a quick reset here, stealing opponents’ signs in baseball has been part of the game for at least a hundred years but what the Astros did was to apply technology available to them in their home stadium to give them an edge in knowing what sort of pitch was coming before it left the pitcher’s hand.  The key element there is that the Astros could get an edge that was not available to the opponent.

If Team A is stealing Team B’s signs based on carelessness by Team B or if Team A has figured out Team B’s signs because they have not changed them in a month or so, that would seem to be fair play.  Team A’s advantage arises here from Team B’s ineptitude and few people would argue that ineptitude is something to be protected or nurtured.  The “distortion” of the playing field is real, but it seems to be tolerable.

But the Astros introduced technology into the mode of sign-stealing and that offended lots of people even those beyond the ones who are the guardians of the purity of the game.  MLB issued punishments and temporary banishments which seemed fair given the “crime” that was committed – – but how to prevent the next round of scandal.  After all, knowing what the next pitch is going to be prior to its delivery is a tasty morsel for anyone in the batter’s box.

Since technology was the culprit in the escalation of this scandal to Brobdingnagian proportion, it appears that MLB will turn to technology as the way to thwart any such recurrence.  Starting this year, teams may opt to use a small radio transmitter/receiver that originates from the catcher and is received by the pitcher – and possibly infielders too – that will tell the defenders what the next pitch is going to be.  That means the catcher will not need to wiggle his fingers in his crotch area to communicate with the pitcher and potentially with the middle infielders who can share that signal among themselves and their teammates.

The system here has been developed by a company called “PitchCom”; it was tested in the minor leagues last year and was used in some of the Spring Training games this year.  Teams will not be required to use PitchCom, but they can choose to do so in MLB games starting this year.  Most of the reporting related to PitchCom seems to take the position that it puts to bed any possibility of a recurring scandal.  However, consider for a moment this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Major League Baseball has OK’d the use of ‘PitchCom,’ an electronic device in which a catcher can signal pitches — pitch type and location — directly to the pitcher through a listening device.

“However, MLB denied the Astros’ request to park an AWACs truck next to the dugout.”

Professor Perry is at his snarkiest best in that commentary, but his snark reveals a truth.  If a “radio signal” is used to transmit information, that “radio signal” is subject to being intercepted.  Even if the “radio signal” is coded in some way, it is subject to “intercept and deciphering”.  PitchCom is much more “secure” than finger-wagging, but if anyone believes that PitchCom is invulnerable, I suggest that they are living in a delusion.

While I may not be completely convinced about PitchCom’s security over the long term, I suspect that it will be secure in the short term until someone figures out how to intercept the signal, and relay that information to the batter who is not authorized to have a receiver on his person in the batter’s box.  I see another positive aspect of PitchCom as well; it should allow for teams that use it to increase the pace of play.  Fewer confabs between pitcher and catcher – – the ones carried out with gloves strategically placed over their mouths to defeat lip readers – – allow for more action in less time.  Moreover, sending the signal and recognizing what it is and what it means should be faster using PitchCom; so, in theory, there might be a little less time between pitches.

I do not think that this technological introduction is going to harken the return of the 2-hour baseball game, but it might make things move along at a bit spritelier pace.  We shall see…

Someone said that one of the great things about going to a baseball game is that you just might see something you have never seen before.  Such was probably the case for fans who went to see LSU play Florida in Gainesville, FL on March 27th.   LSU won the game 11-2 and a glance at the box score for the game might give you the thought that the Florida pitching staff was working hand in glove with the LSU hitters.  Consider:

  • The Gators’ pitchers did not walk even one batter in the game.
  • The Gators’ pitchers managed to hit 8 LSU batters with a pitch.
  • All 8 of those batters who got a free base from the pitchers came around to score.

LSU outfielder, Gavin Dugas was hit by a pitch in three consecutive plate appearances in the game.  Dugas seems to specialize in getting plunked; as of this morning he has been hit by a pitch 13 times in 77 at bats in the 2022 season.  Those 13 free bases contribute significantly to Dugas’ OBP of .544 for the season.  Messr. Dugas seems to have a magnetic attraction for pitches; in the 2021 season he was hit by a pitch 18 times.  It is a good thing for Dugas that his sport is baseball; were he a track and field athlete, he might express his talents as a javelin catcher.

Finally, let me close today with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Joe Six-Pack:  A generic term for the average citizen.  Yet, its image of a beer-bellied, brain-dead sloth lying gelatinously on a sagging couch with his pants open and guzzling a half dozen Old Milwaukees between explosive belches has somehow attainted a negative connotation.”

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