The LIV Tour

I want to begin today talking about LIV golf.  For the record, I do not play golf; I only watch golf on TV on the final day of some of the major tournaments; I am not a consumer of information about golfers.  So, what follows are the reactions of “Just A Guy.”  And the first thing this guy wants to do is to tell everyone to read Sally Jenkins’ column from yesterday’s Washington Post about the LIV Golf tour.  If there were a Pulitzer Prize for sarcasm, this column would be on the short list to win the prize for 2022; here is the link; take a moment to read it and enjoy it.

I do not intend to try to justify the LIV Golf tour nor am I going to rant and rave about it.  I want to focus on the PGA’s reaction to all of this.  It has “banished” anyone who plays in any LIV Golf event from playing in any of the PGA’s events.  Presumably, that is a lifetime ban because if it is not, then it is a feckless move indeed.  I think that is a dangerous road for the PGA to go down.  Even if the signing bonuses handed out by the LIV Golf tour are smaller in the future as compared to the ones handed out at the beginning, there could well be a serious temptation for top-shelf golfers in the future to take the money and run.

  • [Aside:  Please spare me the handwringing over golfers choosing to “take the money and run.”  They are professional golfers meaning they play golf to earn money; that is the whole point; take the money and run.  If you want altruism, go follow your local high school golf team.]

And the money difference(s) do not end with those signing bonuses.  Don’t peek; tell me what golf event the PGA players competed in last weekend.  It was the Canadian Open.  Seventy players made the cut; of those 70 players only 20 earned more than $100K for the weekend.  [Aside:  Remember, everyone who missed the cut also earned less than $100K for the weekend.]  Now, compare that to the fate of Andy Ogletree who played in the LIV Golf tour event and finished the tournament 24 strokes over par.  He was dead last in the field and 31 strokes behind the winner.

  • Andy Ogletree earned $120K for the weekend.

For now, the PGA banishment lacks real bite.  The big events for the PGA are the four major tournaments.  Three of those four tournaments are open to LIV Tour golfers as of today.  The USGA says if you can qualify for the US Open, you can play; the R&A has not shut its doors to LIV Tour players for the British Open; I have not heard the official declaration from the folks who run the Masters but given their reverence for the history of the tournament, I doubt they are going to ban previous winners from the grounds.  So that banishment applies only to one of the four majors and to other such gripping events as the John Deere Classic, the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

My brother-in-law is an avid golfer and someone who follows the sport on TV far more than I do.  He sent me a link last week to an article in Golf Digest that was less than laudatory in its view of LIV golf.  My response was that Golf Digest is guilty of the same financial survival motive that LIV golfers are derided for following.  Golf Digest is not owned by the PGA, but Golf Digest is totally dependent on the PGA for its existence.  The magazine is owned by the same folks who own The Golf Channel on TV and if the magazine were to piss off the PGA to the point where the magazine was banned from PGA events and stories, Golf Digest would be out of business within two issues.

I really do not care if the LIV Tour succeeds or fails.  I think rooting against it because it might teach a lesson to the “repressive Saudi regime” is worse than virtue-signaling because it clearly will not teach those folks any lessons.  I think rooting for the LIV Tour is pointless for now because no one has any idea what it might become if it is sufficiently successful to be in existence five or ten years from now.  Here is a metric for you to consider regarding the viability and the growth of the LIV Tour over time:

  • In addition to individual play, there are teams of players on the tour; as of last weekend, there were 12 of these teams.
  • I have no idea how the teams were chosen/formed.
  • I have no idea why there are teams.
  • I have no inkling as to the scoring system for the teams
  • I have no clue what the team standings represent nor what reward there might be for the best team sometime down the road.
  • LIV Tour golf will take a step forward in relevance when and if I care enough to dig in and find out more about any of those topics listed above.

Enough golf…  Another big story of the weekend was Jack Del Rio – – defensive coordinator of the Washington Commanders – – being fined $100K by the Commanders’ head coach for expressing his view(s) on the events of January 6, 2021.  That fine leads me to wonder why any athlete or coach would ever try to answer any question about politics or social issues.  No matter what the answer is, you can be sure some segment of the audience will be pissed off by the answer.  Were I in such a situation, my response would be along the lines of, “Next question…”?

Jonathan Allen is the Commanders’ best defensive player and a leader on the defense.  His remarks about the fine for Del Rio tell me that he is also an intelligent man:

“Me personally, I don’t care about his opinion as long as he shows up every day and he works hard; that’s what I want from my defensive coordinator.

“In my opinion, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  Some guys decide to share it on Twitter; some guys don’t. It doesn’t make one person better than the other. At the end of the day, you can have a difference in opinion and still respect one another. I feel like that’s what our country is about. That’s what our team is about.”

Can I get an AMEN! for Jonathan Allen’s remarks…

Finally, since much of today’s rant was focused on golf, let me close with these two views of golf as a sport:

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it is open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.”  [Dave Barry]

And …

“It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”  [Mark Twain]

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



The 3Ks

The acronym “KKK” has totally negative connotations; so, I need to use something else today because I do not want to have such a negative overhang on this rant.  Let me adopt the label “3Ks” standing for Kaepernick, Kapler and Kerr.  All three men have an identity/association with the Bay Area in California; all three men have “used their platform” to protest events and practices in our society that they believe to be wrong.  And the reaction to those protests has not been the same for those three men.  As a reset, recall:

  • Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem on the sidelines of NFL games to protest unfair/disparate policing practices in minority neighborhoods.
  • Gabe Kapler chose to remain in the clubhouse during the playing of the National Anthem to protest gun availability in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting.
  • Steve Kerr used the occasion of his press conference at an NBA playoff game to call for action to prevent further events like the Uvalde school shooting.

Like most rational people, I am opposed to unfair policing practices and I am opposed to active shooters in schools and shopping malls.  I support the 3Ks in their protests; what they call for is right and proper.  So, why is Colin Kaepernick effectively out of a job while Kapler and Kerr are only suffering minor criticism from some far right individuals/groups?

The most obvious answer is that Kapler and Kerr are white and Kaepernick is not.  Stay with me here; I think that answer is simplistic and incomplete.  Yes, that is a perfect description of the racial/ethnic makeup of those three men; and yes, there is a racial divide in the US; and yes, race does play a part in the different ways folks have reacted to the three men and their protests.  However, I do not think that is the complete answer.

I believe that Colin Kaepernick chose a way to express his protest that allowed people to focus on his act and not on his issue.  While I would not choose to kneel during the National Anthem, I do not take kneeling then to be an outrageously offensive action.  However, others did and still do.  And take a deep breath here – – those folks have as much right to be offended by kneeling during the anthem as Kaepernick had and has to kneel during the anthem.  The problem here is not about who has what rights and who or what has been offended; the problem is that the act of kneeling during the anthem on the sidelines of an NFL game is an example of the idiom, “Right church, wrong pew”.

How did Kapler and Kerr avoid such compromise of their protests – – especially since Kapler’s protest also involved the National Anthem?  Well, Kapler made his protest in a way that did not send a mixed message to those people in the stands and watching on TV who are spring-loaded to be offended by “improprieties” during the anthem.  Kapler simply boycotted the anthem – – as did every person on the planet who was not in attendance or watching on TV at that time.   Moreover, Kapler acted to assure that those folks who are avid anthem supporters would not have an edge to alter the focus of his protest by coming out of the clubhouse and standing for the anthem on Memorial Day showing his support and appreciation for veterans who died in support of their country.  Kaepernick never recovered from the outrage that his protest spawned.

Kerr’s protest came at a press conference proximal to an NBA playoff game.  I suspect that even the biggest NBA fan on Planet Earth does not hold coaches’ press conferences in any sort of idyllic embrace to the point that said fan would be horrified that someone would violate the sanctity of that event by bringing up a school shooting incident.  So, Steve Kerr’s protest was broadcast from “his platform” but in a way that kept the focus on his issue and not how he delivered his message.

You may be thinking at this point in my rant how Colin Kaepernick may have used his position as a starting QB in the NFL to deliver his protest message in a way that may not have offended as many people as it did.  Remember, I am not one of those horribly offended folks.  Well, here is one possible way it might have gone down:

  • First of all, the actions that Kaepernick was protesting do not take place on a football field during a game or during the National Anthem played before that game.  The venue provides wide dissemination of the protest, but the venue is far removed from the actions under protest.
  • So, I believe Kaepernick’s protest would have been even more effective and would certainly have generated less blowback had he taken the protest to a venue which is more germane to the protest – – such as the steps of a police precinct where Kaepernick believed improper policing was happening.
  • The aftermath of his “kneeling protest” showed that there were plenty of other players who agreed with the target of his protest.  He would not have been alone had he organized a group of NFL players to join in that protest.
  • Moreover, NFL players get a day off each week; it is part of the CBA.  So, those protests could have been organized to take place several times a month and would likely have drawn media attention at a place where there was the potential for a “meaningful conversation” regarding the subject under protest.

The 3Ks provide an interesting opportunity for standing back and thinking about how and why some protests are received and supported in US society and why others are less well received/supported.  As I said above, the racial difference among these men may be part of the picture here but I do not think it is the complete answer.  Nor do I think that any of my exposition here had changed the mind of anyone who is still offended by Colin Kaepernick’s “disrespect” for the National Anthem.

But I feel better having said it all…

Finally, since today’s rant tangentially referenced the Uvalde shooting, let me close with some words from Ellen DeGeneres:

“I say to the gun owner who owns an AK-47, if it takes a hundred rounds to bring down a deer, maybe hunting isn’t your sport.”

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



A New Acronym – – TDWS

I spent much of yesterday’s rant on the Deshaun Watson situation and the “punishment issue” facing the league and The Commish.  About an hour after posting the rant, I was searching for issues to write about today and tomorrow when I ran across the NY Times report by Jenny Vrentas that amplified this sordid mess to the point where it deserves a title of its own.  From here on I will refer to it as TDWS – – The Deshaun Watson Situation.

Here is the link to Vrentas’ report; it may be behind a paywall, but if you can read it, I suggest that you do.  And let me take a moment here to make clear that Jenny Vrentas has been covering the NFL for a while now and she is widely recognized as a reporter; her byline on the story gives it significant credibility.

Here are new “details” for TDWS:

  • It appears that Watson had appointments with 66 different female massage therapists over a 17-month period.
  • Watson had a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) he had some – not all – of the therapists sign before their sessions.  That NDA was provided to him by the Texans’ Director of Security after Watson told him that someone had posted some dicey information on Instagram about his massage sessions.
  • Multiple women who did not sue him – or file a criminal complaint – have now alleged that Watson sought or initiated sexual contact in their sessions with him.
  • The owner of a spa in Houston allegedly provided Watson with access to massage therapists who worked for the spa and also provided “security” when he was there for treatments.  Four therapists from that spa are among those who have sued Watson.

As I said yesterday, Deshaun Watson is not guilty of any criminal behavior here simply by the fact that he has not been convicted of such behavior.  Nonetheless, Vrentas’ report in the NY Times presents new and sordid information for public consumption making the NFL’s challenge in the realm of Public Relations even more difficult.  The fact that Watson sought out approximately one new massage therapist per week over a year and a half is unusual – – although not probative for impropriety.  The fact that Watson asked therapists to sign an NDA seems highly unusual to me and the fact that the NDA was given to him by an official of his team means that the Texans were aware of a potential problem.  You could probably convince me that the Texans were part of an enabling process in TDWS.  And the  spa owner who set Watson up with her employees seems like another enabler to me.

The NFL should not care about the spa owner’s relationship to all of this – – but the NFL had best find out through its own channels just what the Houston Texans’ organization knew and when the knew it and what the did or did not do about it.  As of today, this is The Deshaun Watson Situation; the NFL has a significant interest in preventing this from becoming The Houston Texans Situation and/or The NFL Cover-Up Situation.

I tried yesterday to come up with precedents for NFL sanctions that might apply to TDWS.  I focused my attention on suspensions and the offenses that led to suspensions.  Let me also provide here the precedents that the NFL has for “lifetime ban” from professional football.  I believe there are only two such precedents:

  1. Rae Carruth:  He was tried and found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.  He was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison and served 18 years prior to his release in 2018.
  2. Frank Filchok/Merle Hapes:  These men were offered bribes related to their performance in the NFL Championship Game in 1946.  A jury convicted some gamblers of bribery but neither Filchok nor Hapes was ever convicted.  The NFL Commissioner at the time – – Bert Bell – – suspended them indefinitely because he found the players “guilty of actions detrimental to the welfare of the National Football League and of professional football.”

            Those two “lifetime bans” point in opposite directions  in my mind.  TDWS is indeed a sordid mess; and if even half of the allegations against Watson are true, he deserves significant punishment by the NFL.  Having said that let me be clear:

  • Conspiring to murder one’s pregnant girlfriend is a whole lot worse that soliciting sexual acts and/or sexual assaults as alleged here.  If indeed there are rings of Hell, murderers should be tortured more strongly than folks seeking sex from massage therapists.  [Aside:  I would love to see a reporter ask Robert Kraft what he thinks of this whole matter – – but that ain’t gonna happen.]
  • Involvement with gamblers who are subsequently convicted of bribery to throw an NFL game – the equivalent of the Super Bowl at the time – is potentially far more deleterious to the existence of the NFL than any of the allegations here.

It seems to me that TDWS falls into a behavior space that does not have a significant precedent to guide the league and its current Commissioner.  I am glad not to be the one in the role of handing down punishment here simply because whatever Roger Goodell decides to do will be shouted down as inappropriate.  There will those who claim that whatever he does is too harsh and that he has caved to a bunch of accusers who did not have enough evidence even to get Watson to a trial for criminal behavior.  Others will say whatever he does is too lenient and that it perpetuates the narrative that men with money can treat women as sex objects with impunity.

Good luck, Mr. Commissioner.  Your task in resolving TDWS was dicey from the start; Jenny Vrentas’ reporting did not make it even a little bit easier.

Finally, no matter the outcome of TDWS, I believe all this puts the lie to an observation by former US President Chester A. Arthur:

“Good ballplayers make good citizens.”

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



Another Manager Bites The Dust…

The month of June has not been kind to MLB managers named “Joe”.  Yesterday I commented on the Phillies “moving on” from Joe Girardi; yesterday, the Angels relieved Joe Maddon of his managerial duties.  The Angels hit a terrible stretch recently; after starting the season 21-11 and being only a game out of first place in the AL West, the Angels have gone 6-18 since then including having lost their last 12 games in a row.

As was the case with Girardi and the Phillies, much of this is not the manager’s fault.  The team’s last loss was a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.  Managers are like starting pitchers, they will not win any games where their team scores no runs…

Switching gears dramatically, I want to talk today about the Deshaun Watson situation.  For the last year or so, the litany has been that he stood accused by 22 female massage therapists of sexual assault and improper behavior(s).  Over the last two weeks, that number of accusers has grown to an even two dozen.  Watson missed all of 2021 as the NFL proceeded to “investigate” the situation; in the off-season, the Texans traded Watson to the Browns for a ton of high and middle round draft picks over a three-year period; and then, the Browns gave him a fully guaranteed contract worth as much as $230M.

Before I get into my own view of the matter, let me tell  you where I stand based on what I have read and heard about all of this:

  • The DA in Houston has investigated and has chosen not to bring criminal charges against Watson.  Does that mean Watson never did anything wrong?  Absolutely not.  He is innocent in the eyes of the law – – but that has no bearing on what he may have actually done here.
  • Do I believe that all 24 women are giving full and accurate accounts of what happened between Watson and them?  Might there be a “gold-digger or two” in the mix there?  Very possible – – but without a court proceeding where testimony will be given under oath, the best anyone can do is to deal with a gut reaction here.
  • Conversely, do I believe that all 24 women are lying through their teeth and that Deshaun Watson is a victim of their lies and slander?   Highly unlikely – – but without a court proceeding where testimony will be given under oath, the best anyone can do is to deal with a gut reaction here.

At some point soon, the NFL – in the person of Roger Goodell – will have to take whatever information their investigation turns up and add it to the things that are in the public record in all of these matters and use all of that to decide if Deshaun Watson deserves a suspension and if so for how long.  And that brings me to a rhetorical question:

  • Should the MLB handling of the sexual assault allegations against Trevor Bauer be any sort of yardstick for the NFL in the Deshaun Watson matter?

Two women had accused Bauer of sexual assault when MLB Commish Rob Manfred suspended Bauer for 2  full seasons.  Subsequent to that decision a third woman came forth with additional allegations, but those “new ones” were presumably unknown to MLB as its suspension decision was constructed.  Watson now faces 24 accusers and there is some similarity also in the fact that many of the allegations convey lurid details of what happened or did not happen.  One of the adages of jurisprudence – – and parenting ironically – – is that the punishment should fit the crime.  Remember, there is no actual “crime” here; the existence of a “crime” can only be determined in a court of law by a jury of the accused’s peers.  Nonetheless, many people might be looking for “parity” here.

Roger Goodell is in a delicate position.  He suffered plenty of ill will and scorn for his leniency in the Ray Rice Incident – – but on the other hand, the NFL has precedent on the books of only a half-season suspension for vehicular homicide by a player.  Compare that to the recently handed down suspension of one full season to Calvin Ridley who bet $1500 on some parlays of NFL games when he was on the IL.

If Goodell only suspends Watson for 8 or 9 games, women’s rights activists will shriek that he has been too lenient once again.  I can hear it now:

  • Twenty-four incidents of sexual assault is only half as bad as a $1500 parlay bet on NFL games.
  • Run this man out of town on a rail after you tar and feather him…

Absent any sort of criminal charges and findings by a court in any/all of those criminal charges, the NFL is going to do whatever it does under the aura of Public Relations – – and if there is a way for the NFL to come out looking good in that light, it is surely not clear to me.  Roger Goodell’s critics – – and there are legions of them out there – – complain that he is making north of $40M and needs to be “tougher on crime” both for miscreant players and skeezy owners who engage in their own version(s) of slimeball behaviors.  All I can say, is that Roger Goodell is going to earn his money trying to navigate his way through this PR minefield.

Since I posed a rhetorical question above, let me try a second one today:

  • In what other field of endeavor might one be engaged where you have two dozen women who accuse you publicly and specifically of sexually assaulting them and where the “consequences” to you are to continue in your field of endeavor with a huge raise?

I can only think of three such occupations:

  1. Rock Star/Rapper
  2. Professional Athlete
  3. Elected politician

Finally, the Denver Broncos are up for sale; according to the latest reports, Rob Walton will be the winner of the bidding war for the team and that he will pay $4.5B for the franchise.  Shed no tears, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates Walton’s net worth to be $57.9B.  However, I wonder if Messr. Walton has done sufficient due diligence here:

  • Has he learned that the players on his team – and all the players involved in the league – are represented by a union? 
  • If so, why is he still interested in buying the team?

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



MLB Loses Its First Manager This Season

The Phillies fired their manager, Joe Girardi, last week.  I was not all that surprised to read that news since the Phillies put a team on the field this year that had an Opening Day payroll north of $200M and when Girardi was shown the door, the team was 22-29 for the season and 5-12 in their previous 17 games.  Notwithstanding that less-than-stellar recent performance, I am not so sure that Joe Girardi is the only culprit responsible for those disappointments.

Girardi has managed in MLB for all or part of 14 seasons.  His record in 2058 games is 1123-935 which is hardly what one would call shabby.  So, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I doubt that Joe Girardi just got a whole lot stupider over the last winter.  And then I look at the players and the roster…

The Phillies’ bullpen is threadbare – to be kind.  There are three big names out there in the bullpen, Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand and Corey Knebel.  The problem is that all three of them are on the downward arc of their MLB careers AND none of the three is having what you would call a season that harkens back to their halcyon days coming out of the bullpen.  Basically, the Phillies go into the 8th and 9th inning of virtually every game knowing that no lead they have is a mortal lock to carry the day.

And that point brings me to the next issue I have with the firing of Joe Girardi.  The Phillies have a new GM this year – – Dave Dombrowski – – who arrives with significant credentials as a savvy “baseball guy”.  Yes, I know that trying to retool a team in one offseason is a daunting task, but I want to pose this simple question:

  • How can one assemble an Opening Day roster whose payroll costs equal $221.7M and have nothing of value in the bullpen?

Another source of the Phillies’ underperformance must be the production of three young players for whom there were high hopes:

  1. Alec Bohm:  He finished second in voting for Rookie of the year in 2020.  He has never been much of a fielder, but the idea was that his bat would make up for those shortcomings.  In 2022 so far, his is batting .271 with an OPS of .701.  Those numbers are down significantly from his “almost-Rookie of the Year” stats in 2020.  Oh, by the way, if he has improved his fielding abilities since that season, it is not immediately obvious to the casual fan…
  2. Mickey Moniak:  The Phillies drafted him in the first round of the 2016 Draft and it took him 4 years to make it to the major leagues.  This was supposed to be his “big improvement year” but a hand injury has put the kibosh on those hopes.  His record to date is too small a sample to be reliable, but just consider that as of this morning his career OPS is a miserable .419.
  3. Bryson Stott:  He was the Phillies first round draft pick in 2019 and coming out of Spring Training the Phillies kept him on the roster because of his potential.  As of this morning, he is batting .159 and has an OPS of .471.

I have a difficult time pinning the blame for those miserable performances on Joe Girardi and it does seem intuitively obvious to me that if two of those three young guys were hitting .290 things might be different offensively for the Phillies.  Maybe they could have built some impenetrable leads in the 8th and 9th innings of games with a bit more productivity there?

We shall see if the team responds positively under a new boss man – – and if it does and if the Phillies somehow make the playoffs even with that miserable bullpen – – I wonder how many commentators will fall for the highly possible situation where leadership from the bench was irrelevant to the team’s performance.  In philosophy class, this sort of situation was known as the “Post hoc ergo propter hoc Fallacy”.  The most common example of this fallacy is:

  • A rooster crows every morning.
  • Then the sun comes up.
  • Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise.

Even if you did not take Astronomy 1 in college, I suspect that  you can see the fallacy of that argumentation.  Causality is difficult to establish with great accuracy and assuredness so the fate of the Phillies’ season rests not with their new manager as opposed to their old one; the fate of their season depends on the bullpen improving a whole lot and on those three young players noted above to live up to – – or come close to living up to – – the expectations of them.

Moving on …  The NFL has lost two long-term fixtures to retirement in the past two weeks.  Frank Gore and Ryan Fitzpatrick are calling it quits.  Gore played RB for all or part of 16 seasons in the NFL; he ran the ball 3735 times and caught 484 passes; he was named to the Pro Bowl 5 times.  He took a lot of punishment in those games and offensive plays.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came to the NFL from that huge northeastern football factory – – Harvard University.  He played in all or part of 17 NFL seasons for 9 different teams.  Over his much-traveled career, Fitzpatrick threw for 34,990 yards and 223 TDs with only 169 INTs.

I don’t know what kind of pension these men qualify for, but whatever it is, they earned every dime.

Finally, here is an interesting question posed by humorist Brad Dickson:

“Due to supply chain issues Harley Davidson is stopping production effective immediately. Oh, no, now how will middle aged, paunchy men compensate for their receding hairlines?”

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



The Sound Of Music …

A little more than 50 years ago, Bobbie Gentry informed all of us that June 3rd was the day Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  [Aside:  Check out this link; it makes me wonder why that was even a minor  problem for Billy Joe.]  But anyhow … there are a couple of recent sports news items that are music to my ears here in 2022…

The first harmonious news item is that the NFL is seriously reviewing the continuation of the Pro Bowl.  Hallelujah!  Will wonders never cease…?  Here is the reality of the Pro Bowl:

  • Top shelf players invent ways to avoid participation in these games; second tier players seemingly have to resort to an alien abduction to generate sufficient cover for them to miss the game.
  • Then, after the REAL All Pro players have opted out, a bunch of NFL goombahs take the field and play the game at half-speed – – I am being generous here – – with the prime directive to be that no one gets hurt in the game.

The NFL has tried some heroic measures to save the game; it used to be the week after the Super Bowl – – but even hardcore fans did not care enough to become invested then.  The NFL moved the game to the dead weekend between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl – – but that focused even less attention of the Pro Bowl spectacle.

The league has tried moving the game around from Hawaii to Arizona to Orlando.  The league has tried to include a skills competition.  None of that concocted stuff has amounted to a pinch of horsesh*it; because TV ratings have continued to decline to the point where the NFL pundits recognize that they have a “loser” on their hand.  In case you had not realized it, “loser” is not an image that is palatable to the NFL.

There are so many things that ware wrong with the Pro Bowl that the single best decision that the league could make is to put a silver bullet through its head while simultaneously driving a wooden stake through its heart.  Fans have stopped watching a glorified two-hand-touch game to the point where the NFL prefers never to have to acknowledge such low ratings.

There is a window of opportunity for the NFL here:

  • The 2021 Pro Bowl game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  There was no huge hue-and-cry among NFL fans; people with hugely differing views on the pandemic seemed to be more than just OK with killing the Pro Bowl Game that year.
  • There is a potential sore point here with the NFLPA; lots of players have incentives in their contracts that pay real money if the player is selected to the Pro Bowl.  The union is not likely to give those clauses up because of dwindling fan interest and lower TV ratings.
  • What the NFL needs to to do is to establish a “voting/selection” procedure so that “Pro Bowl Players” can be recognized and rewarded via their contracts.  But if there no game for those selectees to play in, then everyone wins including the fans.

Some have said that if the NFL were to cancel the Pro Bowl entirely, they would need to come up with another TV presence that would take its place.  I do not necessarily subscribe to that point of view – – but if that becomes a stumbling block on the road to getting rid of a disastrously stupid TV event, let me offer one suggestion:

  • Why not pit AFC “All Pros” against NFC “All Pros” in a competition involving the 10 track and field decathlon events.  Make the prize money a winner take all situation.
  • Enforce the contract clauses for players not to be paid for being selected; make payment of the incentive clauses contingent on participating in the “Pro Bowl event”.

OK, so maybe I was a bit too aspirational there.  So let me come back to Planet Earth a bit here and mention one other sports story of the moment that is music to my ears.  Canadian Football League negotiators along with CFLPA representatives hammered out a new CBA – – and this one was indeed ratified by both the league owners and the players at large.  The CFL season will begin on schedule on 9 June – – which is next week.

It seems that a major sticking point in the previous agreement that was voted down by the players en masse had to do with the CFL’s rule about “player ratio”.  When I read reports on how the old CBA proposal was voted down and how the new one was approved, I must confess that I do not have the historical CFL perspective to recognize how and why this was a deal-breaker.  My understanding is that the new agreement assures that every team in every game will have 7 Canadian players who are starters but starting next year one of those players could be a nationalized Canadian who may have been born in the US.  Moreover, CFL teams that play the “most Canadians” at the end of the season will be given extra second round draft picks for the subsequent season.

Obviously, these issues are significant to the parties at the negotiating table even if they seem rather blasé to me.  I defer, however, to folks who know the history of Canadian football much better than I do.  I will only say that my preference would be for the CFL owners and for the CFLPA to work together to assure that CFL Football remains a distinct product as compared to the NFL or United States major college football.

Canadian football is a game of its own and in that uniqueness lies its attraction.  Before anyone asks me if I would choose to watch/follow the CFL instead of the NFL or the major college football conferences, let me say that is a false choice.  I can spend lots of time and memory units on US football at its top levels AND I can also appreciate and enjoy CFL football games on TV.  The choice here should not be “either/or” because I believe it should be “both/and”.

Finally, today’s theme has been music – be it popular records or music to my ears – and so I shall close here with these two observations about music by George Bernard Shaw:

“The chief objection to playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.”

And …

“Let a short Act of Parliament be passed, placing all street musicians outside the protections of the law so that any citizen may assail them with stones, sticks, knives, pistols, or bombs without incurring any penalties.”

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



The 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule

The NFL manages the sports calendar in the US like no other entity.  It has manufactured ways to capture media attention during its off-season that keeps the league front and center in the sports news feed.  Consider…

  • After the Super Bowl there is the “dark period” where free-agents-to-be are only allowed to negotiate with their current team.  [Wink-wink…]
  • Then comes “real free agency” – – except for guys who will probably be cut after June 1st.
  • By that time the NFL Draft has come over the horizon leading to 3 bazillion mock drafts per week.
  • Post-Draft, the NFL teases the release of its schedule drawing that simple act out over about 3 days.
  • OTAs and minicamps happen in late May and early June.
  • In mid-July teams go to training camp – – and they’re off and running…

I want to consider the NFL schedule as a whole today.  I will not try to anoint any team as having the “easiest” or the “hardest” schedule because such calculations based on last year’s record are – – to be polite – – flawed.  Given all the player movement via trades and free agency – let alone the results of the draft – every team is different this year as compared to last year.  Nor will I try to figure out which teams will log the most air miles traveling to and from their games.  I look at the overall schedule and just make observations that come to mind.

  • The NFL did not mess around with the three games it selected to happen on Christmas Day.  Packers/Dolphins early on, followed by Broncos/Rams in the late afternoon slot and Bucs/Cardinals at night is a potent lineup.  The NBA TV ratings for Christmas Day are going to take a hit in 2022.
  • Someone in the scheduling department decided to have some fun with the early season schedule this year.  In the first four weeks, the Jets will play all four of the AFC North teams.  Not to be outdone, in those same first four weeks, the Ravens will play all four of the AFC East teams.  Accidentally?  You make the call…
  • There is a doubleheader on Monday Night Football in Week 2.  Titans and Bills will kick off at 7:15 PM (EST) and then the Vikes/Eagles will start at 8:30 PM (EST).
  • Flex scheduling for Sunday Night Football games begins in Week 5 this year instead of in mid-November.  The only Sunday Night game after Week 4 that is set in concrete is Bucs/Cards on Christmas night.
  • The Chiefs schedule for the first half of the season looks daunting – – at Cards, vs Chargers, at Colts, at Bucs, vs Raiders, vs Bills, at Niners, vs Titans.  After that stretch of 8 games, the Chiefs get to host the Jags…
  • The Washington Commanders play at the Giants in Week 13; then the Commanders have their BYE Week in Week 14; upon their return to action in Week 15, the Commanders opponent will be the Giants again this time at home.
  • The Falcons look like a team ready to rebuild and the schedule maker did them no favors.  The Falcons are going to be  underdogs in their first 7 games until they face the Panthers at home on October 30th.
  • The Giants early season schedule in interesting.  They open on the road at the Titans; then they get three home games in a row before a road game in London followed by another home game when they get back from London.
  • Most Thursday games will be televised by Amazon Prime Video and the NFL had given their new “broadcast partner” an interesting mix of games.  Pairings such as Chargers/Chiefs, Steelers/Browns, Ravens/Bucs and Bills/Pats look to be choice morsels.  Those offerings stand in contrast with Commanders/Bears, Falcons/Panthers and Jags/Jets.
  • There is a regular season game in Munich, Germany this year.  The Seahawks will play the Bucs there in Week 10; this is the first regular season game ever played in Germany.
  • The Chiefs, Eagles and Packers will all have three road games in a row this season.  The Chiefs will play at the Bengals, Broncos and Texans in early December.  The Eagles will play at the Giants, Bears and Cowboys in mid-December.  The Packers will play at the Commanders, Bills and Lions starting in late October.

Even though I was trying to take a synoptic view of the NFL schedule, there are five individual games that caught my eye:

  1. Broncos at Seahawks on September 12.  It is the Monday Night Football game for Week 1.  Fans will not have to wait at all to see Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle.
  2. Chiefs at Bucs on October 2.  There is no matchup of last year’s Super Bowl participants this year – – so fans will have to settle for this game that pairs the two teams that played in the Super Bowl in 2020.
  3. Commanders at Colts on October 30.  Carson Wentz  returns to Indianapolis…
  4. Cowboys at Packers on November 13.  Coach Mike McCarthy returns to Green Bay…
  5. Bucs at Falcons in Week 17 (dates not yet fixed).  Could this be Tom Brady’s final regular season NFL game given that he has a $35M per year broadcasting gig waiting for him if it is…?

Finally, having mentioned Tom Brady’s possible retirement at age 45, let me close with this observation by H. L. Mencken about people in their 40s:

“The best years are the forties; after fifty a man begins to deteriorate, but in the forties, he is at the maximum of his villainy.”

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



The FOG Returns…

Yesterday’s rant was brought to you by The FOG – – The First and Only Grandson – – and I said then that he would produce part of today’s offering as well.  Last weekend, Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in the finals of the UEFA Champions League.  The FOG was not in attendance but saw the game and sent me this description/analysis:

“The 2021/22 season drew to a close on Saturday the 28th of May in Paris as the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid commenced later than planned due to rioting from Real supporters outside the entrance to the Stade de France not allowing many Liverpool fans to enter the stadium. The atmosphere in the stadium was supposedly electric as Liverpool fans hoped for the second Champions League title of manger Jurgen Klopp’s reign whereas Real supporters sought to break their own record for most Champions League wins by making it 14 in total. There was a lot of history between these two clubs as they had met in the Champions League final before in 2018, a match where Liverpool was let down by both bad goalkeeping and an injury to their star player Mohammed Salah caused by Sergio Ramos who went unpunished much to the dismay of the fans.

“When the match finally got under way, around 40 minutes later than expected, Liverpool showed their hand immediately with a high line intended to press the notoriously lacklustre Real defence which had been a sore point for “Los Meringues” all season. It seemed to be working as within the first half hour the Liverpool strikers managed to get shots off frequently challenging Thibaut Courtois, the Real Madrid Goalkeeper. As the half progressed Real began to attack more but they were still looking as if they were outclassed by Liverpool, and it was only a matter of time before Courtois allowed a shot to bulge the net.

“This is until the 40th minute where Karim Benzema got on the end of a ball over the head of Liverpool centre back, Van Dijk, who was unable to catch up with him. Benzema looked as if he was about to shoot but he hesitated to long and was closed down by Alisson forcing him to lay the ball off to Vinicius Junior who could do little but poke at the ball managing to sneak it past Alisson and back to Benzema who put in the net. His celebrations and those of the Real Madrid fans were cut short though by an offside decision as it turns out that Benzema was behind Alisson leaving only one defender between him the goal line, therefore he was offside, and the goal didn’t count. Little more happened in the first half, and it ended 0-0.

“The second half was much of the same but Liverpool dominance over possession was slightly weaker opening the door for Real Madrid to counterattack. Liverpool continued to bombarde the Real goal forcing Courtois to shut down chance after chance with incredible saves. One that was particularly notable came when Salah expertly took down an over-the-top ball with his first touch but was foiled in his endeavour to give his team the lead by an incredible reaction save. Liverpool looked destined to win until one of those counter attacks combined with an error from Trent Alexander-Arnold and a pinpoint pass from Valverde gave Vinicius Junior an easy tap in to deliver Real the lead after 59 minutes of deadlock.

“Madrid, now with the lead, needed only to see off any more challenges from the Reds and hold on till the final whistle blew, but this would prove harder than expected as Liverpool only upped their chance production as they riddled the Madrid goal with shot after shot each one blocked by an expert save from Thibaut Courtois who I believe deserved a man of the match award as he personally kept “Los Blancos” in the match. As regular time ran out and all hope began to fade for the Liverpool supporters their shots became increasingly desperate coming from outside the box at awkward angles and many of them missing far wide of either post.

“When the clock struck 90 minutes the ref announce that he would be adding 5 minutes of injury time giving new life to the Liverpool team as they continued to press in search of an equaliser. The last few minutes were scrappy and Real Madrid players were taking every opportunity to fall on the ground and waste time with injuries that seemed to magically disappear 20 seconds later. In the end Madrid managed to hang on to their 1-0 lead, adding a 14th Champions League title to their trophy cabinet despite Liverpool’s dominant and objectively more impressive performance.”

Here are a couple of stats to give you an idea of how Liverpool dominated the action in that game – – to no avail:

  • Shots:   Liverpool 24  Real Madrid 4
  • Shots on Goal:  Liverpool 9  Real Madrid 2
  • Corner Kicks:  Liverpool 6  Real Madrid 2

Moving on …  Let me tie up another “loose end” here.  A week ago, I mentioned that Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest would face each other in a finals match to see which team would be promoted from the English Championship to the English Premier League next season.  The game was played last Sunday, and Nottingham Forest prevailed by a score of 1-0.  That means the three “promoted” teams are Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest.

I am not going to pretend to be a soccer maven here, but something jumps out at me from the Championship Table last season.

  • Fulham averaged 2.3 goals per game
  • The next highest scoring team (Bournemouth) averaged only 1.6 goals per game.

In the Premier League last season, only 2 teams averaged more than 2.3 goals per game.  Those two teams – – Manchester City and Liverpool – – finished first and second in the Premier League.  It will be interesting to see if Fulham can continue that sort of offensive prowess against better defenses next year in the top league.

Finally, I received an email from a friend who said he thought I was morphing from a curmudgeon into a pessimist.  Thinking on that “accusation”, I went to see if I could find a distinction and came across this observation by Oscar Wilde:

“Pessimist:  one who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.”

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