Rest In Peace, Mike Leach…

Mississippi State head football coach, Mike Leach died this morning at the age of 61.  The official announcement said the cause of death was “complications from a heart condition.”  Leach was a successful coach and an architect of the so-called “Air Raid Offense”.  He was also not one given to coach-speak; Leach was candid, and he was willing and able to discuss matters outside the realm of football Xs and Os.  While the coach at Washington State, Leach taught an academic course titled, “Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategy”.  I would sign up for that course.

Rest in peace, Mike Leach…

Last week, the Washington Post published a report from three of its sportswriters who have been central to the story of the “toxic workplace” conditions that seem to have existed – – and may continue to exist for all I know – – in the organization currently known as the Washington Commanders.  Liz Clarke, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala have been on this story since their original reporting more than a year ago.  Here is a link to their latest report; it is lengthy but if you are interested in the latest “scoop” on this story, I commend it to your reading.

This reporting came on the heels of the release of a report by the committee investigating all of this in the US House of Representatives.  I am on record saying that the investigation there is grandstanding by politicians simply because Congressional hearings are supposed to provide lawmakers with insights that they will then use to craft legislation.  I remain skeptical that any such legislation will ever come from these hearings; ergo

There is, however, something in the depths of this report that I – as a layman – think is important.  According to the story in the Post, Bruce Allen (former Team President) testified under oath that an NFL official told Allen that it was the Washington team that leaked his email exchanges with Jon Gruden to the Wall Street Journal that led eventually to Gruden being fired as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.  Obviously, I have no idea if any or all of that is true, but it is testimony under oath and that ought to provide Gruden’s legal team additional ammunition in their litigation against the league and the Commissioner.

With the majority in the House of Representatives changing next month as a result of the recent mid-term elections, this committee and its investigation are about to dry up and blow away – – but I have a feeling that this story has not yet run its course.

Moving on …  The Tennessee Titans lead their division in the NFL as of this morning, but that status is due in large measure to the ineptitude of the other three teams in that division.  That is a situation where a short-attention-span owner can convince himself/herself that the current head coach is a dunderhead and what the team really needs is some sort of infusion of intelligence in its leadership roles and that infusion of intelligence must come from the uber-smart owner taking action and firing the coach.  It rarely works.  The Titans took a different tack in recent weeks; the Titans fired their GM and not their coach.

More often than not, I think the reason coaches get fired in mid-season is because the roster they have to work with is less talented than the rosters of their opponents.  Normally, that blame ought to – at a minimum – be shared between the coach and the GM; but normally, it is the GM who survives.  Not so in Tennessee.  And that action leads me to wonder what might happen to the GMs in cities where the NFL team is either playing badly or is clearly talent deficient.  Consider:

  • Houston Texans:  They have a young roster that may develop into a worthy opponent in a year or three, but the current roster is simply outgunned most of the time.  The Texans were one-and-done with a coach last year; if they were to fire Lovie Smith at the end of this disastrous season (current record is 1-11-1 with the worst point differential in the NFL), they will not be a magnet for “hot coaching prospects”.  So, might the GM in Houston – – Nick Caserio – – be the one “held accountable” for this year’s tire fire?
  • Chicago Bears:  The Bears’ situation is like the Texans’ situation; the team is young, but it is overmatched most of the time in 2022.  The record is 3-10-0 and they too have a first-year head coach who was hired to replace a coach who left Chicago with an overall winning record.  The big difference here is that the Bears’
    GM, Ryan Poles, is also in his first year on the job.  One can question his strategy of trading away his best defensive players in mid-season to accumulate draft capital, but he is not the architect of this roster.  We shall see, but I expect that the Bears will stand pat this offseason.
  • Denver Broncos:  The Broncos must be the biggest disappointment league wide.  After parting with 4 draft picks and 3 experienced players to acquire Russell Wilson from the Seahawks, some folks had the Broncos as one of the second-tier contenders for a Super Bowl appearance.  That ain’t gonna happen.  Moreover, the first-year coach in Denver – – Nathanial Hackett – – was hired because of the magic he could work with a talented QB; and that is not working either.  [Aside:  In email exchanges with a former colleague, he refers to the Denver coach as “Nathanial-He-Can’t Hackett.”]  Both the coach-hiring decision and the QB-trace decision came from the desk of GM George Paton.  I sense upheaval in Denver in about 6 weeks…

Those are three teams where one might expect some degree of change in the offseason.  But to a lesser extent I think I will keep an eye on these other situations too:

  • Arizona Cardinals:  The roster is mediocre, and the coaching is hardly outstanding…
  • Carolina Panthers:  They already fired their coach, so who else is around to take a fall…?
  • Indy Colts:  Who knows what Jim Irsay’s next move might be?  I am not sure even Irsay knows the answer to that – – and they too have already fired their coach…
  • New Orleans Saints:  Dennis Allen is a first-year coach; the Saints should have a top draft pick – – but that was traded away to the Eagles last year by the GM and not the new coach…

Finally, much of today’s rant has dealt with management and/or leadership.  So, let close with several observations on those topics:

“The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”  [Casey Stengel]

And …

“When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command.  Very often, that person is crazy.”  [Dave Barry]

And …

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit.  Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”  [Douglas Adams]

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



From Murphy’s Law To Prometheus Today

Call it Murphy’s Law or call it The Law of Unintended Consequences.  Call it a real-life example of creating Frankenstein’s Monster who is now out and about in the countryside.  College sports are now minor league professional sports.  I have no intention of waxing nostalgic here about the glory of amateur athletics and the noble nature of college sports in days gone by.  Nevertheless, let us recognize the status quo for what it is.

For years, many folks argued that college athletes were being exploited – – and they were indeed if your definition of exploitation also covered Olympic athletes and Little League athletes.  Participants in sports at those levels all toiled and practiced and performed for no “payment” while others reaped bountiful financial rewards.  In the lawsuits that ultimately determined that athletes at any level should be allowed to profit from their name, image and likeness once those attributes had acquired value due to athletic achievements, it was difficult to hope that the “other guys” would win the case and prevent Joe Flabeetz from selling the rights to his name as a product endorser.  However, I for one did not see that we would arrive in the current situation let alone get here in only a couple of years.

  • Name, image and likeness deals have become recruiting tools not rewards based on athletic achievement.
  • One report I read said that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is working on a structural system that will allow high school athletes to join in the name, image and likeness business.
  • Because it is “fundamentally unfair” to make an athlete sit out a year if he/she transfers when a coach can pull up stakes and change schools at a moment’s notice, that led to the creation of the transfer portal.  That is nothing more than a politically acceptable term for “collegiate free agency” – – and it can be used by athletes and/or against athletes.

When Deion Sanders addressed the current members of the Colorado football team – the team he will take over next Fall – he told them to get to the transfer portal to make room for players that Sanders would bring in.  He said that life for players hanging around would be made as agonizing as possible to see if any of them were going to prove worthy of retaining their scholarships.  [Aside:  The PAC-12 guarantees scholarships for 4 years, so Sanders cannot just renege on that prior agreement – – but he can make life miserable for anyone that he does not want in the program.]

Moving on …  Mike Leach, head football coach at Mississippi State, was hospitalized over the weekend.  The press release stated that Leach was taken to the hospital for “a personal health issue” that happened at his home.  Excuse me:

  • Memo to Communications Folks at Mississippi St.:
    • Health issues can be serious or not serious
    • Health issues can be curable or chronic
    • Health issues can be lots of things but none of them are “impersonal”.

Next, I want to address another issue involving a football coach.  Over the weekend, the Washington Post did a long-form story on Jim Caldwell.  The headline was:

The QB Whisperer …

With No QBs To Whisper To

The narrative of the story is revealed in these sentences in the fifth paragraph:

“The fact that Caldwell spends Sundays at home in Lewisville, N.C., watching football on television suggests there is a weird amnesia among people who hire NFL head coaches.  They go chasing after the latest “quarterback whisperer” and elevate young White men above their capacities apparently insensible to the fact that it was a Black coach who altered the career of arguably the most intelligent quarterback in the history of the league, Payton Manning, and who raised the games of two eventual Super Bowl winners, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford.”

Caldwell has been out of the NFL coaching business since 2017 since he was fired by the geniuses who run the Detroit Lions despite Caldwell’s winning record as a head coach in Detroit and two playoff appearances for the Lions in his four-year tenure there.  It is pretty clear from the quotation above how the authors explain Caldwell’s period of unemployment – – and they may be 100% correct.  But maybe Jim Caldwell is sort of like Prometheus in Greek mythology…

Prometheus was a Titan god of fire who defied the edict of the Olympic gods and gave fire to mankind.  Zeus did not like being disobeyed and “sentenced” Prometheus to eternal suffering; Prometheus was chained to a rock and an eagle would land on him and peck out his liver every day only to have the liver grow back overnight so that Prometheus would suffer the same fate every day for eternity.

Jim Caldwell has not suffered and will not suffer anything nearly as gruesome as that.  But Jim Caldwell may have gotten crosswise with the football gods because:

  1. He took the job as the head coach of the Detroit Lions – – AND – –
  2. Since the merger of the NFL and AFL, no coach fired by the Lions has ever been a head coach again in the NFL for even a single game.

Since 1965, the Lions have had 20 head coaches – – counting interim head coaches.  Only three had winning records with the Lions – – Caldwell was one of the three.  And none of them ever got another head coaching job in the NFL.

Finally, since I began today with a reference to Murphy’s Law which everyone knows well, let me close with a corollary to that famous Law:

“If several things that could have gone wrong have not gone wrong, it would have been ultimately beneficial for them to have gone wrong”

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



Football Friday 12/9/22

When I was a kid, Gene Autry had a half-hour TV show on Sunday evenings.  The show began with Autry singing the theme song for the show which began:

“I’m back in the saddle again,

Out where a friend is a friend…”

I can relate to that here since I have been off the air for the last two Fridays and have missed doing Football Friday on those days.  So, I feel as if I am back in the saddle today and am presumably among friends…

Let me begin by reviewing the last Six-Pack that I offered up:

  • College = 1-2-0          Season Total = 20-12-0
  • NFL = 1-2-0                Season Total = 15-19-3
  • M/L = 1-1                    Season Total = 7-18
  • Profit = $36                Season Total = +$142


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats made it to the second round of the Division III national football championship tournament, but their season came to an end on November 26th losing to Bethel 30-13.  The Wildcats record for 2022 was 10-1 and their combined record over the past 5 years is 45-8.  Congratulations to the Wildcats; looking forward to following your exploits next year.

I have mentioned here before that I attended an Ivy League college meaning that I have seen first-hand the difference in skill levels between the Ivy league and – say – the SEC or the Big-10.  So, I was a bit surprised to run across a report that said the Ivy League would be sending an “All-Star team” of seniors and grad students to Japan to play a Japanese “All-Star team” in something called the Dream Bowl.  The game will take place on Jan 21, 2023 in Tokyo and the objective seems to be to expand interest in American football in Japan.

If that were not a sufficient surprise, I also learned that this is not the first time this will have happened.  In fact, from 1989 through 1996, the Ivy League and a team of Japanese All-Stars played a game, and the Ivy League won all eight of those encounters.  Who knew?

Here is a paragraph from the report I ran across; it shows that there remains a difference between a traveling All-Star team from the Ivy League and one from some other football conferences:

“The U.S. delegation will arrive in Japan on January 15 to prepare for the game, as well as take part in Japanese cultural and educational events. Two Ivy League professors will accompany the group to further the learning experience.”  [Emphasis added…]

It is official; Deion Sanders will take the head coaching job at Colorado after two very successful seasons at Jackson State University.  “Coach Prime” as he refers to himself will have his hands full there.  The Buffaloes were 1-11 last year and only scored more than 20 points twice in their twelve games.  I know they say that defense wins championships, but you also have to score a few points to win games as well.  [Foreshadowing here:  Remember “Colorado defense” about five minutes from now…]

Frankly, this is a big deal for the PAC-12 as a conference.  Of the so-called “Power-5 conferences, the PAC-12 respectability has been on the decline in recent years.  They had a shot at being in the CFP this year until USC gagged away their opportunity last weekend (see below).  “Coach Prime” will bring more attention to the entire conference; I am already looking forward to PAC-12 media day next year; I just know he will have something eccentric planned for that event.

The coach that Sanders is replacing at Colorado is Karl Dorrell who is as measured and serious as Sanders is ebullient and engaging.  I have no idea if Sanders can turn around the football fortunes in Boulder, but he will turn around the tone and tenor of the program in about the first 15 minutes that he is on the job.

Dan Wetzel writes for Yahoo!sports; here is an excellent column that will give you an idea of the energy that Sanders will try to bring to Colorado.  It takes about 5 minutes to read; I recommend you do so.

Let me go over a few comments about games from last weekend and how we arrived at the four teams in the CFP bracket…

Utah 47  USC 24:  This was a total bed-wetting by USC; they had a “win-and-you’re-in” game for the CFP bracket here and they were totally outplayed and out-coached.  Trojans’ QB Caleb Williams injured a hamstring early in the game and played on with a noticeable limp; when Lincoln Riley was asked if he considered a substitute, Riley said that Williams would not allow him to make the substitution.

  • Memo to Coach Riley:  Aren’t you supposed to be the adult in charge?

USC led 17-3 in the first half; from that point on, Utah outscored the Trojans 44-7.  I am not sure what game Coach Riley was observing from the sidelines, but it was not the same game I saw on my TV screen.  One more point here; USC needs to devote just a bit of recruiting attention to defensive players – – either that or find coaches who can teach the current defensive players how to tackle an opponent.  Utah posted 533 yards of total offense and 233 yards rushing.

K-State 31  TCU 28  (OT):  K-State had played TCU tough in the regular season leading by 18 points in the first half and the Wildcats showed up here ready to play the Horned Frogs just a bit tougher this time around.  The stat sheet was as close as the scoreboard.  A chip-shot 31-yard field goal in OT was the difference in the outcome of this game.

Georgia 50  LSU 30:  Lest there had been any lingering doubt as to the best team in the SEC …  Georgia led 35-10 at the half and genuinely coasted to a win here.  For the record, Georgia is the best college football team I have seen to this point in the 2022 season.  The defense this year is good – – but as good as last year’s Bulldog defense.  However, this year the Bulldogs have a much more potent offense.  In the game against LSU, Georgia accumulated 529 yards on offense allowing the team to win comfortably despite the defense allowing LSU to gain 502 yards passing in the game.

Clemson 38  UNC 10:  The Tar Heels averaged 35 points per game this season but only managed 10 points here.  The Clemson defense did not shut UNC down; check out this pair of stats:

  • UNC Total Offense = 384 yards
  • Clemson Total Offense = 385 yards

Three turnovers by the Tar Heels provided the difference in this game.

Michigan 43  Purdue 22:  The Boilermakers won the stat sheet outgaining the Wolverines by 70 yards in the game and Michigan only led 14-13 at the half.  The difference here is that Michigan scored six TDs and Purdue scored five field goals.  End of message…

And in a game that had no championship implications but was of interest:

New Mexico St. 65  Valparaiso 3:  This game is of interest because it is the Aggies’ sixth win of the season and makes them bowl-eligible for the first time since 2017.  New Mexico St. has been a college football punching bag for the ten years prior to this season – – notwithstanding that bowl appearance in 2017.  In the ten-year period 2012 – 2021, the cumulative record for Aggies football was 26-86.  In fact, the last time New Mexico St. had a football season with double-digit wins was in 1960.  Congratulations to first-year coach Jerry Kill and the New Mexico State Aggies for this bowl-eligible season.

Now that the college football regular season is over – – save for the Army/Navy game this weekend – – it is time to award the 2022 Brothel Defense Award.  This is given to the team that allows anyone and everyone to score on it frequently.  And that team for 2022 is:

  • The Colorado Buffaloes who gave up 44.5 points per game.

            Previously, I mentioned Colorado’s anemic offense in 2022 – – one that averaged only 15.4 points per game.  “Coach Prime” must transform a team that lost by an average of 29.1 points per game.  Yowza!

One other piece of business needs to happen at the end of the college football regular season.  It is incumbent on me to present the seedings for my imaginary SHOE Tournament which would decide the worst team of the year on the field if it ever happened.  The teams would play and the loser in each game must play on; the winner can go home knowing they would not be labeled the SHOE Team for the year where SHOE is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.  Here is the Tournament field:

  • Eighth Seed – Florida Int’l (4-9):  They are the only 4-win team in the field, and they are “invited in” over some other teams with only 2 wins because of how bad some of the losses were.  Early in the season the Panthers lost a game 73-0; in the first three weeks of November, the Panthers lost three games by a total of 117 points.  FIU belongs in this tournament.
  • Seventh Seed – Hawaii (3-10):  They are the only 3-win team in the field, and they are “invited in” over some other teams with only 2 wins because of how bad some of their losses were.  In the first three weeks of the season, Hawaii was outscored 168-37.  Toss in another loss by 42 points later in the year and Hawaii belongs in this tournament.
  • Sixth Seed – Nevada (2-10):  The season started well for the Wolfpack; they won their first two games.  Then they lost by 2 TDs to a Division 1-AA team and the season came apart at the seams; Nevada did not win a game after that.
  • Fifth Seed – New Mexico (2-10):  One of those two wins was over Division 1-AA Maine in the first game of the year.  Why Maine agreed to fly all the way to New Mexico to play that sad sack of a team remains a mystery…
  • Fourth Seed – USF (1-11):  The Bulls’ only win was over Division 1-AA Howard back in early September.  Maybe they should have been seeded higher – – which means lower?
  • Third Seed – Northwestern (1-11):  Somehow, they managed to beat Nebraska in a game in late August in Dublin, Ireland.  After that, they just stunk.  In two of their November games, the Wildcats lost to Minnesota by 28 points and to Illinois by 38 points.
  • Second Seed – UMass (1-11):  That win came at the expense of Division 1-AA, Stony Brook back in mid-September.  In the final game of the season, the Minutemen hosted Army and lost by 37 points.
  • First Seed – Colorado (1-11):  The only positive thing to say about this team is that its one win did come over a conference rival.  They gave up the most points per game of any of the 131 Division 1-A teams PLUS they ranked 127th in the nation in scoring offense.

Too bad the NCAA will not allow these games to begin…

The only Division 1-A game left to play before the silly bowl season kicks in next week is the Army/Navy game.  The Middies are currently a 2.5-point favorite in the game, but the more interesting number is the Total Line.  The oddsmakers opened the Total Line at 35 points and it has dropped all the way to 32.5 points and could go down even a tad more by kickoff.  Notwithstanding the fact that there will probably not be much scoring in the game, Army/Navy is always entertaining to watch because you will never see a player on either team dogging to or engaging in a “Hey-Look-At-Me” style of celebration.


NFL Commentary:


The Rams put Matthew Stafford on IR and that has to be something positive for Lions’ fans.  No, Lions’ fans are not wishing evil on Stafford as “the QB who left town”; the Lions’ fans are happy because they own the Rams’ first round draft pick next year; and with Stafford out, the Rams are less likely to win games than they would be with a healthy Matthew Stafford available.  And the grand part of this irony is that the Lions’ have the Rams’ first round pick because of the trade that sent Stafford to LA from Detroit…

Speaking of the Rams and their QB situation, the team picked up Baker Mayfield off waivers this week after the Panthers cut him loose.  I thought the Niners might have tried to get Mayfield given their QB injury status, but the Rams’ record is well below that of the Niners so the Niners never had a real chance to sign Mayfield up for duty.  Mayfield’s “attitude” got him shipped out of Cleveland, but it was his performance that got him cut by Carolina.  His future as an NFL QB is not guaranteed – – unless he pulls off a few more miracle finishes as he did last night (see below).

I mentioned that the Niners have a QB-injury situation with Jimmy G breaking a bone in his foot last week and Trey Lance having been sidelined since Game One.  Brock Purdy played well last week, and I find the reaction to his success interesting.  Consider:

  • Back in Training Camp, folks wondered if Trey Lance (a guy picked #3 overall in the draft after the Niners traded up to get that pick) with his lack of game experience would be a burden that could hold back a Niners’ roster that was strong everywhere else.
  • After Brock Purdy (the last player taken in this year’s draft) played very competently for 3 quarters of last week’s game after Jimmy G got hurt, folks are saying that Purdy showed enough to lead the Niners to the Super Bowl.

A month ago, it certainly looked as if the Steelers would have their first losing season in the Mike Tomlin Era which began in 2007 and which has produced a combined record of 158-92-2.  However, the Steelers have won three of their last four games and their record as of this morning stands at 5-7.  Kenny Pickett is maturing as a QB, and I think part of the rapid maturation is because the Steelers run the ball a lot and do not force him to win games by carrying the team on his shoulders.  There is a reason the Steelers have had the same coach for the last fifteen and a half seasons…

NFL historian, Dan Daly, combined current US politics with NFL history in this Tweet:

“Can’t decide if 1,510,916 is Herschel’s vote total or the number of draft picks the Cowboys got for him.”

In game action from last weekend …

Browns 27  Texans 14:  Deshaun Watson definitely showed some rust having gone almost 2 years between NFL games.  The Browns did not have an offensive TD in the game; their 3 TDs came from:

  1. A punt return
  2. A Pick-Six
  3. A Scoop-and-Score

The Texans seem locked in as the team to possess the #1 pick in the 2023 Draft.  The last time the Texans scored more than 20 points was on October 2 and the Texans lost that game to the Chargers 34-24.  Bad as that seems, here is another fact that makes it worse:

  • That game against the Chargers is the ONLY time this year the Texans have scored more than 20 points in a game.

Ravens 10  Broncos 9:  If you did not see this game, you might wonder if this was the result of bad offense or good defense.  The answer – from someone who watched some but not all of it – is that it was a bit of both.  Lamar Jackson left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.  Neither team could muster up 300 yards of total offense for the game.  Russell Wilson looked like he was out of gas.

Packers 28  Bears 19:  The Bears led 19-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and then that Bears’ defense did what it has done well all year long – – give up points to assure a loss.  Justin Fields threw 2 INTs in that 4th quarter and those INTs did not help the Bears’ cause even a little bit.  With this win, Aaron Rodgers continues his “ownership” of the Bears; his record as a starter against the Bears is now 25-5.

Lions 40  Jags 14:  To get a feel for this game, consider these stats:

  • Total Offense:  Lions = 437 yards            Jags = 266 yards
  • 3rd Down Conversions:  Lions = 8 of 12    Jags = 3 of 12
  • First Downs:  Lions = 31       Jags = 14

You get the idea; this was an organized ass-kicking.  Dan Campbell must be doing something right in Detroit; the Lions have won four of their last five games

Vikes 27  Jets 22:  The Vikes won another “one-score game” and sealed the win with an INT at the goal line in the final seconds of the game.  The Vikes have played 9 games where the scoring margin was one possession.  The Vikes have won all 9 of those games.  Amazing…

Steelers 19  Falcons 16:  This game was as close on the stat sheet as it was on the field.  The Steelers never trailed but the Falcons rallied from a 19-6 deficit late in the third quarter to make a game of it.

Eagles 35  Titans 10:  AJ Brown caught 8 passes for 119 yards and 2 TDs to torment his former teammates.  Here is another game where some stat comparisons will give you a feeling for what happened:

  • Total Offense:  Eagles = 453 yards   Titans = 209 yards
  • First Downs:  Eagles = 26            Titans = 11
  • Yards per Pass Attempt:  Eagles = 9.0    Titans = 3.8

This was another organized ass-kicking.  This is the fourth game this year that the Eagles have scored 35 points or more.  In addition, the Eagles’ defense held Derrick Henry to 30 yards on 11 carries and sacked Ryan Tannehill 6 times in the game; that is the recipe for beating the Tennessee Titans.

Commanders 20  Giants 20 (OT):  The Commanders have this week off and then play the Giants as their return game from their BYE Week.  I wish I could say that next game will be a double dip of excitement, but this game was more of a snoozer than anything else.  Both teams played well enough to lose the game but neither team played well enough to win.  Hence the outcome…

Niners 33  Dolphins 17:  Jimmy G is out for the rest of the regular season with a broken foot suffered early in this game.  Remember that Trey Lance is also out for the season since Game 1; so, the Niners now turn to their #3 QB, Brock Purdy who was the last player taken in last year’s Draft.  Purdy acquitted himself well given the credentials he entered the game with; here is his stat line:

  • 25 of 37 for 210 yards and 2 TDs

Those are not Hall of Fame numbers, but they are as good as anyone in the Niners’ organization had a right to expect.  The Niners’ defense continued to play outstanding football.  The Niners intercepted Tua three times and limited the Dolphins’ ground game to 33 yards for the game.  Meanwhile the methodical Niners’ offense held the ball for over 40 minutes making sure the Dolphins could not mount a serious threat in the game.

Seahawks 27  Rams 23:  John Wolford was the QB for the Rams with the team having put Matthew Stafford on IR; he managed to throw for 178 yards in the game, which is OK, but he also threw 2 INTs which is not OK.  Even though the Rams were outgained by 119 yards, it took a TD pass to DK Metcalf with 36 seconds left in the game for the Seahawks to post the victory.

Bengals 27  Chiefs 24:  This was a fun game to watch; it was full of great plays, and it was always in doubt.  The Chiefs had a 14-game winning streak for games played in the month of December; that streak is now gone.  Also gone – for the moment at least – is the Chiefs’ hold on the #1 seeding in the AFC Playoffs.  The Bills now hold that slot and the playoff BYE Week that comes with it.  Joe Burrow had a most efficient day:

  • 25 of 31 for 286 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs
  • 11 rushes for 46 yards and 1 TD

Another offensive contributor for the Bengals was Samaje Perine who ran for 106 yards on 21 carries.

Raiders 27  Chargers 20:  This is the third win in a row for the Raiders and it keeps their dim playoff hopes alive.  Josh Jacobs ran for 144 yards in the game, but I think the real story here is that the Raiders’ defense held the Chargers to only 72 yards on the ground making the Chargers one-dimensional.   Here is another piece of good news for Raiders’ fans:

  • Both Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are reported to be close to coming back to action for the Raiders.

Cowboys 54  Colts 19:  Here is all you need to know about what it means to have a football melt-down:

  • In the 4th quarter, the Cowboys scored 33 points and the Colts scored zero points.

Bills 24  Pats 10:  This was a workmanlike showing by the Bills.  The offense gained a respectable 355 yards, held the ball for just over 38 minutes and only turned the ball over 1 time.  Meanwhile the defense held the Pats to 14 first downs and only 3 of 12 on third-down conversions.  Interestingly, this is the first win for the Bills over another AFC East team this year.

Bucs 17  Saints 16:  The Bucs rallied from 10 points down with about 7 minutes to play in the game to win in the final 10 seconds here.  Sounds great, no?  This game was about as exciting as a fetid bog.  The Bucs are now 6-6 with a BYE Week still in their pocket and that appears to be a commanding lead in the AFC South.  Yes, that is a reasonable assessment of the worthiness of that division…


NFL Games This Weekend:


This is the last of the BYE Weeks for the NFL regular season.  Six teams will have the weekend off:

  1. Bears:  They are the only NFC team already eliminated from the playoffs with their 3-10 record and a 6-game losing streak.
  2. Colts:  They have not been eliminated from the playoffs just yet but at 4-8-1, their elimination appears to be imminent.
  3. Commanders:  They may be in last place in the NFC East, but they are still very much in the playoff picture – – and they are the only team to beat the Eagles this season.
  4. Falcons:  Like the Colts, they have not been eliminated from the playoffs just yet, but that status appears to be approaching quickly.
  5. Packers:  The Packers have not been eliminated from the playoffs – – but they have been eliminated from the NFC North race.  With 8 losses already on the books, one more loss will assure the Packers and Rodgers of a losing season – – something that has only happened twice since Rodgers ascended to the starting QB job in 2008.
  6. Saints:  The Saints would have the 4th or 5th overall pick in the 2023 Draft if the season ended now.  They will likely find a way to screw that up too between now and early January…

With six teams out of action and another game taking place last night, that leaves only 12 games on the weekend card.  A quick glance at those games tells me that there will not be a full Six-Pack this week, and the more I look at the weekend card, the fewer selection opportunities I see.

The acronym that describes last night’s game between the Rams and the Raiders must be AYFKM which stands for Are You [Bleeping] Kidding Me.  Baker Mayfield had less than 48 hours to prepare for and practice with the Rams’ team for this game; they trailed 16-3 with 5 minutes to play and had nothing happening on offense.  The Rams got a TD to make it 16-10 and made a defensive stop but the Raiders punted the ball down to the Rams’ 2 yardline so all that was needed was a 98-yard drive with less than 2 minutes on the clock and no timeouts.

The Rams got all of that and the Raiders’ defensive coaches and defensive players ought to be ashamed.  Defensive penalties gave the Rams a first down and stopped the clock for them; someone in the Raiders’ braintrust decided to play man defense far more often that made any sense to anyone who has watched NFL football for the last  10 years; Baker Mayfield threw the winning TD to a man single covered in the end zone when only a TD could have beaten the Raiders and there were only 10 seconds left on the clock.  The final 5-7 minutes of that game were a disgrace for the Raiders’ defensive players and coaches; they should give back their game paychecks.

Here is the rest of this weekend’s NFL action…

Vikes at Lions – 2 (52):   The spread opened the week with the Vikings as 1-point favorites, but the trend has been to the Lions all week long; that’s right; the Vikes with a 10-2 record are underdogs to a Lions’ team that is below .500.  The Lions ran out to a 14-point lead over the Vikes in their first encounter this year and then – typical of the Lions – they coughed up a hairball and invented a way to lose that game.  However, the Lions seem to be improving week by week.  Consider these two stats:

  1. Lions give up the most points per game in the NFL
  2. Vikes give up the most passing yards per game in the NFL

I think both defenses will be torched in this game, so I’ll take it to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jets at Bills – 10 (43.5):  The Bills’ offense looked good against the Pats but will need to be more efficient against a very good Jets’ defense.  That offensive unit is capable of doing just that.  The question in my mind is how the Bills’ defense is trending.  Yes, the unit has injuries to deal with, but that defense does not seem to be playing nearly as well as it did earlier this year.   I am tempted to take the points here but will resist that temptation.

Ravens at Steelers – 2 (36.5):  This game will be just like an alley fight.  The Steelers are 3-1 in their last four games – – coinciding with the return to action of TJ Watt a month ago.  The Ravens will play Tyler Huntley at QB unless Lamar Jackson’s knee takes a miraculous turn for the better.  If light-up-the-scoreboard offensive football is your thing, pick another game to watch.  This one could easily turn out to be a “last-man-standing” game.

Eagles – 7 at Giants (44.5):  I gave this one some consideration as the Game of the Week because a Giants’ loss would eliminate them – and the Commanders also – from the NFC East division race.  The game is also important within that division race because the Cowboys would appear to have a walkover against the Texans.  I think this will be much more of an offensive game than the oddsmakers think it will be; so, I’ll take this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Browns at Bengals – 5.5 (46.5):  The Bengals are hot right now; the offense is in sync.  The Browns have Deshaun Watson at QB, but he was miserable last week.  Watson is far more talented than the results showed last week so betting on this game is the same as playing the Powerball lottery.  I will pay attention here only out of curiosity…

Jags at Titans – 3.5 (41):  Speaking of “unpredictability” can anyone divine when either of these teams will play at their best and/or at their worst?  I cannot.  Both teams looked awful last week; does that mean anything regarding this game?

Texans at Cowboys – 17 (44):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week simply because it has the potential to become a 30-point blowout.  The Texans’ offense is indeed offensive (see above) and even though the Texans’ defense plays hard – and often plays well – they are not going to keep up here.  The last time there was an apparent mismatch of this proportion the final score was:

  • Lions 35
  • Christians 0

Just so you know, the Money Line odds for this game has the Cowboys at minus-2500 and the Texans at +1280.  Find something else to watch…

(Sun Nite) Dolphins – 3 at Chargers (52.5):  NBC and the NFL flexed this game into the Sunday Nite slot in place of the Chiefs/Broncos game below.  Probably a good move for NBC…  I also considered this game as my designated Game of the Week because the game is meaningful to both teams – – even though it is more meaningful to the Chargers.  Surely this will be part of the storyline for this game:

  • Justin Herbert was the 6th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft
  • Tua Tagovailoa was the 5th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Have at it, guys…

Panthers at Seahawks – 4 (44.5):  The spread opened at 6.5 points and has been inching down during the week.  I guess bettors think that last week’s BYE was a plus for the Panthers but what I see is a Panthers’ team that is:

  1. All but eliminated from the NFC playoffs
  2. Bringing an 0-5 road record to the kickoff
  3. Traveling about 2500 miles to play the game.

Best hope for the Panthers here is the Seahawks’ defense; it is not good, and it ranks 30th in the NFL in yards allowed per game.

Bucs at Niners – 3.5 (37.5): This is my Game of the Week.  It matches two division leaders, and it matches the ageless Tom Brady against the wet-behind-the-ears Brock Purdy as opposing QBs.  Both teams bring dominant defenses to the game; the Niners’ defense is first in the NFL in yards allowed per game (283.9).  Someone with lots of free time on his hands came up with this information:

  • Six QBs made their first NFL start against Tom Brady
  • All six came out of the game as a loser
  • This is Brock Purdy’s first NFL start.

Another rarity in this game regarding the QB comparison:

  • Tom Brady was a higher draft pick than Brock Purdy; Brady went at the end of the sixth round of his draft at pick #199
  • Brock Purdy was “Mr. Irrelevant” last year taken with the 262nd pick in the seventh round in 2022.

Chiefs – 9.5 at Broncos (44):  The Total Line here opened at 41 points and has climbed to this level as of this morning.  The Chiefs can still earn that BYE Week in the AFC playoffs, so they are motivated here.  The Broncos have lost 4 games in a row and have yet to beat a division foe.  The Broncos’ defense is good, but it may need to hold Patrick Mahomes and Company under 13 points to win the game; I don’t see that happening…

(Mon Nite) Pats – 1 at Cards (43.5):  I cannot pretend that this game was ever part of my thinking as the Game of the Week, but it might be one of the more interesting contests on the card.  The Pats’ offense was somnambulant last week in their loss to the Bills, but that was against the NFL’s 10th ranked defense in Total Defense.  The Cards check in at 21st in the league on that stat; so, I expect the Pats’ offense to be more efficient and effective in this game.  But the question for me is the Pats’ defense and how it will deal with Kyler Murray as a running threat.  Mobile QBs have had big days against the Pats this year.  I’ll take the Pats and lay the point on the road figuring that the Cards will find a way to lose this game; put it in the Six-Pack.

So let me review this week’s abbreviated Six-Pack:

  • Lions/Vikes OVER 52
  • Eagles/Giants OVER 44.5
  • Pats – 1 over Cards

            And here are two Money Line parlays just for fun:

  • Niners @ minus-175
  • Seahawks @ minus-205                   To win $134

And …

  • Bengals @ minus-240
  • Chiefs @ minus-430
  • Titans @ minus-185                          To win $169

            Finally, Dwight Perry uncovered this career note for the venerable Al Michaels:

“From the It’s Not How You Start But How You Finish file, comes word that celebrated broadcaster Al Michaels’ first television job was with Chuck Barris Productions in 1966, choosing female contestants for ‘The Dating Game.’”

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



A Bit Of Everything today …

I did not express myself clearly yesterday when I said that Aaron Judge and Clayton Kershaw were the only MLB free agents who had re-signed with their previous teams.  I meant to say “top-shelf free agents” but did not say so.  The “reader in Houston” provided me with free agents who “re-upped” with their previous teams; let me include them here for completeness:

  • Edwin Diaz – – Mets
  • Rafael Montero – – Astros
  • Joc Pederson – – Giants
  • Martin Perez – – Rangers
  • Anthony Rizzo – – Yankees
  • Robert Suarez – – Padres

My bad …

Leaving the world of errata – hopefully – here are three things I KNOW:

  1. The Baltimore Ravens need to invest some draft capital and/or free agent money to acquire some pass-catchers on the outside.  The team is built around a strong running game but is having trouble running the ball consistently because of defenses deploying seven-man and eight-man boxes all too frequently.  The Ravens need to add some WR threats simply to spread defenses out.
  2. Matt Ryan is not the long-term answer for the Indianapolis Colts at QB simply because of his age; he is 37 years old.  Neither is Nick Foles the long-term answer for the Colts at QB.  So, maybe they actually do need to play Sam Ehlinger this year even though it would appear as if the Colts were tanking and that is something owner Jim Irsay declared was verboten in the Colts’ organization.  The Colts are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs but with a 4-8-1 record as of this morning, let us just leave it that their chances are not good for playing beyond Week 18.
  3. There was TMI included in the recent announcement that the people who run Wimbledon every summer were going to relax the stricture that women participants must wear only white uniforms.  All that would have been necessary would have been to say that women wearing “all-whites” was a thing of the past and that Wimbledon was now going to permit female competitors to wear other colored undergarments.  See?  You have a piece of information; it is no big deal; you can move forward just as the good folks at Wimbledon can move forward.  Except, we also had to be made aware that the reason for this change is that women were worried that blood might be visible on white undergarments when the competitors were menstruating.  Too Much Information…

And here are four things I THINK:

  1. The Denver Broncos’ braintrust must be starting to regret that trade for Russell Wilson.  To acquire Wilson, the Broncos gave the Seahawks two first round picks, two second round picks, Noah Fant, Drew Lock and Shelby Harris.  This was done to “solve the Broncos’ offensive woes that had persisted over the last several years”.  How’s that working out?  Not well at all.  Consider this.  The Broncos’ defense has held opponents to 17 points or fewer 8 times this year.  The Broncos’ record in those 8 games is 3-5.  The Broncos’ offense stinks; they do not have draft picks to remedy that malodorous situation.
  2. It is time for the Atlanta Falcons to take a look at Desmond Ridder as their QB simply so they can assess his potential future role with the team.  The Falcons spent a third-round pick on him back in April; he has not seen regular season activity so far.  The fact is that Marcus Mariota is not excelling at the QB position and the Falcons’ playoff hopes are dimming week by week.  The Falcons have their BYE Week this week; it may be time for them to look at Ridder in real game action as a future investment.
  3. MLB and the MLBPA must figure out how to get teams that refuse to spend money on payroll to change their behavior.  This issue has existed for quite a while now and it leads to sufficient competitive imbalance that it diminishes interest in the games.  Teams can count on enough guaranteed revenue these days from local and national media rights contracts that there’s no excuse for them to not spend on players’ salaries that would improve the team performance.  And yet, here we are…  I continue to maintain that this problem is solvable if both the owners and the players’ union will each swallow a pill that neither wants to swallow.  There needs to be a salary floor for all MLB teams (owners would rather have three root canals each than accept this) along with a salary cap (the players would rather sell their progeny into slavery than accept this).  Nevertheless, without something to drive certain teams to spend to create competitive balance, there will be no progress here.
  4. The Boston Celtics’ hot start in the NBA regular season – – the team has won 20 of its first 25 games – – takes some of the luster off Ime Udoka’s reputation as a great young coach.  The Celtics were very good under Udoka last year making it to the NBA Finals, but they seem to be just as good under Joe Mazzulla this year; and until this year started, the name “Joe Mazzulla” would only have evinced a response of “Who’s he?

Here are two things I FEEL:

  1. Cody Bellinger’s career is at a crossroads; one road leads to a continued MLB career and the other leads to some team wishing him well in his future endeavors.  In 2019, Bellinger was the NL MVP posting a season-long OPS of 1.035.  In the three seasons since then, his OPS has ranged from .542 to .789.  Will the real Cody Bellinger please stand up?  He was a free agent this year and only got a 1-year contract – – at $17.5M – – from the Cubs.  The 2023 season seems to me like do or die for his career.
  2. If Michigan wins the CFP National Championship Game, Jim Harbaugh will return to the NFL to try to win a Super Bowl.  He came close to making that jump last year when he engaged in a flirtation with the Vikes.  If he wins the National Championship this year, there are no loftier goals for him at the collegiate level.  So maybe off to the NFL with the Colts? Cards? Broncos? Chargers? Panthers? Saints?

And here is What’s Next:

  • Brittney Griner is coming home from her prison/labor camp in Russia; a prisoner swap has been negotiated; President Biden has said she is on a plane headed home.  While that can only be interpreted as good news, I fear some will say that Griner got special attention because she is a professional basketball player with celebrity/athletic status and that her release means the continued incarceration of other US citizens jailed abroad.  For some folks, a silver lining is never sufficient; they insist on building a cloud around it.

Finally, regarding some MLB owners’ unwillingness to spend money on player salaries to improve the team, I think those owners are taking one of Henry Ford’s pronouncements too literally:

“You don’t get rich by what you earn; you get rich by what you don’t spend.”

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



Hot Stove League And World Cup Stuff Today…

The latest baseball news from the winter meetings is that Aaron Judge will not leave the Yankees; he re-signed with the team for 9 years and $360M.  Considering that he hit an AL record 62 home runs last year, it is not all that surprising that he will be making more per year than any other position player – – for now, nor is it too surprising that the Yankees opened the exchequer to retain his services.

As far as I can tell, Judge and Clayton Kershaw are the only free agents who have signed up with their previous teams during this free agency season.  There have been several signings announced and I believe all the others involve a change of venue for the players.  Stay tuned; this free agency shuffle has only just begun.

The FIFA World Cup is down to what we here in the US would call the “Elite Eight”.  Because of the way lots are drawn to assign teams to Groups, it would be a stretch to say that FIFA had “engineered” this bracket but consider the following:

  • Had Morocco not shocked Spain in the knockout round, Spain would be playing Portugal this weekend.  No national rivalry there…
  • England and France will play each other this weekend.  No national rivalry there…
  • If Brazil and Argentina win this weekend, those two sides will meet in the semi-final round.  No national rivalry there …  [Aside:  Brazil is a heavy favorite to beat Croatia and Argentina is a small favorite to beat the Netherlands this weekend.]

Having referred to wagering on the World Cup, it is interesting to check out some of the reports about global action on these games.  According to the folks at Barclays (the former sponsor and banker for the English Premier League), their estimate for the handle on all the World Cup Games is $35B.  If that turns out to be the actual handle, it would be a 65% increase over the handle for the World Cup in 2018.

One reason for the increase is the situation here in the US.  In 2018, sports betting was not allowed in almost every state; now in 2022, more than 30 states have legalized sports wagering; so naturally, there has been a large uptick in bets placed in the US.  One report I read said that the estimate for World Cup wagering in the US would be $2B and that would represent almost a 400% increase as compared to 2018.

Standard wagering on World Cup games is akin to money line wagering on college or NFL football games.  You pick the winner, and the sportsbook offers odds that vary from time to time based on their attempt to balance their exposure.  However, there is a wrinkle.  Since soccer games – prior to the knockout round in the World Cup – can end in a draw, one can also wager on the outcome being a draw.  [Aside:  There is also a bet at reduced odds called “Draw No Bet” where you pick a side to win but if the game ends in a draw it is considered a push and you get your original wager back.  This option is used by bettors in only a small percentage of the bets.]

The existence of the “Draw” option on the money line provides a lucrative advantage for the sportsbook.  The vast majority of bettors on the game outcome opt to pick a side to win the game at odds that can typically vary from minus-300 to +500.  And all those majority wagers are losers when/if the game ends in a draw.  In the Group Stage of this year’s World cup, I counted 9 draws; that means the sportsbooks “cleaned up” on nine of the 48 games in the Group Stage – two of those thanks to the US team.

There is another outcome of this year’s World Cup in Qatar; this one makes me shake my head as I try to understand it.  There is a report that Qatar is going to put in a bid to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2036.  The stadium venues built for this World Cup would provide a sound basis for holding the actual competitions; the country built 7 new facilities to host the World Cup and did a “tear-down/re-build” operation on an eighth stadium.  The fact that Qatar might offer a bid for the Olympics in 2036 leads to a couple of issues in my mind:

  • The World Cup is a big event; the Olympics are a colossal event.  The World Cup had 32 teams representing their countries this year; the Tokyo Olympics had about 200 teams.  A soccer team has about 25 members plus coaches and staff; that means the competitors number less than a thousand.  The Tokyo Olympics had over 10,000 athletes competing so when you add in coaches and staff the number of athletes and staff would certainly dwarf what existed for the World Cup.  Qatar is a geographically small country; will everyone associated with the Olympics plus the spectators fit?
  • The Summer Olympics take place in – – wait for it – – the summer.  We have been down that road before; the reason this year’s World Cup is happening in November/December is because summer temperatures in Qatar are not compatible with outdoor athletic competitions.
  • [Aside:  The IOC may need to deal with that sort of climatic reality soon because there are reports that India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia may also make a pitch for hosting the Games in 2036.  Maybe the Summer Games will need to be re-branded as the “Not-Winter Olympic Games”?]

In case you are wondering why Qatari officials are looking at a bid for the 2036 games, the reason is that the venues for the Summer Olympics are already awarded through 2032.

  • Paris, France in 2024
  • Los Angeles, USA in 2028 (along with Canada and Mexico)
  • Brisbane, Australis in 2032

Finally, let me close today with this item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm that seems eerily accurate these days:

Kindergarten:  Former platform for early learning and playtime; currently the time in a child’s life when he or she better damn well decide exactly what they want out of life and get going on a plan to make it happen.”

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



MLB Free Agent Signings…

I wonder if there are two guys named Jake and Elwood working in the front office of the NY Mets.  Just as Jake and Elwood Blues were determined to “get the band back together’, so too it seems the Mets are trying to recreate the Detroit Tigers pitching rotation from 2010 through 2014.  Last year, the Mets signed free agent Max Scherzer – a former Tiger – and this year they signed Justin Verlander – a former Tiger.  In their five-year overlap in Detroit, Scherzer and Verlander combined to post a record of 169-81.

Both Scherzer and Verlander are going to wind up in the Baseball Hall of Fame one of these days; I am not aware of any behavior(s) on the part of either player that would cause the BBWAA voters to spitefully keep either out of the Hall.  And yet, there is an element of risk associated with these guys at the top of a pitching rotation in 2023.

Max Scherzer will be 38 years old in July 2023.  He spent a couple of stints in the IL last year and his 145.1 innings pitched was the lowest total in his career save for his rookie season in 2008 and the COVID-abbreviated season in 2020.  Prior to the 2022 season Scherzer could reliably be counted on for 180 – 220 innings in a season.

Justin Verlander will be 40 years old just about the time when reports to Spring Training with the Mets.  He won the Cy Young Award last year at age 39 and also won that award in 2019 at age 36.  However, he only started 1 game in the 2020 “COVID season” and missed all of the 2021 season due to rehab from Tommy John surgery.

The Blues Brothers movie ends on a bittersweet note.  Jake and Elwood pay the tax bill to save an orphanage from foreclosure and simultaneously are arrested by law enforcement officers who have been pursuing them off and on for the entirety of the movie plot.  Here’s hoping that the Mets avoid any such bittersweet ending to their effort to “get the band back together”.

There was one other major MLB free agent signing announced yesterday; Trea Turner signed an 11-year deal with the Phillies for $300M.  Turner will turn 30 years old in mid-season 2023; his career batting average is .302 and his career OPS is .842.  In addition, he is a very good defensive shortstop and an accomplished base stealer.  Reports say that Turner and Bryce Harper are “besties” from their days as teammates on the Washington Nationals’ roster; so, perhaps this is another mini version of putting a band back together.

The Phillies made it to the World Series last season; adding Trea Turner to the lineup should improve the team.  Harper will miss at least half of the 2023 season recovering from Tommy John surgery – unusual for an outfielder to be sure – meaning there will be plenty of time for this reunited band to rehearse before taking the stage.

Let me stay with baseball for another moment here …  A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism that the Tampa Bay Rays could get a new stadium that would make it a viable franchise in that locale.  At the time, I wondered why he was optimistic since several proposals/initiatives aimed at replacing Tropicana Field had come to naught.  Well, yesterday, I read a report that said there is now a plan on the table for the Rays to get a new domed stadium as part of a much larger development project east of where Tropicana Field is currently located in St. Petersburg, FL.  Here is what the development would entail:

  • A domed stadium for the Rays that would seat 30 – 35,000 folks.  Although it is domed, the roof would allow light to enter and there are sliding windows to let in air allowing for a grass field.
  • 1.4 million square feet of office space
  • 300,000 square feet of retail space
  • 700 hotel rooms
  • 5,700 units of apartments/condominiums
  • 600 senior residences
  • A 2500-seat “entertainment venue”.

I am not familiar with the geography of St. Petersburg, FL but the area where all of this could take place is called the “Historical Gas Plant District” and the timeline calls for the stadium to be ready for the 2028 MLB season.  Hopefully for the Rays, this proposal for development of the “Gas Plant District” does not turn out to be a lot of rhetorical gas…

In college football, the 41 bowl games are now set with regard to time, place and participants.  There is no way that I would try to “evaluate” those 41 games, nor will I watch even a quarter of them because far too many of them go beyond meaningless.  However, let me point out six of them here:

  1. New Mexico Bowl – – BYU vs SMU:  They should relabel this bowl game for this year to the “TLA Bowl” because both teams are known by Three Letter Acronyms.
  2. First Responder Bowl – – Memphis vs Utah St.:  Both teams are 6-6 which guarantees that one of these “bowl teams” will go home with a losing record for 2022.  Oh swell …
  3. Bahamas Bowl – – UAB vs Miami (OH):  Both teams are 6-6 which guarantees that one of these “bowl teams” will go home with a losing record for 2022.  Is there an echo in here …?
  4. Camellia Bowl – – Ga Southern vs Buffalo:  Another matchup of 6-6 teams meaning one will go home with a losing record for 2022…
  5. Quick Lane Bowl – – New Mexico St. vs Bowling Green:  Both teams are 6-6 …  You know where this is going…
  6. Lending Tree Bowl – – Rice vs So. Mississippi:  Rice is 5-7 and made it to a bowl game because they needed another team to fill out the field; So, Miss is 6-6.  So, if Rice wins BOTH teams will leave the game with losing records for 2022.  Are you excited about that?

Finally, in the past I have used parts of reviews by John Simon – – film and drama critic known as “The Vicar of Vitriol” – – as closing comments.  He is well known for savage commentary on actresses; let me present two of them today:

Lisa Minelli:  That turnippy nose overhanging a forward-gaping mouth and hastily retreating chin, that bulbous cranium with eyes as big (and as inexpressive) as saucers; those are the appurtenances of a clown – a funny clown, not even a sad one … Miss Minelli has only two things going for her: a father and a mother who got there in the first place, and tasteless reviewers and audiences who keep her there.”

And …

Shelly Duvall is the worst and homeliest thing to hit the movies since Lisa Minelli.”

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



A Disturbing Report About Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown was an NFL player of some renown – – until something happened in a game between the Bucs and the Jets which caused him to take off his uniform and his pads on the sidelines and then storm off the field while the game was still in progress.  That was certainly his last appearance in a real NFL game and is possibly the last time he had any real interaction with any NFL team.

Antonio Brown has had a history of unusual behaviors some of which involved interacting with law enforcement officials and/or other parts of the US legal system.  He has been accused of sexual assault; he has been convicted of reckless driving; he attacked someone who came to his home to move him out of his house.  Currently, Antonio Brown is in a house with police on the outside of that house and the police have a warrant for Brown’s arrest.  It is not clear from reporting the entirety of the charges in that warrant and the police are not characterizing the situation as a “standoff” or as a “hostage situation” – – leaving open the question as to how or why this has been ongoing for about 72 hours.

I have no credentials as a mental health expert, but in my layman’s understanding of the world, it is clear to me that Antonio Brown needs behavioral assistance.  I fear that the problem in this case may be that Antonio Brown has convinced himself that he is OK and that just as all his previous escapades have faded into our societal background, so will this one – – and the next one and…  His involvement with the NFL is over; hopefully, his erratic behaviors now and in the future will not end in with a more serious set of consequences for him and for someone he has interacted with.

Moving on …  There has been a “major signing” in this MLB free agent season; the Texas Rangers have signed Jacob deGrom for 5 years and $185M.  I see this decision by the Rangers as a high risk/high reward situation.

  • There can be no question that deGrom is an elite starting pitcher.  He has started 209 games and pitched to a career ERA of 2.52.  In 2021, his season ERA was 1.08.  So, you may wonder, “What’s the risk?”
  • Jacob deGrom will be 35 years old in June 2023.  He has had injury issues in each of the last 3 seasons; in the 2022 season he only managed to pitch 64.1 innings over the course of 11 starts.

So, what might the Rangers be getting for that $185M guaranteed contract?  Will they get the 4-time All-Star and 2-time Cy Young Award winner – – or will they get someone who cannot give them even 100 innings of performance in a season?

One other aspect of this signing is the fact that deGrom will leave the Mets where he has been for his entire 9-year career so far.  His status in “Mets’ lore” is not quite the same as that of Tom Seaver but there are lots of similarities.  Just as it was “unusual” to see Seaver in a Reds’ uniform or a White Sox uniform, it will be unusual to see deGrom in a Rangers uniform starting next April.

One other thing happened over the weekend related to MLB.  The Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Contemporary Era Committee” voted to put Fred McGriff into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  There are 16 members of this Committee and selection for the Hall of Fame requires that a candidate receive a minimum of 12 votes.  McGriff was named on all 16 ballots submitted so he made it to the Hall easily.  Here are some other candidates and how many votes they received:

  • Don Mattingly – – 8 votes
  • Curt Schilling – – 7 votes
  • Dale Murphy – – 6 votes

Interestingly, there were four players under consideration by the Committee who have been connected with “steroids”/”PEDs”.  This Committee is not the same as the Baseball Writers Association who vote for inductees until their eligibility expires.  This Committee is sort of like a “second opinion” on various candidates’ worthiness for the Hall; this Committee includes six members of the Hall of Fame, seven MLB executives and 3 members of the media who cover baseball.  That Committee considered these players and all of them received fewer than 4 votes – – well shy of the 12 votes needed for entry to the Hall of Fame:

  • Albert Belle
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Raphael Palmeiro

Next …  The US may be out of the World Cup but that does not mean that there is no soccer news to think about.  Cristiano Ronaldo had been part of Manchester United in the English Premier League up to the start of the World Cup hiatus.  Let’s just say that all was not well inside the club and Man U chose to release Ronaldo as he left to play for his native Portugal in the World Cup.  That was unusual enough, but Ronaldo is now in a situation that is even more unusual.

Reports say that the Saudi Arabian club, Al Nassr, has offered Ronaldo $75M a year to come and play for the club in the Saudi Arabian league.  If you are wondering why an elite talent like Ronaldo might want to play in a second-tier league even at such a lucrative salary, it is also reported that Ronaldo would be able to choose the coach for that team if he so desires.  In essence, he would be a “player-GM” for the squad.

But wait, there’s more…  Ronaldo is 37 years old, and the contract offered to him would be for 3 years at $75M per year.  He would have the option to retire and take on an “ambassadorial role” for the club because the sense in the Saudi Arabian soccer community is that his star power and influence might help the Saudis land the hosting rights for the 2030 FIFA World Cup.  If Qatar can be a host, why not Saudi Arabia?

Finally, yesterday was Dwight Perry’s final Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times.  While I will certainly miss reading his column, I surely wish him health, happiness and prosperity in a well-deserved retirement.  I have a small inventory of his comments for future use in closing these rants; let me close today with one from yesterday’s final column that will demonstrate why I am going to miss Sideline Chatter:

“A skunk showed up in the stands at last Sunday’s Browns-Bucs game in Cleveland, walking up and down the steps of section 140 before disappearing beneath the seats. Like the Browns’ O-line opening holes for Nick Chubb, fans gave the critter lots of leeway.

“Fortunately, Pepe Le Pew didn’t get called for illegal use of glands.”

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



Hugh Freeze to Auburn …

Another major college football coaching vacancy has been filled recently; Auburn hired Hugh Freeze away from Liberty to take over the Auburn program.  To say that Coach Freeze is a “controversial hiring decision” is an understatement.  Make no mistake, he has been successful at multiple levels of college football starting with an NAIA school up through Ole Miss and then to Liberty before landing at Auburn this week.

Freeze left Ole Miss under duress in 2016; the NCAA notified the school of several Level 1 recruiting violations and that preliminary investigations showed the likelihood that the program and/or some of its boosters had provided “impermissible benefits” to team members.  Freeze alleged that the violations had occurred during the days of his predecessor at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt; that story unraveled when Nutt sued Ole Miss for defamation and the school settled the matter and issued a public apology to Nutt.

In the SEC, that sort of behavior is not commonplace – – but it is not so outrageous as to get a successful coach fired.  Then came a big surprise:

  • Ole Miss officials became aware that Freeze had used the cell phone that the school provided to him to place a call to an “escort service”.
  • Freeze said he must have misdialed the number.
  • Problem was that he had “misdialed” that same number about a dozen times on the same phone over the course of his five years at Ole Miss.

Those circumstances – plus the NCAA investigations – must have been too much for the folks who ran Ole Miss and they threatened to fire Freeze for cause citing a clause in his contract allowing them to do so for reasons of moral turpitude.   Freeze chose to resign in 2016 and was out of a head coaching job until he arrived at Liberty in 2019 where he has amassed a record of 34-15 and has taken Liberty to three consecutive bowl games – – and won them all.  [Aside:  Liberty is also bowl-eligible this season with their 8-4 record.]  His contract at Auburn is reportedly for 6 years at $6.5M per year.

Next season, Auburn will play Ole Miss in Auburn; it will not be until 2024 that Freeze will return to Oxford, MS as the coach of the opposing football team.  I cannot find the date for that game in 2024, but when I do, I will circle it on my calendar.

Speaking of recently hired college football coaches, Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World News had this to say about new Nebraska head coach, Matt Rhule:

“At his press conference Matt Rhule said he could’ve made good money sitting on his butt and doing absolutely nothing. In Omaha we call someone like that ‘mayor.’”

Switching gears …  The NFLPA has filed a grievance against the NFL alleging collusion among the owners not to offer fully guaranteed contracts to “certain players” in light of the fully guaranteed contract given to Deshaun Watson by the Cleveland Browns.  I suspect that this issue is going to generate more heat than light over the next several months as an arbitrator mulls the issue(s) and as contract negotiations with NFL free agents bubble up in the impending offseason.  So, let me put my general comments out there before the fact – – which means that my views can change dramatically if new and corroborated information becomes available:

  • The NFLPA filed this grievance.  Therefore, it is incumbent on the NFLPA to prove that collusion occurred; it is not incumbent on the NFL to prove that collusion did not occur.
  • The standard of proof in this matter is not as it is in a criminal trial – – “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  The standard of proof here is more like “a preponderance of the evidence”.
  • The fact that 31 of the 32 NFL owners have not offered any fully guaranteed contracts to QBs other than Deshaun Watson does not prove collusion.  Some things happen by coincidence that result in a set of circumstances that appear as if there were collusion.  As an admittedly simplistic example, it is not collusion that 31 of the 32 NFL owners do not have the surname “Haslam”.  That is a fact, and that circumstance could have arisen from “collusion” among the other owners; it looks like “collusion; but it just isn’t.

I suspect that the legal folks at the NFLPA recognize that they are going to need some inside information to prevail here and probably hope that whatever is akin to a “discovery process” in this arbitration hearing will yield them something probative.  As an example, somehow a portion of the email exchanges between Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen came out from the bowels of the NFL’s electronic records and there was juicy information there.  So, I suspect the NFLPA folks are hoping to find something like that involving communications between/among owners and league officials on the subject of fully guaranteed contracts.

I think the NFLPA is a longshot to prevail here, and I think that the sentiment in the court of public opinion will depend on where the line is drawn regarding “collusion”.

  • Imaginary Scenario #1:  At an owners’ meeting subsequent to the Browns giving Watson his fully guaranteed contract, an owner stands up and says to Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam, “You are a fool giving him that contract.  My team would never do anything like that!”  Several other owners applaud and say “Hear!  Hear!”.  Is that “collusion?”
  • Imaginary Scenario #2:  Several owners are talking and are overheard by multiple other people saying that the fully guaranteed contract the Browns gave Watson is a stupid business decision.  One owner says, “It would serve Haslam right if Watson broke his leg in his first game and there is no injury provision in the deal.”  The other owners agree and say they would always want “injury protection” in a big-money long-term deal.  Is that “collusion?”
  • Imaginary Scenario #3:  An email exchange between an owner and an official in the NFL Front Office surfaces saying, “Not to worry, I am in full agreement.  My team will never give a fully guaranteed long-term contract to anyone.”  Is that “collusion?”

It is way too early in this story to take sides – – unless one is universally pro-union or pro-management in such confrontations.  But I do believe this confrontation has the potential to be quite interesting.

Finally, let me close with this observation about the subject of collusion from actor Chris Pine:

“For me growing up, Christmas time was always the most fantastic, exciting time of the year, and you’d stay up until three in the morning.  You’d hear the parents wrapping in the other room; but you knew that also, maybe, they were in collusion with Santa Claus.”

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