Spleen Venting …

I guess I am just a crochety old man after all.  I am a man and I am old; those two aspects of my being are not in doubt; and boy-oh-boy am I feeling crochety this morning.  I really wish I could revert to my previous status as a basketball official so that I might blow my whistle and hold my open palm over my head and declare violations on selected media members for perpetuating soap operas that have long-since become tedious.  I understand that it is one of the ”slow-times” in the sports calendar and there is space to fill in print and online, but some of the repetitive stuff has gotten older than the green mass of whatever that you might find in the way-back of the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.  It too was once interesting enough to put on the shelf; it has, however, expired.  Consider:

  • Will Aaron Rodgers play football next season and if so, where?  The answer here is to wait and see because if there are continuing stories about the factors he may or may not be balancing in making the decision, that will probably delay the process because it allows Rodgers to “stay in the conversation” without doing anything.  Rodgers went into his sensory deprivation chamber for a 4-day meditation and chose to come out after 2 days.  Oooohhh …  What might that mean?  It means he decided after about 48 hours in the dark that he had had enough and he opened the door to the place and came out.  There is little if any news there and there is NO reason at all to use that non-event to rehash all the stories about his positions and his decision-making and all that nonsense.
  • Will Jeff Bezos make a bid to buy the Washington Commanders?  When Danny Boy Snyder hired Bank of America to seek potential bidders for the Commanders back in November 2022, Jeff Bezos was identified as one of the possible bidders.  Since then, there have been far too many stories about Bezos and his options without there being any real action on his part or on the part of Bank of America to allow for the reporting of real news.  Just this morning, the Washington Post – – owned by Jeff Bezos – – has a story based on two unnamed sources that Bezos has hired Allen & Co. to “evaluate a possible bid for the Washington Commanders.”  Please hold any further stories until there are facts to report and not whispers from two folks who are “familiar with the situation.”
  • Will Danny Boy Snyder actually sell the Commanders?  For about 20 of the last 25 years, the most dangerous spot on Planet Earth was that space between Danny Boy Snyder and a TV camera with a microphone connected to it.  Maybe this is all a ploy by him to stay in the news.  Maybe this is a sign that the other owners and the league office have nudged him to sell the team or face other consequences.  Maybe this is all being controlled by aliens from the Xygork Nebula for their entertainment.  Give this story a break until something factual and tangible happens.
  • Will the NBA ever find a way to regulate “load management”?  Of course, it won’t.  This is a league where players dictate where they will play and when they will play and how hard they will play from day-to-day and week-to-week.  So long as that is the modus vivendi of the league, it will not – – because it cannot – – regulate “load management.”  The path toward regulation there will be blazed by fans who may – someday – become sufficiently annoyed and upset by the practice that they make some noises on their own about load management that could have economic impact on revenues and salaries in the league.  Until then …
  • Will the new rule changes in MLB result in increased fan interest?  Please …  Just wait until the end of May to begin to try to ascertain what if any effect those rules may have had on the games and secondarily on fan interest.  Speculating on these sorts of subjects before Spring Training games implementing the new rules have even begun is less than useful.  If ever an adage ever applied to a situation, this one cries out for acknowledgement of:

“Patience is a virtue.”

  • Will Eric Bieniemy ever get a head-coaching job in the NFL?  LeSean McCoy says Bieniemy was not such a great coach.  Jamal Charles says Bieniemy was very helpful to him.  Andy Reid says Bieniemy deserves a head-coaching job.  And overlaying it all is the fact that Eric Bieniemy is a Black man.  You know what?  This question may resolve itself just like the others as Bieniemy now has an OC position out of the shadow of Andy Reid where he might offer up some evidence as to his worthiness of such a job.
  • Will “Coach Prime” change Colorado football?  Of course he will – – because he already has.  No one has cared about Colorado recruiting or Colorado media events for about 25 years and this year the attention has been white hot.  Last year, Colorado was the worst team in Division 1-A college football; that is not a high bar for “Coach Prime” to surmount in order to show improvement on the field, but the fact remains that he has already changed Colorado football significantly and it will likely continue in that spotlight mode so long as “Coach Prime” remains at Colorado.  Oooohhh …  If Colorado starts winning, where will be the next “landing spot” for “Coach Prime?”

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

Patient:  The quality of being calm and tolerant during a maddingly frustrating time.  Hardly a surprise then, that this term is also used to describe people in society who are unfortunate enough to require medical attention.”

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



A Debbie Downer Day Today …

There is an ongoing mess in Las Cruces, NM these days and it has nothing to do with “problems at the southern border”.  New Mexico State University first suspended its new head basketball coach, Greg Heiar, and subsequently fired him and then the school has cancelled the remaining the games scheduled for its men’s basketball team for the rest of the season.  The Aggies will forfeit all of their remaining games.  Obviously, something rather drastic happened in and around that basketball team.

The current problem involves “hazing incidents”.  Press reports – – based on police reports – – say that three players on the basketball team may have been involved in activities that could be:

  1. False imprisonment
  2. Harassment
  3. Criminal sexual contact

The alleged victim in this matter is a teammate of the three players who may have hit that trifecta of potential offenses.  According to the police report the three alleged aggressors

” … held [the victim] down with him facing down, removed his clothing exposing his buttocks and began to ‘slap his ass.’ [The victim] also went on to state that they also touched his scrotum.”

This is not the lone outrageous event involving this year’s New Mexico State basketball team.  In November 2022, the Aggies were in Albuquerque to play New Mexico; one of the players was out and about after curfew and was attacked by 4 students from New Mexico.  That player had or came into possession of a gun and in the melee he shot and killed a freshman student at New Mexico.  The police considered that this was a case of self-defense but there was one interesting loose thread to that story:

  • The gun was eventually found in the hotel room of one of the Aggies assistant basketball coaches.

If River City Iowa thought it had “Trouble – with a capital T” in the movie the Music Man, then I guess Las Cruces has “TROUBLE – all in caps” these days…

In college football news, there is still some speculation that the PAC-12 Conference may implode.  Certainly, the conference was severely damaged by the loss of USC and UCLA to the Big 10; those schools were nationally recognized to a greater extent than the other schools and those two schools presence in Los Angeles brought a lot of media desirability to PAC-12 athletic broadcast rights.  Now, according to various reports, the PAC-12 is having difficulty selling its broadcast rights for what it considers to be the minimum it can take for those rights to keep the conference afloat.

According to one report I read, the Big-12 is interested in poaching the “Four Corners Schools” (Arizona, Arizona St. Colorado and Utah) from the PAC-12 to expand the Big-12 to 16 teams.  If that were to happen, the six teams of the PAC-12 North  would be in a bad situation.  Perhaps Washington and Oregon might find a perch in a conference of consequence but Washington St., Oregon St., Stanford and Cal would be left to try to cobble some sort of meaningful relationship out west with the likes of:

  • Boise St.
  • Fresno St.
  • San Diego St. (rumored to be a PAC-12 recruit already)
  • SMU (rumored to be a PAC-12 recruit already)

That would be an 8-team conference with very few intriguing pieces beyond the annual Cal/Stanford game.  And even if Washington and Oregon remained in some sort of 10-team conference, it would be clearly last on the pecking order of the “Power 5”.  [Aside:  You would not have difficulty in convincing me that the “Power 5” had devolved into the “Power 4”.]

The PAC-12 is not in good shape; were it a person, it would not be quite ready for admission to the ICU, but it would have already been admitted to a hospital.  If the rumors come to pass that the quartet of “Four Corner Schools” split and head elsewhere, then the conference that used to like to call itself “The Conference of Champions”, will fade into memory.

Finally, a friend forwarded me an excerpt from a letter written by Ernest Hemmingway in 1952 to an art historian, Bernard Berenson.  This has to do with symbolism in Hemmingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea.  I wish I had known about this letter when I was in 12th grade English class:

“There isn’t any symbolism.  The sea is the sea.  The old man is an old man.  The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish.  The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse.  All the symbolism that people say is shit.”

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



A College Football Rule Change?

A report at CBSSports.com said that there should be a lively discussion at the annual meeting of the NCAA Football Rules Committee meeting starting next Monday in Indy.  Supposedly, an item on the table is to allow the clock to continue running when a team makes a first down instead of stopping the clock until the linesman sets the chains and the ball for the next play.  Letting the clock run has been the rule in the NFL all along; the college rule to stop the clock was instituted in 1968.

Based on some calculations, stopping the clock on first down plays could reduce the average number of plays in a game by 8-10 plays per game and one of the arguments for taking on that reduction is an appeal to “player safety”.  Of course, the likelihood of serious injury to any player remains unchanged for any specific play that is run, but by running fewer plays per game over the thousands of college football games played in a season, the injury risk is lowered.

The fact is that limiting injuries – – or at least trying to minimize them with rule changes/improvements – – can also limit the liability of teams, conferences and the NCAA itself given the litigious nature of US society in 2023.  I am sure that advocates for this rule change will wrap themselves in that cloak of righteousness during the upcoming “lively discussion”.

I was unaware that a similar rule change was considered by this Committee last  year and it was rejected.  On balance, I prefer the NFL way of keeping time and I would vote for the rule change not only in the hopes of limiting liability exposure but also to keep a lid on the length of games.  Many critics of MLB complain that games are too long – – and indeed nine inning games that take 3 hours and 45 minutes or even 4 hours are in fact too long.  However, major college football games always run 3 hours and 30 minutes and sometimes can run for more than 4 hours.  Both sports can use a little more giddy-up.

Among the college football power brokers, there is a sense that college football should not always emulate the NFL in terms of rules and regulations; there are some who want to maintain this kind of distinction between the two games simply to maintain a distinction.  Personally, I think that sort of reasoning is shallow; but I understand that it is an important position for some folks.

Kirby Smart is currently the only coach from a “Power 5 Conference” on the rules committee which seems awfully unbalanced to me.  Here is what he has had to say about the issue of “shrinking the college game” in the past:

“Our big brother in this world of football is the NFL.  So much of what we do is modeled off what they do. They spend a lot, a lot, a lot of money to get it right. They’ve shrunk their game into a time frame that is probably a little bit tighter window than ours.

“They’re also trying to limit exposures as well, although they have a longer season, and they have added games to that season. It’s a big decision. We are dealing with student-athletes. I think it starts with that. I wouldn’t sit up here and say I’m favor of shrinking the game. I do think our game has gotten long and there are a lot of plays.”

That sounds to me like a person who has not made up his mind on the issue before hearing the proponents present their case; and if I am correct in that assessment, then Kirby Smart is living up to his surname.

One other aspect of the college game needs to be considered if in fact the safety/liability issues are paramount here.  Maybe someone needs to think about rules to limit hurry-up offenses in the college game at the Division 1-A level.  Consider these data from the CBSSports.com report on this issue:

  • Last year, the Tampa Bay Bucs led the NFL in average number of plays per game (68.8 plays per game).
  • That average would have put the Bucs 85th on the list of 131 Division 1-A college football teams in terms of plays per game.
  • Texas Tech had the highest number of plays per game last year in college football (89.2 plays per game).

If the rules committee can find a way to thread the needle here to reduce the number of plays in a game along with keeping the games in a reliable three-and-a-half hour time window for TV, they will have earned whatever stipend they get for serving on this body.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers here, but I do appreciate that this is a thorny problem.

Finally, let me close today with one of my dwindling inventory of comments by Dwight Perry from his days with the Seattle Times:

“Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield have teamed up to form an unlikely cannabis partnership to sell ear-shaped edibles called ‘Holy Ears.’

“So what’s next, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan teaming up to pitch billyclubs called ‘Knee Cappers’”?

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



Derek Carr And Deion Sanders Today

After writing yesterday about the Raiders’ dealings with Darek Carr, I read a report in the NY Post that said the Jets and Carr met over the weekend and that the meeting was “positive”.  As I noted yesterday, because the Raiders released him, Carr is currently a free agent and can sign with any team that makes him an offer as opposed to other QBs whose contracts are expiring.  Carr would be a definite upgrade at QB for a team that:

  • Has not been in the playoffs since 2010.
  • Has a good defense
  • Seriously needs an upgrade at QB.

I have said before that the last top-shelf QB the Jets had was Joe Namath; Carr is not a mortal lock to make the Hall of Fame as was Namath, but if I were a Jets’ fan, here is how I might look at the situation as of this morning:

  • In 2010, the Jets made the playoffs, won 2 games and lost in the AFC Championship Game to the Steelers.  Mark Sanchez was the QB in 2010.
  • Sanchez was still the Jets’ starting QB for all of 2011 but the Jets missed the playoffs.
  • In 2012, there was the infamous “Butt-Fumble Incident”, and Sanchez was pretty much run out of town.  He started 15 games; Greg McElroy started the other one that year.

So, as the 2013 season began, the Jets were two seasons removed from an appearance in the AFC Championship Game but they were in search of a new starting QB to lead the offense.  That search continues until this day; the starting QB position for the Jets since the start of 2013 has looked like the clown car in the circus.  In alphabetical order, here are the eleven Jets’ starting QBs over the last 10 seasons:

  1. Sam Darnold  (38 games)
  2. Luke Falk  (2 games)
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick  (27 games)
  4. Joe Flacco  (9 games)
  5. Josh McCown  (16 games)
  6. Bruce Petty  (7 games)
  7. Trevor Siemian  (1 game)
  8. Geno Smith  (30 games)
  9. Michael Vick  (3 games)
  10. Mike White  (7 games)
  11. Zack Wilson  (22 games)

I assert that a Jets’ fan should look at that list and recognize that Derek Carr is an upgrade over the mélange of starting QBs the Jets have trotted out for the last decade…

Enough about Derek Carr already …  Deion Sanders – – Coach Prime if you will – – remains in the news.  Last week, he appeared on The Rich Eisen Show and obviously spoke about the Colorado football program that he just took over in language that is not common among football coaches.  What does he look for in players for the O-Line and at QB?

“Smart, tough, fast, disciplined with character. We want mother, father. Dual parent. We want that kid to be 3.5 [GPA] and up. Because he has to be smart. Not bad decisions off the field, at all. Because he has to be a leader of men.”

Now, how about recruits for the D-Line:

“Defensive lineman is totally opposite. Single mama, trying to get it, he’s on free lunch; I’m talking about just trying to make it. He’s trying to rescue mama. Like mama barely made the flight. And I want him to just go get it.”

A few commentors on reports about these statements have suggested that Sanders’ remarks were prejudicial similar to ones made by Al Campanis and/or Jimmy the Greek and that those folks lost their jobs and their credibility based on their remarks.  I do not see it that way although I will admit that the metaphor Sanders chose to use could be a sensitive one for some in the African-American community.

Deion Sanders has always said things in ways that most other folks do not going back to his days as a player.  I do not think he is a bigot and I do not think he meant some backhanded slap at the family situations for some of his recruits at Colorado.  To demonstrate what I mean by Sanders’ proclivity to say things “differently”, compare his statements about what the Colorado team will be like next year as compared to what someone like Nick Saban might say about next year’s Alabama squad:

“It’s a whole different attribute that you look for in different positions. And we have that stuff just chronicled. We know what we want, and we go get it … We’re not recruiting just no ordinary Tom, Dick and Harry.  We recruited some guys that can light up the scoreboard and prevent touchdowns from occurring. We’re coming. We’re serious about that.  Hope is in the house. Hope is in the air. Hope is in the city. Hope is in the community.”

Beat reporters for Colorado football in Denver and in Boulder will not lack for raw material over the next few years no matter the team’s record.

Finally, let me close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth:  Nineteenth-century American poet most famous for Paul Revere’s Ride, which set its author the challenge of how to make glaring historical inaccuracies rhyme.”

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



XFL 3.0 Is Off And Running …

I got to see a few minutes of two XFL games over the weekend and I did see a couple of recognizable players on the field.  The two games I tuned into were close ones so if I had had the time, I would have stayed to see more game action even though the level of play was “spotty”.  I did a little digging this morning into teams and rosters and have this observation:

  • Even though you may say to yourself, “Who’s he?” when  you look at the players on the roster, you will easily recognize many coaches in the XFL.  Obviously, most XFL players hope to use the league as a means to “graduate” into the NFL; those players have coaches who know what it takes to play top-quality football.

I did not do an exhaustive search, but here are some of the XFL coaches:

  • Terrell Buckley
  • Jim Haslett
  • Wade Phillips
  • Bob Stoops
  • Hines Ward
  • Rod Woodson

I will need to adapt my thinking about game strategy for XFL games because of a significant rule difference in that league as compared to college or NFL football.  In college or the NFL, a 17-point lead is a 3-posession game for the training team; in the XFL, there is an option for a 3-point conversion meaning that a 17-point lead can be overcome in 2 possessions not three.  [Aside:  A 3-point conversion attempt is a single play from the 10-yardline.]  It’s not something that is going to happen frequently, but it might alter some in-game strategy decisions.

I have no idea if this third incarnation of the XFL will succeed or even if it will survive to play again in 2024.  However, 2023 is going to be an interesting test of the American appetite for football because just as the XFL exits the scene in late April, the USFL will kick off its resurrection season and carry on to some playoffs that will bring their brand of football into early July.  Here are the events that will confront both leagues as they seek to capture a fanbase during their active seasons:

  • XFL 3.0:  Opens in the shadow of the Super Bowl; MLB Spring Training;  NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments; NFL free-agency rumors and signings; March Madness; MLB Opening Day; The Masters.
  • USFL 2.0:  The NFL Draft; Triple Crown races, NBA Playoffs; Stanley Cup Playoffs; the CFL regular season.

And then, after the USFL bows out for 2023, there will be about 3 weeks of “downtime” before the NFL teams report to training camp.  I don’t know how all of this will shake out but I will be surprised if this “football menu” is sustainable in terms of fan interest.

Moving on …  The Las Vegas Raiders released QB, Derek Carr last week making him a free agent.  There has been a lot of vocal praise for that move among Raiders’ fanboys on social media and it may turn out to be a move that benefits the team somewhere down the road.  But let me add a cautionary note here:

  • Three key players in the Raiders’ braintrust are Mark Davis, Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels.
  • Ten months ago, that triumvirate gave Derek Carr a contract extension AND they included a no-trade clause in that contract extension.
  • That no-trade clause – along with the timing of bonus payments to Carr – allowed Carr to decide on his own if he wanted to be traded or released.  He chose to be released and to become a free agent meaning the Raiders will only get a compensatory draft pick in exchange for a starting QB in the NFL
  • Those same three people are going to “fix” the Raiders’ “QB problem” …

I will not even remotely suggest that Derek Carr is great QB but I will also not pay any attention to any disgruntled Raiders’ fanboy who asserts that Carr is not competent to play QB in the NFL for anyone.  Derek Carr has been selected to the Pro Bowl 4 times in his career; if you want to see QB play that is clearly below the NFL level, please tune into some XFL games next weekend.  Just for giggles, I checked out the QB situations for the other 31 NFL teams this morning and asked myself a simple question:

  • Is Derek Carr better than what those other guys have at the QB position this morning?

Here are the results of my “poll”:

  • I think Derek Carr is better than whoever is the starter for 14 teams.
  • I think Derek Carr is worse than whoever is the starter for 14 teams.
  • I think Derek Carr and whoever is the starter for 4 teams would be a toss-up.

So, the bottom line is that Derek Carr is an average NFL QB and the Raiders’ braintrust managed the situation – – the one that they created – – such that they get bupkes in return for an asset.

Obviously, I have no insight as to where Derek Carr will be playing next season but reports say that he has already visited the Saints and has a visit with the Jets on tap for this week.  I think he would represent a significant upgrade at that position for either of those teams.

What do the Raiders do for a QB next season?  There is lots of speculation that the Raiders will try to acquire Aaron Rodgers – – once Rodgers emerges from his sensory deprivation chamber with newly acquired hallucinogenic insights into who he is and what he is on Earth to accomplish.  If the Raiders can pull that off without having to pay too high a price to the Packers in exchange for Rodgers, then the Raiders will come out of this turmoil in good shape.  But that outcome is nowhere near the status of a “lead pipe cinch” …

Finally, since Raiders’ fans will need to trust their team execs and owner to get things right this time, let me close with this thought from Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

“Oh yet we trust that somehow good

Will be the final goal of ill.”

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




Rest In Peace, Tim McCarver

Tim McCarver died yesterday at the age of 81.  McCarver had a 21-year career in the major leagues from 1959 through 1980.  After that playing career he became a broadcaster/color analyst for MLB games that saw him cover 23 World Series and that second career earned him enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.  He was  very good at what he did – – and he had a self-deprecating sense of humor.

I think he was a guest on David Letterman’s late night show when he told this story about himself.  It was in the mid-60s and he was catching Bob Gibson in a game where Gibson was not having a good outing; batters were hitting him hard and Gibson’s fierce competitiveness was showing .  McCarver said he went out to the mound to try to get Gibson to calm down and get back into his groove but Gibson was having none of that.  Gibson told McCarver to get back where he belongs because the only thing McCarver knew about good pitching was that he (McCarver) could not hit it.  McCarver said he trotted back to home plate so that everyone in the stands would think that he and Gibson had had a constructive exchange and that Gibson was going to settle down.

Rest in peace, Tim McCarver

Earlier this week, I wrote about the start of Spring Training as my tried-and-true harbinger of Spring.  I enjoy baseball and I particularly enjoy spending a warm summer evening in the stands at a baseball game.  However, I also am a bit apprehensive about the future of the game.  I read a report that said that in 2022 the average age of a person watching baseball on TV approached 60 years old.  And therein lies the source of my apprehension.

Sports in the 2020s – and presumably in the 2030s too – survive and grow based on TV audiences.  The Super Bowl had 113 million viewers; that is THE reason why advertisers paid FOX enough money for ad slots last Sunday that FOX could expect to clear $500M for the day.  MLB cannot come close to that and that fact shows up in other places.

Six months ago, there were two MLB franchises openly up for sale (Angels and Nats) and given the ownership tension that existed in Baltimore six months ago, the O’s might have been available for the right price.  Today, the Angels are off the market.  You may believe if you will that the reason is the owner there considers that he has unfinished business with the team and the city – – winning a World Series – – or perhaps after a year on the market the owner learned that none of the bids was going to come close to his asking price.  Maybe it is a little of both, but I suspect that “insufficient bids” is a real issue there.

The Nats remain on the market but let us just say that there has not been a stampede of billionaires to the Nats’ offices seeking to pour over the team’s business records.  If Forbes is correct, the Lerner family will make a tidy profit selling the team for $2B.  However, in the same designated marketing area of DC/Maryland/Virginia, the Washington Commanders will likely sell for something between $6B and $7B.  Moreover, there are indeed billionaires lining up to see the team’s books and records.

I believe there were two factors at work in the last 40 years or so that put baseball in the situation that exists today:

  1. Complacency:  I think that the owners and the execs who ran the game of baseball convinced themselves that the historical significance of baseball as a part of American culture would never be seriously challenged.  They were very wrong.  As American culture tilted toward activities that involved shorter attention spans, MLB games lasting three-and-a-half hours or more fell out of favor quickly.  [Aside:  Ironically the games were too slow and the popularity dropped very fast.]
  2. Labor/Management Power Imbalance:  Unions and management are always going to be at odds; that is axiomatic.  When either side is “too dominant” things get out of hand and the dominance of the MLBPA did not benefit baseball as an industry.  I know that anything is possible but can you imagine a situation where in mid-December with a few regular season games to play and with the playoffs and Super Bowl in plain sight, the NFL players would walk out and refuse to finish the season?  The MLBPA did the equivalent of just that in 1994; that did not help “the game”.

Finally, in 2022, MLB will use the pitch clock.  This has been “an experiment” in minor league baseball for at least the last 5 seasons and last year it shortened the average minor league game by about 20 minutes.  It is a fair question to ask the folks who run MLB and the MLBPA the following simple question:

  • What took so long?

It is not as if slow pace of play and the tedium of 4-hour games in mid-season were unknown hinderances to the games.  There has been ample commentary on those sorts of issues for at least the last 20 years and maybe 25 years.  And it is that last point that makes me worry the most about the future of baseball as something other than a niche sport.  There will be a half-dozen or so new rules in effect for 2022 with the intent to increase the pace and the action of the games.  Odds are that these rules will not be perfect such that they can be written in stone and left alone for the next hundred years; odds are they will need modification and change.  And if I am right about that, then baseball as a game cannot wait for these folks to take forever to make said modifications/changes.  Yet, the same folks are in charge in MLB and the MLBPA who took forever to bring us the new rules in 2022.

Future behavior is best predicted by past behavior…

Finally, almost 70 years ago – when baseball was king – the historian Jacque Barzun wrote:

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game – and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.”

Would anyone write that in 2022?

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



Loose Ends Today …

I want to tie up a couple of football loose ends this morning and then put NFL “news” on hold until the trade rumors and the franchise tag applications take center stage.  The first involves the TV audience for the Super Bowl.  According to the folks who measure TV audiences for a living, the audience for Sunday’s game averaged 113 million people.  That makes it the third largest audience in Super Bowl history and it is a small increase over last year’s game which averaged 112.2 million viewers.

Certainly of interest to the folks “on the business side” of the NFL, the Spanish-language audience for the game averaged 951K people and that audience is the largest non-soccer TV audience ever on FOX Deportes.  That audience is a bit smaller than last year’s Spanish-language audience because last year it was carried by Telemundo which broadcasts to 90 foreign markets and Fox Deportes does not.

Switching gears …  I mentioned on Tuesday that Eagles’ offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen had taken the head coaching job with the Colts.  Yesterday, Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, was named the new head coach of the Cards.  So, in addition to losing some free agents as every Super Bowl team does in the subsequent offseason, the Eagles will need to replace both of their coordinators.  [Aside:  After the Eagles gave up that huge punt return in the final minutes of the game on Sunday, I would not be shocked if the Eagles had a new Special Teams coordinator next year too.]

And … The NFL teams have gone through another coaching cycle and Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, did not get one of the head-coaching jobs yet again.  Before we get a flood of opinion pieces attacking the league and the fans for blatant racism in the hiring processes for NFL head coaches, let me offer a hypothesis:

  • The best career move for Eric Bieniemy in February 2023 is to leave the KC Chiefs job and take a job as an offensive coordinator with some other team.

I say that because the offensive success of the Chiefs over the past handful of seasons has a lot of people who are assigned credit for that success.  The Chiefs have a great QB and plenty of skilled offensive players; Andy Reid is well known as an offensive coach and he calls some of the plays himself; Eric Bieniemy does not get to bask in the glow of the Chiefs’ offensive success to the same extent that other offensive coordinators do when their team is recognized as an offensive powerhouse.

Eric Bieniemy needs to get out of the large shadow cast by Andy Reid – – and yes, that is a metaphor for Andy Reid’s reputation as an offensive coach and simultaneously a reference to his ample girth.  The Washington Commanders need an offensive coordinator and they supposedly have an interview scheduled with Bieniemy.  The Commanders have a solid defense; their offense is what let them down in 2022.  That is a job where Eric Bieniemy will be very noticeable if he brings offensive success to the team.  Perhaps, that is the kind of stepping stone Eric Bieniemy needs to get a shot at a head coaching position?

Moving on …  I received an email from Gregg Drinnan – – author of the blog, Taking Note – – with a link to a report that the Canadian Football League (CFL) had “taken over ownership of the Montreal Alouettes franchise”.  Professor Drinnan pronounced this as a good move but it was not clear to me what the “goodness” was all about.  So, I asked …

As one background note, this is the second time in 5 years that the CFL has chosen to take control of the Alouettes’ franchise; the last time they did so, the league sold the franchise to two men – one of whom passed away about a year and a half ago.  The league said lots of positive things about the current owners and the contributions they made to the franchise and to the CFL which seemed a bit confusing to me since the league was taking over the franchise and putting it up for sale once again.

According to Professor Drinnan, this is a “good thing” because there are potential new owners who will be better for the franchise and for the league as shown by the fact that free agents are signing on with the franchise despite some previous ownership issues.  I understand how that makes the franchise takeover a “good thing” because the Alouettes are the easternmost anchor of the CFL and because the franchise has a long history in the league.

While on the subject of the CFL, I also learned recently that my “favorite” CFL player, Bo Levi Mitchell, has been traded from the Calgary Stampeders to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  As I always say:

  • I’m a Bo-liever!

The NFL gave out its season awards last week.  Two things stood out to me:

  1. The NY Jets had the Offensive Rookie of the Year (WR Garrett Wilson) AND the Defensive Rookie of the Year, (Sauce Gardner).  I think that merits recognition for the Jets’ scouts and the folks who put together the Jets’ draft board and strategy.
  2. The Comeback Player of the Year was Geno Smith.  I think that is a misnomer and/or a mis-categorization.  I have no problem calling Geno Smith the “Most Improved Player” except for the fact that the NFL has no such award.  However, for someone to be the “Comeback Player of the Year”, he needs to have come back to a level that matters.  Up until this year, Geno Smith was a backup QB who pretty much defined “Meh!” at the QB position.  In 2022 he blossomed but that should not make him the Comeback Player of the Year since he probably has no interest in “coming back” to what he was before.

Finally, since today was devoted to tying up some football loose ends, let me close today with a paraphrase of something my 11th grade English teacher said to me:

“If you want something with no strings attached, you first need to tie up every loose end you can find.”

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



Spring Is Officially “On Its Way” …

For millions of sports fans, the Super Bowl game was three days ago, then came a day of retrospection on that game followed by the celebration of Valentine’s Day with one’s significant other – – or insignificant other as the case may be.  Lest you think that is the end of the “eventness” in the sports world for a while, let me be sure to make you aware that as of today:

  • Pitchers and catchers have begun to report to Spring Training!

Please ignore any and all genuflections in the direction of a rodent who supposedly has mystical powers of weather prognostications; that whole “rodent-holiday” is built on nothing more than the gullibility of the American public and the fact that we have become accustomed to having any and all weather forecasts turn out to be not much more than uneducated guesses.  Today is THE official and inalterable harbinger of Spring in North America.  Today sets in motion the processes that will culminate in late October/early November of this year and will provide every US sport fan with the certainty of Spring as the new set of climatological seasons.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region of the eastern US, we have had a mild winter with only marginal amounts of snowfall.  Nevertheless, we have been experiencing winter in terms of cloud cover and short-duration days for about the last ten weeks and most folks are ready to flip the page and get on to whatever comes next.  My long-suffering wife and I will be heading to Arizona at the end of this month to visit good friends from grad school days – – back just after they were requiring dissertations to be done on stone tablets – – and where I will be able to take in three Spring Training games in person to assure myself that Spring is indeed just around the corner.  Frankly, to me it is far more important an occurrence than sighting the first robin redbreast in my backyard.

The 2023 MLB season will bring with it some rule changes that are intended to be a big deal; we shall see how it all pans out.  I like some of the new rules but not all of them:

  • The bases themselves – other than home plate – will be larger in 2023 than they have been since William Jennings Bryant worried about “crucifying mankind upon a cross of gold.”  The intent is to encourage base-stealing tries which adds to in-game action.  Will it succeed?  It seems to have worked in the minor leagues where it has been tried.  On balance, I like the idea, but I would not say I am ecstatic about it.
  • There will be a pitch clock for the first time in MLB.  When pitchers get the ball on the mound from the catcher or umpire or teammate, they have 14 seconds to get in motion to throw the next pitch.  If there are baserunners, the pitcher gets 19 seconds.  Hopefully, this will obviate the strolls around the pitchers’ mound and the contemplative moments with the gods of pitching that some hurlers seem to need between every pitch.  I like this new rule; I have seen it in effect in minor league games; it makes the game flow faster and better.
  • The placement of a “ghost runner” on second base to start every extra inning has been made a permanent rule.  I think that rule sucks and should never have seen the light of day – – but the MLB mavens seem to like it.  Whatever…
  • There will be new limitations on position players who are brought in to pitch.  The new criteria for when a team can use a position player on the mound are these:
        • Teams must be ahead by 10 runs or more in the ninth inning to be allowed to use a position player to pitch the presumably final inning.
        • Trailing teams can use a position player as a pitcher any anytime that team is down by 8 runs or more.
        • In extra innings, any team can use any position player as a pitcher at any time.
        • None of the above applies to Shohei Otani.

The Toronto Blue Jays have announced that they are going to make their home park more friendly to hitters.  The fences are being moved in by anywhere between 10-15 feet with ever-so-slightly higher walls at the new distances from home plate.  It never seemed to me that the Rogers Centre was a “pitcher’s paradise”, but some folks in the Jays’ braintrust have concluded that the team needs more of a “hitting advantage”.  We shall see once again…

Not everything related to MLB and the upcoming season is new and inspiring.  There are two old-time issues that have been festering for a while and which should be addressed – – as the Romans might have said – – quam celerrime – – or ASAP.  Those two issues seem to have had some positive movements in the past couple of months:

  • The mayor of St. Petersburg, FL has signed onto a proposal by the Rays for a new stadium and development plans surrounding that new stadium in the downtown St. Petersburg area.  That agreement does not mean this is a done deal; there are still areas of negotiation to iron out such as tax abatements for the team and naming rights and the like.  But this is a positive step for the Rays who need something – – maybe anything – – to goose their home attendance to a level that matches the team’s achievements on the field.
  • The Rays announced that they continue to work with city officials in Tampa lest the momentum in St. Petersburg is not conserved…
  • Out west, the city fathers in Las Vegas have declared the city to be fully behind a move by the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas.  The concept is for the A’s – – or perhaps an expansion team somewhere down the line? – – to have a stadium on the north end of The Strip opposite the stadium used by the Raiders at the south end.
  • Meanwhile the ongoing negotiations between the A’s and the city of Oakland and State of California interests continue to move along at a snail’s pace.

It is certainly in the interest of both the Rays and the A’s to find better local economic conditions for the teams.  It is also certainly in the best interests of MLB to resolve these attendance eyesores if it intends to expand MLB from 30 to 32 teams any time soon.

As I said, things are looking up when compared to six months ago – – but there are still real hurdles to overcome along with “barriers’ and “problem areas” that will turn out to be not much more than having to pole vault over mouse turds.

Finally, since I mentioned William Jennings Bryant above, let me conclude with this portion of his speech to the National Democratic Convention in 1896 as he was nominated to run for the US Presidency:

“The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error.”

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



Congratulations To The Kansas City Chiefs

Congratulations top the Kansas City Chiefs as this year’s Super Bowl Champions.  The game was exciting and entertaining down to the final 10 seconds; and while it is a fact that the defensive holding call in the final two minutes was a critical call, that is not why the Eagles lost that game.  The officials did not “steal the game from the Eagles”.

  • The Eagles’ offense played well enough to win the game; the offense scored 35 points.
  • The Eagles’ defense played well enough to win the game; the defense only allowed 24 points.
  • The difference in the game came about because of two plays – – the fumble by the offense that was returned for a Chiefs’ TD and the special teams allowing a 4th quarter punt return that was – for all practical purposes – a special teams TD.
  • The Chiefs made the big plays when big plays were needed.

According to reports this morning, the Colts have decided to hire Eagles’ offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen, as the next head coach for the Colts.  I have not found a report as to the contract details today; I assume they will be reported very soon.  The Colts have the 4th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and the expansion of the salary cap gives them the ability to dip into the free agent market if they choose to do so.  That makes the Colts’ job attractive.  What makes that job less attractive is a mercurial owner.  Jim Irsay has a knack of firing head coaches who have a winning record with the team; consider these data for the franchise since Tony Dungy decided to retire from coaching in 2008:

  • Jim Caldwell 2009-11:   Record = 26-22-0
  • Chuck Pagano 2012-17:   Record = 53-43-0
  • Frank Reich 2018-22:   Record = 40-33-1
  • Jeff Saturday 2022 (interim):  Record = 1-7-0

Ignoring the end of the 2022 season under Jeff Saturday which was the NFL equivalent of a goat rodeo, the last three head coaches for the Colts posted a combined record of 119-98-1 and all were fired.  In fact, the last time the Colts fired a coach with a losing record was back in 1997 when they parted company with Lindy Infante.

Moving on …  Over the weekend, I heard part of an interview with new Broncos’ coach, Sean Payton.  In that interview, he said that one of the potential purchasing groups for the Washington Commanders approached him to see it he might be interested in the Commanders’ job if indeed that group was successful in acquiring the franchise.  I assume that Payton is truthful there since he now has the job with the Broncos and has no obvious reason to make up such a story.  And if indeed that statement by Sean Payton is factual, it tells me that the process of trying to find a purchaser for the Commanders is not a sham.

And … if it is not a sham, then it seems to me that finalizing the deal quickly is in the interest of the buyers and the seller – – Danny Boy Snyder.  From the standpoint of the purchaser(s), there are decisions about the direction of the team under the new ownership group.  If in fact the deal does not close until May or June, that will hamper the new owners from starting to implement their “new vision” for the team for a full season.  If closing time is not until May of June, the Draft will already have happened and the free agent marketplace will have been picked over.  Delaying to that extent might make the buyer(s) less willing to pay a premium for the franchise – – and that is why a little giddyap on Snyder’s part might present some enlightened self-interest for Snyder.

Obviously, the parties to this auction and to this process will determine the pace of activity; but there does seem to me to be a window for action that is open now and should remain open through the end of March leading up to the Draft in April.  We shall see…

Switching gears …  The Aaron Rodgers soap opera is about to kick into gear as the QB has announced that he will put himself in total darkness and solitary confinement for 4 days of sensory deprivation.  He says that he expects to use the time for meditation and some hallucination as he determines what the rest of his life path ought to be.  This is red meat for reporters, columnists and podcasters; this story can fill space and fill air time in myriad ways.  There is but one little speed bump on this life path, however:

  • Aaron Rodgers is under contract with the Green Bay Packers.
  • His deal runs through the end of the 2026 season but there is a way out of the deal after the 2023 season.
  • His contract calls for him to earn more than $50M in 2023.

The way I read those particulars is that IF Rodgers decides that he wants to continue to play in the NFL – – thereby earning that $50M+ next season – – it has to be with the Packers or a team that makes a trade offer to the Packers that acceptable to the Packers.  Now, that leverage that currently belongs to the Packers flips once the 2023 season begins and Rodgers is still on the Packers’ roster earning that hefty salary.  At that point Rodgers can see his way clear to voiding the balance of the deal and being an unrestricted free agent who would bring nothing to the Packers in exchange for his services in 2024.

So, forget the hallucinating in sensory deprivation and focus on the signs related to dealmaking and offers for Rodgers’ services by a variety of QB-needy teams such as the Jets, Raiders, Titans, Colts, Commanders, Bucs, Saints and/or Falcons.

Finally, as the NFL moves off in a different direction as teams begin to prepare for the 2023 season, it is worth reflecting on an observation by the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

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



Football Friday 2/10/23

And so another cycle of the football season comes to an end; this is the Final Football Friday.  Oscar Wilde observed:

“Everything is going to be fine in the end.  If it is not fine, it is not the end.”

I must take issue with that observation.  At least for a time, I will not see the absence of Football Friday as “fine”; assuming that I am still around and exchanging oxygen in the biosphere next August/September, Football Friday will return, but that does not mean that I will think things are just hunky-dory over the next several Fridays.  Moreover, the players, coaches and fans of the losing team on Sunday will see the end of this NFL season and none of those people are going to think things are fine in the end.

So, let me get down to business today and review the results of the Six-Pack from two weeks ago:

  • College = 0-0-0                                                          Season Total = 20-12-0
  • NFL = 1-2-0                                                                Season Total = 25-29-3
  • Money Line Parlay = 0-0                                           Season Total = 11-23
  • Profit/Loss = 0                                                           Season Total = +$408


College Football Commentary:


Recent reporting has it that the PAC-12 has narrowed its search fortwo teams to replace USC and UCLA once the two southern California schools head for the Big 10.  According to CBSSports.com, the PAC-12 wants to welcome SMU and San Diego State to the PAC-12.  My assessment of that state of affairs – – which I am going to assume is what is going to happen – – is that the two schools are being invited to join the conference for two very different reasons.

  • SMU:  The Mustangs’ campus is in Dallas, TX.  I think that is the only reason the PAC-12 mavens want anything to do with SMU.  The only major achievement of SMU football in the last 50 years or so is that it got the “Death Penalty” for cheating on recruitment and player benefits.  However, with SMU in the conference, the PAC-12 gets to plant its flag in football-crazed Texas and it simultaneously expands the conference’s “national footprint”.  And in that last point, the PAC-12 needs to realize that “national footprint” is not always an unalloyed benefit.  Dallas is 800 miles from Boulder, CO which is easily the furthest east that the conference goes as of now.  That will make for long trips for lots of teams in lots of sports – – and there is no guarantee that Texas fans will rally behind SMU and begin to give a fig about the PAC-12.  That will be an interesting situation to watch…
  • San Diego State:  I think this one is an easy choice for the PAC-12.  With the departure of USC and UCLA, the PAC-12 loses a toehold in the southern California area and there are lots of TV households there.  The conference needs to show potential “broadcast partners” good ratings and lots of viewers – – so putting a team back in that big marketplace is – I believe – the primary reason for this invitation.  Will it work?  People in the PAC-12 better hope so.

About a month ago, Michigan suspended co-offensive coordinator, Matt Weiss while an investigation proceeded involving “unauthorized computer access”.  No other details were given out by the school or the authorities; so, we had to wait until another shoe dropped.  In the absence of any information, the imagination can run amok:

  • Was the “unauthorized access” from someone outside the university?
  • Was someone using a school computer to try to hack into another computer?
  • Was someone using the Athletic Department computers to bet on Michigan football games?
  • Was someone using a school computer for something awful like “kiddie porn”?
  • And off one can go into a phantasm…

We still have no definitive answer(s) as to specific actions here, but we can surmise that whatever was alleged to have happened probably happened because the investigation is still continuing and the University of Michigan fired Matt Weiss.  The only new reporting by CBSSports.com on this matter – – other than Weiss having been fired – – is a reference to an entry in the University’s “Daily Crime and Fire Log” which records:

“… fraudulent activity involving someone accessing university emails accounts without authorization,”

The real question in my mind now is more pragmatic than curious:

  • Will the details and the findings of this investigation ever be revealed or is the firing of Matt Weiss the end of the line?


NFL Commentary:


The last two weeks have been saturated with stale and overblown storyline reports about the game this weekend.  This is Super Bowl LVII and somewhere someone has concocted 57 reasons why the Chiefs will win this game and then on the next day generated 57 reasons that the Eagles will prevail.  The only real surprise to me is that Heinz Foods with their legendary “57 varieties” has not found a way to barge in here and dominate the NFL landscape.

Yes, this game will be the culmination of the 2022 NFL season and indeed the NFL season is the biggest deal of all in US sports.  But the coverage is once again hugely overblown and obfuscates for some people that this is still at its core – – a freaking football game.  It is not a cataclysmic event; it is not the rapture anticipated by many of the folks who will put the imminence of said rapture on hold for about 4 hours while they watch the game; it is a football game.  It is a big deal in the world of professional football in the US to be sure; simultaneously, it is an event of no consequence in the world of people trying to dig their way out of devastating earthquakes in the Middle East today.  As we all get ready to enjoy the biggest game of the season, please remember to keep it in perspective:

  • It’s a football game, Folks!

Back in the 1970s, Duane Thomas was a running back for a bunch of NFL teams and for teams in the World Football League (RIP) and the CFL.  In Super Bowl VI when the Cowboys soundly defeated the Dolphins, Thomas was voted the game’s MVP but since he had given the media the silent treatment for the entire season, the award was announced and given to Roger Staubach who finished a distant second in the actual voting.  Thomas is 75 years old now and back in the 70s he posed a question that really needs to be reconsidered every once in a while – – when the NFL and the coverage of the NFL gets far too full of itself.  Asked Duane Thomas:

“Why do they call [the Super Bowl] ‘the ultimate game’ if they are going to play another one next year?”

Whilst you ponder an explanation to Mr. Thomas, let me also point you to something that appeared in Dwight Perry’s column in the Seattle Times right after last year’s Super Bowl where the Rams became World Champs:

“The team that won the opening coin toss now has now lost the past eight Super Bowls.

“Where’s the public outcry over the unfairness of that?”

The answer to Professor Perry’s question is related to the answer that one ought to give to Professor Thomas’ question above.  It is a football game; it is not a life-and-death situation; it should not be hyped or compared to a life-and-death situation; enjoy it for what it is…

If you have an abundance of spare time,  you could have gone and checked this out for yourselves but if you were otherwise occupied with something really important such as perfecting your recipe for ice cubes, let me help out here by sparing you the research time just to let you know that:

  • Eighteen of the last twenty-one Super Bowl winners wore white uniforms in the game.
  • The Chiefs will be wearing white in this weekend’s game.
  • The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl they won the game and wore green.

Make of that what you will…

There are folks who are into numerology – – the “study” of the relationship among numbers, patterns, sums and human events/behaviors.  Practitioners of numerology believe that numbers “add nuance to astrological  influences by providing clarification.”  When I read that claim, an old disclaimer from ads for cars that stated their EPA highway mileage rating came to mind:

  • “Your mileage may vary…”

Nonetheless, if I wanted to be an amateur numerology practitioner for this year’s Super Bowl showdown, I would focus on “The Number 2”:

  • Andy Reid has been the coach of TWO NFL franchises in Super Bowl games.
  • A Chief’s victory would give Andy Reid Super Bowl win number TWO.
  • Four NFL coaches have coached a Super Bowl Game against an earlier employer and those coaches’ record is TWO and TWO.
  • [Aside:  Weeb Eubank and Jon Gruden defeated their previous teams in the Super Bowl while Dan Reeves and Pete Carroll lost to their previous teams.]
  • Nick Sirianni has been coach of the Eagles for TWO seasons.
  • When Doug Pederson led the Eagles to the Super Bowl, he had been the coach for TWO seasons.
  • Jalen Hurts was selected in Round TWO of the NFL Draft.
  • Jalen Hurts has been the starting QB for the Eagles for TWO seasons.
  • The Eagles have been to the Super Bowl with TWO QBs who took over from Carson Wentz

Numerology tells me that the Eagles’ DB, Darius Slay who wears Number TWO and the Chiefs’ RB, Ronald Jones who also wears Number TWO should have important roles in game on Sunday.  Moreover, players wearing Number TWENTY TWO could have pivotal roles in the game’s outcome.

If any of that happens, you heard it here first.  If it does not come to pass, please ignore the above…


THE Game:


(Sun 6:30 ET) Chiefs vs. Eagles – 1 (50.5) :  The spread opened as a pick ‘em game; then the line expanded to make the Eagles a 2.5-point favorite; in the last couple of days, the line has come down to a single point.  The Total Line opened at 51 points; at first it expanded to 51.5 and now it too has eroded down to this level.  For a normal regular season game, that line movement would probably not be worth a mention, but for Super Bowl game lines to have moved that much is unusual.  And yet, here we are …

If you believe that football games are ‘won in the trenches”, you probably like the Eagles in this one.  I think both the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines match up better with their counterparts in this game.  The Chiefs’ two advantages would appear to be at QB and at play-calling experience.

Back in December, I exchanged Holiday Greetings with a friend.  He and I are guests every year at a Super Bowl party – – except when there is COVID in the air.  He said he would see me at the party and asked for my prediction on the game.  I said:

  • Eagles 45  Chiefs 38

There were still 3 games left in the regular season when I said that and not a lot has happened to change my view drastically.  So, that is my call for the game and that means I will take the Eagles to win and cover and for the game to go OVER.

Finally, at the end of this Final Football Friday, I feel it important to end on a happy note.  And that brings to mind this comment by Orson Welles:

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

I’ll stop it here.  Over and out.

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