March Madness Begins …

Everyone who reads these rants knows where I was and what I was doing from about noon yesterday until a little past midnight.  And, I will be in the same place doing the same thing today between noon and midnight.  Naturally, I took notes about the sixteen games that were on my TV as I went bouncing around to see part of them all.  And those notes/comments will form the basis of today’s rant.

  • Maryland 67  W. Virginia 65: Both teams played “sloppy” for the first half and the officials in this game seem to have decided not to call traveling violations as part of their Lenten fasting.
  • Furman 68  Virginia 67:  I understand that Virginia emphasizes defense and ball control, but can’t they find and recruit just one player who can hit an open jump shot more than about 25% of the time and still play defense?
  • Missouri 76  Utah St. 55:  The Aggies got here on the strength of their 3-point shooting and then proceeded to miss their first fourteen 3-point shots in the game.
  • Kansas 96  Howard 68:  Howard plays a run-and-gun style; so does Kansas.  But Kansas is so much more talented.  Also, Kansas runs back on defense much better than Howard gets back on defense.
  • Alabama 96  Texas A&M Corpus-Christi 75:  It was clear in the first five minutes or so who would win this game but it was marginally interesting to see the terrible shot selections by Corpus-Christi.
  • San Diego St. 63  Charleston 57:  Like Virginia, San Diego St. lives by its defense; once again, can’t they find at least one solid offensive player – – specifically a ball-handler/distributor – – who can also play defense?  These teams combined to go 9 for 40 on 3-point attempts.
  • Princeton 59  Arizona 55:  Arizona clearly has the better athletes; Princeton is clearly better skilled/coached in fundamental basketball and at controlling the pace of play in a game.

[Aside:  Earlier this week, I said that if Princeton and Missouri both advanced, we would have a Tigers vs Tigers match in Round 2.  That will happen on Saturday.]

  • Arkansas 73  Illinois 63:  I just could not get excited/involved in this game; neither team was interesting.  My comment for the game was merely, “Meh!”
  • Auburn 83  Iowa 75:  Another mediocre game with another middling SEC team  beating a middling Big-10 team.  Ho-hum…
  • Duke 74  Oral Roberts 51:  Made this note with 11:20 to play in the 1st half:
      • “This is not your 12/5 upset game for this year.”
  • This game points out the importance of strength of schedule – – in all sports not just college basketball.  Oral Roberts was undefeated in conference; it lost 5 games all year and 4 of the 5 losses were to teams in the NCAA tournament; they averaged 84 points per game.  And when faced with an ACC team they were outclassed.
  • Northwestern 75  Boise St. 67:  Northwestern is another defensive-focused team but they also have a couple of players who can score a bit at the offensive end of the court.  Such players do exist…
  • Texas 81  Colgate 61:  Colgate very obviously suffered from a serious deficit in athleticism.
  • Tennessee 58  Louisiana-Lafayette 55:  The early parts of the game were uninteresting but fortunately, I noticed on the scoreboard at the top of the screen that Louisiana was closing a gap toward the end and I went back to see the end of a game that became interesting.
  • Houston 63  N. Kentucky 52:  This game was a lot closer that one should expect from a #1-seed versus a #-16 seed.  Houston kept the game close by turning the ball over 17 times to a team that was not nearly as athletic as the Cougars.
  • UCLA 86  UNC-Asheville 53:  This game was a complete mismatch from start to finish.
  • Penn St. 76  Texas A&M 59:  Penn St. is not the most physically gifted team in the tournament but they play a style of basketball that can keep them in a game against almost anyone.  The Aggies never figured out the Penn St. offense and the fact that Andrew Funk shot 8 for 10 from 3-point range sealed the deal.

[Aside:  I know its cheesy but since this was an upset I did make a note that Penn St. guard, Jalen Pickett, “led the charge” for the Nittany Lions.]

[Another Aside:  Earlier this week, I said that if Utah St. and Texas A&M were to meet in the Final Game this year, that would be Aggies versus Aggies action.  Both versions of the Aggies lost yesterday.  Hi ho!]

Finally the good folks at Coca Cola have paid the TV networks to have the play-by-play guys do a live-read in every game about Coke Zero Sugar asking if it the best Coke ever.  So, let me close today with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Coca-Cola:  A soft drink whose makers are apparently morally obligated to dream up a new version of the same sugar, water and caffeine they have always sold every eight weeks until the end of time.”

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



Soccer Stuff Today …

FIFA held its big annual meeting this week in Kigali, Rwanda and voted there to expand the 2026 World Cup even more than had been planned.  The decision to expand from 32 teams to 48 teams was already in the cards but the preliminary plans had been to break the Group phase up into sixteen groups with 3 teams each.  That would have set up a World Cup Tournament in 2026 with 80 games to be played.  At this year’s meeting, FIFA voted to stay with 4 teams per group in the Group Phase meaning there will be 104 games in the entire tournament.

The 2026 World Cup will be hosted jointly by Canada, Mexico and the US.  In making the announcement, FIFA of course painted itself with righteousness saying that this decision was taken only after:

“ … a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience.”

Let me translate that for you:

  • FIFA knows that expansion to 48 teams means there will be lots of teams overmatched in the tournament leading to more non-competitive games than usual; it also recognizes that more games in the tournament will mean more wear and tear on players and more travel.  However, the commercial considerations of more games on TV plus more ticket sales for those extra 24 games totally outweigh any other complaints or concerns.  Follow the money…
  • The host cities for the World Cup – – 11 in the US, 3 in Mexico and 2 in Canada – – will probably be happy to have more fans in more hotel rooms and restaurants with the added games.  This is a financial bonanza and needs to be seen as exactly that.

One of the downsides to the latest expansion is that the knockout round in 2026 will consist of 32 teams and not 16.  Remember that the entire field for the World Cup in 2022 consisted of 32 teams so even in the knockout round there are likely to be more mismatches than in the past.  This format sets the stage for an upset of gargantuan proportion about once every two decades – – and a lot more secondary interest matches.

Sticking with soccer comments today, I went to take a look at the latest English Premier League table – – that is “the standings” for US folks who have not learned to speak even the most basic international soccer lingo.  Most teams have completed almost 75% of the season; most teams have played 27 games out of the 38 game schedule.  Arsenal and Manchester City  are at the top of the table and there is a 10-point gap between second-place Manchester City and the third-place team, Manchester United.  It would take a monumental collapse by both teams at the top of the table should anyone else with the EPL this year.

As always, I like to look at the bottom of the table because the EPL uses relegation of its three worst teams and promotion of the three best teams from the Champions League to create next year’s EPL schedule.  By this point in most seasons, there is usually one team that has all but given up the ghost and four other teams that are battling to stay out of the three-team relegation zone.  Not this year; the bottom of the table has nine of the 20 EPL teams within five points of one another.

Points are awarded as such:

  • Three points for a match win.
  • One point for a match draw

So, if the team in last place – 20th place – this morning (Southampton) went on a two-game win streak and if the team in twelfth place this morning (Crystal Palace) lost their next two matches, Southampton would vault over Crystal Palace in the table.  The race at the top is interesting; Arsenal and Manchester City play each other in late April.  But it is the “race -to-avoid-the-bottom that should be more interesting.

In the English Champions League, there are two teams that appear to be shoo-ins for promotion to the EPL next year.  Burnley has an 13-point lead over second-place Sheffield United with nine games left to play; they do not have the league title mathematically in hand, but they are on a glide path to promotion.  Sheffield United has a 6-point lead over third-place Middlesbrough and the race for fourth place is important too since the third Champions League team to earn promotion comes from a playoff game between the third place and the fourth place team.  As of this morning, the gap between third-place and sixth place in the English Champions League is a meager 4 points.

I want to say something about the scheduling for the EPL and other English Football Leagues:

  • The teams play a perfectly balanced schedule.  There are 20 teams in the EPL, and each team plays 38 games – – two each against the other 19 teams in the league home and home.  Perfect…
  • This is the model the NBA should adopt.  They have 30 teams; they should play a 58-game schedule – – two each against the other 29 teams in the league home and home.

Currently, the NBA and the NBPA are trying to figure out how to deal with load-management which is PR-speak for players playing hooky.  If an 82-game schedule is too burdensome and grueling for today’s  players, then cut the schedule back so that fans do not experience bait-and-switch when they buy tickets to see “the stars” play and then they don’t

NBA players liken themselves to entertainment super-stars.  To hear them explain it, they are the attraction that generates the revenues that gives them the opportunity to sign contracts worth more than $200M guaranteed.  Well, with great fame and attractiveness comes great responsibility and the biggest responsibility is “showing up”.

Bruce Springsteen has been a super-star for years; when he was on tour, people traveled from city to city to hear him perform in multiple venues on that tour.  And they never showed up to learn at the last minute that Springsteen was doing “load management” on his finger callouses and would be “sitting out” tonight’s concert while Joe Flabeetz filled in with his stylings on the ocarina.

Finally, since much of today was about soccer, let me close with two observations about the game:

“Football is a matter of life and death – except more important.”  [Bill Shankly, former manager of Liverpool FC]

And …

“If God had wanted man to play soccer, He wouldn’t have given us arms.”  [Mike Ditka]

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



NFL Free Agency

When the NFL free agent marketplace gets into gear, there is always a flurry of activity; and because of the fan interest – – and by derivation the wagering interest – – associated by any alteration of team rosters in the NFL, there is intense focus on some of the movements that are deemed to be significant.  I have been focused on other topics in recent days, so today I want to circle back and comment on a few of the exchanges/signings that have taken place in the last several days.

The trade that allowed the Panthers to acquire the overall #1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft did indeed provide the Bears with plenty of high value picks over the next two seasons allowing the Bears – – if they scout and draft effectively – – to fill some of the many holes they had in last year’s roster.  However, I want to focus on the Panthers’ side of the deal.  On one hand, you have to think that the Panthers have a single QB in mind that they want to take out of this year’s crop of collegians; if they were ambivalent, why spend all that draft capital to get to the #1 slot?  And then you read reports from insiders who say that the Panthers have an internal debate about the pick because coach Frank Reich likes one guy and owner David Tepper likes a different guy.

I have no inside info here and have no chance of getting “the scoop” here.  However, I will say that teams treat the NFL Draft and their potential picks in that draft as if it were vital national defense information.  In addition to the cloak of secrecy about teams’ draft boards, there are always active deception operations launched by various teams.  I think the reports of a schism between the new coach and the owner is more likely to be a deception operation than reality.  We shall see…

Other reports about the Panthers say that Ohio St. QB, CJ Stroud is their likely pick with that first pick.  When I read that, I thought to myself that Ohio St. is not exactly the source of great NFL QBs.  In fact, the first thing that came to my mind about Ohio St. and recent QBs was that they had Joe Burrow on their roster and decided to go with JT Barrett instead and let Burrow transfer to LSU where all he did was lead the Tigers to a national championship.  So, I went looking for the starting QBs at Ohio St. over the last 20 years or so to see how many of them “made it” in the NFL.  Separating the wheat from the chaff:

  • Chaff:  Todd Boeckman, Cardale Jones, Craig Krenzel and Braxton Miller
  • Wheat:  Dwayne Haskins (?), Terrelle Pryor (?), Troy Smith (?), and now Justin Fields.

As I suspected, the Buckeyes have not been the cradle of great NFL QBs this millennium.  So, I need not go all the way back to Art Schlichter to dress up my sense that great NFL QBs do not come from Ohio St.

I was interested in the trade of Jalen Ramsey from the Rams to the Dolphins because of what the Rams got in exchange for Ramsey.  I understand that the Rams are in salary cap trouble and had to move someone to get some breathing room.  At the same time, Ramsey is an elite corner back which is an important defensive asset for any team.  In exchange for an elite CB who will turn 29 in the middle of next season, the Rams only got a third round pick and a tight end who projects to be a backup on the Rams’ roster next season.  That seems like an awfully light return in the exchange.

I understand – – although I am not sure I completely agree – – that the Raiders decided last year to move on from Derek Carr as their QB.  I can be convinced that signing Jimmy G as his replacement was the Raiders’ plan from as far back as last December since Garoppolo had spent several years in New England with Josh McDaniels and would arrive in Las Vegas with experience in hand.  If that was their plan, then kudos to the Raiders.

Now, can you explain to me why they traded Darren Waller to the Giants for a late third round pick?  The offense that McDaniels ran in New England featured some talented tight ends and last time I checked, Darren Waller is a talented tight end and the Raiders’ braintrust gave him a contract extension at the beginning of the last NFL regular season.  So the Raiders traded him away and got a third round pick in exchange?

The Niners signed Javon Hargrave as aa free agent defensive lineman.  When the Niners deploy Hargrave along with Joey Bosa, Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, that may be the 2023 reincarnation of the “Fearsome Foursome”.

I know that Stephon Gilmore will be 33 at the start of this year’s NFL regular season but I also know that he was once named Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL.  So, I was surprised once again by the meager return that the Colts got by trading Gilmore to the Cowboys for what was a compensatory draft pick at the end of this year’s fifth round.

The Commanders re-signed DT, Daron Payne to a long-term extension making Payne the second highest paid defensive tackle in the league behind only Aaron Donald.  However, the much more important moves made by the Commanders involved the signings of two solid offensive linemen – – Nick Gates and Andrew Wylie – – to address a large insufficiency in the Commanders’ roster from last season.

And still, we wait for Aaron Rodgers’ decision regarding his retirement or his return to the NFL to collect about $60M in salary/incentives for next season.  I said about 6 weeks ago that he would bask in the spotlight of public attention and drag this out for a while before “making his announcement”.  Everything is going according to his attention-seeking plan; he still says he will have his mind made up “shortly”.

Finally, let me close today with this observation by author/philosopher, G.K. Chesterton:

“Journalism consists largely in saying ‘Lord Jones died’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”

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



Rest In Peace, Bud Grant

Bud Grant died over the weekend at the age of 95.  If variety is indeed the spice of life, Bud Grant led one of the spiciest lives in the sports world:

  • He lettered in baseball, football and basketball at Minnesota.
  • He played in the NFL for the Eagles in the 1950s.
  • He played in the CFL for the Blue Bombers in the 1950s.  [Aside:  In one playoff game in the CFL, Grant intercepted 5 passes.  Not surprisingly, that record still stands.]
  • He played for the Lakers in the NBA – – and won an NBA Championship in 1950.
  • He coached the Blue Bombers in the 1950s and 60s and won 4 Grey Cups there.
  • He coached the Vikings for 18 seasons making it to the Super Bowl 4 times.
  • He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
  • He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, Bud Grant…

I want to spend the rest of today on the subject of Lamar Jackson’s contract impasse with the Baltimore Ravens.  Please do not get the impression that I have taken sides in this contretemps because I do not know enough about the details of how we got to this point in the standoff to have come to a reasoned decision.  From observing Jackson’s performance over the past several years with the Ravens, I am confident in saying:

  • Lamar Jackson is the best QB on the Ravens roster as of this morning.
  • Lamar Jackson is better than at least 15 – – and maybe 24 – – starting QBs for other NFL teams as of this morning.

Will Rogers used to say that he only knew what he read in the newspapers.  That quip applies to me and this subject.  The newspapers – – and websites today – – have reported two things that I think are germane to the stalemate here:

  1. Jackson seeks a fully guaranteed contract that is at least equal in value to the $230M contract given to Deshaun Watson by the Browns.
  2. Jackson does not have a professional agent representing him in the negotiations; he is doing this along with his mother as his advisor.

I am going to steer clear of any references to racial undertones here because I really do not think they are pertinent nor will I weigh in on any allegations of “collusion” because I have no idea if there has been, is, or will be any acts of collusion involved here.

I believe that Lamar Jackson looked at the contract that Deshaun Watson got from the Browns and said to himself:

“I am better than Watson is – – and more accomplished in my time in the NFL – – so I should get a contract at least as good as his.”

I tend to agree with Jackson’s presumed conclusion that he is at least as good as – and probably a tad better than – Deshaun Watson as a QB.  At the same time, I believe that the Ravens’ owner and GM look at Watson’s contract as something other than a benchmark.   From their perspective, the fully guaranteed contract for $230M is a huge gamble in a sport where career-ending injuries – – or at a minimum significantly debilitating injuries – – happen frequently.  I would not be surprised to learn that their conclusion regarding a contract for Jackson went something along these lines:

“Jackson is a really good QB but we think the Browns were out of their collective mind giving up a contract like that and we are simply not willing to do the same.”

Now comes the tricky part …  The non-exclusive franchise tag applied to Jackson gives him a limited opportunity to see what the free agent market place for him might be.  I say it is a limited opportunity because there are two economic factors working against Jackson:

  1. Other teams may opt to steer clear of negotiations with Jackson because they may feel that they are doing the Ravens’ work at the negotiating table in lieu of the Ravens.  Remember, the non-exclusive tag allows the Ravens to match any offer that Jackson gets and tentatively accepts from any other team.
  2. The price a team would have to “pay for Jackson” with the overhang of the non-excusive tag is whatever economic deal a team and Jackson might reach PLUS two first round picks to the Ravens if they turn down the matching opportunity.

The other significant factor that I see in this impasse is Jackson’s lack of an agent.  Yes, agents cost a player about 3-5% of the revenue that comes to the client; at the high end of that range, 5% of $230M is $11.5M and that is a significant amount of money.  Nonetheless, in this case an agent may provide four significant benefits to Jackson – – even if you discount the cynical view that an agent is motivated to get the client to sign any deal because he gets no recompense without that signature:

  1. An experienced agent has contacts around the league and has probably dealt directly with three-quarters of the execs who have the authority to make team commitments.  Assuming he has not been a humongous pain in the ass in prior dealings, that agent can probably get through to any exec that he wants in less than 48 hours.  He also knows how to approach negotiations with various teams and team execs from prior experience.  If Lamar Jackson and his mother can match that level of experience, I would be surprised.
  2. An experienced agent can chat up his contacts around the league and get to a point where he develops a range of possible deals that are out there to be made.  He will know that unless he can start an active bidding war for his client, there is a ceiling as to what deal can be done; he also will know that there is a floor below which he and his client will not go.  If indeed, Jackson’s’ “floor” as of today is above the “ceiling” for other teams in the league, then an agent is in a better position to break that news to Jackson than execs from around the league are.
  3. An experienced agent would probably be able to assess whether the “fully guaranteed deal” is a hill to die on.  If the reports by NFL insiders are correct about how negotiations have gone here for the last year or so, it seems that Jackson has concluded that this is indeed a hill to die on.
  4. An agent – experienced or not – provides a buffer between the team and his client. Negotiations are adversarial encounters; people on both sides of the table say things and hear things that sting.  If an agent is the one at the negotiating table, he can take the rough edges off something said by the team; if Jackson and his mother are at the table, they can take such comments as demeaning or insulting and that gets egos involved.  And getting egos involved is usually not how deals get done smoothly.

Finally, since today is “Pi Day”, let me close with this observation about pies by chef Yotam Ottolenghi:

“Custard is controversial: what makes it a custard, how to cook it and, crucially, is it to be eaten or put in a pie and thrown?”

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



The Name Game

Every year, after the Super Bowl, I look forward to this day for several weeks; the day after “Selection Sunday” is a predictable day of fun for me here in Curmudgeon Central.  It begins with the highly predictable wails coming from random parts of the sports world about which teams were “snubbed” by the Selection Committee.  How could those out-of-touch fossils have left out Disco Tech after their 10-point win over Cadaver College in the Highly Irrelevant Conference Tournament?  What were those doofuses thinking?

That sort of silliness is interesting – and tolerable – because it only lasts about 36 hours.  All that weeping and gnashing of teeth will be over and done with by late tonight or early tomorrow morning when the focus will shift entirely to:

  • Bracket Busters
  • Which “12-seed” will beat which “5-seed” this year?
  • Which “1-seed” has the easiest path to the Final Four?
  • Which “1-seed” has the toughest path to the Final Four?
  • Oh, yeah, the play-in games start tomorrow too.  Who’s in those games?
  • Those games are on truTV; what channel is truTV?  Is it on my cable system?

You get the picture…

Here in Curmudgeon Central, I know that I am about to embark on three weeks of enjoyment watching all or parts of 67 March Madness games.  So, this is a day for me to have fun with the tournament field and the players’ names on the teams involved.  For example:

  • Alabama gets to play “at home” in Birmingham for the first two games.  No other team gets that sort of treatment – – unless you want to consider that UConn and Iona will square off in Albany, NY and one will advance to a second game in that neighboring host city.
  • If Missouri and Princeton both advance to the second round, it will feature the Tigers vs the Tigers.
  • If Kentucky and K-State both advance to the second round, it will feature the Wildcats vs the Wildcats.
  • If Iona and St. Mary’s both advance to the second round, it will feature the Gaels vs the Gaels.  [Aside:  For those of you with a prurient interest here, consider this “Gael-on-Gael action”.]
  • In the first round, the Michigan State Spartans will play the USC Trojans.  That is not exactly the story line for The Iliad, but it’s close.
  • And if the Final game matches Utah St. out of the South Region against Texas A&M out of the West Region, the game will feature the Aggies vs the Aggies.

The other thing I like to do on this day is to compile lists of players’ names in various groupings as if they were themed “all-tournament teams”.  This is all done in fun; it is mostly wordplay with the players’ names.  Let the good times roll…

Let me begin with a sampling of players with Alliterative Names:

  • Andrew Alia – – Drake
  • Ansley Almonor – – Fairleigh Dickenson
  • Alex Anamekwe – – Texas
  • Aguek Arop – – San Diego St.
  • Brooks Barnhizer – – Northwestern
  • Boo Buie – – Northwestern
  • Ben Brunham – – College of Charleston
  • Bruceson Burns – – Drake
  • Carson Cooper – – Michigan St.
  • Colin Coyne – – Tennessee
  • Dain Dainja – – Illinois
  • Dashawn Davis – – Mississippi St.
  • Davonte Davis – – Arkansas
  • Devin Davis – – Creighton
  • Dylan Disu – – Texas
  • Emarion Ellis – – Marquette
  • Evan Eursher – – Southeast Missouri St.
  • Francisco Farabello – – Creighton
  • Greg Gantt – – NC St.
  • Gage Gomez – – UC Santa Barbara
  • Hakim Hart – – Maryland
  • Harrison Hornery – – USC
  • Jamie Jacquez, Jr. – – UCLA – – (Hits the Trifecta)
  • Jack Johnson – – Florida Atlantic
  • Jarkel Joiner – – NC St.
  • Josiah-Jordan James – – Tennessee (Hits the Trifecta)
  • KJ Keats – – NC St.
  • Keeshawn Kellman – – Princeton
  • Konrad Kiszka – – Princeton
  • Kobe Knox – – Grand Canyon
  • Kerr Kriisa – – Arizona
  • Luc Laketa – – Iowa
  • Logan Landers – – Grand Canyon
  • Langston Love – – Baylor
  • Mabor Majak – – Missouri (Hits the Trifecta)
  • Matthew Mayer – – Illinois
  • Mike Miles, Jr. – – TCU
  • Makhel Mitchell – – Arkansas
  • Makhi Mitchell – – Arkansas
  • Mason Miller – – Creighton
  • Mitchell Minor – – Northern Kentucky
  • Mark Mitchell – – Duke
  • Ose Okojie – – Howard
  • Osun Osunniyi – – Iowa St.
  • Pearson Parker – – Colgate
  • Presley Patterson – – Auburn
  • Steve Settle III – – Howard
  • Silas Sunday – – Iona
  • Zakai Zeigler – – Tennessee

As I like to point out in these compilations, I keep looking for the “Grand Slam” Alliterative Name like:

  • Ishmael Ivanovic from the Illinois Institute – – or – –
  • Carl Cranberry from the College of Charleston

The search continues …

Next up, here are players who names might portend their career paths once their basketball careers come to an end.  Call this list the Career Omens List:

  • Chandler Baker – – Colgate – – Dough boy
  • Kaleb Banks – – Indiana – – Financier
  • Noah Batchelor – – Maryland – – Reality TV star
  • Tamar Bates – – Indiana – – Motel owner
  • Jamon Battle – – UNC-Asheville – – Soldier of fortune
  • RaeQuan Battle – – Montana St. – – Comrade in arms
  • Jimmy Bell, Jr. – – West Virginia – – Boxing timekeeper
  • Ariel Bland – – UC Santa Barbara – – Disney princess
  • Stanley Borden – – Duke – – Dairy farmer
  • Jalen Bridges – – Baylor – – Construction engineer
  • Ante Brzovic – – College of Charleston – – Professional poker player
  • Lamont Butler – – San Diego St. – – Too easy …
  • Miles Byrd – – San Diego St. – – Ornithologist
  • Tyger Campbell – – UCLA – – Safari guide
  • Alex Capitano – – Colgate – – Italian Army officer
  • Skyy Clark – – Illinois – – Airline pilot
  • Xavier Cork – – TCU – – Sommelier
  • Cooper Davis – – Toledo – – Barrel maker
  • Cruz Davis – – Iona – – Sailor
  • Miles Dread – – Penn St. – – Fright film producer
  • Derrian Ford – – Arkansas – – Car dealer
  • Michael Forrest – – Florida Atlantic – – Logger
  • Matt Frost – – Purdue – – Dairy Queen owner
  • Simeon Fryer – – Texas A&M – Corpus Christi – – KFC owner.
  • Jordan Geronimo – – Indiana – – Native American historian
  • Ben Gold – – Marquette – – Investment advisor
  • Tre Gomillion – – Missouri – – Professional gambler
  • Henry Hartwell – – UC Santa Barbara – – Cardiologist
  • Rory Hawke – – St. Mary’s – – Falconer
  • Hayden Hefner – – Texas A&M – – Magazine publisher
  • Tyrese Hunter – – Texas – – Not a gatherer
  • Tyreke Key – – Tennessee – – Locksmith
  • Jaxon Kohler – – Michigan St. – – Plumber
  • Chandler Leopard – – Auburn – – Big game hunter
  • Demetrius Lilley – – Penn St. – – Florist
  • Dante Maddox, Jr. – – Toledo – – Poet
  • Julius Marble – – Texas A&M – – Sculptor
  • Charlie McCarthy – – Kansas – – Ventriloquist
  • Hunter McIntosh – – Nevada – – Computer scientist
  • Zach Martini – Princeton – – Mixologist
  • Dieonte Miles – – Xavier – – Mapmaker
  • Lukas Milner – – Boise St. – – Hatmaker
  • Shereef Mitchell – – Creighton – – Law enforcement officer
  • Ethan Morton – – Purdue – – Salt magnate
  • KeShawn Murphy – – Mississippi St. – – Lawmaker
  • Eric Northweather- — Drake – – Meteorologist
  • David Pickles – – UC Santa Barbara – – Too easy…
  • Wooga Poplar – – Miami – – Arborist
  • Tyrese Proctor – – Duke – – Watchdog
  • Keegan Records – – Colgate – – Music producer
  • James Repass – – Furman – – Chef
  • Freedom Rhames – – Howard – – Defense attorney
  • Julian Roper II – – Northwestern – – Professional rodeo
  • Mark Sears – – Alabama – – Retail merchant
  • Marcus Shaver, Jr. – – Boise St. – – Barber
  • Nike Sibande – – Pitt – – Shoe salesman
  • Jackson Skipper – – Vermont – – Leading three-hour tours?
  • Aquan Smart – – Southeast Missouri St. – – Professor of philosophy
  • Trevian Tennyson – – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – – Poet Laureate
  • Deshang Weaver – – Oral Roberts – – Rugmaker
  • Jason Whitens – – Michigan St. – – Cosmetic dentist
  • Sam Winter – – Boise St. – – Climatologist
  • Jordan Wood – – Howard – – Carpenter

Here are some players who have what I call Back-and-Forth Names – – if you revers the first name and the surname, it still sounds like a normal player name:

  • Timmy Allen – – Texas
  • Jaden Bradley – – Alabama
  • Chris Brandon – – Northern Kentucky
  • Colby Brooks – – Gonzaga
  • Joe Charles – – Louisiana
  • Preston Clark – – Texas
  • Chris Craig – – Texas Southern
  • Dexter Dennis – – Texas A&M
  • Carson Dick – – Maryland
  • Gradey Dick – – Kansas
  • Robin Duncan – – Vermont
  • Ja’Vier Francis – – Houston
  • Keyonte George – – Baylor
  • Kent Gilbert – – Tennessee
  • Kobe Clark – – Southeast Missouri St.
  • Tramon Mark – – Houston
  • Cam Martin – – Kansas
  • Jayden Pierre – – Providence
  • Cole Sherman – – Northern Kentucky
  • Anthony Thomas – – Kansas St.
  • Michael Thomas – – Louisiana

Here is a 15-player roster where the players’ names relate to US Presidents:

  • Cam Carter – – Kansas St.
  • Devin Carter – – Providence
  • Tyler Cochran – – Toledo
  • Robert Ford III – – Montana St.
  • Taylor Funk – – Utah St.
  • Andre Jackson, Jr. – – UConn
  • Jalen Jackson – – Texas A&M – Corpus Christi
  • Joshua Jefferson – – St. Mary’s
  • Michael Jefferson – – Iona
  • Keyontae Johnson – – Kansas St.
  • Logan Johnson – – St. Mary’s
  • Xavier Johnson – – Indiana
  • Michael Kennedy – – Marquette
  • Keonte Kennedy – – Memphis
  • Solomon Washington – – Texas A&M

Here are players whose names bring to mind an Artist’s Palette”:

  • Anthony Black – – Arkansas
  • Cameron Brown – – Marquette
  • Darius Brown II – – Montana St.
  • Javonte Brown – – Texas A&M
  • Jordan Brown – – Louisiana
  • Kaleb Brown – – Missouri
  • Kobe Brown – – Missouri
  • Matt Brown – – Kennesaw St.
  • Reese Brown – – Howard
  • Ronnie DeGray III – – Missouri
  • Jasen Green – – Creighton
  • Wendell Green, Jr. – – Auburn
  • Tykei Greene – – Kansas St.
  • Chancellor White – – Louisiana
  • Tre White – – USC

Now consider nine players’ names that relate to Nobility or Peerage:

  • Duke Brennan – – Arizona St.
  • Sir Isaac Herron – – Oral Roberts
  • Eli King – – Iowa St.
  • Frederick King – – Creighton
  • Jamel King – – West Virginia
  • Sam King – – Purdue
  • Tre King – – Iowa St.
  • Markquis Nowell – – Kansas St.
  • Sir’Jabari Rice – – Texas

Here is a Baker’s Dozen player names that have Geographic Place Names:

  • Devin Austin – – Princeton
  • Israel Barnes – – Southeast Missouri St.
  • Desmond Cambridge, Jr.  Arizona St.
  • Brennan Canada – – Kentucky
  • Grant Darbyshire – – Kentucky
  • Eric Holland – – Kennesaw St.
  • David Joplin – – Marquette
  • Khalil London – – College of Charleston
  • London Maiden – – Kent St.
  • Jordan Miller – – Miami
  • Austin Sacks – – Baylor
  • Jordan Turner – – Baylor
  • Warren Washington – – Arizona St.

Some players’ names make me wonder if they are somehow Related to Someone Else I’ve Heard of:

  • Cade Alger – – San Diego St. – – Horatio’s grandson?
  • Carter Ash – – Montana St. – – former Secretary of Defense in disguise?
  • Ace Baldwin, Jr. – – VCU – – Alec’s nephew?
  • Damion Baugh – – TCU – – Sammy’s grandson?
  • Leon Bond III – – Virginia – – James’ nephew?
  • Sincere Carry – – Kent St. – – related to Concealed Carry?
  • Noah Clowney – – Alabama – – Jadeveon’s brother?
  • Bradley Colbert – – Xavier – – Stephen’s son?
  • Davin Cosby, Jr. – – Alabama – – Bill’s nephew?
  • Malcom Dandridge – – Memphis – – Bobby Dandridge’s son for real!
  • Mac Etienne – – UCLA – – Travis’ brother?
  • Themus Fulks – – Louisiana – – Joe’s grandson?
  • Jayden Hardaway – – Memphis – – Penny Hardaway’s son for real!
  • Cole LaRue – – Kennesaw St. – – Lash’s grandson?
  • Taj Manning – – Kansas St. – – Archie’s other son?
  • Xavier Rhodes – – Northern Kentucky – – Former Minnesota Vikings DB?
  • Clifton Moore – – Providence – – Clayton’s grandson?
  • Roman Penn – – Drake – – William’s descendant?
  • Dylan Penn – – Vermont – – A long-lost brother?
  • Tony Perkins – – Iowa – – Did you ever own a motel?
  • Nae’Qwan Tomlin – – Kansas St. – – Lily’s son?
  • Cameron Tweedy – Fairleigh Dickinson – – Conrad’s grandson?

There are lots of players’ names that create a Biblical Team:

  • Luke Barrett – – St. Mary’s
  • Christian Bishop – – Texas
  • Micah Burno – – Arizona St.
  • Luke Champion – – Arizona
  • Adam Cottrell – – Alabama
  • Adam Flagler – – Baylor
  • Joel Emanuel – – Fairleigh Dickenson
  • Noah Gurley – – Alabama
  • Aaron Harden – – Texas A&M – Corpus Christi
  • Malique Jacobs – – Kent State
  • Samson Johnson – – UConn
  • Jonah Lucas – – Marquette
  • Elijah McCadden – – Memphis
  • Isaac McKneely – – Virginia
  • Joshua Morgan – – USC
  • Micah Parrish – – San Diego St.
  • Christian Reeves – – Duke
  • Elijah Saunders – – San Diego St.
  • Emanuel Sharp – – Houston
  • Malachi Smith – – Gonzaga
  • Isaiah Sulack – – Tennessee
  • Jacob Toppin – – Kentucky
  • Elijah Tucker – – Xavier
  • Christian Watson – – Miami
  • Jeremiah Williams – – Iowa St.
  • Isaiah Wong – – Miami

The final compendium of players’ names are ones that will create agita on the sports desks at newspapers around the country.  These are the Copy Editors’ Nightmares:

  • Babatunde Akingbola – – Auburn
  • Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu – – Memphis
  • Sadiku Ibine Ayo – – Iona
  • Ileri Ayo-Faleye – – Vermont
  • Filip Borovicanin – – Arizona
  • Okay Djamgouz – – Drake
  • Souleymane Doumbia – – TCU
  • Zuby Ejiofor – – Kansas
  • Tosan Evbuomwan – – Princeton
  • Filippos Gkogkos – – Miami
  • Oso Ighodaro – – Marquette
  • Vincent Iwuchukwu – – USC
  • Abayomi Iyiola – – Kansas St.
  • Michel Ndayishimiye – – Vermont
  • Sadraque NgaNga – – Boise St.
  • Olivier Nkamhoua – – Tennessee
  • Josh Ojiaanwuna – – Baylor
  • Yvan Ouedraogo – – Grand Canyon
  • Ayodele Taiwo – – Howard
  • Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua
  • Azuolas Tubelis – – Arizona
  • Derrick Michael Xzavierro – – Grand Canyon
  • Szymon Zapala – – Utah St.

[Aside:  In addition to copy editors having nightmares with some of these names, have some sympathy for the guys doing play-by-play when these folks are in the game.]

Before closing here, let me point out some specific players’ names that caught my eye as I was perusing rosters:

  • Five players have names that are complete sentences including Delaney Heard – – Alabama, Chase Martin – – Purdue, Chase Ross – – Marquette, Race Thompson – – Indiana and Richie Springs – – UConn.
  • Nijel Pack – – Miami has a name that would be a complete sentence if you add a comma.
  • Baylor Scheierman – – Creighton seems to be at the wrong school.
  • Raekwon Horton – – College of Charleston makes me wonder if he heard a Who?
  • Nicolas Louis-Jacques – – Colgate – – is tied for the lead in the nation in the number of first names with Josh Pierre-Louis – – UC Santa Barbara.
  • Olivier Maxense Prosper – – Marquette – – needs to name his first son Live-Long-And.
  • One player has a name that is simultaneously Alliterative and Back and Forth and Tautological.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Federiko Federiko – – Pitt.

Finally, to make sure everyone understands that this was all in fun, let me present three observations about people’s names:

“You are not a star until they can spell your name in Karachi.”  [Humphrey Bogart]

And …

“It ain’t what they call you; it’s what you answer to.”  [W.C. Fields]

And …

“The author of ‘The Iliad’ is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name.”  [Aldous Huxley]

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



Wagering On Professional Wrestling?

About 30 years ago, I was chatting with a colleague at work.  Turns out that he was a ‘rassling fan when he was young and had seen ‘rassling matches live at the Boston Garden in his youth.  He told me that there were people there who were actually betting on the outcomes of the matches between the likes of Bruno Sammartino and Killer Kowalski.  I mention this conversation because it demonstrates that if you wait long enough, even the most improbable things can take place.

Yesterday, I read on that the folks at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) are “in talks with state gambling regulators to legalize betting on high-profile matches”.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The “justification” used by the folks at WWE is that online gambling sites allow wagering on things like the Oscars and that major accounting firms provide the assurances that the outcomes are not leaked before the fact.  Ergo, the same sort of security assurances could be applied to the scripted outcomes of ‘rassling encounters making them fair and honest wagering propositions.

This is not a spoof; this is not something “reported” by The Onion; folks at WWE say “the marketplace is robust” for this product initiative.  Here is the link to the report that has me shaking my head in confusion even though 24 hours have passed since I first encountered it.

In college basketball news, Georgetown fired Patrick Ewing as its head basketball coach.  The Hoyas’ national presence as a basketball power is way in the past; the program was in shambles in the early 1970s when John Thompson, Jr. took over and made Georgetown a powerhouse.  Now, 50 years later, the program is in shambles again.

Last season, Georgetown lost all 19 of its Big East Conference games; this year, they won two of them; most nights, the Hoyas were simply outclassed and their season record was 7-25.  Some folks in this area suggest that the ghost of John Thompson, Jr. haunts the program; I think that is nonsense.  Thompson made Georgetown relevant initially by recruiting the local talent in this area and coaching them up to become NCAA Tournament fixtures.  Only then did he expand his recruiting efforts and coached up his teams to achieve excellence.  Georgetown coaches since Thompson retired about 20 years ago have not recruited locally nearly well enough and they have similarly failed in the larger arena.  If Georgetown has any aspirations to return to basketball prominence at the national level, the next coach needs to go back to the formula that works for a school like Georgetown.

The school is not an easy sell.  It has academic standards that will preclude the next coach from any chance of getting a subset of available talent.  Also, the school’s athletic department is not flush with revenue streams because Georgetown’s football program is not even close to being a moneymaker.  [Aside:  Did you even know that Georgetown fields a football team and played an 11-game schedule last year?]  The Georgetown facilities are not great; an on-campus gym would hold about 2,000 fans for a basketball game so the team has to play its home games at Capital One Arena in downtown DC where the 5,000 or so fans for a Georgetown game rattle around like a bee bee in a box car.

All of the above is not to say that Patrick Ewing should have been retained in his job.  From watching just a little Georgetown basketball over the past several years, his players did not seem to improve from year to year.  Ewing was a great player and – reportedly – was well regarded as an NBA assistant coach.  However, his ability to develop and improve the play of college kids was not obvious in his six years at Georgetown where his teams posted a combined record of 75-109.

I have long thought that great players usually make mediocre-at-best coaches.  My hypothesis for why that seems to be the case is that great players do things by instinct and it is difficult for that great player to explain to someone else how to behave with the great player’s instinct.  But that is precisely what a coach needs to be able to do – – teach and explain to a young player how to get better.  Maybe Patrick Ewing will get another shot at a head coaching job one of these days; maybe he will try some different approaches to coaching if he has that opportunity; maybe he will be an exception to my sense that great players do not succeed as coaches.

Next up …  Earlier this week, there was a headline on a report at that read:

“Katie Ledecky’s nine-year winning streak on US soil snapped by Summer McIntosh”

Katie Ledecky is a swimmer.  She had a nine-year winning streak in US water but not on US soil.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close with this comment from author Jean Kerr:

“I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin deep.  That’s deep enough.  What do you want, an adorable pancreas?”

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



Three Misbehaviors Today?

Syracuse University announced yesterday that Jim Boeheim is out as head basketball coach there and will be replaced by longtime assistant Adrian Autry in the job.  Boeheim played for Syracuse in the 1960s; and after brief career in the now-defunct Eastern Basketball League, he was hired as an assistant coach at Syracuse in 1969.  He took over as head coach there in 1976 and has been the head coach there ever since.  Boeheim won a national championship for Syracuse and made the Final Four on 5 other occasions; he has won a snootful of coaching awards at the conference level and at the national level; he has been involved with the US National Team at a variety of international competitions.  His coaching record at Syracuse was a gaudy 1015 – 441 for a winning percentage of 69.8%.

This turn of events does not shine a favorable light on Syracuse University.  The announcement of the coaching change does not say that Jim Boeheim retired nor did it make clear that this was a mutual parting of the ways.  I would have expected that Jim Boeheim’s departure from Syracuse would have been handled with a lot more grace and aplomb than was evidenced yesterday.  John Wooden was not nudged out the door at UCLA; Mike Krzyzewski was not replaced as the head coach at Duke; Jim Boeheim should not have had his career ended that way.

Enough about that …  Former Cowboys’ WR, Michael Irvin is suing Marriot International and an as  yet unidentified woman for $100M in a defamation of character action.  The brief background here is that during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the woman accused Irvin of some sort of “inappropriate conduct” in a hotel lobby and that accusation caused both NFL Network and ESPN to remove Irvin from continued coverage of the Super Bowl festivities.  Irvin says nothing inappropriate happened.

A judge ruled that Marriot International had to turn over security tapes to Irvin’s lawyers; Irvin contends that the tapes will show he did nothing inappropriate.  Yesterday, that footage went to Irvin’s representatives.  And then, Michael Irvin did what Michael Irvin routinely does when he is commenting on professional football:

  • He went full bore into Hyperbole Land.

Regardless of what the tape shows or does not show, consider this statement by Irvin at a news conference yesterday:

“This sickens me.  This sickens me because, in this great country, this takes me back to a time where a White woman would accuse a Black man of something and they would take a bunch of guys that were above the law, run in the barn, throw a rope around his foot and drag him through the mud and hang him by the tree.”

Let me be clear here; if Irvin is correct that he did nothing wrong, then I hope the court awards him whatever the court decides is right and proper to make the situation whole.  And it is exactly because that is my position in this case that any reference – – direct or oblique – – to lynching is beyond inappropriate, which interestingly is the way Irvin has been accused of behaving.

  • Irvin talks about a “bunch of guys that were above the law” in his statement.  Really?  The occasion of the news conference was to announce that his opponent in the lawsuit had complied with a court ruling and had turned over evidence to Irvin and his team.  So, in the matter at hand, who are the “bunch of guys that were above the law”?
  • Speaking of “the law” … in the days where lynching was far more commonplace than it is now, the victims of a lynch mob had no recourse to a court for “a redress of grievances”.  Michael Irvin sat in a news conference with legal representation progressing to a day in court where he would have the opportunity to seek “redress of his grievances”.
  • Michael Irvin is not and was not in a situation analogous to being lynched.  He may or may not have been wronged and a court will make that decision – – unless he and his attorneys find a way to resolve the matter with their antagonists before the court is called in to do so.

Moving on …  I was chatting with a neighbor yesterday and he asked me what I thought of the situation involving Memphis Grizzlies’ star, Ja Morant, and his “gun incident” at a strip club in Colorado.  This is not the first anti-social incident Morant has been involved in and even in the worst possible interpretation of what happened, there was no use of any gun in any activity other than as a “prop” in one of Morant’s attempts at singing/dancing/rapping.  I said yesterday afternoon:

“This is probably a tempest in a teapot.  Unless Morant grows up quickly, he will go down in history as a full-blown meathead.”

Today, the police in Colorado who had been investigating the matter announced that there would be no charges place against Morant for the happening.  According to police reports:

“No disturbances were reported.”

And …

“No one was threatened or menaced with the firearm.”

The first part of my assessment – – tempest in a teapot – – seems to be on target.  As to any sort of rapid maturation for Ja Morant, let’s call that a work in progress.  As of this morning, he continues to carry the label of meathead.

Finally, let me close today with three quotes from George Carlin.  The first seems to have relevance to the allegations made in the Michael Irvin situation:

“Here’s all you have to know about men and women.  Women are crazy and men are stupid.  And the main reason that women are crazy is that men are stupid.”

The second one offers some advice for Ja Morant:

“Although I broke a lot of laws as a teenager, I straightened out immediately upon turning eighteen, when I realized that the state had a legal right to execute me.”

The third one is just for fun:

“’Bipartisan’ usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

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



Random Stuff today …

When I was a kid, there was a nightly TV news program called the Camel News Caravan because it was sponsored by Camel cigarettes.  The host/reporter was John Cameron Swayze and every once in a while he would announce that he was “hopscotching the world for headlines”.  That was his lead-in to a bunch of reports on totally unrelated events where the reports were about two sentences in length.  This morning, I will go “hopscotching the sports world for headlines” with a tip of the hat to John Cameron Swayze instead of doing what I normally call “cleaning my clipboard”.

First, the NBA regular season has gotten to the point where teams are getting serious about every game; the sprint to the finish for playoff seeding has begun.  Moreover, there are new faces at or near the top of the standings in both conferences; and to me that presents two coaches who ought to finish at the top of the voting for Coach of the Year.

  1. In the East, the NY Knicks are 39-28 this morning with 15 games left to play.  They have a chance to win 50 games this year – a longshot to be sure – but they have not been close to that level of achievement for the last decade.  In fact, the Knicks have had a losing record in 8 of the last 9 seasons.  Tom Thibodeau has the team playing hard and playing defense.
  2. In the West, the Sacramento Kings are in second place this morning with a record of 38-26 with 18 games left on the schedule.  For perspective, the last time the Kings won more than 40 games was in the 2005-2006 season.  Mike Brown has the Kings playing disciplined basketball and team basketball.

Next up …  When Derek Carr signed with the Saints yesterday, it prompted me to look at the other three teams in the NFC South to assess their “QB situation”.  As of yesterday afternoon, those situations represented three levels of “bleak”.

  • Atlanta Falcons:  Marcus Mariota is a free agent; they have two QBs on their roster this morning, Desmond Ridder and Logan Woodside.
  • Carolina Panthers:  The Panthers have three QBs on their roster this morning, Matt Corral, Sam Darnold and PJ Walker.
  • Tampa Bay Bucs:  The Bucs have three QBs on their roster this morning, Tom Brady (retired?), Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask.

So, I went to look at cap room for those teams and their draft positions.

  • Atlanta Falcons:  They draft 7th in the first round so they are within striking distance of a trade-up into the “QB Zone” if they want to do that.  And, the Falcons have about $62M in cap room according to  The Falcons have some flexibility here.
  • Carolina Panthers:  They draft 8th in the first round so they too are within striking distance of a trade-up into the “QB Zone” if they want to do that.  However, the Panthers are already slightly over the cap limit as of this morning meaning they would have to do a lot of juggling to play in the QB free agent market.
  • Tampa Bay Bucs:  Assuming Tom Brady remains “retired”, the Bucs have a big problem.  They do not draft until 19th; they are unlikely to be able to get anywhere near the “QB Zone” in this year’s draft.  Moreover, says the Bucs are over the cap by almost $49M this morning meaning it may take more than juggling for them even to think about talking with a major free agent QB.

Switching gears … The Chicago Bears exercised their purchase option and closed on the purchase of what used to be Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, IL – – a northwest suburb of Chicago.  The Bears’ announced intention is to build a stadium on the land formerly occupied by the racetrack and also to develop the area with residential, commercial and hotel properties on site.  I can understand the team’s desire to play somewhere other than Soldier Field; that facility has already been “upgraded” once and yet it is outmoded and it is the smallest capacity stadium of any NFL team.  There are at least three significant questions facing the team:

  1. Will the financing of the construction/development effort come together?  This is not something that will be done for “three easy payments of only $39.95”.  (Hat Tip to half the infomercials on TV at 3:00 AM.)
  2. Given the nether world in which Chicago and Illinois politics exist, can this project jump through all the hoops that will be confronting it?
  3. Will Bears’ fans follow the team to the new site?  Google Maps says it is close to 40 miles from Soldier Field to the old racetrack and it lists the driving time as anywhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes depending on traffic.

One more tidbit …  Recall that the members of the Angelos family – – owners of the Baltimore Orioles – – were suing each other over team control and purported draining of $65M from a family account.  Well, magically, all those problems resolved themselves without the need for any judicial intervention.  All the litigants withdrew their lawsuits – – with prejudice no less meaning they cannot be re-instituted later – – and there is once again peace and harmony in the valley.  Of course, that does make me wonder about the alleged “missing” $65M because that is not something that just magically appears and disappears.  Whatever …  Just sit back and enjoy all these folks singing Kumbaya in 3-part harmony.

Finally, since today began with a reference to the Camel News Caravan sponsored by Camel cigarettes, let me close with this observation:

“A camel can work all week without drinking … a man can drink all week without working.”

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



A Rational Marketplace?

There was plenty of “action” over the weekend in the world of NFL contracts and signings.  The deadline for applying “franchise tags” and “transition tags” is almost upon us but two QB signings over the weekend should have interesting repercussions around the league.  Yes, I know that QBs get too much credit for winning games and that they attract more attention than makes sense given that football is the ultimate team game.  Nevertheless, success in the NFL is far more tied to “having a good QB” than it is to “having a bad QB”.

The two signings I am referring to are:

  1. Geno Smith re-signs with the Seahawks for 3 years and $105M
  2. Derek Carr signs with the Saints for 4 years and $150M

Smith’s situation tells me that the “marketplace” for QBs in 2023 is what economists might call “rational”.  In 2022, Geno Smith had – by far – the best season of his career.; he was voted Comeback Player of the Year..  Smith came into the NFL in 2013 and in the ten years since then, he earned approximately $18M total as a backup/stopgap QB.  Starting in 2023, he will make an average of $35M per year or almost twice in one season what he made in the previous 10 years – – and I said that was “rational”.  Here’s why:

  • Smith will be 33 years old in October.  This contract is only 3 years long; there is flexibility for both sides.  If 2022 was a huge anomaly in Smith’s career, the Seahawks are not going to be severely burdened by this contract for the long haul.  And if Smith is truly a “late-bloomer” who really has 7 or 8 top-shelf years ahead of him, he gets another shot at free agency at the end of the 2025 season.
  • I have not found any report with the contract details as yet, so I do not know what the guaranteed money is or any of those nuances.  But in terms of the average salary in the deal, Geno Smith will make a little more than Kirk Cousins and a little less than Derek Carr on an annualized basis.  Looking only at last year, that may be a bargain for the Seahawks; looking his 10-year career, that is a bonanza for Geno Smith.
  • And as a bonus for the decision makers in Seattle, re-signing Geno Smith means they do not have to go on a frantic QB search over the next 10 weeks.  They have a guy signed to the roster who “knows the system” and who “fits the system” in Seattle.
  • Both sides win = “rational marketplace”.

The Darek Carr/New Orleans Saints deal is also “rational”.  Carr was released by the Raiders about a month ago; and as a free agent, he had the ability to pick the team he wanted to join at something less than a frenetic pace.  There were – – and still are – – QB-needy teams out there but Carr and his agent had the time to make their own decision(s) absent pressures and time deadlines.  Derek Carr will take an average annual pay cut in this deal; with the Raiders he was making just over $40M per year; with the Saints he will make $37.5M per year.  [Aside:  Cry me a river…]

  • This is a good deal for the Saints because Derek Carr is a better QB in 2023 than the other guys on the Saints roster (Andy Dalton, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston).  The team is not paying a top-shelf price for Carr and the length of the deal makes it such that the deal is done when Carr is about to turn 37 years old.
  • Given the players currently signed to the rosters of the other NFC South teams, Derek Carr is clearly the best QB in the division.  That means this deal makes sense for the Saints and for Carr.
  • Both sides win = “rational marketplace”.

The Derek Carr signing does, however, put the spotlight on the Las Vegas Raiders’ braintrust.  They need to get themselves a QB who will perform for them in 2023 at a level above the way Derek Carr plays for the Saints.  They need to accomplish that acquisition for more than just the obvious reason that they want to improve the team.  Consider:

  • A year ago, they signed Carr to a contract extension.  They chose to do that; he was not a free agent.  In that deal that they negotiated, they gave Carr a full no-trade clause and they timed a huge roster bonus in the deal to mid-February of 2023.
  • Once they decided that Carr was not “their guy” for the long-term, they had no choice but to release him once he made it clear that he would not waive his no-trade clause.
  • Raiders’ fans may have a dim view of Derek Carr, but the reality is that the team will get a compensatory pick – possibly in the late 4th round – for Carr this year and that is prima facie evidence that the Raiders’ braintrust wasted an asset.

And since I am on the subject of “signing QBs” today, let me throw a bizarre thought out there.  The Ravens and Lamar Jackson have been at a contract impasse for about a year now.  Some commentators say that the Ravens lack some leverage in those talks because they have built an offense that is designed around Jackson’s specific skill set as a “running QB” and would need to do major overhaul work were they to try to – or have to – replace him with a “pocket passer”.  Let me assume that those commentators have drawn a reasonable conclusion there.

The Bears need help in just about every part of the team; they have the overall #1 pick this year but there is no single player that is going to yank the Bears out of the situation they find themselves in today.  [Aside:  I checked; Bruce Banner has not entered the NFL Draft list.]  Moreover, the Bears reportedly have “about $100M in cap space” this year.  So … if the Bears would be amenable to meeting Lamar Jackson’s contract demands might it be a good idea to trade Lamar Jackson to the Bears for Justin Fields even up.

  • The Ravens get a “running QB” to work into their system that is geared to that skill set.
  • The Bears get the best QB they have had on their roster for at least the last 35 years and perhaps for the last 70 years – – AND – – then the Bears could trade back that overall #1 pick more than once to acquire players that can patch some glaring holes in the team roster.

OK, now that I have that out there, let me go and adjust my medication levels…

Finally, since I have spent today on rational marketplaces and economics in football, let me close with this observation from Stan Kroenke – – owner of the LA Rams:

“Economics is about creating win-win situations.  But in sports, someone loses.”

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



Predictions/Post-Mortem For NFL 2022

George Orwell portrayed a dystopian future in the novel, 1984.  As part of their daily routine, the people of Oceania spent two minutes every day proclaiming their hate for their perceived enemy of the state; they called it “The Two Minutes Hate.”  We don’t have anything nearly so frequent here in the cozy confines of Curmudgeon Central, but we do have an annual ritual that will be taken up today.

This is the day when I present myself for public scorn as I do a post-mortem on my NFL predictions prior to the recently concluded 2022 season.  It will probably take you about 5 minutes to read this so maybe we should consider it “The Five Minutes Scorn”.

I plan to go through the multiple sets of predictions from September 6, 2022 and grade myself the way grades used to be handed out when I was in college having to use reeds to take notes on papyrus.  At the end, I’ll calculate my “NFL-GPA” for the 2022 season.

The predictions began with 6 coaches on a hot seat:

  1. Kliff Kingsbury (Cards):  He was fired.
  2. Mike McCarthy (Cowboys):  I said it might take an appearance in the NFC Championship Game for him to keep his job.  The team made the playoffs and lost in the first round – – but McCarthy is still the coach in Dallas.  Call this a mistake; I over-estimated Jerry Jones’ itchy trigger finger.
  3. Frank Reich (Colts):  He was fired in mid-season.
  4. Ron Rivera (Commanders):  I said that I did not think he would be fired but that you never knew what could happen with Danny Boy in charge.  Well, Danny Boy chose in November to explore the option to sell the team, so there was no way he could fire Rivera after that because no coach would take the job not knowing who the next owner might be.  Call this one a “push”.
  5. Matt Rhule (Panthers):  He was fired early on.
  6. Robert Saleh (Jets):  I said he should not be fired but – like Rivera – he works for an organization that has a history of making bad decisions.  Fortunately, the Jets did well enough that any urge to move on from him was thwarted and he will be back in 2023.  Call this one a “push” too.

The only big error here was Mike McCarthy; the other two “predictions” were not really dependent on a major turn-around by the team.  I totally missed the Texans firing Lovie Smith; I am still amazed that the Texans’ “braintrust” thought it was “good optics” to fire two Black head coaches in two consecutive seasons.  I also totally whiffed on Nathanial Hackett’s melt-down in Denver with the Broncos.  I do not recall anyone predicting how over his head he appeared to be in the head coaching role.  He truly earned the moniker:

  • Nathanial “Can’t” Hackett.

I give myself a grade of B + for the “Coaches on a Hot Seat.”

The second set of predictions involved six players that I thought would have to fight off Father Time in 2022.  I thought they would not live up to their previous levels of play as their careers were on a downward arc.

  1. Calais Campbell:  His sack total in 2022 was significantly higher than it was in 2021 but his total number of tackles (36) in 14 games is significantly lower than back in the salad days of his career.  He fought Father Time to a stalemate.
  2. Fletcher Cox:  I whiffed on that one; Cox increased his sack total and his total tackles in 2022 as compared to 2021.  He forced Father Time to back off.
  3. Brandon Graham:  This was a totally bad prediction; Graham got votes as the Comeback Player of the Year and as an All-Pro.  The only word for my thinking in this case is “Fail”!
  4. AJ Green:  His production dropped off and he announced his retirement in January 2023.
  5. Alvin Kamara:  His rushing and receiving stats did not fall off a cliff, but they did not measure up to those of his “Pro Bowl” years in the past.  Also, he only scored 2 TDs in 15 games in 2022 while he had averaged about 9 TDs per season for the balance of his career.  He too fought Father Time to a stalemate.
  6. JJ Watt:  He announced his retirement at the end of the 2022 season.

I totally missed on the two predictions about Eagles’ defensive linemen; I totally called AJ Green and JJ Watt; Campbell and Kamara were toss-ups relative to the predictions.

I give myself a C for “Players Versus Father Time.”

The next predictions involved teams that finished last in their division in 2021 and their chances to win that same division in 2022.  It was the “Worst-to-First” section of soothsaying.  I thought the Ravens had the best chance of going “Worst-to-First” if the Bengals had a “Super Bowl Hangover”.  Well, the Bengals did not have such a condition, but the Ravens did finish second to the Bengals in the AFC North.

There were two egregious errors in the commentary in that section, however.  Here is what I wrote then:

Jaguars:  No way they win the AFC South”.  Well, the Jags did in fact win the AFC South in 2022.

And …

“Broncos:  The offense will certainly be better with Russell Wilson in place of Drew Lock and the defense is very good.  The AFC West is awfully tough, but the Broncos have a glimmer of hope there.”  Well, the Broncos’ offense was awful for most of 2022 and any “glimmer of hope” was extinguished by Thanksgiving when the team was 3-8-0.

I give myself an F for “Worst-to-First” predictions.

Before getting to the meat of these evaluations, I included some commentary on 3 teams that I thought would be less than mediocre because I do not think they have any plan on how to get better.”   Those three teams were:

  1. Bears:  They were “less than mediocre” and are picking first in the Draft in April.
  2. Falcons:  They were 7-10 for the season but finished last in the miserable NFC South.  I said they had a bad situation at QB and that certainly turned out to be the case.
  3. Panthers:  They too were 7-10 for the season in the miserable NFC South.  They fired their coach early in the season and traded away their best offensive player looking to “start over” in 2023.

I suggest that I called those three situations correctly – – albeit none of the situations were very opaque.

I give myself a B+ for these predictions on these three teams.

Now we get to the specific team predictions and I will start in the AFC West:

  • Chargers:  I had the Chargers at 12-5 for the season on top of the division; they finished 10-7 and second in the division.  I thought their defense was going to be better in 2022 but it was still the part of the team that was a weak link.  Even with their 10-7 record, their point differential for the year was a measly 7 points.
  • Chiefs:  I had the Chiefs’ record as 11-6 for the season and second in the division.  I thought that the loss of 3 members of the Chiefs’ WR corps would hurt the offense more than it obviously did; the Chiefs finished at 14-3 and proceeded to win the Super Bowl in February.
  • Broncos:  Here was a real blunder; I thought the trade for Russell Wilson was going to make the Broncos into a formidable opponent because the defense was so good.  I said they would finish 10-7 which is not even close to their actual record of 5-12.
  • Raiders:  I had the Raiders at 9-8 for the season and they finished 6-11.  I did cite, however, that the Raiders’ defense would be a team weakness and that certainly was the case in 2022.

I give myself a D for the AFC West predictions.  If you think I deserve an “F”, I will not argue too strenuously against your assertion.

Next, we shall move to the AFC North:

  • Ravens:  I had the Ravens at 11-6 and winning the division; the actual record was 10-7 and the Ravens finished second.  Having Lamar Jackson miss 5 games late in the season did not help the Ravens’ cause at all.
  • Bengals:  I had the Bengals at 10-7 for the season finishing second in the division and suffering from “Super Bowl Loser Syndrome”.  Actually, the Bengals finished 12-4 – – the “missing game” being the one involving the Bills and Damar Hamlin.
  • Steelers:  I had the Steelers finishing 9-8 and third in the division.  That is exactly what happened…
  • Browns:  I had the Browns finishing 7-10 and last in the division.  That is exactly what happened.

I give myself an A for the AFC North predictions.  I got two of the teams’ records and position in the race correct and missed on the Ravens record by only one game,

Moving along to the AFC South: 

  • Colts:  I said the Colts would win the division with a 10-7 record and that Matt Ryan would be a significant upgrade at QB from Carson Wentz.  Actually, the Colts finished the season at 4-12-1; they fired their coach early on; Matt Ryan was benched for a couple of games to give Sam Ehlinger a shot at the job.
  • Titans:  I thought they would go 8-9 and finish second in the division; they had a 7-10 record and indeed finished second.  Even a blind squirrel …
  • Jags:  I had the Jags going 6-11 for the season and finishing third in the AFC South.  That would have been a significant improvement over 2021 and the “Urban Meyer Era” in Jax, but the team really over-achieved and finished 9-8 to win the division and go to the playoffs.
  • Texans:  I had the Texans record at 4-13 putting them last in the division.  Their record was 3-13-1 which is close.  I can pretend that calling the Texans to finish 4th in the division was a “good call”; frankly, it was never really in doubt.

I give myself a D for the AFC South.  The predictions for the Titans and the Texans were close – – but the other two predictions were too far off-base to allow for anything more than such a grade.

The last AFC division is the AFC East:

  • Bills:  I had the Bills winning the division with a 14-3 record.  They won the division with a 13-3 record – – the missing game is the “Damar Hamlin Game”.
  • Dolphins:  I had the Dolphins in second place in the division at 9-8.  That is exactly how things turned out.
  • Pats:  I had the Pats tied for second pace with the Dolphins at 9-8.  The Pats finished third in the division with an 8-9 record.
  • Jets:  I had the Jets finishing last in the division at 6-11.  The Jets finished last in the division at 7-10.

I give myself an A for the AFC East.  The crystal ball was in working order for that part of the predictions.

It is time to move along to the NFC predictions and I will begin with a review of some bad predictions in the NFC West:

  • Rams:  Yes, I had the Rams winning this division with a record of 11-6.  Actually, they finished third with a 5-12 record.  In my defense, I did say that Matthew Stafford’s elbow tendinitis could be a significant problem for the Rams and I said that the Rams’ OL would not be as good in 2022 as it had been in 2021.  Both problems surfaced and produced disastrous results – – along with an early season injury to Cooper Kupp.
  • Niners:  I had the Niners in a tie with the Rams in the division at 11-6; the Niners won the division in a cakewalk with a record of 13-4.  My prediction was close for all the wrong reasons.  I assumed that Trey Lance would perform the way an overall #3 pick should perform once he was deemed “Sunday-ready” by the coaches.  Trey Lance lasted less than a game; Jimmy G and Brock Purdy led the charge for the Niners, and I never had that sort of situation in mind for the team.
  • Cards:  I had the Cards at 9-8 in third place in the division.  The Cards finished last and had a record of 4-13.  Yes, they lost Kyler Murray for part of the season, but even with him on the field, they never really looked like a team that was going to finish above .500.
  • Seahawks:  I thought the Seahawks would go 5-12 and finish way behind everyone else in the division.  Actually, the Seahawks finished 9-8 in second place in the division and made the playoffs.

I give myself an F for the NFC West.  The only prediction what was close to correct was the record for the Niners and that prediction came to pass for all the wrong reasons.  Yuck …!

Next, we shall move to the NFC North:

  • Packers:  I thought they would go 12-5 and win the division because I thought Aaron Rodgers would play the way Aaron Rodgers had been playing over the past couple of years.  That was not even close to the case until it was too late for the Packers to make a playoff run; they finished third in the division with an 8-9 record despite winning 4 of their last 5 games in the regular season.
  • Vikes:  I had the Vikes with a 10-7 record in second place in the division.  The Vikes went 13-4 and ran away with the division.
  • Lions:  I had the Lions going 5-12 and finishing third in the division; they went 9-8 and finished second ahead of the Packers.  In my defense, I did say that they would be improved over 2021 and that they had an impressive young receiving corps and that Aiden Hutchinson would be a stud.  All of that came to pass but I underestimated how significant those improvements would be.
  • Bears:  I had the Bears going 4-13 for the season and they actually went 3-14.  That was the best prediction for the division back in September.  Not good …

I give myself an F for the NFC North.

Moving along to the NFC South:

  • Bucs:  I had the Bucs winning the division with a 12-5 record.  They did win the division but with a record of only 8-9.  The Bucs were merely the least worst team in the NFC South.
  • Saints:  I had the Saints in second place with a 9-8 record.  The Saints had the same record as the other three teams in the division at 7-10.
  • Panthers:  I had the Panthers finishing third with an 8-9 record.  The Panthers also finished at 7-10.  I thought the addition of Baker Mayfield would be a lot more positive for the team than the acquisition turned out to be.
  • Falcons:  I had the Falcons finishing last in the division at 4-13.  The Falcons finished at 7-10.  I did, however, say that the team counting on Marcus Mariota to be “the guy” at QB was not a way to plan for success.  I was right about that, but I overestimated how marginal the Falcons’ offense would be.

I give myself a D for the NFC South.

And finally, we move to the NFC East:

  • Eagles:  I had them winning the division with a 10-7 record.  Obviously, they flew past that record and posted a conference best record at 14-3.  However, my team analysis had accurate points.  I said the additions of AJ Brown and Hassan Reddick were major pluses for the team.  Here is a quote from last September:

“The OL is excellent; the DL has the potential to be very good.  The question mark is Jalen Hurts.  He showed plenty of improvement as the season progressed last year but there is no way one might consider him a Top-15 QB in the league as this season begins.  But if he plays to that sort of level, the Eagles will be hosting a playoff game in January 2023.”

Jalen Hurts played well into the ranks of a “Top 15 QB” and indeed that led to the Eagles hosting two games in the NFC playoffs and a spot in the Super Bowl.

  • Cowboys:  I had the Cowboys in second place in the division with a 9-8 record.  The Cowboys were indeed in second place but their record was 12-5.  I said then that the Cowboys’ OL would be a team weakness – – and it was.
  • Commanders:  I had the Commanders in third place in the division with a 7-10 record.  Actually, they finished last in the division at 8-8-1.  I said in September that losing Brandon Scherff to the Jags in free agency was a bad thing for the team; and indeed, the Commanders’ OL was a significant weakness all season long.
  • Giants:  I had the Giants finishing last in the division with a 6-10 record; they finished third at 9-7-1.

I give myself an A for the NFC East.

So, I have given out 12 grades today.  Using the old system of 4-points for an A and 3-points for a B and 3.5 points for a B + and so on, my “NFL-GPA” = 2.0.  Hey, if I were an NCAA athlete, I would retain eligibility with that GPA.

Finally, since everything here relates to NFL football, let me close today with this observation about football by George F. Will:

“Football defines the two worst features of American life.  It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

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