Three Retired Athletes Today

Deion Sanders – – or Coach Prime as he prefers to be called these days – – has always been a polarizing figure.  It was easy to be enamored of his athletic gifts; it was equally easy to be turned off by his “hey-look-at-me” antics.  After a time in the TV business, Sanders opted to get into college football coaching in his 50s which is a lot later than the typical age for career entry in that field.  In addition, he started his college career at the head coach level which is uncommon.

His success in three years at Jackson State was noteworthy; Jackson State had not been particularly relevant in football for quite a while until Sanders arrived and basically changed everything there.  His success there plus his notoriety got him the head coaching job at Colorado where the football program has devolved to pudding status recently.  And “Coach Prime” has changed things up there already – – even before a single game has begun.

Yesterday, USA Today reported that Sanders has potentially serious ongoing health issues:

  • Since 2021, he has had 10 “surgeries” on his left leg.  Procedures included entries on both sides of his left calf and the amputation of two toes on his left foot.
  • Last week, doctors removed a “really bad blood clot” in his left thigh in addition to several “smaller clots” below his knee.

Look, I am no medical professional, but it seems to me that any condition that impedes blood flow and/or provides for the possibility of throwing a blood clot into the circulatory system must be considered a big deal.  Moreover, according to this report, doctors have detected another clot in Sanders’ right thigh and plan to remove it in the near future.  The fact that this ongoing condition has already required the amputation of two toes makes it appear as if either or both of Sanders’ lower limbs could be at risk.

Whether you liked or disliked Deion Sanders as a player or a broadcaster, this is a serious situation that calls for compassion on the part of sports fans.  Deion Sanders entertained millions of sports fans; they should now be ready to support him in this challenge.

Moving on …  Another outstanding NFL player made the news yesterday.  JJ Watt retired earlier this year after a 12-year career that saw him earn:

  • Defensive Player of the Year – – 3 times
  • Pro Bowl selection – – 5 times
  • First Team All-Pro – – 5 times.

Watt is a shoo-in for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after the required waiting period has passed but he now will embark on another career path.  Yesterday, he proclaimed on social media that he will be joining CBS as part of their broadcast team starting this year.  Current plans call for CBS to use Watt as a studio analyst and he is slotted to be part of The NFL Today programming on that network.  Being a great player does not necessarily translate into becoming a great broadcaster, but Watt has always appeared to be comfortable, relaxed and articulate in interview situations.  Here is what I mean by him being comfortable in social situations away from football:

  • In announcing his new employment situation, Watt said that he was glad to have a “global platform to make fun of my brothers on”.
  • That statement did not come from a PR Department or a communications consultant; that just came naturally.

It seems to me as if JJ Watt has the basic personality aspects needed for success on the airwaves; so, if JJ Watt can develop them further while retaining his obvious insight into the game of football, he should be successful at CBS.

Switching gears – – yet staying with the idea of retired great athletes and recent happenings, Michael Jordan sold the Charlotte Hornets for a reported $3B.  He was not a 100% owner, but reports say he cleared about $2B from the deal which added to his liquidity to expand his brand to other ventures.  Jordan already has a line of athletic shoes, an alcohol brand that features “high-end tequila”, a NASCAR racing team among other ventures.  When Jordan bought into the Hornets, the team value was less than $300M; that was in 2010 so the franchise value increased by a factor of ten in thirteen years.  Not a bad rate of return.

I think the price involved in this transaction points to a current trend that may be unique in US sports history.  Rich people are paying incredible sums of money to acquire sports franchises in 2023.  And it is not just the highly successful franchises or the ones in the so-called “big-time/glamor markets” that command high prices.  Charlotte NC is not NYC or LA or Chicago or Houston in terms of market size or market glamor and the Hornets have not exactly been a huge success during Jordan’s time at the helm.  Since acquiring his stake in the team, Jordan’s record with the Hornets was a less-than-gaudy 423-600 (winning percentage = .413).

Finally, let me close today with this comment by author R. D. Rosen.  This comes from 1975; I wonder what he thinks about things today:

“We are living, practically no one needs to be reminded, in a therapeutic age.  The sign in every storefront reads, ’Psychobabble spoken here.’  Personal liberation, relating, being in touch with one’s feelings (as aspiration that sadly presumes that we are so out of touch with our feelings that we must now make a project out of reclaiming them) – the whole pop vocabulary and grammar of human growth appear more and more suspect.”

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



Back – – But Not Quite As Planned …

The Scottish poet Robert Burns famously wrote:

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley.”

Or – – more colloquially in 2023:

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Originally, my plan here was to return to the US on Tuesday, use Wednesday to recover from jet lag and do enough research to be able to do a rant on Thursday.  Well, Tuesday found my long-suffering wife and I in the maw of the airline mess and we spent the night in Newark NJ at a hotel near the airport that is politely described as “sketchy”.  We ditched our plane tickets because the best flight we could get was not scheduled until Friday (tomorrow) and took Amtrak home late yesterday afternoon.  So, no jet lag accommodation and no time for research.  So, here goes some stuff off the top of my head just from reading a few headlines …

Bob Huggins’ career seems to have ended in an act of self-immolation.  After being slapped on the wrist for some comments on the radio that were homophobic and religiously insensitive, Huggins was cited for DUI less than 2 months later.  Moreover, that was not the only DUI incident on his curriculum vitae; his first DUI incident cost him his job at Cincy.  But remember that Huggins is a coach who consistently got his teams into the NCAA Tournament there by earning lots of money and “attention” for his schools … so it is not impossible that he will resurface in the world of college basketball somewhere down the road.

I saw that Trevor Bauer’s name came back to the headlines just as we were leaving the country.  A woman in Arizona now alleges that he raped her and choked her unconscious back on 2020.  [Aside:  Given the rampant COVID-19 spread back in 2020, I hope they were both wearing masks during this incident – – if this incident occurred.]  Moreover, the woman alleges that at one point, Bauer held a steak knife to her throat – – presumably not as part of choking her unconscious.  Bauer has countersued the woman so my expectation is that this incident will phase into and out of the public realm over the next weeks and months.

#2 son sent along an item about the fact that no team in the NFC East has repeated as division champion since 2004.  And, he pointed out something else about the list of division champs since 2004 that I would have guessed improperly.  So, take this as a Quick Quiz:

  • Allocate the 20 NFC East Division Championships among the four teams in the division.  How many championships belong to each team?  Answer below…

While I am in the mode of providing Quiz Questions, let me try another one here.  If an NFL team wins 11 games in a season, that is a good thing for the team.  It virtually guarantees a playoff slot, and it supports coaching staff stability.  So:

  • Which NFL team has the longest drought without an 11-win season?  Answer below …

The Canadian Football League regular season began 3 weeks ago.  So far, the standings break down into three categories:

  1. Three teams are undefeated
  2. Three teams are winless
  3. Three teams have records of either 2-1 or 1-2.

The BC Lions are one of the undefeated teams at 3-0.  The Lions have only allowed 21 points in those three games, which is impressive in the CFL where offense often dominates.  At the other end of the scale, you can find the Hamilton Tiger-Cats whose 0-3 record is dominated by the fact that the team has given up a total of 112 points (37.3 points per game).

The CFL East Division seems at the moment to be divided in to two “haves” and two “have-nots”.  The Montreal Alouettes and the Toronto Argonauts are both undefeated.  Meanwhile the Ottawa Redblacks and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are winless.  But there are plenty of games left on the schedule before the CFL playoffs begin on the first weekend of November.

Here are the answers for the two Quiz Questions above…

Since 2004 …

  • The Eagles have been NFC champs 7 times.
  • The Cowboys have been NFC champs 6 times.
  • The Giants have been NFC champs 3 times.
  • The Skins/Football Team/Commanders have been NFC champs 3 times.

The team that has gone the longest without winning 11 games in a single season is the Washington “Franchise” depending on whatever name you want to give them here.  Their last winning season was in 1991 – – leading to a Super Bowl Championship that season.  Just for the record, the second longest drought belongs to the Jax Jags who have not won 11 games in a season since 2007.

Finally, here is a comment made by comedian, Chris Rock, back in 2003:

“You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America’s Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance and Germany does not want to go to war.”

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



On Hiatus …

My long-suffering wife and I leave later today for a trip to Italy where the main focus will be to take part in “cooking lessons” which will inevitably lead to “eating events”.  I have looked at the events on the itinerary and hope to return having gained only 10 pounds.

We fly home on June 27 and will arrive late in the day.  I expect June 28 will involve dealing with jet lag and with catching up with happenings in the world of sports.  My best guess is that I will be back on the air on June 29.

See you then.  Stay safe and stay well …

It’s Flag Day …

And a Happy Flag Day to one and all …

Ever since the LIV Golf Tour became a thing and after we learned that an NFL team is likely to sell for more than $6B, the usual focus by sports fans on large sums of money has had to expand significantly.  However, when the following story broke about a month ago it took things to an even higher plane.  Let me do a reset here …

Brian Davis was a member of the Duke national championship teams in the early 90s along with Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner.  Davis had a brief and undistinguished professional basketball career, but he has been active in a variety of financial enterprises since his graduation.  In May, Brian Davis filed a lawsuit against Bank of America seeking 500 billion dollars alleging that Bank of America never showed his bid or his financials to Daniel Snyder because Davis wanted to bid $7B for the Washington Commanders.

Davis also sought the return of more than $5B that he says he transferred to Bank of America as part of his bidding process for the NFL team.  The suit alleges that Davis transferred that money from an account at Citicorp to Bank of America, but that Bank of America never put the funds in Davis’ Bank of America account.  At the time of the filing, there were questions about how Davis came up with $5B to put in an account at Bank of America but I thought that this would have to be clarified if the matter ever went to trial.

Another aspect of the matter that did not make immediate sense to me was why Bank of America would conceal or deflect a $7B bid for the Commanders.  Daniel Snyder retained Bank of America to try to find a buyer for the team; my guess was that Bank of America would earn its fee at least in part based on the purchase price for the team and if that wee the case, then Bank of America would be motivated to put the Davis bid front and center.

Then this matter took an even stranger turn.  Davis dropped the lawsuit voluntarily and according to

“There are no indications in court records that there was any type of settlement.”

In a matter of weeks, a complaint seeking $500B in damages and the return of a “missing $5B bank transfer” just disappeared without a settlement?  Just to set this in context, various websites estimate Brian Davis’ net worth to be between $13M and $15M; that is not chicken feed but it does stand in stark contrast to the sorts of numbers one might expect to be associated with someone trying to buy an asset for $7B.  Davis was asked about the source of the money for his bid, and he specifically denied that it was from Saudi Arabia; he told a DC news station:

“That capital is coming from private investors who are located here in America who are domestic.  I have a great amount of respect for the Saudi Arabian people and Arab people in Islam in general. I love them. But the money’s not Saudi Arabian and I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia in my life.”

I do not have any superpowers, but my “Spider Sense” is tingling here.  I have no idea what is going on with all of this, but I suspect that there is more to be learned about this situation.

Moving on …  Brittney Griner is back in the news.  She and her Phoenix Mercury teammates were transiting the Dallas Airport when Griner was accosted by a man who is known as a “far-right Twitter personality”.   He is also described as the host of a “comedy show” on Blaze TV and that one of his recurring schticks is to “confront pampered subjects face-to-face”.  A security guard said the man “seemed aggressive and made some inappropriate comments”; there were no arrests and no charges.  The players’ union used this incident to press the league to have its teams fly chartered air instead of commercial air.  That is not all that surprising; that is what unions are supposed to do.

But in this case, I think the union is stretching the point just a bit.  Yes, Brittney Griner is easily recognized in an airport and yes, Brittney Griner is a lightening rod for attention given her having been inserted into the polarized political realm last year. However, the rest of the WNBA players can move about in most airports in anonymity so long as they are not wearing their uniforms with their names and numbers on them.  Even in that case, at least 20% of the players might not be recognized for who they are and might be taken for fans who are just wearing something they bought at a fan site.

Switching gears …  This item has been hanging around on my clipboard for a while, so let me polish it off today.  The Baltimore Ravens signed veteran QB, Josh Johnson, to a contract.  Given that he would be at best a backup to the backup in Baltimore, why would that even be interesting let alone important?

  • This is the third time the Ravens have signed Johnson to a contract.
  • He has been on the roster of 14 NFL teams in his career.
  • He has also played in the XFL, the United Football League and the Association of American Football.
  • Josh Johnson at age 37 is the Energizer Bunny of QBs.

Finally, a brief observation by Arthur Godfrey:

“I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States.  The only thing is – I could be just as proud for half the money.”

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



The Nuggets Rule The NBA

Congratulations to the Denver Nuggets; they are the NBA Champions for 2023.  Their victory last night in Denver was not an aesthetic presentation of the game of basketball, but the Nuggets won despite:

  • Shooting only 5 for 28 on 3-point attempts
  • Having only one player score more than 16 points

The Heat use their tenacious defense as a calling card and that defense is a big part of why and how the Heat made it to the Finals.  However, last night in the fourth quarter, it was the Nuggets that played the better defense holding the Heat to only 18 points in that quarter.

Some have characterized this season and this series as a “coming-out party” for Nikola Jokic.  Well, if you want to advance that metaphor just a tad, consider that Jokic should no longer be any sort of a mysterious entity in the world of basketball.  He was “on display” for the entirety of the NBA Playoffs and should have erased any doubt about his status as a dominant force in the game of basketball.  And in case you had not noticed, he will only be 29 years old in the middle of the next NBA regular season.

Moving on …  Normally, when the sports world intersects with government at just about any level of jurisdiction, the result is “less than totally satisfactory”.  Today we have the potential for two such intersections and at first glance one of them might be positive and the other is almost assuredly going to be sound and fury signifying nothing.  Let me begin with the one that might turn out to be a plus.

A recent memo from the Internal Revenue Service indicates that donations by boosters to NIL Collectives may not be tax deductible for those donors.  NIL Collectives take donations from alums and boosters and put them in a pool, and they use the total money to allocate it across sports and teams as a “recruiting tool”.  Wink!  Wink!!!  They are “buying” a team not “recruiting” one.

According to an IRS memo, these Collectives do not deserve status as a 501 (c) (3) organization because the Collectives exist to carry out “a substantial nonexempt purpose – serving the private interests of student-athletes.”  I have favored the idea of eliminating the tax deduction for any sort of donation to a college Athletic Department for decades and indeed there have been some loopholes closed around the margins of that fundraising system, but if this sort of thinking takes root at the IRS, it might advance the cause significantly in future years.

Notice that I said this intersection of sports and government “might be positive” and not that this is the “dawning of an age of enlightenment”.  The people who stand to be most affected by this sort of change to the tax code have deep pockets and lots of government influence going for them.  In addition, many politicians would prefer to hit a hornets’ nest like a pinata rather than mess with the football or basketball program at a major school in their jurisdiction.  So, I cautiously mention this as being potentially positive – – until I read somewhere that the idea has been tabled for further study.

The other intersection of sports and government is a grandstanding play.  Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and he has plumbed the depths of the repercussions caused by the merger of the PGA and LIV Golf and concluded that there are “serious questions regarding the reasons for and terms behind the announced agreement.”

Obviously, Senator Blumenthal is not a regular reader here because the reasons for the agreement and the terms behind the agreement can be summarized as was presented here last week:

  • Money talks and bulls[p]it walks.

The Subcommittee has demanded documents and communications between the parties leading up to the announcement of the merger.  Senator Blumenthal has said he wants to know how this “jointly operated commercial entity will be structured and governed”.  Really?  This commercial entity simply replaces a previous commercial entity that has operated a golf tour for the last 94 years.  This is not an entity that moves the needle on the US economy; this is not an entity that produces materials critical to the National Defense; this is an entity that organizes golf tournaments.  Moreover, this entity that organizes golf tournaments enjoys tax-free status because the architects of the US tax code have convinced themselves that the PGA Tour is a charity fundraising entity.  Ponder that for a while …

Senator Blumenthal also used the fact of this merger of golf organizations to express his dismay at Saudi Arabia’s human rights record calling that record “deeply disturbing”.  However, that human rights record must have been insufficiently disturbing a month ago before this merger saw the light of day because back then the Senator was not investigating diddley-doodle about LIV Golf as a stand-alone entity operating golf tournaments at various places in the US.  It took this merger to deepen his level of “disturb” to the point that he decided to investigate something.

There is a lot of hand-wringing these days about existential threats to mankindsuch as these four:

  1. Climate change
  2. Artificial Intelligence run amok – – think HAL 9000
  3. Pandemics
  4. Water shortages
  • Memo to Senator Blumenthal:  Those are important and potentially dangerous things that need to be controlled and managed.  Not a single one of those threats will be mitigated or exacerbated in the least by who or what organizes golf tournaments.
  • Investigate that …

Finally, I wonder what George Carlin might say about the tax-exempt status of NIL Collectives and/or Senator Blumenthal’s investigation into such deeply disturbing matters.  Here is one of Carlin’s observations that might give me a hint:

“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.”

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



A Broad Mix Today …


Arcangelo won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday; the winning time was 2:29  1/5.  In handicapping terms that is a mere 26 lengths behind what Secretariat did in the Belmont Stakes 50 years ago.  Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 and set the record for all three races in the Triple Crown then; those records in all three races still stand in 2023.

Moving on …  Andrew Brandt has had a long and diversified career in sports and sports law, if you Google “Andrew Brandt” you can find his bona fides very easily.  He has a Sunday Newsletter – – the “Sunday Seven” – – that I get via email.  Here is what he had to say yesterday about the LIV/PGA merger:

“My sense is that the PGA Tour knew or was advised that: (1) The LIV Tour, funded by the $600 billion Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), was not going away, and (2) The mutual antitrust lawsuit, not scheduled for trial until at least 2024, had some potentially uncomfortable discovery issues, such as how the PGA Tour magically finds money for $20 million purses and escalating legal fees. Faced with these realities, the PGA Tour took the money and merged. PIF will now be the sole investor and have a right of first refusal on any future investors. In simplest terms, they bought golf.”

He makes three points here that always “gave me pause” when thinking about this mess:

  1. From where did that extra $20M in purse money materialize overnight?
  2. The PGA was not a mortal lock to prevail in the lawsuit
  3. The PIF could bankrupt the PGA with legal fees but not the other way around.

Professor Brandt had another interesting item in his missive yesterday:

“There is a bigger picture here. Saudi money—along with Qatari money and other Middle Eastern investment—is coming to bigger American sports. They have invested in the English Premier League and Formula 1 Racing; it is naive to think they won’t do the same in other American sports. They have bought golf, and that gives their money some legitimacy. The ‘Core Four’—the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL—are next.

“The price of entry into these leagues is becoming too high to rely on a cadre of multi-billionaires to purchase them. Josh Harris, one of those billionaires, owns the NBA’s 76ers and the NHL’s Devils but is still struggling to secure proper financing to purchase the NFL’s Washington Commanders for $6 billion. Institutional investment such as that of PIF would alleviate some of those issues. The NBA has just loosened investment restrictions to allow for sovereign wealth funds; other leagues will soon follow.

“LIV Golf is now part of the PGA Tour in a yet-to-be-named entity. This is an inflection point for sports finance. Human rights issues and politics notwithstanding, Saudi money is coming to American sports leagues. Maybe not this year or even next year, but soon. Count on it.

His point about the values of NFL franchises is on point.  The NFL’s current rules do not allow for “sovereign wealth” or “Institutional investment ownership”; while that tends to keep the playing field relatively level, it also puts a “soft cap” on how much a franchise can sell for.  The Commanders price is reported to be $6.1B and there is a limit on the percentage of the price paid that a new owner may present as borrowed money.  I don’t know the details in all of this but assume that percentage is 25%.  That means the new owner – – and his minority partners – – must come up with almost $4.6B in “cash”.  [Aside:  If the percentage allowable here is higher than 25%, then the “cash requirement” is smaller.  Forget the exact numbers and focus on the magnitude.]

The US has lots of rich people but if you held a meeting of all the folks who could “write a check” for $4.6B or so I don’t think you would need to rent out Lambeau Field.  So, the fact that there are only a few qualified bidders for an NFL team under the current rules means that price increases for franchises might not be as explosive as in recent years where the Panthers sold for $2.2B and then the Broncos for $4.6B and now the Commanders presumably for $6.1B.

Next up … Barry Sverluga hade a column in Saturday’s Washington Post under this headline:

  • LSU ace’s 124 pitches illicit groans around MLB

LSU is in the College World Series tournament and their star pitcher just won a complete game.  He is touted as – possibly – the overall #1 pick in the MLB Draft this year and scouts worry that he is being over-used.  When I read about their concerns, it sent me to the Internet to recall the details about a specific baseball game that I remember from my youth.  I was not there to see it in person, nor did I see it on TV – – but I remember that it happened because it was so different.

In September of 1952 – – I was 9 years old – – Phillies’ pitcher, Robin Roberts pitched a complete game that went 17 innings.  Here is his pitching line for the game – – MLB did not keep a pitch count stat back then:

  • 17 innings, 6 runs on 16 hits 3 walks and 5 strikeouts {Aside: More than likely in excess of 124 pitches …]

The Phillies won 7-6 and that complete game – – actually, almost two complete games in one outing – – came in the middle of a complete game streak for Roberts.  Between August 1952 and July 1953, Robin Roberts threw 28 consecutive complete games.

Baseball is played differently in 2023 than it was in 1953 …

Finally, just because I like this quote, let me finish today with H. L. Mencken:

“Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong and that 99 percent of them are wrong.”

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




Coming To America – – Lionel Messi

The big news from yesterday is the Lionel Messi had decided to sign with Inter Miami in MLS instead of taking a reported $1B deal from a team in Saudi Arabia. The initial reports said that the details of Messi’s contract with Inter Miami have not been finalized, but we can be certain that it will not be anywhere near a 10-figure deal.  Reports say that his contract will include “ownership stakes when he retires”; Messi is 36 years old, so retirement is not decades into the future; this is not going to be analogous to a “Bobby Bonilla deal”.

For perspective, the biggest contract I can find in MLS for this year is $8.2M.  That gives you an idea of the gap between soccer contracts in the US and in Europe where playing contracts can exceed $40M per year.  Messi will probably earn at or near the top of the MLS scale for however many years he is on the pitch.

This is a big move for Messi, and it is a feather in MLS’ cap; but Messi is not nearly the first major European star to come to the US for his final days on the pitch.  A good friend of mine worked at ABC Sports and was involved in promotions for the old North American Soccer League (NASL).  He got me tix for “Soccer Bowl” in 1980 which was played at RFK Stadium in DC.  That game featured the NY Cosmos and on their roster were Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.  Pele was 40 at the time and Beckenbauer was 35; both were great players in major soccer competition in their hey-day; Beckenbauer played in Germany and Pele in Brazil before joining the Cosmos.  [Aside:  Pele did not play in that Soccer Bowl game in 1980 but was still on the Cosmos’ roster; Beckenbauer played.]

In addition to Pele and Beckenbauer, I remember Johan Cruyff playing for the Washington team in the NASL in the late 70s and early 80s.  Cruyff was a great player and stood out when playing against NASL competition.

When Messi signs on the dotted line with Inter Miami, his “boss” will be the team owner, David Beckham who also came to US soccer after a long and gloried career in Europe playing for Man U in the EPL and Real Madrid in La Liga.

I know that I will have missed more than a handful of foreign soccer stars who came to the US late in their careers so let me rattle off the ones I recall without doing any searching:

  • George Best
  • Thierry Henry
  • Robbie Keane
  • Wayne Rooney

This is a big deal, but I do not want to fall into the same trap that many commentators fell into when the likes of Pele or Beckham signed on with a US team.  This event – in and of itself – is NOT the inflection point at which soccer will grow exponentially and outstrip the NFL in popularity in the US.  Yes, ticket prices for Inter Miami games soared on the news of his decision to come to Miami; some tickets were going for $500.  Yes, this signing could well be the tipping point that allows Inter Miami to get a new stadium – – or significant expansion of its current stadium in Fort Lauderdale which only seats 18,000 fans.

  •  It is a big deal for Inter Miami and for MLS, but it need not be exaggerated.

Moving on … There was another important story that came to light yesterday that is far less joyful.  The Texas Rangers announced that Jacob deGrom will have season-ending surgery to repair a “tear in his ulnar collateral ligament” meaning he will miss the rest of this season.  deGrom is 34 years old and is in the first year of a 5-year contract that he signed with the Rangers last winter; he made only 6 starts for the team in 2023.

Jacob deGrom earns his living by throwing a baseball around 100 mph from the pitcher’s mound to the catcher.  His most dominant season was in 2018 when he started 32 games for the NY Mets and finished with only a 10-9 record despite pitching to an ERA of only 1.70 for the season.  In 2018 he also struck out 269 batters while walking only 46.  Indeed, he won the Cy Young Award that year despite the mediocre won/lost record.

In the three seasons between 2017 and 2019, deGrom threw more than 200 innings and given his style of pitching, it seems to have taken a toll on his arm.  Granted 2020 was a truncated season, but since 2019, he has not thrown more than 92 innings in any year; in his 6 starts this year, he threw only 30.1 innings.

deGrom has been on the IL since late April with what was originally diagnosed as “elbow inflammation”.  After treatment and an attempt at rehab, an MRI revealed “damage that was significant” and that ended the 2023 season for deGrom.  Normally, this sort of surgery takes a year to heal; given what deGrom will try to do with his repaired elbow, my guess is that doctors and trainers will be very cautious about “rushing him back to the mound”.  deGrom says his goal is to be back “before the end of next year”.  Rangers’ fans certainly hope that he can return and pitch the way he did back in 2020 and before; baseball fans should root for his return also because when he is on, he is fun to watch.

Finally, since there is optimism in Miami and optimism about the injury to Jacob deGrom, let me close today with this observation by British physician, Havelock Ellis:

“The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.”

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



The NBA Needs To Pull On The Reins

Since yesterday’s rant dealt entirely with the merger of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, let me offer here an interesting slant on that event.  Brad Dickson – formerly a columnist with the Omaha World-Herald – posted this Tweet yesterday:

“Breaking news: The PGA just announced plans to merge with ISIS.”

And that puts everything into sharp focus there…

The NBA Finals continue and are providing some entertaining games.  The Nuggets currently lead the Heat two games to one, but the NBA is having difficulty maintaining the news focus on those Finals.  When the NFL goes into its two-week pause leading up to the Super Bowl, the focus is on the game and the teams and the players; the NFL tends to control the narrative.  One way they do that is to be sure that there are no free agents until after the Super Bowl.  The NBA has as many “loose ends” out there as a plate of linguine.  Consider:

  • The Ja Morant saga.  The league hinted that it found “more info” during its “investigation” but won’t let anyone in on the details until after the Finals.  As if that would stop speculative/sensationalist reports during the finals.
  • James Harden is a free agent and breathless reports say that he is “torn between two teams” as his next career stop.  Who cares?  Why is this allowed to distract attention from the Finals?
  • Kyrie Irving is a free agent, and the Mavs insist they want to re-sign him.  Not to be outdone in the spotlight even by Mark Cuban, Irving has called on LeBron James to come to Dallas to play alongside Irving there.  Why is this allowed to distract attention from the Finals?

I am certainly not going to try to pretend that I am a “Communications Guru” or a “PR Expert”, but it does seem to me that the NBA Finals – – the event that has been the league’s Holy Grail since last November – – ought to stand clean in the media space.  It should be a time for fans to temporarily forget/ignore many of the annoying and ongoing stories related to the NBA such as:

  • Load management
  • Teams admitting they tanked games to get a better draft shot.
  • Teams denying they tanked games to get a better draft shot.
  • Trade demands churning rosters around the league.

But the NBA has shown that it does not have the wherewithal to control the narrative during its Finals series and the league’s warts remain on display when they should not.

Moving on …  There have been two big stories about sports media recently.  First, it seems that Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe are “breaking up” and will no longer be the co-hosts on FS1’s Undisputed.  There have been plenty of speculative pieces produced trying to explain how this came to be.  I have seen reports saying that audiences for Undisputed are in the 100K – 150K range; that indicates to me that the show is not working in the very important area of drawing and maintaining an audience.  [Aside:  As a point of reference, the estimated population of Joliet Illinois in 2022 was 150,033.  So, the audience for Undisputed is equivalent to everyone in Joliet tuning in but no one else in the US tuning in.  Not good …]

Skip Bayless has a lucrative contract with FOX for the show, so the objective on Mahogany Row at FOX Sports must be to find a way to pair someone with Bayless who will increase the audience levels.  I have no suggestions as to who that might be, but someone somewhere needs to come up with a good idea there.

The other sports media story du jour is that Pat McAfee is going to “take his podcast” to ESPN and that podcast will be available on ESPN, the ESPN app and the ESPN You Tube Channel.  The NY Post says that McAfee’s deal with ESPN is for 5 years and $85M.  McAfee says that his show will not change and the bosses at ESPN have not told him to change anything.  I do not believe that at all:

  • One “feature” of the podcast is the interaction between McAfee with his crew and with his guests and Pat McAfee probably averages 10 “F-bombs” per hour.
  • I just do not believe that ESPN is going to accept that sort of programming for very long.

This big contract for McAfee comes while ESPN – – and parent Disney Corp – – are laying off lots of staff employees.  That could be an interesting thing to watch …

If McAfee takes the Noon to 3:00 PM slot on ESPN, that will displace two hours of SportsCenter and Max Kellerman’s one-hour show, This Just In.  I doubt that anyone will miss the two hours of SportsCenter at midday; it is always a cobbled together presentation of stale last night’s news/results with an attempt to make them sound fresh and exciting.  Pre-empting Max Kellerman’s show is different; Kellerman is an interesting piece in the world of sports debate programming.  He is opinionated without being “in your face”; he makes cogent points and will go toe-to-toe with anyone who holds a different perspective on a subject.  I, for one, hope ESPN finds a slot for him somewhere on one of their networks.

But no, I do not want to see Max Kellerman leave ESPN and slide over the FS1 to square off with Skip Bayless.  For me, that is not a marriage made in Heaven.

Finally, let me close today with an anecdote involving the playwright George S. Kaufman:

Kaufman was a bridge fanatic who did not suffer incompetent players gladly.  When one particularly inept partner asked to be excused to go to the men’s room, Kaufman replied, “Gladly – for the first time today I’ll know what you have in your hand.”

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



The PGA And LIV Golf Decide To “Make Nice”

The subject today is golf – sort of.  It has little if anything to do with the game played by amateurs and professionals; it has only a passing relationship with the tournaments that many fans watch on weekends in the summertime; it has to do with settling the year-long spitting contest between the PGA and LIV Golf.  The two entities have merged; they now sit in serenity circles singing Kumbaya after each one declared the other to be demonic for the last year or so.

Judging from the commentaries in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the merger, the opinion leaders here in the US who dwell on golf matters are most unhappy with this outcome.  Recall that almost all of these commentators have spent the entirety of the confrontation between the PGA and LIV Golf squarely on the side of the PGA and accused any and all persons who chose to align themselves with LIV Golf as lowlifes who accepted blood money from irredeemably evil folks in Saudi Arabia.  Yesterday, they learned that their champion in the fight had reversed course and has now chosen to “make nice” with those same irredeemably evil folks.  The commentators are not happy.

Sally Jenkins is – in my opinion – the best sports columnist of the day; she has been as avid a supporter of the PGA for the last year as anyone.  Here is the start of her column today in the Washington Post and here is a link to the entire column if you want to read all of what she has to say:

“What’s the going rate to turn an American executive into a boot boy for a despotic torturer such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? Just how worn out are the knees of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan’s pants legs?

“But let’s start with this simple question first: Why would the PGA Tour join forces with a vermin-populated fourth-rate start-up such as LIV Golf, a comedic failure that can’t command any ratings, headed by that king of the white mice, Greg Norman?

“Bought. That’s the only word for Monahan and his henchies on the PGA Tour policy board, who have made an otherwise inexplicable — and still vague — deal to work with LIV and the European tour to form a new global enterprise, funded by the Saudis. They were bought. The only question is for how many bills.”

Maybe Ms. Jenkins is right; maybe the right word for all of this is “Bought”.  I think there are other possibilities, but I have exactly no inside information that might support those possibilities.  However, let me offer up one right here.

The PGA and LIV Golf have been engaged in a lawsuit that alleges that the PGA engages in practices that amount to “restraint of trade”.  That is not a trivial allegation.  So, is it not possible that the folks running the PGA decided that they did not want to take a chance with a jury in this matter and concluded that a merger which would make that lawsuit go away was the prudent course of action?  Maybe the PGA was “bought”; maybe they acted in a way to mitigate risk?

Here is another slant on that litigation.  My understanding of civil litigation – – and remember, I have never been to law school – – is that it seeks to make an injured party whole if the “injury” involved negligence or some other tortuous activity on the part of the perpetrator.  [Aside:  I have never quite understood how a monetary award made anyone “whole” in things like wrongful death suits since the victim there remains – you know – dead.  But set that aside for a moment…]  Lots of civil litigation is expensive in terms of the legal fees for representation and background information gathering; it seems to me that a case involving these allegations would be within the upper limits of legal costs and fees for the parties.

To be sure, the PGA is not a nickel-and-dime outfit.  However, if you want to compare the depth of the pockets for the combatants in that matter, the PGA is a pauper compared to the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is estimated to have something north of $600B in assets.  Maybe, the PGA saw a path to a legal victory but that it would be a Pyrrhic victory that left it verging on bankruptcy?  Hence a merger?

Let me be clear.  I am not saying that either of my scenarios has a basis in reality.  What I am saying is that the media commentators who are so outraged this morning were not privy to any – let alone all – of the activities that led to the agreement to merge.  For now, this is analogous to a “he said/she said” situation and not all those sorts of situations turn out in the end to be what they were trumpeted to be at the beginning.

There are some clear winners in all this – – the golfers who took the outsized signing bonuses from LIV Golf suffered a year of ostracism and scorn but are now back on an equal footing with those who stayed with the PGA and did not get any signing bonus money.

There is a clear point of embarrassment that the PGA will try to sweep aside – – the PGA has aligned itself with the families of 9-11 victims as part of its previous attempts to paint the Saudi money for LIV Golf as blood money.  Explaining yesterday’s merger to those surviving family members should be dicey.

Golf fans are probably winners here too – – when they tune in to see a golf tournament other than the majors, they will get to see all the best golfers in the world not just some of them.  I am not a huge “golf fan” but I imagine that the measure for enjoyment for the Joe Flabeetz Invitational Tournament would be directly proportional to the number of recognizable names in the field.

One bit of bad news that may come out of this merger – – LIV Golf has a “team golf” concept baked into its tournaments.  Golf is not a team sport notwithstanding the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup and the Who Gives A Rat’s Ass Cup.  If this merger results in the rise of “Team Golf” every weekend, that is not a plus.

Sally Jenkins attributes the merger to the fact that the PGA was “bought” by the LIV Golf folks.  By implication she attributes this decision to the money available to the LIV Golf folks.  At that level of abstraction, I agree with her; I prefer – at least until there is more information available – to think that a more accurate way to look at this is that “money talks and bulls[p]it walks.”

Finally, it seems to me that these remarks by Abraham Lincoln are a fitting way to close today:

“Discourage litigation.  Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.  Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser – in fees, expenses and waste of time.  As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man.  There will still be business enough.”

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



Clipboard Items Today

Today will be a randomized trip through some of the items I have on my clipboard for “future use” in these rants.  If you think you have discovered a thread that goes through them, you may be certain that your discovery is not something I had in mind while assembling this.

The NFL continues to investigate instances where players or coaches or team officials have wagered improperly.  Lions’ WR, Jameson Williams, received a 6-game suspension for gambling activities and he has said that he had not been aware of the full extent of the NFL prohibitions there.  Last year, Calvin Ridley was suspended for the season for betting on his own team to win even though he was on injured reserve and could not possibly play in the game or affect its outcome.  So, what are the rules in effect here?

The prohibitions about gambling are codified in the CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA.  Here is a summary:

  • Football betting:  No way and no how.  Betting is prohibited on games, practices, the Draft, the Combine, futures, or props.  If the sport is football, forget about betting on it.
  • Other sports:  NFL personnel other than players are also forbidden to bet or facilitate betting on any other professional, college, international or amateur sport, tournament, or event.

Gambling at legal casinos involving table games seem to be OK for NFL players and wagers on horse or dog races create a grey area in that they are “professional” events but are not enumerated anywhere by the NFL mavens.  I think the rules are overly restrictive; I doubt that a revelation of a team scout betting on who will win The Masters is a threat to the integrity of NFL games; but those are the rules.  Even though I think they are overly restrictive, they are also very clear and anyone – – players or anyone else – – who risks all or part of their career by making sports wagers can only claim “misunderstanding” if simultaneously they admit abject stupidity.

A report yesterday said that a player for the Colts is under investigation for placing “hundreds of bets” from within the Colts’ facilities and that those wagers took place in 2022 and 2023.  Please note that these alleged activities came after the announcement of Calvin Ridley’s suspension meaning the accused player still “did not understand” the rules after that demonstration of the rules.  Time to cue in Bugs Bunny:

  • What a maroon!

Next up is an update on the sale of the Washington Commanders.  There are continuing reports that the Finance Committee has “problems” with the structure of Josh Harris’ bid to buy the team.  At some point, someone needs to whisper in the ear of those august members of the Committee that they need to tread a bit more lightly here because:

  • If they turn down the deal, they are stuck with Danny Boy and the public stench that he bears as one of their colleagues.
  • If they piss of Harris and his colleagues sufficiently, they may pull their bid off the table.  That attaches Danny Boy to the league to plus it could open the league up to litigation by Danny Boy should he be unable to find another buyer willing to pay $6.1B for his team.

Getting rid of Danny Boy has to be a plus for the other 31 owners and putting someone else in charge of the Commanders would make the league appear to be run by adults.  Two years ago, when the team chose to “rebrand itself” and went through a period calling themselves the Washington Football Team, they went about selecting a more permanent name.  After two years of thinking and investigating and strategizing, they came up with the Washington Commanders – – and then learned that the Patent and Trademark Office would not give the team a trademark for the name.  That boneheadedness does not dip into the pockets of the other 31 owners whose team names and logos are indeed trademarked, but it puts one more “dumbass chip” on the scales for one of the league franchises.

  • Memo to the NFL Finance Committee:  Get this deal done.  Now.

Along those lines, let me also opine that even if the Commanders are sold and the deal were to close this evening, there is a potential for Danny Boy to continue to intersect with the NFL down the road.  Jon Gruden has a lawsuit pending against the league; the NFL has tried to get the suit dismissed and – -failing that – – to force it into arbitration where the proceedings are not made public.  To date, the NFL has not been successful in those motions.  Critical to that suit are some 600,000 emails many of which were between Gruden and the former Skins’ team president, Bruce Allen.  Some of those emails were leaked and Gruden alleges that was the basis for his losing his job.

My point is not to try this case here.  My point is that if this becomes a public trial, those emails could easily become part of the public record.  The obvious question that would have to be answered is how did those emails leak; and since most of the leaked ones involved the time when Allen and Danny Boy were running the Skins, that could easily drag Danny Boy back into the same orbit as the NFL.  Oh joy!

Complicating that matter even further is that Bruce Allen and Danny Boy are no longer “besties”.  Allen filed an arbitration claim against Danny Boy and some accommodation was reached in the process even though the two sides do not agree on how that accommodation came to be.  The Gruden lawsuit will not “bring down” the NFL by any stretch of the imagination, but it has the potential to be a thorn in the foot and a huge source of embarrassment.

Finally, much of today has dealt with the foibles of very rich people so let me close with this observation about rich people by George Bernard Shaw:

“What is the matter with the poor is poverty; what is the matter with the rich is uselessness.”

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