Swing And A Miss

Anyone who had been reading these rants for any length of time ought to understand that I have nothing but a low regard for the folks at the NCAA.  Given the effectiveness and the value-added that the NCAA provides to collegiate athletics, I think many of the people drawing paychecks there are nothing more than animated suit dummies.  Having said that, it is important to recognize the truth in the adage:

  • Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

The rule makers and guardians of intercollegiate athletics have come to the conclusion that the “Transfer Portal” is out of control and needs “fixing”.  Give these minor functionaries credit for seeing that there is a problem; then ask yourself if they have moved to resolve it.

The NCAA Division 1 Council approved changes to the Transfer Portal that would affect all intercollegiate sports endeavors.  The headline news is that the Portal for football and for men’s and women’s basketball will be reduced from 60 days to 45 days.  Be still my heart while I process the significance of such a sea change…

Other intercollegiate sports will have different “portal windows” but this is the best “resolution” that the NCAA braintrust could come up with for the most visible activities involving the Transfer Portal.   Let me be brutally honest here:

  • I do not care at all about college fencers who transfer from Hoity-Toity U to En Garde Tech.  I suspect that few if any other folks do either.

So, the net result of the changes made by the NCAA’s aminated suit dummies who saw there was “a problem” is to collapse the time available to an athlete seeking a transfer by 25%.  Please do not try to convince me that this is significant; if a college athlete – – nominally one who is intellectually worthy of being a college student – – cannot make a transfer decision in less than 6 weeks maybe they ought not be in college.  The Transfer Portal has myriad “issues”, but the length of time given to the athletes to conclude their negotiations regarding where they will play next is probably about Priority 42.  As is always the case when cosmetic changes are made to entities or processes that have major flaws, there are carefully worded statements by the folks making the cosmetic changes.  The chair of the Division 1 Council had this to say:

“In both men’s and women’s basketball, the council determined that a 45-day window that concludes on or before May 1 best enables coaches to understand their current rosters, provides stability for student-athletes remaining at the school as they prepare for summer basketball, and encourages student-athletes who intend to transfer to do so before final exams at their current schools and summer school application deadlines at most campuses.  Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate the impact of transfer windows on student-athletes, coaches and athletics programs.”

The major issue with the coupling of NIL money plus the easy/unrestrained Transfer Portal is that college sports has become a giant free agent marketplace.  And the question for the fans of college sports – – you know, the ones who provide the support that translates into big time dollars for schools and conferences – – is simple:

  • Assume your school does not compete well in this helter-skelter transfer portal environment, are you happy to see that your archrival has figured the system out better than your coaches/administrators have?

Here is my outline for how the Transfer Portal should operate.  Remember, the athletes who are thinking of using it are adults; they are eligible to vote; they can operate motor vehicles; they can purchase firearms in most states; they can serve in the military.  They are not naïve children.

  • Any athlete in any sport can accept a scholarship at any school and subsequently determine that they made a bad choice.  Maybe the team environment doesn’t work; maybe the academics do not work; whatever …  The “first choice school” is not working and will not work.  That athlete should be able to transfer to any other NCAA school that would have them as a student with no penalty or obstacle such as a period of ineligibility.
  • Here is where I get stubborn …  After transferring with no penalty, the athlete is in his second athletic-scholastic situation; if that one is not also to his/her liking, then maybe he/she needs to think about paying a price to try to find a third situation that works for them.  Remember, they are adults; they need to make choices in their lives and live with the consequences.  So, in my world construct, an athlete seeking a second transfer would need to spend one full calendar year at the “third school” before being eligible to play whatever sport they are in school to play.
  •  And if it happens that the third school is also somehow unsuitable for the athlete, his next transfer would incur a two-year period of ineligibility.
  • And I think you see where this is going into the future…

Let me channel Rhett Butler here.  Frankly, I don’t give a damn how long the transfer window is open.  That is not the issue that can eat at the fundamental fabric of college athletics which is something one might suspect the NCAA would care about.  But it is so convenient and so easy and so amenable to PR statements for the Division 1 Council to change the timing of the Transfer Portal that it is no surprise to me that they came to that conclusion.

Finally, let me close here with these words from the Roman poet, Horace:

“Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’.  We their sons are more worthless than they; so, in our turn, we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.”

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



Three Legal Matters …

“Bait-and-switch” is a scam or a con wherein someone advertises an appealing product at a very attractive price with no intention of selling that product at all; rather, at the last moment an inferior product is substituted for the one that was advertised.  Often, bait-and-switch operations are illegal.

I went grazing on the Internet yesterday afternoon to check on the status of Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL for a whole bunch of things related to his being fired as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after some less than proper emails from him became known to the public.  As I have said here before, I am rooting for Gruden to be allowed to have his case heard in open court where evidence that is introduced is simultaneously available to the public.  Other than hoping for an open and public trial, I do not particularly care at this point if Gruden prevails in his lawsuit; I just want this one adjudicated in the public sphere.

The status of the case is pretty simple:

  • The suit was filed about 2 years ago.  The NFL immediately sought to take it away from the Nevada State courts and to have the case decided by arbitration.
  • Arbitration would provide a hearing for Gruden – – but none of the evidence would necessarily see the light of day.  The public would learn of the arbitration decision and not much more.
  • The trial court in Nevada denied the NFL’s motion to reassign the matter to arbitration and the NFL naturally appealed that ruling.  The matter now resides with the Nevada Supreme Court; if that court upholds the trial court decision, the matter will remain in open court pending a likely appeal by the NFL to the US Supreme Court.

Basically, nothing much has happened in the case in more than a year and even if Gruden prevails in the Nevada Supreme Court, it looks as if it will be at least a couple more years before any final determination of the venue for the action is reached.  And, as I thought about the case status and the possible next steps along the path to resolution, I began to wonder if the NFL is simply doing a bait-and-switch here.

  • The legal teams here are going through all their motions to reach a final conclusion on how this matter will be heard and decided.
  • People like me who want to know what else might have been in the cache of emails that was not leaked to the NY Times and Wall Street Journal which kicked this snowball off the cliff in the first place continue to pay attention and hope for a trial in open court.
  • However, in the end, that is probably not going to happen even if Jon Gruden wins at the US Supreme Court level because at that point the NFL can and would likely settle the matter out of court with a “sizeable” payment that only a business entity of the size and scope of the NFL can afford.

Now that I have composed these thoughts, maybe bait-and-switch is not the proper metaphor here.  Perhaps the better analogy is that I am Charlie Brown, and the NFL is Lucy holding the football for me to kick.  You know what Lucy does every time that situation obtains …

In another situation involving a fired football coach, Pat Fitzgerald has filed a lawsuit against Northwestern University alleging wrongful termination; he is seeking $130M from the university in the matter.  The suit alleges that Northwestern is in breach of two contracts (No, I do not know anything about multiple contracts), that the school defamed Fitzgerald and that Northwestern intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Fitzgerald.  Recall that Fitzgerald was initially suspended by the university for two weeks after allegations of hazing within the football program were investigated by the university.  At the time of the suspension, the university president said in a communication to the Northwestern community that the investigation did not find “any credible evidence that Coach Fitzgerald himself knew anything about it”.

Recall in the Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker (R-TN) framed the critical issue before the Select Committee as:

“What did the President know and when did he know it?”

It seems to me that is similarly a key question in this lawsuit against Northwestern University – – except the “president” in this matter is the president of a university and not the President of the United States.

And while we are flailing about in the legal soup related to fired football coaches, Mel Tucker is also reported to be gearing up a wrongful termination suit against Michigan State.  Tucker lost his job after he was accused of having phone sex with a woman without her consent.  I have not found any reports of a lawsuit having been filed, but lawyers representing Tucker did send a 106-page letter to the interim-president of Michigan State claiming to have evidence that the woman accusing Tucker in this matter “manipulated a key witness” and also “deleted key evidence”.

Three head football coaches; two wrongful termination lawsuits and probably a third; tens of millions of dollars involved in the “terminations for cause”; and I suspect that it will be at least 5 years before all three matters come to a close.  Sit back and enjoy the ride…

Finally, given the topic of the day, it seems appropriate for me to close with this trio of observations:

“The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.”  [H. L. Mencken]

And …

Lawsuit, n:  A machine which you go into as a pig and come out as a sausage.”  [Ambrose Bierce]

And …

“If law school is so hard to get through, how come there are so many lawyers?  [Calvin Trillin]

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



The MLB Playoffs …

The first round of the MLB playoffs produced four series sweeps.  The ongoing Division Series might produce two series sweeps, but if that happens it will be surprising.  The Astros and Twins are tied at 1 game each; the next two games will be in Minnesota.  The Phillies and the Braves are also tied at 1 game each and the next two games will be in Philly.  Both of those series have provided interesting and exciting baseball; I expect they will continue to do so.

The other two Division Series matchups are a bit surprising.  The Orioles had the best record in the American League in 2023 winning 101 games.  At home, the Orioles posted a winning percentage of .605.  Meanwhile, the Rangers won only 90 games this season and the Rangers had a slightly losing record on the road (40-41).  So, naturally, the Rangers went into Baltimore and won the first two games in the series.  Of course …

In one of the National League series, the D-Backs lead the Dodgers 2-0.  In the regular season the Dodgers won 100 games and had a home winning record of 53-28 (.654).  The Dodgers posted a run differential for the season of +207 runs.  Looking back at the regular season, the D-Backs limped into the playoffs having won 84 games and they were only 41-40 in road games.  In addition, and despite their winning record for the season, the D-Backs posted a negative run differential for the year (minus-15 runs).  So naturally, the D-Backs went into LA and won the first two games of the series – – outscoring the Dodgers 15-4.  Of course …

A lot of commentators are calling for a change in the playoff format because – – the argument goes – – teams with a BYE in the wildcard round get “rusty” waiting to play the winners of those wildcard series and so some of the “best teams” get eliminated quickly.  If you run across one of those arguments, please keep this in mind:

  • If we knew for certain who the “best teams” – – or better yet, the “best team” – – at the end of the regular season, there would be no need for any playoffs of any kind including the World Series.
  • These playoffs seek to determine the year’s “best team” on the field and not on the stat sheets.

The 2023 regular season was a very good one for MLB.  The overall attendance increased 9.6%; the total number of fans entering through the stadium turnstiles was 70,747,365 souls.  Even more important, only 4 of the 30 MLB teams saw a decline in attendance:

  1. White Sox – – down 4,194 fans per game
  2. Nats – – down 1,982 fans per game
  3. Cardinals – – down 981 fans per game
  4. Dodgers – – down 300 fans per game

Forget the Dodgers figure here; the Dodgers led MLB in average attendance with 47,371 fans per game; that decrease for this year is a blip.  The Cardinals had a miserable and disappointing season; the White Sox were similarly miserable and disappointing plus they had a shooting in their stadium which is of no promotional benefit and the Nats play in a front-running town and the Nats were never front-running this year.  The other 26 teams enjoyed average attendance increases ranging from the Phillies (+9,579 fans per game) to the NY Mets (+109 fans per game).

I would have to say that the rule changes that sped up games by an average of 24 minutes per game proved to be positive changes for the game.  TV ratings for nationally televised games were also up by 10% which is another positive sign for MLB.

Moving on …  The regular season in the Canadian Football League is winding down; their playoffs begin on November 4th and the CFL championship game – – the Grey Cup – – will happen on November 19th in Hamilton, ONT.  The CFL playoff format is similar to the MLB format.  Three teams from each division make the playoffs and the division winner gets a BYE Week.  The CFL has an odd number of teams so one team gets a “BYE Week” every week.  As of today, most of the CFL teams have played 16 games; two teams have played only 15 games; the regular season is 18 games long and has been that way since the 1980s.

The teams that will make the CFL playoffs in 2023 have pretty much been determined but there are still seeding issues to be resolved in the final games.

  • In the East, the Toronto Argonauts will win the division and get the BYE.    The Montreal Alouettes and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will both make the playoffs, but it is not yet certain which team will finish second in the division and get a home game for the first playoff round.
  • In the West, the Winnipeg Blue-Bombers lead the BC Lions by one game with two games left to play.  In addition the Saskatchewan Roughriders have two more wins than either of the teams chasing them, but the Roughriders have lost 5 games in a row.

Finally, let me close today with these words from author, Ambrose Bierce:

Prayer, n:  To ask all the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.”

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



Football Friday 10/6/23

Miley Cyrus said:

“I take a hiatus every now and again, but I’m not good at it.”

Well, after my brief hiatus, let me say that I think I am quite good at it and that my long-suffering wife and I very much enjoyed ourselves over the past week and a half.  So, today will be the return of Football Friday and to get things started, let me review the “Betting Bundle” from two weeks ago:

  • College:  1-3-0 => Cumulative:  3-4-0
  • NFL:   0-0-0  => Cumulative:  4-3-0
  • Parlays:  1-1  “Profit” = $119  =>  Cumulative:  3-2  “Profit” = $314


College Football Commentary :


            The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 3-0 by overwhelming conference foe, Willamette University by a score of 70-14.  This week, Linfield goes on the road to Portland, OR to take on the Lewis and Clark Pioneers.  Lewis and Clark is 2-2 on the season; they share one common opponent with Linfield.  Lewis and Clark also dominated Willamette two weeks ago by a score of 38-7.  Go Wildcats!

This weekend is the Texas State Fair and that means it is also the time for the Texas/Oklahoma football game – – dubbed the Red River Rivalry.  Over the past several years, this game had lost some of its historical luster; there were seasons where both teams were ranked in the Top Ten and this was a huge deal.  Well, both teams are ranked highly again this year; the AP has Texas ranked #3 and Oklahoma ranked #12.  Big game; big rivalry.

Another big game this week will be the Alabama/Texas A&M game in College Station, TX.  Both teams are undefeated in conference games; the winner here will not only take the lead in the SEC West, but it will also own the tiebreaker between the teams should that become necessary.  I know it is awfully early in the season to call this a “must win” game for either team or to say that the loser here will be eliminated from the SEC West race – – but the game does have that vibe …

Alabama coach, Nick Saban will have to deal with a coach this week who was once part of his staff in Jimbo Fisher.  Saban can also look at another coach in a big game this week who used to be part of his program at Alabama in Steve Sarkissian at Texas.  And don’t forget about Kirby Smart at Georgia too.  Saban has been a mentor to all three of those successful coaches which reminds me of an observation about mentors by the author Bo Sanchez:

“Getting a mentor is a shortcut to success.”

By the way, the plan for the SEC next year is to get rid of the East and West Divisions with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the conference.  The SEC Championship Game will simply pit the #1 team against the #2 team in the 16-team conference.

In the SEC East, there are 3 undefeated teams – – Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri – – and they all get to play one another.  And, Tennessee has only one loss this year meaning that if it runs the table, it will win the SEC East.  I know it’s early, but there is plenty of “sorting out” needed in the SEC East.

Penn State has been on a 10-game winning streak ever since losing to Ohio State last season.  The Nittany Lions should make that 11 games in a row when they host UMass next week after a BYE Week this week – – and then comes a road game at Ohio State.  Look forward to that one…

  • [Aside:  This weekend, UMass is a 19-point underdog to Toledo.  Why are they going to play Penn State next week?]

Florida State is undefeated this year and has already played LSU and Clemson.  They had a BYE Week last weekend and now have 3 consecutive home conference games against Va Tech, Syracuse and Duke.  It is conceivable tat the Seminoles will be undefeated on Nov 11th when they host the Miami Hurricanes and maybe on November 25th when they visit Gainesville. FL to take on Florida.

When Ole Miss beat LSU 55-49 last week, it put Ole Miss in a position to win the SEC West and gave it a manageable schedule.  The Rebels do have a two-week rough spot to navigate in early November hosting Texas A&M one week and then traveling to play Georgia on the road the next week.

Just to track the Iowa scoring record for the season – – because Iowa’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’ job depends on it – – the Hawkeyes have scored 111 points in 5 games.  To keep his job, the team needs to average 25 points per game.  You do the math …  Oh, and by the way, Iowa starting QB, Cade McNamara will be out for the rest of the season.  Yowza!

  • [Aside:  Iowa scored 26 points last week but 7 of them came on a punt return.  Do those count as part of the necessary 25-point average for the season?  Let the lawyers begin to parse the clauses in that contract…]

After two tough games in a row – – both resulting in losses – – Colorado takes on Arizona State and then Stanford over this weekend and next.  The Buffaloes have a rather clear path to bowl eligibility this year which is something that was not conceivable last year in Boulder, CO.

USC is one of the teams to beat Colorado in the last two weeks.  The Trojans ran off to a huge lead, but Colorado rallied to make the final score very respectable at 48-41.  USC is undefeated and ranked 10th in the country this week – – but the Trojans’ defense is very suspect.

If you look at the AP rankings this week, you will find three Big-10 teams in the Top-6.  Once Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State get through playing one another – – as will happen since they are all in the same division – – that will all get sorted out.

Just an update on the “race to the bottom” to determine this year’s Brothel Defense Award which goes to the team that gives up the most points per game.  As of this morning, here are the “contenders”:

  • North Texas giving up 43.0 points per game.
  • UMass giving up 39.2 points per game.
  • So. Mississippi giving up 39.0 points per game.


Games of Interest This Week:


Syracuse at UNC – 9.5 (59.5):  Syracuse is 4-1 for the season and finds itself almost a “double-digit dog” on the road here.

Kentucky at Georgia – 14.5 (48):  Kentucky is undefeated this year and finds itself a two-touchdown plus a hook underdog on the road here.  Georgia is undefeated this year but against Division 1-A teams the Bulldogs are 0-3-1 against the spread.  I can’t see Kentucky winning this one, but I do think they can hang with Georgia here based on their running game.  I’ll take Kentucky plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

LSU – 4.5 at Missouri (65):  The spread opened the week at 7 points and has shrunk to this level over the course of the week.  Meanwhile the Total Line opened the week at 62.5 points and has expanded over the course of the week.  The oddsmakers did not anticipate the money that would come in on this game very well last Sunday night.

Oklahoma at Texas – 6 (60):  This is my “College Game of the Week”.  The winner here has a clear shot to be on the short list for the CFP come December.  I see this game as an offensive explosion, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Arizona at USC – 22 (71):  If you like a good defensive battle, do not watch this game.

Oregon St. – 9 at Cal (51):  The Beavers are 4-1 and are coming off an upset win over Utah last week.  Yes, I know; Utah still does not have its starting QB ready for action; nonetheless consider this stat from the game:

  • Oregon State ran for 227 yards against a Utah defense that had only been giving up 51.5 yards per game this year.

Cal is 3-2 this year but against its only “tough opponent” so far, they were dominated 59-32 by Washington.

Alabama – 1 at Texas A&M (47):  I came close to putting the “College Game of the Week” on this game.  The spread opened the week at 3.5 points and has been slowly dropping all week long.  I am more interested in the Total Line here.  Both teams play good defense and neither team offers an explosive offense.  So, absent defensive scores or special teams scores, I am not sure where the 48th point will come from.  So, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.


NFL Commentary:


Dick Butkus died yesterday at the age of 80.  He was the middle linebacker that every NFL and AFL team wanted to have on its roster in the 1960s and early 1970s.  He played the game with a ferocity that was unmatched.  Off the field, Butkus was soft-spoken and thoughtful; he spent time after his playing days came to an end due to knee injuries in the broadcasting booth and as an actor for movies and TV.

Rest in peace, Dick Butkus.

#2 son likes to ferret out trivia questions for me.  He ran across some “standings” that were created by someone who obviously wanted to make the NFL schedule seem like the MLB schedule so he – – I am assuming that only a guy would do something like this – – went back and compiled the record for all 32 NFL teams over their last 162 games.  The math is not hard, but it is a lot of work to – – seemingly – – no significant end.

In any event, #2 son posed this challenge to me:

  • The “Top-5” NFL teams all have 100 wins or more over their last 162 games; name them.

I got three of the “Top-5”.  The Chiefs, Pats and Steelers all had 100 wins or more.  I whiffed on the other two which were the Seahawks and the Packers.

Naturally, as the presiding officer here in Curmudgeon Central, I wanted to know who the “Bottom-5” were.  Again, three of the five were pretty obvious – – Bears, Browns and Jags.  I thought the Lions would be in the “Bottom 5”, but they were not.  So, I will pose the question to you here:

  • Who are the other two teams to join the Bears, Browns and Jags on this “Bottom-5” List?
  • The answer will be a few paragraphs later…

I also got an email from a former colleague who sent along a trivia fact but did not use it to pose a question.  It is interesting by itself:

  • The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers had a Top-5 pick in the NFL Draft was in 1970 when they used that pick to take QB Terry Bradshaw.

David Carr – – Derek Carr’s older brother – – currently holds the unenviable record for taking the most sacks in an NFL season.  That happened when David Carr was the rookie QB for the expansion Houston Texans in 2002.  Carr was sacked 76 times in that season; only he and Randall Cunningham had the great honor to be sacked more than 70 times in a season.  Carr’s record would seem to be in jeopardy as of this morning:

  • Sam Howell (Commanders) has been sacked 24 times in 4 games.  For a 17-game season that projects to 102 sacks for the season.
  • Daniel Jones (Giants) has been sacked 22 times in 4 games.  For a 17-game season that projects to 93.5 sacks for the season.

Yes, it is a small sample size, but at anything near this pace, both Howell and Jones will blow by Carr’s record sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Green Bay Packers have an unusual aspect to their schedule.  Their last game was on Thursday September 28th when they lost to the Lions 34-20.  This weekend they do not play until Monday night.  That is an 11-day “respite”.  But wait, there’s more …  After playing the Raiders this Monday night, the Packers get their BYE Week; their next game would be on October 22nd meaning the Packers will play one game in 23 days.  That does not happen to NFL teams routinely.

  • Trivia Answer:  the other two teams on the “Bottom-5” list from above at the Jets and the Giants.

I am not going to go through all the games from the past two weeks with comments on all of them – – but there are some that seem worthy of note.

Texans 30   Steelers 6:  Who saw this coming?   The Texans rookie QB didn’t look like a rookie here throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns in the game and the Texans posted 450 total yards on offense.  I said a couple of weeks ago that Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator, Matt Canada, has not been very capable over the last year or so with the team and he outdid his incompetence in this game.  The Steelers only generated 53 yards on offense in the first half here.

Seahawks 24  Giants 3:  Daniel Jones did nothing in that game to take the edge off his label of “Prime time flop”.  To be fair, he was sacked 11 times in the game meaning the Giants’ OL was playing their usual brand of failed pass protection.

Chargers 24  Raiders 17:  The Raiders’ defense showed up this week but having to start a rookie QB, Aiden O’Connell, did not allow the Raiders’ offense to keep up its end of the bargain in this game.  O’Connell did not throw up on his shoes in his first NFL start but he made plenty of “rookie mistakes” including losing two fumbles and taking 7 sacks in the game.  The Chargers’ defense played without Joey Bosa in the game, but Khalil Mack asserted himself with the following results:

  • 10 tackles, 9 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles and 6 QB sacks.

Not a bad day at the office …

Ravens 28  Browns 3:  The Browns never got to the Rad Zone until late in the 4th quarter when the outcome was already decided.  Deshaun Watson was a late scratch from the game with a “shoulder injury”; so, the Browns were forced to start a rookie quarterback making his first career start resulting in a disaster for the offense. With Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center, the Browns mustered all of 166 yards of offense and Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions.   The Browns get a BYE this week – – maybe just in time???

Broncos 31  Bears 28:  The Broncos were getting pantsed by the worst team in the NFL until late in the 3rd quarter when the Broncos saved face with a stunning comeback from a 28-7 deficit. The Broncos’ defense played well in the second half slowing down Justin Fields.  The Broncos’ defense forced two turnovers in the second half including a defensive TD on a “Scoop-and-Score) to tie the game at 28.  In the first half, Justin Fields looked like the Bears’ QB of the future: he started the game with 16 straight complete passes and had 231 yards and three touchdowns in that first half. But the Bears reverted to form late in the game.  Here are the results of their last 4 possessions that began with the Bears leading 28-14 with only seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter:

  • 3 plays – – 10 yards – – 1:18 time of possession – – PUNT
  • 5 plays – – 10 yards – – 2:41 time of possession – – LOST FUMBLE
  • 11 plays – – 57 yards – – 4:03 time of possession – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 7 plays – – 22 yards – – 1:14 time of possession – – INT

Bills 48  Dolphins 20:  Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs connected for three touchdowns on the day.  The Dolphins’ defense was overwhelmed.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ offense – – the one that had scored 70 points the week before this one against the Broncos just could not keep pace.

Eagles 34  Commanders 31 (OT):  The Eagles remain unbeaten for the season and the Commanders demonstrated that they are not the mediocre team they have been for the last several seasons.  The big difference in the game was the inability of the Commanders to deal with Eagles WR, AJ Brown who had 9 receptions for 175 yards and 2 TDs for the game.

By the way, in last week’s games, it seems as if some NFL offensive units set their alarm clocks for the wrong time.  Consider:

  • The Giants, Browns, Bengals and Pats scored only 3 points in their games.
  • The Steelers scored 6 points in their game.
  • The Falcons scored 7 points in their game.
  • The Saints scored 9 points in their game.

Seven NFL teams did not reach double-digits last week …

In last night’s NFL action, the Bears won their first game of the year defeating the Commanders 40-20.  On one hand, the Bears deserved to win this game; they produced a balanced 451 yards on offense and did not turn the ball over.  The Bears played sound football.

I try not to use “gutter language” in these rants, but I think the appropriate way to describe the Commanders’ performance last night is that they “shat the bed”.  And that description applies to the offense, the defense and the play-calling on both offense and defense.  Specifically regarding the play-calling on offense, the Commanders “ran the ball” only 10 times in the game but even that statistic is inflated because 4 of those runs were scrambles by Sam Howell.  In reality, they ran the ball 6 times in the game.  That is not innovative or creative; that is dumb particularly when the QB is being hurried or hit on at least 75% of those pass attempts.  The Bears as a team had 2 sacks coming into this game; they recorded 5 sacks against the Commanders’ offensive line whose only “offensive” trait was its breath.

On defense, the Commanders have 6 first-round picks in their starting lineup.  That amalgamation allowed Justin Fields to produce 282 yards passing with 4 TDs and 0 INTs.  Ladies and gentlemen, Justin Fields is not going to be named as the All-Pro QB in the NFL this year.  Every Commanders’ player who suited up for last night’s game ought to be embarrassed this morning.


This Week’s Games:


BYE Weeks start now.  This week these teams will not see action:

  1. Browns:  The Browns may not be a great team – – but they are a lot better with Deshaun Watson at QB – – and he can use another week off to get healthy.
  2. Bucs:  The Bucs are 3-1 and lead the NFC South; I’m not sure they would prefer to have this week off.
  3. Chargers:  The Chargers are averaging 27.5 points per game, and they are only 2-2 for the season.  They need to do something to get their defense right.
  4. Seahawks:   The Seahawks are one game behind the niners in the NFC West, but their only loss was in a division game at home.  That could hurt them down the line.

            Before getting to the individual games, allow this overview comment.  There are many marginally interesting contests on the schedule for this weekend.  Picking the Game of the Week was a no-brainer; picking a single Dog-Breath Game of the Week was a challenge.

Jags at Bills – 6 (48):  This is a “London Game” with a wrinkle.  The Jags are playing in London for the second straight week; the Bills are crossing the pond this week.  Thanks, but no thanks on this game as a wagering proposition for me…

Texans at Falcons – 2 (41):  This line feels to me like leaning toward a home team because the visiting team is young and inexperienced.  You can call me out on this in a year or two, but I think the Falcons will win in spite of Desmond Ridder and not because of him.  I don’t know what may happen this weekend, but I think the Texans are on a better trajectory for the future than are the Falcons.

Panthers at Lions – 9 (44):  The line opened the week at 7 points; it expanded to 10 points in mid-week and seems to have settled at this number for now.  I think the Panthers are overmatched here and I think the Lions under Dan Quinn will not take their foot off the gas.  I like the Lions to win and cover at home; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Titans – 2.5 at Colts (43):  The week opened with the Colts as 1.5-point favorites in the game, but all the momentum has been toward the Titans this week.  All four teams in the AFC South are 2-2 this morning, so this is an “important game” even if it is only Week 5.

Giants at Dolphins – 12.5 (47.5):  The Giants are awful; there is no way to sugar-coat that.  The Dolphins may not be as great as they seemed scoring 70 points against the Broncos, but they are clearly the better team here.  Losing to this Giants’ team would be an embarrassment of gargantuan proportion for the Dolphins.  The only reason I will not take the Dolphins and lay the points is that I do not play NFL games with double-digit spreads.

Saints at Pats “pick ‘em” (39.5):  This is the sort of team the Pats are designed to beat – – a team that does not score a lot of points which allows the Pats’ defense to smother them.  The Saints average 15.2 points per game this year.  No fireworks in this contest; the first team to 20 points is the winner.

Ravens – 4 at Steelers (38):  These AFC North division games usually end with the winner eking out a victory by a point or two and with the winner also looking as if he had been in a rock fight.  The Steelers’ offense is pathetic – – but the Steelers’ defense always shows up to play against Lamar Jackson.  There is some question about the Steelers’ QB situation.  If Kenny Pickett cannot go, that means Mitchell Trubisky against the Ravens’ defense and if that is the case, the Steelers’ defense will need to be close to perfect to make this a game.

Bengals – 3 at Cards (45):  The Bengals are 1-3; if they lose this game, they may just be done for the year in terms of “Super Bowl aspirations”.  Everything hinges on the lingering calf injury to Joe Burrow; if he is “healed”, the Bengals are the better team; if not …

Eagles – 4 at Rams (50): The spread here opened with the Eagles as 6-point favorites and the Total Line was set at 46.5 points.  There has been plenty of line movement in this one.  The Eagles are still unbeaten in 2023 but they have hardly appeared to be any sort of juggernaut; their point differential is only +28 points which is less than six other teams in the NFL five of which have a loss on their record.

Jets at Broncos – 2.5 (43.5):  You guessed it; this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Can the Jets’ offense click here to save face for their OC, Nathanial Hackett?  The Jets may not even need that to win because the Jets’ defense ought to be able to contain Russell Wilson and the Broncos’ offense.  I rarely make a pick in the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but I think the wrong team is favored here.  Give me the Jets on the road plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle.”

Chiefs – 3.5 at Vikes (52.5):  The spread opened at 6.5 points and shrunk to this level as the week wore on.  The Vikes won last week to get off the schneid for 2023 but I have difficulty seeing the Vikes’ defense containing the Chiefs’ offense.  I like the Chiefs on the road to win and cover; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Sun Nite) Cowboys at Niners – 3 (45):  This is so obviously the Game of the Week that I will entertain no debate on the topic.  Both teams are on a roll.

  • The Cowboys have 3 wins this year – – by margins of 40 points, 20 points and 35 points.
  • Somehow, the Cowboys managed to lose to the Cards along the way.
  • The Niners are undefeated this year and have given up only 14.5 points per game.

(Mon Nite) Packers at Raiders – 1 (44):  Both teams looked bad, bad, bad in their last game.  The Raiders could only score 17 points against the Chargers’ defense and the Packers were pushed around by the Lions.  The Packers are the better team; the Raiders are at home; if you want to bet on this game, just bet on the coin flip.

So let me review this week’s “Betting Bundle”:

  • Texas/Oklahoma OVER 60
  • Alabama/Texas A&M UNDER 47
  • Kentucky +14.5 against Georgia
  • Lions – 9 over Panthers
  • Jets + 2.5 against Broncos
  • Chiefs – 3.5 over Vikes

And just for fun here are three Money Line Parlays for the Week

  • Jets @ +125
  • Lions @ minus- 470
  • $100 wager to win $173.

And …

  • Texans @ +115
  • Chiefs @ minus- 180
  • $100 wager to win $234.

And …

  • Lions @ minus-470
  • Dolphins @ minus- 600
  • Chiefs @ minus-180
  • $100 wager to win $120.

Finally, I’ll close this Football Friday with an observation by former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden about one of his players:

“He doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fear”.  In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”

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



I’m Back …

So much for the drama provided by a final playoff game in the wildcard round of the MLB playoffs this year.  All four series ended as 2-0 sweeps for the winning sides.  Baseball does not have a long history of expanded playoffs, but this is the first time that has ever happened.  That means all the teams moving on to the next round get today and tomorrow off and the next tranche of games will begin on Saturday afternoon.

The Twins won their series over the Blue Jays and by doing so they snapped a huge losing streak in post-season games.  Before this year, the last time a Twins team won a playoff game was back in 2004; the Twins had lost 18 playoff games in a row since then.  Now they have a two-game winning streak in post-season play.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Rays.  Not only did they lose their series 2-0, but they were also outscored 11-1 in those two losses to the Rangers.  The Rays started the season winning their first 13 games; they just missed winning 100 games over the course of the regular season and now they are out of the playoffs after two embarrassing losses.

The Phillies saw Bryson Stott hit a grand slam home run to seal the win in Game 2 of their series against the Marlins.  Stott has not hit a grand slam in any regular season game in his career, but he now has one in the playoffs.

The next round of the playoffs sets up like this:

  • Orioles/Rangers
  • Astros/Twins
  • Braves/Phillies
  • Dodgers/D-Backs

Before I leave the broad topic of the MLB playoffs, I have to note an embarrassing and recurring problem for MLB.  The Tampa Bay Rays were the host team for the series against the Twins; the Rays won 99 games in the regular season; they are “regulars” in the post-seasons of recent years.  For the first game of this year’s playoff series, the attendance was an embarrassing 19,704 people.  Here is some perspective on that attendance figure:

  • For the 2023 regular season, 26 of the 30 MLB teams had an average attendance greater than 19,704 people.
  • For the regular season, the Rays average attendance was 17,781.  The fact that there was a playoff game in town only added about 250 fans to the audience.
  • Ignoring the playoffs in 2020 that had the overhang of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last time there was a baseball playoff game with a smaller attendance was all the way back in 1919.

The Rays have had attendance issues ever since the franchise came into existence.  The location and the ambience of the existing park has been identified as the cause of the poor attendance leading to the tacit assumption that a new park in a new location will cure “the problem”.  Well, maybe that is the case and maybe not.  And I suspect that the Rays and the city fathers in St. Petersburg do not think that a new stadium is a panacea; here is why:

  • The new stadium design in St. Petersburg announced a couple of weeks ago calls for a seating capacity of 30,000 people.
  • Seventeen of the thirty MLB teams had an average attendance greater than 30,000 folks in 2023.

Moving on …  FIFA had two serious competing bids in hand for the 2030 World Cup.  Both bids involved three countries:

  1. Argentina/Paraguay/Uruguay bid to host those games citing the fact that the first World Cup tournament ever was played in Uruguay in 1930.
  2. Morocco/Portugal/Spain bid to host the games citing the fact that it would be the first time the games would be played on two different continents.

FIFA announced that the Morocco/Portugal/Spain bid was the one that would proceed BUT to honor the historical significance of the centennial anniversary of the World Cup, there would be three opening round games played in Argentina/Paraguay and Uruguay.  Somewhere, King Solomon is smiling …

You need not shed crocodile tears for those three countries in South America for losing this bid to host the World Cup.  The fact is that hosting huge events like the World Cup and/or the Olympics is usually a significant drag on the economies of smaller national economies.  Two examples:

  1. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, the country invested multiple millions of dollars building stadiums that would be appropriate for such a big event.  One of those stadiums is currently used as a parking lot for trucks and school buses.
  2. When Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, it invested multiple millions of dollars building a venue for the Opening Ceremonies and for a Velodrome.  Just this week it was announced that both facilities must be closed for safety reasons.  In less than 20 years, they have fallen into disrepair – – caused by a lack of usage of the facilities – – such that they are now a safety hazard.

Finally, I’ll close today with these words from former Harvard president, Dr. James B. Conant:

“There is only one proved method of assisting the advancement of pure science – that of picking men of genius, backing them heavily and leaving them to direct themselves.”

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