Everything There Is To Know About Opening Day

Around noon yesterday, I was up to my ear brows in my 2023 Income Tax preparation.  Frankly, I would have used just about any excuse to put that aside for a while; so, when my computer “announced” that some email had arrived, FORM 1116 went on hiatus.  The email came from the “reader in Houston” who you will recognize as a font of sports history and stats.  I mentioned yesterday that MLB’s Opening Day traditions have changed in recent years and that probably spurred him to provide a minor treatise on the history of Opening Day in MLB.  None of what follows is mine; today is courtesy of the “reader in Houston”:

  1. President Howard Taft threw out the first ball on Opening Day in 1910.  In all, 12 US Presidents have thrown out the first ball on Opening Day.
  2. Tom Seaver was the starting pitcher on Opening Day 16 times (with 3 different teams).  That is the most for any pitcher in MLB history.
  3. Ted Williams’ batting average on Opening Day was .449.
  4. The record for the most consecutive Opening Day wins is 10 – – a record shared by the Boston Beaneaters (1887-1996) and the Houston Astros (2013-2022).
  5. Walter Johnson started 14 Opening Day games and pitched 9 shutouts in those games.  One of those shutouts was a 15-inning game against the A’s that ended with the score 1-0 and the game only took 2 hours and 33 minutes to play.
  6. Four players have hit 3 HRs in their Opening Day games – – Matt Davidson, George Bell, Tuffy Rhodes and Dmitri Young.
  7. In 1903, the Boston Americans and the Philadelphia A’s played a doubleheader on Opening Day.  The last time there was a doubleheader on Opening Day was in 1971 between the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A’s.
  8. In 1907, the Phillies won on Opening Day by a forfeit when NY Giants’ fans threw snowballs onto the field and refused to stop.  The umpires declared a forfeit and the Phillies won 9-0.
  9. In 1923, the Yankees and Red Sox opened the season in the newly constructed Yankee Stadium.  Babe Ruth hit a homerun in that first game in the original Yankee Stadium.
  10. Opening Day in 1925 produced the highest scoring first game of the season.  The Cleveland Indians beat the St. Louis Browns 21-14 thanks to the Browns committing 10 errors resulting in 11 runs for the Indians.
  11. In 1940, the Indians’ Bob Feller threw a ho-hitter at the White Sox; that is the only no-hitter ever on Opening Day.
  12. In 1947, Jackie Robinson made his MLB debut – – and the “reader in Houston” was at that game and still has memorabilia for it in a box in his attic.
  13. In 1950, the Cardinals beat the Pirates on Opening Day in the first night game played on Opening Day.
  14. Hank Aaron’s 714th homerun – – the one that tied Babe Ruth’s career record – – came on Opening Day in 1974.
  15. The longest Opening Day game in MLB history was played in 2012 between the Indians and Blue Jays ending with the Blue Jays beating the Indians, 7–4, in 16 innings. (It took 5:14.) The previous record for longest Opening Day game was in 1960 lasting 15 innings (4:54), which also saw the Indians in a losing effort, 4–2, vs. the Tigers. Recall from above Walter Johnson’s 15-inning shutout in 1926 that only took 2:33 to play.
  16. The first interleague game on Opening Day was in 2013 between the Angels and the Reds.  The Angels won 4-3 in 13 innings.

I knew exactly one of those Opening Day facts listed above before receiving my email yesterday – – the one about Hank Aaron’s 714th homerun.  Sincere thanks to the “reader in Houston” for this enlightenment.

Moving on …  Earlier this week, I said that this year’s March Madness had not been nearly as compelling as tournaments in the past.  The weekend when the field is cut from the Sweet 16 to the Final Four is almost always the best mix of quality and quantity of games.  There are more games in the previous weekend but too many of them are always mismatches and the Final Four weekend is always great – – but there are only 3 games.  Last night the first part of “Sweet 16 Weekend” did not disappoint.  Yes, the UConn game was a blowout, but the defensive tenacity of the Huskies was interesting to watch.  The other three games were thrillers:

  • Clemson was a 7.5-point underdog against Arizona, but Clemson led for much of the game and were simply the better team on the court last night.  The Tigers move on with a 77-72 victory.
  • Alabama was a 5-point underdog to UNC last night.  Alabama’s defense looked to be overmatched against UNC, but Alabama went toe-to-toe with the bigger Tar Heels and won the game 89-87.
  • Illinois was a 3-point underdog to Iowa St. last night.  Terrence Shannon and Curtis Jones each put on a show last night, but Shannon and his Illinois teammates prevailed 72-69.

The Saturday night tournament games are set:

  • UConn opened as a 7.5-point favorite over Illinois but that spread has expanded to 8.5 points very quickly.
  • Alabama is a 3-point favorite (3.5 points at one Internet sportsbook) over Clemson as of this morning.

Both games look interesting to me.

Finally, this is a time for sports fans to be happy – – baseball has begun and it is Sweet-16 Weekend.  So, let me close with this view of happiness from psychiatrist Thomas Szasz:

“Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children and by children to adults.”

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



MLB Predictions For 2024

For quite a while, the MLB season began with the Cincinnati Reds hosting a game on one day and then everyone else starting their seasons on the following day.  Not so anymore …  The Dodgers and Padres have already opened their season a week ago in Seoul, South Korea; the teams returned to the US to play some Spring Training games before returning to their regular seasons; the Dodgers will play the Cards and the Padres will play the Giants for real later today.  Opening Day used to be a big deal; it seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird.

And it is not just a one-time deal.  The Dodgers will open the 2025 season in Asia against the Cubs.  This scheduling ploy appears to be getting a foothold in the rhythm of MLB and as long as the Dodgers have Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto on their roster, it would make sense for the Dodgers to be one of the teams playing in the “Asian Openers”.

Since the 2024 MLB season is technically underway, I guess I should take a moment today to make some predictions about the upcoming season.

  • As of this morning the win total line for the Dodgers is set at 105 wins.  I think the Dodgers’ roster is the best one in MLB, but 105 wins is awfully high given a starting rotation with a couple of question marks.  I like the Dodgers to win the NL West in a walk, but I would bet the UNDER on 105 wins.
  • The win total line for the Cubs today is only 84.5 wins.  I think the Cubs are going to win the NL Central; so obviously, I would take them to go OVER 84.5 wins.
  • The win total for the Braves this morning is a lofty 102 wins.  I fully expect the Braves to win the NL East, but I would have to play them as an UNDER bet at that number.
  • The win total today for the Houston Astros is 92 wins.  I like the Astros to win the AL West and I think they will go OVER 92 wins.
  • The AL Central race could be interesting; I think the Detroit Tigers could win the division and should be “in the race” until the last week or so.  This morning the Tigers’ win total line is only 80.5 and I have to think the Tigers will go OVER that number.
  • The AL East belongs to the Orioles; the win total line is set at 91 wins and that looks about right to me so flip a coin if you are going to play the win total for the O’s.  I know the O’s won 101 games last year, but I think they will be hard pressed to have everyone on the team match last year’s performances.

Looking down the projected standings to other teams, there are a couple of win total lines that stand out to me:

  • The line for the Washington Nationals is 66.5 wins.  Last year, the Nats won 70 games and looked like a team that was improving month by month.  The Nats will not jump the division as the Orioles did last year, but I think the Nats can win75 games in 2024.  Take the OVER
  • The line for the Tampa Bay Rays is 85 wins.  Last year, the Rays won 99 games and while I would be surprised to see them repeat that performance in 2024, I have trouble believing they will be 15 games worse this year as compared to last year.  Take the OVER
  • The line for the Pittsburgh Pirates is 75 wins; in 2023, the Pirates won 76 games.  I think the Pirates are another one of those “young teams on an improvement curve”.  Just a hunch but I would take the OVER here too …
  • The line for the NY Yankees is 93.5 wins.  Given the uncertainty surrounding Gerrit Cole’s elbow, I clearly want to take this to go UNDER

Let the games begin…

Yesterday, I wondered how increments of $500K were paid to an alleged illegal bookie without Shohei Ohtani or any of his “people” noticing it.  About two hours after the rant was posted a friend suggested check out the circumstances surrounding a “mid-level finance manager” for the Jax Jags who managed to embezzle $22M before anyone noticed.  The person involved here is Amit Patel and he has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in a federal hoosegow for the theft.  ESPN reported that he used the money to support a “lavish lifestyle” and a gambling addiction.  According to ESPN.com:

“Patel transferred $20 million of the funds to FanDuel, where he had a VIP host, and $1 million to DraftKings … Patel was a high-volume, high-stakes daily fantasy sports player known for racking up big losses.”

Obviously, the auditing and accounting people and practices in place with the Jags were “less than fully effective”.  According to court records, he began his thievery in September 2019 and kept it up until he was fired in February 2023.  Indeed, he created false accounts with seemingly legitimate charges contained in those false accounts to cover the stolen funds, but $22M is not a mere bag of shells.  It took over three years for the imbalances to be noticed?

Beyond the Jags’ failure to catch on to this activity:

  • What about the folks at FanDuel who had this “great client” who bet lots of money and lost much of it putting FanDuel in the black?
  • Did anyone at FanDuel wonder where this “mid-level finance manager” was getting that sort of gambling stake?
  • Wouldn’t someone at FanDuel want to make sure that FanDuel was not being used in some way to launder money?

The fact that Amit Patel embezzled about 5 times more than the amount involved in the Ohtani matter does not minimize the Ohtani matter.  Both are wrong and both point to the degree to which funds can be moved around “surreptitiously”.  Andy Dufresne working out of Shawshank Prison knew all about that sort of thing too.

Finally, I will close today with an Al Pacino line from the movies:

“Our ability to manufacture fraud now exceeds out ability to detect it.”

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



Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani

I have no alternative but to believe Google Translate when it tells me that the Japanese word for “saga” is “monogatari” and that leads me to believe that the sports world for the moment is consumed by:

  • Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani.

We live in polarized times here in the US.  There are people in “Blue States” who would not believe a report that the sun came up in the east this morning if that assertion came from FOX News; simultaneously, there are people in “Red States” who would doubt the same assertion if MSNBC were the source.  Monogatari-Shohei Ohtani seems to have a different credibility problem:

  • The people involved keep changing their stories – – and – –
  • Some of the potential behaviors here defy logic.

Let me start with the alleged illegal bookmaker who was owed a reported $4.5M by someone who lost a lot of bets.  Does it make a lot of sense to you that this man would extend that level of credit to someone like the interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who had a reported annual salary of $85K?  Before I even get to the business of how this bookie got his payment(s), I do not understand how this situation was allowed to evolve.  Either the bookie was making a huge bet on the solvency of Mizuhara – – which is not generally part of “Bookie Modus Vivendi” – – or the bookie was somehow convinced that Ohtani, who is ultimately solvent, would back the IOUs.

Now let me be clear here; I have no idea if that course of logic is even partially correct; but if it is correct, there seem to be divergent conclusions:

  • The bookie was convinced that Mizuhara had access to Ohtani’s funds.  That would make sense, but it then raises the question as to how said “access” would work.  Did Mizuhara have the “passwords” to Ohtani’s finances, or did Ohtani simply assure Mizuhara and the bookie that the IOUs were covered?
  • The answers to those two questions take Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani in very different directions.

Or …

  • Another way that the bookie might have become convinced that Mizuhara’s credit was good is if the bookie knew or believed that Mizuhara was simply a conduit for bets made by Ohtani himself and that it is Ohtani who is in debt to the bookie.
  • And if that does not take Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani in another different direction, then I have no understanding at all of this matter.

As if that were not bad enough Mizuhara and Ohtani have both changed their stories over the past week or so.  When ESPN first reported on the matter, a spokesperson for Ohtani said that Ohtani “transferred funds to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debt.”  In the original ESPN report, it said that Ohtani told his agent that he (Ohtani) had covered Mizuhara’s gambling debts in $500K increments.  About 24 hours later, the story changed to make Ohtani the victim of a massive theft of his money by Mizuhara.

Reports said that money was transferred in $500K packets.  I have no familiarity with financial assets remotely like Shohei Ohtani’s, but I do have a problem rationalizing that somehow those sorts of deductions could go unnoticed as would have to have been the case if this were a “massive theft” that occurred in increments of $500K

Shohei Ohtani held a news conference; obviously, the anticipation was that a degree of clarity would come from that event.  Not exactly.  At the press conference, Ohtani said – – through an interpreter of course:

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do it on my behalf, and I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports and was never asked to assist betting payment for anyone else.”

That is THE statement that the LA Dodgers and the mavens who run MLB needed to have out there.  If that is the unvarnished truth, then Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani has a vector heading that is problematic for Ippei Mizuhara and possibly the alleged bookie in this matter, but it leads to a safe haven for MLB.  What that statement does not address is how and why the statements of Mizuhara and Ohtani changed so drastically in the evolution of the story.

I have no interest in trying to “convict” any of the parties to Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani here and let me assure everyone that I am not a conspiracy theorist.  But this mess is not going to be easily ignored by MLB.  Their first reaction was that it would be left to the authorities to determine the facts of the matter; it quickly became apparent that was not going to feed the bulldog of public attention to this story.  MLB changed its tune too and announced that it was looking into the matter on its own.

As noted above, the self-interests of the Dodgers and MLB are obvious here and those self-interests will cast a shadow on just about anything that MLB determines to be the facts of the matter during its ‘investigation”.  As an example of a clearly biased analysis of this mess, consider that there is a video on the Internet where Pete Rose says – – paraphrasing here – –

“If I had an interpreter back in the 70s and 80s, I’d be in the clear today.”

Good luck to those folks in MLB who will be associated with this ‘investigation”.  Monogatari – Shohei Ohtani may not be as intractable as untying the Gordian Knot, but it will not be an endeavor that brings inner peace to the investigators.

Finally, I will close today with this truism that may have relevance to gambling:

“The surest way to double your money is to fold it I half and put it in your pocket.”

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



New Rules ?

The NFL owners have agreed to three new rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee at the owners’ annual meeting in Orlando.  They are:

  1. Banning the “hip-drop tackle”:  I mentioned this last week; it is a “player safety motivated” rule that requires a very complicated definition of what is and what is not a hip-drop tackle.  The NFLPA opposes the change; I suspect defensive players also oppose the change.  Some fans have expressed disapproval asserting that this is another step toward transforming the NFL into a touch-football league.  I will reserve judgment until I see how and if the rule is called consistently and logically.
  2. A new kickoff rule:  This is an adaptation of the rule used by the XFL, and it is more complicated to explain than I prefer to do here.  SI.com has already declared that it will have a “profound impact in 2024.”  If you Google “new NFL kickoff rule” you will find dozens of reports that describe the new procedure.  It was passed as a “one-year trial” and will be reviewed prior to the 2025 season.  Once again, I will reserve judgment until I see what it is and what it does.
  3. An added coach’s challenge:  If a coach challenges a call during the game and his challenge is upheld, that team will get a third challenge in the game.  No longer must a team be right on both challenges that it makes to earn a third challenge; now, one correct challenge is sufficient.  I do NOT like this change.  Watching officials look at monitors showing dozens of replays so they can “get it right” is less enticing than a root canal on your birthday.  Making it easier for teams to challenge extra calls by the officials does not enhance the viewing product.

Moving on …  I have said here multiple times that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the single best sporting event held every year.  I have loved college basketball for more than 65 years.  And this morning I feel like the proverbial old codger sitting on my porch yelling at people to get off my damned lawn.  This year’s tournament is far less interesting than in previous years.  Before anyone jumps down my throat here:

  • Oakland beating Kentucky was a big surprise and super-exciting – – unless you are a Kentucky alum or a member of John Calipari’s family.
  • Yale’s win over Auburn – – a team I picked to go to the Final Four – – was an exciting and surprising game.
  • Other than those two games, there have been a lot of “not-much-doubt games” and “blatant mismatch games”.

Look, the “Cinderella team” for 2024 is the 11th seeded North Carolina State TEAM who just happens to have won the ACC Tournament – – an event only slightly less prestigious than March Madness itself.  It seems to me that one of two situations obtain here:

  1. The Selection Committee tried to get it right but did not.  They gave tournament slots to 8 teams from the SEC and 6 teams from the Big-10.  Remember, this is basketball and not football.  Of those 14 teams only 4 teams are still involved.
  2. College basketball has become polarized to the point where the “haves” are just too much for the “have nots”.  The reputations of teams’ past are not of much current value today.  Eight teams earned seedings of #1 or #2 in their bracket; all eight of those teams are still playing.

And in that environment, the calls to expand the tournament field grow louder.  How is that supposed to generate more exciting games?  This year the Atlantic Sun Conference sent Stetson to the tournament where they were destroyed by UConn.  That game was not in doubt from the start, and it was uninteresting to watch after about the first five minutes.  So maybe expanding the tournament might add a second team from the “little guy” Atlantic Sun Conference such as Austin Peay?  Pardon me while I feign interest in the possibility.

Or maybe the tournament would be “kicked up a notch” [Hat tip to Emeril Lagasse] with the addition of a ninth team from the SEC?  If you believe that you probably also believe that a dog chases its tail in order to make ends meet.

The NCAA has a model in its face demonstrating that more is not always better.  That would be the college football bowl system; there were 41 of them last year if my count is correct.  More college football teams (82) out of eligible teams for bowl games (132) play in bowl games than the 68 March Madness teams.  And there are – – theoretically – – 355 teams eligible for March Madness.  How many of the bowl games not related to the CFP or the ones played on New Year’s Day are exciting/enticing events and how many might even achieve “marginally interesting status”?   Here is a harsh reality:

  • More games do not equal more good games!

So, let me do some math here and offer a suggestion that will both please the folks in charge of the “Power Conferences” and at the same time ruin March Madness:

  • Keep the field at 68 teams!
  • The SEC will have 16 teams as of next year + The Big-10 will have 18 teams as of next year + The ACC will have 18 teams as of next year + The Big 12 will have 16 teams as of next year = 68 teams.

No more bitching and moaning about the Selection Committee; no more teams from conferences no one has ever heard of; no more teams from Nowheresville.  Just teams everyone has heard of before – – and it would be the death rattle for March Madness which is an event best left alone.

Finally, let me close today with these words from my favorite curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken:

“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

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



Rest In Peace, Peter Angelos

Peter Angelos, the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, died over the weekend at the age of 94.  To say he was a polarizing figure would be an understatement.  Many fans saw him as miserly and unwilling to spend to put a winner on the field.  Other owners saw him as some sort of kook as he “sided with the union” during the strike/lockout in the mid-90s refusing even to consider fielding replacement players.  At one time, he was considered to be a sufficiently serious political force in Maryland to make a run for Governor.  And Jim Palmer tweeted:

“… Kept the O’s in Baltimore.  And did so much for so many without much fanfare.  Always treated so well by Mr. A …”

Rest in peace, Peter Angelos.

When the NCAA Tournament began last week, UConn was the betting favorite to win it all with odds of +600.  After the first two rounds, here are the money line odds at FanDuel for teams to cut down the nets on April 8th:

  1. UConn = +210
  2. Houston = +550
  3. Purdue = +600
  4. Arizona = +850
  5. Tennessee = +1200
  6. UNC = +1300

The shift in the odds definitely reflects the dominance that UConn has shown in its two wins so far; the Huskies won in a rout in its games against Stetson and Northwestern.  Houston has been impressive too; the current odds are down from +750 before the Tournament began; those were the odds that “Mattress Mac” got for his $1M bet on Houston to win it all.

My Final Four predictions have not fared so well.

  • Auburn lost in its first game to Yale as a 14.5-point favorite with money line odds of minus-900.
  • Baylor dominated Colgate in the Round of 64 but lost yesterday to Clemson by 8 points.

My other two predictions – – Duke and Tennessee – – remain alive …

The most impressive stretch of basketball I have seen so far in the tournament has to be Gonzaga’s performance at the start of the second half of its win over Kansas.  The Jayhawks led 44-43 at halftime; the game looked as if it would go down to the final minutes as a nail-biter.  Then Gonzaga put on a 15-0 run at the start of the second half and did not miss a 3-point attempt until there were less than two minutes left in the game.  Wow…

Regarding Zach Edey – – Purdue’s gigantic center – – he is the 2024 version of an observation made long ago by Wilt Chamberlain.  Lots of people dismissed Chamberlain as simply a winner in the genetic lottery and not a skilled basketball player; some folks feel the same way about Edey these days.  Chamberlain explained that sentiment like this:

“Nobody roots for Goliath.”

Let me say this next thing carefully.  There were some embarrassing performances by some teams that clearly did not belong in this tournament against this level of competition.  I understand the goal of “inclusivity”, and the “Cinderella stories” that emerge every few years are heartwarming; but when one stops pulling on the heartstrings, several teams showed they had no business participating here.

Kentucky had an embarrassing loss in the Round of 64 to Oakland.  But the Kentucky “embarrassment” had a different flavor to it.  The Wildcats were not shown up to be clearly inferior talents in their loss – – but they were the highest seeded team to be eliminated in the first round of the tournament and lost to a team that it should have beaten at least 9 times out of 10.  John Calipari and Kentucky have been among the most prominent of the schools that feature “one-and-done players” who choose to go play college basketball only because the NBA is not open to them until a year after they graduate from high school.  Well, this is the second time in three years that Kentucky has been “one-and-done” in the tournament; in 2022 they were bounced in the first game then by St. Peter’s.

Illinois looks like a good team that could provide a meaningful challenge to Iowa St. in their Sweet 16 game – – or maybe Illinois is merely slightly above average with its apparent strengths not much more than a mirage after beating two marginal opponents.  Neither Moorhead St. nor Duquesne falls in the category of a team that clearly did not belong in the tournament to begin with.  At the same time, neither Moorhead St. nor Duquesne offered any evidence that they were going to make it to the Sweet 16 without the intervention of a Fairy Godmother.

Finally, I’ll close today with these words from Dave Barry:

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”

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



The Shohei Ohtani Saga…

It began late morning yesterday.  I got an email from a reader and moments later got a text from a friend.  They both asked the same question:

  • What is the story with Shohei Otani’s interpreter?

As the day progressed, I got more emails and more texts with the same generic query, and I answered all of them in the same way.  I said I didn’t have enough information to understand it all.  Look, I am not a crusading and truth-seeking journalist; I am a hedonist, and my focus yesterday was watching March Madness games on my TV set in my comfy chair.

Here are some bits of information:

  • The Dodgers fired Ippei Mizuhara who is a friend of Ohtani’s and who has served as Ohtani’s interpreter for about 7 years.
  • Media reports said that Mizuhara had stolen millions of dollars from Ohtani to cover gambling debts.
  • Reports also said that a federal investigation of an alleged illegal bookie named Matthew Bowyer is somehow related to the firing of Mizuhara.
  • An ESPN report said that Mizuhara admitted to large gambling debts, but that Ohtani had not done any betting.  In an interview with ESPN, Mizuhara said Ohtani knew that Mizuhara had incurred gambling debts and that Ohtani had loaned him the money to cover those debts.
  • Persons identified as “representatives of Ohtani” say that Ohtani was the victim of “massive theft”, but they do not address who the thief might be.

Frankly, it appears to me that the missing pieces here all derive from the answer(s) to a variant of Senator Howard Baker’s (R- Tenn) famous question during the Watergate hearings:

  • What did Ohtani know and when did he know it?

With some clarity on that question, one might advance to the next level of inquiry:

  • After Ohtani knew what he knew, what did he do with that information?

There is a starkly obvious matter here and a murkier one too.  The obvious one is that we know about “betting on baseball” and the consequences of doing that for anyone involved with baseball.  Put that aside; if any information comes forth related to such an activity, the outcome is both clear and dire.  The murky issue here is this:

  • Sports betting is illegal in California.  However, there are “offshore books” where people in California evidently place wagers on sporting events.
  • The current CBA between MLB and the MLBPA prohibits betting with illegal bookmakers or illegal offshore sportsbooks or websites.

I have no idea as to the “Illegality” of the “offshore books” that seem to exist to serve the desires of folks in California to bet on sports.  But that too seems like a critical question that will need to be addressed as this entire matter unfolds.

There is one aspect to this story that gave me pause from the time that I read about it.  Mizuhara was fired by the LA Dodgers which means to me that he was a Dodgers’ employee and not someone hired by Ohtani.  Since Mizuhara has also been described as a long-time friend of Ohtani’s and who has been working with Ohtani for more than a decade, that was an atonal note in the symphony here.  As I said yesterday, I need more information to make sense of all this.  I suspect more will be forthcoming; this story is not going to just dry up and blow away.

Moving on …  If anyone tells me they still have a pristine bracket left after yesterday’s results, I am going to need video evidence that has been notarized with time stamps affixed to support such a claim.  Clearly, the biggest shock of the day was Kentucky (seeded #3) losing to Oakland (seeded #14).  But it was a day of college basketball that saw several other upsets and a very close call for Kansas.  Three teams seeded #11 in their bracket beat opponents seeded #6 yesterday:

  • Duquesne beat BYU by 4 points but led by as many as 14 points in the game.
  • NC State beat Texas Tech by 13 points and showed no signs of “weariness” after winning the ACC Tournament by winning 5 games in a row over a 5-day span.
  • Oregon beat South Carolina handily by 14 points.

The SEC had 8 teams in the tournament and three of them bowed out in the first round yesterday.  In addition to Kentucky and South Carolina losing to lower seeded teams, Mississippi State lost by 18 points to Michigan State yesterday.

Tomorrow night in prime time, Oakland (14-seed) and NC State (11-seed) will play, and one will advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  I doubt there were too many brackets that foretold that confrontation.

The good news for me here is that my prediction for the teams making the Final Four remains alive.  Tennessee won handily over St. Peter’s yesterday moving on the face Texas tomorrow night.

Finally, since today began with reports related to gambling debts, let me close with this:

“I used to have a horrible gambling addiction, but I wager I’ll never gamble again.”

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



The NFL Owners’ Annual Meeting Next Week

The NFL owners’ Annual Meeting will take place in Orlando, FL next week.  The owners will consider some rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee but according to reports the owners will not vote on the proposed sale of a minority interest in the Raiders to Tom Brady.  That proposed deal has already drawn a ton of attention by the league moguls:

  • The NFL instituted a rule that barred owners from giving an equity stake in the franchise to employees of the franchise.  It was widely assumed that Mark Davis was using that ploy as a way to sign Brady as a free agent.
  • The current deal has Brady “buying in” at a reported “deep discount” and some owners don’t like that as a precedent or as something that might devalue their franchise.

[Aside:  The existence of the rule barring employees having a stake in the team tells me that Caleb Williams’ “demands” for a stake in whatever team drafts him is dead on arrival.]

I think there is a bigger problem than a player or a coach or a GM having an ownership stake in the team at work with the “Brady Deal”.  Unless plans change dramatically, starting in less than 6 months, Tom Brady will be the color analyst on the #1 broadcast team for the NFL on FOX.  Maybe that is not an actual “conflict of interest” but given the current proclivities in the US to conjure up conspiracy theories, that situation could easily be portrayed as such.  And that is a potential problem the NFL needs to stay well away from.

About a hundred years ago, the fledgling NFL survived by selling tickets to folks who came to see the games.  The league added revenue streams like radio broadcasts and selling hot chocolate to fans in attendance.  Today, the NFL revenues from tickets and concessions and even parking are almost relegated to “rounding-off error”; in 2024, the NFL exists in the financial condition it enjoys because it is an ongoing TV series enjoyed weekly by millions – – if not tens of millions – – of viewers.

If I owned an NFL franchise worth several billion dollars, I would be triply cautious to avoid anything that had even a remote possibility of alienating even a part of that TV audience.  Obviously, I do not know the thinking of any NFL owner on this matter; but I would worry more about Tom Brady as an “owner/TV analyst” than I would about Tom Brady buying in at a “deep discount”.

There are ten rule changes that should come up for a vote next week.  The most dramatic change proposal is to the kickoff; the proposed rule simply takes too long to summarize so go to NFL.com where the proposed new kickoff rule is explained and dissected in depth.

The more important rule change proposal from my perspective is the proposed prohibition of the “hip-drop tackle”.  Here is the proposed definition of what would become a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down if the rule proposal is approved by 24 of the 32 NFL owners:

“It is a foul if a player uses the following technique to bring a runner to the ground: (a) grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms; and (b) unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg(s) at or below the knee.”

This rule change is motivated by player safety akin to the ban on the horse collar tackle.  According to some folks, the hip-drop technique gained favor in the coaching ranks as a means to reduce contact by the helmet during tackling which was also banned in the name of player safety.  What I find interesting about this issue is that the NFLPA is not fully on board here because the union believes – – probably correctly – – that the league will not be able to ban the practice with a rule definition that officials can reliably call consistently.

If you want an example of the union’s skepticism, just re-read the definition above and see if you think you could call it correctly more than 90% of the time.  [As you do the re-reading, focus on the phraseology “unweights himself” and wonder how Sir Issac Newton might have described what is going on there.]  Nevertheless, I don’t understand the union stance from this perspective:

  • If the hip-drop tackle – – however one defines is – – is deemed to be dangerous to player health, why would the union be against something that is imperfect but partially advantageous to player safety?

Sir Winston Churchill said that perfection is the enemy of progress.  Unless I am missing something here, it seems that the NFLPA should heed the words of Sir Winston…

Before I wrap this up today and plant myself in front of a TV set to watch March Madness, let me predict my Final Four:

  • West Bracket = Baylor.  Scott Drew is a really good coach.
  • East Bracket = Auburn.  Charles Barkley hopes I am correct.
  • South Bracket = Duke.  #2 son hopes I am correct.
  • Midwest Bracket = Tennessee.  Not a difficult draw for the Vols here.

In case you did not notice, I do not have any #1 seeds in the four brackets reaching the Final Four this year.  Let the games begin …

Finally, since I mentioned Sir Winston Churchill above, let me close with two other pithy observations by him:

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.  The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

And …

“Truth in incontrovertible.  Panic may resent it.  Ignorance may deride it.  Malice may distort it.  But there it is.”

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



Sex And The Village?

With the Paris Olympics on the horizon, there are a couple of items to keep in mind.  First, there will be 4 new “sports” in the program for 2024.  I use quotation marks here because if you stopped the “man on the street” and asked him to name strange sports, you would likely spend a week stopping folks before you got all four named.  Here they are:

  1. Break Dancing
  2. Skateboarding
  3. Sport Climbing
  4. Surfing

Please ignore the fact that nothing like these “events” were part of the original Olympic Games in or around 776 BC nor the fact that Surfing in or around Paris is problematic.  [Aside:  Surfing will take place at Teahupo’o in French Polynesia, so it is technically in France although it is 9771 miles from Paris via the Great Circle Route.]  There will be competitions in all these sports and Olympic Medals will be doled out.  That news is moderately outré as compared to the next tidbit.

The Olympic rules against “intimacy” and “fraternization” among inhabitants of the Olympic Village have been lifted; sex is legal this time around.  And part of the preparation by the organizers reflects their thinking on what might go on in the 17 days and nights between July 26 and August 11 this year.

  • There will be 300,000 condoms available for the taking – – and – –
  • Beds are designed to support up to 550 pounds.

Let me put some perspective on those numbers:

  • If you assume that a packaged condom weighs 1 ounce, 300,000 condoms would weigh 18,750 pounds which is more than 9 tons.
  • You need not assume anything to realize that the organizers have provided an average of 17,647 condoms per day for the Olympians’ deployment.
  • The number of athletes for the games is capped at 10,600.  I have not been able to find a breakdown as to the number of male and female athletes expected to participate in the games, but if the numbers are equally divided, each male athlete would have at his disposal 3.3 condoms per day for 17 days.

All the above is simple arithmetic and one can draw whatever conclusions one might want to take from the numbers as to the anticipated orgy-level in the Olympic Village come the summer.  Regarding the beds that will support 550 lbs, do not let your mind dwell on that imagery for too long.  The TV series Sex and the City will have been off the air for 20 years when the Paris Olympics take place; perhaps we can think of the Games this time around as Sex and the Village.

Moving on …  In the NBA, LeBron James is no longer the best all-around player in the league; he is still “Top 5”, but I believe the best all-around player is Nikola Jokic.  The most intriguing player at the moment – – the one you tune in to see what he might do on this particular night – – is Victor Wembanyama who shows flashes that he might be the best all-around player at some point in the future.  However, I would like to make an argument here about the player who is the most valuable to his team and who simultaneously is not nearly the best all-around player in the NBA.

Yes, I know this is a futile argument and that this player will never be named NBA MVP for a season, but my assessment is that the player most valuable to his team in the NBA is Jalen Brunson of the NY Knicks.

  • The season before signing Brunson (2021/2022) as a free agent, the Knicks were 35-47 and did not make the playoffs.
  • Last year was his first season in NY; the Knicks went 47-35 and won one round of the playoffs.
  • This year the Knicks are 41-27 putting them in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and a mortal lock to make the playoffs.

I am not saying that Jalen Brunson is a better all-around player than Nikola Jokic or Wemby or LeBron James; he is not.  However, in terms of value to his team – – the Knicks – – he very well might be the most valuable player.

Next up …  The reports of the death of Sports Illustrated may have been premature.  The ownership of the SI is complicated, but an entity known as Minute Media has acquired the license from the brand’s owner to publish the magazine.  The licensing agreement is reported to be for 10 years with an option to extend the agreement for 20 years after that period.  [Aside:  Given the uncertainties of the media world in 2024, any thoughts about what might exist 30 years from now is pure fantasy.]  The new publishers can produce the magazine in print and online and can continue the Swimsuit Issue as part of the deal.

One thing is for sure.  The new publisher must avoid anything resembling the embarrassment that fell to SI a few months ago when it was uncovered that the online version had reports written by an artificial intelligence algorithm and was published under a fictitious byline.  I am no journalist by anyone’s definition, but I know that sort of skullduggery is not acceptable in the world of journalism.

Finally, I began today musing on the anticipated sexual events in the Olympic Village this year.  So, let me close with these general observations about sex from a variety of folks:

“Is sex dirty?  Only if it’s done right.”  (Woody Allen)

And …

“If your sexual fantasies were truly of interest to others, they would no longer be fantasies.”  (Fran Lebowitz)

And …

“Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place.”  (Billy Crystal)

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



Fun With Players’ Names

Many US sports fans today are in the midst of researching their bracket picks.  I have spent my time researching what has become an annual event here in Curmudgeon Central – – taking a light look at players’ names on the 68 NCAA men’s basketball tournament teams.  I believe I have an entry below for at least one player from every team; I certainly would not want to be accused of snubbing any team in my process.

To begin let me point out four players whose names are Complete Sentences:

  1. Gavin Burns – – Longwood
  2. Chase Hunter – – Clemson
  3. Chase Martin – – Purdue
  4. Chase Ross – – Marquette

My first name category will be Alliterative Names.  On this list, there are five examples of an alliterative trifecta.  I continue to look for an alliterative superfecta simply because I have never found one.  Every year, I begin my search for something like:

  • Billie Bob Boston – – Brown – – or – –
  • Tommy Tooter – – Texas Tech

That search will have to continue next year but in the meantime consider:

  • Achor Achor – – Samford
  • Ali Ali – – Akron – – Trifecta
  • Andrew Alia – – Drake
  • Al Amadou – – Marquette
  • Atiki Ally Atike – – BYU (Trifecta)
  • Alex Anamekwe – – Texas
  • Avery Anderson III – – TCU
  • Brooks Barnheizer – – Northwestern
  • Brycen Blaine – – JMU
  • Brent Bland – – St. Peter’s
  • Buddy Boyer – – Samford
  • Ben Bryson – – UVA
  • Boo Buie – – Northwestern
  • Cameron Carr – – Tennessee
  • Coen Carr – – Michigan St.
  • Chris Carter – – Kansas
  • Chris Conway – – Oakland
  • Colin Coyne – – Tennessee
  • Cooper Craggs – – Oakland
  • Dain Dainja – – Illinois
  • Dylan Darling – – Washington St.
  • Donovan Dent – – New Mexico St.
  • Dylan Disu – – Texas
  • David Dixon – – Duquesne (Trifecta)
  • Damian Dunn – – Houston
  • Francisco Farabello – – Creighton
  • Greg Gearhardt – – Colorado
  • Jalen Jackson – – W. Kentucky
  • Javon Jackson – – Utah St.
  • Jack Janicky – – Wisconsin
  • Jadon Jones – – Long Beach St.
  • Josiah-Jordan James – – Tennessee (Trifecta)
  • Joshua Jefferson – – St. Mary’s
  • Jack Johnson – – Florida Atlantic
  • Jalen Johnson – – Grambling
  • Javonte Johnson – – Colorado St.
  • Kobe Knox – – USF
  • Kajus Kublikas – – Florida
  • Keaton Kutcher – – Illinois
  • Langston Love – – Baylor
  • Mason Miller – – Creighton
  • Matt Mimms – – S. Dakota St.
  • Mark Mitchell – – Duke
  • Milan Momcilovic – – Iowa St.
  • Maddox Monson – – Long Beach St.
  • Michael Mora – – Vermont
  • Matthew Mors – – S. Dakota St.
  • Ose Okojie – – Howard
  • Petras Padegimas – – Dayton
  • Presley Patterson – – Auburn
  • Ryan Raad – – San Diego St.
  • Royce Robinson – – Montana St.
  • Shammah Scott – – Akron
  • Seth Sigmon – – UAB
  • Sean Stewart – – Duke
  • Stephan Swenson – – Stetson (Trifecta)
  • Treyton Thompson – – Stetson
  • Tony Toney – – UAB
  • Trey Townsend – – Oakland
  • Townsend Tripple – – BYU
  • Warren Washington – – Texas Tech
  • William Whorton – – S. Dakota St.
  • Zakai Ziegler – – Tennessee

My next category is  Back-and-Forth Names – – ones that would seem normal if the first name and the surname were reversed such as:

  • Harrison Alexander – – Mississippi St.
  • Trey Alexander – – Creighton
  • Quincy Allen – – JMU
  • Jaden Bradley – – Arizona
  • Jack Francis – – Texas Tech
  • Ja’Vier Francis – – Houston
  • Keshon Gilbert – – Iowa St.
  • Ben Gregg – – Gonzaga
  • Justin Harmon – – Illinois
  • Rodney Howard – – W. Kentucky
  • Isaac Jack – – Dayton
  • Tre Norman – – Marquette
  • Marcus Randolph – – St. Peter’s
  • Will Richard – – Florida
  • Cormac Ryan – – UNC
  • Tyrese Samuel – – Florida
  • Miles Stewart – – Howard
  • Trey Stuart – – TCU
  • Kalil Thomas – – Morehead St.
  • Shane Thomas – – Creighton
  • Ja’Kobe Walter – – Baylor

Next up are player names that remind us of former US Presidents:

  • KJ Adams, Jr. – – Kansas
  • Carter Ash – – Montana St.
  • Jackson Cook – – Arizona
  • Dallin Grant – – Utah St.
  • Jackson Grant – – Utah St.  (A Presidential doubleheader)
  • Cyncier Harrison – – Stetson
  • Graham Ike – – Gonzaga
  • Harrison Ingram – – UNC
  • Elmarko Jackson – – Kansas
  • D.J. Jefferson – – Tennessee
  • Kordelius Jefferson – – Houston
  • Andre Johnson, Jr. – – UConn
  • KD Johnson – – Auburn
  • Keshad Johnson – – Arizona
  • Tyler Kolek – – Marquette
  • Grant Nelson – – Alabama
  • Tyler Patterson – – Montana St.
  • Aundre Polk – – Oakland
  • Carter Sobera – – Auburn
  • Corey Washington – – St. Peter’s
  • Jalen Washington – – UNC

Some players’ names create an Artist’s Pallette:

  • Cameron Brown – — Marquette
  • Darius Brown II – – Utah St.
  • Xavier Brown – – JMU
  • Josh Gray – – S. Carolina
  • Jasen Green – – Creighton
  • Michael Green III – – JMU
  • Brandon White – – Texas A&M

The names of five players imply Nobility or Peerage:

  • Josiah Dotzler – – Creighton
  • Fredrick King – – Creighton
  • Sam King – – Purdue
  • Tre King – – Iowa St.
  • Jackson Prince – – Texas

Some names call to mind Places:

  • Devon Arlington – – Yale
  • Devin Cambridge – – Texas Tech
  • Brennan Canada – – Kentucky
  • Grant Darbyshire – – Kentucky
  • Dallas Graziani – – Samford
  • DA Houston – – Longwood
  • Denver Jones – – Auburn
  • Andrew Meadow – – Boise St.
  • Austin Sacks – – Baylor
  • Saxby Sunderland – – Longwood

A goodly number of players’ names have a Biblical Connection:

  • Samson Aletan – – Yale
  • Noah Amenhauser – – Grand Canyon
  • Solomon Ball – – UConn
  • Luke Champion – – Arizona
  • Michael Christmas – – Longwood
  • Christian Coleman – – UAB
  • Justin Cross – – Kansas
  • Aaron Deloney – – Vermont
  • Noah Friedel – – JMU
  • Luke Goode – – Illinois
  • Jaffrey Grace III – – Nebraska
  • Luke Haertle – – Wisconsin
  • Micah Handlogten – – Florida
  • Samson Johnson – – UConn
  • Isaac Jones – – Washington St.
  • Enoch Kalambay – – W. Kentucky
  • Jonah Lucas – – Marquette
  • Jacob McFarland – – Houston
  • Micah Parrish – – San Diego St.
  • Christian Reeves – – Duke
  • Elijah Saunders – – San Diego St
  • Isaiah Shaw – – Grand Canyon
  • Malachi Smith – – Dayton
  • Evan Solomon – – Oakland
  • Joshua Strong – – Howard
  • Messiah Thompson – – Long Beach St.
  • Isaac Traudt – – Creighton
  • Seth Trimble – – UNC
  • Elijah Tucker – – Longwood
  • Noah Waterman – – BYU
  • Isaiah Watts – – Washington St.

Some players’ names make me wonder if the player is related to Someone Else who is Famous:

  • Kyle Carlisemo – – Colgate – – He IS the son of PJ Carlisemo!
  • Patrick Cassidy – – Kansas – – Hopalong’s nephew?
  • Roy Clarke – – St. Peter’s – – Did your uncle host Hee Haw?
  • David Joplin – – Marquette – – Janis’ long-lost son?
  • Hayden Hefner – – Texas A&M – – Hugh’s heir?
  • Chuck Hepburn – – Wisconsin – – Audrey’s grandson?
  • Jackson Huxtable – – Stetson – – From The Cosby Show?
  • Connor Kraft – – S. Dakota St. – – Your family invented mayonnaise?
  • Rob Landry – – UNC – – Your granddad coached the Cowboys?
  • Spencer Mahoney – – Washington St. – – Paul Winchell’s sidekick?
  • Jamal Mashburn Jr. – – New Mexico – – Saw your Dad play for Kentucky.
  • Dillon Mitchell – – Texas – – Related to the US Marshall in Dodge City?
  • Tristan Newton – – UConn – – Descendant of Sir Isaac?
  • Gehrig Normand – – Michigan St. – – Shouldn’t you play baseball?
  • Charlie McCarthy – – Kansas – – Edgar Bergan’s sidekick?
  • Christian Shumate – – McNeese – – Did your dad play for Notre Dame?
  • Nicholas Timberlake – – Kansas – – Justin’s younger brother?
  • Isiah Warfield – – Howard – – Your grandfather played for the Miami Dolphins?
  • Demarion Watson – – Iowa St. – – Your uncle hung out with Sherlock Holmes?
  • Jaden Webb – – Morehead St. – – Your dad starred on Dragnet?
  • Julian Wooden – – JMU – – Did your father coach UCLA?

I have an extensive list of players whose names might just Foretell Their Future Careers:

  • Marvel Allen – – Dayton – – Comic book artist
  • Steven Ashworth – – Creighton – – Chimney sweep
  • Dawson Baker – – BYU – – Obviously …
  • Xavier Banks – – Oakland – – Financier
  • DeAirius Barker – – Charleston – – Dog trainer
  • Patrick Bath – – Drake – – Plumber
  • Omaha Biliew – – Iowa St. – – Steak house operator
  • Stanley Borden – – Duke – – Dairy farmer
  • Churchill Bounds – – Wagner – – British MP
  • Johni Broome – – Auburn – – Home cleaning services provider
  • Jalen Bridges – – Baylor – – Civil engineer
  • Miles Byrd – – San Diego St. – – Ornithologist
  • Colby Brooks – – Gonzaga – – Cheese monger
  • Lucas Clanton – – Auburn – – OK Corral gunfight reenactor
  • Donovan Clingan – – UConn – – Star Trek actor
  • Mookie Cook – – Oregon – – Chef
  • Ta’Lon Cooper – – S. Carolina – – Barrell maker
  • Xavier Cork – – TCU – – Wine maker
  • N’Faly Dante – – Oregon – – Poet
  • Hunter Dickinson – – Kansas – – Nah … too easy
  • Jaylen Dorsey – – W. Kentucky – – Band leader
  • Kobe Elvis – – Dayton – – Crooning basketball player of course
  • Wesley Fields – – McNeese – – Farmer
  • Kayden Fish – – Iowa St. – – Deep sea angler
  • Mason Forbes – – St. Mary’s – – Magazine editor

[Aside:  Mason Forbes’ grandfather, Spencer Forbes, played for the Harlem Globetrotters back in the 1960s.  This apple did not fall far from the tree.]

  • Robert Ford III – – Montana St. – – Automotive engineer
  • Trey Fort – – Mississippi St. – – Commanding officer
  • Jazz Gardner – – Nevada – – Outdoors musician
  • Kyron Gibson – – Drake – – Guitarist
  • Ben Gold – – Marquette – – Mining engineer
  • Joey Hart – – Kentucky – – Transplant surgeon
  • Rory Hawke – – St. Mary’s – – Falconer
  • Zayden High – – UNC – – Secondary school principal
  • Walker Horn – – Kentucky – – Band leader
  • DJ Horne – – NC State – – A Dee Jay obviously
  • Jaelen House – – New Mexico – – Real estate developer
  • Dillon Hunter – – Clemson – – Anything but a “gatherer”
  • Tone Hunter – – Oakland – – Musician
  • Jaxon Kohler – – Michigan St. – – Plumber
  • Chandler Leopard – – Samford – – Safari leader
  • Julius Marble – – Texas A&M – – Sculptor
  • Walyn Napper – – Longwood – – Mattress tester
  • Eric Northweather – – Drake – – Meteorologist
  • Breon Pass – – NC State – – NFL QB
  • Jack Payne – – Colorado St. – – Physical therapist
  • Tylan Pope – – Nevada – – Theologian
  • TL Power – – Duke – – Linesman
  • Nick Pringle – – Alabama – – Potato chip mogul
  • Keegan Records – – Colgate – – Music producer
  • Freedom Rhames – – Howard – – Parole officer
  • DJ Richards, Jr. – – McNeese – – Another Dee Jay obviously
  • Jeremy Roach – – Duke – – Exterminator
  • JT Rock – – Iowa St. – – Sculptor
  • Juliana Roper II – – Northwestern – – Rodeo athlete
  • Emmanual Sharp – – Houston – – Musician
  • Atticus Schuler – – Dayton – – Criminal defense lawyer
  • Patrick Shelley – – UVA – – Poet
  • Jackson Skipper – – Vermont – – Sailboat captain
  • Cam Spencer – – UConn – – Auto mechanic
  • Trevian Tennyson – – TCU – – Poet Laureate
  • Brock Vice – – Creighton – – Police detective
  • Kerwin Walton – – Texas Tech – – Angler
  • Rocket Watts – – Oakland – – Astronaut
  • Thomas Weaver – – Howard – – Rug merchant
  • Shahada Wells – – McNeese – – Wildcat oil driller
  • Jae’Lyn Withers – – UNC – – Thoroughbred horse trainer
  • Kam Woods – – NC State – – Carpenter
  • Freddie Word – – Charleston – – Author

And I have saved for last a compendium of players’ names that probably cause Nightmares For Copy Editors at newspapers around the country – – and maybe tangle the tongue for an announcer or two also:

  • Deraje Agbaosi – – New Mexico
  • Max Agbonkpolo – – Utan St.
  • Ileri Ayo-Faleye – – Vermont
  • Lav Cvetkovic – – UVA
  • Ebrima Dibba – – S. Carolina
  • Kymany Houinsou – – Washington St.
  • Oso Ighodaro – – Marquette
  • Zvonimir Ivisic – – Kentucky
  • Andrej Jakimovski – – Washington St.
  • Veikka Koivisto – – Charleston
  • Tuburu Naivalurua – – Oakland
  • Michel Ndayishimiye – – Vermont
  • Yanis Ndjonga – – Baylor
  • Chilaydrien Newton – – Grambling
  • Shaumba Ngoyi – – Long Beach St.
  • Emeka Nnaji – – Grambling
  • Zimi Nwokeji – – Dayton
  • Josh Ojianwuna – – Baylor
  • Ze’Rik Onyema – – Texas
  • Ugonna Onyenso – – Kentucky
  • Jackson Paveletzke – – Iowa St.
  • Ayodele Taiwo – – Howard
  • Jonathan Tchamwatchoua – – Baylor
  • Fousseyni Traore – – BYU
  • Obinna Ugwuakazi – – Charleston
  • Szymon Zapala – – Longwood

Finally, I’ll close with these remarks about names from a few folks far more famous than I:

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”  (Oscar Wilde)

And …

“Always forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”  (Robert F. Kennedy)

And …

“I shall write a book some day about the appropriateness of names.  Geoffrey Chaucer has a ribald ring as is proper and correct, and Alexander Pope was inevitably Alexander Pope.  Colley Cibber was a silly little man without much elegance and Shelley was very Percy and very Bysshe.”  (James Joyce)

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



A Short-Lived National Pastime

From April to October, baseball is the “national pastime”; for the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, NFL football is the “national pastime”; today – – for one solitary 24-hour period – – the “national pastime” is hyperventilating over which college basketball team was “snubbed” by the Selection Committee and which other teams that did get into the tournament were improperly seeded.  If the rhetorical gas that will be spewed today on those subjects were greenhouse gases, Greta Thunberg would be rendered catatonic. 

Let me set these arguments aside by saying:

  • No team was snubbed.  There are a bunch of slightly better than mediocre teams out there and deciding which ones are closer to “mediocre” than to “slightly above average” is an impossible task.  The Committee did its job and now it is time to play the games.
  • If I tell you that St. John’s belongs in the Tournament more than UVa belongs, it really doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not.  The fact is that UVa is in, and St. John’s is out.  Hi ho!
  • Think for a moment about how difficult it is to pick the 5 best teams in the country ranked in order.  There can be spirited debate about such an ordering.  Now try to get any sort of consensus about ranking the 5 teams from #41 to #45 in order.  Good luck getting a consensus there and that is the task the Selection Committee faces each year.

I said that this hyperventilating will only last for one day and the reason for that is another wave of debate is about to break over us.  As of tomorrow, everyone will have made peace with the brackets as they exist, and full attention will then be given to “bracket busting games”.  A friend – – by the way, an alum of James Madison University – – has already informed me that James Madison (a 12th seed) is going to beat Wisconsin (a 5th seed).  It is easy to recognize the bias there, but he also included in his note to me this morning that:

“… Alabama is going to lose to Charleston because when Alabama goes cold from the field, they can’t beat a pickup squad.”

[For the record, Charleston is seeded 13th and Alabama is seeded 4th in the West Bracket.]

It’s time to take a deep breath and get ready for lots of “couch time” with remote in hand.  Let the Tournament begin …

While waiting for the first jump ball tomorrow night, let me return to NFL player movements and look at three separate QB shufflings.

  1. The Eagles traded to acquire Kenny Pickett for a 3rd round pick and two 7th round picks next year.  That cost is almost nothing for a player who has been a starter for most of the last two seasons.  However, I am surprised by the Eagles move here.  The Eagles’ offense is built around Jalen Hurts who is a mobile QB that presents a threat to run on just about any down; Kenny Pickett is not that kind of QB.  So, a switch at QB for the Eagles is not going to be just a different voice in the huddle; it will be an offense with a totally different focus.
  2. The Steelers then went and acquired Justin Fields from the Bears for a 6th round pick next year.  That cost is even less than what the Eagles gave the Steelers for Pickett; it is hard to imagine that being a disaster for the Steelers.  [Aside:  Fields is far more mobile than Pickett; so, I wonder why the Eagles made the trade they did.  I am not an NFL GM, but that decision is a bit confusing to me.]
  3. The Commanders traded away Sam Howell to the Seahawks for what amounts to a 3rd round and 4th round pick swap.  A week or so ago, the Commanders signed Marcus Mariota and it looked as if he and Howell would “compete” to see who would be the starter in 2024.  Now, it seems to me that the Commanders are going to pick a “franchise QB hopeful” with the overall #2 pick in April’s Draft.

Just to refresh your memory, here is why QB drafting is a crapshoot and not a science …  Consider the 2021 NFL Draft and the QBs of note taken then:

  • Trevor Lawrence:  First overall pick; looks like the real deal.
  • Zach Wilson:  Second overall pick; has been less than fully successful so far.
  • Trey Lance:  Third overall pick; rarely sees the field and has already been traded.
  • Justin Fields:  Eleventh overall pick; just traded away for a bag of beans.
  • Mac Jones:  Fifteenth overall pick; was traded a week ago for next to nothing.

In case you think I am cherry-picking bad results, look at the 2022 NFL Draft and the QBs of note taken there:

  • Kenny Pickett:  Twentieth overall pick; just traded away for nothing.
  • Desmond Ridder: Seventy-fourth overall pick; can’t play.
  • Malik Willis:  Eighty-sixth overall pick: started 3 games, appeared in 11 games; zero TDs.
  • Matt Corral:  Ninety-fourth overall pick; has yet to see the field in an NFL game.
  • Bailey Zappe: One hundred and thirty-fourth overall pick; can’t play.
  • Sam Howell: One hundred and forth fourth overall pick; just traded away for a can of corn.
  • Brock Purdy:  Two hundred and sixty-second overall pick; seems to be doing well.

Finally, I began today talking about public opinion as it regards the work of the NCAA Selection Committee; so, let me close with Bertrand Russell’s view of public opinion:

“One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”

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