Big East Basketball

Back in the 1980s, the Big East had three of its teams – – Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova – – in the Final Four.  This year, the conference has three of its teams – – Creighton, UConn and Xavier – – in the Sweet 16 AND it is also in the news regarding a couple of major coaching changes.  For the moment, the Big East is once again the focal point of college basketball.

Rick Pitino will indeed be leaving Iona and taking over the program at St. John’s; that had been rumored for several weeks and the announcement came late yesterday; Pitino signed a 6-year deal.  Pitino will make St. John’s a story once again; he has always had good teams and he has always had plenty of other “stuff” surrounding his programs that folks find newsworthy.  Rick Pitino is not a favorite to win any humanitarian awards any time soon, but even his most ardent detractors must admit that he can recruit players and he can coach them up into a formidable unit.

As controversial as Pitino may be, the separation of St. John’s University and former coach, Mike Anderson, may become even more controversial/contentious.  Anderson is considering a lawsuit against the university over his “firing for cause”.  St. John’s claims that Anderson did not “facilitate an environment of academic compliance within the program” and that he failed to “appropriately supervise” the assistant coaches on the team.  By choosing to fired Anderson for cause, the university is not obligated to pay out the remainder of Anderson’s contract – – reportedly $11M – – and Anderson has said he will aggressively defend his contractual rights.

Anderson had been at St. Johns for 4 years after taking over from Chris Mullen.  His record was 68-56 with no tournament appearances in those 4 seasons.  St. John’s used to be a fixture in the NCAA tournament; however, since 2000 it has only been involved 4 times.  I suspect that St. John’s will be back in post season play sooner than later with Pitino on the bench.

The other big coaching move in the Big East is actually two moves.  Georgetown has poached Ed Cooley from conference rival, Providence, to replace Patrick Ewing as the Hoyas’ head coach.  There was no mystery as to why the folks at Georgetown decided to move on from Patrick Ewing; over the last two seasons the Hoyas’ record was 13-50.  Cooley had been the head coach at Providence for 12 seasons and had the Friars in the NCAA tournament 7 times.  The fact that Cooley is making an intra-conference coaching move makes for an interesting rivalry angle there and it opens up another coaching slot in the basketball-centric Big East Conference.

Oh, and just to demonstrate the wheels within wheels nature of college basketball, Rick Pitino was the head coach at Providence back in the 1980s…

Moving on …  Two years ago, Trevor Bauer signed a 3-year contract with the LA Dodgers worth a reported $102M.  I am sure you know that Bauer was suspended for two years by Commissioner Rob Manfred – – that suspension was reduced to a year subsequently – – and the Dodgers released Bauer.  The lurid nature of the allegations against Bauer made him sufficiently toxic that he could not get a contract offer from an MLB team as a free agent this year despite the fact that Bauer was never even indicted for any criminal activity based on the original accusations let alone convicted of anything.

Trevor Bauer won the NL Cy Young Award in 2020 which was the impetus for the Dodgers’ decision to give him that $102M deal.  So, one should expect that if given a chance to take the mound again, Bauer would likely be successful.  He will get that opportunity in Japan this year; last week reports said that he signed a contract with the Yokohama BayStars in Japan’s Central League.  Those reports say that contract is worth $4M with incentives.

The issue here is not the drastic reduction in the value of Bauer’s services as a pitcher; I could rant on that issue from several perspectives and at the end of the ranting nothing would change even a little bit.  I bring this up today because Trevor Bauer may have plumbed new depths of disingenuity related to his contract signing.  Here is his statement:

“Playing in the NPB has always been a dream of mine and I can’t think of a better organization to do it with.”

“NPB” is the acronym for Nippon Professional Baseball i.e., the Japanese League.  Let me review the bidding here:

  • Trevor Bauer was born in North Hollywood, CA
  • He went to high school in a suburb of LA.
  • He went to UCLA.
  • He was in MLB and signed with the LA Dodgers
  • And playing in the Japanese League has always been a dream of his…

Finally, given Trevor Bauer’s multiple links to Los Angeles, CA, let me close with two different views on the city:

“I mean, who would want to live in a place where the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light.”  [Woody Allen]

And …

“A big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper clip.”  [Raymond Chandler]

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



An Orgy Of College Basketball

There were 32 March Madness games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I got to watch part of every one of them; it was an orgy of college basketball here in Curmudgeon Central.  Not to worry though, I am not going to go through notes on all 32 games – – just a sampling of my impressions while watching these games.

Starting on Friday:

  • Michigan St. 72 USC  62:  The Spartans’ defense in the second half was suffocating.
  • Xavier 72  Kennesaw St. 67:  An excellent game in the 1st half had Kennesaw St. up by 7 at the half.  The lead stretched to double digits in the second half until Xavier put on a totally dominating 15-0 run to eke out a win.
  • Baylor 74  UC-Santa Barbara 56:  Baylor is the better team by a lot – – but this Baylor team does not play defense the way previous Baylor teams did.
  • St Mary’s 63  VCU 51:  VCU does not have a reliable shooter/scorer.
  • Pitt 59  Iowa St. 41:  Iowa St. made its first field goal of the game at the 9:54 mark in the first half.  No contest …
  • UConn 87  Iona 63:  Two well-coached teams played an exciting first half but UConn was much deeper and much stronger turning the game into a rout for the last 8 minutes or so.
  • Fairleigh Dickinson 63  Purdue 58:  Purdue could not defend FDU’s fast guards and FDU could not defend Purdue’s size.  In the end, David beat Goliath.
  • Gonzaga 82 Grand Canyon 72:  The Zags only led by 4 at the half and did not look good at all in the first half.  They played better in the second half but still looked “off-center”.
  • TCU 72  Arizona St. 70:  TCU looked awful in the first half; I thought this was going to be a laugher for the Sun Devils in the second half.  That did not happen; TCU came out of its fog in the second half and won at the end.

In the games on Saturday:

  • Tennessee 65 Duke 52:  Duke was simply out-muscled in this game; Charles Barkley described the Tennessee line-up as “grown men”.  A production note for the folks doing the engineering here:  Up the amps on Stan van Gundy’s microphone; he has good stuff to add to the telecast but sometimes he gets drowned out by crowd noise.
  • Arkansas 72  Kansas 71:  Arkansas won despite only shooting 3 for 15 on 3-point attempts.  Arkansas was down by 12 points in the second half but won on hustle and rebounding.
  • Princeton 78  Missouri 63:  In this Tiger versus Tiger matchup, Princeton was the alpha male from start to finish.
  • Houston 81  Auburn 64:  Auburn’s foul shooting was horrendous in the game; they were 19 for 36 from the foul line!  I officiated kids’ rec league games with better foul shooting than that.
  • UCLA 68  Northwestern 63:  Here is exactly what I wrote on my scratch pad during the game:

“UCLA is the least entertaining team still alive in the tournament and Northwestern is second.  Meh!”

As for the games on Sunday:

  • Xavier 84  Pitt 73:  Xavier’s performance in the first half was the best half of basketball so far in the tournament.  Xavier led 48-34 at the intermission.
  • Kansas St. 75 Kentucky 69:  This was the best/most entertaining game in the tournament so far.  There was good offense on display and good defense.  There were spectacular plays and it went down to the final minute to be decided.  Marquis Nowell (K-State) is plenty entertaining all by himself.  This was everything a college basketball fan could ask for.
  • Michigan St. 69 Marquette 60:  Marquette’s Tyler Kolek was the Big East Player of the Year and he was a no-show in this game with 7 points shooting 2 for 8 from the floor.
  • Creighton 85  Baylor 76:  Again, this Baylor team does not defend like Scott Drew’s Baylor teams of recent vintage have defended.

Memo For Telecast Execs:

Lisa Byington needs a lot of coaching/developing to do play-by-play for such a fast-paced game.  She obviously knows the game but does not always “keep up”.  Work with her…

  • Gonzaga 84  TCU 81:  TCU’s intensity in the first half was clearly greater than Gonzaga’s.  These are not the Zags of the last couple of years but they put together some offense and played much better defense in the second half to pull out a close one.

I saw two players who did not get a lot of attention from the broadcasters who I think will play in the NBA one of these days – – not necessarily as stars but as important role players:

  1. Jarace Walker – Houston:  He is a freshman and listed as 6’8” and 240 lbs.  I believe both numbers. He has work to do on his offensive game but he already has rebounding and shot blocking skills in abundance.
  2. Dariq Whitehead – Duke:  Another freshman with a large frame that can expand into “NBA size” who plays strong defense both inside and on the perimeter.

Finally, I said there was an orgy of college basketball over the weekend so let me close with this from Ogden Nash:

“Home is Heaven and orgies are vile.

But I like an orgy once in a while.”

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



March Madness Begins …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Soccer Stuff Today …

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

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

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

Let me translate that for you:

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

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

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

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

Points are awarded as such:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And …

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

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



NFL Free Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Rest In Peace, Bud Grant

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

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

Rest in peace, Bud Grant…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Name Game

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

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

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

You get the picture…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The search continues …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And …

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

And …

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

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



Wagering On Professional Wrestling?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Three Misbehaviors Today?

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

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

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

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

  • He went full bore into Hyperbole Land.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No disturbances were reported.”

And …

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

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

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

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

The second one offers some advice for Ja Morant:

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

The third one is just for fun:

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

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



Random Stuff today …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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