The DeAndre Jordan Kerfuffle

Now that the dust has seemingly settled with regard to which team in the NBA will get to pay DeAndre Jordan for his services next year, I would like to address much of the hubbub that surrounded that entire matter. Let me establish a couple of foundation pieces here:

    DeAndre Jordan had a verbal agreement to join the Mavericks next year. Verbal agreements are not worth the paper they are printed on.

    DeAndre Jordan broke no laws and broke no NBA rules in doing what he did by reneging on that verbal agreement with the Mavericks and resigning with the Clippers. In fact, the NBA rules and the CBA negotiated with the NBPA enable exactly this kind of behavior by all NBA free agents every year.

What DeAndre Jordan did do was to demonstrate that he not particularly trustworthy and that his word is not worth much. The deal he got from the Clippers reportedly gives him an opt-out year when he will be 29 years old. So, if you were another GM/owner, would you be putting much stock in whatever he said he was going to do in the midst of that time when only verbal deals can be negotiated but there is a waiting period until they can be put to paper? I have said this before in a different context but it applies here too:

    Integrity is like virginity; you only get to lose it once.

I also do not hold DeAndre Jordan in high regard based on the fact that he was not big enough to call Mark Cuban and tell him straight up that he was not going to honor their verbal agreement. True, he had no obligation to do so; but it would have been the honorable thing to do. And for the record here, I have long thought that Mark Cuban is not a whole lot more than a self-promoting pompous ass who would do just about anything to be in front of a TV camera or a live radio mic. Notwithstanding that sentiment, Jordan owed Cuban the courtesy of learning about this directly from the source.

In addition, the media covering this mess of a situation went hyperbolic when relating DeAndre Jordan’s value and his defensive prowess. He is indeed a good defender and rebounder but let us keep this in the realm of reality:

    DeAndre Jordan is not now and will not be “The Next Bill Russell”.

One final thing about the coverage that bothered me was an implicit double standard. Jordan was not lauded for his weaseling out of his agreement but he was portrayed as a young man who reflected on a decision and decided it was not in his best interest. Therefore, he was in the right – even if he may have handled it improperly. Now think how the reverse situation would have been portrayed:

    Three days after the verbal agreement, Mark Cuban looks back at what he just agreed to and says to himself:

    “Are you nuts? You are going to give this guy umpty-million dollars and he cannot shoot from outside dunking range. I am going to call a press conference to let everyone know that I changed my mind and he can go sign with anyone else he wants because I do not want him on my team.”

Somehow, if Cuban – or any owner – reneged on a verbal deal before the signing period opened, I doubt they would be treated nearly as kindly by the folks covering the story…

Greg Cote had this view of this situation in the Miami Herald:

“Clippers star De Andre Jordan agreed to terms with Dallas, changed his mind and resigned with Los Angeles. Tell me, is there anything in sports better than the sight of an angry helpless Mark Cuban?”

Now that we know that Jason Pierre-Paul blew off a finger in that fireworks accident a couple of weeks ago, I want to offer him a piece of career advice for the time when his NFL playing days are over:

    Do not entertain the idea of becoming a “bomb disposal tech”. In that field, losing a finger is considered a “good day at the office”…

Keith Olbermann’s latest incarnation at ESPN lasted about 2 years. As I have recounted here before, I watched his show a couple of times a week and found it entertaining and informative – even on those occasions where I totally disagreed with the stances he took in his commentaries. I would like to think that ESPN will find some way to replace his program with a new “high-brow” show and not simply another re-run of SportsCenter or – perish the thought – First Take.

Bob Molinaro summed up my sentiments here in a recent comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Out the door: If you are a fan of Keith Olbermann’s TV humor and homilies, too bad. Yet again, he and ESPN are parting ways. ESPN says it’s a business decision, while skeptics believe Olbermann’s critical harangues of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had something to do with the breakdown in contract negotiations. Business of a different nature, as it were, given the cozy relationship between ESPN and the NFL. At any rate, Olbermann’s departure lowers ESPN’s on-air IQ.”

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald earlier this month:

“Earlier this week a leap or extra second was added to the world clock. Mel Kiper Jr. used the extra second to release his first three mock drafts for the 2016 season.”

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

Why The Wonderlic Test Is Important…

Today is Bastille Day. Sadly, I have no news to report here that resembles the storming of the prison fortress in Paris on this date in 1789. So, in lieu of trying to force-fit some sort of sports story/event into the narrative of the French Revolution, I will just fais marcher with the normal happenings here.

Before I took my brief hiatus, the NFL announced a couple of 4-game suspensions for players who had violated the substance abuse policy. Sheldon Richardson and Rolando McLain will each sit out 4 games. However, it is important to note that neither of these gentlemen failed a drug test involving PEDs; they will sit out for flunking a drug test for “recreational drugs”. So, I think it is important to understand what they had to do in order to “earn” this 4-game suspension. The following is my understanding based on my reading of the current CBA that is available to the public:

    Players are tested once a year for “recreational drugs” – such as marijuana. These are not PEDs; they are specifically spelled out in the CBA; the tests take place during the team OTAs in the spring. The players know this; the agents know this; the coaches know this. There are no “gotcha moments” here.

    The first time there is a positive test the player is placed in the NFL “drug watch program” which means there will be more frequent tests and some counseling. If the player goes along with the counseling program – or appears to be going along with it – it takes two additional positive tests before he can be suspended.

    If the player is uncooperative or refuses to participate in the counseling activities, a second positive test – not a third positive – can get him a 4-game suspension.

These two players – and all the ones that have gone before them who have been caught up in the substance abuse policy – have failed at least two and possibly three drug tests. However, they only came up on the NFL radar because they failed a drug test when they knew in advance when it would happen. If you wonder why the NFL administers the Wonderlic Test to potential draftees, this might be one of the reasons. Failing the first drug test that puts you on the league’s “watch list” is nothing more than an IQ Test.

These two players – and others before them and future players to be identified later – miss out on 25% of a season and 25% of their salary for a year because they got caught (or will get caught sometime later) with “stuff” in their bloodstream even though they knew when and where their blood test would happen. Let me be clear; no one from the Nobel Committee is banging on my door to tell me that I am in the running for one of their prizes. Nonetheless, I know for sure that I could avoid a positive test in this sort of a regimen even if I were a regular user of one of the substances on the “substance abuse list”. It really is not all that difficult…

The NFL announced a 10-year partnership agreement with Tottenham Hotspurs last week. The NFL will play two of its London Games at the new Tottenham stadium between 2018 and 2027. The new stadium will have features that the NFL may use to “motivate” current stadium managers to adopt:

    There will be a retractable roof. While this is very important in a place like London where it rains a lot, be assured that the league can point to various “mud games” in many of its existing stadiums and it can appeal to the comfort of the fans paying exorbitant prices for tickets as ways to hint – ever so subtly – that a retractable roof would be a great addition to existing facilities.

    There will be a retractable grass field with an artificial turf field below it. The grass field will be used by the Spurs for their EPL games and any other futball matches that may need to be scheduled there. When the NFL is coming to town, they can move the grass field away and expose the artificial turf underneath so that the NFL game can be played in top notch conditions without tearing up the pitch for the Spurs in their next home game.

Look, if the NFL wants to play 2 games a year in London, I have no problem with that so long as the teams in the league have no problem with that. However, consider these comments from the Mayor of London; the not-even-veiled implications bother me a lot:

“We are already working very closely with the NFL including on plans to get more Londoners involved in the sport … Touchdowns at Tottenham can only add to our reputation at a global sporting powerhouse and help us take another step towards our goal of having a permanent NFL franchise here in London.”

I just got off the train. Having one franchise in London would be a logistical nightmare for the team based there and for teams in its division. That is a bad idea whose time ought never to come. If the NFL is hell-bent to expand to Europe, it needs to have more than one team there. And that statement alone ought to give fans a problem.

    How many teams in the current NFL have rosters that are made up of marginal players? If that is too broad a question for you, then let me be more specific:

      How many of the current 32 teams have marginal QBs?

    If the NFL expands in order to accommodate “foreign market expansion”, that is going to dilute talent all around the league; there is no way to pretend that it will not. It is painful to watch some of the bottom feeders in the league already and expansion to accommodate teams in Europe – and or any other markets – will simply create more teams that make your teeth itch when you watch them.

I wish the NFL and the Tottenham Hotspurs nothing but good fortune and financial windfalls in their 10-year deal. However, I hope that the Mayor of London and the global expansion forces within the NFL – (Hint: Roger Goodell) – find ways to prevent all of this from becoming permanent.

Finally, a word from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“I worry about Draymond Green. He says he got to where he is because of his determination to ‘overcome the doubters.’ Now that he has the big contract and universal respect, there are no doubters. Can Draymond overcome the handicap of not having any doubters? I doubt it.”

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

Round One In A Legal Battle…

Yesterday, a Federal Judge ruled against the Washington Redskins and kept in force a decision by the Patent and Trademarks Office saying that the team name is derogatory and therefore cannot be sanctioned under the Lanham Act. One point the Redskins made in their lawsuit was that the Lanham Act was in opposition to the First Amendment since it was a government action that abridged free expression. Obviously, the judge did not buy into that.

Now, it seems to me that the entire concept of a trademark for any business or any entity is an infringement on free expression. The Redskins have used the trademark granted to them by the government to prevent anyone else from using the team name/logo on anything that might benefit that other user without benefiting the Redskins. So, I think that if the Lanham Act is “unconstitutional”, then so are all trademarks. Somehow, I do not think Danny Boy Snyder would like to buy into that proposition.

I have maintained for about 3 decades now that people who wanted the team name changed needed to stop with the “campaign of moral outrage and indignity” and change the venue to “economics”. That is what this struggle does. Should the Skins ultimately lose, it could cost them a lot of revenue and that is very important because the team owner – the one who swore that he would NEVER change the name – owns this team for two reasons:

    Reason 1: It is an ego trip for him to be one of only 32 people on the planet who owns an NFL team.

    Reason 2: The team makes money hand-over-fist.

If somehow the opponents of the name can undermine “Reason 2”, they stand a much greater chance that Danny Boy will change his mind. Oh, and a boycott – which would achieve the same end – is simply not a feasible option. So, this lawsuit is not a frivolous one.

Obviously, this is not over and the Skins will appeal this decision at least one time and the opening of the trademark is held in abeyance until the legal process is finished. Even if the team loses in the end, the Skins can still retain the name if they wish but the Federal trademark protection is what is in dispute here. For the moment, the team name opponents are in the lead…

Recently, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the reports that Phil Mickelson had ties to someone who was investigated for money laundering associated with illegal gambling:

“Bottom line: For the good of the sport, if not the reputation of Phil Mickelson, shouldn’t the PGA require some sort of statement from Mickelson about the relationship he and his nearly $3 million in gambling money have with the money launderer under federal investigation? Though Mickelson isn’t being investigated, it’s hard to believe any other major sport would allow something this fishy to foul the air with no comment from the player or officials. At any rate, I wonder how the story would be handled by media if Tiger Woods were involved.”

To respond to the last part of that comment, if this were Tiger Woods, the story would be everywhere and would likely cause CNN to treat it as if it were a missing airliner. However, at least one member of the press tried to get Phil Mickelson to comment on the story. Mickelson is in Scotland to play in the Scottish Open and someone brought up the subject. Here is Mickelson’s response:

“People are going to say things good; they are going to say things bad; they are going to say things true; they are going to say things not true. The fact is, I’m comfortable enough with who I am as a person that I don’t feel like I need to comment on every little report that comes out.”

That statement was probably not crafted by his image consultant/PR guru. That statement is an amalgam of:

    1. A non-denial denial – and –

    2. Buzz off!

However, as Professor Molinaro properly observes there has still been no acknowledgement by the folks who run the game that this report ever appeared anywhere. I would have expected at least the standard ploy of:

    “We are looking into this matter but cannot comment on it because there is an ongoing investigation and we have to say this because we do not have the faintest idea what is going on and our fervent wish is that it would dry up and blow away.”

Sometimes, I just like to look over the MLB standings to see if anything jumps out of the numbers. When I looked yesterday, I saw that the Oakland A’s are in last place in the AL West and that the A’s had the worst record in the AL. Of course with the Moneyball geniuses in charge there, I would never have thought that possible. But it is even worse than that…

The A’s have outscored their opponents by 50 runs this year. According to advanced stats, that should put them well over .500. In fact, the Royals have outscored their opponents by 56 runs this year and the Royals are 12.5 games better than the A’s this season. How does this happen?

    It cannot be “clubhouse chemistry” because Moneyball does not admit such a thing exists.

    It cannot be “market inefficiency” because Moneyball identifies such inefficiency and exploits it.

As of yesterday, the A’s were 7-21 in games decided by 1 run. That might explain the record and the unusual run differential total but to look at that 7-21 record, one would likely conclude that the A’s were “gagging”. But that is not allowed because there is no sabermetric stat for it – yet.

Finally, here is some insightful analysis from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“ESPN ‘Body’ issue: It’s out in the magazine and online, ESPN’s annual gratuitous platform allowing naturally narcissistic athletes to be even more narcissistic by showing us that their wonderful athleticism is a tribute to their even more wonderful bodies.”

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

Back And Forth And Back Again…

Today marks my 49th wedding anniversary. Today also the day of the year when my long-suffering wife looks in the mirror and asks the person looking back at her:

    What the Hell were you thinking?

Yes, we are already contemplating how to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year…

There seems to be a fluttering in the baseball world this week – it does not even rise to the level of a kerfuffle in my mind – about Bryce Harper’s decision not to participate in the Home Run Derby this year. For reasons that escape me, Harper is taking heat for his decision. To everyone who is voicing even the slightest disagreement with Harper on this issue, I would like to say:

    Just shut up!

In the first place, the Home Run Derby is an invitational event. Every player on every team does not have the ability to just show up and participate. Now, by definition, an invitation is something that can be either accepted or declined. An invitation is not a commitment or an obligation; the element of individual choice exists in every invitation. And, Bryce Harper has chosen to decline that invitation. There is really no reason to get your blood pressure up by even a single millimeter of mercury.

I heard one caller on a local sports radio show – remember I live in the DC area where Harper plays all the time – who said that Harper’s absence would “diminish the importance of the Home Run Derby”.

    Memo to Hyper-Fan: I am not sure it is possible to diminish the importance of an event that is as meaningless and trivial as the Home Run Derby. Please adjust your medication levels…

In another bit of news related to the MLB All-Star Game, the rosters were announced this week and people immediately began saying that A-Rod was “snubbed”. Look, if he had made the team, that would mean that someone else would be off the squad and that could just as well indicate that the other guy was “snubbed”. Can we please put an end to the nonsense of “snubbing” when it comes to All-Star Games or slots in the NCAA Tournament? If the selection process allows for “judgment” and “discretion” there are always going to be decisions that some folks will disagree with. Leave it at that.

Since the calendar says that we are in the month of July, it is time for the Tour de France – one of the least compelling sporting events put on television ranking right down there with bass fishing and synchronized snoring. Here is an overview comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald that addresses an issue not commonly contemplated regarding the race:

“Tour de France gets underway: Still going despite all of its various doping scandals, the latest Tour de Fraud France has begun. It must be so difficult for those cyclists to peddle up mountains while simultaneously providing urine samples.”

The qualifying rounds for soccer in the 2016 Olympics are underway. In the early stages of international qualifying, there are often outrageous mismatches because every country with an Olympic Committee can enter a team in a qualifying round. Often you see startling scores when a soccer powerhouse – say Germany – has a qualifying match against a cupcake – say San Marino. This week, there was an even more startling result.

The reason it is so startling is that the winner of the game was Vanuatu – a national team that should never be confused with a “soccer powerhouse”. In this qualifying match, Vanuatu beat Micronesia by a score of 46-0. That is not a typo; the score was 24-0 at the half. One player on the Vanuatu side scored 16 goals in the game.

Micronesia is just beginning to assemble a national team and to say they are having growing pains would be a monumental understatement. Prior to the debacle against Vanuatu, Micronesia had lost games to Tahiti (30-0) and to Fiji (38-0). I will go out on a limb and guess that Micronesia will not be in the Olympics next year. I wonder if Vanuatu, Fiji or Tahiti will make the grade…

The important data/stats from the Women’s World Cup tournament – the ones that involve money, TV ratings and fan interest – are in and they show that the sport is more than merely healthy. Consider:

    Total attendance: 1,353,506 (largest for a FIFA event other than a World Cup)

    Matches with 50,000+ in attendance: 7

    TV Ratings: CTV and FOX had highest ratings for a soccer match ever.

    FIFA website devoted to Women’s World Cup had 20 million unique visits.

    FIFA You Tube had more hits than same channel did for Brazil’s World Cup.

Women’s soccer did better on TV and online than men’s soccer did last year during the World Cup in Brazil. The important “business question” would seem to be whether that kind of interest can be sustained in the years when there is no international competition like the World Cup or the Olympics. I am not talking here only about in the US; countries like France and Japan and Australia and China also set TV viewing records for the games in Canada so it will be interesting to see how that surge of interest carries over into the sport of women’s soccer during “normal times”.

There were more than 20 million folks tuned into the USA/Japan final game last weekend. There is a professional women’s soccer league here in the US – the National Women’s Soccer League – and the players people watched last weekend play regularly in that league. The question now is how the league and the TV networks move to leverage the interest shown in the World Cup games – and particularly the final game – into something that can sustainably grow in the US sporting landscape. The league has a TV deal with FOX to televise a few games for the rest of this season and to televise the playoffs later this year. The next few months are very important for the future economic status of women’s soccer here in the US.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are no longer an item.
“So No. 1 on the list of Golf’s Famous Couples is once again Fred.”

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

Fallout From July 4th…

Jason Pierre-Paul injured his hand – the extent of the injury is unknown at the moment – in a July 4th accident involving fireworks. He has a franchise tag offer from the Giants on the table worth a guaranteed $14.2M this year but has yet to sign it saying that what he wants is a long-term deal. In actuality, what he really wants is a “long-term deal with more than $14.2M of that deal guaranteed”. But let’s not quibble…

Talking heads on sports radio and ESPN pondered the situation and wondered if the Giants might pull their franchise tag offer – but that would make JP-P a free agent. Some wondered if the hand injury would inhibit his ability to sign the proffered contract prior to the deadline for such a signature. reports that the Giants’ offer of a $60M long-term deal has been taken off the table for the moment. Jason Whitlock and Michael Wilbon on PTI wondered aloud what kind of poor judgment it would take for an unsigned football star to take a chance playing with fireworks when the contract is still unsigned. All of that is well and good, but let us put this in perspective:

    What Jason Pierre-Paul did was careless, reckless and thoughtless.

    He has an “injury” but not the loss of a limb or a hand.

    Compare his degree of stupidity with the guy described in this link. By comparison, Jason Pierre-Paul looks like a Nobel Laureate.

A former colleague chastised me in an e-mail yesterday afternoon for failure to heap sufficient praise on the US Women’s National Team for winning the World Cup tournament. She said that I would have been “rhapsodic” (her word) had it been the men’s team that won the World Cup. She is right on both counts:

    1. The men’s team winning the World Cup would be such an unexpected outcome that I and many other sports chroniclers around the world would be scanning the thesaurus for words to describe what had happened. The US women on the other hand were short odds to win it all before the tournament even began.

    2. The US women’s Team dominated the Japanese with their offensive attack and dominated other opponents with a smothering defense that did not allow a goal for about 540 consecutive minutes of World Cup play. They did not win the World Cup on penalty kicks; they won it by dominating their opponents.

Ergo, in order to try to close the “rhapsodic gap” suggested by my former colleague, allow me to try to give the US Women’s Team an honorific name. Perhaps we should refer to them as:

    The Girls of Summer.

While I am in the arena of rhetoric and rhapsody, allow me to pose a rhetorical question for NY Knick fans. The Knicks thus far have come up rather dry in the NBA free agency dance and that made me think about the Knicks of the past. So…

    Who was the worse Knicks big-man signing in free agency?

    Eddy Curry or Jerome James?

Last week, David Blatt (titular coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers) was visiting Israel and spoke to a group of businessmen. He obviously got caught up in the moment and guaranteed his audience there that the Cavaliers would win the NBA Championship next year and he likened LeBron James to Moses leading the team to the Promised Land. Look, I am no Biblical scholar and am not about to try to pass myself off as one, but my recollection is that this metaphor is contradictory.

    If LeBron is Moses, then the Cavaliers are doomed to 40 years of wandering in the desert and are not going to get to the Promised Land so long as Moses – er, LeBron – is around.

I think there is a much more fundamental question on the table here:

    Even if it comes to pass that the Cavaliers win the NBA title next year, will David Blatt be the coach of the team when that happens?

Reports last night said that the FIFA Ethics Committee (an oxymorn to be sure) had banned Harold Mayne-Nicholls – the former major domo for Chilean soccer – from any soccer involvement for 7 years. Mayne-Nicholls was the guy who was supposed to “inspect” the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments that were awarded to Russia and to Qatar. FIFA gave no specific reasons for the ban but we do know that Mayne-Nicholls led FIFA delegations to all of the countries who were bidding for the 2018 tournament and the 2022 tournament. His “technical report” on all of the bids supposedly questioned the sanity of putting the games in Qatar due to the climate problems in the summertime and the logistical problems of holding all of the events in a single city.

From that limited information, perhaps he was banned from any national or international involvement with soccer for 7 years because he was too candid?

Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Denver Bronco Von Miller reveals he’s been fined for breaking wind at team meetings. He tried to claim Tom Brady let the air out of him.”

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

Congratulations To The US Women’s National Team

The US Women won the World Cup yesterday in a rout. All of the pre-game analysis focused on the Japan’s ability to control the ball and the pace of the game to create scoring opportunities. In the first 20 minutes or so, the US team had the ball for most of the time and did not attack methodically; they attacked in waves. And it worked… When the score was 4-0 early in the first half, the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt; the question was how big was the margin of victory going to be.

Congratulations to the US Women’s National Team. Presumably, their win will provide a “bump” for soccer here in the US; and hopefully, MLS and the National Women’s Soccer League can capitalize on that “bump”.

The NHL is poised to expand. Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league is seriously considering expansion and will seek input from cities and new ownership groups that might want an NHL franchise. Supposedly, it will take $500M to “buy into” the NHL during this expansion round; if the league expands by two teams that means the existing 30 clubs will share $1B of “buy in” money – less of course some portion the league office will hold for itself to keep the lights on in the Commissioner’s office.

Recall that a potential ownership group in Las Vegas has already held a season ticket drive there to demonstrate interest to the league and has begun to build an arena. That sort of convinced most folks that one of the expansion teams was going to go there. Then the NY Post reported that the financially strapped Arizona Coyotes were going to move to Las Vegas into the new arena since the city fathers in Glendale did not want to keep paying them to stay there.

The league – and the Arizona Coyotes themselves – were quick to issue statements of denial with regard to that story. Rather than quote them here, let me say that both of them called the NY Post report balderdash. Rather than speculate on rumors and take prepared statements as “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, here are things we know about NHL expansion and about the Arizona Coyotes situation in Glendale:

    Anyone interested in buying into the NHL has until 10 August to submit its application. Expansion teams will begin play in the 2017/2018 season.

    The lawsuit involving the city of Glendale and the Arizona Coyotes is in the deposition phase – meaning that the orchestra is in the pit tuning up for the performance but there is still a lot of time until the curtain goes up.

Several times in the past, I have said that José Canseco is the gift that keeps on giving. Today, it seems as if José and his brother Ozzie are committed to creating “news” that is worthy of note here:

    Ozzie Canseco was recently named as the hitting instructor for the Sioux Falls Canaries – a team in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. As of this morning, the Canaries are in second place in the North Division of this league. That is the good news. The bad news is that they are 15 games behind the division leaders. Here are the credentials of the Canaries’ new hitting instructor:

      In three seasons in MLB, Ozzie Canseco appeared in a total of 24 games. In 65 at bats, his batting average was .200 and his OPS was .590.

    Meanwhile José recently was a “guest designated hitter” playing for the Pittsburg Diamonds in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. He struck out a couple of times in a game against the San Rafael Pacifics and also pitched a couple of innings throwing his infamous knuckleballs which once were going to get him back into MLB. José also recently hosted a high stakes poker game at his home in Nevada where one of the players was a former winner of the World Series of Poker – but he had to call in his regrets that he could not be there to host the game because he was stranded in Pittsburg CA after that baseball game. The gift that keeps on giving…

Speaking obliquely about MLB, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Selig’s legacy: Speaking of gimmicks that have run their course, how much enthusiasm still exists for MLB’s interleague play? I’d say a lot less than a few years ago. Is it really creating more excitement over the long season? Maybe in rare cases, but not enough to justify its continued existence.”

Indeed, the creation of two leagues with an odd-number of teams in each league has demanded interleague play from opening day until the final series of the regular season. It was once an event; now it is merely a happenstance. However, there is a different holdover from Bud Selig’s regime that I believe is higher on the list of things baseball needs to get rid of:

    Allowing the All-Star Game result to determine home field advantage for the World Series.

Interleague play was a good idea when it was proposed and first implemented. Nothing similar can be said of the marriage of the All-Star Game to World Series home field advantage. If MLB wants to make a change to signal a new day for the sport under new leadership, let me suggest that making that All-Star Game change is the way to go.

Finally, last week I mentioned the World Egg Throwing Championships. Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times also took note of that event with this comment:

“Hear the one about the Patriots’ entry getting DQ’d at the World Egg Throwing Championships? Seems they got caught using hard-boiled eggs.”

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

Nothing For Nothing…

The NBA season of free agency is in full swing. Rather than hyperventilating about every signing or rumored signing, I prefer to watch the whole process to see where all of the players realign before investing any analytical energy. However, the trade earlier this week between the Sacramento Kings and the Philadelphia 76ers stands out as so bizarre that it deserves comment.

For the record, neither team is any good; this exchange will not make either team any good; whatever passes for the “balance of power” in the NBA is unaffected. While all of that is true, the exchange of assets here is stunning.

    The Sixers get:

      Nik Stauskas: He was the 8th pick in last year’s draft but his rookie year was disappointing to say the least. He averaged 4.4 points per game in only 15 minutes per game. Perhaps, he will benefit from the Sixers’ “up-tempo” style – – or not. He fits the Sixers’ mold of young player with potential.

      Carl Landry: He is a 31-year old power forward whose career averages are middling at best and whose contract runs through 2017 at $6.75M per year. He will lead no one to the Promised Land.

      Jason Thompson: He is a 28-year old power forward who does not score as much as Landry but who gets a couple more rebounds than Landry. He too has two more years left on his contract and his total salary for the next two years will be $13.25M. Ho-hum.

      They also get a future first round pick from the Kings (GM Sam Hinkie loves those draft picks) plus the Sixers have the right to swap two future first round picks with the Kings.

    The Kings get:

      The rights to two foreign players the Sixers took in the second round of this year’s draft – Luka Mitrovic and Arturas Gudaitis.

      A future second round pick.

To summarize, the Sixers get two mediocre journeyman power forwards and a guy who did not come close to living up to his lofty draft status as a rookie plus draft picks in the future that they can use on players that do not fit into a team. The Kings dumped a little more than $30M worth of salaries over the next two years and got two players who are not going to play in the NBA any time in the next two years. Oh, and they also got a second round pick they can use on some other player who will not play for them.

The key question to ask about this trade is:

    What’s the point?

It sure looks to me as if neither team got much of anything out of this – unless you count the Kings’ added cap room as “something”. I do not think that is a big deal because I doubt that the Kings are going to get a couple of top-shelf players to sign on in Sacramento and there is a truism in the NBA that is irrefutable. “Cap room” does not win games. Nonetheless, some analysts are saying the Sixers made out like bandits here. If you say so… has a report this morning involving Rush Limbaugh and the NFL. As soon as you see those two entities linked in a report, you have to check it out to see just how off-the-wall the story is. Here is the gist:

    Limbaugh said that the reason the media has been so harsh with regard to RG3 and his struggles at QB after a very successful rookie season – despite the fact that RG3 is an African American QB which Limbaugh has said the media pines after – is that “it’s suspected that RG3 is a Republican”.

Seriously, that is the report. You can read it here if you think I am making it up…

Personally, I think RG3 is struggling because I suspect he is actually a Jupiterian sent to Earth to check out the environment here just in case Jupiter’s Great Red Spot blows its cork and the inhabitants there have to evacuate quickly. Since Jupiter’s gravity is much greater than the Earth’s and the atmospheric pressure here is so much lower, RG3 is having trouble adjusting his metabolism to these new conditions. Makes sense to me…

If you are looking to grill hot dogs for the Fourth of July, let me suggest that you do not attempt to emulate one of the “augmented” hot dog offerings on the Chicago Cubs’ menu at Wrigley Field. This concoction is a hot dog – beloved in Chicago – topped with mac-and-cheese and garnished with Cheetos. That is a culinary and chemical concoction that even a Jupiterian would find hard to digest.

Finally, here is a baseball note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Here is another example of the change in Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. His players have a new private team jet that includes a massage table. They used to have to make their own bats on a wood lathe.”

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

Sports And Kabuki

Kabuki is a Japanese art form that involves ritualized dance moves as a means to tell a story. It is very precise and calculated; it has a long history. Here in the US, there are events related to the sports world that emulate kabuki in the sense that the events are very precise and calculated; the history is not nearly as long, but there is a history to all of it.

Naturally, I am referring to the ritualistic events that must occur over a long period of time when a pro sports franchise thinks about relocation – either thinks about it for real or thinks about it to extort more “goodies” from its current location. That kabuki dance is ongoing now involving the NFL and several of its franchises and the City of Los Angeles. Two days ago, an important element of the dance took place involving a meeting between the mayor of Los Angeles, the owner of the Chargers and the owner of the Raiders. Even if those three men only discussed their mutual admiration for medieval Norse needlepoint, the meeting was required by the precision and calculating nature of the franchise relocation kabuki.

That meeting got me to thinking and it dawned on me that the City of Oakland is the pro sports franchise punching bag of the moment.

    The NFL Raiders are looking to move to LA – jointly with the Chargers and hence Tuesday’s meeting – so long as owner Mark Davis can come up with his portion of the costs to build that stadium complex in Carson. Some say he does not have the liquidity to do that and so he may have to ponder a move for the Raiders to San Antonio without a new facility in Oakland.

    The NBA Warriors already have a new arena in the works in San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco is part of the Bay Area as is Oakland, but in terms of neighborliness, most denizens of Oakland consider SF a neighbor about the same way astronomers consider Mars a neighbor of the Earth.

    The MLB A’s have been trying to leave Oakland for at least the last 5 years but the venue they covet is part of what the Giants claim as their territory and MLB has had a “Blue Ribbon Committee” studying this matter for most of those last 5 years to no avail.

Oakland is not a city with lots of surplus cash rolling around in its checking accounts. Several years ago, the state took over the school system in the main because the school system was financially strapped. The city itself has had years of “budget shortfalls” and at least for a while had to cut back the police department to the point that USA Today reported in 2013 that the California Highway Patrol was assisting in policing the city.

It is a given that the stadium for the Raiders and the A’s is antiquated and sub-standard; any time you have raw sewage backing up through the drains and onto locker room floors, you are being most diplomatic using the label “sub-standard”. The city’s problem is that a new stadium for either the A’s or the Raiders – and neither one would prefer to share the venue with the other – will cost hundreds of millions of dollars that the city does not have and may only be able to borrow at extremely high interest rates if they could borrow that much money at all. Oakland’s finances seem to be such that they would be called “an adversity” at the moment; paying for a new stadium or two might change that descriptor to “ruination”.

There was another report earlier this week that made me recall the old TV show, Lost in Space. A robot was programmed to guard a young boy named Will Robinson; whenever there was any threat, the robot would intone:

“Danger, Will Robinson!

That phrase immediately entered my mind when I read an report that Brett Favre told them that he thought he could play in the NFL once again. Favre said he could still throw 50 yards where it used to be 80 yards but that it did not matter being able to heave the ball more than 50 yards. He did say that he was not thinking of coming out of retirement but still… I would like to have a picture of him saying that with both hands in plain sight to know that he did not have his fingers crossed. Sports fans have been relieved of the necessity of following the yes/no oscillations of Favre and his play/retire decisions for several years now. Frankly, it has been an enjoyable several years.

    Memo to Sports Media Folks: Please do not ask Brett Favre any leading questions that might get him thinking of coming back – or worse yet thinking about all the publicity he could get by letting all of you know that he is thinking about coming back.

    Go and read the Uncle Remus story about Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby…

Last weekend, the small town of Swaton, England hosted the World Egg Throwing Championships. Swaton is in Lincolnshire in the British Midlands. I have to admit that I did not know that there were such championships until I read this Reuters report but evidently there is a World Egg Throwing Federation that sanctions the event and that Federation claims that egg throwing is at least a sport with a 700-year history.

The “main event” is a team event. A thrower and a catcher stand 10 meters apart; the thrower tosses an egg and the catcher catches it. If the egg breaks, they lose and go off to clean up the mess. If the egg survives, they step back and continue playing catch with the egg until it eventually breaks. Clearly, the team that achieves the greatest separation prior to breaking their egg is the winner.

Finally, speaking of obscure sports, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And the latest drug scandal in sports involves … Russian racewalkers?

“ ‘It’s a bad sign if you can’t distinguish between a sport and a group of people rushing to the bathroom,’ said CBS’s James Corden. ‘Doping for racewalking is like robbing a bank that you know has only $2 in it.’ “

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

More Golf Stuff Today

I wrote about golf yesterday and I want to start with two golf items today. I suspect that has never happened before in the history of these rants. There were reports a few days ago that Phil Mickelson had something like $3M of his money linked to a Federal money laundering investigation involving someone who transferred sums of money approximating that amount among bank accounts to fund illegal gambling activities. Mickelson is not a suspect in the investigation nor is he charged but the report of that much money nominally belonging to him and “illegal gambling” makes you sit up and take notice.

Recall a couple of years ago that Mickelson was investigated – and ultimately cleared – in an investigation involving insider trading. I do not remember the details, but “insider trading” like “illegal gambling” conjures up a set of images that is not nearly congruent with the public image that Mickelson works to portray. Perhaps, Messr. Mickelson should consider the advice contained in an old aphorism:

    You are known by the company you keep.

If I mention the name Beau Brinkley, you will probably furrow your brow and try to figure out if this is Beau Bridges’ real name or if he is the son of David Brinkley – unless of course you are a Tennessee Titans’ fan. In that case, you would know immediately that Beau Brinkley is the long-snapper for the Titans. This week, Brinkley was playing in a golf tournament in Nashville and one of the sponsors was the Jack Daniels bourbon folks. Brinkley sank a hole-in-one on a par 3 hole and won a sponsor’s prize – a full barrel of Jack Daniels bourbon. He even gets to go to the distillery and sample from barrels to pick the one he wants. I know it is a real long-shot but if the titans win the Super Bowl there will be some kind of team celebration at Brinkley’s place…

The US Women’s National Team advanced to the finals in the World Cup tournament last night beating #1 ranked Germany 2-0. The US will play the winner of the Japan/England game next Sunday in Vancouver for the championship. This is the fifth consecutive shutout for the US women and what makes this shutout all the more impressive is that the Germans had scored 20 goals in the tournament coming into the game. I will not pretend to be an expert in soccer strategy and tactics, but the defense line and the mid-field players on the US team were all over the German attackers from start to finish.

A few days ago, Yahoo! Sports reported that John Calipari had been in several discussions with the Sacramento Kings and this led to the speculation that the Kings might offer Calipari the jobs of coach and GM there. Yesterday, there were reports from several outlets saying that Calipari would stay at Kentucky and that his “discussions” with the Kings’ owner related to former Kentucky players who were now with the Kings like Boogie Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Normally, I would take that kind of deflection/denial to be a half-truth in the sense that the former players were the justification for the initiation of the discussion but then, things evolved. In this case, I tend to believe Calipari for a simple reason:

    John Calipari is a very intelligent man and I think he realizes that whoever is the coach/GM of the Sacramento Kings is doomed at the outset. At least for now, the job(s) in Sacramento are about as attractive as a tire fire.

Calipari’s contract at Kentucky reportedly will pay him $7.05M this year – with incentives on top of that. Of course, an NBA team can offer him more than that if they want to, but it is not as if Calipari is working for chump-change in Lexington. If he were to make the move to the NBA, I would have to think that he would be looking to go to a team that is at the very least poised to be a contender for a Conference Championship. The Sacramento Kings are nowhere near that baseline level of competence. Moreover, the Kings’ owner has a ton of money but also has a seemingly irrepressible urge to meddle in the basketball operation of the franchise. I am sure that fans and alums put pressure on Calipari at Kentucky, but I would be shocked if the AD or the University Chancellor would dare to interfere with the running of the team itself.

I would not be surprised if John Calipari decided to take an NBA job one of these days before he hangs up his whistle. Moreover, he will get offers to do that because he is a good coach – and because he has plenty of his former players in the league. However, I do not think he will be going to one of the “outposts” of the NBA or to a franchise with a meddlesome owner.

In another NBA-related report, the Knicks are supposedly the leaders in the race to sigh Aaron Afflalo and they are offering a 3-year deal worth $38M. Afflalo is a good defender who shoots at a decent percentage aided somewhat by the fact that he only averages 7 or 8 shots per game over his career. Clearly, the Knicks can use any player who is even average on defense; and Lord knows, they do not need anyone else on the floor who wants/needs to take lots of shots. Having said that, I suspect that Knicks’ fans will not create a flash mob that stops traffic for 3 blocks around Madison Square Garden when/if the Knicks finalize this deal. Nor should they…

Finally, an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally popped the question to longtime girlfriend Amy Reimann.

“In keeping with the theme, they’ll be exchanging his and hers piston rings.”

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

Golf And Baseball Today

The July/August issue of Men’s Journal has an article by Karl Taro Greenfeld entitled:

    The Death of Golf

He paints a rather bleak picture of golf today and has serious misgivings about its future as a major sport; I certainly agree with his assessment that golf is in decline at this time, but I am not yet ready to put a toe tag on the corpse. He begins his essay with the story of his daughter who decided to try out for her high school golf team. Greenfeld recalled his days in school when the golf team was made up of people who had played regularly and had had some tutelage in the game. That was not his daughter. So, when she made the team, he spoke to the coach about how things were different. Here is the golf coach:

“There just isn’t the interest we used to have 14, 15 years ago. Now, I have kids showing up who have never hit a golf ball before. Kids are just less aware of golf. They have too many other options. And then when they find out it takes five and a half hours to play 18 holes, they’re just not interested.”

It is dangerous to draw conclusions from anecdotes because anecdotes are not data; it is more than merely dangerous to do so on the basis of one anecdote. However, the article goes on to cite statistical data showing that the number of golfers has dropped from 30.6 million in 2003 to 24.7 million in 2014. There are still plenty of golfers but that drop does represent a 19.3% decline. Other data shows that young folks playing golf dropped almost 30% over the same period of time.

Golf as a professional sport faces a challenge similar to the one facing MLB. Young folks are not drawn to the game in the same numbers as before and “pace of play” or “lack of attention span” or whatever similar label you might attach is part of the problem. Moreover, just like baseball, golf is never going to be converted into a fast-paced, action-packed event. It is more drama than adrenaline. Proposals to speed up golf have included things like cutting a round back to 15 holes; that is the same as changing baseball to a seven-inning event. If that is the “solution”, it may be time to consider pulling the plug.

Greenfeld points out another serious problem facing golf in California and in desert areas. On average, it takes 135,000 gallons of water each day to maintain a golf course. In California’s draught conditions, that could become a social issue giving golf courses a “black mark” and without courses there will be less participation.

The folks who promote golf and use it as the economic basis for a business or a club have to deal with an iron triangle of issues. None of the issues can “be solved” but they all need to be ameliorated to a degree:

    Playing golf is a very expensive pastime for kids. Lessons and coaching are expensive and so are rounds of golf.

    Playing golf is difficult. Most kids – indeed most people – do not walk out on a golf course and play well from the moment they pick up a club.

    Playing golf is time-consuming. In these days of two-career families where parents take turns helicoptering in on their kids, golf can be difficult to schedule.

As I said, I am not yet ready to send golf to “The Sports Coroner” just yet; but the arguments made in this article do indicate that there is indeed weakness on the links out there. Folks who love to golf – or to watch it on TV – may want to read this article in its entirety here.

Since I mentioned above MLB as being in a similar situation to golf, I find it interesting to see what may be in store for MLB in the future. Reports from just last week indicate that Commissioner Rob Manfred may be considering expansion of MLB. Recall that when he took over from Bud Selig he said one of his objectives was to grow the game internationally – particularly in Mexico. Now, the idea that the Commissioner might have expansion as an issue that holds even a tiny part of his attention leads me to wonder where MLB might put a new franchise. Here are eight candidate cities in alphabetical order so that no one might surmise that I think there is a “pecking order” established:

    Charlotte: The market supports the NFL and the NBA and it has a minor league baseball team too. The NHL franchise is in Raleigh not Charlotte.

    Las Vegas: They would have to have a domed stadium, wouldn’t they? They would not dare enlist Pete Rose to be their “point-man” when making their pitch.

    Mexico City: The Commish said he wanted to grow in Mexico and I presume that does not mean putting a team in Juarez.

    Montreal: Many people believe there is lots of support for baseball in Montreal so long as they play in a reasonable stadium. This also fits the criterion of “growing the game internationally”.

    Portland: Probably a long shot because the city has not had a good history of supporting its minor-league teams over the years.

    Salt Lake City: They have had a AAA team for most of the time since the late 50s and they support an NBA team. The downside is that this would be a very small market team forever.

    San Antonio: The NBA does well there and the city is trying to lure the Oakland Raiders. If they pull that off, why not MLB too…?

    Vancouver: This checks the “international” box and it provides a natural rivalry with Seattle on day one.

Finally, here is a golf item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News recently:

“Sweden announced recently that newborn Prince Nicholas Paul Gustaf will also go by the title Duke of Angermanland.

“But sources say the country will have to purchase the naming rights from Tiger Woods, who has been using it ever since his career started slipping.”

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