Take Me Out To the Ballgame…

I read a report in either the NY Post or the NY Times (sorry, did not make a note of the source of this info) that said the Yankees and Mets had both sold the broadcast rights for many of their Friday night games to Amazon Prime so that access to those games would require access to that streaming service.  Because the streaming service is not required to carry every game – – some of which are guaranteed to be irrelevant and uninteresting – – I am sure that on a “per game basis” this is a lucrative deal for the two teams.  However, I wonder if both teams are sacrificing a piece of the future for immediate cash-flow.

MLB has had to confront – – even though it has tried to ignore – – the flat fact that baseball’s audience skews old and that surveys show that young people are not falling in love with baseball as entertainment nearly to the degree that has happened in previous generations.  Because I like baseball, I do not understand how young folks cannot be attracted to the game as I was when I was growing up, but I am sufficiently grounded in realism to recognize a simple actuarial fact:

  • Older folks (baseball fans) die off at a higher rate than young folks.
  • Young folks (not attracted to baseball) are not “replenishing the ranks” of departed fans.

Every team ought to be concerned with the two trends noted above, but it is not really the business of individual franchises to “go it alone” as the entity of “baseball” tries to secure the future of the game.  This is an issue for MLB and the MLBPA.  And as is often the case, when it comes to big issues about the future of the game, both sides recuse themselves and hide behind the assertion that there are other important issues that need to be addressed in the immediate term.

  • Horse hockey!  There is a CBA in place through the end of the 2027 World Series.
  • This is the “down time” that both entities could use to address long-term issues related to the health and growth of the game itself.

Friday night games are ones that kids might – perhaps and maybe – be able to watch on TV because it is not a school night and MLB night games rarely if ever end before kids have to be in bed on school nights.  Do not blame the Yankees or the Mets for taking the money and running here; their “job” is to maximize their individual revenue streams.  This one rests on the shoulders of MLB and its Commissioner and on the union and its CEO who ought to be working together now that a new CBA is in place to find ways to grow the game.  Trust me, I shall not be holding my breath until I see any such behaviors from either side of the labor divide here…

Since I am off on the baseball vector today, let me share with you a report I read over the weekend that said the pitch-clock experiment in the minor leagues has shortened the average time of games at the AA and AAA levels by 29 minutes per game.  Games took an average of 3:04 in 2021; and so far in 2022, games take an average of 2:35.  Having seen minor league baseball games, let me assure anyone who has not seen them that his is not something that destroys the game and makes a mockery of its history.  In fact, catching a game that goes 9 innings and ends in two-and-a-half hours takes me back to the baseball games of my youth.  Such occurrences were commonplace then.  Here are the pitch-clock rules in place in minor league baseball this season:

  • In AAA, a pitcher has 14 seconds to begin his pitching motion if no one is on base and 19 seconds to do so if there is/are baserunners.
  • In AA and below, a pitcher has 14 seconds to begin his pitching motion if no one is on base and 18 seconds to do so if there is/are runners on base.

The pace of play is increased but it is not crazed; I have never seen a pitcher panic as time was running out.  Basically, pitchers have adjusted their “mound practices” to fit their needs and simultaneously fit the countdown clock.  I recognize that for some ultra-pure baseball fans the insertion of a clock onto the core of the game is an abomination in the sight of the Lord.  I am not in that camp; I think a pitch clock in MLB is an addendum that is necessary and that it is something that might make the game more attractive to potential young fans.

Sticking with baseball one more time, the Yankees are on a pace to win 119 games this season.  Let me put that in perspective for you:

  • The 1927 Yankees – – the team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri and Earl Combs – – won only 110 games in a 154-game season.
  • The most games ever won in a 162-game season is 116 – – a record set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
  • The most games ever won in a 154 game season is also 116  by the Chicago Cubs in 1906.

For the balance of the season, the Yankees can be seen as chasing greatness as a team in a season.  For most fans, that could be a significant reason to pay attention to baseball even after football season starts around Labor Day.  Moreover, it would represent a positive record that could be under assault as opposed to the negative record that seemed to be in the offing just a month or so ago.

Recall that the Reds began the 2022 season with only 3 wins in their first 25 games.  That would have shattered the record for most losses in a season, but the Reds seem to have pulled themselves out of that miasma and have a record today of 23-44.  While that is nothing to write home about, it means the team that started the season at 3-22 has gone 20-22 in the intervening games.  I doubt that anyone would be unable to see that there is progress in that latter part of this season…

Finally, since today has been all about baseball, let me close with a comment from Marsha Warfield – of Night Court fame on TV:

“Every time a ball player grabs his crotch, it makes him spit.  That’s why you should never date a baseball player.”

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

 

 

Good To Be Back…

I am back from Seattle where my jinx on visiting baseball teams continued to obtain.  I was supposed to see 3 games over the weekend; through a series of miscommunications and logistical flubs that would have scuttled the D-Day invasion, I only got to see 1 game.  Here are the weekend results:

  • The Mariners lost 4 of 5 games to the Angels.  Indeed, I was in the stands for the single victory.
  • In the 4 losses, the Mariners scored a total of 3 runs and were shut out twice.  When I was in the park, they scored 8 runs and won handily.

This “tradition” of visiting friends in Seattle with the additional intent of seeing Mariners’ baseball games began sometime between 2002 and 2004.  Since then, I have seen the Mariners go 26-17 which projects to a season-long record of 98-64.  Consider that record in line with these facts:

  • Since 2002, the Mariners have never won 98 games in a single season.
  • Since 2002, the Mariners have won 90 or more games in a single season only 3 times.
  • Since 2002, the Mariners have been above .500 only 8 times.

I have said that the Mariners should pay me to come visit several times a season.  Maybe other AL West teams should pay me to stay home?

While I was gone, FIFA announced the 16 cities in North America that will host World Cup games in 2026.  Two cities in Canada and three cities in Mexico will host games; the rest are in the US.  I was a bit surprised to see that Chicago was not on the list to host any games.  I would have thought that a city with more than 2.5M in population in addition to being a city represented in MLS would have gotten a nod.  C’est la vie…

I also read that Marv Levy has been elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario.  Levy is already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH meaning that he will be only the third person to be inducted into both Halls of Fame.  The other two are:

  1. Bud Grant
  2. Warren Moon

Congratulations to Marv Levy…

The US Open golf tournament came and went over the weekend.  In the coverage leading up to and in the early rounds, there were several references to the LIV golfers as “traitors”.  Can we please put a stop to that nonsense?  For the record:

  • Benedict Arnold was a traitor; Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson et.al. are not traitors.
  • When I was in school, we opened the day with the Pledge of Allegiance.  That pledge was to the flag and the country; that pledge was not to the PGA.

Along that same line of “reasoning”, should anyone consider the NBA as a whole as being “traitorous” because it does hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of business with China?  Saudi Arabia is not a paragon when it comes to human rights to be sure, but neither is China.  So why consider golfers who take Saudi money “traitors” while looking at the NBA as it rakes in money from China and think of the league as “globalizing its brand”?

Another tempest in a teapot seems to be developing here in the DC area.  George Washington University has been wrestling with an issue for the last year or so that has divided the school and its alums.  The issue is the name and mascot for the university and last week the school concluded that it needed to ditch the nickname “Colonials” and find a new one.  [Aside:  A new nickname/mascot will be introduced sometime next year.  Try to contain  yourselves…]  The school stopped short of ditching George Washington’s name notwithstanding the fact that George was indeed a “colonial” for most of his life.

Opponents of that nickname say that “colonials” were people who stole land and plundered resources from indigenous peoples and that “colonials” were bad folks.  If that is the yardstick to be  used here, how can the school change its nickname and keep its official name?  Here are facts:

  • George Washington was born in, lived in and fought for colonies to become a nation.
  • Washington’s plantation at Mount Vernon belonged to indigenous peoples at some time prior to his taking possession of that land.

If that land exploitation was sufficiently horrible to strip the school of its nickname, how can it possibly retain the name of the specific individual who was a party to such a miscarriage of justice?  If this sort of “logic” continues to spread, the Minnesota Vikings could be next in the cross-hairs…

Finally, with the summer solstice upon us, let me close today with the definition of “Stonehenge” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Stonehenge:  Prehistoric grouping of large standing stones in the English countryside.  Because it is not known how an ancient culture could have constructed Stonehenge, the mysterious site attracts a fair percentage of people who spend most of their free time going to Renaissance Fairs and listening to either ‘Yes” or “King Crimson’.”

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

 

 

Basketball And More Basketball

The NBA Finals might be finished tomorrow; the Warriors lead the Celtics 3 games to 2 with tomorrow’s game in Boston.  If a 7th game is needed it will be Sunday in San Francisco.  The Series so far has been interesting, but the games have not been exciting; the average margin of victory has been 13.4 points per game; every game has been decided by double-digits.  Tomorrow’s game – and Sunday’s game if needed – should be worth your attention.

I want to focus on some of the remarks that Adam Silver made about the league earlier this month before the finals began.  The league did well this year on TV and its playoffs averaged more than 3.5 million viewers per game.  That is good news for the league and for its fans because the league lost a reported $695M to the pandemic.  Moreover, reports say that the losses are not restricted to the “small market teams”; the NY Post reported that the Brooklyn Nets lost at least $50M over the course of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The NBA national media deals expire at the end of the 2024 season; the existing deal will have brought in $24B in revenue to the league at expiration, and one report I read from CNBC suggested that the NBA will seek a multiyear deal worth $75B this time around.  If the league can triple its revenue from TV rights, that should go a long way to erasing the COVID-related losses.

As is always the case when a league Commissioner participates in one of these so-called “State of the League” press events, there is some focus on issues that seem far less important than things like TV ratings and revenue growth.  This year’s press event was no different.

Commissioner Silver said that there is still consideration given to a tournament for NBA teams in the midst of the regular season and that such a tournament might begin as soon as next season – – if they can figure out how to do that.  The Commissioner’s remarks there are important:

“We continue to talk to our Competition Committee about it, our team governors, the Players Association, to see if there’s a way throughout the season to create more meaningful games, more games of consequence, potentially a tournament that would arguably replace some of the regular-season games but would be more meaningful.”

“More meaningful games” and “more games of consequence” for the NBA regular season has been a bugaboo for at least the last 25 years.  There are way too many games that are of zero importance to anyone other than the participants on the floor and I have argued for years that the league needs to find ways to fix that.  My solution has been to shorten the season to 58 games where each of the 30 teams plays every other team twice – – home and away.

I am not sure if the league were to “take a break” and run a single elimination tournament in mid-season if that would add “meaningful games.”  Maybe the last three games of the brackets might be interesting – – or not.  I will say this about the idea of a tournament:

  • I cannot imagine a scenario where the Players’ Union would agree to institute a tournament in addition to an 82-game regular season schedule.
  • Even without a tournament, it is unusual to find a player who participates in all 82 games; adding more contests would seem to call for more consideration of load management.

One way that pro sports leagues have used to infuse capital into the league is expansion.  Rumors abound that the NBA will expand by two teams as soon as 2024 and that one of them will play in a new arena under construction in Las Vegas.  Silver seemed to throw some water on the specifics of those rumors in his remarks.  He said that indeed it was inevitable for the NBA to expand but that it is not something that is under discussion right now.  On this point, I think the Commissioner is correct.  There are supremely talented players in the NBA – – but there is not a surfeit of them.  Unless the league were to allow teams only to “protect” a starting five from an expansion draft, an expansion team – – or two of them – – would be hideously uncompetitive for several years.  The last team in that position was the Vancouver Grizzlies  It was not until the 5th season of the team’s existence that it was able to win 20 games in a season.  That is not something that bears repeating.

Switching attention to college basketball, the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel approved “allowing men’s basketball officials to assess Class B technical fouls to players who fake being fouled, beginning in the 2022-23 season.”   A Class B technical foul awards one free throw to the opponent.  Under the current rule/interpretation, the official would give a warning first before calling a “Flopping Tech”.

As a former official, I am of two minds on this one:

  • I totally agree with the intent to get flopping out of the game.  Fakery should not be part of basketball at any level.
  • I also know that every “flopping call” will have a component to it that requires mind-reading on the part of the official as he/she considers the intent of the potential flopper.  Basketball officials are not mind-readers; these calls – if there are many of them – will be VERY controversial.

Here is the explanation of this new rule interpretation that does not mention mind-reading.  It almost sounds as if you could measure it objectively:

“When evaluating potential flopping situations, officials will be asked to judge whether the player’s physical reaction to the contact with another player is consistent with what would have been expected, given the force of the contact. When the reaction is not consistent, the player is most likely exaggerating the nature of the contact in an attempt to gain an advantage, and flopping has occurred.”

Good luck with this one, folks…

Finally, let me close today with the definition of “Basketball” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Basketball:  A fast-paced and energetic team sport in which two opposing teams attempt score the most points by propelling a large orange ball through a hoop roughly ten feet off the ground.  The game is notable mostly for the fact that it is played in stadiums that used to have some individuality but are now named after a wide variety of telephone companies and office supply retailers.”

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

 

 

Family Issues Today

Happy Flag Day to everyone in the US …

I neglected to mention yesterday that a series of positive events happened last weekend.  Notwithstanding some tense negotiating and a brief work stoppage, the Canadian Football League started its regular season on time.  The weekend featured 4 games with 8 of the 9 teams in action.

  • The defending Grey Cup champions – – Winnipeg – – began with a tight 19-17 victory.
  • The losers in last year’s Grey Cup game – – Hamilton – – seemingly suffered a hangover and lost 30-13.
  • The team that beat Hamilton – – Saskatchewan – – will be the host for this year’s Grey Cup game on November 20 in Regina.

Astronomically, it is not  yet summer – – but this start to the CFL season is a harbinger of Fall…

Pat Bowlen was the majority owner of the Denver Broncos from 1984 until his death in 2019.  He left the team to a trust that was supposed to arrange for Bowlen’s seven children to own the team.  He did not specify who was to be in the lead there and legal battles broke out.  Those legal squabbles among the heirs led to the recent sale of the Broncos for a reported $4.65B.  I mention that situation as a backdrop for two other happenings that are out there today.

Peter Angelos is the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles and has been since 1993.  Angelos is 92 years old and even though Peter Angelos’ is still alive, there is sufficient family strife related to the team that it has spilled over into court.  John Angelos is one of Peter Angelos’ sons and is the CEO of the Orioles; his brother, Lou Angelos, asserts in a lawsuit filed recently that John has “seized control of the team in defiance of his father’s wishes.”  As if that were insufficient family drama to have a court sort through, Lou Angelos also asserts that their mother, Gloria Angelos is culpable here in that she has been manipulated by John Angelos in order for him to carry out his nefarious intent.

The lawsuit asserts that Peter Angelos had heart surgery in 2017; and subsequently, he executed a revocable trust and durable power of attorney.

“A principle purpose of these documents was to ensure that Mr. Angelos’ sons worked together in support of their mother, shared decision-making and enjoyed equal rights of inheritance.  Mr. Angelos never intended that one son should wield control over his estate to the exclusion of his other son.”

So, Thanksgiving dinner at the Angelos’ residence ought to be a fun time for all…  A brother is suing his mother and his brother over control of the team.  Might the Orioles be up for sale anytime soon…?

As they say on those infomercials that are on at 3:00AM:

  • “But wait … there’s more!”

Alex Spanos bought the then San Diego Chargers’ franchise in 1984  When he died in 2018, he left 15% of the team to each of his 4 children and 36% of the team to a family trust.  His daughter, Dea Spanos Berberian has filed a lawsuit seeking control of the family trust which would give her 51% control of the franchise.  The basis for her lawsuit is:

  • She claims her brother, Dean Spanos, has engaged in “financially ruinous” behavior and that the family may need to sell the Chargers to pay off outstanding debts.
  • She also accuses Dean Spanos and another of her brothers – Michael Spanos – with operating “out of their deeply held misogynistic attitudes and sense of entitlement as the men of the family.”

Let me ignore the business around misogyny simply because at least part of any decision making on that front will involve a bit of mindreading.  What I found interesting was the assertion that when the Chargers decided to move to LA – to cohabitate in SoFi Stadium with the LA Rams – Berberian’s lawsuit asserts that move put the family trust $358M into debt.  In addition, she asserts that Dean Spanos “diverted $105M from the trust” and used $60M “for the wasteful purchase” of a private aircraft that has no business justification.

If the Berberian lawsuit is taken literally, the claim is that the trust may be forced to sell the team just to pay off its debt load.  That would put another NFL franchise on the market in the wake of the Broncos commanding a $4.65B price tag.  I have no idea how this action – or the Angelos family squabble – will resolve itself but I am certain of one thing:

  • There will be a phalanx of attorneys amassing great numbers of billable hours in the procedures that lead to whatever resolutions obtain in these matters.

One last “economic note” for today.  Over the last year or so, several pro athletes opted to take part or all of their contract payments in cryptocurrency.

  • Trevor Lawrence reportedly put his signing bonus of more than $22M into cryptocurrency.
  • Saquon Barkley reportedly put $10M into cryptocurrency.
  • The list goes on…

Trust me, I am no expert on cryptocurrency; I have never owned any of it; my understanding of what it is and how it works is a mile wide and an eighth of an inch deep.  However, let me present some data:

  • For the year to date, 1 Bitcoin was worth $47,733.40 on Jan 1, 2022.  As of close of business yesterday, 1 Bitcoin is worth $22,162,60.  That is a decline of 54%.
  • For the year to date, 1 Dogecoin was worth $0.17 on Jan 1, 2022.  As of close of business yesterday, 1 Dogecoin is worth $0.056.  That is a decline of 67%.
  • For the year to date, 1 Ethereum was worth $3767.54 on Jan 1, 2022.  As of close of business yesterday, 1 Ethereum is worth $1222.39.  That is a decline of 68%.

Finally, since much of today’s rant had to do with family squabbles on a grand scale, consider these two adages about families:

“An apple never falls far from a tree … And isn’t it amazing how many bad apples one tree can produce?”

And …

“Family:  A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space.”

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

 

 

The LIV Tour

I want to begin today talking about LIV golf.  For the record, I do not play golf; I only watch golf on TV on the final day of some of the major tournaments; I am not a consumer of information about golfers.  So, what follows are the reactions of “Just A Guy.”  And the first thing this guy wants to do is to tell everyone to read Sally Jenkins’ column from yesterday’s Washington Post about the LIV Golf tour.  If there were a Pulitzer Prize for sarcasm, this column would be on the short list to win the prize for 2022; here is the link; take a moment to read it and enjoy it.

I do not intend to try to justify the LIV Golf tour nor am I going to rant and rave about it.  I want to focus on the PGA’s reaction to all of this.  It has “banished” anyone who plays in any LIV Golf event from playing in any of the PGA’s events.  Presumably, that is a lifetime ban because if it is not, then it is a feckless move indeed.  I think that is a dangerous road for the PGA to go down.  Even if the signing bonuses handed out by the LIV Golf tour are smaller in the future as compared to the ones handed out at the beginning, there could well be a serious temptation for top-shelf golfers in the future to take the money and run.

  • [Aside:  Please spare me the handwringing over golfers choosing to “take the money and run.”  They are professional golfers meaning they play golf to earn money; that is the whole point; take the money and run.  If you want altruism, go follow your local high school golf team.]

And the money difference(s) do not end with those signing bonuses.  Don’t peek; tell me what golf event the PGA players competed in last weekend.  It was the Canadian Open.  Seventy players made the cut; of those 70 players only 20 earned more than $100K for the weekend.  [Aside:  Remember, everyone who missed the cut also earned less than $100K for the weekend.]  Now, compare that to the fate of Andy Ogletree who played in the LIV Golf tour event and finished the tournament 24 strokes over par.  He was dead last in the field and 31 strokes behind the winner.

  • Andy Ogletree earned $120K for the weekend.

For now, the PGA banishment lacks real bite.  The big events for the PGA are the four major tournaments.  Three of those four tournaments are open to LIV Tour golfers as of today.  The USGA says if you can qualify for the US Open, you can play; the R&A has not shut its doors to LIV Tour players for the British Open; I have not heard the official declaration from the folks who run the Masters but given their reverence for the history of the tournament, I doubt they are going to ban previous winners from the grounds.  So that banishment applies only to one of the four majors and to other such gripping events as the John Deere Classic, the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

My brother-in-law is an avid golfer and someone who follows the sport on TV far more than I do.  He sent me a link last week to an article in Golf Digest that was less than laudatory in its view of LIV golf.  My response was that Golf Digest is guilty of the same financial survival motive that LIV golfers are derided for following.  Golf Digest is not owned by the PGA, but Golf Digest is totally dependent on the PGA for its existence.  The magazine is owned by the same folks who own The Golf Channel on TV and if the magazine were to piss off the PGA to the point where the magazine was banned from PGA events and stories, Golf Digest would be out of business within two issues.

I really do not care if the LIV Tour succeeds or fails.  I think rooting against it because it might teach a lesson to the “repressive Saudi regime” is worse than virtue-signaling because it clearly will not teach those folks any lessons.  I think rooting for the LIV Tour is pointless for now because no one has any idea what it might become if it is sufficiently successful to be in existence five or ten years from now.  Here is a metric for you to consider regarding the viability and the growth of the LIV Tour over time:

  • In addition to individual play, there are teams of players on the tour; as of last weekend, there were 12 of these teams.
  • I have no idea how the teams were chosen/formed.
  • I have no idea why there are teams.
  • I have no inkling as to the scoring system for the teams
  • I have no clue what the team standings represent nor what reward there might be for the best team sometime down the road.
  • LIV Tour golf will take a step forward in relevance when and if I care enough to dig in and find out more about any of those topics listed above.

Enough golf…  Another big story of the weekend was Jack Del Rio – – defensive coordinator of the Washington Commanders – – being fined $100K by the Commanders’ head coach for expressing his view(s) on the events of January 6, 2021.  That fine leads me to wonder why any athlete or coach would ever try to answer any question about politics or social issues.  No matter what the answer is, you can be sure some segment of the audience will be pissed off by the answer.  Were I in such a situation, my response would be along the lines of, “Next question…”?

Jonathan Allen is the Commanders’ best defensive player and a leader on the defense.  His remarks about the fine for Del Rio tell me that he is also an intelligent man:

“Me personally, I don’t care about his opinion as long as he shows up every day and he works hard; that’s what I want from my defensive coordinator.

“In my opinion, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  Some guys decide to share it on Twitter; some guys don’t. It doesn’t make one person better than the other. At the end of the day, you can have a difference in opinion and still respect one another. I feel like that’s what our country is about. That’s what our team is about.”

Can I get an AMEN! for Jonathan Allen’s remarks…

Finally, since much of today’s rant was focused on golf, let me close with these two views of golf as a sport:

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it is open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.”  [Dave Barry]

And …

“It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”  [Mark Twain]

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

 

 

The 3Ks

The acronym “KKK” has totally negative connotations; so, I need to use something else today because I do not want to have such a negative overhang on this rant.  Let me adopt the label “3Ks” standing for Kaepernick, Kapler and Kerr.  All three men have an identity/association with the Bay Area in California; all three men have “used their platform” to protest events and practices in our society that they believe to be wrong.  And the reaction to those protests has not been the same for those three men.  As a reset, recall:

  • Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem on the sidelines of NFL games to protest unfair/disparate policing practices in minority neighborhoods.
  • Gabe Kapler chose to remain in the clubhouse during the playing of the National Anthem to protest gun availability in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting.
  • Steve Kerr used the occasion of his press conference at an NBA playoff game to call for action to prevent further events like the Uvalde school shooting.

Like most rational people, I am opposed to unfair policing practices and I am opposed to active shooters in schools and shopping malls.  I support the 3Ks in their protests; what they call for is right and proper.  So, why is Colin Kaepernick effectively out of a job while Kapler and Kerr are only suffering minor criticism from some far right individuals/groups?

The most obvious answer is that Kapler and Kerr are white and Kaepernick is not.  Stay with me here; I think that answer is simplistic and incomplete.  Yes, that is a perfect description of the racial/ethnic makeup of those three men; and yes, there is a racial divide in the US; and yes, race does play a part in the different ways folks have reacted to the three men and their protests.  However, I do not think that is the complete answer.

I believe that Colin Kaepernick chose a way to express his protest that allowed people to focus on his act and not on his issue.  While I would not choose to kneel during the National Anthem, I do not take kneeling then to be an outrageously offensive action.  However, others did and still do.  And take a deep breath here – – those folks have as much right to be offended by kneeling during the anthem as Kaepernick had and has to kneel during the anthem.  The problem here is not about who has what rights and who or what has been offended; the problem is that the act of kneeling during the anthem on the sidelines of an NFL game is an example of the idiom, “Right church, wrong pew”.

How did Kapler and Kerr avoid such compromise of their protests – – especially since Kapler’s protest also involved the National Anthem?  Well, Kapler made his protest in a way that did not send a mixed message to those people in the stands and watching on TV who are spring-loaded to be offended by “improprieties” during the anthem.  Kapler simply boycotted the anthem – – as did every person on the planet who was not in attendance or watching on TV at that time.   Moreover, Kapler acted to assure that those folks who are avid anthem supporters would not have an edge to alter the focus of his protest by coming out of the clubhouse and standing for the anthem on Memorial Day showing his support and appreciation for veterans who died in support of their country.  Kaepernick never recovered from the outrage that his protest spawned.

Kerr’s protest came at a press conference proximal to an NBA playoff game.  I suspect that even the biggest NBA fan on Planet Earth does not hold coaches’ press conferences in any sort of idyllic embrace to the point that said fan would be horrified that someone would violate the sanctity of that event by bringing up a school shooting incident.  So, Steve Kerr’s protest was broadcast from “his platform” but in a way that kept the focus on his issue and not how he delivered his message.

You may be thinking at this point in my rant how Colin Kaepernick may have used his position as a starting QB in the NFL to deliver his protest message in a way that may not have offended as many people as it did.  Remember, I am not one of those horribly offended folks.  Well, here is one possible way it might have gone down:

  • First of all, the actions that Kaepernick was protesting do not take place on a football field during a game or during the National Anthem played before that game.  The venue provides wide dissemination of the protest, but the venue is far removed from the actions under protest.
  • So, I believe Kaepernick’s protest would have been even more effective and would certainly have generated less blowback had he taken the protest to a venue which is more germane to the protest – – such as the steps of a police precinct where Kaepernick believed improper policing was happening.
  • The aftermath of his “kneeling protest” showed that there were plenty of other players who agreed with the target of his protest.  He would not have been alone had he organized a group of NFL players to join in that protest.
  • Moreover, NFL players get a day off each week; it is part of the CBA.  So, those protests could have been organized to take place several times a month and would likely have drawn media attention at a place where there was the potential for a “meaningful conversation” regarding the subject under protest.

The 3Ks provide an interesting opportunity for standing back and thinking about how and why some protests are received and supported in US society and why others are less well received/supported.  As I said above, the racial difference among these men may be part of the picture here but I do not think it is the complete answer.  Nor do I think that any of my exposition here had changed the mind of anyone who is still offended by Colin Kaepernick’s “disrespect” for the National Anthem.

But I feel better having said it all…

Finally, since today’s rant tangentially referenced the Uvalde shooting, let me close with some words from Ellen DeGeneres:

“I say to the gun owner who owns an AK-47, if it takes a hundred rounds to bring down a deer, maybe hunting isn’t your sport.”

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

 

 

A New Acronym – – TDWS

I spent much of yesterday’s rant on the Deshaun Watson situation and the “punishment issue” facing the league and The Commish.  About an hour after posting the rant, I was searching for issues to write about today and tomorrow when I ran across the NY Times report by Jenny Vrentas that amplified this sordid mess to the point where it deserves a title of its own.  From here on I will refer to it as TDWS – – The Deshaun Watson Situation.

Here is the link to Vrentas’ report; it may be behind a paywall, but if you can read it, I suggest that you do.  And let me take a moment here to make clear that Jenny Vrentas has been covering the NFL for a while now and she is widely recognized as a reporter; her byline on the story gives it significant credibility.

Here are new “details” for TDWS:

  • It appears that Watson had appointments with 66 different female massage therapists over a 17-month period.
  • Watson had a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) he had some – not all – of the therapists sign before their sessions.  That NDA was provided to him by the Texans’ Director of Security after Watson told him that someone had posted some dicey information on Instagram about his massage sessions.
  • Multiple women who did not sue him – or file a criminal complaint – have now alleged that Watson sought or initiated sexual contact in their sessions with him.
  • The owner of a spa in Houston allegedly provided Watson with access to massage therapists who worked for the spa and also provided “security” when he was there for treatments.  Four therapists from that spa are among those who have sued Watson.

As I said yesterday, Deshaun Watson is not guilty of any criminal behavior here simply by the fact that he has not been convicted of such behavior.  Nonetheless, Vrentas’ report in the NY Times presents new and sordid information for public consumption making the NFL’s challenge in the realm of Public Relations even more difficult.  The fact that Watson sought out approximately one new massage therapist per week over a year and a half is unusual – – although not probative for impropriety.  The fact that Watson asked therapists to sign an NDA seems highly unusual to me and the fact that the NDA was given to him by an official of his team means that the Texans were aware of a potential problem.  You could probably convince me that the Texans were part of an enabling process in TDWS.  And the  spa owner who set Watson up with her employees seems like another enabler to me.

The NFL should not care about the spa owner’s relationship to all of this – – but the NFL had best find out through its own channels just what the Houston Texans’ organization knew and when the knew it and what the did or did not do about it.  As of today, this is The Deshaun Watson Situation; the NFL has a significant interest in preventing this from becoming The Houston Texans Situation and/or The NFL Cover-Up Situation.

I tried yesterday to come up with precedents for NFL sanctions that might apply to TDWS.  I focused my attention on suspensions and the offenses that led to suspensions.  Let me also provide here the precedents that the NFL has for “lifetime ban” from professional football.  I believe there are only two such precedents:

  1. Rae Carruth:  He was tried and found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.  He was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison and served 18 years prior to his release in 2018.
  2. Frank Filchok/Merle Hapes:  These men were offered bribes related to their performance in the NFL Championship Game in 1946.  A jury convicted some gamblers of bribery but neither Filchok nor Hapes was ever convicted.  The NFL Commissioner at the time – – Bert Bell – – suspended them indefinitely because he found the players “guilty of actions detrimental to the welfare of the National Football League and of professional football.”

            Those two “lifetime bans” point in opposite directions  in my mind.  TDWS is indeed a sordid mess; and if even half of the allegations against Watson are true, he deserves significant punishment by the NFL.  Having said that let me be clear:

  • Conspiring to murder one’s pregnant girlfriend is a whole lot worse that soliciting sexual acts and/or sexual assaults as alleged here.  If indeed there are rings of Hell, murderers should be tortured more strongly than folks seeking sex from massage therapists.  [Aside:  I would love to see a reporter ask Robert Kraft what he thinks of this whole matter – – but that ain’t gonna happen.]
  • Involvement with gamblers who are subsequently convicted of bribery to throw an NFL game – the equivalent of the Super Bowl at the time – is potentially far more deleterious to the existence of the NFL than any of the allegations here.

It seems to me that TDWS falls into a behavior space that does not have a significant precedent to guide the league and its current Commissioner.  I am glad not to be the one in the role of handing down punishment here simply because whatever Roger Goodell decides to do will be shouted down as inappropriate.  There will those who claim that whatever he does is too harsh and that he has caved to a bunch of accusers who did not have enough evidence even to get Watson to a trial for criminal behavior.  Others will say whatever he does is too lenient and that it perpetuates the narrative that men with money can treat women as sex objects with impunity.

Good luck, Mr. Commissioner.  Your task in resolving TDWS was dicey from the start; Jenny Vrentas’ reporting did not make it even a little bit easier.

Finally, no matter the outcome of TDWS, I believe all this puts the lie to an observation by former US President Chester A. Arthur:

“Good ballplayers make good citizens.”

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

 

 

Another Manager Bites The Dust…

The month of June has not been kind to MLB managers named “Joe”.  Yesterday I commented on the Phillies “moving on” from Joe Girardi; yesterday, the Angels relieved Joe Maddon of his managerial duties.  The Angels hit a terrible stretch recently; after starting the season 21-11 and being only a game out of first place in the AL West, the Angels have gone 6-18 since then including having lost their last 12 games in a row.

As was the case with Girardi and the Phillies, much of this is not the manager’s fault.  The team’s last loss was a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.  Managers are like starting pitchers, they will not win any games where their team scores no runs…

Switching gears dramatically, I want to talk today about the Deshaun Watson situation.  For the last year or so, the litany has been that he stood accused by 22 female massage therapists of sexual assault and improper behavior(s).  Over the last two weeks, that number of accusers has grown to an even two dozen.  Watson missed all of 2021 as the NFL proceeded to “investigate” the situation; in the off-season, the Texans traded Watson to the Browns for a ton of high and middle round draft picks over a three-year period; and then, the Browns gave him a fully guaranteed contract worth as much as $230M.

Before I get into my own view of the matter, let me tell  you where I stand based on what I have read and heard about all of this:

  • The DA in Houston has investigated and has chosen not to bring criminal charges against Watson.  Does that mean Watson never did anything wrong?  Absolutely not.  He is innocent in the eyes of the law – – but that has no bearing on what he may have actually done here.
  • Do I believe that all 24 women are giving full and accurate accounts of what happened between Watson and them?  Might there be a “gold-digger or two” in the mix there?  Very possible – – but without a court proceeding where testimony will be given under oath, the best anyone can do is to deal with a gut reaction here.
  • Conversely, do I believe that all 24 women are lying through their teeth and that Deshaun Watson is a victim of their lies and slander?   Highly unlikely – – but without a court proceeding where testimony will be given under oath, the best anyone can do is to deal with a gut reaction here.

At some point soon, the NFL – in the person of Roger Goodell – will have to take whatever information their investigation turns up and add it to the things that are in the public record in all of these matters and use all of that to decide if Deshaun Watson deserves a suspension and if so for how long.  And that brings me to a rhetorical question:

  • Should the MLB handling of the sexual assault allegations against Trevor Bauer be any sort of yardstick for the NFL in the Deshaun Watson matter?

Two women had accused Bauer of sexual assault when MLB Commish Rob Manfred suspended Bauer for 2  full seasons.  Subsequent to that decision a third woman came forth with additional allegations, but those “new ones” were presumably unknown to MLB as its suspension decision was constructed.  Watson now faces 24 accusers and there is some similarity also in the fact that many of the allegations convey lurid details of what happened or did not happen.  One of the adages of jurisprudence – – and parenting ironically – – is that the punishment should fit the crime.  Remember, there is no actual “crime” here; the existence of a “crime” can only be determined in a court of law by a jury of the accused’s peers.  Nonetheless, many people might be looking for “parity” here.

Roger Goodell is in a delicate position.  He suffered plenty of ill will and scorn for his leniency in the Ray Rice Incident – – but on the other hand, the NFL has precedent on the books of only a half-season suspension for vehicular homicide by a player.  Compare that to the recently handed down suspension of one full season to Calvin Ridley who bet $1500 on some parlays of NFL games when he was on the IL.

If Goodell only suspends Watson for 8 or 9 games, women’s rights activists will shriek that he has been too lenient once again.  I can hear it now:

  • Twenty-four incidents of sexual assault is only half as bad as a $1500 parlay bet on NFL games.
  • Run this man out of town on a rail after you tar and feather him…

Absent any sort of criminal charges and findings by a court in any/all of those criminal charges, the NFL is going to do whatever it does under the aura of Public Relations – – and if there is a way for the NFL to come out looking good in that light, it is surely not clear to me.  Roger Goodell’s critics – – and there are legions of them out there – – complain that he is making north of $40M and needs to be “tougher on crime” both for miscreant players and skeezy owners who engage in their own version(s) of slimeball behaviors.  All I can say, is that Roger Goodell is going to earn his money trying to navigate his way through this PR minefield.

Since I posed a rhetorical question above, let me try a second one today:

  • In what other field of endeavor might one be engaged where you have two dozen women who accuse you publicly and specifically of sexually assaulting them and where the “consequences” to you are to continue in your field of endeavor with a huge raise?

I can only think of three such occupations:

  1. Rock Star/Rapper
  2. Professional Athlete
  3. Elected politician

Finally, the Denver Broncos are up for sale; according to the latest reports, Rob Walton will be the winner of the bidding war for the team and that he will pay $4.5B for the franchise.  Shed no tears, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates Walton’s net worth to be $57.9B.  However, I wonder if Messr. Walton has done sufficient due diligence here:

  • Has he learned that the players on his team – and all the players involved in the league – are represented by a union? 
  • If so, why is he still interested in buying the team?

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

 

 

MLB Loses Its First Manager This Season

The Phillies fired their manager, Joe Girardi, last week.  I was not all that surprised to read that news since the Phillies put a team on the field this year that had an Opening Day payroll north of $200M and when Girardi was shown the door, the team was 22-29 for the season and 5-12 in their previous 17 games.  Notwithstanding that less-than-stellar recent performance, I am not so sure that Joe Girardi is the only culprit responsible for those disappointments.

Girardi has managed in MLB for all or part of 14 seasons.  His record in 2058 games is 1123-935 which is hardly what one would call shabby.  So, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I doubt that Joe Girardi just got a whole lot stupider over the last winter.  And then I look at the players and the roster…

The Phillies’ bullpen is threadbare – to be kind.  There are three big names out there in the bullpen, Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand and Corey Knebel.  The problem is that all three of them are on the downward arc of their MLB careers AND none of the three is having what you would call a season that harkens back to their halcyon days coming out of the bullpen.  Basically, the Phillies go into the 8th and 9th inning of virtually every game knowing that no lead they have is a mortal lock to carry the day.

And that point brings me to the next issue I have with the firing of Joe Girardi.  The Phillies have a new GM this year – – Dave Dombrowski – – who arrives with significant credentials as a savvy “baseball guy”.  Yes, I know that trying to retool a team in one offseason is a daunting task, but I want to pose this simple question:

  • How can one assemble an Opening Day roster whose payroll costs equal $221.7M and have nothing of value in the bullpen?

Another source of the Phillies’ underperformance must be the production of three young players for whom there were high hopes:

  1. Alec Bohm:  He finished second in voting for Rookie of the year in 2020.  He has never been much of a fielder, but the idea was that his bat would make up for those shortcomings.  In 2022 so far, his is batting .271 with an OPS of .701.  Those numbers are down significantly from his “almost-Rookie of the Year” stats in 2020.  Oh, by the way, if he has improved his fielding abilities since that season, it is not immediately obvious to the casual fan…
  2. Mickey Moniak:  The Phillies drafted him in the first round of the 2016 Draft and it took him 4 years to make it to the major leagues.  This was supposed to be his “big improvement year” but a hand injury has put the kibosh on those hopes.  His record to date is too small a sample to be reliable, but just consider that as of this morning his career OPS is a miserable .419.
  3. Bryson Stott:  He was the Phillies first round draft pick in 2019 and coming out of Spring Training the Phillies kept him on the roster because of his potential.  As of this morning, he is batting .159 and has an OPS of .471.

I have a difficult time pinning the blame for those miserable performances on Joe Girardi and it does seem intuitively obvious to me that if two of those three young guys were hitting .290 things might be different offensively for the Phillies.  Maybe they could have built some impenetrable leads in the 8th and 9th innings of games with a bit more productivity there?

We shall see if the team responds positively under a new boss man – – and if it does and if the Phillies somehow make the playoffs even with that miserable bullpen – – I wonder how many commentators will fall for the highly possible situation where leadership from the bench was irrelevant to the team’s performance.  In philosophy class, this sort of situation was known as the “Post hoc ergo propter hoc Fallacy”.  The most common example of this fallacy is:

  • A rooster crows every morning.
  • Then the sun comes up.
  • Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise.

Even if you did not take Astronomy 1 in college, I suspect that  you can see the fallacy of that argumentation.  Causality is difficult to establish with great accuracy and assuredness so the fate of the Phillies’ season rests not with their new manager as opposed to their old one; the fate of their season depends on the bullpen improving a whole lot and on those three young players noted above to live up to – – or come close to living up to – – the expectations of them.

Moving on …  The NFL has lost two long-term fixtures to retirement in the past two weeks.  Frank Gore and Ryan Fitzpatrick are calling it quits.  Gore played RB for all or part of 16 seasons in the NFL; he ran the ball 3735 times and caught 484 passes; he was named to the Pro Bowl 5 times.  He took a lot of punishment in those games and offensive plays.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came to the NFL from that huge northeastern football factory – – Harvard University.  He played in all or part of 17 NFL seasons for 9 different teams.  Over his much-traveled career, Fitzpatrick threw for 34,990 yards and 223 TDs with only 169 INTs.

I don’t know what kind of pension these men qualify for, but whatever it is, they earned every dime.

Finally, here is an interesting question posed by humorist Brad Dickson:

“Due to supply chain issues Harley Davidson is stopping production effective immediately. Oh, no, now how will middle aged, paunchy men compensate for their receding hairlines?”

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

 

 

The Sound Of Music …

A little more than 50 years ago, Bobbie Gentry informed all of us that June 3rd was the day Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  [Aside:  Check out this link; it makes me wonder why that was even a minor  problem for Billy Joe.]  But anyhow … there are a couple of recent sports news items that are music to my ears here in 2022…

The first harmonious news item is that the NFL is seriously reviewing the continuation of the Pro Bowl.  Hallelujah!  Will wonders never cease…?  Here is the reality of the Pro Bowl:

  • Top shelf players invent ways to avoid participation in these games; second tier players seemingly have to resort to an alien abduction to generate sufficient cover for them to miss the game.
  • Then, after the REAL All Pro players have opted out, a bunch of NFL goombahs take the field and play the game at half-speed – – I am being generous here – – with the prime directive to be that no one gets hurt in the game.

The NFL has tried some heroic measures to save the game; it used to be the week after the Super Bowl – – but even hardcore fans did not care enough to become invested then.  The NFL moved the game to the dead weekend between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl – – but that focused even less attention of the Pro Bowl spectacle.

The league has tried moving the game around from Hawaii to Arizona to Orlando.  The league has tried to include a skills competition.  None of that concocted stuff has amounted to a pinch of horsesh*it; because TV ratings have continued to decline to the point where the NFL pundits recognize that they have a “loser” on their hand.  In case you had not realized it, “loser” is not an image that is palatable to the NFL.

There are so many things that ware wrong with the Pro Bowl that the single best decision that the league could make is to put a silver bullet through its head while simultaneously driving a wooden stake through its heart.  Fans have stopped watching a glorified two-hand-touch game to the point where the NFL prefers never to have to acknowledge such low ratings.

There is a window of opportunity for the NFL here:

  • The 2021 Pro Bowl game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  There was no huge hue-and-cry among NFL fans; people with hugely differing views on the pandemic seemed to be more than just OK with killing the Pro Bowl Game that year.
  • There is a potential sore point here with the NFLPA; lots of players have incentives in their contracts that pay real money if the player is selected to the Pro Bowl.  The union is not likely to give those clauses up because of dwindling fan interest and lower TV ratings.
  • What the NFL needs to to do is to establish a “voting/selection” procedure so that “Pro Bowl Players” can be recognized and rewarded via their contracts.  But if there no game for those selectees to play in, then everyone wins including the fans.

Some have said that if the NFL were to cancel the Pro Bowl entirely, they would need to come up with another TV presence that would take its place.  I do not necessarily subscribe to that point of view – – but if that becomes a stumbling block on the road to getting rid of a disastrously stupid TV event, let me offer one suggestion:

  • Why not pit AFC “All Pros” against NFC “All Pros” in a competition involving the 10 track and field decathlon events.  Make the prize money a winner take all situation.
  • Enforce the contract clauses for players not to be paid for being selected; make payment of the incentive clauses contingent on participating in the “Pro Bowl event”.

OK, so maybe I was a bit too aspirational there.  So let me come back to Planet Earth a bit here and mention one other sports story of the moment that is music to my ears.  Canadian Football League negotiators along with CFLPA representatives hammered out a new CBA – – and this one was indeed ratified by both the league owners and the players at large.  The CFL season will begin on schedule on 9 June – – which is next week.

It seems that a major sticking point in the previous agreement that was voted down by the players en masse had to do with the CFL’s rule about “player ratio”.  When I read reports on how the old CBA proposal was voted down and how the new one was approved, I must confess that I do not have the historical CFL perspective to recognize how and why this was a deal-breaker.  My understanding is that the new agreement assures that every team in every game will have 7 Canadian players who are starters but starting next year one of those players could be a nationalized Canadian who may have been born in the US.  Moreover, CFL teams that play the “most Canadians” at the end of the season will be given extra second round draft picks for the subsequent season.

Obviously, these issues are significant to the parties at the negotiating table even if they seem rather blasé to me.  I defer, however, to folks who know the history of Canadian football much better than I do.  I will only say that my preference would be for the CFL owners and for the CFLPA to work together to assure that CFL Football remains a distinct product as compared to the NFL or United States major college football.

Canadian football is a game of its own and in that uniqueness lies its attraction.  Before anyone asks me if I would choose to watch/follow the CFL instead of the NFL or the major college football conferences, let me say that is a false choice.  I can spend lots of time and memory units on US football at its top levels AND I can also appreciate and enjoy CFL football games on TV.  The choice here should not be “either/or” because I believe it should be “both/and”.

Finally, today’s theme has been music – be it popular records or music to my ears – and so I shall close here with these two observations about music by George Bernard Shaw:

“The chief objection to playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.”

And …

“Let a short Act of Parliament be passed, placing all street musicians outside the protections of the law so that any citizen may assail them with stones, sticks, knives, pistols, or bombs without incurring any penalties.”

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