Rest In Peace, Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins died late last week of congestive heart failure.  He was the last living member of my personal Mount Rushmore of sportswriters/columnists from my youth.  Those four are now somewhere in the cosmos assessing who among the current crop of writers might someday be considered to have similar stature.  My personal Mount Rushmore – – in alphabetical order because I really do not want to have to rank these four gentlemen:

  • Frank Deford
  • Sandy Grady
  • Dan Jenkins
  • Jim Murray

I never met Dan Jenkins; I wish I had been so privileged.  Dan Jenkins was more than a great sportswriter who was informative and entertaining simultaneously; Dan Jenkins was a great writer – – period – – and exclamation point.  He was part of the “glory days” of Sports Illustrated and his coverage of college football in SI back in the 60s and 70s was must read material whenever it appeared in the magazine.  However, his writings on golf were even better.

Please understand… I do not play golf; I do not follow golf; I do not have much interest in watching golf on television except for the occasional major tournament.  [Aside:  Dan Jenkins is the person who came up with the word “majors” to describe the 4 annual tournaments that are covered by that word.  Technically, Bobby Jones never won a “major” because Dan Jenkins had not yet designated any tournaments as such.]  Notwithstanding my “who gives a rat’s ass” feelings about golf, Dan Jenkins’ writings on golf were mesmerizing and commanded my interest.  He was a scratch golfer who was captain of his college golf team and he played practice rounds with Ben Hogan in Texas back in the 40s and 50s.  When he wrote about golf, his words came from someone who knew the game; but the words were more than that.

When he wrote about golf, his words generated interest – maybe even excitement – about the subject in at least one mind that otherwise did not care about golf.  His golf novels e.g. The Franchise Babe and Dead Solid Perfect were entertaining because of the implausible plot and Jenkins’ signature style which was utterly PC-bashing.  [Aside:  Dan Jenkins was anti-PC long before political correctness advanced to its current hugely annoying state.]  But it went beyond that.  One of his books was a compendium of golf columns he had written for Sports Illustrated and for Golf Digest.  He called this compilation, Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate.  This non-golfer read it end-to-end over a rainy long weekend and loved every word of it.

That last sentence leads me to suggest to every reader here that having a few paperback copies of Jenkins’ novels on hand for the occurrence of rainy three-day weekends would be a great idea.  Every one of those novels can be consumed in such a timeframe and every one of them will brighten up such a weekend.  His first novel was Semi-Tough; it was an instant success and was eventually made into a movie.  [Aside:  In his memoir, Frank Deford said that Dan Jenkins took a leave of absence to write Semi-Tough and that he wrote the novel in three weeks; the editing took longer than the writing.  That is beyond amazing.]   Many of the characters in Semi-Tough appear in subsequent novels; Jenkins creates a fictional world involving sports in general and these characters float about in that world.  Semi-Tough inspired a sequel titled Life Its Ownself.  Most sequels do not come close to living up to the work that inspired the sequel in the first place; Life Its Ownself toes that mark; it can stand on its own as a great read depending on Semi-Tough mainly for the backgrounds of many of its characters.

My personal favorite novel was You Gotta Play Hurt which is a recounting of a year in the life of an experienced and irreverent sports columnist who travels the world to cover specific events and write about them.  The protagonist is named Jim Tom Pinch; it is not difficult to figure out who the real-world inspiration for Jim Tom Pinch might be.

There is a scene in Semi-Tough that stands out in my mind.  Every year when the Super Bowl rolls around, I think of this scene.  It was written in 1972 when the pageantry of the Super Bowl was in ascension and it intended to satirize what all of that might become.  The setting for the scene is a Super Bowl game in the future between the NY Giants and the “dog-assed NY Jets”.  In the scene, the Giants’ coach, Shoat Cooper, is explaining to the Giants’ players that the timing of the Super Bowl game will be different from regular games because of the pageantry – and because there had been a major earthquake in China which could cause the network to cut in and do some news broadcasting simultaneous with the telecast of the game.

I want to present here that scene in its entirety.  Remember, this hyperbole intended to satirize what the Super Bowl pageantry might become from the point of view of 1972; it was not far off the mark for what would become Super Bowl reality.

  • [WARNING:  There is politically incorrect text to follow and some words/phrases that were much more commonplace and acceptable in 1972 than they are today.  If you are easily offended by such language, stop reading here.  In fact, if you are easily offended by such language, you probably should not be reading many of the rants posted here.]

            “In the serious part of the squad meeting, Shoat Cooper explained to us what the drill would be for Sunday, in terms of what time everything would occur.

“Shoat said we would start getting our ankles taped at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.  Those that needed special braces and pads taped on, he said, ought to get to the taping room thirty minutes earlier.

“He said he hoped everybody on the team could have breakfast together at nine in the Señor Sombrero Café on the second floor.

“He said we would leave for the Los Angeles Coliseum about ten-thirty.  It would be about eleven-fifteen when we got there, he said, and that would give us plenty of time.  ‘To get frisky for them piss ants,’ he said.

“The kickoff wasn’t until one-fifteen, he pointed out.  It had been set back fifteen minutes by CBS, he said in order for the network to finish up a news special it was doing on some kind of earthquake that wiped out several thousand chinks somewhere yesterday…

”… Shoat said that both the offense and the defense would be introduced, on both teams, for television before the game.  He said we should line up under the goal post that would be appointed to us and carry our hats under our arms when we trotted out to our own forty-five yard line and faced the dog-assed Jets for the ‘Star Spangled Banner’.

“That would be the last thing we would do before the kickoff, Shoat said.  Therefore, he said this would come after we had warmed up and then gone back into the dressing room and crapped and peed and drank some more Dexi-coffee.  Them what needed it like the interior linemen.

“’A little spiked coffee never hurt nobody’s incentive,’ Shoat said.  ‘Especially them lard butts who have to play down in that trench where the men are.’

“Shoat said we might have a long time to lay around the dressing room after we warmed up because the National Football League had a fairly lavish pregame show planned.

“Shoat said he understood that the both the pregame show and the halftime show would have a patriotic flavor.

“’That can’t be anything but good for football,’ he said.

“According to Shoat, here’s what was going to happen before the game:

“Several hundred trained birds – all painted red white and blue – would be released from cages somewhere and they would fly over the Coliseum in the formation of an American flag.

“As the red, white and blue birds flew over, Boke Kellum, the Western TV star, would recite the Declaration of Independence.

“Next would be somebody dressed up like Mickey Mouse and somebody else dressed up like Donald Duck joining the actress Camille Virl in singing ‘God Bless America.’

“And right in the middle of the singing, here would come this Air Force cargo plane to let loose 50 sky divers who would come dropping into the coliseum.

“Each skydiver would be dressed up in the regional costume of a state, and he would land in the coliseum in the order in when his state became a United State.

“When all this got cleaned up, Shoat said, United States Senator Pete Rozelle, the ex-commissioner of the NFL who invented the Super Bowl, would be driven around the stadium in the car that won last year’s Indianapolis 500.  At the wheel would be Lt. Commander Flip Slammer, the fifteenth astronaut to walk on the moon.

“Riding along behind the Indy car, Shoat said, would be two men on horses.  One would be Commissioner Bob Cameron on Lurking Funk, the thoroughbred which won last year’s Kentucky Derby.  And on the other horse, Podna (the horse Boke Kellum pretends to ride in his TV series) would be the current president of CBS, a guy named Woody Snider.

“Finally, Shoat said, the teams would be introduced and two thousand crippled and maimed soldiers on crutches and in wheel chairs and on stretchers would render the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’

“Shoat told us the halftime was like to run forty-five minutes.  It would be a long one at any rate, “which might be a good thing if we got some scabs to heal up,” he said.

“The length of the halftime, Shoat said, would depend on whether CBS would decide to interrupt the Super Bowl telecast with a special news report on the earthquake which might still be killing chinks with its fires and floods and tidal waves.

“’I never knowed a dead chink, more or less, to be more important than a football game,’ Shoat said.  ‘But maybe if a whole gunnysack of ‘em got wiped out, it’s news.’

“Shoat said it was too bad we would all have to miss it but the Super Bowl halftime show was going to be even more spectacular than the pregame show.

“He said there would be a water ballet in the world’s largest inflatable swimming pool, a Spanish fiesta, a Hawaiian luau, a parade stressing the history of the armored tank, a sing-off between the glee clubs of all the military academies and an actual World War I dogfight in the sky with the Red Baron’s plane getting blown to pieces.

“The final event of the halftime, he said, would be an induction into the pro football Hall of Fame of about twenty stud hosses out of the past including our own Tucker Frederickson, the vice president of DDD and F.  United States Senator Pete Rozelle would preside, Shoat said, along with Camille Virl, the actress, and Jack Whitaker, the CBS announcer.  When the induction ceremony was over, Shoat said, Rozelle, Whitaker and Camille Virl would lead the inductees in singing a parody on the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ which was written by somebody in the league office.  The title of it, he said, was “The Game Goes Marching On,’ and he understood it might make some people cry.

“Shoat said CBS hoped the whole stadium would join in the singing since all 92,000 people would have been given a printed copy of the lyrics.

“The last thing in the halftime would be some more birds.  While the stadium was singing this song, Shoat said, several thousand more painted-up birds would be released and they would fly in such a way overhead that the likeness of Vince Lombardi, the great old coach, would appear.

“That was all that was discussed at the meeting.”

I have read that passage at least a dozen times in the past and it still brought a smile to my face as I typed the words here.  I really hope you similarly enjoyed it

Finally, let me close with a couple of memorable quips/observations attributed to Dan Jenkins:

“Here’s all I know about Dubai: It’s one of those somewhere-over-there places where they make sand.”

And …

“I quickly discovered that trying to go play golf while living in Manhattan was about as easy as trying to grab a taxi while standing out in front of Saks Fifth Avenue in the freezing rain on the last shopping day before Christmas.”

And …

“The golf ball has no sense at all, which is why it has to be given stern lectures constantly, especially during the act of putting.”

Rest in peace – – and Godspeed – – Dan Jenkins…


Yet More Bryce Harper News

Silly me.  I thought that when Bryce Harper finally signed a contract with an MLB team, he would cease to be the “headline of the day” until such time as he actually did something on a baseball field that affected the outcome of an actual baseball game.  Actually, Harper followed up the news of his signing with two stories that made headlines.  The first story came from the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas; they posted the odds for players to win the MVPs and the Cy Youngs in both leagues.  Harper led the way in the National League.  Let me list the players with the lowest odds in all of these categories and offer a couple of comments:


  • Bryce Harper PHI 7-1
  • Nolan Arenado COR 8-1
  • Paul Goldschmidt STL 10-1
  • Kris Bryant CHC 12-1
  • Manny Machado SDP 15-1


  • Mike Trout LAA 3-1
  • Mookie Betts BOS 4-1
  • Aaron Judge NYY 10-1
  • Alex Bregman HOU 12-1
  • Jose Ramirez CLE 15-1

NL Cy Young:

  • Max Scherzer WAS 5-2
  • Jacob deGrom NYM 7-2
  • Aaron Nola PHI 7-1
  • Clayton Kershaw LAD 12-1
  • Noah Syndergaard NYM 15-1

AL Cy Young:

  • Cory Kluber CLE 7-2
  • Chris Sale BOS 4-1
  • Luis Severino NYY 7-1
  • Justin Verlander HOU 12-1
  • Carlos Carrasco CLE 15-1

A few comments about these listings.

  1. The odds-on Mike Trout dropped to 2-1 the day after they were posted when someone bet $4000 on Trout to win the Award at 3-1 odds.  Money does move the line…
  2. The Westgate Sportsbook oddsmaker said the reason Harper was the clear favorite in the National League was that he would be playing in a “Little League park” and that he should post huge numbers there.  The dimensions of the stadium in Philly and Washington are very similar so I am not sure I understand that sentiment.
  3. That is an awfully big jump in odds from Mookie Betts at 4-1 down to Aaron Judge at 10-1.
  4. I think Clayton Kershaw’s days as a Cy Young Award caliber pitcher are in the past; he will still be a good pitcher but not to that level.
  5. The Indians have two pitchers in the “Top 5” regarding the AL Cy Young Award plus Trevor Bauer as a starter.  Not a bad rotation at all…

And then, Bryce Harper got himself involved in a kerfuffle with the management of the LA Angels when he said he would like for Mike Trout to come and join him in Philly when Trout’s contract is up with the Angels.  People want to know if that is tampering which poses some interesting questions:

  • Can “tampering” apply to players as opposed to teams and team management?
  • How would tampering rules apply to players if the players involved were brothers?  Or father and son?
  • If Harper had privately called Mike Trout such that no one knew about it until months after the fact, does that make the alleged tampering less severe or more severe?

As I understand the rules in baseball regarding tampering, the punishment is a fine.  Bryce Harper just signed a deal that guarantees him $330M.  Leading up to this contract, my estimate is that Harper made $50M; I could be off by 10% there.  Nevertheless, there is no reasonable fine that MLB might levy that would have any meaningful adverse effect on Bryce Harper’s exchequer.

Moving on …  The NY Post reported that Jason Witten will leave ESPN and the Monday Night Football booth to return to the Dallas Cowboys and play tight end once again.  I thought Witten had promise as a TV analyst, but he did not grow into the job very much as the season rolled on; many commentators were highly critical of his performance and they have rejoiced at this news.  The question for ESPN now is where will they go with an announcing team for MNF?

  • The word is that ESPN covets Peyton Manning in the booth.  I think he would be interesting to listen to during a game, but I think he might demand that he never have to call a game where Eli was playing – – and ESPN is not really able to offer such a “guarantee”.  [Aside:  That is not “inside info”; that is just a sense that I get when I listen to the two brothers talk about one another.]
  • There is work for ESPN to do over the summer.  Joe Tessitore has to exhale and do some calming down between plays.  Every 6-yard run off tackle is not worthy of hyperventilation.
  • Booger McFarland might become a top-shelf analyst; he is knowledgeable and casually funny.  However, ESPN must put the “Boogermobile” in the garage and lock the door on that baby.  Booger needs to be in the booth interacting with his broadcasting partner(s).

If I were the ESPN decision maker here, I would look at the football folks already on TV in various places and here would be my order of preference:

  1. Louis Riddick:  Measured, rational, intelligent commentary.  He is “anti-bombastic”.
  2. Deion Sanders:  Colorful, entertaining, candid.  A latter-day Howard Cosell?  Maybe not that outrageous…
  3. Steve Young:  Cerebral, analytical and candid.

Finally, here is a comment on college football recruiting from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel:

“In the span of a week, FSU has lost two big-time football recruits — not to Alabama, Ohio State or Georgia but to MARYLAND! This is like losing a ‘Battle of the Bands’ to Insane Clown Posse.”

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



Southern California Blues

Santa Anita Park is a mess.  The racetrack has been one of the major horseracing venues in the US for the last 85 years.  Today, it is shut down while officials there try to determine why 21 horses have died there since about Christmas 2018.  The problem is not some equine virus that is spreading among the resident animals; the problem is the main dirt track where horses are breaking legs, ankles etc. such that the animals have to be euthanized.

All racing has been canceled at Santa Anita.  There had been some restrictions on racing and workouts recently and the track was preparing to get back to normal after an inspection of the track and some analyses had been done.  Then a 4-year old filly was “breezing” in a morning workout when she “sustained fractured seismoids” and had to be put down raising the number of horses in that condition to 21 in the last 10 weeks.  Those circumstances – a breezing workout for a mature horse – are not normally associated with fatal injuries.

The weather in southern California has been very unusual this winter.  The track received 11.5 inches of rain in February alone; normal rainfall for February is 3.74 inches.  In fact, in February of this year, the track got more than half of the average annual rainfall for that part of the world.  In addition, February saw abnormally low temperatures.  It is tempting to blame the climatological conditions there for these problems except for the fact that no rational linkage has been found.

The track had closed briefly at the end of February to allow for an evaluation by a consultant from the University of Kentucky whose specialty is racing surfaces.  He took soil samples at varying depths and did not find any flaws in the track composition, so training resumed.  Then came the death of the filly in a training session and the track shut down completely.

This is a situation that needs fixing quickly and reliably.  Santa Anita is not some rinky-dink track in suburban Beaglebreath, WY.  Santa Anita is slated to host the Breeders’ Cup races this November.  There is no way the owners of the horses who are eligible to compete at that level of racing are going to put their assets at risk on a racing surface that averages 2 deaths per week.

Maybe space aliens are beaming some sort of disruption ray at the southern California area because in addition to Santa Anita Park being a mess, the LA Lakers are also a mess.  Last summer when LeBron James took his talents to LA, most folks thought that the Lakers would return to the playoffs after a lengthy – for them – absence.  Only the biggest Lakers’ fanboys thought that they might make it to the NBA Finals this year, but a slot in the playoffs appeared to be in the bag.

As of this morning, the Lakers are in 11th place in the Western Conference; they are 6.5 games behind the LA Clippers who are sitting in the 8th and final playoff slot.  The Lakers have 17 games left in the regular season; making up that margin is not impossible – – but it sure does not look likely.

IF the Lakers miss the playoffs, it will be interesting to see what sort of analysis comes out of that circumstance.  Here are some possible threads:

  1. LeBron James has been in the NBA Finals for 8 consecutive seasons and a couple of those teams did not feature strong supporting casts for the best player on the planet today.  Ergo, this young group of Lakers must be a lot less than they were cracked up to be.
  2. LeBron James creates drama wherever he goes.  This young Lakers’ team could not handle the drama – – see how they fell apart right after the abortive attempts to trade for Anthony Davis engineered not by LeBron James but by LeBron James’ agent.
  3. LeBron James is a coach-killer except he could not get the Lakers’ owner to fire Luke Walton this year and so he did not put his full energy into the team this season.
  4. LeBron James has begun to feel the presence of Father Time.  His stats are still exemplary, but he missed 17 games this season due to injury and he no longer plays 40+ minutes every night and he plays even less defense than he has in recent years.

At the moment, I would lean toward the second thread above.  LeBron James has offered up plenty of passive-aggressive commentary about his teammates and coaches in the past and those comments have gotten former teammates to shape up lest they be the target of some upcoming passive-aggressive verbiage.  It appears that this Lakers’ roster has not reacted in the same way; this team plays as if they are afraid to hear what is coming next.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about a former Lakers’ superstar’s current situation:

“Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken Shaq restaurant has unveiled an $8.29 Charles Barkley sandwich.

“OK, we’ll bite: It’s a healthy slice of ham on huge buns?”

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



Law And Order Today …

Three men have been sentenced in federal court as a result of the charges brought against them for paying college basketball recruits – or the families of those recruits – “improper payments” to assure that they attended schools sponsored by Adidas.  Two men will spend 6 months in federal prison – pending appeal of course – and the third will spend nine months there.  I have said all during the judicial process here that the US Government would not have wanted me on that jury because I have yet to be convinced that what these folks did was contrary to federal law.  It was indeed in direct opposition to NCAA rules and regulations, but I do not think that is what the FBI and the DoJ should be out to enforce.

In other “criminally connected news”, there is an ESPN report that expands on the Tim Donaghy scandal from about 10 years ago.  There is a long report at saying that the involvement of Donaghy in “gambling irregularities” was a whole lot more than was reported about 10 years ago.  This report says that he not only provided info to big time gamblers but that Donaghy himself was betting on games that he personally officiated.  This is a LONG piece and there are lots of internal links to other reports inside to corroborate and expand the information here.  I recommend that you read it in its entirety.

Buried in that piece is an interesting sidebar.  According to this report, when the FBI made David Stern aware of the results of their investigation, Stern’s major reaction was that he was angry/concerned that NBA’s Security Staff had not been the ones to make this finding.  While that may seem at first to be an improper reaction, I think it is very appropriate for the NBA Commish in such a circumstance.  Consider:

  • The NBA says that its Security Department provides for safety for players and fans; and, in addition, it works with federal and local authorities at the highest level to monitor any possible security issues”.
  • If the FBI is in the Commish’s office telling him about a referee being associated with known gamblers, David Stern must have been thinking along the lines of “What the Hell am I paying those guys to do, anyway?”

And the current investigative report ought to send a shiver down the spinal column of current NBA Commish, Adam Silver.  The Tim Donaghy mess is 10 years old; Donaghy has been tried, convicted and has already served his time in jail; he is out and about as we speak.  For those intervening 10 years, the good folks in the NBA Security Department have not been able to come up with the information that is contained in the ESPN report.  So, the idea that must have floated through David Stern’s head way back then should be front and center once again:

  • What the Hell do these guys get paid to do, anyway?

I officiated basketball for 37 years.  To be sure, I never got anywhere near the level of officiating an NBA or a college basketball game; but I probably did 3,000 games of one kind or another.  Even though I never consciously sought to determine the outcome of any game I was involved with, I know for certain that I could have manipulated that outcome if I had chosen to do so.  No one should read the ESPN report and think that this is some sort of fantasy world.  A referee who has a direct financial interest in the outcome of games for which he is the official can win 75-80% of the bets that he makes on those games manipulating either the spread result and/or the Total Line result.

The data in the ESPN report is not probative, but it is more than mere “eyebrow raising”.  And it needs to be put into the context of the NBA’s constant opposition to expansion of sports gambling up until the US Supreme Court said that the law the NBA sought to uphold at any cost was unconstitutional.

  • Could it be that part of that strong opposition came from a recognition that the NBA Security Department is simply not up to the task of maintaining what the NBA likes to call “the integrity of their games”?

The NBA plays 1230 regular season games – – many of which are meaningless.  The sportsbooks in Las Vegas and on the Internet do not make any distinctions about meaningfulness; they will take action on all 1230 of them.

  1. Do I believe that a significant fraction of those games has the outcome manipulated by referees whose motivation is financial gain from the manipulated outcome?  NO!  The NBA regular season is not rotten to the core.
  2. Do I believe that a game here and there has a manipulated outcome and that it is one or more of the officials assigned to the game that is doing the manipulating?  Yes.  The information in the ESPN report tells me that all the “infrastructure” is in place to effect such manipulation and that if done without getting greedy that manipulation can go undetected for a LONG time.

Shifting gears …  The world’s #1 bridge player, Geir Helgemo of Norway, has been stripped of some titles he won and has been suspended from competitive bridge for about year because he failed a drug test.  Evidently, he showed elevated levels of synthetic testosterone and a female fertility drug.  Because the “bridge folks” have agreed to follow the World Anti-doping Agency rules about drug testing, that led to Helgemo’s suspension.  If you expect me to try to explain how elevated testosterone levels – synthetic or natural – provide one with some sort of advantage in playing bridge, I am certainly going to disappoint you here.  This makes little to no sense to me…

Finally, since today’s rant focused on law breaking and rule breaking and drug test failures, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Police were called when two women, 86 and 79, came to blows over seating arrangements during Bingo night at a retirement home in Rideau Lakes, Ontario.

“Because it was Canada, both returned to action after serving five minutes for fighting.”

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



Home From Arizona…

So, I saw 3 Spring Training games in the Cactus League in the last week.  They used the 20-second pitch clock; none of the pitchers appeared to have suffered any physical or psychic damage.  And, it would appear – based obviously an a VERY small sample – that it does speed up the game a bit.  Here is one datum:

  • In a game that encompassed 8.5 innings, there was a total of 17 runs, 23 hits, 2 errors, 4 batters hit by pitches and a couple of walks i.e. lots of base runners. In addition, there were two mid-inning pitching changes.
  • That game took 3 hours and 20 minutes to play.

The pitch clock is turned off when there are runners on base.  However, I think that part of the value of the clock is that it gets pitchers in the rhythm of getting the ball back from the catcher and getting ready to do something with it other than holding it in the glove while taking a stroll around the mound.  When the clock was in use, many was the time the pitcher began his wind-up with about 10 seconds left on the clock.

In another game we saw, the final score was 1-0.  There was a total of 7 hits in the game with no errors and only 1 base on balls.  That game took 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.  Granted, this is Spring Training and not the World Series; the pressure is far less than it will be once the regular season is underway.  Nevertheless, I think the “imposition” of the pitch clock is not nearly the end of Western Civilization as we know it – – despite what some of the players may say.

Obviously, the baseball news over the time I have been gone was the ending of the Bryce Harper soap opera.  Our long national nightmare is over; we can go to sleep now knowing where Harper will ply his trade for the next 13 years.  That venue will be Philadelphia where I am not so sure things will be all peaches and cream between now and 2032 when the deal expires.  Just remember that Philly fans got on Mike Schmidt’s case enough that he unloaded on a reporter in another National League city calling the Philly fans a “mob scene” and worse.  The reaction was so strong that he needed to wear a wig and sunglasses on the field in batting practice when the team came home.

Mike Schmidt was the best third baseman in the history of baseball; he had led the Phillies to a World Championship and to another World Series.  But Schmidt was not beloved in Philly because he was not a “blue collar guy”; he was aloof/cerebral/detached.

  • Memo to Bryce Harper:  This is what you signed onto with no opt out clause in your 13-year contract.  I hope I am wrong, but I think you are going to experience a totally different relationship with the fans in Philly from what you are used to with the fans in DC.  Mazel tov…

That signing presumably puts an end to the Phillies’ dealing in this off-season.  Prior to this signing, the Phillies traded for Jean Segura (from the Mariners) and for JT Realmuto (from the Marlins) and signed free agents David Robertson and Andrew McCutcheon.  They were indeed busy over the winter.

Personally, the two best moves in the MLB offseason to my mind were:

  • Cardinals traded for Paul Goldschmidt.  The Cardinals have needed a top-shelf bat in the middle of their order for a couple of years now and Goldschmidt is just that.
  • Rockies sign Nolan Arenado to an 8-year contract extension for a total of $260M.

There was a cryptic/incomplete story coming out of Montreal over the weekend saying that the Montreal Alouettes had released QB, Johnny Manziel.  Given the fact that Manziel’s stats last year were hardly eye-popping (106 for 165 for 1290 yards with 5 TDs and 7 INTs), his release is hardly shocking.  However, there was a twist to the news release:

  • The CFL has said it will not register any contract between Manziel and another CFL team; that means Manziel is banned from the CFL.

So, here is what the Alouettes’ GM had to say about this:

“We are disappointed by this turn of events. Johnny was provided a great deal of support by our organization, in collaboration with the CFL, but he has been unable to abide by the terms of his agreement.  We worked with the league and presented alternatives to Johnny, who was unwilling to proceed.”

Not knowing anything about the “terms of his agreement” with the CFL, it is impossible to do anything other than speculate about where the “violations” in the terms arose.  I prefer not to get into the “guessing”/”speculating” business here so I will simply note that Manziel’s performance and personal conduct made him persona non grata in the NFL; now he has been kicked out of the CFL; there are probably some AAF teams that might give him a look (the one in San Antonio is close to where he played college football) and the XFL 2.0 will come into existence next Spring.  The trend here is not his friend…

Speaking of troubled souls, Cowboys’ DE, Randy Gregory, has been suspended again – – this time for an indefinite period.  It is his 4th suspension since coming into the NFL in 2105.  Once again, the suspension is due to a violation of the NFL substance abuse policy; the last suspension was for 1 year; this suspension is for an indefinite period.  Gregory has been in the NFL for 4 seasons; in those 4 seasons he has only appeared in 28 games.  His problems have not been injuries.

Finally, this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times tells me all I need to know about the situation involving Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers:

“Disgruntled Antonio Brown and the Steelers have agreed to part company.

“In other words, AB’s gone from wide receiver to split end.”

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



On Hiatus

I will be off the air until next Tuesday – – March 5.

My long-suffering wife and I are heading to Arizona to spend a weekend with friends from grad school days.  I will be taking in a handful of Spring Training  baseball games; my wife will be taking in crafts fairs and museums.  A good time will be had by all…

See you next week…

Stay well, everyone.


Baseball Stuff Today

Yesterday’s big news was the contract extension signed by Nolan Arenado with the Colorado Rockies.  The deal replaces Arenado’s current contract which had one year to run with an 8-year deal worth $260M – that is $32.5M per year if you don’t have access to a calculator right now.  It has a full no-trade clause and an opt-out clause for Arenado after the third season (2021).  Arenado is 27 years old; he has led the National League in home runs three times in his career.  Last year he hit 38 home runs, drove in 110 runs and posted an OPS of .925.  And he is no slouch in the field either.  From my perspective, he has another important asset that he brings with him to the field:

  • To this point in his career, he has been low maintenance and has produced no soap opera level drama.

And that brings me to the masters of baseball drama – – Bryce Harper and Scott Boras.  Yesterday, there was a headline in the Washington Post that read:

“Arrieta knows Harper’s dilemma”

I am not providing a link here because the headline is the portion that is important.  The dilemma is posited as getting a fair and reasonable deal from his perspective on one hand and getting into Spring training to “get up to game speed and build team chemistry” on the other hand.  Would that I thought it was nearly so noble.

I think there is a more insidious way to look at Harper’s current situation where he can only work out by himself and not be with his future teammates.  That insidious view goes something like this:

  • Scott Boras has been doing the agent-thing since Harper graduated from high school saying that he was a transformational player who comes along once in a lifetime.  That is what Boras is supposed to do.
  • Bryce Harper has come to believe that sort of narrative – even when faced with the reality that there are other players in MLB who are as good as he is in some cases and better than he is in other cases.  He is an exceptional talent; he is not a once in a lifetime player.  Put into less polite terms, Scott Boras’ agent-speak has pumped sunshine up Bryce Harper’s ass.
  • Scott Boras has an agenda to work here.  He let it be known that Harper might be worth a $400M deal about 2 years ago.  Now as a free agent, it is pretty clear that he will not get that big a deal and now Boras needs to deliver a deal that is record-breaking just to maintain the “Boras Mystique”.
  • The dilemma Bryce Harper faces in this scenario is much more basic.  He has to decide if Scott Boras works for him or if he works for Scott Boras.  No matter what happens, he will be making enough money to change the lives of his progeny and this progeny’s progeny for several generations.  Sometime soon, he must decide who works for whom in his relationship with Scott Boras.

I enjoy reading much of the statistical analyses published at – particularly the ones related to sports and to politics.  I do not pretend to have a solid understanding of all the math that underpins many of the features there, but I have faith in the statisticians there to get the calculations right.  Earlier this week, a reader here sent me a link to an article there by Nate Silver with this headline:

“Relievers Have Broken Baseball. We Have A Plan To Fix It.”

This article does not focus on the effect a parade of relief pitchers has on the length of games or the pace of play; this article focuses on a statistical analysis of what happens to offensive stats in MLB when teams bring in what Silver dubs “OMG” pitchers.  OMG in this case stands for One-inning Max-effort Guys.  Getting through a lot of stats and math here, offense is stifled in this circumstance and the way teams set up to be able to implement this strategy is to carry 12 or 13 pitchers on the MLB roster and then use minor league call ups and the injured list creatively to assure they always have enough of those sort of guys in the bullpen for every series.

Silver’s proposed solution is interesting.

  • Each team should be limited to carrying 10 pitchers on its 25-man active roster, plus an Emergency Pitcher.

The Emergency Pitcher is an interesting concept.  He is not a guy on the 40-man roster; he is signed on to come in and pitch in games that have gotten out of hand or if the starter is injured or it is long extra inning game.  Moreover, when the rosters expand and teams have 40 players available in September, he would require any called up pitcher to throw at least 60 pitches in any game appearance.

Here is a link to the article.  If you are a baseball stat fan, you will like this one.

Relievers Have Broken Baseball. We Have A Plan To Fix It.

Finally, here is a Tweet from Brad Dickson:

“There’s a new bill in the Kansas Legislature establishing the polka as the official state dance. How the hell did the Nebraska Legislature miss this one?”

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



The Raiders Have A Home – – For Now

It appears as if one of the plot lines in one of the sports soap operas of 2019 has come to a resolution.  A TV station in the Bay Area announced late yesterday that the Oakland Raiders would play their home games in the Oakland Coliseum for 2019 “at least”.  The Raiders’ lease on the stadium expired a week or so ago and their new playpen in Las Vegas is nowhere near ready for action.  So, the Raiders were starting to look like the Vagabonds even getting an overture jointly from Tucson, AZ and Birmingham, AL to be their “split home” for 2019.  Now there is no need for that…

According to KNBR, the Raiders and the folks in Oakland who manage the Coliseum temporarily put aside the lawsuit filed against the Raiders and the NFL attesting that the entire process of moving the team to Las Vegas was bogus and reached an agreement for the team to play in Oakland this year – – with an option to play there again in 2020 in case the Las Vegas stadium schedule continues to slip.  According to the reports:

  • The Raiders will pay the Coliseum folks $7.5M for the 2019 season.
  • The Raiders will pay the Coliseum folks $10.5M for the 2020 season.

We know that one of the Raiders’ home games (against the Bears) will be played in London this year.  That means the Raiders will play 7 regular season games in the Coliseum and presumably 2 more exhibition games there.  [Let’s not get carried away and think about potential playoff games in January 2020, OK?]  That means the Raiders are paying $833.3K per home event in 2019.

I guess that is a good deal for both sides.  That seems like a relatively meager sum for the Raiders to pay considering that they did not have a deal in hand for 2019.  On the other hand, that is $7.5M more money in the Coliseum’s coffers than the building would have generated over the course of 2019.  So, it appears to be settled; the Oakland Raiders will again be the Oakland Renters for 2019 – – at least.

Christian Hackenberg’s football career continues to circle the drain; he was benched at halftime of last week’s AAF game; and yesterday, Memphis coach, Mike Singleterry, announced that Hackenberg will not be the starter this week for the Memphis Express.  In the first half of last weekend’s game, Hackenberg went 8 for 14 for 88 yards and 2 INTs.  I saw much of that first half and he looked about as bad as those numbers would imply.  Overall, in two-and-a-half games here are his numbers:

  • 32 for 62 for 277 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs.

Hackenberg was a second-round pick (by the Jets) in 2016 after playing 4 years at Penn State.  He never came close to living up to that lofty draft status; he never saw the field in a real NFL game in 2016 or 2017.  Then last year he bounced around from training camp to training camp stopping in Oakland, Philly and Cincy before being cut from the Bengals’ practice squad around Halloween.  Maybe that elevated position in the NFL Draft was more of a curse than a blessing?

By now, I’m sure you have seen photos of the exploded sneaker that led to Zion Williamson’s “Grade 1 knee sprain”.  Photos of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” did not get wider distribution than the exploded shoe has gotten.  Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times succinctly put perspective on what that shoe might mean for Nike’s reputation in the future:

“Introducing Zion Williamson’s new Nike sneaker: The Open-Air Jordan.”

According to a report in the NY Post, there could be a new model for sports journalism kicking in this year.  Here is the deal:

  • Yahoo Sports will create something called the Queens Baseball Club.  It will provide inside coverage of the Mets specifically for Mets’ fans.  It will have access to batting practice and “insider experiences”.  The Queens Baseball Club will rely on coverage by 3 dedicated reporters/writers and the idea is to create a community of Mets fans that use the online mechanism as its place for interactions.
  • Members of the club will pay a monthly fee to participate.  The NY Post report says the cost will be $4.99 to $5.99 per month.
  • Here is the most unusual aspect of this venture.  Yahoo Sports will pay the Mets a fee to have the insider access that makes the venture possible in the first place.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but that indicates to me that the coverage one might read from the Queens Baseball Club might be very different from what one might gather from other news outlets in NYC.
  • The overall Yahoo Sports plan is to replicate this model in other cities and with other teams.  The initial focus will be on MLB and NBA teams.

Color me skeptical here – – or maybe I just follow sports differently from other folks.  We have here in the DC area something that is like what the Queens Baseball Club could turn out to be except there is no monthly membership dues to pay.  Until last summer, Danny Boy Snyder owned and operated one of the sports radio stations in the DC area and several other radio operations in the far-flung suburbs of this area.  In addition, we get to see one show written and produced by the Skins themselves on the regional sports network here in addition to several other programs that provide viewers with nominally “inside info”.

The TV programs are simply unwatchable; the coverage of the team is fawning when it is at its most “analytical”.  The radio stations were similarly “less than realistic” when covering the Skins but as proof that anything can be made worse, the radio programming actually got worse once Danny Boy sold the whole radio operation to new ownership about 6 months ago.  In any event, I cannot see myself paying money – even something as paltry as $5 a month – if my “inside info” is coming to me through news media that is a business partner with the team they are “covering”.  Hey, I refuse to watch figure skating; other people find it enthralling.  Chacun a son gout.

Finally, let me close today with another observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Megan Marie, 35, of Kansas City says she posts pictures of stunning panoramic views from her hiking adventures – featuring her naked backside in the middle of them – as a way to make her exes jealous.

“Which certainly qualifies her as an outdoors buff.”

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



Robert Kraft And Solicitation Of Prostitution

The news that New England Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, will be charged with solicitation of prostitution serves as an opportunity to survey one aspect of current US society.  We have become far too interested in “off center” stories at the expense of rational consideration of real and current issues.  Moreover, the focus on those “off center” stories is all consuming – – until the next “off center” story comes along.  And so, to some extent:

  • Robert Kraft is the best thing that could have happened to Jussie Smollet.
  • Jussie Smollett was the best thing that could have happened to Ralph Northam
  • Ralph Northam was the best thing that could have happened to the President and the Congress during the time of the government shutdown.
  • The shutdown was the best thing that could have happened to Elizabeth Warren and her DNA test.
  • See a pattern here …?

Before I project what might be the ultimate outcome here, let me make one simple observation:

  • Something called the Bloomberg Billionaire Index says that Robert Kraft’s net worth is $4.36B.  Forbes says he is worth $6.6B.  Let’s just agree that Robert Kraft has loads of money, OK?

[Aside:  In that circumstance, I do not understand why he would not “order in” as opposed to paying a visit to a day spa.  But that’s just me…]

Lots of hot takes emanated from this breaking news with two rather extreme suggestions regarding the punishment for Robert Kraft.  Once again, we need to pay attention to the fact that Robert Kraft has been charged in this matter but has not plead guilty nor has he been convicted of anything.  Everyone who has proposed any sort of punishment here has already jumped the gun.

Bart Scott does sports-talk radio in NYC.  I read that he proposed that the NFL strip the Patriots of an entire draft class; they would get no draft picks for one year.  Given the minor nature of the charges here – they are indeed misdemeanor charges not felonies – that seems overly harsh unless of course you are a former NY Jet like Bart Scott.  The reason I think this proposal is over the top is this:

  • Imagine if the celebrity chef who owns and runs a famous restaurant were charged – even convicted if you want – of soliciting prostitution.  Would it make sense to deny the restaurant the ability to purchase any vegetables of any kind for a year?  Who is being punished there?  The workers in the restaurant who did nothing – or the diners who would not be able to eat there?  Makes no sense…

Various other folks have wondered if the NFL could force Robert Kraft to sell the Patriots.  I will not pretend to be an expert regarding the NFL Bylaws, but I assume there is a mechanism in there to rid the league of a “bad apple” owner.  However, I suspect that 31 other owners would not like to see the bar for such a “forced sale” set as low as solicitation of prostitution charges.  My hunch is that there would be some sweaty palms in owners’ boxes around the league should that suggestion surface…

I can only think of one instance in the NFL where an owner was separated from his team but was not forced to sell.  Eddie DeBartolo had to step down and hand over the team control to his sister back in the 90s.  DeBartolo was convicted of bribery in a case involving the acquisition of some sort of casino/gambling license in Louisiana.  That was a felony; he served real jail time for it.  It is important to note that he was removed from the team, but no sale was required.

Jerry Richardson sold the Panthers proximal to reports of sexual and racial harassment in the workplace.  Maybe the NFL encouraged him to get the deal done as quickly as possible, but they did not force the sale.  Richardson had the team on the market prior to the allegations which were settled privately.

Leonard Tose owned the Eagles in the 70s and 80s.  He had gambling and alcohol issues and got VERY deeply in debt to casinos in Atlantic City.  He sold the team to Norman Braman to pay off those debts; I do not recall that the NFL mandated that sale.

In the NBA, Donald Sterling had to sell the Clippers – but the reason the NBA forced that sale was that Sterling’s behaviors were damaging to the league itself.  His more than merely insensitive racial comments did not make for any sort of positive marketing strategy.

In MLB, Phillies’ owner William Cox was forced to sell the team in 1943 because it was determined that he was betting on baseball while he owned the team.  Since that act earned him a lifetime banishment from baseball from Commissioner Kennesaw “Mountain” Landis, selling the team was a consequence of that designation.  [Aside:  George Steinbrenner was also banned from baseball temporarily in the 90s but did not have to sell the Yankees.]

I cannot think of any other forced sales due to improper behavior in the major US sports.  Nonetheless, the NFL will have to hand down some sort of punishment here to demonstrate that the League’s personal conduct policy applies to everyone associated with the league.  So, what is the precedent for sanctions on owners:

  • Jim Irsay had a DUI situation.  He went into rehab and cleaned his act up.  He was fined $500K and suspended for 6 games.
  • Steve Keim (a GM not an owner) also had a DUI situation.  He was fined $200K and suspended for 5 weeks.
  • Jimmy Haslam’s company – Flying J – had an ongoing rebate fraud scheme and company execs eventually plead guilty to some charges related to that.  Haslam oversaw the company but was never charged in this mess.  The NFL has not sanctioned him at all.

To me, there is no real punishment the NFL could logically impose here that would matter to Robert Kraft.  Even if the league fined him $5M – – an order of magnitude greater than the fine on Jim Irsay for DUI which I assert is a more severe offense than solicitation of prostitution – – that fine would not do much damage to someone with a net worth in the neighborhood of $5B depending on which estimate one chooses to believe.  If the NFL “suspends” him for any length of time, that only means he cannot be at the game in the owners’ box; he is not the starting inside linebacker after all.  Oh, yes; he would also have to stay away from the team headquarters meaning that he would be isolated from team decisions for some period.  [I actually keyed those words with a straight face…]

So, here is my bottom line on this situation.  It is not particularly outrageous; so, it does not fit well with the hyperbolic protestations of righteousness that are so prevalent:

  • The authorities allege that the women involved in the prostitution at the day spa were victims of human trafficking and were forced into this life of prostitution.  If that is proven to be true, I would not object to putting everyone responsible for said human trafficking under the local jail.
  • The NFL will impose a “significant fine”.  It will be a big enough number that players will notice the amount and grudgingly admit that an owner is being punished to an extent that they would not like to be punished.  I’ll toss out a figure here of $2M – – even though I know that would not be damaging in any way to Robert Kraft and his lifestyle.
  • The NFL will impose a suspension too – – probably on the order of 6-8 games.  This is no big deal.
  • The NFL might dock the Patriots a draft choice somewhere down the line.  I think that penalty would be misguided and irrelevant – – but that has never stopped the NFL in the past.

George Carlin used to say in some of his standup routines – I am going to clean up the language here – that “selling” is legal and “screwing” is legal, but “selling screwing is illegal”.  How can that be?  Good question, good sir…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this bottom line on this matter in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“Marshawn Lynch should have run.

“Robert Kraft should have passed.”

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



Not A Lot Of Uplifting Stuff Today

The saddest bit of news on the sports wire this morning is a report from yesterday that Syracuse basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, hit a pedestrian with his car in the last snow event on the east coast and the pedestrian is dead.  According to reports, Boeheim submitted to a blood alcohol test and the results showed 0.00% alcohol; if one is to go looking for a “positive” here, I guess that will have to do.

According to the police, the victim had been involved in an accident on an Interstate near Syracuse; and that for some reason he was out of his car and on the roadway instead of on the road shoulder.  Probably, no one will ever know what led up to that situation.

Another recent college basketball happening – – of far lesser import than anything involving a loss of life – – was the injury to Zion Williamson in the Duke/UNC game earlier this week.  Let me say from the outset that I have a purely personal, shallow and selfish reaction here:

  • I hope Zion Williamson recovers quickly and to 100% capacity because I very much enjoy watching him play basketball.  In addition to his competence on a basketball court, he is entertaining to watch.

A large segment of the “Sports Commentariat” is that the NCAA is at fault here for exposing Williamson to this hazard while not allowing him to be paid for his efforts.  The refrain is well known:

  1. The coaches make millions…
  2. The schools rake in millions …
  3. The shoe companies pay millions – except none goes to the player…
  4. All the risk falls on the player; all the dollars fall elsewhere.

The reason that refrain is so well known is that all of it is true.  And that has led many sports commentators to use this situation to bash the NCAA which oversees intercollegiate sports at the top level.

Anyone who has read these rants for a while knows that I refuse to take a back seat to anyone when it comes to contempt for the NCAA’s hypocrisy, cluelessness and fecklessness.  They are not blameless here; they are the ones who steadfastly defend the position that collegiate sports should adhere to some sort of “amateur model”.  Nevertheless, the real villains in this piece are the NBA owners and the NBPA.

  • The current CBA between the league and the players was negotiated in 2017 before Zion Williamson was eligible to play college basketball.  That CBA codified the eligibility to play in the NBA such that it created the entirety of the “one-and-done” environment.
  • Please note that Zion Williamson was also denied any participation in those negotiations that now govern his basketball existence because he did not own an NBA team nor was he an NBA player.  No one “in the room at the table” represented the interests of players who would come later such as Zion Williamson.

Few people who pay attention to college basketball would argue that Zion Williamson would be unable to compete in the NBA as of this moment – – but he is not allowed to do so because of the actions of the NBA owners and the NBPA.  If you feel compelled to find a villain here to slather in blame, go to the source of the problem.

In a recent interview, someone asked LeBron James about the Lakers’ push to make the playoffs this year.  As of this morning, the Lakers have the 10th best record in the Western Conference and only 8 teams make the playoffs; the Lakers have 24 regular season games to play and they are 2.5 games out of 8th place in the standings.  LeBron James responded to the questioning with something very predictable and at the same time very revealing.  He said:

  • He was now fully activated to make sure the team pushed ahead to make the playoffs.
  • He said that he preferred to delay that sort of full activation until later in the calendar to have that intensity peak during the playoffs but that he “activated” earlier than usual this year because of the realities of the standings.  [That is a paraphrase and not a quotation]

I have said for years that NBA regular season games prior to mid-March are tepid events; anyone who knows anything about basketball can tell the difference between a game in December and a game in the playoffs involving the same two teams.  Here, you have the best player in the league telling the world that his focus and his energy in those earlier games was not what it will be going forward from here.  There is no conjecture about this anymore; you now have it out there in plain view from an unimpeachable source.

  • Fans who went to Lakers’ games this year paid full price to see the team – – and received partial “activation”.
  • Advertisers who paid to sponsor Lakers’ telecasts this season paid full price for those time slots – – and the team put forth partial “activation”.
  • Thank you; I’ll start to pay “real attention” to the NBA in late March and into the playoffs when everyone is at or near full “activation”.

Here is the lead paragraph from a story in the Washington Post.  This is not a source that also reports on alien beings on Saturn that beam thought control waves to the Earth; this is the paper of Woodward and Bernstein:

“Paris 2024: Electric Boogaloo? When the Olympics get underway in the French capital five-plus years from now, break dancing may be part of the program.”

In addition to break dancing, the organizers also propose adding skateboarding, climbing and surfing to the competition.  I just know that the organizers of the original Olympic Games in 776 BC would be proud to see these competitions if they could beam into Paris in 2024 from wherever they are in the cosmos.  Here is a link to the Post story if you want to take a deep dive into nonsense.

Finally, I guess this is the time to ask what else might be added to the Olympic Games after breakdancing becomes a staple.  Here are three possibilities:

  1. Synchronized crocheting
  2. Paper clip stringing
  3. Team farting

“Faster, Higher, Stronger” – – Indeed.

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