Brandon McManus …

Two flight attendants for a charter airline have filed a civil complaint against the Jax Jaguars and their former kicker, Brandon McManus, alleging “disgraceful sexual misconduct” on the part of McManus.  The alleged activities took place on the Jags’ charter flight to London last season.  The three causes of action in the civil complaint are:

  1. Assault and Sexual Assault by McManus
  2. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress by McManus
  3. Negligence and Gross Negligence by the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here is a link where you can read the entire complaint and the plaintiffs’ request for a jury trial.  When I ran across the reporting on this matter yesterday, it seemed to me that there was a distinguishing element in this matter that is usually not present in most sexual assault complaints.  In other “higher profile” complaints of this sort – – the Deshaun Watson matter and/or the Trevor Bauer situation for example – – the alleged behavior that is identified as sexual assault took place with only two people present – – the plaintiff and the defendant.  Reading the statements of the two flight attendants, these alleged actions took place on an airplane populated with about a hundred other players, coaches, front office personnel and the like.

After reading what is labeled as the “Factual Background” in the complaint, it seemed to me that any such behavior would have to have been seen or heard by others on the airplane.  Last evening, we had dinner guests one of whom is a retired litigator; I took that opportunity to ask her if any depositions that might be taken in this case would necessarily be under oath.  According to her, depositions pursuant to an action before a court would have to be under oath.  And there is what I perceive to be a big difference in this situation.

As usual, I prefer to wait and see what other evidence emerges before making definitive pronouncements related to things like this.  Nevertheless, I am curious to see how this case evolves as compared to some other similar allegations against athletes where law enforcement was involved meaning there was a cloak of invisibility surrounding the activities of the authorities as they gathered evidence and sought corroborating testimony.  This is a civil action and not a criminal complaint; for me – – as a voyeur on legal matters – – it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Oh, by the way, Brandon McManus was not re-signed by the Jags when his contract expired after last season; McManus did sign with the Washington Commanders in March of this year.

Moving on …  Yesterday, I mentioned that Angel Hernandez had retired from MLB.  Several headlines around the Internet yesterday sought readers’ attention by referring to Hernandez as “MLB’s most notorious umpire” or something closely related to that phraseology.

  • Memo to Headline Writers:  Does the name, Joe West, ring any bells?

Next up …  FIFA recently announced the venue for the 2027 Women’s World Cup tournament.  The event will take place in Brazil, and it will be the first time the women’s tournament will take place in South America.  The competing bid for that tournament was a three-way bid by Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands.

As the FIFA convocation that selected Brazil as the hosts for 2027 came to an end, FIFA president Gianni Infantino “suggested” that the 2031 Women’s World Cup Tournament “could be expanded” to include 48 teams and not merely the 32 teams now invited to participate.  That would bring the Women’s Tournament in line with the Men’s Tournament which will see the same expansion starting in 2026.  Said President Infantino:

“More participants, more unity, more people happy. Well, let’s see, let’s see.”

If I might make an attempt to present the meta-message conveyed there”

“More games, more media rights revenues, more FIFA officials happy.  Let’s get it done.”

One more today …  Broncos’ head coach, Sean Payton was asked about the team’s QB situation and how things were going during OTAs.  His response was unusual in the sense that it did not reflect standard “coach-speak”:

“It’s kind of the orphan group; they’re all orphaned dogs. They’ve come from somewhere, but they’re doing good. It’s a good room.”

Orphans?  Dogs?

As of this morning, the Broncos’ roster has 3 QBs:

  1. Bo Nix
  2. Jarrett Stidham
  3. Zach Wilson

I am not sufficiently delusional to suggest that any of the three is a likely All-Pro candidate for 2024 and beyond but attaching labels like “orphan” and/or “dog” to Bo Nix as the team’s first round draft pick last month is more than strange.  Jets’ fans might think Zach Wilson is a dog, but it is not clear to me that he was the only problem with the team’s offensive difficulties over the last couple of years.  Jarrett Stidham has been in the NFL since 2019 which does not seem to portray him as much of an “orphan”.  Very strange …

Finally, some words of wisdom today from Mark Twain:

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

And …

“In the first place, God made idiots.  That was for practice, Then he made school boards.”

And …

“Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

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



Random Musings Today …

The Boston Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals by sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  The team gets some time off as they await the winner of the Western Conference Finals between the Mavs and the Wolves.  But the pressure this year would seem to be squarely on the shoulders of the Celtics.

  • In the 7 seasons since 2016-17, the Celtics have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals 6 times.
  • In those 6 Conference Finals,, the Celtics have advanced to the NBA Finals only once.
  • In that singular NBA Finals appearance, the Celtics lost to the Warriors.

In this year’s regular season, the Celtics won 64 games; no other team in either conference won more than 57 games; the Wolves and Mavs won 56 and 50 games respectively.  Just a hunch here, but I think the basketball world will not be kind to this Celtics’ team should it fall short of a championship again.

Switching gears …  For at least a couple of decades, there was a hue and cry about in the land to rid the country of the scourge of the offensive team name for the Washington NFL franchise.  The previous team owner – – less than a beloved figure locally – – finally yielded to pressure and allowed for a renaming and a rebranding.  It was an awkward process that produced an “interim name”, the Washington Football Team, which lent itself to calling the team WTF.

The entire process was awkward at best and bumbling most of the time but after years of polling fans and checking for trademarks and doing whatever else the team had to do to accomplish their name-change goal, they announced the birth of the Washington Commanders.  That event happened two years ago to the surprise of many of the team’s fans.  At the time, I wrote that it was nice of the team to name themselves after President Biden’s dog, Commander.  The name was not well received but I figured it would slip into the parlance/jargon of the region and all would be quiet on the naming front.

Not so.  The Washington Post this morning posted the results of a poll conducted jointly by the Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government:

  • 54% of “local sports fans” either dislike or hate the name Commanders
  • 58% of “local Commanders’ fans” do not like the name.

Just as you sometimes hear a distant rumbling that announces the imminent arrival of a thunderstorm, it seems as if there is a small drumbeat out there to rename/rebrand the team once again under new ownership.  [Aside:  Do not discount the possibility that some fans would hate any name given to the team under Danny Boy Snyder’s “leadership”.]  There is even a group out there seeking to return the name to the one that caused the decades of agita leading to the current name.

Obviously, I will not crusade for a name change because the name of a football team is hugely insignificant.  However, I do like to help out where I can and so I offer here a potential name change for the team:

  • The Washington Hogs

Yes, I know that Chicago – – not Washington – – is the “hog-butcher for the world” [Hat Tip to Carl Sandburg].  Nevertheless, let me explain why this name is fitting:

  • In the 1980s – – the glory days of the Washington franchise – – their offensive line was known as “The Hogs”.  That unit even “inspired” a set of gravitationally enhanced fans to don dresses and pig snouts in the stands calling themselves the “Hogettes”.  Who knew pigs had groupies…?

But wait, there’s more …

  • The current owners of the franchise – – enjoying a far more benign image among local fans than the previous owner – – are known as the Harris Operating Group.  Check the acronym there and “Hogs” has current links to the team situation.

No need to thank me …

Moving on …  Mike Tyson is 57 years old; he has not fought since 2005.  He is scheduled to fight Jake Paul in July of this year in an exhibition.  I cannot come up with a reason for this event to take place other than as a cash grab.  Whatever.  They will not be grabbing any of my cash.

The folks who sanction boxing events in Texas have given their blessing to this confrontation which presented itself as a contest with rules that differ from boxing as it is generally presented.  The fight is scheduled for 8 rounds, each round being 2 minutes in duration.  The fight will happen on July 20th at “Jerry World”.  That facility can seat 80,000 folks for football and certainly more than that for a boxing match.  Can there be 80,000 people who will want to see such a thing live and in person?

Finally, let me close today with these words from Carl Sandburg pertinent to today:

“A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected.”

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



Rest In Peace, Bill Walton

Bill Walton died over the weekend.  He was one of the best college basketball players I ever saw; his professional career was marred by injuries to his feet and ankles such that over the first 8 seasons of his NBA career, he never appeared in more than 65 games, and he missed two full seasons of action.  Bill Walton was a transformative player; in addition to scoring and rebounding excellently, he was a center whose passing skills resembled a point guard.  The 1973 NCAA championship game saw Walton give a performance that has not been approached since then.  He shot 21 of 22 from the field, scored a total of 44 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, handed off two assists and blocked a shot.  Not a bad night’s work …  Walton said that Coach John Wooden told him that night, “I thought you were a good player – – until you missed that shot.”

After his retirement, Walton was a color commentator and an ambassador of the sport and of the PAC-12 Conference.  With his stentorian voice and his penchant for hyperbole, I could identify Walton as the color guy on a telecast two rooms away from the TV.  Reports say that he died after a long-term battle with cancer; I was unaware of that illness until now.

Rest in peace, Bill Walton.

Moving on …  The Atlanta Braves got some bad news recently.  Ronald Acuna, Jr. had an MRI which confirmed a total tear of his ACL requiring surgery that will keep Acuna out of action for the rest of this season and potentially into the start of next season.  Acuna is one of baseball’s most exciting players; the Braves would need a miraculous intervention to find a replacement with equal skill levels.  To a lesser extent, this is a loss for MLB itself; Acuna is a positive advertisement for baseball itself and MLB needs more easily relatable stars not less.

I believe that MLB got a bit of good news over the weekend to – – sort of – – counterbalance the bad news about Ronald Acuna, Jr.

  • Angel Hernandez has retired as an umpire.

As annoying as the “strike zone box” is on your garden-variety MLB telecasts, it was downright infuriating when Hernandez was behind the plate.  Not only did his strike zone make a mockery of the one described in the MLB Rule Book, it seemed to wander around from inning to inning.  Hernandez sued MLB alleging discrimination against him because he is of Cuban extraction; MLB won that case in 2021 and his appeal was not successful at the appellate level.  Reports say that Hernandez and MLB reached a “financial settlement resolution” that included Hernandez retiring from MLB umpiring ranks.

I, for one, shall not miss Angel Hernandez behind the plate for future MLB games.  I have no basis for animus toward him as a person and I hope he has a fulfilling retirement time in his life – – outside MLB.

There is a report this morning at that the NFLPA is preparing to present a proposal to the owners that would revamp the workout schedule in the spring and summer.  Off-season activities for players are spelled out in the existing CBA between the union and the league, so the existence and the consideration of that sort of a proposal by the union will necessarily involve negotiation with the owners.  The outline of the proposal can be found here.

I think the closing paragraph of the report is interesting.  The NFL has a clear and obvious desire to expand the regular season from 17 games to 18 games; more games to sell to TV outlets means more money to the owners and that is all the appeal that is necessary.  The union and many players worry about the added wear and tear on the bodies of the players in that “extra game”.  If the union opens the door to “changing the schedule” for league activities in the off-season, I would not be shocked to learn that the owners would want to “change the schedule” for the regular season at the same time.

Purely from a fan perspective, I would support the union’s off-season changes plus a reduction in the number of meaningless Exhibition Season games along with an extended regular season schedule.  So let it be written; so let it be done …

I had someone ask me over the weekend and I have received several emails that fall into the category:

  • So, what do you think about the NCAA paying players?

The answer is that I don’t know what I think about this yet because I cannot find any compelling logic that leads me to what might replace the current system that “regulates” collegiate athletics.  Everyone here knows that I am not a fan of the NCAA and its implementation of “governance”, but I am not naïve enough to believe that the situation could not be made worse.  I need some time to think upon this issue and will refrain from “premature exposition” on the subject.

Finally, let me close today with words from Bill Walton:

“I had the only beard in the Western Hemisphere that made Bob Dylan’s look good.”

And …

“I’ve had 36 orthopedic operations, have two fused ankles, my knees, hands and wrists don’t work, I now have a fused spine, other than that, everything is great.”

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



Rest In Peace, Jim Otto

Jim Otto died last week.  He was an anchor on the offensive line for the Oakland Raiders from the time the team came into existence (1960) until he retired in 1975.  Jim Otto personified the two important “abilities” for a pro football player:

  1. Football “ability” – – AND – –
  2. Avail”ability.”

He played in 210 consecutive games for the Raiders despite having nine surgical procedures on his knees during his career.  Remember, knee surgery was not nearly as advanced at the time of his playing as compared to today.  Jim Otto was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a first-ballot inductee in 1980.

Rest in peace, Jim Otto.

I have a very brief comment on what has become “The Harrison Butker Situation;” the central point of my comment here is:

  • Who cares what Harrison Butker thinks about society, social roles and social norms?

Harrison Butker kicks a football; he kicks a football very well.  Therefore, if he were to expound on things related to “kicking a football,” we should all pay attention and try to absorb what he says.  But kicking a football and expounding on the roles of women in society are orthogonal topics; there is no overlap.  So, can we all just agree to ignore what he said/says and move on to something else?

Jon Gruden suffered what could be a fatal blow in his lawsuit against the NFL; a three-judge panel in the Nevada State Supreme Court ruled 2-1 in favor of the NFL forcing the matter to go to arbitration run by the NFL.  Gruden has said he will appeal to the full State Supreme Court based on the fact that he “lost a split decision”; it is not clear that he will get such a hearing nor is it clear that he could get a majority opinion in his favor if he did get such a hearing.

As I have said here before, I don’t particularly care if Gruden wins or loses his lawsuit but I wanted it to be an open trial and not a secret proceeding because in the process we would get a lot of insight into the people and the proceedings of NFL coaches, owners and execs that was almost guaranteed to be embarrassing at best and salacious at worst.  I plead guilty to “voyeurism” of this specific form.

Moving on …  The NY Giants will be the featured team on HBO’s Hard Knocks this year with the first episode to air on July 2nd.   The Giants finished the 2023 regular season at 6-11 meaning that the producers and editors at HBO should have plenty of material to work with as the folks who run the team had plenty of work to do in the off season to prepare for the 2024 season.

Last year, Hard Knocks featured the NY Jets so there is a potential symmetry to be had with this cross-town participation scenario.  The Giants’ braintrust must be hoping that the Giants’ experience is better than the one the Jets faced in the season after “starring” on Hard Knocks.  Recall that the Jets saw QB Aaron Rodgers suffer an Achilles’ tendon tear on the first offensive series of the year, and he never saw the field again.

Next up …  I had some time to look over the NFL scheduling for the telecasts to be presented on holidays during 2024.  The Thanksgiving Day triple header will be:

  • Bears at Lions:  A division game which is usually a good game and an important one.  The Bears had a good off-season on paper so this might be a key match-up.
  • Giants at Cowboys:  Another division game
  • Dolphins at Packers:  The date for this game is right on the cusp of being a frostbite game in Green Bay – – and those games are always fun.

Then, on Christmas Day, the NFL will present a double-header:

  • Chiefs at Steelers:  It would take a lot of misfortune on the part of both teams here for this to be a meaningless game at that point of the season.
  • Ravens at Texans:  Both teams are projected to be very good in 2024 and both were playoff teams in 2023.

What makes the Christmas games more interesting is that they will be shown exclusively on Netflix.  Reports say that Netflix offered $300M for the rights to Christmas Games over the next three seasons; so, I can understand why the NFL would be interested in taking in that largesse.  At the same time, the NFL appears to be letting the NBA off the hook for Christmas Day viewership.  Recall last season when the NFL Christmas triple-header swamped the NBA’s five game marathon.  Well it is hard to imagine the Netflix audience being as large as the network audience last year meaning that lots of sports fans will turn to NBA watching in the absence of NFL games on a traditional network.  This is an interesting choice on the part of the NFL …

Finally, let me close today with these words from social critic, P. J. O’Rourke:

“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

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



Schedule Disruption …

I will definitely be off the air Monday May 20 and Tuesday May 21.

There is a possibility – – not quite a probability – – that I will find time to write on Wednesday May 22.  As of now, I would count that as another “dark day”.

Next Thursday, May 23, is a travel day so there will not be a rant then.

The plan is to be back on the air on Friday May 24.

See everyone then …



The NFL Schedule – First Impressions

With as much fanfare as the law allows, the full NFL schedule for the 2024 season is now available to more than the “insiders”; there are neither secrets nor mysteries.  [Aside:  I believe it was Henry Kissinger who said that the difference between a secret and a mystery is that somewhere, someone knew the truth behind a secret.]  In any event, I took time yesterday to look over the complete schedule and compiled some comments regarding things that jumped out at me.  Here is what I was looking for:

  • Stretches of games against teams that project to be very good or not-so-good.
  • Stretches of home games or road games
  • You get the idea …

For the purposes of this “schedule analysis” I do not worry about “revenge games” or “prodigal son returning home” games.  That is a finer-grained analysis.  So, here are some schedule observations based on a quick look at various team schedules.  I have listed them alphabetically so that no one tries to discern any sort of “hidden agenda” herein:

  • Bills:  The Bills have a 3-game road trip in the early part of the schedule and those are never easy things for teams to negotiate.  To make matters worse, those three games are against the Ravens, Texans and Jets.  Later in the season, the Bills have another 4-game stretch that should be no fun playing the Chiefs, Niners, Rams and Lions in succession.
  • Cards:  The Cards open up with a gauntlet of 8 games against 6 potentially very good teams – – Bills, Rams, Lions, Commanders, Niners, Packers, Dolphins, Chargers.  As the calendar turns to the first week in November, the Cards could be 2-6 – – or worse.
  • Chargers:  The tail end of the 2024 season looks to be pillow-soft with the final four games against the Bucs, Broncos, Pats and Raiders.  The Pats game is on the road likely in weather conditions unlike anything in LA and the final game is in Las Vegas.  Nonetheless, the Chargers might just be able to put together a 4-game win streak to end the season.
  • Colts:  In horse race handicapping terms, the Colts look like closers; they could be dominant starting around December 1 when the schedule has them playing the Pats, Broncos, Titans, Giants and Jags – – with a BYE Week thrown in there between the Pats game and the Broncos game.
  • Eagles:  The Eagles fell apart at the end of last season but this year they will finish the regular season with four of their last five games at home – – and the road game is against the Commanders – – not expected to be a great team in 2024.
  • Falcons:  Kirk Cousins and his new colleagues begin the season against the Steelers, Eagles and Chiefs before hitting a soft spot in the next month or so.  After a couple dicey games, the Falcons close out the season against potentially weak sisters such as Raiders, Giants, Commanders and Panthers.
  • Jets:  The Jets’ schedule looks relatively soft until Thanksgiving but then they close out 2024 with Dolphins, Jags, Rams, Bills, Dolphins in a five-game parade of teams that were good last year and project to be good this year.
  • Lions:  They have an early BYE Week this year in Week 5 and that is often earlier than ideal.  And once they return from that week off, they get to play the Cowboys, Vikes, Titans, Packers, Texans and Jags in the next 6 weeks.
  • Raiders:  Look out for the five-game stretch of game between October 13 and November 17.  The Raiders get to play the Steelers, Rams, Chiefs, Bengals and Dolphins in that time span.  The good scheduling news for Raiders’ fans is the end of the season, the Raiders are at home for three of their final four games and none of those final four opponents made the playoffs last season (Falcons, Saints, Jags, Chargers).
  • Ravens:  The Ravens’ early season schedule is challenging to say the least.  Their first five games are against the Chiefs, Raiders, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals.  So, you might suspect that the end-of-season would be soft – – but you would be wrong.  The final three opponents for the Ravens are the Steelers, Texans and Browns.
  • Seahawks:  From 22 September until 17 November, the Seahawks will face Dolphins, Lions, Giants, Niners (on a short week), Falcons, Bills, Rams, Niners (again).  Woof …!
  • Vikes:  In the month between November 17 and December 16, the Vikes have five very winnable games (Titans, Bears, Cards, Falcons, Bears again).  The bad news here is that the 9 games preceding this soft spot in the schedule are not going to be a walk in the park.

If I did not mention your favorite team here, please do not consider it a snub.  All that omission means is that when I looked at other teams’ schedules, I did not see things that jumped out at me.

And with the release of the full NFL schedule, fanboys all over the country can now commence their residence in fantastical worlds wherein their team goes undefeated in the regular season and then sweeps clean through the Super Bowl never having an opponent within a TD of their heroes.  It happens every year…

Finally, let me close today with this observation about schedules by humorist, Garrison Keeler:

“I’m not busy… a woman with three children under the age of 10 wouldn’t think my schedule looked so busy.

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



Coaches – – Past, Present And Future

The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay has hired Doug Gottlieb to be their new head basketball coach.  Gottlieb was an excellent point guard in college at Oklahoma St. but has no head coaching experience at this level of the game.  That is not what makes this story interesting; what makes it interesting is that Doug Gottlieb hosts a syndicated daily sports talk radio on show on FOX Sports Radio and he intends to continue that program in addition to doing the coaching job.

I have never hosted a sports radio program, nor have I ever tried to coach a Division 1 college basketball team; so, this observation is purely speculative:

  • Each one of those jobs seems like a full-time job to me.

Gottlieb is confident he can do both jobs at the same time, yet seemed to acknowledge that scheduling and focus could be a challenge:

“In terms of the mental gymnastics of doing it, I know I can do it.  I just have to prove I can do it.”

Coaching basketball is something Gottlieb has done outside the college ranks.  He was the head coach of two US teams that played in the Maccabiah Games and won the Gold Medals there.  It will be interesting to see how all of this works out.  Gottlieb is taking over a team that went 18-14 last year; so, he is not inheriting a program that needs a total tear-down/rebuild.

Switching gears but staying on the subject of basketball coaches …  The Lakers continue their search for a new head coach after the team let Darvin Ham go once the Lakers were eliminated from this year’s playoffs.  Whoever gets the job will be the seventh head coach of the Lakers since Phil Jackson left town in 2011; it is not a job that has offered a lot of longevity/stability lately.

The team brought in Mike Krzyzewski as a consultant to help with the search.  Obviously, Coach K brings plenty of basketball wisdom to the position but in the end the choice of the new coach in LA will hinge on the acquiescence – if not the specific approval – of LeBron James.  Moreover, James’ agreement with the coaching choice might hinge on the Lakers willingness and their ability to acquire the services of his son, Bronny James.

One of the rumored candidates for the Lakers’ job – – allegedly someone LeBron James might approve of – – is JJ Redick.  The fact that Redick played for Coach K at Duke has led to speculations/rumors that in turn have generated amazing contrivances in the minds of speculation specialists.  Redick had a long career in the NBA spanning 15 seasons and 6 teams but like Doug Gottlieb above, he has no head coaching experience at anything like the NBA level.  Then again, neither did Steve Kerr…

Moving on …  Yesterday, I recounted some of the accomplishments of Ted Williams as a young baseball player in the 1940s.  Around mid-day, I went to check my emails and saw one from the “reader in Houston”.  Those missives area always interesting and here is his addendum to my comments about Ted Williams yesterday:

“Baseball Reference in its bio section for deceased players lists where they are buried, such as Buried: Fallbrook Masonic Cemetery, Fallbrook CA for Duke Snider.

“For Ted, it says: Buried: Frozen.”

Count that as something new that you learned today; I have it chalked up for yesterday.

One last item for today …  Peyton Manning recently appeared on Pat McAfee’s show and revealed that Bill Belichick would be on every one of the ManningCasts next season.  Here is how Peyton dropped that news:

“I said, ‘Bill, we want you to come on. Look, we’d love to go behind the ropes on the defensive side as to kind of what the Eagles are going to have to do to stop Patrick Mahomes, right? And if you ever run out of things to say, just make fun of Eli, right? That’s always sort of a time-filler, and Bill doesn’t like Eli.  We all know that – two Super Bowls – so it’s just a match made in heaven.”

I think this is good news for fans who tune into the alternate broadcasts of MNF games.  Notwithstanding his reputation as a monosyllabic interviewee, Bill Belichick is smart and he can be funny; in addition, he is a defensive minded observer of the game who can complement the commentary of the two main characters who were both QBs and see the game from the offensive side of the game.

In addition to appearing on those ManningCasts, Belichick is slated to do a weekly appearance on Pat McAfee’s program.  I will probably miss those appearances and his commentary there because I have basically already tired of McAfee and his histrionics.

Finally, since today has involved comments about coaches past, present and future, let me close with a couple of observations by coaches:

“Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes before you get fired.”  [Lou Holtz]

And …

“Really, coaching is simplicity. It’s getting players to play better than they think that they can.”  [Tom Landry]

And …

“When I have the urge to get back to coaching, I lie down and wait until it passes.”  [Hank Stram]

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



Youthful Impact

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that the NBA needed to find a new “face of the league” because the old guard of Lebron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were indeed getting old.  At least for the moment, the face of professional basketball in the US is in the WNBA and not the NBA; her name is Caitlin Clark.  She is the player who is most easily recognized in a crowd – – say at an airport – – and she is creating demand for her games.

Clark made her debut in a real WNBA game last night against the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, CT, a village within the town of Montville, CT.  It is home to the Mohegan Sun casino and the WNBA team, and it sits about 90 miles from Boston and about 120 miles from NYC.  The Connecticut Sun play their home games in a 9000-seat arena and for last night’s opening game against Caitlin Clark and her Indiana Fever teammates:

  • The arena was sold out – – AND – –
  • Tickets on the secondary market were going for $700 apiece.
  • That was the Connecticut Sun’s first sellout in 20 years.

About a week ago, Clark and the Fever played their first WNBA Exhibition Game in Dallas against the Dallas Wings.  That Exhibition Game was also a sellout.  Tomorrow night, the Fever will play their first home game of the year and Clark’s inaugural game for the franchise.  The Fever’s home arena seats 18,000 fans; of course, it is sold out.  Moreover, if you want to get a seat on the secondary market, here are some options:

  • Courtside at floor level = $2,379
  • Lower-level side court Row 2 = $609
  • Nosebleed seats = $99 to $129

Folks, this is for a regular season WNBA game and the only reason this game has drawn this level of attention is Caitlin Clark.  For the moment, she is the face of basketball in the US of A.

Years ago, Nike did an ad with Mark McGwire, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.  An attractive young woman pays no attention to the pitchers with McGwire on the scene blasting out batting practice moon shots leading to the observation that.

“Chicks dig the long ball.”

Well, Caitlin Clark also “digs the long ball” so to speak as she scores with 25–30-foot jump shots.  I would not be surprised if Nike came up with a reprise of that line incorporating Caitlin Clark in the ad.  Or perhaps a theme like:

  • Chicks dig the long ball – – Caitlin Clark sinks the long ball.

Moving on, but staying with basketball …  The Oklahoma City Thunder are the second youngest team in the NBA and they are demanding attention in the playoffs despite their youthful status.  The Thunder dispatched the Pelicans with a 4-0 sweep in Round 1 and are now tied 2-2 in the second round with the Dallas Mavericks. Their “Big 3” are all under 26 years old so it is reasonable to project that they still have room to grow their games, and they are starting from a good statistical place.  In the 2023/2024regular season:

  • The Thunder led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage.
  • The Thunder led the NBA in turnovers forced on defense.
  • The Thunder led the NBA in shots blocked.
  • The Thunder finished second in point differential.
  • The Thunder finished tied for second in points allowed.

The only team younger than the Thunder is the Spurs.  The Thunder won 57 games last season and the Spurs won 22.

Switching gears …  The youthfulness of the Thunder reminded me of another “youngster” who burst onto the scene in a different sport.  I have said here before that the best hitter in baseball that I saw personally was Ted Williams and I recall that he made an instant impression on MLB upon his arrival.

Williams’ first season with the Red Sox was in 1939.  In his rookie season, he batted .327 and posted an OPS of 1.045 at the age of 20.  He led the league in total bases (344) and in RBIs (145).

In his second season, Williams batted .344 and posted an OPS of 1.036.  He led the league in runs scored (134) and in on-base percentage (.442).

His third season was 1941.  All he did that year was to hit .406 with an OPS of 1.287.  Those stats were not all singles; Williams led MLB that year in homeruns (37).

His fourth season, he hit “only” .356 and led MLB in runs scored (141), homeruns (36) and RBIs (137).

Then came three years in the military during World War II but upon his return to baseball in 1946, he won the MVP award and led the major leagues in OPS once again at 1.164.

In 1947 at the ripe old age of 28, all he did was to win the Triple Crown in the AL.

Ted Williams played until he was 41 years old in 1960.  He still holds the all-time career record for on-base percentage at .482.  In a total of 9,792 plate appearances, he reached base almost half the time.

Finally, much of today has been about young sports stars and their accomplishments; so, I will close with this note from Quentin Crisp about youth itself.”

“The young always have the same problem-how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.”

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



The NFL In The News

The NFL has mastered the art of headline grabbing.  Once the Draft has happened and the “grades” for every team have been assigned and analyzed, there is little if any “NFL news” to be had until minicamps in June.

“Not so fast, my friend!”  [Hat Tip:  Lee Corso.]

The NFL schedule for the 2024 regular season has probably been known to the NFL execs for weeks now, but the league uses the release of that schedule as a headline grabber in mid-May.  Not only do they release the schedule with fanfare; they do it in dribs and drabs to get the league in the news and in the headlines on multiple days.

  1. All the way back in February, we learned that the league would play its first game in South America (Sao Paulo, Brazil) on the Friday of opening weekend.
  2. Days after that, we found out the Eagles would play in that game – – but the opponent was “TBD” at the time.
  3. Later, the league announced that the Packers would be the Eagles’ opponent in that game.
  4. Last week, there was some “mystery”/”confusion” about when the full schedule would be released – – as if there were still some loose ends still in need of closure.
  5. That “mystery” was unwound when insiders learned that the schedule will be released this week.
  6. Within the last week, news “leaked” that the Super Bowl Champions (Chiefs) would open their season at home against the Ravens in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
  7. Yesterday, we learned that in the opening weekend, the Cowboys would go to Cleveland to play the Browns and that game would be Tom Brady’s first game on FOX as a color analyst for an NFL game.

There are seven headline manipulations by the NFL derived from something that is rather mundane – – the release of next season’s schedule – – and still the full schedule has not been “revealed” – – and will not be until later this week when it will grab headlines once again.  Indeed, the league has mastered the art or headline grabbing…

Next up …  The NFL has also been quietly paring down the NFL Network.  The daily opening show, Good Morning Football has been “on hiatus” for a couple of months now – – ostensibly to accommodate a change in the venue of the studio from which the show will originate.  The schedule for its return has been this week to coincide with the release of the 2024 schedule and there has been no announcement that those plans have changed.  Upon its return, the show will also be syndicated to run on FOX-owned local channels so the program will be getting expanded exposure once it comes back.

All is not so good news for NFLN, however.  Its later daily program, Total Access, has been scrapped and its final show will be this Friday.  Michael Irvin was one of the analysts who appeared on Total Access and other NFLN programming, but he has been let go by the network recently.  About a month ago, the network dropped a whole bunch of on-air folks along with production and promotion people.  The network is clearly in a state of flux; if the intent of all the personnel changes and schedule shuffling is to cut back on the network costs, I wonder if the exclusive NFLN coverage of all 65 Exhibition Games will continue.  Yes, those games provide lots of filler for airtime in August; but the cost of creating that content is significant.  There is more to come here …

Moving on …  The Detroit Lions had been a sorry-assed franchise for about 3 decades but have returned to relevance under Dan Campbell since he took over the team in 2021.  Last year, the Lions made it to the NFC Championship Game and only lost to the Niners by a field goal.  In winning two playoff games to make it to that NFC Championship Game, the Lions earned their first playoff victories since 1991.  That success obviously energized the Lions’ fanbase and the results carried over to this off-season.

  • The Lions have sold out their inventory of season tickets as of last week.
  • The team set aside some seats to be sold as “single game” tickets which will be offered for sale once the full NFL schedule is released later this week.
  • The Lions raised ticket prices by an average of 30% for this season – – and still the season ticket inventory sold out or was renewed in only a couple of months.

It has been a long time since there was anything near this level of enthusiasm around the league relative to the Lions.  In fact, during the interim between the Lions playoff win in 1991 and last season, the team had worked its way through twelve head coaches.  Dan Campbell is clearly not on any sort of “hot seat” in Detroit and the team just signed QB, Jared Goff to a 4-year contract potentially worth up to $212M with $100M guaranteed at signing.  Indeed, things are looking up in Detroit…

Finally, since I mentioned headline grabbing above, let me close with one of my favorite all-time headlines; it was so outrageous that I actually thought about clicking to see what the story was about:

“Transgender woman loses bid to sue ex for throwing out her surgically removed testicles.”

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



Three Unrelated Items Today …

Today will be a game of hopscotch around the sports world …

Ippei Mizuhara will plead guilty to “fraud charges” as a result of him transferring about $15M out of Shohei Ohani’s account(s) to a bookie to settle gambling losses incurred by Mizuhara.  I am sure that the Dodgers’ brass and the MLB execs hope this is the final chapter in this mess and that there is not another cinder block ready to drop on the scene.  And even though I am not a conspiracy theorist, this story just does not hold together in my mind.  For me to believe that Mizuhara’s action was totally on his own, I also must believe:

  1. Over about a three-year period, Ohtani never noticed the missing funds from his account(s).
  2. Ohtani’s agent never noticed that his client’s account(s) were short a sizeable amount of money.
  3. Ohtani’s financial advisors – – and his tax preparers too – – never saw any shortage(s).
  4. The bank handling Ohtani’s money on deposit was allegedly duped by Mizuhara more than a dozen times as he pretended to be Ohtani thereby gaining access to the account’s funds.

Of course, those four things may indeed have happened – – but the fact that Ohtani has not fired his agent and his financial people seems to indicate that he does not believe they were asleep at the switch there.  Moreover, I bet that the bank involved here will not use any of those duping incidents in their advertising for new accounts.

In this morning’s Washington Post, there is a report by Gus Garcia-Roberts linking the alleged bookie who was on the receiving end of Ohtani’s money – – allegedly again sent by Mizuhara alone and undetected – – and the bookie’s involvement with some Las Vegas casinos that might be just a tad “shady”.  Here is a link to that report.

Color me skeptical here…

Next up …  The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are pulling up stakes and moving to Salt Lake City.  The Coyotes have been problematic for the NHL almost since their “birth” in 1996 when the Winnipeg Jets moved southwest.  In 2009, the NHL had to take over the franchise because it had not gained a strong foothold in the Phoenix area; the team’s owner at the time declared bankruptcy and turned the team over to the league; things were bleak.

A Canadian billionaire sought to buy the team out of bankruptcy, but the NHL blocked the sale because he was going to move the team to “southern Ontario” which was a euphemism for Hamilton, Ontario and the longstanding franchise in Toronto did not appreciate that idea even slightly.  That kept the team in Arizona and the simple fact of the matter is that Arizona is not a hotbed of hockey for simple climatological considerations.

The team has been trying to get a new arena – – primarily at public expense – – for years now and every time there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel of those negotiations, that light turns out to be a gorilla with a flashlight.  And so, the NHL has now decided to let the Coyotes be reorganized as a team in Salt Lake City, Utah and a naming process is underway.  [Aside:  Of the names reportedly under consideration, my preference would be the “Utah Yeti” due to its alliterative nature.  But no one involved with the NHL has or will ask my opinion.]

On one hand, the NHL has finally recognized after more than 25 years that the Phoenix/Tempe AZ area is not “Hockeytown USA”.  On the other hand, they have approved the movement of the team to another region in the country that does not appear to have any “hockey history”.  Well, at least there are winter sports and winter sports enthusiasts in Salt Lake City…

Last item for today …  A week ago, I pointed out that four of the five QBs taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft are no longer with the team that took them originally and that none of the four returned anything of significant value to the teams that traded them away.  I have said before that scouting for prospects in pro sports is a difficult undertaking and that drafting and scouting are nowhere near a science.  Perhaps it is an “art”; certainly, it is a “crapshoot”.  And here are two other data points that indicates the lack of scientific predictability for drafting:

  1. In that same 2021 NFL Draft, 32 players were taken in the first round of the Draft.  Only 18 of those 32 first round draftees had their fifth-year contract options exercised by the teams that took them originally.   Only 56% of the first-round picks were deemed to be worth “keeping around” for a fifth year on the team.
  2. By the way, these data are not “cherry-picked”.  In the 2020 NFL Draft, only 12 of the 32 first round picks (37.5%) had their fifth-years options exercised by the team that took them originally.

Finally, since I declared myself “skeptical” above, let me close with this cautionary observation about skepticism by George Santayana:

“Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.”

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