Rest In Peace, Don Imus…

Dom Imus died last weekend.  His was a complicated existence.  He was a shock-jock; he was a humanitarian; some say he was a racist and a misogynist; some say his charity work proves he was no such thing.  Here is something that should not be in question.  For more than a decade in the nineties and the aughts, Imus in the Morning was the most influential program on the radio.  Don Imus was a great interviewer and he got great guests from then-candidate Bill Clinton to David Brinkley to Snoop Dogg to about a dozen US Senators.

Rest in peace, Don Imus…

Dan Daly – formerly with the Washington Times – had this Tweet over the weekend regarding the Skins and their search for a new head coach:

“Dan Snyder’s pitch to prospective coaches has always been the same: ‘Come to the #Redskins. Make a lot of money. Wish you were never born.’”

That sums up the life cycle of Skins’ coaches since Danny Boy Snyder bought the team 20 years ago.  The atmospherics of the job are so bad that one of the coaches left a lot of money on the table and called in his resignation from the golf course – – or so the story goes.

Kevin Blackistone argued in the Washington Post last week that Curt Flood should be in the baseball Hall of Fame.  Just as I have believed for about 30 years that Marvin Miller belonged in the Hall of Fame – and will be inducted posthumously – Curt Flood also belongs there as a contributor to the game.  He belongs in the same category as team owners and former Commissioners and the like; he does not belong there as a player.  However, he deserves a place in juxtaposition with Marvin Miller; those two men changed MLB significantly – and for the better.

With 2019 seeing its days dwindling down to a precious few [Hat Tip to Frank Sinatra] I tried to come up with the sports figure who did the most honorable thing in 2019 and the sports figure who did the most dishonorable thing in 2019.  I got it down to two people in each category and could not “break the tie” in either case.  So, let me hand out some “dual awards” here.

For the two men on the most honorable list, let me give them a White Hat Award recalling the old western movies where the good guys always wore a white hat:

  • Tony Bennett:  No, not the crooner.  I mean Tony Bennett the head basketball coach at UVa.  After the Cavaliers won the NCAA basketball tournament last April, UVa offered Bennett a “significant raise” which would seem to be appropriate to the circumstances.  Bennett turned down that raise and said he preferred that the money that would have been added to his exchequer instead go to giving raises to his assistant coaches and to university projects seeking to upgrade facilities for the student body at large.  I think he should be fitted for a White Hat.
  • LeBron James:  This award has nothing to do with any on-court achievements.  LeBron James founded the I Promise Charter School in Akron, OH.  Kids enrolled in the school receive free tuition, free meals, free transportation to and from school and free school uniforms.  In addition, James has guaranteed every graduate of the school free tuition at the University of Akron.  The school opened in 2018 and James expanded the number of students enrolled in 2019.  I think he should be fitted for a White Hat.

For the two men on the least honorable list, let me give them a Black Hat Award as a parallel because in the old-time western movies, the bad guys always wore a black hat.  [Aside:  I sometimes wear a black cowboy hat; the reason for that is simple.  If I were to wear a white hat, it would be false advertising…]

  • Antonio Brown:  Forget about all the diva behavior; lots of very talented WRs have exhibited similar behaviors but stopped short of two things that Brown was involved in during 2019.  First of all, he was charged with sexual assault of a woman who was a trainer he worked with; and second, he got himself released by the Oakland Raiders after threatening to punch out GM, Mike Mayock.  Arriving to training camp in a hot air balloon or showboating on the field after a TD is harmless silliness; charges of sexual assault and threatening to punch out a team official are in a different dimension.  I think he should be fitted for a Black Hat.
  • Myles Garrett:  Many people who cover the NFL have reported that he is a mild-mannered and intelligent person who is thoughtful and self-aware.  I have no reason to dispute those reports.  However, he is also someone who – amid a scuffle on the field – ripped the helmet off Mason Rudolph and used it as a bludgeon to hit Rudolph on the head.  That single act goes way over the line of civility.  I think he should be fitted for a Black Hat.

Finally, here is an interesting observation from Bob Molinaro if the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Idle thought: The increasing popularity of the college transfer portal — three of this year’s four Heisman Trophy finalists were transfers — takes a little of the air out of National Signing Day.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 12/27/19

If you remember the old TV series, Dragnet, the opening scene always ended with Jack Webb intoning:

  • “My name’s Friday.  I’m a cop.”

Surely, Curmudgeon Central is not on TV – and never will be – but maybe there is a parallel way to introduce today’s rant:

  • “Today is Friday.  It’s time for Football Friday.

Last week, the Six-Pack had only 4 elements, but the results were a comfortable 3-1-0.  Here is the status of the Six-Pack since September:

  • Overall:  38-27-3
  • College:  19-7-1
  • NFL:  19-20-2

 

College Football Commentary:

 

Two young assistant coaches of football heritage got jobs as offensive coordinators recently:

  1. Kendal Briles – – son of Art Briles – – will be the offensive coordinator at Arkansas
  2. Charlie Weis, Jr. – – son of Charlie Weis don’t you know – – will be the offensive coordinator at USF.

Sons of coaches have been successful in their own right more than a few times.  Consider:

  • Bill Belichick
  • Jim and John Harbaugh
  • Brian Schottenheimer
  • Kyle Shanahan

However, success is not a guarantee.  Consider:

  • Terry and Tommy Bowden
  • Rex Ryan
  • Mike and David Shula

As they say in the car commercials, “Your mileage may vary…”

 

College Games of Interest This Week:

 

Oklahoma St vs Texas A&M – 5.5 (54.5):  It is sort of a “regional rivalry” …

Iowa – 2.5 vs USC (52.5):  I thought this might be a Rose Bowl matchup from long ago when that was the Pac 8 or 10 or 12 versus the Big 10.  Alas, that never happened…

Washington St vs Air Force – 2.5 (68):  Here you have the Air Raid offense against the Air Force itself…

Oklahoma vs LSU – 13.5 (75.5):  LSU scores 47.8 points per game and Oklahoma scores 43.2.  LSU’s scoring defense is pretty good allowing only 21.2 points per game; Oklahoma allows 24.5 points per game.  I think this will be a game where points appear in abundance.  I’ll put this game in this week’s Six-Pack to go OVER.

Clemson – 2 vs Ohio State (63):  This is the game I really want to see but we have a social engagement that evening.  Once again let me pay homage to the person who invented the DVR…

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Last week, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

On the upswing: I don’t know if Buffalo’s Sean McDermott should beat out John Harbaugh or Mike Tomlin as NFL Coach of the Year, but for getting the previously moribund Bills into the playoffs twice in his first three seasons, he deserves some sort of award.”

I agree that Sean McDermott has done a good job since his arrival in Buffalo and he should get some voting recognition for it.  I would add one more name to this list conditioned on how this week’s games turn out.

  • If the Eagles win this week and make the playoffs given the number of starting players who will not be in uniform for this game – and who have not been in uniform for so many games this year – Doug Pederson deserves at least a tip of the hat.

There are two ways the Eagles can make the playoffs this week:

  • Win and you’re in.
  • Lose to the Giants and Cowboys lose to the Skins.

The Eagles find themselves with this opportunity thanks to a 17-9 win over the Cowboys last week in Philly.  That game in the perspective of game results for the rest of this season demonstrates why stats must be viewed in context.  Consider:

  • The Cowboys have the most prolific offense in the NFL in terms of yardage.  They gain 425.8 yards per game; the Ravens are second at 414.5 yards per game; only the Cowboys, Ravens and Bucs average more than 400 yards per game.
  • The Cowboys rank 8th in the NFL in scoring points at 25.8 points per game.  By comparison, the Ravens score 33.8 points per game and the Bucs score 29.1 points per game.
  • Three times this season, the Cowboys’ defense has held an opponent to 17 points or less – – and lost those three games despite having the most prolific offense in the NFL.

I ran across this tidbit earlier this week.  The Cowboys have trailed at halftime in 7 games this year – – and they lost all 7 of them.  Naturally, I have no idea if that is merely a coincidence or if it speaks to a fundamental problem with the team or the coaches; but for a team that had the playoffs as a minimal expectation in August and a team with the most prolific offense in the league, that seems strange to me.

There were some Highlights from last week’s action in the NFL:

  • The Jets’ defense led the way to a 16-10 win over the Steelers with 4 sacks and 2 INTs.
  • Saquon Barkley accounted for 279 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs for the Giants against the Skins’ “defense”.
  • The Chiefs’ defense held the Bears to 3 points – – and that is the second consecutive game where the Chiefs’ defense has only allowed 3 points.  Impressive.
  • Saints’ WR Michael Thomas broke the single season record for receptions – – held previously by Marvin Harrison – – and he still has another game to play.  Thomas has caught 145 balls in 15 games this year.
  • ZaDarius Smith had 3.5 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss in a dominant win by the Packers over the Vikes.

There were some Lowlights from last week’s action in the NFL:

  • The Jags gave up 518 yards of offense to the Falcons losing 24-12.
  • The Steelers’ run attack was anemic at best in their costly loss to the Jets.  Their leading rusher was James Connor who gained all of 32 yards in the game.
  • The Dolphins‘ defense allowed the Bengals – – the BENGALS – – to come back from a 28-6 deficit to force OT.  The fact that the Dolphins eventually won the game does not erase that lowlight.
  • The Panthers were stomped by the Colts 38-6.  Clearly, the Panthers’ on-field problems in 2019 are the fault of since-fired coach Ron Rivera…
  • The Chargers’ rushing attack totaled 19 yards against the Raiders.
  • The Skins’ defense gave up 552 yards of offense to the Giants – – the GIANTS.
  • The Lions’ total offense was 191 yards in their loss to the Broncos.
  • The Cowboys just stunk out the joint losing to the Eagles.  Offensive play calling was mysterious; receivers dropped passes; Dak Prescott missed open receivers; the defense was porous.  All in all, they lost as a team.
  • The Seahawks lost their top 2 RBs in their loss to the Cards – – Chris Carson and CJ Prosise.  That does not bode well for playoff-bound Seahawks unless Marshawn Lynch can indeed reprise his “Beast Mode” performance(s).
  • In the final drive of the game that produced the game winning score, the Rams defense gave up two 3rd down conversions one of which was a 3rd and 16 situation.

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

The league has structured the schedule for this week to avoid having teams play late in the day already knowing their playoff status based on the results of an early game.  I will indicate here which games are early afternoon starts and which are late afternoon starts.  There is a Sunday Nite game but no Monday Nite game this week.

Several Week 17 games are like minor bowl games in college football; it matters a lot if one of the teams shows up more interested in playing the game than the other team.

(Late afternoon) Tennessee – 3.5 at Houston (45.5):  The spread opened the week with the Texans favored by 1 point.  The deal with this game goes like this:

  • If the Titans win, they are in the playoffs with the #6 seed.
  • If the Texans win, they could advance from the #4 seed to the #3 seed.

I would guess that means that the game means more to the Titans than it does to the Texans.

(Early afternoon) Cleveland – 2.5 at Cincy (43.5):  Didn’t we just have this match-up 3 days ago?  [Actually, it was 3 weeks ago, but who’s counting…]  The so-called “Battle of Ohio” is no more interesting now than it was then.  The Bengals are already on the clock for the #1 pick in the NFL Draft next April and this could be Andy Dalton’s final game as a Bengal.  I am not sure if I should feel sad for him on that note or if he will be rejoicing at his liberation…

(Early afternoon) Chicago at Minnesota – 1 (37):  The Vikes’ loss to the Packers last week took real significance out of this game.  The Vikes are locked into the #6 seed in the NFC; the Bears are booking Caribbean cruises with their families.

(Late afternoon) Indy – 4 at Jax (42.5): Ho hum…  This game means nothing to either team and even less to me.

(Early afternoon) Atlanta at Tampa Bay – 1 (47.5):  Both teams have played much better in the second portion of the season.  The Falcons are 5-2 since the first week of November after starting the season 1-7.  The Bucs are 5-2 since November 10 after starting the season 2-6.  I think this game will have fireworks galore, so I’ll put this game in this week’s Six-Pack to go OVER.

(Late afternoon) Washington at Dallas – 10.5 (45.5):  The spread here opened the week at 14 points and has dropped steadily to this level all week.  That means there is a preponderance of “Skins’ money” coming in for reasons I do not understand. Local sports radio would have you believe that the Skins players would love to win this game simply to assure that the Cowboys do not make the playoffs.  If that were true, it would be the first showing of “emotional purpose” by the Skins all season.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, there is a reason to hope the Skins win this game outright:

  • If the Cowboys lose this game at home, will there be steam coming out of both of Jerry Jones’ ears during his post-game media commentary – – or just one ear?

(Early afternoon) New Orleans – 13 at Carolina (46):  The Saints have been assured of a playoff slot for a month now.  They can still earn themselves a BYE Week like this:

  • Beat Carolina AND EITHER a Packers loss to the Lions or a Niners loss to the Seahawks.

The Panthers are simply a mess – – and may be looking at remaining a mess for a while here given their “QB issues”.  Will Grier was mightily unimpressive in his first start last week; Kyle Allen looks as if he was a flash in the pan; Cam Newton’s shoulder and leg injuries are most worrisome.

(Late afternoon) Philly – 4 at Giants (44.5):  This is a big game for the Eagles; they make the playoffs with a win.

(Late afternoon) Pittsburgh – 2.5 at Baltimore (37):  The spread here opened with the Ravens as a 2.5-point favorite and with the Total Line at 40.5.  There has been a lot of movement here.  The game means nothing to the Ravens; they will rest Lamar Jackson and play RG3.  This game means everything to the Steelers who make the playoffs with a win and a Titans’ loss to the Texans.  However, they will have to play Duck Devlin at QB because the only other healthy QB on the roster is Paxton Lynch.   Yowza!

(Early afternoon) Jets at Buffalo – 1.5 (36.5):  This spread opened the week at 5.5 points.  The Bills will be the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs no matter what happens in the games on Sunday.  The Jets have played much better since the start of November posting a record of 5-2 in their last 7 games.  This will be a low scoring game.  Maybe the first team to 20 points is the winner?

(Early afternoon) Miami at New England – 16 (45):  The Pats cannot get home field advantage throughout the playoffs this year; that belongs to the Ravens.  However, the Pats can earn the #2 slot in the playoffs this year and that means a BYE Week for them.  The Dolphins have gone 4-4 in their last 8 games after coming out of the gate 0-7 this year.  The Dolphins have 3 first-round picks in next year’s NFL Draft; that bodes well for the team down the road – – but not here.  That line does look fat to me, so I’ll put the Dolphins plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

(Early afternoon) Green Bay – 12.5 at Detroit (43.5):  The Packers are peaking at the right time of the year; the defense is much better this year than in the recent past.  The Lions are a mess – – even on defense which is Matt Patricia’s specialty.  The Packers can make it to the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs meaning teams would have to come to Lambeau Field to play with:

  • A win here AND a Niners’ loss to the Seahawks.

(Early afternoon) Chargers at KC – 9 (45.5):  This spread opened at 7 points and the Total Line opened at 48 points; plenty of line movement here.  The Chiefs are playing for playoff seeding; the Chargers are playing because it would cost them a game check if they did not show up. Like the Packers, the Chiefs seem to be peaking at the right time and the Chiefs’ defense has been outstanding the last 2 weeks allowing a total of 6 points in 2 games.  The Chargers have been in an abyss for most of 2019.  I’ll put the Chiefs in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.

(Late afternoon) Arizona at Rams – 7.5 (49):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week – although the Browns/Bengals game was a close second in the voting.  The Cards have won 2 in a row; the Rams have lost 2 in a row and both losses were bad ones.  I would not be surprised to see the Rams “go through the motions“ here given that they started the season with Super Bowl aspirations and are out of the playoffs entirely with this game left on the schedule.  Meanwhile the Cards’ starting QB, Kyler Murray, has a “tweaked hamstring” and may not play.

(Late afternoon) Oakland at Denver – 3 (41):  This line is shocking.  The Raiders can still sneak into the playoffs if a whole bunch of things happen this week – – but the first and foremost of those things is for the Raiders to win this game.  The Broncos are mediocre at best and have been “playoff irrelevant” since back in October.  And yet, the Broncos are favored in the game…

(Sun Nite) SF – 3 at Seattle (47):  This is the Game of the Week.  This game will determine the NFC West champion and has seeding implications for both of these teams and potentially for some others.  To say that the Seahawks’ situation at running back is ‘in turmoil” would be an understatement.  However, they do have Russell Wilson playing at home and you should never minimize that.  It will be interesting to see if “Beast Mode” has anything left in the tank.

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack – once again with only 4 entries:

  • LSU/Oklahoma OVER 75.5
  • Falcons/Bucs OVER 47.5
  • Dolphins + 16 against Pats
  • Chiefs – 9 vs Chargers

Finally, with the closing of the NFL’s 2019 regular season, there will be no more NFL football in Oakland, CA.  So, let me close with a description of Oakland by Herb Caen, a San Francisco journalist:

“The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, it’s there.”

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

 

 

The NBA On TV…

The NBA took over sports TV for Christmas Day with 5 hand-picked games.  I have not seen anything about the ratings for those games but the folks in the executive suites at the NBA – and at the TV networks too – could stand some good news on that front.  The fact is that for this season, which is more than one-third over, TV ratings are down sharply.

  • NBA ratings on ESPN are down 17%
  • NBA ratings on TNT are down 8%
  • More than a few nationally televised games drew fewer than 1 million viewers.

Several years ago, the NFL went through a ratings slump which prompted some folks to conclude that the NFL had peaked and that it was going into a long-range decline.  I thought that was foolish then; ergo, I am not here to lay down a marker that the NBA is on the brink of its demise.  That’s nonsense.  The NBA and its TV “partners” have some soul searching to do and may need to make some changes.  Having said that, the two most prominent ideas out there representing “change” do not address what I believe is the NBA’s fundamental issue with regard to television:

  • There are too many NBA regular season games.  Far too many pits one team against another where the outcome has no real significance to either team or to the league.  In many games, the body language – and the effort – of the players on the court demonstrates that the players recognize that lack of significance.

Unfortunately for the NBA, coaches and players are the ones that took that issue, made it prominent and even gave it a name – – Load Management.  The current environment is that players who make up to six-figures per game cannot be expected to play in all 82 of them.  The fans’ reaction seems to be that they cannot be expected to watch anywhere near all 82 of them.

The two prominent ideas out there to spark more interest in regular season NBA games miss the mark:

  1. We do not need a meaningless single elimination tournament in mid-season.
  2. We do not need to expand the playoffs to add a pair of “play-in games” to both Conferences.

The problem is that the league does not want to admit that there are simply too many games and they need to cut it back.  I have always believed that the NFL became the TV monster that it is based on two things:

  1. Betting on the games that one can watch.
  2. The schedule makes each game day an event – – not merely an occurrence.

Moving on …  Andrew Brandt is a former player agent and a former team executive with the Green Bay Packers.  He is now a television voice of reason regarding the business of sports in general and the NFL more specifically.  He posted this Tweet recently:

“Biggest FA contracts in 2019: Nick Foles (benched); Landon Collins and Trey Flowers (playing for cellar dwellers).”

That led me to check out the deals those guys signed last year:

  • Nick Foles got 4 years and $88M with $45M guaranteed.  In 2019, Foles has played about 3.5 games – due to injury – and his stats are mediocre at best.  Indeed, the Jags have lost every game that he has started, and he will not start the final game of the season this weekend.  The Jags’ record so far is 5-10.
  • Landon Collins got 6 years and $84M with $44.5M guaranteed.  He was supposed to provide leadership to the Skins’ secondary.  So far, the Skins rank in the bottom third of the league defensively and Collins has zero INTs, four passes defended and one sack in 15 games.  The Skins’ record so far is 3-12.
  • Trey Flowers got 5 years and $90M with $56M guaranteed.  His production for 2019 is 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 8 tackles for a loss in 15 games which is pretty much in line with his yearly stats over his entire career.  The Lions’ record so far is 3-11-1.

When NFL free agency becomes a sports world focal point in a couple of months, try to keep in mind some of the details outlined above.  A big-bucks free agent signing in March does not necessarily produce team success in December…

Last week, CBSSports.com had this headline and sub-head on the website:

“Person found dead inside porta-potty at M&T Bank Stadium”

“It’s the second port-a-potty related death at M&T Bank Stadium this year”

Details and cause of death were not available for the report, but there are some dots that may be connected.  The Ravens previous game was a Thursday night game; police were called to one of the parking areas near M&T Bank Stadium at 2:00 PM on Sunday where they discovered the body.  It is possible that the body was there for the better part of 3 days.  If you think that this is “sort of bizarre” and that this must be the worst way one might die, here is what happened in the other port-a-potty incident at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this year.  I will simply quote from the recent report:

“Earlier this year, a man died after being engulfed in flames while inside a burning porta-potty at M&T Bank Stadium. After catching fire, the man ran from the toilet and attempted to combat the flames in the parking lot, where he died before medical personnel arrived. Three portable toilets caught on fire during that incident and the cause was unclear, though it wasn’t believed to be related to a crime.”

Clearly the City of Baltimore needs to name a Blue-Ribbon Commission to study the issue of port-a-potty safety and spontaneous combustion.  Citizens’ lives are at risk …

Finally, here is an entry in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Drunk:  Intoxicated with alcoholic beverages.  An absolutely crucial component in the decision to photocopy one’s ass cheeks.”

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

 

 

Refreshing Candor …

All to often, press interviews with people in sports – and in politics to be sure – devolve into clichés and polite-speak.  I know that I prefer candid and honest answers to questions as opposed to the pabulum that normally emanates from the focal point of a “presser” and it is in that context that I want to offer nothing but praise for XFL Commissioner, Oliver Luck.  After the XFL held its draft, folks noticed that neither Johnny Manziel nor Trent Richardson had been drafted by any of the 8 teams in the league.  Someone asked Luck about that and here is what he had to say:

“I would argue that the players we have are better than those guys, to be honest with you.  Johnny has his own history and we have coaches from the CFL who have seen him close-up.  I watched Trent when he was with the Colts, and I watched him when he was with the AAF.  He was in the draft pool.  Coaches and scouts looked at him and didn’t think he was going to help their team.  I think the guys we have on our teams are the best 560 that aren’t playing in the National Football League.”

Just in case anyone needs me to point it out, that is candor on display.

A couple of months ago, Sports Illustrated was sold; it is no longer part of the Time Magazine family.  That family of magazines was sold in 2018 and SI just did not fit with the sort of publications offered by the new owners.  So, SI was sold separately to a company whose main business is to license rights to celebrities.  That was nowhere near a good fit and that led to the sale to the current owners.  The new ownership is a company called Maven about which I knew nothing at the time of the sale and still no next to nothing about.  However, here is what I know from various published reports:

  • Four other publications produced by Maven are Ski Magazine, History, Maxim and Yoga Journal[It is not clear to me how Sports Illustrated fits in there.]
  • As the deal closed, Maven laid off about one-third of the Sports Illustrated staff.
  • The intent of the new owners was to cover sports nationally with an “army of credentialed journalists” – evidently the majority of them working part-time.

The Maven view here is that Sports Illustrated as it has existed from its birth in the 1950s and 60s misses out on what sports fans want from a sports publication – – the latest breaking news on the teams they love.  On that point, the Maven vision is correct; Sports Illustrated never did that kind of journalism and a weekly or bi-weekly magazine can never hope to do that.  It seems to me that the Maven vision for SI is seen as an either/or proposition:

  • Either it does “latest breaking news” or it does “long-form and analytical essays”.

I agree that it would be difficult satisfy both of those objectives in the same publication but there is value in being different and occupying a space where there are fewer competitors.  There are multiple online sources of “latest breaking news” each of them seeking to beat the other guys to the punch by an hour here or 20 minutes there and the tone of many such sites is not unlike a herd of braying donkeys.

The Sports Illustrated that I recall from my youth – to which I subscribed for about 30 years – offered me things that my daily newspaper did not.  That made it special; that turned it into an iconic brand.  If you check out SI.com online, the entries there are not “latest breaking news” sorts of things, and it is online where that kind of journalism must reside if it is going to survive.  I do not understand what Maven has in mind for Sports Illustrated but I doubt that the latest incarnation of the magazine will bear much resemblance to the one I used to have delivered to my home.

For more detailed information, here is a link to an article about Maven and its CEO and various folks who were part of the Sports Illustrated business.

Meanwhile, CBSSports.com had a report last week saying that the Colorado Rockies might consider trading Nolan Arenado.  You can bet that caught my attention; they may consider doing what?  Just a year ago, the Rockies signed Arenado to a contract extension for 7 years at a total of $260M.  That is a lot of money; but Arenado is, in my opinion, the best third baseman in MLB, and he is only 28 years old.  Here are some data:

  • Arenado has been in the majors for 8 years; he has been an All-Star 5 times and he has won a Gold Glove in each of those 7 seasons.
  • His career slash line is .295/.351/.897.  In the first year of his fat contract extension, he beat those career averages with .315/.379/.962.

With that sort of news out there, you can find plenty of speculation pieces about where he might wind up in a trade and what the Rockies might get in return.  The column I would love to read is why the folks who run the Rockies franchise have changed their minds about the path to take to build a contending team.  After all, that contract extension is less than a year old as of this morning…

Finally, I mentioned previously that the Lingerie Football League has ceased to exist.  Brad Dickson commented on that happening in two Tweets:

“The Legends League, AKA the Lingerie Football League, has folded. At least it went out with a bang after the San Antonio Teddies defeated Rutgers, 24-20.”

And …

“The Legends League, AKA the Lingerie League, has folded. Great, now who are Southeastern Conference teams going to play in the non-conference season?”

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

 

 

From Bad To Worse …

I don’t even know where to begin with the first topic of the day.  It involves two abjectly odious institutions – the NCAA and the Congress of the United States.  Putting those two organizations into any story makes the story about as appealing as curdled milk.

According to a report in the LA Times, two members of the House of Representatives have introduced bipartisan legislation to create something called the Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (CACIA).  These two Congressthings want more oversight on Intercollegiate Athletics that pays attention to the academics of the schools and to the well-being of the student-athletes.  I have no problem with that, but you are going to need the oratorical skills of Clarence Darrow and Cicero merged with the literary prowess of William Shakespeare to convince me that the US Congress is the entity to provide such constructive oversight.

The CACIA would consist of appointees by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and the Senate plus one member appointed by the Secretary of Education.  The purpose of CACIA is to study issues outlined in the legislation and to prepare a report which would include recommendations to the Congress for needed change.

Folks, what this means is that intercollegiate athletics would then be overseen by the Congress and the DoJ.  As lothesome as I find the NCAA, I am hard-pressed to convince myself that having the Congress and DoJ in charge is even marginally better.  About the only way to make this idea even worse would be to have CACIA coordinate its reporting with the US Olympic Committee and broaden the scope to “nominally amateur” athletics before the Congress gets the report and uses it to do something that will certainly have adverse unintended consequences.

Moving on …

The Jags fired Tom Coughlin as their VP of Football – or whatever his title was – last week.  This came on the heels of an arbitrators ruling against the club and an NFLPA statement that 25% of player grievances filed against the league for arbitration involved the Jags.  The union went on to say that players should keep that in mind when deciding where they may want to play when they have that decision to make.

Tom Coughlin – by all reporting – is a no-nonsense tight ass, and he has been that for decades.  I believe that in modern parlance he would be labeled as a “control freak”.  Anyone seeking to establish a warm and fuzzy work environment with employee involvement in decision making should not hire Tom Coughlin to oversee that organization.  Nonetheless:

  • Tom Coughlin has coached 2 Super Bowl winning teams in NY.
  • Tom Coughlin beat Bill Belichick and the Patriots in both of those Super Bowls.
  • He coached the Jags for the first 8 years of their existence with a record of 68-60.
  • His 20-year regular season coaching record was 170-150 with a playoff record of 12-7.

I think it would be fair to say that in the world of coaching NFL football, Tom Coughlin was a successful no-nonsense tight ass.  In his role as VP of Football in Jax, Coughlin made some serious mistakes and two of the big ones involved QBs:

  1. He retained the services of Blake Bortles at least one year too long – – and maybe 2 years too long.
  2. He signed Nick Foles to a contract for 4 years and $88M with $45M guaranteed at signing.

Bortles can’t play; Foles can play but can’t play worth $88M.  Those decisions were bad, and the team will need time to extricate itself from the consequences of those decisions.

Some players like traded-away Jalen Ramsey and still on the job Leonard Fournette are being smug about “outliving” Tom Coughlin.  That’s okay – – and at the same time, until such time when either or both Ramsey and Fournette get their third Super Bowl ring, Tom Coughlin will be happy with his two.

Thinking about this situation suggests to me that great coaches from the past would not succeed in today’s NFL.  Anyone who thinks Coughlin is overbearing would likely curl up into the fetal position if they had to live under Vince Lombardi.

As the NFL regular season comes to an end next week, we can look forward to the announcement of various awards – many of which look pretty obvious to me.

  • Lamar Jackson is the MVP
  • John Harbaugh is the Coach of the Year – – with Kyle Shanahan getting votes too.
  • Nick Bosa is Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • Josh Jacobs is the Offensive Rookie of the Year

And etc.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, I like to hand out other sorts of “Awards” and here are 4 for this NFL season:

  1. Worst Innovation:  Challenging pass interference calls.
  2. Biggest Underachievement (Team Category):  Cleveland Browns – – thought by some to be a dark-horse for the Super Bowl – – with the LA Chargers going from 12-4 last year to 5-10 as of this morning getting votes too.
  3. Biggest Underachievement (Player Category):  Odell Beckham, Jr.
  4. Biggest Underachievement (Coaching Category):  Matt Patricia – – with Sean McVey getting votes too.

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot a couple of weeks ago regarding a disappointing season by an NFL star player:

“Foot loose: Improbably, the Colts are sticking with Adam Vinatieri during a brutal season that would result in a less-celebrated kicker being kicked to the curb. The 46-year-old future Hall of Famer has missed 11 kicks — including six extra-point attempts — costing Indy two or three games. I suppose the loyalty to Vinatieri reflects well on Indy’s brass and how the kicker is regarded in the locker room. But it begs the question — is his next miss his last?”

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

 

 

Football Friday 12/20/19

Former White House Chief of Staff, John Sununu once said of Fridays:

“For most Americans, Friday afternoons are filled with positive anticipation of the weekend. In Washington, it’s where government officials dump stories they want to bury.”

I am not a government official – you can rest easy on that score – but I am in Washington; so, let me assure you that I am not here to bury this edition of Football Friday.

Now, you could talk me into trying to bury last week’s edition since the Truncated Six-Pack last week was horrifically incorrect at 0-3-1.  I shall try to do better this week with another Six-Pack containing fewer than 6 elements.  Here is how we stand for the season to date:

  • Overall:  35-26-3
  • College:  19-7-1
  • NFL:  16-19-2

Since last week’s Football Friday coincided with Friday the Thirteenth, perhaps that explains the dismal record.  Or not…

 

College Football Commentary:

 

Nothing worth discussing this week …

 

College Football Games This Week:

 

This is the silly end of the college football bowl schedule.  There are nine games today and tomorrow involving Division 1-A teams.  Only one of those nine games is even marginally interesting.

Washington – 3 vs Boise St (50):  If you live west of Montana and north of Oregon, this game might be interesting to you.  For the rest of the world, here is the only “interesting bit” that I could find:

  • Washington ranks 23rd in the country in scoring defense for 2019.
  • Boise St. ranks 24th in the country in scoring defense for 2019

 

NFL Commentary:

 

I made it a point to watch a replay of last week’s Raiders/Jags game because of the way the game ended and because I hoped to see at least some of the kerfuffle between fans and security folks at the end.  The game was uninspiring; I am not sure the most ardent fan of either team would take umbrage at that assessment.  The Jags won the game at the end with a TD drive in the final 2 minutes.  They were aided in that final drive by a bad decision on the part of the Raiders’ coaching staff.  Let me explain:

  • The Raiders led 16-13 and had the ball in their own territory with 1:47 left in the game.  It was 3rd down and 11.
  • The Raiders called a pass play that was incomplete stopping the clock.  After the ensuing punt, the Jags had the ball at about their 35 yardline with 1:31 to play.
  • That incomplete pass was a “free timeout” for the Jags.  A running play would have taken about and then another 40 seconds would have run off the clock followed by the 8 or 9 seconds that the punt play would consume.
  • Instead of having 1:31 to drive the field, the Jags would have had only about 53 seconds on the clock.

Time management is an important part of game strategy; too many coaching staffs demonstrate their lack of strategic thinking when it comes to playing with or against the clock.  A former colleague was once describing a third individual’s inability to think strategically this way:

  • A chess player is a strategic thinker.  Joe Flabeetz plays tic-tac-toe.

I was sorry to see a bit of and read a lot about the way the Oakland fans behaved at the end of that game.  The Raiders are an iconic franchise; read Going Long by Jeff Miller and/or Football’s Blackest Hole by Craig Parker to get an appreciation of what I mean by an “iconic franchise”.  I understand that the last two decades of Raider football has been dismal; the team record since its last Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 2002 season is 91-179-0 – – with one more game to play in 2019; as a close approximation, the Raiders have lost two games for every one they have won in the last 17 seasons.

Nonetheless, there was something wrong with the fans booing the team as they left the field for what is probably the last time in Oakland – – unless of course the team moves back there one more time for the 2040 NFL season.  It could not have been a joyous occasion for those fans, but their behavior was low rent as far as I am concerned.

At the other end of the spectrum of fan behavior were the fans of the NY Giants who gave Eli Manning a standing ovation when he was taken out of the game with a victory in the bag against the Dolphins.  That was probably his last home appearance for the Giants; Manning has been a polarizing figure in NY for a while now, but I thought the Giants’ fans showed a lot of class in the way they sent him off.

There were two interesting signings off the waiver wire this week:

  • Janoris Jenkins signed with the Saints after the Giants released him.  Jenkins had used the word “retard” in one of his social media postings; people took offense; Jenkins defended his use of the word; people who were offended became enraged; the Giants cut Jenkins.  So, let me get this straight…  Jenkins suffered some kind of “punishment/sanction” in getting released by a team with a 3-11 record so that he could join the Saints with a record of 11-3 and assured participation in the playoffs.  As Br’er Rabbit begged Br’er Fox, “Please don’t throw me in that briar patch.”
  • Terrell Suggs signed with the Chiefs after the Cards released him.  Suggs is clearly in the final phase of his career; he is 37 years old and has been in the NFL for 17 seasons.  The Cards’ defense is not a sterling unit; it ranks 31st in the NFL giving up 413.1 yards per game.  Suggs’ stats include:

4 forced fumbles  5.5 sacks  7 QB hits  8 tackles for a loss

  • And the Cards didn’t want to keep him around for the final two games of the 2019 season?

In the offense-minded NFL that exists in 2019, I think the Pats and the Packers are teams that need to worry in the playoffs – – unless one or both get home field for a couple of those playoff games.  Both offenses are somewhere between “anemic” and “lackluster” these days.

There were some Highlights from last week’s games:

  • The Cowboys disemboweled the Rams 44-21 – – it wasn’t even that close.  Ezekiel Elliott ran for 117 yards and 2 TDs; Tony Pollard also ran for 131 and a TD; the Cowboys ran for 263 yards in the game.  Meanwhile, Todd Gurley was held to 20 yards rushing on 11 carries.
  • Jameis Winston threw for 458 yards 3 TDs and 1 INT in a dominating win over the Lions.
  • The Pats’ defense forced 5 turnovers against Bengals and the defensive unit won the game even though it looks like an offensive explosion on the scoreboard.
  • Dwayne Haskins had – by far – his best game as a QB for the Skins despite losing to the Eagles.
  • The Texans beat the Titans and now their path to the playoffs is clear.  Win out and the Texans are in as the AFC South Champ.  Of course, the same two teams meet again next week in the final regular season game…
  • As noted above, Eli Manning won what is almost certain to have been his last start in NY.  Beating the Dolphins in that final start diminishes the accomplishment just a tad.  Hi ho!
  • The Bills are in the playoffs after a win on the road over the Steelers.
  • Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s career record for most TD passes in the Saints’ 34-7 dismantling of the Colts.
  • The most shocking result of the week had to be Falcons 29 Niners 22.  The Falcons trailed 19-10 in the 4th quarter and came back to win.

There were some Lowlights from last week’s games:

  • Kyle Allen threw 3 more INTs for the Panthers.  The bloom seems to have fallen off that rose; the Panthers will start Will Grier this week.
  • Not to be outdone, “Duck” Hodges threw 4 INTs and lost a fumble against the Bills.  The Steelers will stick with Hodges again this week.
  • The Broncos were held to 1 FG in a snowy 23-3 loss to Chiefs.  Here’s the deal: when you hold the Chiefs to 23 points – snow or no snow – you should have a realistic chance to win the game.  The Broncos were never a threat to win this game.
  • The Chargers turned the ball over 7 times to the Vikes leading to a humiliating loss by a score of 39-10.
  • As mentioned above, the Raiders defense allowed Gardner Minshew to conduct two LONG TD drives in the 4th quarter to turn a 16-3 lead into a 20-16 loss against the woebegone Jags.
  • The Browns’ run defense allowed the Cards to amass 226 yards on the ground.  Not surprisingly, the Cards won the game 38-24.

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

There was no Thursday Night Football last evening; instead, the NFL will present a Saturday triple header this week on NFL Network.  If you watch the 3 games on Saturday plus all or parts of the 3 games on Sunday afternoon plus the 2 night games on Sunday and Monday, you will have seen 16 of the NFL’s 32 teams.  If you indeed watch all that football this weekend, you may also be seeing a marriage counselor or a divorce lawyer very soon…

 

(Sat Nite) Rams at SF – 6 (44):  Neither team played well last week.  The Niners’ defense has been burned two weeks in a row.  Question: Will the Rams wake up here after a somnambulant showing in Dallas?  Last week, the Rams’ rushing yardage was 22 yards; Jared Goff completed less than 50% of his pass attempts; the defense was gashed by Cowboys’ run game.

(Late Sat Afternoon) Buffalo at New England – 6.5 (36.5): The Bills have won 2 of their last 18 games in Foxboro.  Both teams are in the playoffs.  This is the first season with double-digit wins by the Bills since Y2K.  Points will be at a premium in this game.  I think the line is fat, so I’ll put the Bills plus the points in this week’s Abbreviated Six-Pack.  To demonstrate what I mean by “points will be at a premium” here, consider:

  • In 2019, 9 of the Pats 14 games have gone UNDER.
  • In 2019, 11 of the Bills 14 games have gone UNDER.

(Early Sat Afternoon) Houston – 3.5 at Tampa (50.5):  This game opened as “pick ‘em” but that did not last long.  The Bucs have won 4 games in a row and they have scored an average of 34.75 points per game over that run.  The Bucs’ secondary is the weak link for the team – – and Watson/Hopkins/Stills should be able to exploit that weakness.  Consider these 2019 stats for Jameis Winston:

  • Leads the NFL in pass attempts (554) and passing yardage (4573) and yards per game (326.6).
  • Stands second in the league in TDs and in yards per completion.
  • Also leads the NFL in INTs (24).

I am tempted to take the game to go OVER, but I cannot resist the temptation to fade the Texans here.  This is a “sandwich game” for them between two games against the Titans plus the Texans have not been reliable week over week this season.  I will put the Bucs plus the points in this week’s Condensed Six-Pack.

Detroit at Denver – 7 (48):  This game got some consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but did not make it to that depth.  There is no way to make a pick here because I cannot trust the Broncos and I will not take the Lions on the road.  Both teams will use their third starting QB of the season in this game.  The Lions started 2019 with a record of 2-0-1; since then, the Lions are 1-10.  If it were any team other than the Lions, people would say “WTF?”  Since these are the Lions people are saying “Ho-hum.”  Here is something more to demonstrate how the Lions remain the Lions:

  • The Lions went 36-28 from 2014-2017, with a couple of playoff appearances.
  • Then they fired Jim Caldwell after back-to-back 9-7 seasons in order to hire Matt Patricia to “change the culture” and “take the team to the next level”.  Matt Patricia is 9-20-1 in his tenure in Detroit.

Oakland at Chargers – 7 (45):  Both teams are sinking so fast you’d think someone tossed them a life preserver made of cement.  Question:

  • If Gruden ran off Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, might he also jettison Derek Carr who has not played well at all down the stretch?

The free agent market is not populated with a lot of desirable choices so that would mean the Raiders would start their time in Las Vegas with a rookie QB.  Stay tuned…

Jax at Atlanta – 7 (46):  This is another game that was considered as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Amazingly, both teams come to the game on a “winning streak”.  Question:

  • Can the Falcons finish strong enough to save Dan Quinn’s job?

If you find that question uninteresting, just ignore this game.

New Orleans – 2.5 at Tennessee (50):  The spread on this game ranges from 1 point – where it opened the week – to 3 points at one Internet sportsbook.  The most common spread values are 2 points and 2.5 points.  The Titans need this game to stay within striking distance of the Texans in the AFC South.  The Saints need this game for seeding in the NFC Playoffs.    I was tempted to take the Titans plus the points at home – – but I still cannot bring myself to believe in the Titans as a consistent team. Also, this is a “sandwich game” for Titans as it is for the Texans.

Giants at Washington – 2 (41):  With all the stinky games on the card this weekend – and with the Dolphins/Bengals game placed in a unique category of its own (see below) – this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Notwithstanding that status, this is the game that will be force-fed to NFL fans in the DC area on Sunday.

Pittsburgh – 3 at Jets (37):  The Steelers will make the playoffs with a win here and a win next week.  The Jets will make the playoffs one of these years.  The Jets have best run defense in the NFL in terms of yards per attempt.  Question 1:

  • Can they force “Duck” Devlin to throw it 38 times as he did last week in a 4 INT performance against the Bills?

Question 2:

  • Will Le’Veon Bell see this as some sort of “vindication game” against his old mates – some of whom abandoned him in his holdout back in 2018?

Cincy – 1 at Miami (46):  The spread opened the week with the Dolphins as a 2.5-point favorite.  So much for that stuff…  Let me call this one the Essence of Excrement Game of the Year.  This game goes beyond any label involving “dog-breath”; this game stretches the meaning of “fetid”.  The only way for the Bengals to lose the #1 pick in the Draft is for them to win out.  A Dolphins win here ends the Dolphins hopes for acquiring that pick.  Hmmm…   Both teams will be shopping for a QB starting in January.

Carolina at Indy – 6.5 (46.5):  This game looked like it would be a good one back in August; but now, it is bleak.  The Panthers will bench Kyle Allen to start Will Grier here.  Rookie QBs in their first start have done surprisingly well so far this year.  Grier was picked in 3rd round out of WVa last year.  My guess is that he will be a bit surprised by the very big difference in pass defense as it is played in the NFL as opposed to pass defense as it is played in the Big 12.

Baltimore – 9.5 at Cleveland (49.5):  The spread opened at 7 points and has climbed during the week.  I found it at 10 points at an Internet sportsbook this morning.  Somehow the Browns won the first meeting between these two teams back in late September and won that game by 15 points.  I think the Ravens get revenge this week.  Here are two questions involving this game:

  1. Baker Mayfield has 17 TD passes and 17 INTs this year.  Can he finish the season with more TDs than INTs?
  2. Can Browns finish with a non-losing record for the 3rd time since their rebirth in 1999?  If they win out, the Browns will be 8-8 this year.

I’ll put the Ravens in this week’s Shrunken Six-Pack to win and cover.

Dallas – 2 at Philly (46):  The Cowboys’ situation is this: “Win and you’re in”.  The Eagles must win out to be sure of a playoff slot.  Imagine the reaction in Philly to this scenario:

  • The Eagles beat Cowboys on Sunday.  Elation in Philly.
  • Then the Eagles lose to Giants in Week 17 and miss the playoffs.

Put the city on suicide watch.

Arizona at Seattle – 10 (50):  The Seahawks have home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs as of this morning so winning out is important to them.  This game features Russell Wilson at home against a not-very-good defense.  Seahawks have 11 wins this year however, they only won 1 of those games by more than one score – 8 points.  That one comfortable win was in Week 4 and it came against the Cards in Arizona.

(Sun Nite) KC – 6 at Chicago (44.5):  The Bears cannot make playoffs; the Chiefs are definitely in the playoffs and would like to get a higher seeding.  Let’s see … Patrick Mahomes or Mitchell Trubisky?  Hmmm…  Last week, the Bears had Trubisky throwing the ball 53 times.

  • Memo to coach Nagy:  That is NOT a winning formula.

(Mon Nite) Green Bay at Minnesota – 5.5 (46):  The Packers’ offense has been dormant recently.  Since November 10th, the Packers have only scored more than 24 points once and that was against the Giants’ pitiful defense.  Here the Packers are up against a Vikes’ defense that is a good one.  The Packers have won 3 in a row over lesser competition and the Vikes are indeed at home where they are undefeated in 2019.  The outcome here has direct bearing on NFC North race.  Dalvin Cook is likely out of the game with a shoulder injury.  I’ll put the Packers plus the points in this week’s Excerpted Six-Pack.

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Bills + 6.5 versus Pats
  • Bucs + 3.5 versus Texans
  • Ravens – 9.5 over Browns
  • Packers +5.5 versus Vikes

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times last week which marries well NFL football and the Holiday Season:

“The best place in America to experience New Year’s Eve, according to a WalletHub.com study, is New York City.

“Except now there’s bickering over whether it’s a Jets or Giants receiver who gets to drop the ball at midnight.”

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

 

 

Crash And Burn …

Former NBA Commissioner, David Stern, is in serious condition after surgery was required to alleviate a “brain hemorrhage”.  I often had less than totally positive things to say about his “Commissioner-ship”, but I certainly do not wish this sort of thing on anyone.  Notwithstanding previous contrary views to his, I do wish him a full recovery.

As of this morning, we are 97% of the way through the Calendar Year and I would like to pose a question for comment:

  • Who/What in the sports world was the biggest disappointment in 2019?

An alternative way to put the question could be:

  • What sports figure had the biggest “crash and burn” event of 2019?

I will offer three nominees here; I am certain there are others:

  • Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles:  In 2015, Davis led the major leagues in home runs with 47 and he drove in 117 runs.  The O’s recognized that performance with a monster contract – 7 years and $161M.  His performance in 2016 – 2018 was more than disappointing but as the 2019 season dawned folks were talking about his having lost weight and his “re-engineered swing”.  Those are standard stories from MLB Spring Training sites, but there was a momentum to the multiple stories of that type.  Here are the stats from 2019:

BA = .179   OPS = .601   SO = 139   HR = 12   RBI = 36

  • There are 3 years left on that monster contract he signed with the Orioles – at $23M per year.  It looks as if this career is over.

 

  • Antonio Brown – Free Agent WR:  As 2019 dawned, Antonio Brown was considered to be one of the top 3 WRs in the NFL – and many folks would have argued he was THE best WR in the NFL.  Like some of his WR brethren, he was a diva and was the source of those dreaded distractions in the locker room.  The Steelers decided they could live without him and he signed on with Jon Gruden and the Raiders.  Training camp with the Raiders was a circus – remember his blistered feet and his arrival in a hot air balloon?  His career with the Raiders lasted exactly ZERO games whereupon he signed with the Pats where he lasted exactly ONE game.  Intertwined with all those events are allegations of sexual assault.
  • Brown is too talented to have his career ended by that.  However, his career is in tatters; and he now brings so much baggage with him that his diva behaviors will need to be toned down a bit to accommodate the “optics” involving whichever team signs him next.

 

  • The Alliance of American Football – Defunct professional football league:  When 2019 began, the AAF was on the launching pad ready to satisfy the national hunger for football starting the week after the Super Bowl.  It had recognizable names on the league’s letterhead; seven of its eight head coaches had been in that position in the NFL or at major college programs; the league had a TV deal with CBS Sports and the NFL Network was going to carry AAF games too.  There was reason for optimism; after all, professional spring football had succeeded as the USFL up to the time when that league chose to try to go head-to-head with the NFL.  The AAF could not even finish its first season and could not pay off all the contracts that were liabilities to the league.
  • All of the optimism that permeated the news involving the AAF juxtaposed with its rapid dissolution calls to mind an observation by Voltaire:

“Optimism is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong.”

Other nominations are welcome in the “Comments” section below.  And of course, we must leave open the possibility of a yet unidentified “crash and burn” in the remaining 3% of Calendar Year 2019…

There was a report last week about the ad sales for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.  The report said that NBC has already sold more than $1B of time slots for those games.  To put that in perspective, the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro generated $1.2B in ad revenues; that was the highest ad revenue for the Olympics in history; the games will not start for another 7 months so it would appear that NBC will set another new record in 2020.

NBC announced that the “span” of advertising partners reaches from financial services firms through pharmaceutical companies all the way to fast food establishments.  If you are planning to watch the Summer Olympics, you will find on all the NBC platforms a bit more than 7000 hours of programming.  If that sounds like an awful lot of programming time, you are correct; consider that there are 8760 hours in a year…

Finally, since I cited Voltaire above with his comment on optimism, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Optimist:  One who sees the glass half full, even when it is half full of urine.”

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

 

 

From The Mailbox…

This has never happened before.  Yesterday, I got two e-mails from readers with questions.  I believe that allows me today to do my first “Mailbox Rant” ever…

Let me introduce the first e-mail correspondent.  He and I met as college freshmen.  He went on to a career as a sportswriter who then left that sort of journalism to become a features writer for various papers and magazines.  Here are the salient portions of his missive from yesterday.

The subject line on the e-mail was “Why I hate stats!”:

Did you … see this stat line for Drew Brees?

C/ATT  YDS     AVG    TD       INT      SACKS            QBR    RTG

29/30    307     10.2      4          0          0-0                  97.0     148.9

First, I have no idea what QBR is; am I not correct that everybody talks about the RTG?

The perfect score is 158.3, right?

Brees, after one of the finest games in history, did not achieve that. What does he have to do, run back kickoffs to get a perfect score?

I demand some action from you …!

Let me take the easy questions first:

  • QBR is a rating system developed by ESPN that grades a QB’s performance on a scale where 100 is the “perfect score”.  I suppose the thinking there is that people can relate to “Perfection” and “100” easily from their days in school.  As natural as it is, most folks still deal with the QB Rating.
  • I do not know who developed the QB Rating System in the first place, but it was around before the QBR system emerged.  Indeed, the perfect rating in that context is 158.3.

Now for the more complicated answer – – and don’t shoot the messenger because I am just reporting this.  Here is how you calculate the QB Rating:

  • There are 4 elements to be measured.  Each is given an evaluation that must fall between zero and 2.375.
  • Element 1 is Completion Percentage.  Be prepared; this may make your head explode.  To calculate Element 1, you take Drew Brees’ completion percentage (96.67) and subtract 30; then multiply that result by .05.
  • Element 1 = (96.67 – 30) x 0.05 = 3.335.  However, each element is “capped” at 2.375…
  • Element 2 is Yards per Attempt.  To calculate Element 2, you take Drew Brees’ yards per attempt (10.23) and subtract 3.0 and then multiply by 0.25.
  • Element 2 = (10.23 – 3.0) x 0.25 =  1.808
  • Element 3 is Touchdown Percentage.  To calculate Element 3, you take Drew Brees’ touchdown percentage (13.33) and multiply that by 0.20.
  • Element 3 = 13.33 x 0.20 = 2.666
  • Element 4 is Interception Percentage.  To calculate Element 4, you take Drew Brees’ INT Percentage (0.00) and multiply that by 0.25 and then subtract that result from 2.375.
  • Element 4 = 2.375 – (0.00 x 0.25) = 2.375 – 0.00 = 2.375.

Calm down; take a sip of your coffee – or some other adult beverage if you so choose; I know that the calculations here are arbitrary and capricious; I know that one could never derive this “formula” from the essential elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.  Now, that you have reached a more peaceful state, let’s proceed to the next level of arbitrary and capricious:

  • To get the QB Rating, you take the 4 Elements calculated above and add them together.  Then you divide by 6 and multiply by 100.
  • So, for Drew Brees the QB Rating would be 169.7 – – if you were to allow Element 1 to exceed 2.375.  However, when Element 1 is capped at 2.375, then his QB Rating is 153.7.

He need not have returned kickoffs to improve his rating simply because that is not part of the 4 Elements that enter into the calculation.  Had he thrown another TD in and among those 30 attempts, it would have increased his QB Rating.  Had his yards per pass attempt been higher, it would have increased his QB rating.

That is the basis of QB Rating – – and it is why I think the system is “severely limited”.  Now that you know “the rest of the story” [Hat Tip to Paul Harvey here…] you probably hate stats even more than you did as you sent that e-mail to me.

The other e-mail came from a former colleague who has been reading my rants since before the time that they hit the Internet.  Here is the question:

“You like to bang on Dan Snyder and James Dolan as bad owners.  So, who are their counterparts in baseball and the NHL?”

  1.  It is not a trivial matter to answer this question – – but I will not take you into the realm of mathematics and mysticism as I answer.  Now that the Wilpons have chosen to sell off their majority interest in the Mets, they have taken themselves out of the running – but they would have been formidable contenders prior to that sales agreement. The ownership group in Miami fronted by Derek Jeter has not been around nearly long enough to qualify here.  Marge Schott is dead.  So, I think this “honor” would go to Peter Angelos for his meddling and micromanagement of the Orioles’ team over the past couple of decades.
  2. I will not pretend to know enough about hockey or the NHL to offer a cogent choice here. I will point out, however, that the Toronto Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967 …

Finally, since there is an air of cynicism in today’s rant, let me provide you with H. L. Mencken’s definition of a cynic:

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”

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

 

 

History Repeats…

In one of my recent rants, I wondered aloud why Josh Gordon was released by the Patriots and allowed to sign on with the Seahawks.  The Pats are bereft of WRs who threaten the defense except for Julian Edelman who is not a “stretch the field” sort of threat.  Perhaps the answer to that wonderment is contained in news today from CBSSports.com.  Here is the headline:

  • Josh Gordon suspended indefinitely for violating NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs

The suspension is “indefinite”; this is Gordon’s 5th NFL suspension dating back to 2013.  He has been suspended for entire seasons; and also, he has been suspended “indefinitely” in the past.  Since the penalties for repeat offenders of such NFL policies are supposed to escalate, I wonder what this suspension will morph into.  Josh Gordon will turn 29 years old next Spring; physically, he still has the possibility of an NFL career at WR ahead of him.  Whether that physical potential manifests itself in actual appearances in future NFL games rests in the hands of Roger Goodell.

Over the course of his oft-interrupted career, Josh Gordon has averaged 17.2 yards per catch.  That stat is the reason he will likely be given a shot with an NFL team should he ever be reinstated.  There are about a dozen WRs in the Hall of Fame whose career yards per catch are less than 17.2.  Notable among them are:

  • Tommy McDonald  17.0 yards per catch
  • Lenny Moore  16.6
  • Lynn Swann  16.3
  • John Stallworth  16.2
  • Steve Largent  16.0
  • Calvin Johnson  15.9  [A sure-fire future inductee]
  • Michael Irvin  15.9
  • Randy Moss  15.6

Josh Gordon’s return to the NFL has Roger Goodell as a gatekeeper.  However, there are several other players familiar to every NFL fan who may choose to leave the game at the end of this season.  All of them are QBs and so in alphabetical order:

  • Tom Brady:  This has been his ”worst” season from a statistical standpoint; he will be 43 years old before next season starts; his contract is structured such that it can be voided at the end of this season.  Could he leave New England for another team?  Could he leave the NFL?
  • Drew Brees:  He will be 41 in the middle of this year’s NFL playoff schedule; he is a free agent at the end of this year; he just set the all-time career record for TD passes.
  • Eli Manning:  He will be 39 a couple of days after this regular season ends; he is a free agent at the end of the year; he has said he does not want to be a back-up QB anywhere
  • Philip Rivers:  He just turned 38 years old; he is the youngster in this group; he likes living in the San Diego area so much that he commutes daily from there to the LA Chargers facilities in Carson CA; he is a free agent at the end of this year.

Interestingly Brees, Manning and Rivers have careers that have intertwined.  Manning and Rivers were traded for each other on Draft Day and Rivers is the QB who replaced Brees in San Diego.

I mentioned above that the Pats are “wide receiver deficient” this season.  The fact that the “deficiency” is masked by the Pats’ record and scoring stats is due to the generosity of the NFL schedule-maker.  The Pats have played the following teams this year:

  • Jets and Dolphins twice each
  • The entire mediocrity that is the NFC East
  • Cleveland and Cincy from the AFC North

There are 10 games against what must be called “less than stiff competition”.  However, there is another team in the NFL whose WR situation pales in comparison to the Pats.  That would be the Philly Eagles who are probably about one hangnail short of calling up Vince Papale to find out if he can give them a game or two this December.  Here are the 3 WRs the Eagles had in uniform last week against the Skins:

  • JJ Arcega-Whiteside  [You are forgiven if you do not know him from Adam.]
  • Greg Ward Jr. [A college QB whose last gig was in the Alliance of American Football.]
  • Robert Davis  [Career stats: 1 catch for 11 yards.  That’s all, folks.]

Missing from last week’s game are these folks who have played a bit of WR in the NFL but were unable to play due to injury:

  • Nelson Agohlor
  • Alshon Jeffrey
  • DeSean Jackson

Total receptions for the 3 guys who can suit up would be 27 catches.  Total receptions for the 3 guys who are out with injuries would be 1291 catches.  That the Eagles have even a glimmer of hope to win the NFC East says all you need to know about that division in 2019.

Finally, Bob Molinaro mused about a potential sports conjunction in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Bedfellows: I’m waiting for the story that accuses the Patriots of stealing signs for the Astros.”

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