This Cloud Has A Silver Lining…

The story that has commanded the most attention on sports radio for the last 24 hours is that the Denver Broncos will bench Peyton Manning this week and start Brock Osweiler at QB. Manning has an injury to his plantar fascia; I have had a similar injury in the past. I can say with certainty that walking on such an injury is painful and distracting; I would not even begin to imagine what it might feel like to try to play NFL football on said injury.

Normally, I am the kind of person who will look at a silver lining and imagine the cloud that must surround it. Uncharacteristically, I think this situation might be a good one for the Denver Broncos as a team. Let me explain…

Even if Peyton Manning were to hop a flight to Europe and hustle his body and ailing foot to the Grotto in Lourdes and to return with that injury completely healed, the fact remains that Peyton Manning is 39 years old today and will be 40 years old before the NFL holds is draft next spring. He is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the position; nonetheless, he cannot logically be a foundation piece in any “5-year plan” that the Broncos might conjure up as an organization. Therefore, this injury forces the Broncos to look at what other quarterback assets they may have under their roof. Here is the depth chart:

    Brock Osweiler: Broncos took him in the 2nd round of the draft in 2012 after his career at Arizona State. Next Sunday – when he starts in place of Peyton Manning – is his birthday; he will be 25 years old. He is big (6’ 7” and 235 lbs) and has by any definition a “big arm”. His contract with the Broncos is up at the end of the 2015 season; if the Broncos want to keep him, they will need to negotiate a new deal. Is he worth it?

    Trevor Siemian: Broncos took him in the 7th round of the draft in 2015 after he played at Northwestern. He will turn 24 later this year. Scouting reports say he has a “live arm” which is certainly preferable to the alternative. He also has had an ACL injury in the past. Can he be an NFL QB? I doubt anyone has a clue – even the QB coach in Denver.

So, the Broncos will get a week or three to get a look at Osweiler in real game situations against real defenses and not against the guys who play mix-and-match defense in the Exhibition Games. Moreover, they will get to see Siemian do what the #2 QB on the team is supposed to do in order to prepare for a game. Presumably those observations and the subsequent analysis will assist the Broncos in making some quarterback decisions once their 2015 season comes to a close.

Before the NFL season began, I did a quarterback rating and pointed out that there are at least a dozen teams – and probably 18 teams – that would like to upgrade their rosters at that position. Add to that baseline demand for quarterback talent teams like the Broncos and perhaps the Saints and even the Patriots who have aging veterans at the position who may be contemplating acquiring some QB talent. Every scouting report I have read says – and corroborated by my personal observations from watching lots of college football – this is not a year when there are a lot of quarterbacks in the draft who are nearly ready to play at the NFL level. Put all of this together and this might not be the worst thing ever to happen to the Broncos franchise from a long-range perspective.

The US will have a professional rugby league starting in the spring of 2016. Pro Rugby is a league sanctioned by US Rugby and will begin play with six teams in “major metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains and California.” Here is the statement from the Chairman of US Rugby explaining this action:

“As the fastest growing team sport in the USA, it is the time to have a sanctioned professional competition. We are very happy to partner with PRO Rugby in taking this step to popularize the game, to inspire Americans to fall in love with rugby, and to show the rugby world what American players can do.”

Many fledgling sports enterprises have a propensity to get ahead of themselves and it seems to me that Pro Rugby might have this affliction. Even before they have announced the venues for the six teams that will play starting in 2016, the organizers are already mentioning expansion plans for 2017 into Canada. Perhaps the organizers are right to think that way after the successful completion of the recent Rugby World Cup and the inclusion of rugby as an Olympic sport starting with the Games in Rio in 2016.

There was a baseball trade made at the GM meetings last week that sort of surprised me. The Braves traded Andrelton Simmons to the Angels as part of a multi-player deal. Here is the deal:

    Angels get: Simmons plus minor league catcher Jose Briceno.

    Braves get: Erick Aybar, plus minor league pitchers Chris Ellis and Sean Newcombe plus $2.5M in cash.

Forget the money here; given the revenues generated by MLB clubs, those dollars cannot be a difference maker. The heart of this trade is one shortstop for another. Simmons was arguably the best defensive shortstop in the NL. He is not much offensively but he is only 26 years old and is signed through 2020. Aybar is 31 years old; he is not nearly as good in the field as Simmons; he is a slightly better hitter and he will be a free agent at the end of the 2016 season. The Braves are a team in need of a rebooting; if there were such a thing as momentum that carried over from one season to the next, Braves’ fans would be looking at a bleak time in 2016.

Looking at the minor league prospects involved here, nothing jumps out and screams “sure fire major leaguer”. Briceno is 23 years old and has been in the minor leagues for 6 seasons. Last year he played in “high A” in the Carolina League. Ellis and Newcomb are 22 and both got to AA level baseball last season,

So, what I do not understand here is why the Braves – who need rebuilding – rid themselves of a young shortstop who was signed long term to acquire an older shortstop who will be a free agent at the end of next year.

Finally, since I mentioned the announcement of a new professional rugby league above, I should also mention that a new Spring Football League – Major League Football – exists and plans to start play in the spring of 2016. Here is how Greg Cote of the Miami Herald put the news of their existence into perspective:

“Major League Football, a proposed new spring league, was formed. The date of its inevitable demise has not yet been set.”

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

College Basketball Begins…

Last week, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald:

“College basketball season begins Friday night. If your office NCAA Tournament bracket is due Monday, you’re probably jumping the gun.”

If the early-season games are any indication, this season could be a wild ride. The “upstarts” took it to the “big programs”:

    Belmont beat Marquette – at Marquette
    W. Illinois beat #17 Wisconsin – at Wisconsin
    Chattanooga beat Georgia
    N. Florida beat Illinois – by 12 points
    William and Mary beat NC State – by 17 points at NC State
    Monmouth beat UCLA

Just in case you are worried that you have gone through a wormhole and wound up in Bizarro World, there is still some stability in college basketball. Duke and UNC both won their openers.

The MLB Hall of Fame ballots are now in the hands of the voters. Rather than go over the entire ballot and worry about who might or might not get in this time around, I want to focus on 4 players who are on the ballot for the first time this year.

    Ken Griffey Jr.: It is hard for me to imagine that “Junior” falls short of the qualifications to be in the Hall of Fame. I think he should go in as a first-year nominee.

    Trevor Hoffman: Relief pitchers – and closers to be more specific – are often not seriously regarded by the voters. However, Hoffman saved 601 games in his career; only Mariano Rivera had more saves (652). It would seem to me that both of them deserve to be in the Hall of Fame at some point.

    Billy Wagner: If Hoffman and/or Rivera do not get in, then Wagner has no chance. He is 5thon the all-time list with 422 saves.

    Jim Edmonds: He had a 17-year career hitting .284 with an OPS of .903. In addition, he was an excellent defensive player. He will not get in on his first ballot, but he might be in the Hall one of these days.

Another MLB topic in the news is not nearly as positive as talking about potential inductees into the Hall of Fame. Rockies’ shortstop, José Reyes was arrested a couple of weeks ago and charged with assaulting his wife in a hotel room in Hawaii. MLB announced its new “domestic violence policy” this summer with the agreement of the MLBPA. This is going to be the test case for Commissioner Rob Manfred. The policy gives the Commish wide ranging authority here – although there is an appeals process to an arbitration board – and it will be interesting to see what sort of precedent he sets here.

One aspect of the new domestic violence policy is that Manfred may discipline a player even if the player is not convicted of a crime. Where the MLB policy seems to differ from other sports is in areas other than punishments/suspensions. The MLB policy includes counseling and other sorts of evaluations and interventions in addition to punishments. A Board consisting of 2 representatives from the league, 2 representatives from the union and three “experts in the field of domestic violence” will come to an agreement with regard to a treatment plan for Reyes and will somehow oversee his compliance with that treatment plan. Then there is the punishment…

I have read/heard commentary that tries to put this sort of incident into the existing spectrum of baseball suspensions – 50 games for PED use or 81 games for a repeat offense or a full season if you are a serial offender who lies about everything associated with his offenses. I find that sort of discussion “slimy”. We are not talking about getting an advantage in a game here; we are talking about domestic violence. Any sort of thinking that even hints at the idea of equating the two is offensive.

It is important to note that Reyes has not yet been arraigned in this matter. His wife did require treatment at an emergency room and hotel security folks and the local police were involved in the incident. That is all that we know for sure. Rather than speculating on what Manfred and the “Oversight Board” might do in the matter, I think the proper stance is to sit back and watch how this newly created policy plays out during its maiden voyage. These are not “one-size-fits-all” situations; let us all take a deep breath and watch for progress. Oh and while we are watching for progress, let us also fervently hope that Rob Manfred figures out a way to deal with this case in a far more competent manner than Roger Goodell has handled domestic violence matters for the NFL.

I think this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald should be sufficient to catch you up on happenings related to NASCAR:

“Homestead-Miami Speedway on deck to host season finale: NASCAR’s race Sunday in Phoenix will determine which three drivers join retiring star Jeff Gordon for the championship next Sunday in Homestead. Gordon winning would be a storybook ending. Am picturing Cinderella in a flame-retardant racing suit and earplugs.”

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

“Reader Michael Seese, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on the city’s 2-7 NFL team: ‘I downloaded the Browns app Saturday, and Sunday my phone began dropping calls.’ ”

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

Daily Fantasy Sports In New York…

Recently, the folks who oversee legal sports betting in Nevada ruled that daily fantasy sports are a form of gambling that needs to be licensed in that state. Many people dismissed that ruling as protecting the casinos’ turf. Yesterday, the Attorney General of New York announced that he has determined that daily fantasy sports are a form of illegal gambling and he has ordered Draft Kings and FanDuel to stop taking bets in New York. Representatives of the daily fantasy sports industry say this is a publicity grab on the part of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The daily fantasy sports advocates deny that their activity is gambling because it relies on skill to assemble a successful fantasy team.

No one who has read more than a few of these rants could possibly conclude that I am opposed to gambling in general or more specifically to gambling on the outcomes of sporting events. My position there is consistent and transparent.

    People are going to wager on sporting events; laws that seek to prohibit wagering on sporting events will not stop that activity. As examples please think about the effectiveness of Prohibition as a way to stop drinking or the myriad drug laws as a way to end drug usage and addiction.

    Since wagering on sporting events is going to happen under any circumstances, the government should regulate it as a form of interstate commerce and tax it accordingly.

My problem with this issue is that some folks in the US Congress seemed to find it necessary to try to define what is and what is not gambling as it regards the Internet; and in so doing, they decided that wagering on daily fantasy sports and horse racing was “OK” but wagering of the outcomes of individual games or poker was “Not OK”. Rather than use whatever contorted logic led to those distinctions, let me offer a relatively simple definition of gambling:

    Gambling involves two or more people putting something of value to them at risk pending the outcome of an event.

Using that definition, daily fantasy sports and horse racing are not distinguished from poker or wagering on individual games in any way. In all circumstances, people put up money at the outset and collect more money than they risked at the end if they are successful in “winning the bet”. Reduced to utter simplicity, if you wager $100 that the next person to enter the room we are in will be wearing a hat and I wager $100 that the next person will not be wearing a hat, we are gambling if in fact one of us walks away with $200 after someone enters the room.

In this ongoing and seemingly escalating brouhaha regarding daily fantasy sports, I am really on neither side of the argument because I do not think either side is right.

    Daily fantasy sports are indeed gambling.

    Enforcing laws that outlaw gambling is a feckless activity that wastes resources that could be used to better enforce laws that are far more important.

Recall, much of the current posturing here goes back to the Congress and its attempt to define what is and what is not gambling. Look at the revenues generated by daily fantasy sports – one company says it will pay out $2B this year so you may be sure they are taking in more than $2B – and recognize that the Congress will not undo the problem it created. The moneyed interests do not want things to change because that would be gambling on their part; they would only continue to be successful if the change went the way they prefer that it go and they will cease to be as successful if the change went “another way”. That is high stakes gambling…

Yesterday, I wrote about the change in the administration at the University of Missouri. The national attention commanded by the events there overshadowed another change of personnel at another institution of higher learning. The University of Illinois fired its Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, after an investigation into the treatment of the school’s football and women’s basketball players. Based on the report of that investigation, the chancellor said that this firing was necessary “in order to move forward”.

Before the football season began, Illinois fired its head coach based on player allegations of mistreatment. The investigative report said that the former coach interfered with doctors treating injured players and “building a culture that tended to blame players for being injured.” Here is a link to a report in the Chicago Tribune with more details on these sorts of happenings and in that report there is another link to the full text of the investigative report. Be forewarned, the investigative report with attachments/appendices is 1267 pages in length.

Several women on the basketball team have sued the school alleging maltreatment in that program too. The investigation found their claims of a racially abusive environment to be unfounded; given the lawsuit, a judge is likely to determine if the investigation came to the proper conclusion.

The investigation did not connect Mike Thomas to any of the abuses that it found – and obviously assessed him no blame for the racially abusive environment that it found did not exist. That makes the Thomas’ firing worth a look:

    If the university is confident that the investigation was done professionally and thoroughly such that its findings are self-evidently true, why did Thomas have to be fired “in order to move forward”?

    If Thomas is blameless, his resignation – with a settlement of course – should suffice here.

My guess is that the university has no such confidence in that investigation and that there may be a degree of polarity on campus with regard to this issue that would only be assuaged with some “punishment” being handed down. I also believe that the folks at Illinois are really glad to have the media focus so intensely focused on what is going on at Missouri just now…

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

According to a report, the Minnesota Vikings lead the NFL in player arrests over the past five seasons. Minnesota is now known as “Land of 10,000 Player Busts.” I remember that time when three Vikings were arrested during a long booth review.

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

Hither, Thither And Yon…

I am going to be cleaning up the clipboard today and jumping around from issue to issue and from sport to sport. Fasten your seatbelts, please…

The college basketball season is about to get underway and teams are playing exhibition games just to do something different from scrimmaging against themselves. These games do not count and to call them meaningless would be very generous. Having said that, one of them may prove to be very meaningful.

Recall that St. John’s convinced their Hall of Fame alum, Chris Mullen, to come home and to reconstruct the basketball program there. There was a time when St John’s was always part of the discussion with regard to top-shelf college basketball programs; that has not been the case for at least the last 10 years. Well, the first “game” that the Johnnies played against someone other than themselves was an exhibition against St. Thomas Aquinas College and the Johnnies lost that game by 32 points.

In case you are not familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas College, this is a Division –II program whose schedule for this year includes inter alia:

    University of the District of Columbia

Too bad Chris Mullen does not have any collegiate eligibility left…

Drew Magary wrote a piece for GQ magazine saying that the NFL should get rid of Thursday Night Football and put the games on Friday night instead. I do not think the article is a great piece of exposition – or that the idea is particularly germane – but I will provide a link here for you so that you might judge for yourself if you want to.

Magary undercuts his argument in the second paragraph; the reason that Thursday Night Football is here to stay is this:

“The problem, of course, is that the NFL has no inclination to stop airing Thursday Night Football because it WORKS. It’s the third most popular show on network television, right behind Sunday Night Football (#1, of course) and Fox’s Sunday-afternoon NFL postgame (how much Terry Bradshaw do people REALLY need?).”

No television exec wants to ditch the show that gets the third highest ratings of the week because that means he/she would be ditching a program for which the network can charge premium ad rates. Moreover, the NFL is uninterested in ditching the programming that draws that sort of fan attention. Ergo, the whole idea is pie-in-the-sky at best…

However, I wanted to check out my thinking here and “consulted with” – actually “exchanged e-mails with” – an old friend who has covered the NFL professionally for more than 4 decades. Basically, his assessment was similar to mine:

“For one thing, it will never happen for a very simple reason: No one sits home and watches TV on Friday night. People DO sit home and watch TV on Thursday night. The NFL goes where the eyeballs — and advertisers — are.”

He added something to his note that summarized my inherent frustration with Thursday Night Football but I had never thought of it in this way:

“… it doesn’t change the real problem which is screwing up the normal schedule. One thing that helped make the NFL so popular was its rhythm. Games were played on Sunday with a full week in between. There was a natural arc to it and it allowed the players to heal and the coaches to prepare. Now the schedule is staggered and it is impacting the quality of play all across the board. The Thursday night games are usually lousy but the league will keep playing them because (a) people tune in and (b) the ad money is huge.”

Moreover, there is one other thing that is wrong with the idea of Friday Night Football. The NFL has two franchises in Texas. Friday night in Texas is focused on high school football; if you are not familiar with Texas high school football, it is a sporting phenomenon that would be difficult to explain to people in other parts of the country. Darrel Royal – former Texas football coach – once said that in Texas the top sport was football (college football) and the second sport was spring football. What he forgot to add was that #3 was high school football…

If the NFL put on real games to compete with high school football, the fans in Texas would not take kindly to it and that would not be a good thing for the two franchises there…

Barcelona is the soccer team where Lionel Messi plies his trade. According to, Barcelona might wind up playing in the French League instead of La Liga in Spain. Geography teachers all over the country just felt a twinge in their neck as I typed that last sentence but they do not know why…

The Catalunya Region of Spain is seeking independence and should that succeed, the thinking is that La Liga will undergo reorganization and that Barcelona would be booted out of La Liga along with another team from the Catalunya Region. In such an event, the French league has said it would welcome Barcelona into its association. Obviously, this is all very iffy and it involves world politics along with internal FIFA politics. The combination of those two dynamics means that it is also possible that Barcelona will play in some intergalactic league sometime in the next few years…

Finally, I ran across these two items in Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Keeping Score:

“LeBron says that Kevin Love will be the ‘focal point’ of the Cavaliers’ offence,” reports Bill Littlejohn, our South Lake Tahoe, Calif., correspondent. “Someone tell him what it was like when Ringo sang lead.” . . . “The Dallas Cowboys have brought in Charles Haley to talk to Greg Hardy,” Littlejohn writes. “Isn’t that like bringing in Freddy Krueger to talk some sense to Jason?”

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

Another Legal “Situation”…

Yesterday, I mentioned Pierre Garcon’s suit against FanDuel. It turns out that is not the only legal action that involves the Skins these days. The team itself is in court filing to appeal a ruling that says its team name is an offensive racial slur and therefore should not be afforded trademark protection. The Legal Eagles representing owner Danny Boy Snyder can surely come up with at least a dozen and a half arguments to justify their appeal that the banishment of this trademark is legally improper. It seems to me as if those Legal Eagles have chosen to take the low road in this battle.

    [Aside: I guess the advantage of taking the low-road is that they will not encounter Denny Green at any point on their journey. He is, after all, always on the high road…]

To do a quick reset here, the folks in the government who rule on the viability of trademarks decided last year that “Redskins” was a racial slur and therefore could not be given trademark protection by the US Government. The team appealed that decision and at some point earlier this year encountered a federal judge who agreed with the folks who make trademark decisions in this matter. So, the team is now in the appellate process – and the Supreme Court remains a possible option no matter which side prevails at this level. Whether or not “The Supremes” want to deal with an issue as moldy as this one remains to be determined.

Given the uncertainty of any sort of Supreme Court review, perhaps the background music for all of this should be by Diana Ross and The Supremes as they sing, You Keep Me Hangin’ On. Alternatively, should Danny Boy and his Legal Eagles lose this battle, maybe the background music should be The Supremes singing:

    Things Are Changing – or –
    Some Things You Never Get Used To – or –
    I’ll Try Something New.

In any event, what the Skins’ legal representatives chose to do in their appellate brief was to sink to the level of a school-yard argument making the case that the team nickname is not worse than a whole bunch of others. They found more than a couple dozen offensive trademark names that have been approved by the trademark mavens in recent times; the direct implication is that those names are in the same genre of names as “Redskins”. Here are a couple that they cite:

    Cracka Azz (a skateboard brand)

    Gringo Style (a kind of salsa)

    Hot Octopuss (an ointment to prevent premature ejaculation)

    Laughing My Vagina Off (a website for “Chicks and Giggles”)

    Midget Man Condoms (do we really need any more clarity here?)

    Redneck Army (a line of clothing)

With the possible exception of “Gringo Style” as a kind of salsa, these names may be offensive to some but none are of the flavor of a “racial slur”. Like it or not, that is the basis of the trademark denial by the trademark mavens and by the federal court judge that got us here. By the way, that same federal judge also included in his ruling that denying this trademark on the basis of what it is does not infringe on the team or the owner’s First Amendment freedom of speech.

I am rooting for this to go to the Supreme Court for a final decision. It really does not matter to me which way the decision goes in the final confrontation; the world will continue to go from day to night and back to day again in the event that either side prevails. What I want to witness is the commentary by the media folks who report on Supreme Court proceedings as to the oral arguments and then as to the parsing of the various opinions that will surely come forth from the Justices. I have zero legal training, but that will be enjoyable listening and reading indeed…

We are on the cusp to begin the college basketball season. Like in college football, many teams open the season with patty-cake opponents. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took note of one such “game” scheduled by the University of Miami:

” ‘Soft opening’ this week for Canes men: Jim Larranaga’s guys host an exhibition game vs. Dowling this Wednesday night as they prepare to open the season Nov. 13. Free tickets to anybody who knows who or what ‘Dowling’ is.”

And speaking of college basketball, let me offer a few comments regarding the allegations that recruits and players at the University of Louisville were provided “escort services” and “sexual encounters” that were arranged for and paid for by a member of the Louisville coaching staff. Many commentators have focused on what Coach Rick Pitino knew or did not know; more than a few folks have called for him to be fired. Here is my thinking on the matter:

    As the Head Coach, he should have known what was going on in the “recruiting arm” of the basketball program. However “should have known” and “knew” are two very different things in this case.

    Please keep in mind the “Duke Lacrosse Case” and the “fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia” here. Do not fall victim to the train of thought that says “we all know this kind of sleaziness goes on” and therefore, the link to the head coach has to be true. “The Narrative” does not trump “The Evidence”.

    If it can be shown that Rick Pitino knew about any of this – even in general terms – and did not take steps to stop it, he should be fired from his job and the NCAA should put a 10-year “show-cause” order on him lest some other school tries to hire him to coach basketball there.

    If what is contained in the paragraph above cannot be shown, then each and every member of the media who has called for him to be fired or sanctioned in any way needs to apologize publicly as a condition of keeping his or her job.

I do not know what Rick Pitino knew or did not know. I also admit that I am not sufficiently aware of how the basketball program is managed at Louisville to opine as to what he might have known or should have known. What I know is that in cases like this:

    Sometimes the accuser is stone-cold right. See José Canseco and steroids/PEDs in MLB as an example.

    Sometimes the accuser is stone-cold wrong. See Crystal Magnum and the Duke Lacrosse scandal as an example.

Finally, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot and I tend to agree on the vast majority of sports topics out there. In this case, it would appear that Messr. Molinaro has made up his mind a bit before I think it is prudent to do so. History may prove him to be perfectly correct – even prescient. I will choose to wait for more evidence to come forth:

“Catch-22: Rick Pitino is trying to survive what would be a lose-lose proposition for most any other coach. Even if you take him at his word that he wasn’t aware of the Louisville recruiting parties that reportedly featured strippers and prostitutes, is there any plausible excuse for why the head coach shouldn’t have known? I wouldn’t bet against Slick Rick hanging onto his job, though. This is college basketball in Kentucky, after all.”

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

Another NFL Coaching Change

Ken Whisenhunt has followed Joe Philbin into the ranks of unemployed NFL coaches fired in mid-season 2015. In 23 games as the coach of the Titans over the past season and a half, the record was 3-20 which seems to be a reasonable basis for “taking things in a different direction”. You may remember that Whisenhunt was the coach of the Arizona Cardinals the year the Cards went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Steelers in the final seconds of the game. You may be wondering how a Super Bowl caliber coach can have had such a bad run with the Titans…

As I often try to explain here, coaching – and managing in baseball – are overrated in 90% of the cases. Yes, there are some inspirational leaders as coaches who create winning attitudes that flourish on the field; yes, there are some coaches who create some new wrinkle on offense or defense that translates into wins on the field. In most cases, the effect of coaches and managers is “Meh”.

Ken Whisenhunt did indeed take a team to the Super Bowl one year. Nonetheless, his overall NFL record in head coaching positions is 48-71. I think that record reflects that Ken Whisenhunt is a typical NFL head coach:

    Give him mediocre or bad players to coach and his teams will lose.

    Give him a set of players having better than average years in their careers and his teams will win.

Mike Mularkey will take over the helm for the Titans. If history is any indicator here, Mularkey’s record as an NFL head coach is hardly awe-inspiring. He coached the Bills and amassed a 14-18 record there; then he coached the Jags for a year and went 2-14. His overall record of 16-32 is actually worse than Ken Whisenhunt’s 48-71…

Over the weekend, I read reports that Skins’ WR, Pierre Garcon has filed a class action lawsuit against FanDuel claiming that the daily fantasy sports website has misappropriated his name and his likeness – along with the names and likenesses of all other NFL players on any NFL roster since 2013 – for the profit of FanDuel and without compensation or permission from Garcon or the players. To my untutored eye, this appears to be a pro-sports action akin to the one that Ed O’Bannon is pursuing against the NCAA. If I am wrong in that thinking, I am perfectly willing to be corrected. Here is a link where you can see the entire complaint that has been filed in the US District Court, district of Maryland.

At the end of the complaint, it expresses its “prayer for relief”. Two of these prayers caught my eye:

    “An award for disgorgement of all profits earned by Defendant from
    promoting its daily fantasy sports contests using Plaintiff’s and Class
    members’ names and/or likenesses.”

      If that prayer is answered in full, that would effectively award profits to NFL players made by similar misappropriations of the names and likenesses of MLB and NBA players. That does not seem fair…

    “An injunction enjoining Defendant from the future use of Plaintiff’s and
    Class members’ names and likenesses to promote its daily fantasy sports

      I suspect the effect of an injunction forbidding future use would merely give time for the players individually or in concert to negotiate a deal with FanDuel wherein the players get a share of the profits without an investment risk.

I have no dog in that fight; I have no interest in daily fantasy sports and I remain unconvinced that pro athletes are an oppressed class of people. However, it will be interesting to follow the progress of this action. It is also interesting to note that the suit is only against FanDuel and not Draft Kings. The cynic in me says that the reason for keeping Draft Kings out of the action is that the NFLPA and Draft Kings have a contractual relationship and FanDuel does not. This might get interesting…

Speaking of things getting interesting, here is the headline from a report on the day after the Ravens lost to the Cardinals in Arizona:

“Ravens say headsets went out during final drive in loss to Cardinals”

Please note that this did not happen in Foxboro. Please also note that even with the NFL in charge of the communications equipment(s) that link the coaches on the sidelines with the “coaches upstairs”, these things continue to happen. Moreover, they always seem to happen to the visiting team and not the home team. Strange, no…? Even stranger is when the malfunction occurred according to the report:

“Trailing 26-18 and with just under two minutes to score a touchdown and pull even on the 2-point conversion, the Ravens’ headsets went out.”

I got a note from a friend just after the Royals had taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series beating both Matt Harvey ad Jacob deGrom. It is an amazing stat:

“I saw a great stat today – of the 84 fastballs Harvey and deGrom threw the Royals hit or made contact with 82.”

Finally, Dwight Perry caught this line and included in in his column in the Seattle Times:

NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, on a study claiming that David Beckham and his wife Victoria Beckham are richer than Queen Elizabeth: ‘In other words, Posh Spice is doing better than Old Spice.’ ”

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

The Royals Win The World Series

On the Monday Night Football telecasts, one of the features is the naming of the “Gruden Grinder”. This is a guy who is not a star player but someone who always works hard and hustles thereby making significant contributions to his team. Well, the Kansas City Royals are not only the Champions of the baseball world, they are also the “Gruden Grinders” of the baseball world. In the deciding game of the World Series last night, the Royals trailed going into the top of the 9th inning but there was no “aura” around the game that hinted that they would go meekly into the night. Indeed, they did not; they scored 2 runs to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The Royals stole 4 bases last night; it seemed as if they had some sort of “tell” on the Mets’ pitchers letting they know when to run.

The other thing about the World Series as a whole that doomed the Mets beyond the no-quit attitude of the Royals was the Mets’ bungling in the field. Not only were there errors to allow baserunners (six recorded errors in five games) but there were plays that should have been scored as errors that were not. The prime example came on the tying run in the top of the 9th inning. When Eric Hosmer made his dash home from third, Luke Duda had him stone-cold out with an accurate throw and the Series would be heading back to Kansas City for Game 6 as of this morning. That throw from first base was not in the same area code with home plate and/or catcher Travis d’Arnaud. The official scorer did not call it an error; I guess it would have had to have gone over the screen behind the plate for him to think the throw went where it was not supposed to go.

Kudos to Frank Thomas after the game on Fox Sports. In the aftermath of the Royals’ win and their first World Championship in 30 years, everyone seemed upbeat and focused on praise for the grittiness of the Gruden Grinders of baseball. Thomas dropped this line about the Mets in the Series:

“The Mets have nothing to hold their heads down for – except, they didn’t play that well, and they gave away this World Series.”

That may not be an uplifting thought at the end of a World Series, but it is on target. The Mets had been about the hottest team in baseball for the final 6 weeks of the regular season and were on top of their game playing the Dodgers and the Cubs. Against the Royals, they played only marginally well. Frank Thomas gave us a Howard Cosell-like analysis but without any bombast or seeming nastiness. All he did was to cut to the chase…

Back in the summer, ESPN and Bill Simmons “went in different directions”. Simmons adopted the persona of The Sports Guy in many of his writings and he was the founder and guru for The website lived on for 6 months without him but ESPN shut it down last week.

I liked Bill Simmons’ writing – particularly when he wrote about the NBA. Having said that, I must admit that I had become tired of some of his literary devices that stretched some of his essays north of 5000 words. I also liked several other regular writers there including Bill Barnwell, Matt Hinton and Graham Parker and read them regularly. My favorite writer there was Charles P. Pierce and I like him enough that I have already started to search for whatever new Internet haunt he might contribute to. was different from the other writing that appears on ESPN outlets. There was very little “cheerleading” there and many of the articles looked analytically – not stat analytics but thought analytics – at a variety of issues. I may not have read it every day, but I did check out what was new there every day.

I doubt that it was profitable for ESPN or Disney but I also doubt that whatever losses it incurred were not covered in the “rounding off error” within Disney’s Statement of Earnings. I for one will miss it…

Speaking of folks who have parted company with ESPN in the past few months, Colin Cowherd has moved to FOX and has a new show simulcast on FS1. He can be a pompous jerk at times; but for the most part, his ideas have a rational base beneath them. Every once in a while, he has something on his program that makes you sit up and ask yourself if you really heard what you thought you heard.

An example of that was on a recent program when Len Dykstra made this claim:

    Dykstra said he had hired private investigators to follow MLB umpires around when they were on the road to get some dirt on them. That dirt would nominally be used to get Dykstra an expanded strike zone in exchange for keeping the dirt under the rug.

    As outré as that may sound, Dykstra also claimed that it had worked for him. That can only mean that he blackmailed/extorted/coerced an MLB umpire or umpires to add some subjectivity into their calls. I have two things to say about that:

      1. If true, this is far worse than what Tim Donaghy did.

      2. Given Dykstra’s history of prevarication, I would need a bit more evidence that this sort of “transaction” ever took place.

Here in the US, we often hear of situations where a player – or a parent of a player if we are talking about youth sports – goes berserk over being cut from a team or not being selected for some team or honor or thing of that nature. After the person doing the ranting and raving calms down, we all remember that he was a jerk during the ranting and raving but it is over and we move on. That is not the way things happen in Abu Dhabi.

A mid-fielder named Abdullah Qassem was not selected to be on the UAE National Team. According to The Daily Mail, Qassem made indecent gestures and ranted at the coach who selected the team; another player recorded on video the rant and the commentary; the recording made it to the Internet. A court in Abu Dhabi found both players guilty of:

“… using telecommunications services to offend and hurt the feelings of others, and displaying a recording that breached public ethics through the web”.

The two players were each sentenced to 3 months in jail for this societal breech. Here is the link in case you think I am kidding. Recall this story the next time you read about some parent going nuts over some real or imagined slight directed at one of his/her offspring…

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup which will culminate in the Miami suburb of Homestead:

“This is 14th year we’ve hosted the grand finale, and I still can’t believe they have it in Homestead. It’s like the NFL putting a Super Bowl in Fargo, North Dakota.”

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

RIP Flip Saunders…

Flip Saunders, coach and GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, died over the weekend of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The commentary of people on his passing sounded to me more authentic than is typical in situations like this one. It sounded to me as if the person on the screen reading the copy related to this passing genuinely wanted me to know that Flip Saunders was a good person. In addition, NBA coaches will wear a lapel pin honoring and remembering him all season long. That sort of tribute does not obtain for everyone.

Rest in peace, Flip Saunders…

Unless you are a Mets’ fan or a bettor who took the Mets to win Game 1 of the World Series, you had to like last night’s game. If you are into omens, you got one in the bottom of the first inning with an inside the park home run; the last time that happened was in 1929.

    [Aside: The last inside the park home run in a World Series game happened in October 1929 and the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929. Since tomorrow is October 29, we shall have to hope that last night’s “omen” was only related to an exciting baseball series and not to world financial conditions.]

Then the momentum swung back and forth between the teams sending the game into extra innings becoming on the third World Series game ever to go to the 14th inning. The game featured some solid pitching, “normal” home runs and manufactured runs. If you watched last night’s game and could not find something to fit your taste, you just do not like baseball – and there is nothing wrong with that. For baseball fans, however, last night’s game was a great game played well by two good teams. We baseball fans will be happy to see six more just the same…

One interesting stat emerged from last night’s game. Mets’ outfielder, Michael Conforto drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. That is a pretty ordinary play except …

    Conforto is the only player ever to drive in a run in the Little League World Series, the College World Series and the MLB World Series.

How cool is that?

I appreciate the value of free speech in the US and I accept the fact that guaranteeing free speech to everyone requires that I must hear from time to time things that I find reprehensible and vile. Frequently, such utterances come from the folks in charge of the Westboro Baptist Church. To anyone who pays attention to the news, it is obvious that members of that congregation believe that homosexuality is an abomination and that sin will be the downfall of mankind. Whether or not you or I agree with that creed is immaterial; that is their belief and they must be free to practice it and to preach it.

Having said that, I would greatly prefer if they would find venues for their free expression that do not make me cringe. Last weekend, a driver plunged a car into the Oklahoma State Homecoming Parade in Stillwater, OK. Four people including a toddler were killed and dozens had to be treated at local hospitals for serious injuries. The driver of the car allegedly was driving under the influence and could face charges of murder for the event. The families of the victims here seem to have suffered enough since they and their loved ones did nothing to incur the wrath of anyone else.

Not so, say the leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church. The congregation plans to picket the funerals of these victims; and if they do, their behavior can only add to the suffering of the mourners. I understand that the Church members believe they are doing God’s work; at the same time, I wonder if they derive some sort of perverse enjoyment from inflicting their extra measure of suffering to victims’ families at funeral services. If indeed any of them do derive such enjoyment, that perversion ought to be at least as great an abomination as the sin that they decry so loudly…

With Al Golden’s firing as the head coach at Miami, there are already three major college coaching openings available and the season is not over yet. Maryland, South Carolina, Southern Cal and Miami are the big schools we know will be looking for new hires at the end of the season and there will surely be more come December as final records for 2015 are written in India ink. I bring this up because of a report that I read yesterday regarding the Houston Texans.

According to that report, QB Ryan Mallett missed the team charter flight to Miami and had to catch a commercial flight to get to the game. Evidently, this is not the first time that Mallett has not been on time for team events and coach Bill O’Brien wanted to release Mallett but he was over-ruled by the GM. On the assumption that report is accurate, that tells me that O’Brien is not in charge of the team and most coaches are not going to be happy with that state of affairs for very long. Football coaches are control freaks.

Bill O’Brien got the job in Houston because of the exceptional job he did in keeping the Penn State football program from going into the sewer in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky miasma. If I were an Athletic Director at one of those major schools that needed a coach, I would quietly contact O’Brien’s agent to inquire if – perhaps – he might be interested in returning to the college ranks where “higher ups” would not question his decisions regarding who is on the team and who is not on the team. After all, it is not as if the Texans are bound for any sort of football glory this season – and perhaps the next few also…

Finally, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the team the Mets eliminated from post-season play:

“Futurewatch: Traumatized Cubs fans can take comfort in believing that with so much young talent on the roster, their team’s championship prospects should be even better next season. Of course, that’s what everybody said about the Washington Nationals two years ago.”

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

Finally – The World Series…

The World Series starts tonight. Back in Spring Training, folks could have imagined seeing the Royals appear here for a second year in a row. They were surprises last year but made it to the Series and showed well there; an encore performance was not out of the question. The Mets, on the other hand, were not considered seriously in any World Series discussions outside of Queens, Brooklyn and towns along the Long Island Expressway. Nevertheless, here they are. One of the wonderful things about the World Series is that teams that make it to the Series are not “flukes”. Grinding through a 162-game season followed by at least two elimination usually assures that the teams there are worthy of their status.

The Mets’ young pitching staff will face a challenge in the Royals – the team that struck out the fewest times last season. The Mets’ pitchers have averaged 10 strikeouts per game in the playoffs this year; the Royals as a team only struck out 15.5% of the time for the season. In a game with 40 plate appearances, that equates to only 6 strikeouts. Just watching that will be interesting.

When we left Las Vegas, the oddsmakers had the Series as a “pick ‘em” proposition. Here are two key questions:

    Assuming the Daniel Murphy will revert to mild-mannered Clark Kent and become a newspaper reporter in place of a superhero, is there another Met who will assume the mantle of superhero?

    With regard to Johnny Cueto, will Johnny be good or will Johnny be bad?

I have no particular rooting interest in this Series and did not make a wager on it last weekend. My prediction is that the Royals will win in the end.

Since the World Series will end the baseball season, let me insert a Quick Quiz here that relates to MLB. What is more inconsistently called?

    A. The strike zone in MLB …

    B. Pass interference in the NFL.

Fifty words or less…

The NBA regular season also starts tonight. Three games are on the schedule and TNT will air two of them. I do love to watch basketball, but the only moments of those games that I will watch will be when the World Series game is between innings or when a relief pitcher is responding to a summons – from the manager and not a judge. Here are some predictions regarding what we will see from the NBA next April when the interesting part of their season begins:

    The Cleveland Cavaliers will dominate the Eastern Conference. They made it to the NBA Finals last year with two of their three best players on the injured list. Assuming they are back and uninjured, the Cavs will dominate again.

    The only serious competition for the Cavaliers in the East will be the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat. The Bulls need Derrick Rose to play most of the year and not to be in street clothes when the playoffs come around. The Heat need to be “rested and ready” once the playoffs begin. Even if those things come to pass, the Cavaliers ought to prevail.

    The Knicks will be significantly improved this year. They might even be on the fringe of making the playoffs.

    The Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers will both stink.

    The far superior Western Conference will not be dominated by anyone; there are too many good teams there. I like the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder to play for the championship of the West.

    Las Vegas had the LA Lakers’ win total at 24.5 for the season. I do not think the Lakers are nearly a playoff team, but I think they will do better than that.

    I think the New Orleans Pelicans with Anthony Davis may be the most fun team to watch this year.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Portland Trail Blazers will have the worst records in the West but will not be nearly as bad as the Magic or the Sixers. Their bad records will be more a function of the fact that they have to play a lot more games against the large number of very good teams in the West as opposed to the mediocre teams in the East.

So let it be written; so let it be done… [/ Pharaoh Yul Brynner]

After Clemson disemboweled Miami 58-0 last weekend, Miami Coach, Al Golden got the axe. Golden arrived at Miami just as the NCAA dropped the hammer on the program in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro “untidiness”. He lived under the punishments imposed because of the actions of others. Obviously, Miami’s football fortunes are not what they were in the 80s and 90s, but to say that Al Golden is the reason for that retreat is unfair and incorrect. Nevertheless, 57-0 is an embarrassment normally reserved for second-rate football programs and/or homecoming patsy opponents.

According to this morning, Ed Reed says that he and other former Miami players would like to be involved in the search for Golden’s permanent replacement at Miami. That is not a bad idea except that Reed seems to think that getting someone from the “Miami family tree” is important. Getting a competent coach and a good recruiter – now that the scholarship limitations from the NCAA are over – is far more important than being part of the “Miami family tree”.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald that is peripherally related to a competent college football coach:

“There is a new book out about Nick Saban by author Monte Burke. It is called Saban: The Making Of A Coach. Because, evidently, all of the even worse book titles already were taken.”

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

Pure Hedonism…

In the month of October, the batteries powering my TV remote get quite a workout. I flip back and forth between football games and MLB Playoff games more than just once in a while. Playoff baseball is different from regular season baseball just as regular season baseball is different from Spring Training. Playoff baseball is compelling to a much greater degree than any individual game in a 162-game season.

The great thing is that both football and baseball allow time for such channel commuting. When the football teams are not playing hurry-up offense, it is even possible to reach a state of synchronization where pitches and plays happen in real time such that you do not miss anything in either game. My long-suffering wife likes to characterize me as a Luddite and often reminds me that I can record one game and watch the other and not miss anything. I have tried to explain that there is something “delicious” about being able to catch it all in real time as opposed to catching it on replay.

I bring this up because I have a rooting interest in both the ALCS and the NLCS this year. It is not the typical rooting interest because I really do not care which team wins either series. I have said I wanted the Blue Jays to win in the AL only to see if a World Series Game might have to be postponed because of snow – as a way to tell MLB that even Mother Nature thinks baseball should not stretch into November. But that is not my rooting interest …

I want both the ALCS and the NLCS to stretch to at least 6 games and preferably to 7 games. The reason for that is purely hedonistic. This week is the annual Autumnal Pilgrimage to Las Vegas with “the regulars” and if those playoff series go to their final games, we will get to see them there on the big screen, in a sportsbook, amongst an energized environment – and with “a little something” on the game to root for. There will be other things going on in the sportsbooks while the games are on – but there will be no need to flip from channel to channel because there will be at least 2 dozen screens to cover all the action all the time. Like I said, pure hedonism…

About a week ago, there were reports that Browns’ QB, Johnny Manziel had been pulled over for driving at a high rate of speed on a road shoulder in Ohio and that he and his girlfriend had been involved in a roadside altercation which escalated to something physical. If those reports were accurate, it is difficult to see how this might be construed as a “good thing”…

Added to that sort of reporting, it appeared that Manziel had been drinking – although not to the point of impairment while driving – and given his long stint in rehab earlier this year for alcohol abuse, that was also disquieting…

Both of these aspects to the reports of this incident are important and bothersome. Domestic violence/abuse is abhorrent; let there be no cloud of uncertainty around or nuance associated with that statement. Drinking as a recovering alcoholic is tragic because it is a testament to the fact that the recovery is not real. I have several friends and former colleagues who are recovering alcoholics. Two of them that I know of have had to go through the start-up to recovery several times before recovery became central to their lives. Both of them said that as soon as they took “that first drink” they realized that their recovery had gone all the way back to square one.

Johnny Manziel has not been an endearing figure or an inspirational figure for his short time on the sporting scene. For much of that time he seemed to be the incarnation of the entitled spoiled brat to whom the rules that apply to others do not apply to him. It was easy to imagine a year or so ago him being confronted by any sort of authority figure and hearing him say, “Do you know who I am?”

Manziel brought out all of the euphemisms that reporters use to avoid negative commentary.

    He “made bad decisions”; he “showed immaturity”; he “refused to take accountability”.

What he was doing then was being an antisocial “starts-with-A-and-rhymes-with-glass-bowl”. Based on his need for rehab – and the length of his stay in rehab – we can at least consider that some of his antisocial behavior was directly tied to his alcohol consumption. If that consideration is closer to correct than to incorrect, the reports that he had been drinking proximal to the time of the traffic incident and the confrontation with his girlfriend are saddening and worrisome.

Since the police have not filed any charges in the matter and the girlfriend seems not to be interested in anything along the lines of a lawsuit or a protective order, the idea that the Browns and/or the NFL might punish Manziel is tenuous. None of the circumstances involved in the incident a week ago are laudable but I do have to wonder what good might come from a punishment. This is not over; stay tuned…

The Miami Dolphins spent two weeks acclimating to an interim coach and his new ways. Buried in the agate type was an announcement that the team also “promoted” special teams coach Darren Rizzi to the position of “Assistant Head Coach”. To be honest, I have no idea about Darren Rizzi’s coaching career or his credentials within that profession; so, please do not take the following comment as any kind of a swipe at him.

    What does it mean to be the Assistant Head Coach to a guy who is the Interim Head Coach?

    Should scribes refer to him as the Assistant-Interim Head Coach?

    If the Interim Head Coach goes down in flames, do you become the Neo-Interim Head Coach and inherit a new assistant?

    If the Interim Head Coach is a wild success and gets the job permanently, do you get to keep your “Assistantship” permanently too?

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald that is relevant to my channel commuting from baseball games to football games at this time of the year:

“The Iranian women’s soccer team must undergo gender testing after allegations that eight players are men. It’s low-budget gender testing. The players are handed a TV remote and if they haven’t lost it in five minutes, they are considered to be women.”

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