Kudos To The President of Notre Dame

Last weekend, Notre Dame beat Clemson in a football game that went into Double OT.  After that game, students stormed the field in celebration – – and in violation of campus regulations about gatherings in these days of COVID-19.  Many folks pointed to this behavior as partial confirmation that young folks cannot always be expected to behave responsibly and with long-term judgment.  Other social pundits suggested that this demonstration showed that there should not be any problem with opening up stadiums and arenas to fans for sporting events – – even in these days of COVID-19.  While I do not completely buy into either extreme interpretation of that display of emotion last weekend, I am more inclined toward the former than the latter.

The President of Notre Dame – The Rev. John Jenkins who has himself previously tested positive for COVID-19 – took the situation for what it was and then acted.  A former colleague once described “leadership” in this way:

“Leadership is when you act positively and forcefully to do what you know to be right.”

If you happen to agree with my former colleague – as I do – then Rev. Jenkins demonstrated leadership this week.  Basically, he sent a letter to every student at Notre Dame.  He said that he was disappointed by their behavior which violated campus regulations and that he has heard from local health officials that some of the students have been less than fastidious in adhering to those COVID-19 protocols during the semester.  Faced with that situation – and in light of his contracting the virus in a venue where he was not fully attentive to common sense COVID-19 protocols – Rev. Jenkins acted to support what he knows to be right.

  • Virus testing for students is now to be expanded – – and it will be mandatory.  The penalty for not being tested is that students will not be allowed to register for Spring classes nor will they be able to access their transcripts.  He presents a simple choice for students and sets forth a clear and strict consequence for failure to comply.
  • Moreover, students are not to leave the campus in South Bend to go home for the holidays until they have been tested AND have gotten the results back on those tests.  The same sanction applies here; violate this rule and the student records will be frozen.
  • Finally, there are rules in place about social gatherings involving students on campus and off-campus.  Rev. Jenkins has declared a zero-tolerance policy for violations of those rules and protocols saying that hosts of such event will face “severe sanctions”.

I mentioned that Rev. Jenkins has himself tested positive for COVID-19.  He was one of the people in attendance in the White House Rose Garden ceremony where Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice.  Put aside any sociopolitical views for a moment; Justice Barrett was a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Notre Dame’s law school and Justice Barrett has been on the faculty of the Notre Dame law school for almost 20 years.  Rev. Jenkins’ presence at that swearing in ceremony was proper and respectful; he was there at least in part to represent Notre Dame University – the institution that he heads.

What puts Rev. Jenkins in a “dicey situation” is that it appears that he contracted the coronavirus at that “super-spreader event” where he was photographed “mask-less and shaking hands” with others in attendance.  It is easy to argue that Rev. Jenkins should have known better and that he was not “leading by example” in that situation.  He has taken his lumps in the court of public opinion on that matter and now I think it is time to recognize that he knows what is right and he knows that what he did was wrong.  Moreover, he is not going to retreat from doing the right thing now because it might bring more embarrassment to him.  Metaphorically, he is willing to pick the scab off that previous injury because there is an underlying infection that needs treatment now.

I could accuse Rev. Jenkins of hypocrisy here, but I choose not to do that.  I think he did the wrong thing in the White House Rose Garden, recognized his mistake and moved forward in a positive direction.  Kudos to Rev. Jenkins…

Let me switch gears here and talk about one of Notre Dame’s football rivals – – the University of Michigan.  The football program there and the athletic department/administration have a situation that seems balanced on a knife edge.  Consider:

  • Jim Harbaugh has been the coach there for five-and-a-half years and his contract expires at the end of the 2021 season.
  • He – and the Wolverines by extension – will face a recruiting disadvantage this year and possibly next year if Harbaugh is a lame duck coach without a contract extension.
  • A contract extension will not come cheap to the school and in these times of COVID-19, even the big-time football programs are not flush with cash.
  • Moreover, Michigan right now is an embarrassing 1-2 with losses to rival Michigan State (who has already lost to Rutgers and gotten blown away by Iowa) and to Indiana (a team that last beat Michigan in 1987).  Selling a contract extension of any kind – let alone an expensive one – in these circumstances would not be easy.
  • During Harbaugh’s time at Michigan, the Wolverines have gone 3-3 against rival Michigan State and have gone 0-5 against Ohio State.  Those results might not motivate some deep-pocketed alums to chip in to extend the coach.

If there is a fairy tale solution to that dicey situation in Ann Arbor, it would be for the NY Jets to fire Adam Gase at the end of this year (highly likely) and to come calling for Harbaugh to be the guy to rebuild the Jets franchise in the Meadowlands.  Just tossing it out there…

Finally, here is an item from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle regarding sports and the coronavirus:

“Scientists and medical experts say masks are effective for slowing the spread of the coronavirus, but tinfoil hats are not. Still, many sports figures prefer the hats.”

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



The Masters And The EPL

This weekend the sporting world will experience something difficult to understand logically.  We will witness an event that bills itself as “A tradition unlike any other…”  The problem with 2020 is that this is the first time in its history that The Masters has been played in the Autumn as opposed to the Spring.  I have difficulty getting my mind around anything that is happening for the first time and yet calls itself “a tradition”.

There will be a few modifications regarding the tournament this weekend that may be more subtle than simply the placement on the calendar:

  • As a result of the placement on the calendar, there will be no azaleas in bloom.  Hence, there will be no references to “Spring” and “rebirth” and “the PGA tournament entering its serious season”.
  • As a result of the coronavirus, there will be no spectators – – pardon me, there will be no patrons.
  • As a result of the coronavirus, a former Masters champion, Sergio Garcia, has had to withdraw this year.

In addition to and as a result of the placement on the calendar and related to the astronomical reality of November in the Northern Hemisphere, it is going to make the daily rounds finish much earlier.  Back in April, thanks to being several weeks after the vernal equinox when days get longer and with the benefit of Daylight Saving Time, sunset in Augusta, GA was close to 8:00 PM.  Players could – if necessary – continue to play until 6:30 or 7:00 PM.  This year, the tournament is going to be about 7 weeks on the downside of the autumnal equinox and without the benefit of Daylight Saving Time.  Sunset in Augusta, GA this weekend will be at 5:27 PM.  Players will not be able to play much beyond 5:15 PM.

I cannot know for sure, but I believe this astronomical reality is behind a format change in The Masters for 2020.  Normally, the “cut line” on Friday evening to determine which golfers may continue to play over the weekend has been to allow any player within ten strokes of the leader to continue to play.  That could make for a crowded field over the weekend and could allow sunset to “interfere with the tournament”.  So, in 2020, the “cut line” will be the fifty golfers with the lowest scores in the first two rounds – – no matter how close or how far they are from the leader.

Moving on from The Masters, let me turn to the English Premier League where a controversy is brewing.  Back in the summer, the EPL returned to the pitch to complete its season after a hiatus thanks to the coronavirus.  When it did that, it recognized that some players may not have been in perfect condition due to the layoff and the EPL expanded the substitution rule to allow 5 substitutions per game as opposed to the normal 3 substitutions per game.  Unless I missed it entirely, there was no revolt among the people in the UK over that change nor were there any dangerous geopolitical implications related to that change.

The new season has begun.  Teams have played 7 or 8 games; Leicester City, Tottenham and Liverpool sit atop the EPL Table while Sheffield, Burnley and West Brom Albion are bringing up the rear.  There is no great shock in those placements early in the season.  The issue is that several teams have multiple players with ‘muscle injuries” and one of the hypotheses for the occurrence of these ‘muscle injuries” is the shortened off-season between filling out last year’s EPL Table and the start of this season.  I have no idea if that is a proper diagnosis and it really does not matter; the issue is that several teams have proposed that the EPL go back to the “5 substitutions” rule used last summer.

Support and opposition to the proposed rule change devolve in very predictable ways:

  • The Professional Footballers Association – the union that represents players in the EPL – is in favor of expanding the substitution rule from 3 to 5.
  • Managers of the “big clubs” – the ones with the deepest pickets – are in favor of expanding the substitution rule from 3 to 5.  Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal for example have all declared their support for such a change.
  • Managers of the ‘little clubs” – the ones with not so deep pockets – do not favor expanding the substitution rule from 3 to 5.  Sheffield has specifically come out publicly against the proposed change saying it would give an even larger competitive advantage to the “rich teams” who can better afford to expand their benches.

Here is the rub.  The EPL rules require a vote of 14 of the 20 teams in the EPL to make the change.  There have already been two votes on this issue this year and both votes have been “relatively conclusively in favor of three substitutions.”  That is the phraseology used by the CEO of the English Premier League in a discussion with the Government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and if that remains the forum in which the controversy will be decided, it looks as if the “big guys” are not going to get their way.

I mention this because there is another interesting statement from the EPL’s CEO to members of that Select Committee:

“Our job is to make sure we create a calendar which fits with our broadcast commitments, we’ve made very clear broadcast commitments, and try to do our best – as we always do – to work with clubs to create a fixture calendar that has player welfare at its core … We can’t always do everything that everybody wants us to do but where there’s flexibility we try to help.”

Here you have an example of someone akin to a “Commissioner” in US sports exhibiting transparency and candor.  The league needs to fit a schedule to the needs of the “broadcast partners” because those are the people who are paying the freight for the EPL as a whole.  This is why rich people buy EPL teams; this is why players in the EPL earn the salaries that they do.  Somewhere in the cosmos, Howard Cosell is smiling and saying that this guy tells it like it is.

Finally, since part of today’s rant focused on The Masters, let me present here the definition of golf from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Golf:  A so-called sport whose strolling, lackadaisical participants are so unaccustomed to the consequences of physical exertion that all eighteen of their playing areas include a place to wash their balls.”

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



NBA Musings Today …

It appears that a bit of clarity regarding the 2020/2021 NBA season has begun to emerge.  The league and the players’ union have agreed to begin the new season on December 22nd and the next season will be 72 games in length instead of the normal – prior to  the last season – 82 games.  The NBA Draft will happen on November 18th and training camps will open on December 1st.  Fans with nothing better to do on Christmas Day after the presents are opened and before Christmas Dinner can rest assured that they will have NBA basketball to watch on TV.

This is not to say that the NBA will be returning to normal and that the only noticeable difference between next season and years past is the number of games in the season.  For example, reports indicate that the NBA would like to limit travel for health/safety reasons and to allow for player recovery time during the compressed schedule.  Yes, there will be fewer games – – but there is also a shorter time from season start (12/22/20) to the end of next season (5/16/21).  [Aside:  Reduced travel also means reduced travel costs for teams; after the “revenue issues” in the 2020 season, do not ignore that aspect of the allure of reduced travel.]  I doubt the league would try this, but here is a potential way to achieve that end:

  • Eliminate inter-conference games.  That gives teams much shorter distances to travel and it sets up an interesting dynamic for the playoffs wherein the teams in the finals will not have played each other prior to that series.  [Aside:  If you want to get really crazy, once you winnow down the playoff teams to four, play “first place East” against “second place West” and vice-versa.]

There is another economic question hanging out there to be resolved by negotiation.  It has to do with the salary cap and the luxury tax.  When the formulae for calculating those threshold numbers were negotiated and devised, no one ever built in any sort of provision for what happens in a season where revenues declined significantly.  The cap and the luxury tax numbers are simply percentages of what is called “basketball-related income” and the sticking points in all the previous negotiations have been over what percentage of that income should flow to the players and what should stay in the pockets of the owners.  Last year, the salary cap was $109M; reports say that the salary cap next year – – if there is no cap modification – – could be as low as $88M.  For those of you keeping score at home, that would be a 19.3% drop.

If the league applied the formula directly, this year’s free agent crop would be seriously disadvantaged since most teams would be near or over the cap before signing any free agents; that would put teams in “luxury tax territory” meaning any new signees would cost even more than the figures contained in their contracts.  There is going to have to be give-and-take on both sides of the table and it is going to have to happen toute de suite because the target date for the start of the free agency season is November 19th or 10 days from now.

One other thorny area is what to do with the vagabonds known as the Toronto Raptors.  As of this morning, there is a pesky little problem caused by the Government of Canada.  That pesky problem makes complete sense so it is not likely to be swept away just because it is inconvenient to the NBA and the fact that the problem is created by the Government of Canada means that it cannot be resolved by NBA negotiations with the NBPA.  Here is the deal:

  • As of this morning, anyone arriving in Canada from another country must quarantine for 14 days as a measure to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Eventually, that restriction will be lifted – – but I do not think it would be a good bet to assume that it will be lifted by December 22nd when the NBA season is to begin.  Ergo, what does the league do with the Raptors?

I mentioned the revenue losses for the NBA last year that will lead to salary cap crunches this year without some sort of negotiated way out of the jungle but I do not want to leave the impression that once those negotiations are finished everything is hunky-dory on the economic front.  Front Office Sports reported the following economic losses by the NBA in the interrupted season that just ended; they estimate the NBA saw a reduction of $1.5B in revenue last season and here were the major components of that reduction:

  • $800M lost in arena revenues due to lack of fans
  • $400M lost in sponsorship deals and merchandise sales
  • $200M lost due to “tensions with China”.

Let me stipulate that I have no reason to doubt the numbers cited above nor am I privy to any “inside information” regarding league revenues.  With that caveat in mind, it is not clear to me how the NBA is going to eliminate those “reduction factors” in the upcoming season.

First, I cannot think of any NBA city that is going to allow the league to pack 20,000 people into an indoor arena for 3 hours to watch a basketball game any time soon.  Remember, last season, the NBA played to normal fan attendance from November until mid-March meaning that teams took in about 75-80% of regular season gate revenue before the shut-down occurred.  There may be some cities that will allow greatly reduced attendance at games, but it is not clear to me how that $800M in “lost arena revenues” will be recouped.

Second, at least some of the revenue taken in from sponsorships and from merchandise sales depends on factors outside the control of the league.  Local or regional companies that may want to sponsor some aspect of NBA games or possibly purchase advertising banners in arenas will need to be financially able to justify that expenditure.  Fans who want to buy official league-branded merchandise need to have discretionary income in their accounts to do so.  Those are factors determined by the economy at large and not with the NBA and its schedule accommodations to COVID-19.

Third, the NBA ‘s “tensions with China” exist in a totally different dimension than the one that I live in.  It just may be that those “tensions with China” exist in a totally different dimension than the one NBA players and execs live in too.  That revenue loss factor may be cured overnight, or it may not be cured for a decade or so.  C’est la guerre…

Finally, since I mentioned China in passing today, let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Great Wall of China:  A remarkable testament to what several million slaves can accomplish when an emperor puts his mind to it.”

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



Football Friday 11/6/20

Over the last few days, election officials around the country have gone to great lengths to align themselves with “transparency” as they tabulate votes and make the results known to the public.  Similarly, I have a dedication to transparency here in Curmudgeon Central.

  • I declare that I am fully committed to producing Football Friday whenever possible.

So, let me begin this week with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  2-1-0
  • NFL:  0-3-0
  • Combined:  2-4-0

Here are the Six-Pack results since the beginning of the football season:

  • College:  8-12-1
  • NFL:  13-13-1
  • Combined:  21-25-2


College Commentary:


Natural selection seeks to explain the adaptation of life forms to the habitat they populate.  Charles Darwin observed different beak shapes for varieties of finches in the Galapagos Islands where each beak shape was optimally efficient for opening the prevalent seeds on the various islands.  Much less dramatically, football coaches evolve too.  They do not modify their “beak shape” but they modify their outlook about the game.

Take Nick Saban as an example.  If you go looking, you will find a time when Nick Saban was a “defense-first” coach and that he thought the idea of college football moving toward spread formations and hurry-up offenses was not good for the game nor was it good for the health and safety of the players.  That was then; this is now.

Alabama is still a good defensive team; they may not be the best in the country, but they are certainly better than most.  However, it is on offense that Nick Saban’s team has shown significant change.  So far in 2020, Alabama averages:

  • 47.2 points per game
  • 380 yards passing per game
  • 172 yards rushing per game
  • 552 yards total offense per game

Not bad for a defense-first team…

Even before the calendar flipped into November, there were no Big-12 teams left undefeated.  There were two of them as of last Saturday morning and both lost on Saturday afternoon.

  • Three teams (Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State) have 1 loss.
  • Three teams (Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia) have two losses.

If the Big-12 is going to offer up a serious candidate for the CFP Selection Committee to consider, it will surely come from those teams with only 1 loss.  The problem is that only Oklahoma State can point to the fact that its loss came at the hands of a team that most fans have heard about.  Iowa State lost its opening game to La-Lafayette; K-State lost its opening game to Arkansas State.  Oklahoma State’s loss was at the hands of Texas; the Longhorns are not an elite team – – but most fans would assert that they know more about Texas than either La-Lafayette or Arkansas State or both.

There is a constant in the Big-12 this year; Kansas stinks.  The Jayhawks are 0-6 which is bad on its face.  In addition, 4 of those 6 losses have been by 30 points or more.  There are not enough plastic surgeons in the world to put a good face on that record.  This week Kansas will visit Oklahoma and they are currently 38-point underdogs.  The Les Miles Era at Kansas is not shaping up very well so far…

In looking at the Big-12 conference schedule, I got off on a tangent and started to look ahead to big games coming over the rest of the season.  What I found was that this week is prime real estate for important games; there are five of them.  Looking at this weekend:

  1. BYU/Boise St. Tonight:   BYU is undefeated so far; Boise St. just started its Mountain West Conference season.
  2. Florida/Georgia  Tomorrow:  Winner here takes control of the SEC East.
  3. Clemson/Notre Dame  Tomorrow:  Both teams are undefeated and ranked in the Top 5.
  4. Oklahoma State/ K-State  Tomorrow:  Two of the three Big-12 teams with only 1 loss.
  5. Cincy/Houston:  Tomorrow:  Houston averages 37 points per game and has only 1 loss; Cincy is undefeated; its defense only allows 12 points per game and the Bearcats have an eye on a New Year’s Day Bowl Game.

Here are some other big games scheduled for later on:

  • Alabama/LSU Nov 14
  • Oklahoma St/Oklahoma  Nov 21:  Game is always  one to watch and it might be a key game to determine who plays in the Big 12 Championship Game.
  • Auburn/Alabama  Nov 28:  Always an important college football game.
  • Ohio St/Michigan:  Dec 12:  Always an interesting college football game even when it is not all that important.

West Virginia beat K-State 37-10.  So much for the Wildcats being the best team in the Big-12…  Yes, West Virginia is always a tough out at home, but this was not a contest.  K-State was shut out in the second half, gained only 221 yards (41 on the ground) and gave up 485 yards of offense.

Texas beat Oklahoma St.  41-34 in OT.  Ok. St had 530 yards on offense and Texas had 287.  Texas only converted 2 of 15 third down situations; Texas was penalized 13 times for 142 yards – – and they won the game.  Four turnovers by Ok. St. made that possible.  Three times Texas started a drive in the Red Zone thanks to those turnovers.  Texas also got a kickoff return for a TD in the game.

Alabama beat Mississippi State 41-0.  It was not nearly that close.

Georgia beat Kentucky 14-3.  I said last week this could be a “look-ahead game” for the Dawgs.  Kentucky held Georgia to 131 yards passing and intercepted two of Georgia’s pass attempts.  The Georgia defense is elite – – but the offense is anemic.

Auburn beat LSU 48-11.  The game was 21-3 at the half and 42-3 after 3 quarters.  “Bad LSU” showed up last week; “Good LSU” stayed home in Baton Rouge…

Clemson beat BC 34-28.  The stats for this game are strange.  Clemson outgained BC by 173 yards; usually that means a bigger win than 6 points.  Clemson RB, Travis Etienne had 224 all-purpose yards and 2 TDs; no one on BC even came close to that.  BC won the turnover battle 1-0 but that still does not explain the close score.  BC scored on a 99-yard scoop-and-score and a miracle catch in the end zone for another TD in first half.  Clemson trailed 28-10 with 1 minute to go in the first half.  Clemson remains unbeaten – – but they got a scare here without Trevor Lawrence in the game.

Notre Dame beat Ga Tech 31-13.  This week the Irish have Clemson come to visit in South Bend and Trevor Lawrence is not going to be the QB in that game.  This is huge spot for Notre Dame.

Virginia beat UNC  44-41.  Last week, I said that the small spread with UNC as the favorite surprised me; well, the outcome surprised me even more.   The Tar Heels won the stat battle because they were behind for most of the game and were throwing the ball a lot.  Virginia’s attack was balanced gaining 210 yards on the ground and 208 yards in the air.

Michigan St. beat Michigan 27-24.  This is a week after the Spartans lost to Rutgers and Michigan dominated Minnesota. This result was no fluke; the stats were even.  One difference is that Michigan gave Michigan St. 5 first downs on penalties in the game.  Michigan was a 24.5-point favorite at kickoff and the game was in Ann Arbor.  This is a terrible loss for the Wolverines.  Jim Harbaugh is in his sixth year at Michigan.  His record against Michigan St. is 3-3 and his record against Ohio State is 0-5.  He was not hired and paid the huge bucks to lose to those two schools.

Ohio State beat Penn State 38-25.  Ohio St. QB, Justin Fields is really good.  He was 28-34 for 315 yards and 4 TDs with 0 INTs.  The Buckeyes converted 10 of 18 third-down tries and 2 of 3 fourth-down tries in the game.  I know it is early, but it sure seems to me as if Ohio State is the class of the Big-10 with a large gap between the Buckeyes and whoever is #2.  Consider this amazing stat for Ohio State QB, Justin Fields:

  • After 2 games, Justin Fields has thrown 6 TDs and 7 incompletions – –  not interceptions, incompletions!

Indiana beat Rutgers 37-21.  Maybe Indiana is for real?  Maybe Rutgers got a one-time pass from the football gods in Week 1 blowing out Michigan State?  Three turnovers in this game did not help the Rutgers cause.

Maryland beat Minnesota 45-44 in OT.  The Gophers are 0-2 to start the season; some folks thought that Minnesota was the class of the Big-10 West.  A 25-point loss to Michigan in Week 1 followed by a loss to Maryland makes me skeptical about those prognostications.

Cincy beat Memphis 49-10.  Memphis had been scoring aplenty this year and the Cincy defense took care of that shutting out Memphis in the second half.  Moreover, Memphis was held to 5 yards rushing for the game.  Memphis had scored 154 points in its previous 4 games this year (38.5 points per game).

Rice beat So. Mississippi  30-6.  I wrote last week about how So. Miss was on their 3rd head coach of the year.  Well, the new regime did not provide much of a boost last week.  On the bright side, Coach #3 has not resigned yet.

Georgia Tech has lost its last 3 games by a combined score of 152-47.  They have a BYE Week this week; they probably need one…

For the record, La-Monroe is the only team in the country with an 0-7 record.  This week, they will be 20-point underdogs in their game at Georgia State.


College Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) BYU – 3 at Boise St. (61):  BYU is scoring 44.4 points per game and yielding only 13.4 points per game.  Boise State is probably the toughest team on the schedule of this independent, so this is an interesting game.  If you get a chance to see BYU and its QB Zack Wilson, do so.  I think Wilson will be a high draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Houston at Cincy – 13.5 (54.5):  The spread opened with Cincy as a 10.5-point favorite and has been expanding all week.  Additionally, the Total Line opened at 58.5 and has been contracting.

Michigan – 3 at Indiana (54):  The Hoosiers squeaked by Penn State in Week 1 and then beat Rutgers last week.  They are undefeated – – but are they good?  Michigan looked powerful against Minnesota in Week 1 and then wet the bed last week against Michigan State (see above).  Are they any good?

Michigan St. at Iowa – 6.5 (45.5):  The most interesting thing here is the Total Line which opened the week at 56.5 and has collapsed by eleven points.  That does not happen often.

Oklahoma St. – 12.5 at Kansas St. (45):  As noted above, this is a big game in the Big-12.  I think these two teams will be able to move the ball on each other, so I think the Total Line is easily within reach.  K-State scores 31 points per game and Ok. St. scores 29.6 points per game.  I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Nebraska at Northwestern – 4 (54):  Northwestern is one of the undefeated teams in the Big-10.  Nebraska leads the conference in being annoying.

Florida at Georgia – 3.5 (52.5):  The winner of this game is in the catbird’s seat in the SEC East.  Georgia’s top-shelf defense is missing 3 starters; Georgia’s offense may be hobbled by the good health of QB Stetson Bennett who has underperformed this year.  Last week he only threw 14 passes in the game – and 2 of them were interceptions.  I think Florida has too many advantages in this game; I’ll take Florida plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Vandy at Mississippi St. – 19.5 (44):  The Air Raid offense has sputtered mightily the last 3 weeks scoring 16 points in those 3 games.  Vandy is a mess; if the Air Raid offense cannot score in this game, there could be unrest in Starkville.  Vandy ranks 99th (out of 115 teams) in the country in pass defense giving up an average of 292.8 yards per game.

Clemson – 4 at Notre Dame (50):  If Clemson loses without Trevor Lawrence, they will likely still get the benefit of the doubt by pollsters down the line.  If Notre Dame loses at home without having to face Trevor Lawrence, I believe their hopes of being in the CFP will be seriously damaged.  In fact, Notre Dame’s path to the CFP- –  if they lose here – – may require them to win the ACC Championship Game over Clemson in mid-December with Trevor Lawrence on the field.

UMass at Marshall – 44.5 (55):  Independent UMass rescinded their season cancellation and came back for games like this?


NFL Commentary:


Figuratively speaking, LB, Avery Williamson, was on death row and just got a “pardon from the governor”.  What actually happened was that Williamson was traded from the Jets (NFL death row so to speak since it is the only winless team in the league) to the Steelers (the only undefeated team in the league).  The Steelers need linebacker depth in the wake of a season ending injury to Devin Bush.  For that reason, the trade seems lopsided to me:

  • Steelers get Williamson plus the Jets 7th round pick in 2022
  • Jets get Steelers 5th round pick in 2022
  • Bottom Line:  Jets move up 40-50 slots in back end of the 2022 draft and Steelers get linebacker depth they need.

At one point in the Star Wars movie, Darth Vader declares that “The Force is strong in this one”.  I believe that in real life:

  • The Force of Habit is strong in football coaches.

Pay attention to coaches on the sideline who are wearing masks and calling in plays – – offense or defense – – over the headset.  Those mask-wearing coaches – – kudos to them for doing that – – also take their playsheets and cover their faces with the playsheets as the call goes in.  That is “Force of Habit”.

  • Memo to Mask-Wearing Coaches:  Lip-reading through the mask you have on is sufficiently difficult for opposing coaches and players without having to add the extra layer of protection provided by the playsheet.

Antonio Brown has served his NFL suspension and has been signed by the Tampa Bay Bucs.  Reports say he could be activated for this week’s games.  Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot offered this cogent observation on that situation:

Fact check: Now that the troublesome Antonio Brown is joining Tom Brady’s Bucs, people need to stop saying that everybody deserves a second chance. By rough estimate, this is Brown’s fourth.”

Before going to last week’s happenings, let me ask a serious question and then provide one answer to it:

  • Question:  Which team – the Chargers or the Falcons – has put together the more frustrating season in 2020?
  • The Chargers have lost 3 games where they led by 17 points or more during the game.
  • The Falcons have lost 2 games where they led by 16 points during the game and they have lost 2 games on the final play of the game.
  • Answer:  We shall find out on December 13th.  On that day, the Falcons will make their way to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.

The Dolphins beat the Rams 28-17.  Tua Tagovailoa started the game and the Dolphins won but the win was despite Tua’s performance.  Here is his stat line:

  • 12 of 22 for 93 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs
  • 2 carries for 0 yards

The Dolphins got TDs from a 78-yard “Scoop-and-Score” and an 88-yard punt return in the span of a minute-and-a-half in the second quarter.  In the second half, the Dolphins’ defense played bend-not-break style and won the game.  The Rams had the ball for more than 36 minutes here and won the stat battle 417 yards of offense to 145 yards offense for the Dolphins.  The Rams turned the ball over 4 times in the game.  This was a nice win for the Dolphins putting them at 4-3 for the season but will that mode of play post many more wins in the future?

The Bengals beat the Titans 31-20.  Joe Burrow was efficient and effective in the game; the Titans did not sack him even once in the game.  Equally important is the fact that the Bengals’ defense kept Derrick Henry from dominating the game with his running; the Bengals had the ball for almost 36 minutes.  There was only one turnover in the game, but it was a timely one by the Bengals’ defense; they intercepted Ryan Tannehill when the Titans had marched to the Red Zone.

The Vikes beat the Packers 28-22.  Dalvin Cook simply ran wild in this game scoring all four of the Vikes’ TDs.  He carried the ball 30 times for 163 yards, and he caught 2 passes for another 63 yards.  The Packers outgained the Vikes for the day but the result on the scoreboard is what matters.  The Packers’ defense allowed the Vikes to gain 5.1 yards per rush attempt.  Just to clarify, that is not good…

The Colts beat the Lions 41-21.  The Colts’ defense sacked Matthew Stafford 5 times and contributed a Pick-Six to this game.  The Lions could not run the ball at all gaining only 29 yards on the ground for the entire game.  Meanwhile, the Colts dominated the clock; in the first quarter of the game, the Colts had the ball for 13 minutes and 15 seconds.  With the Titans losing last week, the Colts and Titans are tied atop the AFC South – – and they have both of their head-to-head matchups still to come.  (Colts at Titans on Nov 12th and Titans at Colts on Nov 29th.)

The Chiefs beat the Jets 35-9.  Patrick Mahomes had a big day here throwing for 416 yards and 5 TDs.  The Jets’ total offense for the day was 221 yards and 0 TDs.  The Jets never got into the Rad Zone; this game was a classic beatdown.

The Steelers beat the Ravens 28-24.  Last week, I said this was the Game of the Week and that it was going to be a great game to watch.  Allow me to dislocate my shoulder while I pat myself on the back; I got both of those comments right.  The Steelers’ defense played a great game sacking Lamar Jackson 4 times, intercepting 2 passes (one was a Pick-Six) and recovering 2 fumbles.  The Ravens had the ball for 35:22 in the game and outgained the Steelers 457 yards to 221 yards, but when the Steelers got to the Red Zone, they were 3 for 3 in getting TDs.  The Ravens got there 5 times and got a TD on only 3 of those visits.  The Ravens dominated play in the first half running 45 offensive plays to only 20 for the Steelers.  But the Steelers found ways to hang in and keep it close enough to win in the 4th quarter.

The Steelers have now beaten the Titans and the Ravens on the road in successive games.  This week, the Steelers appear to get a breather with the Cowboys – – but the game is in Dallas so this will be the third-consecutive road game for the Steelers…

The Bills beat the Pats 24-21.  This is the fourth consecutive loss for the Pats and there seems to be a theme to the way they lose.  The offense is lackluster and the Pats fall behind; then, the offense then wakes up – – but the Pats’ offense even at its best is not one that is designed to come from behind…  The Bills’ defense had difficulty stopping the Pats’ running game last week giving up 188 yards (5.5 yards per carry).  The Bills rightfully have their sights set on the playoffs in 2020 but they will need to have a better run defense in place if they expect to do any damage in playoff games.

I can see lots of reasons for Pats’ troubles this season.  Tom Brady left, and they had 7 players opt-out for 2020 due to COVID concerns.  But there’s more.  The Pats have not fared well at the top of the NFL Draft for quite a while:

  • 2017:  No first-round picks or second round picks here .  In the third round they took Derek Rivers and Antonio Garcia.  Rivers is on the roster but has played in only 12 games with the Pats; Garcia never made the team.
  • 2018:  Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel were first round picks who have played well but not stayed healthy.  Duke Dawson taken in Round 2 has played a bit but not with any great distinction.
  • 2019:  N’Keal Harry in the first round has been a disappointment to say the least – – especially considering that Deebo Samuel was still on the board when the Pats took Harry.  Joejuan Williams from Round 2 is merely OK.  The best player from this draft came in Round 3 – Chase Winovich.
  • 2020:  No first-round picks last year.  Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche (Round 2) have played a bit as have Anfernee Jennings and Devin Asiasi (Round 3) – – but no one is touting any of these guys as “Rookie of the Year” material.

The Broncos beat the Chargers 31-30.  The Chargers led 24-3 with 7:44 left to play in the third quarter – – and manufactured a way to lose the game.  In the 4th quarter, the Broncos scored 3 TDs and the Chargers settled for 2 FGs.  I want to focus on the fourth quarter of this game here and do a bit of math.  Here is Broncos’ QB, Drew Lock’s stat line for the game:

  • 26 of 41 for 248 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT

Now, here is Drew Lock’s stat line for the fourth quarter:

  • 13 of 16 for 150 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs

Ergo, for the first 3 quarters of that game, the Chargers’ defense was making Drew Lock look like he was overmatched with a stat line of:

  • 13 of 25 for 98 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT


The Raiders beat the Browns 16-6.  The weather conditions for this game were awful and had a lot to do with keeping the score down.  It was pretty obvious early on that the wind and rain was going to make the passing game problematic for the day.  So, the Raiders resorted to a bludgeoning run game featuring Josh Jacobs and Devin Booker who carried the ball a total of 36 times for 157 yards.

The Saints beat the Bears 26-23 in OT.  The Bears’ defense played well.  The Bears’ offense rallied from 10 points down with 10 minutes left in the game to force OT, but Alvin Kamara was the spark that set up the Saints for the winning FG in OT.  Kamara had 67 yards rushing (on 12 carries) and he caught 9 passes for 96 yards in the game.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys 23-9.  This was an ugly game on both sides.  How or why the Cowboys’ offensive braintrust managed to ignore Amari Cooper is bizarre.  Cooper caught 1 pass for 5 yards for the whole game.  Ben DiNucci played as well as one could expect from a 3rd string rookie QB taken in the 7th round of the Draft just 7 months ago.  Just to clarify, DiNucci was overmatched…  There were 6 turnovers in this game and the total offense by BOTH teams was a measly 487 yards.

The Seahawks beat the Niners 37-27.  DK Metcalf had a monster of a game catching 12 passes for 161 yards and 2 TDs.  The Seahawks’ defense held the Niners to 351 yards – – which is about 130 yards below the Seahawks’ average coming into the game.

Last night, the Packers dominated the Niners from the start of the game to the end winning the game 34-17.  Do not be fooled by the final score; the Niners scored 2 classic “garbage time touchdowns” to avoid abject embarrassment.  The Niners put up a struggle but with 8 starters out of the lineup from the outset, they brought brass knuckles to an axe fight.  The most important thing that I saw in this game was that the Packers’ defense did indeed know how to tackle an opposing player with the ball.  That had not been evident in last week’s loss to the Vikes.


NFL Games:


            Here are the teams on their BYE Weeks:

  • Bengals:  Raise your hand if you thought the Bengals would go into their BYE Week with a record better than 6 other NFL teams.
  • Browns:  They have shown that they can beat bad and mediocre teams but cannot hang with the “the big guys”.  Can a BYE Week provide answers?
  • Eagles:  They lead the NFC East this morning; they will lead the NFC East after their BYE Week is over.  Hi ho…
  • Rams:  They are squarely in the playoff picture – – but when they have an “off game” they look as if they belong in the SEC as opposed to the NFL.

Seattle – 3 at Buffalo (55):  I worry about “body-clock games” for West Coast teams playing in the Eastern Time Zone at 1:00 PM ET.  For some reason, that phenomenon seems not to affect the Seahawks.  Consider:

  • Seahawks are 7-1-1 against the spread in the ET zone since 2018
  • Russell Wilson is 18-7-2 against the spread in the ET zone since he came into the NFL in 2012.

I do not think the Bills’ defense is up to the task of containing the Seahawks’ offense; unless last week was the dawning of awareness for the Seahawks’ defense, it is not up to the task of stopping anyone.  I think the key here is that Russell Wilson is fundamentally a better QB in 2020 than Josh Allen is; I think the Seahawks can win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Denver at Atlanta – 4 (49.5):  The Falcons are 2-1 under the leadership of interim coach, Raheem Morris.  The Broncos are riding high after a miracle comeback win last week over the Chargers (see above).  The Falcons’ defense is prone to give up big plays; it has given up more passing yards (1508) than any other team in the league.  Actually, I do not trust either defense here; I think the game will go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Chicago at Tennessee – 6.5 (47):  Both teams have lost two games in a row, but their problems/issues are divergent.  The Titans’ defense is a mess; the Bears’ offense is a mess.  The Titans’ offense is good – – but inconsistent; the Bears’ defense is excellent.  Two stats will collide in this game:

  1. Titans’ defense is the worst in the NFL allowing 62% on third-down conversions.
  2. Bears’ offense is 31st in the NFL converting 35% in third-down situations.

Detroit at Minnesota – 4 (52):  There are two highly unreliable teams from week to week.  Will Kirk Cousins throw multiple INTs this week?  Will Dalvin Cook continue to look like a latter-day version of Emmitt Smith?  Matthew Stafford is questionable to play due to COVID protocols and if he does, will he throw 4 TDs or get sacked 6 times in the game?  Just ignore this game…

Baltimore – 1.5 at indy (48):  This spread opened the week at 4 points and you can find it as low as “pick ‘em” this morning.  Almost assuredly the reason for such a contraction is that the Ravens have reported 7 defensive players on the “COVID List” including their 3 starting linebackers and 2 more backups at that position.  Do not be surprised to hear that the Ravens put in a call to Dr. Anthony Fauci later today – – not for the purpose of learning about the coronavirus but to ask if he things he could step in and play linebacker on Sunday.

Carolina at KC – 10.5 (52.5):  The Panthers are on a 3-game losing streak and the NFL schedule maker has decided to send them to the mid-west to play the Chiefs this week.  That comes across to me as sadistic.  Christian McCaffrey might be back and ready to play in this game – – but that will not be enough for the Panthers to prevail here.

Houston – 6.5 at Jax (50): The spread opened here at 4 points and the Total Line at 56 points.  Both line movements are large enough to notice.  The record for both of these  teams is 1-6 on the season, and both are well out of contention in the AFC South race.  To be sure, there is Dog-Breath Game of the Week potential here.  However, I see potential value here because even though Jax had a BYE Week last week, I do not think this is the start of something special in Jax given that Gardner Minshew will be replaced at QB by Jake Luton – – a 6th round draft pick last April out of Oregon State.  If the Jags are going to start Luton at QB, their game plan must focus on the run game for two reasons:

  • First, the odds are that Jake Luton is not going to light up the scoreboard with multiple TDs in his first start.
  • Second, the Texans defense gives up 5.2 yards per rushing attempt – – tied for worst in that category in the NFL.

On the other hand, Jax is not a pass-rushing juggernaut having recorded a total of 6 sacks in 7 games.  If Deshaun Watson has time to throw the ball, he will pick apart the carcass that is the Jags’ secondary.  I like the Texans to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Giants at Washington – 2.5 (42):  I know; this is a division game, and the NFC East is bad enough as a whole that either of these flawed teams might wind up in the NFL playoffs come January.  Now that I have paid due homage to the reality that the football gods present us with, this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Since I am not going to be in the DC suburbs this Sunday, there is a possibility that I will not have this game pollute my television screen at 1:00 PM EST on Sunday – – but I am not far enough away from the DC suburbs to be assured of that possible blessing.  I like to watch teams play good defense; in this game, there may be a mirage of “good defense”.  Consider:

  • Giants rank 29th in the NFL in yards per offensive play (4.9 yards per play).
  • WTFs rank 31st in the NFL in yards per offensive play (4.6 yards per play).

The Giants arrive here off a short work week; the WTFs had a BYE Week last week.  Somehow, I do not think any of that matters even a whit…

Las Vegas at Chargers “pick ‘em” (51.5):  The spread opened the week with the Chargers favored by 3 points.  Apparently, the betting public has had enough of the Chargers finding ways to lose games straight up and against the spread.

Pittsburgh – 14 at Dallas (42):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  The Eagles beat the Cowboys by 14 points just last week – and kept them out of the end zone for the whole game.  The Steelers are better than the Eagles – – particularly on defense.  I would not bet on this game with your money, but I will note that the Cowboys will be starting someone other than Ben DiNucci at QB for this game.  Di Nucci grew up and played high school football in Gibsonia, PA which is a suburb of Pittsburgh.  The Cowboys’ decision to start either Cooper Rush or Garrett Gilbert over DeNucci means that any sort of “homecoming mojo” has been eliminated.  This is a classic “let-down game” for the Steelers; it is their third straight road game and their last two victories on the road have come over clearly superior opponents – – the Titans and the Ravens.  As of this morning, the Steelers are at minus-1000 on the Money Line.  Dwight Perry reported in the Seattle Times what a successful bet at minus-1000 odds returns to the bettor:

“A bettor plunked down $8,600 on No. 1 Clemson — at minus-1,000 odds — to beat Syracuse and collected $8.60 from FanDuel for his troubles.

“That’s like shelling out for the Kobe beef and Maine lobster just to get the after-dinner mint.”

Miami at Arizona – 4 (49):  This spread began the week at 6 points and has contracted since then.  If I had to guess, I would say that the Dolphins’ win over the Rams last week has been the major motivator for contracting the spread on the game.  The Dolphins have yielded the fewest points to opponents in their 7 games (18.6 points per game).

(Sun Nite) New Orleans at Tampa Bay – 4.5 (50.5):  This spread opened at 6 points and has been slowly eroding as the week progressed.  Meanwhile the Total Line opened at 56 points.  The original oddsmaker and many bettors remain at loggerheads; the betting public sees this as a closer game than the oddsmakers did last weekend.  Because these are two good teams and because this game has great significance regarding the NFC South race, this is my Game of the Week.

(Mon Nite) New England – 7.5 at Jets (41.5):  This was a close runner-up in the race for Dog-Breath Game of the week.  It features one team – the Patriots – that have not won a game in the last month against a team – the Jets – that has not won a game this season.  This is one more bad game for the folks at ESPN to try to make palatable.

So, as I go back to review this week’s Six-Pack, I notice that it is only a Five-Pack.  There is an old adage that tells you that you get what you pay for.  In the case of Six-Pack selections, they are totally free – – immediately establishing their intrinsic worth.  Ergo, I shall live with the situation of a mislabeled Six-Pack for this week:

  1. Oklahoma St./Kansas St. OVER 45
  2. Florida +3.5 against Georgia
  3. Seahawks – 3 over Bills
  4. Broncos/Falcons OVER 49.5
  5. Texans – 6.5 over Jags

Finally, apropos of the weekly Six-Pack, a former colleague often said:

“Everyone should make at least one bet a day.  If he doesn’t, he could be walking around stupid-lucky and never realize it.”

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



ESPN Stuff Today…

The NFL is about to begin negotiations with TV networks regarding new TV contracts; obviously, the NFL expects to increase revenue from those sources, and they have a powerful argument on their side of the bargaining table.  I read somewhere that for the calendar year 2020, 37 of the biggest TV audiences for televised events were NFL games.  To me, that is a sufficiently powerful argument but wait, there’s more…  Three of those “biggest TV audiences” were political debates; since there will be no more political debates on TV for the next 4 years, the projected score would be 37 of the largest 47 telecasts (79%) were NFL games.

That just sets the stage.  Reports say more specifically that ESPN – – via its parent Disney Corp – – is interested in making a run at Sunday Night Football.  At the moment, SNF is a huge bargain; it consistently gets sky-high ratings, and it costs far less than the other TV network deals.  ESPN currently has the Monday Night Football deal; rather than focusing on getting some other part of the NFL TV package, I think that ESPN needs first to get a new bargaining team on their side.  I will not pretend to know all of the provisions of the various NFL TV contracts in place now, but there are some glaring items there which tell me that ESPN did a bad job getting the MNF package last time around.  Consider:

  1. Super Bowl telecasts:  ESPN gets none as part of the MNF package; NBC is “in the rotation” to telecast Super Bowl games along with FOX and CBS.  Clearly this is an advantage for NBC.
  2. Playoff telecasts:  ESPN gets to show one playoff game; NBC gets to show two playoff games thanks to the new expanded playoff structure this year.  Obviously, NBC has the advantage here.
  3. Scheduling:  ESPN has a fixed slate of games set in stone when the NFL schedule is released sometime in the Spring; NBC enjoys flex-scheduling for some games meaning they can swap-out a “Dog-Breath Game” for a more interesting game as the season unfolds.  For the networks, better games lead to better ratings lead to higher charges to advertisers for time slots during the telecast.

I hope it would not take me long to convince you that NBC has the advantage in all three areas noted above.  Now consider the critical element of the SNF and the MNF deals that leads me to conclude that ESPN needs better folks negotiating for them this time around:

  • Cost:  NBC pays the NFL $950M a year for Sunday Night Football with those 3 items noted above.  ESPN pays the NFL $2B a year for Monday Night Football with those 3 items noted above.

It seems to me that SNF will always enjoy the advantage of flex-scheduling over MNF.  In addition to the logistical burden placed on two visiting teams to adjust travel and accommodation plans from Sunday to Monday or vice-versa, changing the date of two games will impose problems for fans with tickets to the games.  Changing a game from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night can be a problem for some fans; there is no question about that; changing the date of two games from Sunday to Monday or Monday to Sunday is going to impose a larger burden on a larger number of fans.  TV is the big moneymaker, but the NFL does not want to serially piss off the fans who show up at the game venues; owners really do like the revenue that game attendance provides.  I could be wrong, but I do not expect the next MNF deal to include flex-scheduling.

However, if SNF continues to hold onto the other advantages it now enjoys with regard to playoff and Super Bowl telecasts, I would expect the cost of SNF to go through the roof and the cost of MNF to increase only slightly from its present level.

It is important to note that Disney Corp also owns ABC.  So, it is possible that ABC could enter the bidding for one or both of the Sunday afternoon packages now held by CBS and FOX.  There are lots of moving parts here and formal negotiations have not yet begun, but this is a subject that should be interesting to watch.

While on the topic of ESPN, the radio arm of ESPN did a major shake-up of its programming about 3 months ago.  Two of the programs in the mid-day/early afternoon time slots are now manned by “known quantities” in Mike Greenberg and Max Kellerman.  Frankly, I like both programs for different reasons.  Mike Greenberg’s program is a leisurely paced program where interviews with guests are actual discussions on a sports topic.  Too many sports radio interviews are transparently a situation where the host lobs softball questions at a guest who has pre-formed answers for the questions.  That is not the case with Greenberg and his guests; those interviews are interesting.

Max Kellerman may be the most under-appreciated person at ESPN.  He is smart; he is opinionated without being obnoxious; he is analytical and rational.  Even when you disagree with one of his positions, you think about what he has said because you recognize that it is not just some “hot-take” that he concocted to try to attract interest to his program.

The new program on ESPN Radio that I still have not decided that I like or dislike is the morning-drivetime program featuring Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti.  Sometimes these guys are entertaining; sometimes these guys are almost cringeworthy.

  • Keyshawn Johnson:  Wherever she may be in the cosmos, my 12th grade English teacher who graduated from Mount Holyoke must get an electric shock traversing her nervous system at least 5 times an hour when Keyshawn mangles English grammar and syntax.  I mentioned above that Max Kellerman rarely resorts to “hot-takes”; Keyshawn seems to love to wade into that pool of thinking.
  • Jay Williams:  His wheelhouse – obviously – is college basketball and to a lesser extent the NBA.  When the subject is football or baseball, I sometimes wonder if Williams took off his headset, left the set and got himself a smoothie.  He had some interesting things to say about the NBA playoffs but on other topics he is almost a “no-show”.
  • Zubin Mehenti:  If you could build a rocket ship that ran on enthusiasm and you put Zubin Mehenti on that ship, you would have the makings of an interstellar transportation vehicle.  Here is the issue; some mornings when I get up and decide to turn on the radio, I am not ready for high energy radio that borders on cheerleading.  Other mornings, that sort of assault on my senses is refreshing.

Here is what I think is the essential difference between the “morning guys” and the “early afternoon guys” on ESPN Radio:

  • Keyshawn, Jay and Zubin are often entertaining.  When they are annoying, I just turn off the radio
  • Mike Greenberg and Max Kellerman are usually entertaining AND they are informative at the same time.  That is the standard the “morning guys” need to achieve much more regularly.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times regarding the analytics-driven removal of Blake Snell from Game 6 of the World Series that sparked yesterday’s rant:

“Look at the bright side of Blake Snell’s premature exit from Game 6, Rays fans:

“When he pitches the 2021 season opener next April 1, he’ll be working on 156 days’ rest — not to mention 2 or 3 bonus innings of nonwear and tear.

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



Bob Costas And Baseball Analytics

I want to ask your indulgence this morning.  I would like you to listen to a commentary by Bob Costas on a recent episode of The Rich Eisen Show.  Please follow this link; click on the picture in the Tweet and listen to Costas’ comments.  It takes about 7 minutes; it is worth your time; I will wait here for you to come back.

That commentary would have been excellent if it had been written out beforehand and “read into the record”.  Rather obviously, that was not the case; that was an extemporaneous analysis and opinion piece.  And … there is so much truth in there.  Those two “standing ovations” from the producers and staff of The Rich Eisen Show were perfectly appropriate.

Even though many folks had said previously what Costas said in his comments, his eloquence adds weight to the arguments.

  • Being a slave to analytics is not good strategy or tactics in baseball.
  • Fans do not really care about newfangled stats such as launch angle and exit velocity and spin rate.  They cannot see any of them on TV or at the ballpark.
  • Pace of play is working against MLB as an entertainment product.

The Rays got to the World Series by adhering – – for the most part – – to a tactical situation where their starting pitcher did not go through the opposing lineup more than twice.  Obviously, that had worked for them because they were in the World Series and 28 other teams were not.  In Game 6 of the World Series every “analytics acolyte” would choose to pull Blake Snell because “the numbers” show that doing so is a path to success.  The problem is that “the numbers” they rely on allow them to ignore some other numbers:

  • Snell had thrown only 73 pitches.  I understand that starting pitchers in 2020 are far more fragile than pitchers in the past – – but if 73 pitches becomes a “burdensome load”, there is almost no reason to differentiate between starting pitchers and relief pitchers.
  • Snell had struck out 9 batters in 5 innings – – and had struck out the guys who were due to come up to face him in the 6th inning.
  • Those numbers are not statistical trends; those numbers represent what was happening on the field in that game on that night.  They were ignored so that the same guys who brought you “stadium-adjusted OPS+” would be happy.
  • That analytical decision backfired spectacularly.  No one will ever know if Blake Snell would have crashed and burned in an even more spectacular fashion had he been left in the game until it appeared that the Dodgers had figured out how to get some hits off him.

Bob Costas makes a great point in that rant when he referred to the old Strat-O-Matic baseball game.  Every player has a card that represents his statistics for a season or a career.  The “Ted Williams Card” had far more chances to get a hit or draw a walk than did “The Sparky Anderson Card”.  The “Sandy Koufax Card” produced more strikeouts than did “The Humberto Robinson Card”.  Every player in Strat-O-Matic brought the same “effort” and “energy” to the table in every game.  And that is simply not the case in real life.  Every great player has an off-day; every mediocre hitter has an at-bat that produces a grand slam (e.g. Bill Mazeroski).  Analytical stats come from the past and the game on the field is happening in the present.  That is why a slavish addiction to analytics has not worked in baseball even though it has been around a LONG time.

Take a moment and recall Billy Beane and “Moneyball”.  It was all the rage about 25 years ago; Michael Lewis wrote a book about it and they made a movie based on the book.  It was a totally different way to evaluate players as an executive went though the process of building a roster.  And it worked – – to a degree.  The “Moneyball” teams in Oakland never got past the Division Series in the AL let alone get to or win a World Series.  The teams were very “cost effective” in terms of wins per dollar spent on player salaries – – but that is not how baseball seasons are decided.

To my mind, the problem is not “analytics” per se; the problem is using them to the exclusion of what is happening in front of one’s nose.  Another aspect of analytics that is troubling is that it is spreading into the world of football.  Players and teams now get a DVOA rating; DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.  When you tune into a college game this Saturday or possibly to an NFL game on Sunday, send me a note telling me where you observed someone’s DVOA on the field.  I often miss it…

One more thing here…  Another problem with the “analytics acolytes” is that they cannot ever admit they were wrong.  A part of the reason for that is the infallibility of the calculations of past performances that led to the critical judgment of what needed to be done.  If you do not believe in that infallibility, then you are only partially committed to analytics and/or a reactionary.

Analytics has a seat at the table in terms of evaluating players and game situations.  Unfortunately for the “analytics acolytes”, human behavior and performance cannot yet be completely modeled by mathematics.

Costas’ other major point was that pace of play was hurting baseball as an entertainment product.  Given the revenue streams for MLB, television is the critical element of the game as we know it today.  Too few people seem to recognize the criticality of television to MLB – – and to the NFL and the NBA and other sports as well.  The owners, the players, the umpires, the announcers and everyone else involved with bringing the game to the public has to understand that they are all in a partnership to produce a TV series that attracts viewers.  If MLB ceases to do that, it will be relegated to a sporting status alongside things like horseracing and boxing and tennis.  All those sports can be enjoyed on TV – – sporadically, but not as a steady diet.

Would that Bob Costas – or someone who thinks as he does – had been named Commissioner of Baseball somewhere along the path of the last 30 years or so.  We can never know how the game would be different – and presumably better – had that happened because one can never describe fully events derived from a contrafactual statement.  Too bad…

Finally, a former colleague – and an avid Denver Broncos’ fan – sent me an email back in the middle of the summer as we were all going through the potential for restarting sports and dealing with COVID-19 and witnessing the ramping up for our Presidential election.  He was bemoaning the chaos of 2020 and wondering how and why we got to where we were.  The way that Game 6 of the World Series played out leading to the Bob Costas commentary here would seem to add another layer to his outcry:

“Remember, everything was under control until the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.”

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



A Correction From Yesterday …

I must begin today with a correction from yesterday.  An email from a reader pointed out to me that I was incorrect in saying that Willie Wood was the cornerback opposite Herb Adderley on the great Packers’ teams of the 1960s.  In fact, the reader is correct to note that Wood was one of the safeties in that defensive backfield.  Both men are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and both men died in 2020.

May they both rest in peace…

Late last week, the Chicago White Sox lured Tony LaRussa out of retirement to manage the team.  LaRussa is 76 years old and one of the questions raised by several commentators had to do with his ability to “relate to today’s young players”.  The line of thought in many of those pieces is that LaRussa is very old-school and a true believer in the “unwritten rules of baseball” which govern conduct during games.  [Aside:  Someone once told me that baseball’s unwritten rules were not worth the paper they were printed on.  Whatever…]  I prefer not to plunge headfirst into that argument because it does not take long in one’s analysis there to require mind-reading skills that I do not have.

Tony LaRussa is in the Baseball Hall of Fame – – and I am on record that I do not believe that he deserves to be there.  My objection has nothing to do with his records or his stature as “old-school” or anything else of that ilk.  My position is that his managerial record – 2728 wins, 2365 losses and 4 ties – is improperly inflated.

  • Almost 700 of those wins came during the 1990s with the Oakland A’s where a significant portion of the roster was using illegal steroids.  LaRussa was the manager there for 10 years; and for me to believe that he never had an inkling of what was going on around him, I would have to cast him in the role of Sergeant Schultz.
  • After leaving the A’s, he took over the Cardinals managerial job.  LaRussa was in charge in 1998 when a reporter noticed the bottle of androstenedione in Mark McGwire’s locker and wrote about it.  That kicked the snowball off the cliff for MLB’s Steroid Scandal.  LaRussa remained in charge of the Cardinals until the US Congress shamed MLB and the MLBPA into banning steroids and testing for them.  The Cardinals won another 500 games under LaRussa in the time it took for the Steroid Era to be subject to testing.

I doubt seriously that Tony LaRussa encouraged any player to use steroids; I doubt equally seriously that he was totally clueless about the use of steroids by members of his teams for a period of about 12-15 years.  If I had a vote – – which I do not, never did and never will – – I would not vote for Tony LaRussa to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Speaking of baseball – obliquely – free agency began on Sunday.  As usual, there are dozens of players available who can fit nicely into a team structure and add value there; but there are less than a dozen players who look to be “major acquisitions” or “instant change agents” for the teams that sign them.  Looking over some lists of available free agents, here are five position players that I believe are in the category of “major acquisitions”:

  1. Jackie Bradley, Jr. – Red Sox
  2. Marcel Ozuna – Braves
  3. JT Realmuto – Phillies
  4. George Springer – Astros
  5. Justin Turner – Dodgers

Spending big bucks to acquire a free agent pitcher seems to be more of a gamble than signing on an expensive position player.  I do not see any pitchers on this year’s free agency lists for whom I would “back up a Brinks’ truck full of cash” to sign.  Here are the four pitchers that I think are the best available:

  1. Trevor Bauer – Reds
  2. Mark Melancon – Braves
  3. Marcus Stroman – Mets
  4. Masahiro Tanaka – Yankees

Let the bidding begin…

After the LA Clippers crashed out of the NBA Playoffs, ownership decided to shake things up.  Doc Rivers was fired as the coach – – and got a new job with the Sixers in less than a week.  Tyron Lue was hired to replace Rivers and one of the recurring things I read about the reason for his selection for the job is that he demonstrated an ability to “bring a team together” during his days with the Cavaliers.  Since I had never heard anything that would have led me to believe that Doc Rivers was a divisive force on a team, I wondered why that was an important résumé entry.

Over the last couple of weeks, reports have come out of LA that several members of the Clippers were “disgruntled” about the “special treatment” given to Kawhi Leonard.  Supposedly, Leonard was late for team flights and could “dictate” when he would be removed from games and was allowed to set his own schedule for “load management”.  I do not know if any of that is true but let me say this as clearly as I can:

  • Kawhi Leonard is the best player on the Clippers’ roster.  Any other player on the roster who does not recognize that fact is living in a delusion.
  • It is not news that star players get preferential treatment – – simply because they are star players.  They get preferential treatment from coaches, from officials and from the media.  Some star players turn into divas; others do not.
  • Kawhi Leonard – along with Paul George to play Robin to Leonard’s Batman – gives the Clippers a chance to reach the NBA Finals or even to win a championship.  The presence or absence of any of the nominally disgruntled players has no effect on the Clippers’ chances to be serious contenders for the NBA Finals or championship.

I will go out on a limb here and guess that if Kawhi Leonard is “late for the team flight” on the first Clippers’ road trip in 2021, Tyron Lue will not order the plane to take off and leave Leonard behind.

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

Genghis Khan:  Thirteenth-century leader of the Mongol Horde.  Or, as the position is known today: mall security.”

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



Rest In Peace, Herb Adderley

Herb Adderley died last Friday at the age of 81.  Adderley and Willie Wood were the cornerbacks on the great Packers’ teams in the 1960s; they had not yet invented the term, “shut-down corner”, but that is what Herb Adderley was.  Adderley won 5 championships with the Packers and another one with the Cowboys during his Hall of Fame career.

Rest in peace, Herb Adderley…

Yesterday, Tua Tagovailoa made his debut as the QB of the Miami Dolphins.  The Dolphins won the game notwithstanding a lackluster performance by Tua – I will have more to say about that later this week on Football Friday – but there was something else interesting about his play yesterday.  Tua Tagovailoa is left-handed and it has been a while since there has been a left-handed starting QB in the NFL.

Statistically, about 10 percent of the population is left-handed.  The NFL has 32 teams and each team has 3 QBs somewhere in their organization; round that up a bit and at any given time, there ought to be 10 QBs who are left-handed; three of them ought to be starters.  That simply is not the case and I am not sure why that is the case.

Over the history of the NFL, there have been some excellent left-handed QBs.  Steve Young is of course the first one that leaps to mind but with about 5 minutes of thinking, I came up with this list:

  1. Mark Brunell
  2. Bobby Douglass
  3. Boomer Esiaison
  4. Matt Leinart
  5. Ken Stabler
  6. Tim Tebow
  7. Michael Vick
  8. Steve Young
  9. Jim Zorn

Bobby Douglass and Ken Stabler were playing about 50 years ago and in the intervening time, that list of 9 left-handed QBs is all that I can drag from my memory.  That list of nine is smaller than the number you would expect to be on NFL rosters this morning just by random chance.  A discrepancy that large should have an explanation – – but I am not sure I can provide it.

My first guess would be that the pool of young athletic left-handed boys is tilted in favor of baseball where certainly more than 10% of MLB pitching staffs are comprised of left-handers.  The problem with that “hypothesis” is that I do not think that many kids sufficiently analytical at a young age to make the determination that “playing baseball” might be more career-friendly twenty years in the future than “playing football”.  I guess that some parents might make that sort of “calculation” and steer their sons toward baseball, but I do not find that whole line of thinking satisfactory.

Also in baseball, there are a few positions where left-handedness(with regard to throwing not batting)  is a disadvantage.  A left-handed second baseman would have difficulty turning double plays; left handers at shortstop or third base would have awkward throwing positions on many plays at first base.  In the history of baseball, there have only been 5 players to have caught more than 100 games.  Therefore, left-handed kids who show a proclivity for baseball would not be equally distributed among the positions on a team so more of them might gravitate toward pitching.

There are probably a few PhD dissertations in anthropology and/or psychology contained in the reasons why so few left-handers become NFL QBs and I will not pretend to be able to evaluate them once they have been published.  Rather, I will offer a simplistic hypothesis here because it is the best I can come up with.

  • In youth sports, there are camps and coaches that focus on teaching specific skills to elite young players – – the ones who are identified at an early age as “special players”.
  • Many of the “pitching coaches” or “pitching gurus” for youngsters were pitchers themselves and there are plenty of left-handed pitchers out there to teach a left-handed kid how to pitch.
  • Many of the “QB coaches” or “QB whisperers” for youngsters were QBs themselves and there just are not as many of them walking the streets to be available to teach a left-handed kid how to play QB.

Sticking with football, there is a minor benefit that derives from the ongoing pandemic.  There are 5 of the meaningless college football bowl games that will not be played this year.  They are:

  1. Bahamas Bowl – normally played before Christmas.  The game matches teams from the MAC and the Sun Belt Conference.
  2. Hawaii Bowl – normally played on Christmas Eve.  Not too surprisingly, Hawaii has been one of the teams in this bowl game 9 different times.
  3. Holiday Bowl – normally played between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  This year’s game would have matched a PAC-12 team with an ACC team.
  4. Quick Lane Bowl – normally played on December 26th.  Teams involved here appear to be randomly chosen from the Big-10, the ACC and the MAC.
  5. Redbox Bowl – normally played between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  The game matches also-rans from the Big-10 and the PAC-12 – sort of a poor relative of the Rose Bowl.

Finally, here is an observation by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times about futbol – – not football:

“Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood were dropped by England’s national soccer team for breaching quarantine rules by bringing women to the team hotel in Iceland.

“That’s what you call playing the wrong kind of friendly.”

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



Football Friday 10/30/20

In Germanic lore, Friday is named for the goddess, Frigga, who was Odin’s wife.  The Romans referred to the sixth day of their week as “dies Veneris” – or the Day of Venus the goddess of love.  In 2020 and in the bowels of Curmudgeon Central, we just call it Football Friday.

As usual, I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack – which is significantly better this week as compared to the “Shutout Six-Pack” from two weeks ago:

  • College:  1-0-0
  • NFL:  3-1-1
  • Combined:  4-1-1

Here are the updated season totals:

  • College:  6-11-1
  • NFL:  13-10-1
  • Combined:  19-21-2


College Football Commentary:


A couple of years ago, there was a week when both Ole Miss and Mississippi State were ranked in the Top 5 teams in the country; lots of folks believed that this signaled a shift in the geography of SEC football prowess; it most certainly did not.  Fast forward to today and one might over-react to three stories this week and conclude that football is dying a slow death in Mississippi.  That too would be wrong, but maybe you could be convinced to believe that someone has put a hex on football in Mississippi?

Let me start with the football situation at Southern Mississippi.  Back in September after losing its first game of the season by two scores to South  Alabama, then-coach Jay Hopson immediately resigned and was replaced by Scotty Walden as the interim coach for the balance of the 2020 season.  Walden had to miss last week’s game – – a loss to Liberty by 21 points – – because he tested positive for the coronavirus.  On Tuesday of this week, Walden announced that he is leaving Southern Mississippi to take the head coaching job at Austin Peay, and he is leaving immediately.

Walden will be replaced by Tim Billings who has been the defensive coordinator and tight ends coach and who led the team on the sidelines last week in that loss to Liberty.  As is the norm, Coach Walden declared that he is ecstatic to go to such a great place as Austin Peay and the Athletic Director there says that they are thrilled to have such a good person as their new head coach.  Meanwhile, in Hattiesburg, the folks at Southern Mississippi will have a third head coach on the sidelines since the season began on September 3rd and the Director of Athletics at So. Miss said that his goal is to “have a full-time head coach in place by the end of November.”

Unless Tim Billings moves up from “interim coach” to head coach, that does not leave a lot of wiggle room for the Director of Athletics.  November has 30 days; So. Miss will play its final game on 27 November.  Or … maybe the plan is to hire the next head coach and have him take over before this season is done.  That would make 4 different head coaches for the team in a single season.  I am not going to spend the time and effort to check it out, but I have to think that has not happened in major college football before.

Meanwhile, over in Starkville, MS, there appears to be turmoil in the Mississippi State program.  CBSSports.com reported yesterday that Coach Mike Leach confirmed that 3 more players will be leaving the team and he has suggested that the team may need a “purge” of “malcontents”.  In the last two weeks, a total of 7 players have left the team – – and if there is a “purge” coming, that number might increase dramatically.

Mike Leach is no stranger to controversy; he sets a high standard when it comes to being unorthodox as a college football coach.  Nonetheless, it is beyond unorthodox for a college coach to refer openly to purging malcontents from his roster.  Mississippi State opened the 2020 season with a bang beating LSU 44-34 and racking up 600 yards passing in that game.  Since then, the Bulldogs’ fortunes have soured; they have lost their last 3 games scoring a total of 30 points in those three losses.  And this week, they get to mosey on over to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama – – and they will arrive as a 30-point underdog.

And at Ole Miss, coach Lane Kiffin was fined $25,000 for openly and pointedly criticizing the officials and the officiating in last week’s loss to Auburn.  His criticism seems justified to me, but coaches just cannot unload on the way he did.  Kiffin has said he will pay the fine in pennies.  Let’s do some math…

  • A US penny (since 1982) weighs 2.5 grams; there are 453.6 grams per pound.
  • $25,000 equals 2,500,000 pennies.
  • (2.5  X  2,500,000) / 453.6 = 13,779 pounds.
  • Memo to Coach Kiffin:  Be sure to rent a big enough truck.  And take a couple of your lineman along to help you unload the cargo at the delivery point.

Perhaps one or more of the football gods is really ticked off at the State of Mississippi for some reason…

Rutgers beat Michigan St.38-27.  That is not a typo; that is merely a gigantic surprise.  Michigan St. won the stat battle gaining 379 yards on offense to 276 for Rutgers.  You do not have to go exploring on the stat sheet to see how the game turned in favor of Rutgers; Michigan St. turned the ball over 7 times – 2 INTs and 5 lost fumbles.  Here are the results of the Spartans’ possessions for the day:

  • 1st Quarter:  Fumble, Fumble, Turnover on downs, TD
  • 2nd Quarter:  INT, Fumble, Field goal, Halftime
  • 3rd Quarter:  Fumble, Fumble, TD, Turnover on downs
  • 4th quarter:  Punt, TD, Interception.

Three of Rutgers’ TD drives in the game were 26 yards or shorter including one “drive” that traversed 1-yard and took 5 plays to accomplish.

Rutgers broke a 21-game conference game losing streak last week.  We will see in coming weeks if Rutgers has taken a giant step forward in its football program – – or if Michigan State is in the throes of a total rebuilding of its team.  Or perhaps … both?

Northwestern beat Maryland 43-3.  The other doormat of the Big 10 – aka Maryland – –  did not fare nearly as well last week.  The Terps opened the scoring in the game with their field goal at 9:15 of the first quarter.  After that, nada.  Maryland QB, Taulia Tagovailoa had a less-than-impressive start to his career at Maryland going 14 for 25 for 94 yards and 3 INTs.

Ohio St. beat Nebraska 52-17.  As I said last week, this game shaped up to be a modern version of the 1050s TV show, You Asked For It.  Buckeyes’ QB, Justin Fields was surgical in the passing game posting this stat line:

  • 20 of 21 for 279 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs

Wisconsin beat Illinois 45-7.  Lest you think Justin Fields had the best stat line of the week, Badgers’ QB Graham Mertz (Is Ricky Ricardo his godfather?)  had an even better day posting this stat line:

  • 20 of 21 for 248 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs

After the game, it was reported that Martz tested positive for COVID-19.  Please do not let the Internet start the “rumor” that the coronavirus is a performance enhancer for athletes…

Michigan beat Minnesota 49-24.  The Wolverines showed a balanced attack running for 256 yards and throwing for another 225 yards.  Joe Milton has taken over the starting QB role in Michigan with the departure of Shea Patterson and all he did in his debut was go 15 for 22 for 225  yards and 1 TD through the air plus carrying the ball 8 times for 52 yards and another TD.  Add in two turnovers by Minnesota and you have the result cited above.

Indiana beat Penn St. 36-35 in OT.  Penn State dominated the stat sheet gaining 488 yards to only 211 by Indiana.  Ten penalties on the Nittany Lions for 100 yards certainly did not help the Penn State cause here.

UNC beat NC State 48-21.  The Tar Heels rebounded from their upset loss to Florida State last week in a big way; they outgained the Wolfpack by almost 200 yards on the day.  The biggest difference was in the running game where UNC had 326 yards and NC State had 34.

Louisville beat Florida State 48-16.  The Seminoles led 7-0 with 12;40 on the clock in the first quarter and then surrendered 28 consecutive points in the next 15 minutes.  It was never really a contest.  Florida St. went for it 5 times on fourth down; they only succeeded once.

Clemson beat Syracuse 47-21.  Clemson is now 6-0; They have been penciled in for the CFP since the season began.  Week by week, that prognostication looks better and better.

Notre Dame beat Pitt 45-3.  Pitt’s offense was held to a total of 164 yards for the game.  It was never a contest…  Notre Dame is undefeated at 5-0 for the season.

K-State beat Kansas 55-14.  K-State is 4-1 for the season and is undefeated in its four Big 12 games.  K-State returned 2 punts for TDs in this game and also had a Pick-Six.  Kansas is a miserable football team.

Oklahoma State beat Iowa State 24-21.  Oklahoma State is also undefeated in Big 12 games.  Normally one thinks of Oklahoma St. as an offensive team that wins by outscoring opponents; this year’s squad also had a stingy defense; they could well be part of the Big 12 Championship Game.

LSU beat South Carolina 52-24.  LSU is a most unreliable team this year; and last week, the “Good-LSU” took the field in Baton Rouge.

Alabama beat Tennessee 48-17.  Alabama is a very reliable football team this year.  Alabama is 5-0 and should be penciled in for the CFP along with Clemson.  The Crimson Tide dominated the game gaining 587 yards to 302 yards for the Vols.  Alabama scored 6 TDs in the game; one came on a “scoop-and-score”; the other 5 were rushing TDs.  Alabama WR, Jaylen Waddle was lost for the season with a “lower leg injury” incurred on the opening kickoff.  The injury was subsequently diagnosed as a broken ankle.

Cincy beat SMU 42-13.  The Bearcats look to be the class of the AAC after this result.  Ahead on their schedule are games against Memphis, Houston and UCF; if they run that table, they should be the Group of 5 team playing on New Year’s Day.


College Games of Interest:


Michigan St. at Michigan – 24 (52.5):  Is Michigan as good as it looked last week against Minnesota?  Is Michigan State as bad as they looked in losing to Rutgers?  We may get some indications here…

UNC – 7 at UVa (61.5):  That spread is suspiciously low given the way UNC destroyed NC State last week.

K-State at West Virginia – 3.5 (45.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 50 points and has dropped significantly.  Perhaps the line here anticipates a soggy field from the remnants of Hurricane Zeta?  K-State arrives in Morgantown undefeated in Big-12 competition and they are getting points; I’ll take the Wildcats plus those points; put it in the Six-Pack.

BC at Clemson – 23.5 (56):  Clemson has won 27 consecutive games against ACC opponents.  The all-time ACC record for consecutive wins stands at 29 in a row and is held by Florida State from 1992-1995.  I doubt that BC will derail Clemson’s run of conference victories this week notwithstanding the news that broke last night that Trevor Lawrence tested positive for coronavirus and will not play.  That news moved the line here a lot; yesterday, the spread was 31.5 points, and the Total Line was 61 points.  Bettors who took the points with BC earlier in the week, now have a real chance at a middle.  [Aside:  I assume anyone reading about games, spreads and totals knows  what a middle is.  If not, leave a comment and I’ll try to explain it.]

Va Tech – 3.5 at Louisville (68):  Tech looked awful losing to Wake Forest last week.  Louisville dominated Florida State last week.  Nonetheless…  Louisville gives up a lot of rushing yards (187.3 yards per game on the ground) and Va Tech runs the ball well.  I like the Hokies to win and cover – even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Notre Dame – 20 at Georgia Tech (57):  This could well be a trap game for Notre Dame because next week they will host Clemson in South Bend.  The Irish are clearly the better team but …

Indiana – 10 at Rutgers (53.5):  Both teams surprised in their wins last week.

Ohio State – 11 at Penn State (63):  This is probably the Game of the Week.  Penn State gained almost 500 yards last week on the Indiana defense; I do not see that happening this week.  Penn State is down to its #3 running back due to injury to one and to opting out for the other backs previously ahead on the depth chart.

Memphis at Cincy – 6.5 (55.5):  This is a test for Cincy as they seek to hold onto the reins in the AAC and stay on track to play in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Boise St. – 14 at Air Force (49):  What is interesting here is that the spread opened the week at 8.5 points and the Total Line opened the week at 52 points.  That is an awful lot of line adjustment…

Rice at So. Mississippi – 2 (58):  Can the new interim head coach for the Golden Eagles get his first win?  (See above)

Texas at Oklahoma St. – 3.5 (58):  The Cowboys are in good shape in the Big-12 race now and need a win here to stay that way.

LSU – 3 at Auburn (65):  Both teams come to the game with 2 losses on their record.  Two losses are probably too many to be a factor in the SEC Championship Game – – but three losses are the kiss of death.  Both teams won last week.  Neither team is consistent.

Mississippi St. at Alabama – 31 (63):  If there are Bulldog players who are “malcontented” now, I do not know what adjective one might use to describe their feelings after this ass-kicking happens.

Arkansas at Texas A&M – 12.5 (54.5):  Arkansas has been a positive surprise so far this year; Texas A&M is pretty much what the Aggies are every year.  They win more than they lose, and they get stomped by the likes of Alabama.   I think the line is fat; I’ll take the Razorbacks plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Missouri at Florida – 12 (62):  Florida and Georgia lead the SEC East with one loss each and will face each another next week.  Is this a “look-ahead game” for the Gators?

Georgia – 17 at Kentucky (42.5):  Is this a look-ahead game for the Dawgs?  For a game that appears to be a low-scoring affair, that is an awfully large spread…


NFL Commentary:


The Bucs signing of Antonio Brown is understandable from the vantage point of physical talent on the field on Sundays.  No one doubts that Brown is a top-shelf WR.  However, earlier this year when Brown was looking around for places to land once his suspension was served, Bucs’ coach Bruce Arians said that he did not think Antonio brown would “fit into the locker room” that he was trying to construct with the team.

It is not as if the Bucs are in desperate straits now; so, is it fair to ask coach Arians:

  • What changed?

Benjamin Disraeli – the 19th Century Prime Minister of the UK – famously said there are three kinds of lies:

“Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

There is an NFL stat this year that is certainly misleading if not an outright lie about the value provided by achieving that statistic.  I refer to “Total Yards Passing”.  Here are the top 3 NFL QBs as of this morning using that stat as your yardstick:

  • Matt Ryan – – 2181 yards (does not count yardage in last night’s game versus the Panthers)
  • Deshaun Watson – – 2095 yards
  • Joe Burrow – – 2023 yards.

Before you gaze too fondly at those impressive numbers, take a moment to check the NFL standings and note that the Falcons, Texans and Bengals have a combined record of 3-17-1.  I think the reason all those passing yards do not add up to success in the standings is based in the reason that there are so many passing yards in the first place:

  • The Falcons never have a lead that is “safe” because the Falcons’ defense is more than “suspect” giving up 29.7 points per game.  Matt Ryan is throwing the ball all the time because the team needs to amass every point they can possibly squeeze out of a 60-minute game.
  • The Texans also have a “suspect” defense which allows 31 points per game.  Deshaun Watson needs to score a lot to keep the game in doubt and he has often had to do it from behind since the Texans have fallen behind rather regularly in 2020
  • The Bengals defense is the best of these three yielding “only” 27.4 points per game.  However, teams have loaded up against the Bengals’ run game meaning that Joe Burrow has thrown an average of 41.9 passes per game.

The NFC East is clearly the weakest division in the NFL this year;  the Eagles lead this sorry lot by a half-game today with a record of 2-4-1.  The combined record for the 4 teams is an embarrassing 7-20-1; as a whole, the 4 teams have been outscored by 184 points – and that takes into account that there have been 5 division games already where the combined point differential has to come out to be zero.

Having said that, I think the AFC East is not looking all that formidable at the moment.

  1. The Bills lead the division with a 5-2 record.  However, the Bills have not looked good the last two weeks and – – even with that 5-2 record – – the Bills’ point differential is minus-4 points.
  2. The Dolphins are 3-3; they have played very well in their last two games but were less than awesome before that.
  3. The Patriots look ordinary at best with a 2-4 record.  Cam Newton has not dazzled at QB and with Julian Edelman hobbled a bit, there are no pass-catchers on the roster who keep defensive coordinators up at night.
  4. The Jets are – – well, they are the Jets.  ‘Nuff said…

The Steelers beat the Titans 27-24.  The Steelers were 13 for 18 on third down tries; Juju Smith-Shuster and Dionte Johnson each caught 9 passes in the game for a combined 165 yards and 2 TDs.  The Titans’ WR, A.J. Brown, caught six passes for 153 yards and a TD.  The  Steelers are 6-0 and they are the only undefeated team at this point of the season.  They have two games on tap with the Ravens – one this weekend and the second one on November 26th.  Circle those dates on your television viewing calendars…

The Browns beat the Bengals 37-34.  The Browns needed a miracle finish – two picture-perfect throws from Baker Mayfield to WRs you never heard of – to win this game.  Odell Beckham Jr. suffered what was “feared to be” a significant knee injury.  Indeed, it was a torn ACL, and he is out for the rest of this season.  Joe Burrow threw for 406 yards and 3 TDS but the Bengals could only gain 81 yards on the ground for the game meaning they asked him to throw 47 times in the game.

The Bills beat the Jets 18-10.  The Bills’ offense sputtered every time it got to the Red Zone and they were forced to attempt 8 field goals in the game.  Kicker, Tyler Bass, made 6 of those tries from 29, 37, 40, 46, 48 and 53 yards (he missed on tries from 37 and 45 yards) and that was the totality of the Bills’ scoring for the day.  That futility came against a Jets’ defense that was on track to be historically awful so far this year.

The Jets’ offense showed signs of life in the first half taking a 10-0 lead with 7 minutes left in the first half.  Then it went back into suspended animation.  At one point in the first half, Sam Darnold had this worthy stat line:

  • 10 for 11 for 107 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

Here is Darnold’s final stat line for the game:

  • 12 for 23 for 120 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs

Doing a bit more math here and subtracting the first stat line from the second, you will ss how Darnold and the Jets’ offense fared as the game went on:

  • 2 for 12 for 13 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs


The Packers beat the Texans 35-20.  The Packers had this one on cruise control after leading 21-0 at the half.  The Texans scored a TD in the final two minutes of the game to make the score look halfway decent.  The biggest difference in the game was that the Packers scored 4 TDs on 4 trips to the Red Zone.

The Lions beat the Falcons 23-22.  The Falcons concocted yet one more way to lose a lead and a football game.  The Falcons drove 76 yards to score a TD and convert a 2-point try giving them a 22-16 lead with 1:04 seconds left in the game and with the Lions having no timeouts.  Matthew Stafford drove the Lions 75 yards in 64 seconds to get the game-winning touchdown. The Lions QB completed four passes on the drive with two going to T.J. Hockenson, including the game-winning TD with no time left. Even with that dramatic late-game action, you could argue that Lions’ kicker, Matt Prater was the game hero. Prater hit three long field goals (49, 50 and 51 yards), and he also converted the PAT with no time left on the clock that won the game.

The Bucs beat the Raiders 45-20.  Tom Brady was in a groove here; he completed 33 of 45 passes for 369 yards, threw for four touchdowns and ran for one. All in all, nine different Bucs caught a pass in the game and those 4 TD passes all went to different receivers.  The Raiders trailed 21-10 at halftime but rallied to close the gap to 24-20 with 12 minutes to play in the game.  Then the roof caved in; the Raiders lost the ball on an INT and then on downs and the Bucs turned those two opportunities into TDs to win going away.

The Saints beat the Panthers 27-24.  The Saints had neither Michael Thomas nor Emanuel Sanders available for action in this game; so, they turned to Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray to carry the ball and carry the day.  Those two running backs averaged 5.5 yards per carry and a total of 130 yards in the game.  Kamara added to his run totals by catching 8 passes for 65 yards.

The Niners beat the Pats 33-6.  That was the first time this season that I have had the chance to watch a Pats’ game start to finish this year.  Cam Newton threw three interceptions before being benched for Jarrett Stidham in the second half. Newton was not the totality of the Pats’ offensive ineptitude; the offense managed to gain only 59 yards in the first half.  The Pats’ defense was also poor.  The Niners run game was dominant gaining 197 yards in the game.

I mentioned that Cam Newton was benched in the second half of the game; he deserved it; he did not play well at all.  Going 9 for 15 for 98 yards and 3 INTs is not exactly the résumé entry you might expect from a former MVP.   Newton looks to me like a shell of his former self; he was never a pin-point passer and he has not evolved that skill.  However, his shortcomings are magnified by the fact that the Pats do not have any WRs or TEs who are anything but ordinary.  Just as it was obvious two years ago that Cam Newton was playing hurt and at far less than maximum efficiency, it is equally clear to me that Julian Edelman is also playing significantly below his standard of performance.  And if N’Keal Harry is the Pats’ lead receiver, this could be a LONG season for the folks in Foxboro.

The Chargers beat the Jags 39-29.  Justin Herbert shone in this game; the Chargers amassed 484 yards on offense and Herbert was involved in 413 of those yards.  Here is what he accomplished for the game:

  • Passing:  27 for 43 for 347 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs
  • Rushing:  9 carries for 66 yards and 1 TD.

The Chargers defense was dominating too.  Here are the results of the Jags’ possessions for the day:

  • First Quarter:  Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt
  • Second Quarter:  TD, Turnover on downs, TD
  • Third Quarter:  Turnover on downs, TD
  • Fourth Quarter:  Turnover on downs
  • Yes, the Jags only had the ball 3 times in the entire second half.

Meanwhile, the Jags’ defense surrendered 30 or more points for the sixth straight game. That ties an NFL record for the longest streak ever.  That should give the Jags’ coaching staff yet one more thing to work on during the team’s BYE Week this weekend.

The Chiefs beat the Broncos 43-16.  Looking at that score, you would assume that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ running backs must have had a dominating performance.  Not so…  The Chiefs scored 5 TDs but only three of them came from the offense. Another one came on a special teams play (a 102-yard kickoff return) and one more came via defensive play (a Pick-Six).  LeVeon Bell made his first appearance as a Chief here carrying the ball 6 times for 39 yards. The Broncos outgained the Chiefs 411 yards to 286 yards for the day.  However, the Broncos turned the ball over 4 times and lost the ball on downs 2 other times.

The Cards beat the Seahawks 37-34 in OT.  There were loads of offense in this game – – 1091 combined yards of offense to be specific.  One clear point came out of the game; the Seahawks just cannot put pressure on a QB; the DL is OK against the run, but it generates zero inside pass rush.  The team must have recognized that shortcoming too because they went out and traded for Carlos Dunlap to improve their play from the edge.  The turning point in the game came on an OT interception by Isaiah Simmons.  I touted him as the best defensive player in this year’s draft and I stand by that assessment.

Glancing at the game stats here, I noticed something that must be unusual.  If you look at the game stats for the two QBs you will see:

  • Russell Wilson threw for 388 yards and 3 TDs and was the Seahawks’ leading rusher (84 yards).
  • Kyler Murray threw for 360 yards and 3 TDs and was the Cards’ leading rusher (67 yards).
  • You do not see that kind of offensive outburst from both teams’ QBs in a game very often – – particularly the part about each one leading his team in rushing.

I saved one game for last in terms of commentary.  The WTFs beat the Cowboys 25-3.  For the record, Dion DiMucci is not related to Ben DiNucci.  In case you do not know who either one is, DeNucci is the QB of the Cowboys as of this moment and DiMucci was the lead singer for Dion and the Belmonts.  The Belmonts sang “I  Wonder Why” in 1958.  Ben DiNucci wonders why he gets to be the one to try to survive behind the screen door that is the Cowboys’ OL in October 2020.

The Cowboys’ OL is decimated with injuries and the current starters are not up to snuff at the NFL level.  That does several intertwined things to the offense:

  • It minimizes the threat of the running game; Ezekiel Elliott is much less effective when the OL does not open huge holes for him
  • It minimizes the pass game because the QB does not have time to sit back and throw the ball to an open guy
  • Without a serious passing threat, the defense can load up on the run game – – and without a serious run game, the defense can unload on the QB.

That is what happened last week; the Cowboys gave up 6 sacks and Andy Dalton was knocked out of the game on a blatant cheap shot by one of the WTFs’ linebackers.  [Aside:  The fact that there was no suspension for that cheap shot tells me that all the breast-beating about focusing on player safety by the NFL and the NFLPA is nothing but balderdash.]  And with that cheap shot hit on Dalton, enter Ben DiNucci – – stage right.

There are multiple reports that various Cowboys’ players are roasting their coaches saying they are incompetent, make no changes and do not know what they are doing.  OK, maybe that is true; I am not part of the team.  However, anonymous sources like this are becoming far too commonplace in reporting.  I really wish the reporter who “broke” this news would have done the work to confirm the story and get the sources on the record.  I can sit here and pretend to have “sources” and make up stuff, but I do not do that.

BTW, the Cowboys’ defense stunk out the joint too last week and for the balance of the 2020 season to date.  The Cowboys have now given up 20 points in the first half in six straight games this year.  As a result of those first half performances, the Cowboys have trailed by at least 14 points in those six straight games.  Last week, the Cowboys looked as if they would have preferred to be anywhere other than on a football field.


NFL Games:


Four teams are on their BYE Weeks:

  1. The Cards are in good position; they are only a half game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West and the Cards have the best point differential in that division.
  2. The Jags have lost 6 games in a row and have given up 30 points or more in those 6 losses; that must stop.
  3. The Texans have only given up 3 fewer points for the season than the Jags; Romeo Crennel is a defensive guy; he needs to fix that – quickly.
  4. The WTFs can bask in the glory of their win last week.

Indy – 2.5 at Detroit (50):  Take a deep breath here; the Lions come to this game on a 2-game winning streak.  Uncharacteristically, the Lions are winless at home so far this year (0-2) and they are 3-1 on the road.  The Colts had a BYE Week last week and they bring a stronger defense to this game than the Falcons brought last week.

Minnesota at Green Bay – 6 (51):  The Vikings are about to see their season flushed down the drain; a loss here would put them 5 full games behind the Packers in the NFC North with the Packers holding the tie-breaker due to a season sweep of the series.  Aaron Rodgers is conducting an offensive symphony in Green Bay; Kirk Cousins is leading a chorus of kazoos.  I think the Packers win big here; I’ll take them to win and over; put it in the Six-Pack.

New England at Buffalo – 4 (41):  I gave this game a moment’s thought as the Game of the Week because it is a division game and because the Patriots season might be hanging in the balance here.  But that was not nearly enough to keep the game on the list for more than a few seconds.  As noted above, the Bills have not played well the last couple of games; if the Pats can put some semblance of an offense together here, they might be able to win the game outright on the strength of their defense.  It will be interesting as a game to follow – – but it is not a Game of the Week candidate and certainly not one that is going to be part of the Six-Pack.  Here is a trend:

  • Sean McDermott is 0-6 in games against Bill Belichick

Tennessee – 5.5 at Cincy (53):  The Titans lost a tough game to the Steelers last week and now have to go on the road to maintain their 1-game lead over the Colts in the AFC South.  The Steelers made life difficult for Derrick Henry last week but the Bengals’ defense – particularly the Bengals’ run defense – is not nearly as good as the Steelers’.  The Bengals rank 28th in the NFL in run defense yielding an average of 133.7 yards per game.  I think Derrick Henry has a big day here to put the Titans back on track; I like the Titans to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Las Vegas at Cleveland – 2.5 (50.5):  Look, the Raiders are not going to win the AFC West this year barring something like the Chiefs’ plane crashing into the Rocky Mountains one of these weeks.  However, the Raiders are in the thick of a playoff race as one of the AFC’s three wild card teams this year.  This game could be an important tiebreaker with the Browns down the line; this game means something to both teams.  Both teams have a negative point differential for the season – – but those stats are not based on the same foundation:

  • Browns are minus-21 points for the season with a 5-2 record.
  • Raiders are minus-26 points for the season with a 3-3 record.

The Raiders would love to run the ball here; statistically, the Browns look as if they have a tough run defense allowing fewer than 90 yards per game.  However, part of the reason for that “strong showing” is that the Browns pass defense is miserable.  The Browns pass defense ranks 30th in the NFL giving up 288.1 yards per game.

Jets at KC – 19.5 (49):  The spread here opened the week at 21.5 points and that must have drawn plenty of “Jets money” because it was down to 20 points in about 12 hours and has settled in at this level since Monday/Tuesday.  Maybe the Chiefs’ offense takes this game as a “scrimmage” and the Jets can slide in under the number; maybe the Chiefs’ offense is clicking and just destroys whatever the Jets’ defense thinks it might be able to do in the game.  The Chiefs have been on the road for the last two weeks and return to Arrowhead Stadium where they lost their only game of the season.  That is too big a spread to take seriously and there are too many mental factors to worry about here.  However, if you are a diehard Jets’ fan here are the data you need:

  • The Jets are +1325 on the Money Line this morning
  • The Jets were +3000 on the Money Line yesterday
  • There must be “Jets Money” coming in on the Money Line now…

Rams – 3.5 at Miami (46):  Welcome to the NFL, Tua Tagovailoa; let me introduce you to Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.  I suspect that the Dolphins had this tactical move planned from the day everyone arrived in Training Camp; Tua was going to be the starter after the BYE Week come Hell or high water.  Yes, the Rams are on a short week having played last Monday night and yes, this will be a body clock game for the Rams after traveling from LA to Miami for the game.  That is all well and good; bonne chance, Tua Tagovailoa…

New Orleans – 4.5 at Chicago (43.5):  This will be a low scoring game because the Bears’ offense is anemic and because the Bears’ defense is very good.  Michael Thomas is slated to return for the Saints and that has to be a plus.

SF at Seattle – 3 (54):  This game had serious Game of the Week potential given its potential importance in the NFC West race – the toughest division in the NFL  A loss here for the Niners would put them down 3 in the loss column to the Seahawks and that would be a huge obstacle to have to overcome.  The Seahawks lead the division with a 5-1 record even though their defense is awful; they give up 479.2 yards per game which is the worst in the NFL by a wide margin.  [The next worst team defense belongs to the Jags at 424.7 yards per game.]  This is a must win for the Niners; this is an important game for the Seahawks who lost their first game of the year last week.  Here is a trend for you:

  • The Seahawks have lost outright in their last 4 games against NFC West teams.

(Sun Nite) Dallas at Philly – 9 (43):  The spread here opened the week with the Eagles as 4-point favorites.  I assume it was the announcement that Andy Dalton could not play that sent the number soaring to this level; you can even find it as high as 10 points this morning.  Neither team here is nearly consistent enough to merit placement in the Six-Pack but this game does point to an interesting NFL marketing reality:

  • Three of the NFC East teams will play this week.
  • All three teams will play in prime time – – the Giants are on MNF.
  • All three of those teams stink.
  • Nonetheless, NFC East teams tend to draw big audiences and comfy ratings.
  • So, the NFL has not bothered to “flex” the Eagles/Cowboys out of Sunday night.

[Aside: The WTFs are on a BYE Week; that is why they are not part of this discussion.]

Chargers – 3 at Denver (44.5):  I think the Broncos’ defense is good enough to make Justin Herbert struggle in this game.  I think the Chargers’ defense is good enough to make Drew Lock struggle in this game.  I am tempted to take the game to stay UNDER, but I shall resist that temptation.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 4 (46):  This is the Game of the Week.  The teams bring a combined 11-1 record to the stadium.  The Ravens’ offense will have to deal with an excellent Steelers’ defense here and the Steelers’ offense will have to deal with an excellent Ravens’ defense here.  The Ravens enjoy a scheduling edge here; the Ravens had a BYE Week last week and this is a second consecutive road game for the Steelers.  This is a game to savor and having a wager on a game like this is not necessarily a way to enhance your viewing pleasure.  Just sit back, watch and enjoy – – if the game is available in your viewing area…

(Mon Nite) Tampa Bay – 11 at Giants (45):  There are three bad NFL teams on their BYE week this week and the Falcons played on Thursday night so finding a Dog-Breath Game of the Week was difficult.  My first inclination was the Eagles/Cowboys game because neither team is any good – – but that could have a major impact on a division championship race down the line.  So, I am going with this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  I do not think this game will be competitive; I think Tom Brady has begun to settle in with the Bucs.  And I do not see the Giants home field providing much of an advantage here; the Giants are only 1-2 at home and that win came over the less-than-fearsome WTFs.  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games, but I am making an exception here; I like the Bucs to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.  Here is a trend that makes me feel better about this selection:

  • In the last 5 years, Tom Brady (with the Pats) covered 75% of the games where he and the Pats were double-digit favorites.
  • In the last 5 years, Tom Brady (with the Pats) covered 77% of the games facing opponents with records below .500 at the time.

Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  • K-State +3.5 against West Virginia
  • Arkansas + 12.5 against Texas A&M
  • Va Tech – 3.5 over Louisville
  • Packers – 6 over Vikes
  • Titans – 5.5 over Bengals
  • Bucs – 11 over Giants

Finally, here is an NFL oddity noted by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“As if Green Bay losing 38-10 to the Bucs last Sunday wasn’t bad enough, Jamaal Williams’ pants tore open during the game, exposing his right buttock.

“So how do they list him on the Packers’ roster now — running back or split end?”

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



A Reader Vents …

Earlier this week, I got a lengthy email from a reader who needed to vent.  Fortunately for me, I was not the focal point of his anger/frustration; he evidently has had it up to his earbrows with some of the announcers assigned to do college football games.  Here is the way he introduced his frustration:

“ … it seems to me that collegiate game TV [announcing] teams should do some elementary homework on the teams they are covering and the context of the game they are calling and to share it and enhance the particular significance variables that might be present in a particular game.”

That seems to be a fair – – and not an impossibly difficult – – standard by which announcers might be “graded”.  It might be a bit difficult if Powerhouse U is playing Cupcake College for the first time ever, but in normal circumstances …

The reader’s email points out the lack of context often displayed by announcers regarding the game on the field.  Is this an emerging rivalry game?  Is it a revenge game?  Is there “bad blood” – – or “good blood” – – between the coaches?  I find myself in no position to defend many of the announcing teams doing college football games; rarely, do they even seem to be interested in such “angles” to their games.  Many of the announcing teams, to be candid, are not very good.

Then the reader went on to mention a pet peeve of mine – one that I was never sure many other people shared.

“ … in the second half, Mr. Golic and his colleagues went on and on about the ‘damn’ Big Ten and their return to football…a topic that nauseates me (and I have an advanced degree from Iowa and was on the faculty at both Iowa and Indiana) and then went on a long commentary about equality etc. (don’t get me wrong, I support Black Lives Matter …) but all of this while the game was going on in front of them…”

Amen to this!  Announcers are on site to inform the listener/viewer what is happening at that site on that day.  If there is an event in the game or even in the stadium area that relates directly to issues in a larger context in the country, then the announcers can and should “put it on the table”.  However, they are there to present a football game; they are not there to deliver a sermon and they are not there to propagandize their personal social beliefs or those of the network that employs them.  Even if the game in front of them shows a scoreboard that reads 77-3 in the third quarter, sermonizing and traversing mental flights of fancy is inappropriate.  Sermonizing can happen on a personal podcast or in a column published somewhere or as a guest on a sports radio show somewhere.

The problem is that on a national TV broadcast, there are plenty of folks who tuned into THAT game because they wanted to see THAT game and to hear you give them insight and expertise relative to THAT game.  I cannot speak to every TV market in the US, but I do know that in Northern Virginia, I have the choice to tune in to see at least four or five games in any and all of the time slots on every Saturday.  If I tune in to see Whatsamatta U play Catatonic State, it is because I have a reason to want to see THAT game and not the others on my menu.  And I can say with certainty that I never pick my viewing choice based on the probability of social sermonizing by the announcing team.

The email closed with:

“Thanks for listening and wading through this bile, if you did….”

I did; it was not bile because I agree with much of what you said bothered you.  And that should put a small degree of fear in your mind because I am confident that no mental health professional ever told one of his clients to read my stuff and to start thinking as I do…

Moving on …  Olympic weightlifting may be in trouble as an approved sport.  You may wonder how that can be since the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger” would seem to embrace weightlifting to the Nth degree.  What could be the downfall of this sport?  Well, it is a sport regulated by national Committees/Federations and an International Federation while the Olympics are regulated by the IOC.  Given those facts, it should not be a total surprise that the problem here is:

  • Corruption.

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) had an interim president, and that woman was just removed from office.  This happened at a virtual board meeting which did not include the president, and which was chaired by the vice-president who immediately assumed the duties of the president at the conclusion of the meeting.  The ousted president claimed that she was removed from office for trying to enact reforms related to “widespread doping and corruption” within the organization.

The IOC is righteously indignant about the allegations of doping and the use of PEDs in the sport of weightlifting notwithstanding its overt posture that it is on top of drug testing and has all the measures in place to regulate it for the Games.  [Aside:  If you believe that, you may not be the dumbest person on the planet, but you damned well better pray that he doesn’t die.]  In addition, there are allegations of “financial shenanigans” within the IWF.  It seems that an audit/investigation turned up an unaccounted for $10.4M and evidence that voters were bribed in various IWF “elections”.  Here is a link to more details on this story…

The IOC can refuse to recognize the IWF as a governing body thereby closing the Olympic  doors to any athletes that emerge from IWF sponsored competitions.  Might they do that?  The cynic in me wonders if that decision depends on finding that missing $10.4M and how it might find its way surreptitiously to the personal accounts of key IOC officials…

Finally, here is another Olympics-related event from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Japan Swimming Federation has stripped Daiya Seto, the reigning world champion in two individual-medley events, of his team captaincy for the Tokyo Olympics after he was caught cheating on his wife.

“In other words, he got DQ’d for not staying in his own lane.”

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