New Rules ?

The NFL owners have agreed to three new rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee at the owners’ annual meeting in Orlando.  They are:

  1. Banning the “hip-drop tackle”:  I mentioned this last week; it is a “player safety motivated” rule that requires a very complicated definition of what is and what is not a hip-drop tackle.  The NFLPA opposes the change; I suspect defensive players also oppose the change.  Some fans have expressed disapproval asserting that this is another step toward transforming the NFL into a touch-football league.  I will reserve judgment until I see how and if the rule is called consistently and logically.
  2. A new kickoff rule:  This is an adaptation of the rule used by the XFL, and it is more complicated to explain than I prefer to do here. has already declared that it will have a “profound impact in 2024.”  If you Google “new NFL kickoff rule” you will find dozens of reports that describe the new procedure.  It was passed as a “one-year trial” and will be reviewed prior to the 2025 season.  Once again, I will reserve judgment until I see what it is and what it does.
  3. An added coach’s challenge:  If a coach challenges a call during the game and his challenge is upheld, that team will get a third challenge in the game.  No longer must a team be right on both challenges that it makes to earn a third challenge; now, one correct challenge is sufficient.  I do NOT like this change.  Watching officials look at monitors showing dozens of replays so they can “get it right” is less enticing than a root canal on your birthday.  Making it easier for teams to challenge extra calls by the officials does not enhance the viewing product.

Moving on …  I have said here multiple times that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the single best sporting event held every year.  I have loved college basketball for more than 65 years.  And this morning I feel like the proverbial old codger sitting on my porch yelling at people to get off my damned lawn.  This year’s tournament is far less interesting than in previous years.  Before anyone jumps down my throat here:

  • Oakland beating Kentucky was a big surprise and super-exciting – – unless you are a Kentucky alum or a member of John Calipari’s family.
  • Yale’s win over Auburn – – a team I picked to go to the Final Four – – was an exciting and surprising game.
  • Other than those two games, there have been a lot of “not-much-doubt games” and “blatant mismatch games”.

Look, the “Cinderella team” for 2024 is the 11th seeded North Carolina State TEAM who just happens to have won the ACC Tournament – – an event only slightly less prestigious than March Madness itself.  It seems to me that one of two situations obtain here:

  1. The Selection Committee tried to get it right but did not.  They gave tournament slots to 8 teams from the SEC and 6 teams from the Big-10.  Remember, this is basketball and not football.  Of those 14 teams only 4 teams are still involved.
  2. College basketball has become polarized to the point where the “haves” are just too much for the “have nots”.  The reputations of teams’ past are not of much current value today.  Eight teams earned seedings of #1 or #2 in their bracket; all eight of those teams are still playing.

And in that environment, the calls to expand the tournament field grow louder.  How is that supposed to generate more exciting games?  This year the Atlantic Sun Conference sent Stetson to the tournament where they were destroyed by UConn.  That game was not in doubt from the start, and it was uninteresting to watch after about the first five minutes.  So maybe expanding the tournament might add a second team from the “little guy” Atlantic Sun Conference such as Austin Peay?  Pardon me while I feign interest in the possibility.

Or maybe the tournament would be “kicked up a notch” [Hat tip to Emeril Lagasse] with the addition of a ninth team from the SEC?  If you believe that you probably also believe that a dog chases its tail in order to make ends meet.

The NCAA has a model in its face demonstrating that more is not always better.  That would be the college football bowl system; there were 41 of them last year if my count is correct.  More college football teams (82) out of eligible teams for bowl games (132) play in bowl games than the 68 March Madness teams.  And there are – – theoretically – – 355 teams eligible for March Madness.  How many of the bowl games not related to the CFP or the ones played on New Year’s Day are exciting/enticing events and how many might even achieve “marginally interesting status”?   Here is a harsh reality:

  • More games do not equal more good games!

So, let me do some math here and offer a suggestion that will both please the folks in charge of the “Power Conferences” and at the same time ruin March Madness:

  • Keep the field at 68 teams!
  • The SEC will have 16 teams as of next year + The Big-10 will have 18 teams as of next year + The ACC will have 18 teams as of next year + The Big 12 will have 16 teams as of next year = 68 teams.

No more bitching and moaning about the Selection Committee; no more teams from conferences no one has ever heard of; no more teams from Nowheresville.  Just teams everyone has heard of before – – and it would be the death rattle for March Madness which is an event best left alone.

Finally, let me close today with these words from my favorite curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken:

“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

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



Rest In Peace, Peter Angelos

Peter Angelos, the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, died over the weekend at the age of 94.  To say he was a polarizing figure would be an understatement.  Many fans saw him as miserly and unwilling to spend to put a winner on the field.  Other owners saw him as some sort of kook as he “sided with the union” during the strike/lockout in the mid-90s refusing even to consider fielding replacement players.  At one time, he was considered to be a sufficiently serious political force in Maryland to make a run for Governor.  And Jim Palmer tweeted:

“… Kept the O’s in Baltimore.  And did so much for so many without much fanfare.  Always treated so well by Mr. A …”

Rest in peace, Peter Angelos.

When the NCAA Tournament began last week, UConn was the betting favorite to win it all with odds of +600.  After the first two rounds, here are the money line odds at FanDuel for teams to cut down the nets on April 8th:

  1. UConn = +210
  2. Houston = +550
  3. Purdue = +600
  4. Arizona = +850
  5. Tennessee = +1200
  6. UNC = +1300

The shift in the odds definitely reflects the dominance that UConn has shown in its two wins so far; the Huskies won in a rout in its games against Stetson and Northwestern.  Houston has been impressive too; the current odds are down from +750 before the Tournament began; those were the odds that “Mattress Mac” got for his $1M bet on Houston to win it all.

My Final Four predictions have not fared so well.

  • Auburn lost in its first game to Yale as a 14.5-point favorite with money line odds of minus-900.
  • Baylor dominated Colgate in the Round of 64 but lost yesterday to Clemson by 8 points.

My other two predictions – – Duke and Tennessee – – remain alive …

The most impressive stretch of basketball I have seen so far in the tournament has to be Gonzaga’s performance at the start of the second half of its win over Kansas.  The Jayhawks led 44-43 at halftime; the game looked as if it would go down to the final minutes as a nail-biter.  Then Gonzaga put on a 15-0 run at the start of the second half and did not miss a 3-point attempt until there were less than two minutes left in the game.  Wow…

Regarding Zach Edey – – Purdue’s gigantic center – – he is the 2024 version of an observation made long ago by Wilt Chamberlain.  Lots of people dismissed Chamberlain as simply a winner in the genetic lottery and not a skilled basketball player; some folks feel the same way about Edey these days.  Chamberlain explained that sentiment like this:

“Nobody roots for Goliath.”

Let me say this next thing carefully.  There were some embarrassing performances by some teams that clearly did not belong in this tournament against this level of competition.  I understand the goal of “inclusivity”, and the “Cinderella stories” that emerge every few years are heartwarming; but when one stops pulling on the heartstrings, several teams showed they had no business participating here.

Kentucky had an embarrassing loss in the Round of 64 to Oakland.  But the Kentucky “embarrassment” had a different flavor to it.  The Wildcats were not shown up to be clearly inferior talents in their loss – – but they were the highest seeded team to be eliminated in the first round of the tournament and lost to a team that it should have beaten at least 9 times out of 10.  John Calipari and Kentucky have been among the most prominent of the schools that feature “one-and-done players” who choose to go play college basketball only because the NBA is not open to them until a year after they graduate from high school.  Well, this is the second time in three years that Kentucky has been “one-and-done” in the tournament; in 2022 they were bounced in the first game then by St. Peter’s.

Illinois looks like a good team that could provide a meaningful challenge to Iowa St. in their Sweet 16 game – – or maybe Illinois is merely slightly above average with its apparent strengths not much more than a mirage after beating two marginal opponents.  Neither Moorhead St. nor Duquesne falls in the category of a team that clearly did not belong in the tournament to begin with.  At the same time, neither Moorhead St. nor Duquesne offered any evidence that they were going to make it to the Sweet 16 without the intervention of a Fairy Godmother.

Finally, I’ll close today with these words from Dave Barry:

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”

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



The Shohei Ohtani Saga…

It began late morning yesterday.  I got an email from a reader and moments later got a text from a friend.  They both asked the same question:

  • What is the story with Shohei Otani’s interpreter?

As the day progressed, I got more emails and more texts with the same generic query, and I answered all of them in the same way.  I said I didn’t have enough information to understand it all.  Look, I am not a crusading and truth-seeking journalist; I am a hedonist, and my focus yesterday was watching March Madness games on my TV set in my comfy chair.

Here are some bits of information:

  • The Dodgers fired Ippei Mizuhara who is a friend of Ohtani’s and who has served as Ohtani’s interpreter for about 7 years.
  • Media reports said that Mizuhara had stolen millions of dollars from Ohtani to cover gambling debts.
  • Reports also said that a federal investigation of an alleged illegal bookie named Matthew Bowyer is somehow related to the firing of Mizuhara.
  • An ESPN report said that Mizuhara admitted to large gambling debts, but that Ohtani had not done any betting.  In an interview with ESPN, Mizuhara said Ohtani knew that Mizuhara had incurred gambling debts and that Ohtani had loaned him the money to cover those debts.
  • Persons identified as “representatives of Ohtani” say that Ohtani was the victim of “massive theft”, but they do not address who the thief might be.

Frankly, it appears to me that the missing pieces here all derive from the answer(s) to a variant of Senator Howard Baker’s (R- Tenn) famous question during the Watergate hearings:

  • What did Ohtani know and when did he know it?

With some clarity on that question, one might advance to the next level of inquiry:

  • After Ohtani knew what he knew, what did he do with that information?

There is a starkly obvious matter here and a murkier one too.  The obvious one is that we know about “betting on baseball” and the consequences of doing that for anyone involved with baseball.  Put that aside; if any information comes forth related to such an activity, the outcome is both clear and dire.  The murky issue here is this:

  • Sports betting is illegal in California.  However, there are “offshore books” where people in California evidently place wagers on sporting events.
  • The current CBA between MLB and the MLBPA prohibits betting with illegal bookmakers or illegal offshore sportsbooks or websites.

I have no idea as to the “Illegality” of the “offshore books” that seem to exist to serve the desires of folks in California to bet on sports.  But that too seems like a critical question that will need to be addressed as this entire matter unfolds.

There is one aspect to this story that gave me pause from the time that I read about it.  Mizuhara was fired by the LA Dodgers which means to me that he was a Dodgers’ employee and not someone hired by Ohtani.  Since Mizuhara has also been described as a long-time friend of Ohtani’s and who has been working with Ohtani for more than a decade, that was an atonal note in the symphony here.  As I said yesterday, I need more information to make sense of all this.  I suspect more will be forthcoming; this story is not going to just dry up and blow away.

Moving on …  If anyone tells me they still have a pristine bracket left after yesterday’s results, I am going to need video evidence that has been notarized with time stamps affixed to support such a claim.  Clearly, the biggest shock of the day was Kentucky (seeded #3) losing to Oakland (seeded #14).  But it was a day of college basketball that saw several other upsets and a very close call for Kansas.  Three teams seeded #11 in their bracket beat opponents seeded #6 yesterday:

  • Duquesne beat BYU by 4 points but led by as many as 14 points in the game.
  • NC State beat Texas Tech by 13 points and showed no signs of “weariness” after winning the ACC Tournament by winning 5 games in a row over a 5-day span.
  • Oregon beat South Carolina handily by 14 points.

The SEC had 8 teams in the tournament and three of them bowed out in the first round yesterday.  In addition to Kentucky and South Carolina losing to lower seeded teams, Mississippi State lost by 18 points to Michigan State yesterday.

Tomorrow night in prime time, Oakland (14-seed) and NC State (11-seed) will play, and one will advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  I doubt there were too many brackets that foretold that confrontation.

The good news for me here is that my prediction for the teams making the Final Four remains alive.  Tennessee won handily over St. Peter’s yesterday moving on the face Texas tomorrow night.

Finally, since today began with reports related to gambling debts, let me close with this:

“I used to have a horrible gambling addiction, but I wager I’ll never gamble again.”

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



The NFL Owners’ Annual Meeting Next Week

The NFL owners’ Annual Meeting will take place in Orlando, FL next week.  The owners will consider some rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee but according to reports the owners will not vote on the proposed sale of a minority interest in the Raiders to Tom Brady.  That proposed deal has already drawn a ton of attention by the league moguls:

  • The NFL instituted a rule that barred owners from giving an equity stake in the franchise to employees of the franchise.  It was widely assumed that Mark Davis was using that ploy as a way to sign Brady as a free agent.
  • The current deal has Brady “buying in” at a reported “deep discount” and some owners don’t like that as a precedent or as something that might devalue their franchise.

[Aside:  The existence of the rule barring employees having a stake in the team tells me that Caleb Williams’ “demands” for a stake in whatever team drafts him is dead on arrival.]

I think there is a bigger problem than a player or a coach or a GM having an ownership stake in the team at work with the “Brady Deal”.  Unless plans change dramatically, starting in less than 6 months, Tom Brady will be the color analyst on the #1 broadcast team for the NFL on FOX.  Maybe that is not an actual “conflict of interest” but given the current proclivities in the US to conjure up conspiracy theories, that situation could easily be portrayed as such.  And that is a potential problem the NFL needs to stay well away from.

About a hundred years ago, the fledgling NFL survived by selling tickets to folks who came to see the games.  The league added revenue streams like radio broadcasts and selling hot chocolate to fans in attendance.  Today, the NFL revenues from tickets and concessions and even parking are almost relegated to “rounding-off error”; in 2024, the NFL exists in the financial condition it enjoys because it is an ongoing TV series enjoyed weekly by millions – – if not tens of millions – – of viewers.

If I owned an NFL franchise worth several billion dollars, I would be triply cautious to avoid anything that had even a remote possibility of alienating even a part of that TV audience.  Obviously, I do not know the thinking of any NFL owner on this matter; but I would worry more about Tom Brady as an “owner/TV analyst” than I would about Tom Brady buying in at a “deep discount”.

There are ten rule changes that should come up for a vote next week.  The most dramatic change proposal is to the kickoff; the proposed rule simply takes too long to summarize so go to where the proposed new kickoff rule is explained and dissected in depth.

The more important rule change proposal from my perspective is the proposed prohibition of the “hip-drop tackle”.  Here is the proposed definition of what would become a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down if the rule proposal is approved by 24 of the 32 NFL owners:

“It is a foul if a player uses the following technique to bring a runner to the ground: (a) grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms; and (b) unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg(s) at or below the knee.”

This rule change is motivated by player safety akin to the ban on the horse collar tackle.  According to some folks, the hip-drop technique gained favor in the coaching ranks as a means to reduce contact by the helmet during tackling which was also banned in the name of player safety.  What I find interesting about this issue is that the NFLPA is not fully on board here because the union believes – – probably correctly – – that the league will not be able to ban the practice with a rule definition that officials can reliably call consistently.

If you want an example of the union’s skepticism, just re-read the definition above and see if you think you could call it correctly more than 90% of the time.  [As you do the re-reading, focus on the phraseology “unweights himself” and wonder how Sir Issac Newton might have described what is going on there.]  Nevertheless, I don’t understand the union stance from this perspective:

  • If the hip-drop tackle – – however one defines is – – is deemed to be dangerous to player health, why would the union be against something that is imperfect but partially advantageous to player safety?

Sir Winston Churchill said that perfection is the enemy of progress.  Unless I am missing something here, it seems that the NFLPA should heed the words of Sir Winston…

Before I wrap this up today and plant myself in front of a TV set to watch March Madness, let me predict my Final Four:

  • West Bracket = Baylor.  Scott Drew is a really good coach.
  • East Bracket = Auburn.  Charles Barkley hopes I am correct.
  • South Bracket = Duke.  #2 son hopes I am correct.
  • Midwest Bracket = Tennessee.  Not a difficult draw for the Vols here.

In case you did not notice, I do not have any #1 seeds in the four brackets reaching the Final Four this year.  Let the games begin …

Finally, since I mentioned Sir Winston Churchill above, let me close with two other pithy observations by him:

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.  The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

And …

“Truth in incontrovertible.  Panic may resent it.  Ignorance may deride it.  Malice may distort it.  But there it is.”

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



Sex And The Village?

With the Paris Olympics on the horizon, there are a couple of items to keep in mind.  First, there will be 4 new “sports” in the program for 2024.  I use quotation marks here because if you stopped the “man on the street” and asked him to name strange sports, you would likely spend a week stopping folks before you got all four named.  Here they are:

  1. Break Dancing
  2. Skateboarding
  3. Sport Climbing
  4. Surfing

Please ignore the fact that nothing like these “events” were part of the original Olympic Games in or around 776 BC nor the fact that Surfing in or around Paris is problematic.  [Aside:  Surfing will take place at Teahupo’o in French Polynesia, so it is technically in France although it is 9771 miles from Paris via the Great Circle Route.]  There will be competitions in all these sports and Olympic Medals will be doled out.  That news is moderately outré as compared to the next tidbit.

The Olympic rules against “intimacy” and “fraternization” among inhabitants of the Olympic Village have been lifted; sex is legal this time around.  And part of the preparation by the organizers reflects their thinking on what might go on in the 17 days and nights between July 26 and August 11 this year.

  • There will be 300,000 condoms available for the taking – – and – –
  • Beds are designed to support up to 550 pounds.

Let me put some perspective on those numbers:

  • If you assume that a packaged condom weighs 1 ounce, 300,000 condoms would weigh 18,750 pounds which is more than 9 tons.
  • You need not assume anything to realize that the organizers have provided an average of 17,647 condoms per day for the Olympians’ deployment.
  • The number of athletes for the games is capped at 10,600.  I have not been able to find a breakdown as to the number of male and female athletes expected to participate in the games, but if the numbers are equally divided, each male athlete would have at his disposal 3.3 condoms per day for 17 days.

All the above is simple arithmetic and one can draw whatever conclusions one might want to take from the numbers as to the anticipated orgy-level in the Olympic Village come the summer.  Regarding the beds that will support 550 lbs, do not let your mind dwell on that imagery for too long.  The TV series Sex and the City will have been off the air for 20 years when the Paris Olympics take place; perhaps we can think of the Games this time around as Sex and the Village.

Moving on …  In the NBA, LeBron James is no longer the best all-around player in the league; he is still “Top 5”, but I believe the best all-around player is Nikola Jokic.  The most intriguing player at the moment – – the one you tune in to see what he might do on this particular night – – is Victor Wembanyama who shows flashes that he might be the best all-around player at some point in the future.  However, I would like to make an argument here about the player who is the most valuable to his team and who simultaneously is not nearly the best all-around player in the NBA.

Yes, I know this is a futile argument and that this player will never be named NBA MVP for a season, but my assessment is that the player most valuable to his team in the NBA is Jalen Brunson of the NY Knicks.

  • The season before signing Brunson (2021/2022) as a free agent, the Knicks were 35-47 and did not make the playoffs.
  • Last year was his first season in NY; the Knicks went 47-35 and won one round of the playoffs.
  • This year the Knicks are 41-27 putting them in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and a mortal lock to make the playoffs.

I am not saying that Jalen Brunson is a better all-around player than Nikola Jokic or Wemby or LeBron James; he is not.  However, in terms of value to his team – – the Knicks – – he very well might be the most valuable player.

Next up …  The reports of the death of Sports Illustrated may have been premature.  The ownership of the SI is complicated, but an entity known as Minute Media has acquired the license from the brand’s owner to publish the magazine.  The licensing agreement is reported to be for 10 years with an option to extend the agreement for 20 years after that period.  [Aside:  Given the uncertainties of the media world in 2024, any thoughts about what might exist 30 years from now is pure fantasy.]  The new publishers can produce the magazine in print and online and can continue the Swimsuit Issue as part of the deal.

One thing is for sure.  The new publisher must avoid anything resembling the embarrassment that fell to SI a few months ago when it was uncovered that the online version had reports written by an artificial intelligence algorithm and was published under a fictitious byline.  I am no journalist by anyone’s definition, but I know that sort of skullduggery is not acceptable in the world of journalism.

Finally, I began today musing on the anticipated sexual events in the Olympic Village this year.  So, let me close with these general observations about sex from a variety of folks:

“Is sex dirty?  Only if it’s done right.”  (Woody Allen)

And …

“If your sexual fantasies were truly of interest to others, they would no longer be fantasies.”  (Fran Lebowitz)

And …

“Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place.”  (Billy Crystal)

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



Fun With Players’ Names

Many US sports fans today are in the midst of researching their bracket picks.  I have spent my time researching what has become an annual event here in Curmudgeon Central – – taking a light look at players’ names on the 68 NCAA men’s basketball tournament teams.  I believe I have an entry below for at least one player from every team; I certainly would not want to be accused of snubbing any team in my process.

To begin let me point out four players whose names are Complete Sentences:

  1. Gavin Burns – – Longwood
  2. Chase Hunter – – Clemson
  3. Chase Martin – – Purdue
  4. Chase Ross – – Marquette

My first name category will be Alliterative Names.  On this list, there are five examples of an alliterative trifecta.  I continue to look for an alliterative superfecta simply because I have never found one.  Every year, I begin my search for something like:

  • Billie Bob Boston – – Brown – – or – –
  • Tommy Tooter – – Texas Tech

That search will have to continue next year but in the meantime consider:

  • Achor Achor – – Samford
  • Ali Ali – – Akron – – Trifecta
  • Andrew Alia – – Drake
  • Al Amadou – – Marquette
  • Atiki Ally Atike – – BYU (Trifecta)
  • Alex Anamekwe – – Texas
  • Avery Anderson III – – TCU
  • Brooks Barnheizer – – Northwestern
  • Brycen Blaine – – JMU
  • Brent Bland – – St. Peter’s
  • Buddy Boyer – – Samford
  • Ben Bryson – – UVA
  • Boo Buie – – Northwestern
  • Cameron Carr – – Tennessee
  • Coen Carr – – Michigan St.
  • Chris Carter – – Kansas
  • Chris Conway – – Oakland
  • Colin Coyne – – Tennessee
  • Cooper Craggs – – Oakland
  • Dain Dainja – – Illinois
  • Dylan Darling – – Washington St.
  • Donovan Dent – – New Mexico St.
  • Dylan Disu – – Texas
  • David Dixon – – Duquesne (Trifecta)
  • Damian Dunn – – Houston
  • Francisco Farabello – – Creighton
  • Greg Gearhardt – – Colorado
  • Jalen Jackson – – W. Kentucky
  • Javon Jackson – – Utah St.
  • Jack Janicky – – Wisconsin
  • Jadon Jones – – Long Beach St.
  • Josiah-Jordan James – – Tennessee (Trifecta)
  • Joshua Jefferson – – St. Mary’s
  • Jack Johnson – – Florida Atlantic
  • Jalen Johnson – – Grambling
  • Javonte Johnson – – Colorado St.
  • Kobe Knox – – USF
  • Kajus Kublikas – – Florida
  • Keaton Kutcher – – Illinois
  • Langston Love – – Baylor
  • Mason Miller – – Creighton
  • Matt Mimms – – S. Dakota St.
  • Mark Mitchell – – Duke
  • Milan Momcilovic – – Iowa St.
  • Maddox Monson – – Long Beach St.
  • Michael Mora – – Vermont
  • Matthew Mors – – S. Dakota St.
  • Ose Okojie – – Howard
  • Petras Padegimas – – Dayton
  • Presley Patterson – – Auburn
  • Ryan Raad – – San Diego St.
  • Royce Robinson – – Montana St.
  • Shammah Scott – – Akron
  • Seth Sigmon – – UAB
  • Sean Stewart – – Duke
  • Stephan Swenson – – Stetson (Trifecta)
  • Treyton Thompson – – Stetson
  • Tony Toney – – UAB
  • Trey Townsend – – Oakland
  • Townsend Tripple – – BYU
  • Warren Washington – – Texas Tech
  • William Whorton – – S. Dakota St.
  • Zakai Ziegler – – Tennessee

My next category is  Back-and-Forth Names – – ones that would seem normal if the first name and the surname were reversed such as:

  • Harrison Alexander – – Mississippi St.
  • Trey Alexander – – Creighton
  • Quincy Allen – – JMU
  • Jaden Bradley – – Arizona
  • Jack Francis – – Texas Tech
  • Ja’Vier Francis – – Houston
  • Keshon Gilbert – – Iowa St.
  • Ben Gregg – – Gonzaga
  • Justin Harmon – – Illinois
  • Rodney Howard – – W. Kentucky
  • Isaac Jack – – Dayton
  • Tre Norman – – Marquette
  • Marcus Randolph – – St. Peter’s
  • Will Richard – – Florida
  • Cormac Ryan – – UNC
  • Tyrese Samuel – – Florida
  • Miles Stewart – – Howard
  • Trey Stuart – – TCU
  • Kalil Thomas – – Morehead St.
  • Shane Thomas – – Creighton
  • Ja’Kobe Walter – – Baylor

Next up are player names that remind us of former US Presidents:

  • KJ Adams, Jr. – – Kansas
  • Carter Ash – – Montana St.
  • Jackson Cook – – Arizona
  • Dallin Grant – – Utah St.
  • Jackson Grant – – Utah St.  (A Presidential doubleheader)
  • Cyncier Harrison – – Stetson
  • Graham Ike – – Gonzaga
  • Harrison Ingram – – UNC
  • Elmarko Jackson – – Kansas
  • D.J. Jefferson – – Tennessee
  • Kordelius Jefferson – – Houston
  • Andre Johnson, Jr. – – UConn
  • KD Johnson – – Auburn
  • Keshad Johnson – – Arizona
  • Tyler Kolek – – Marquette
  • Grant Nelson – – Alabama
  • Tyler Patterson – – Montana St.
  • Aundre Polk – – Oakland
  • Carter Sobera – – Auburn
  • Corey Washington – – St. Peter’s
  • Jalen Washington – – UNC

Some players’ names create an Artist’s Pallette:

  • Cameron Brown – — Marquette
  • Darius Brown II – – Utah St.
  • Xavier Brown – – JMU
  • Josh Gray – – S. Carolina
  • Jasen Green – – Creighton
  • Michael Green III – – JMU
  • Brandon White – – Texas A&M

The names of five players imply Nobility or Peerage:

  • Josiah Dotzler – – Creighton
  • Fredrick King – – Creighton
  • Sam King – – Purdue
  • Tre King – – Iowa St.
  • Jackson Prince – – Texas

Some names call to mind Places:

  • Devon Arlington – – Yale
  • Devin Cambridge – – Texas Tech
  • Brennan Canada – – Kentucky
  • Grant Darbyshire – – Kentucky
  • Dallas Graziani – – Samford
  • DA Houston – – Longwood
  • Denver Jones – – Auburn
  • Andrew Meadow – – Boise St.
  • Austin Sacks – – Baylor
  • Saxby Sunderland – – Longwood

A goodly number of players’ names have a Biblical Connection:

  • Samson Aletan – – Yale
  • Noah Amenhauser – – Grand Canyon
  • Solomon Ball – – UConn
  • Luke Champion – – Arizona
  • Michael Christmas – – Longwood
  • Christian Coleman – – UAB
  • Justin Cross – – Kansas
  • Aaron Deloney – – Vermont
  • Noah Friedel – – JMU
  • Luke Goode – – Illinois
  • Jaffrey Grace III – – Nebraska
  • Luke Haertle – – Wisconsin
  • Micah Handlogten – – Florida
  • Samson Johnson – – UConn
  • Isaac Jones – – Washington St.
  • Enoch Kalambay – – W. Kentucky
  • Jonah Lucas – – Marquette
  • Jacob McFarland – – Houston
  • Micah Parrish – – San Diego St.
  • Christian Reeves – – Duke
  • Elijah Saunders – – San Diego St
  • Isaiah Shaw – – Grand Canyon
  • Malachi Smith – – Dayton
  • Evan Solomon – – Oakland
  • Joshua Strong – – Howard
  • Messiah Thompson – – Long Beach St.
  • Isaac Traudt – – Creighton
  • Seth Trimble – – UNC
  • Elijah Tucker – – Longwood
  • Noah Waterman – – BYU
  • Isaiah Watts – – Washington St.

Some players’ names make me wonder if the player is related to Someone Else who is Famous:

  • Kyle Carlisemo – – Colgate – – He IS the son of PJ Carlisemo!
  • Patrick Cassidy – – Kansas – – Hopalong’s nephew?
  • Roy Clarke – – St. Peter’s – – Did your uncle host Hee Haw?
  • David Joplin – – Marquette – – Janis’ long-lost son?
  • Hayden Hefner – – Texas A&M – – Hugh’s heir?
  • Chuck Hepburn – – Wisconsin – – Audrey’s grandson?
  • Jackson Huxtable – – Stetson – – From The Cosby Show?
  • Connor Kraft – – S. Dakota St. – – Your family invented mayonnaise?
  • Rob Landry – – UNC – – Your granddad coached the Cowboys?
  • Spencer Mahoney – – Washington St. – – Paul Winchell’s sidekick?
  • Jamal Mashburn Jr. – – New Mexico – – Saw your Dad play for Kentucky.
  • Dillon Mitchell – – Texas – – Related to the US Marshall in Dodge City?
  • Tristan Newton – – UConn – – Descendant of Sir Isaac?
  • Gehrig Normand – – Michigan St. – – Shouldn’t you play baseball?
  • Charlie McCarthy – – Kansas – – Edgar Bergan’s sidekick?
  • Christian Shumate – – McNeese – – Did your dad play for Notre Dame?
  • Nicholas Timberlake – – Kansas – – Justin’s younger brother?
  • Isiah Warfield – – Howard – – Your grandfather played for the Miami Dolphins?
  • Demarion Watson – – Iowa St. – – Your uncle hung out with Sherlock Holmes?
  • Jaden Webb – – Morehead St. – – Your dad starred on Dragnet?
  • Julian Wooden – – JMU – – Did your father coach UCLA?

I have an extensive list of players whose names might just Foretell Their Future Careers:

  • Marvel Allen – – Dayton – – Comic book artist
  • Steven Ashworth – – Creighton – – Chimney sweep
  • Dawson Baker – – BYU – – Obviously …
  • Xavier Banks – – Oakland – – Financier
  • DeAirius Barker – – Charleston – – Dog trainer
  • Patrick Bath – – Drake – – Plumber
  • Omaha Biliew – – Iowa St. – – Steak house operator
  • Stanley Borden – – Duke – – Dairy farmer
  • Churchill Bounds – – Wagner – – British MP
  • Johni Broome – – Auburn – – Home cleaning services provider
  • Jalen Bridges – – Baylor – – Civil engineer
  • Miles Byrd – – San Diego St. – – Ornithologist
  • Colby Brooks – – Gonzaga – – Cheese monger
  • Lucas Clanton – – Auburn – – OK Corral gunfight reenactor
  • Donovan Clingan – – UConn – – Star Trek actor
  • Mookie Cook – – Oregon – – Chef
  • Ta’Lon Cooper – – S. Carolina – – Barrell maker
  • Xavier Cork – – TCU – – Wine maker
  • N’Faly Dante – – Oregon – – Poet
  • Hunter Dickinson – – Kansas – – Nah … too easy
  • Jaylen Dorsey – – W. Kentucky – – Band leader
  • Kobe Elvis – – Dayton – – Crooning basketball player of course
  • Wesley Fields – – McNeese – – Farmer
  • Kayden Fish – – Iowa St. – – Deep sea angler
  • Mason Forbes – – St. Mary’s – – Magazine editor

[Aside:  Mason Forbes’ grandfather, Spencer Forbes, played for the Harlem Globetrotters back in the 1960s.  This apple did not fall far from the tree.]

  • Robert Ford III – – Montana St. – – Automotive engineer
  • Trey Fort – – Mississippi St. – – Commanding officer
  • Jazz Gardner – – Nevada – – Outdoors musician
  • Kyron Gibson – – Drake – – Guitarist
  • Ben Gold – – Marquette – – Mining engineer
  • Joey Hart – – Kentucky – – Transplant surgeon
  • Rory Hawke – – St. Mary’s – – Falconer
  • Zayden High – – UNC – – Secondary school principal
  • Walker Horn – – Kentucky – – Band leader
  • DJ Horne – – NC State – – A Dee Jay obviously
  • Jaelen House – – New Mexico – – Real estate developer
  • Dillon Hunter – – Clemson – – Anything but a “gatherer”
  • Tone Hunter – – Oakland – – Musician
  • Jaxon Kohler – – Michigan St. – – Plumber
  • Chandler Leopard – – Samford – – Safari leader
  • Julius Marble – – Texas A&M – – Sculptor
  • Walyn Napper – – Longwood – – Mattress tester
  • Eric Northweather – – Drake – – Meteorologist
  • Breon Pass – – NC State – – NFL QB
  • Jack Payne – – Colorado St. – – Physical therapist
  • Tylan Pope – – Nevada – – Theologian
  • TL Power – – Duke – – Linesman
  • Nick Pringle – – Alabama – – Potato chip mogul
  • Keegan Records – – Colgate – – Music producer
  • Freedom Rhames – – Howard – – Parole officer
  • DJ Richards, Jr. – – McNeese – – Another Dee Jay obviously
  • Jeremy Roach – – Duke – – Exterminator
  • JT Rock – – Iowa St. – – Sculptor
  • Juliana Roper II – – Northwestern – – Rodeo athlete
  • Emmanual Sharp – – Houston – – Musician
  • Atticus Schuler – – Dayton – – Criminal defense lawyer
  • Patrick Shelley – – UVA – – Poet
  • Jackson Skipper – – Vermont – – Sailboat captain
  • Cam Spencer – – UConn – – Auto mechanic
  • Trevian Tennyson – – TCU – – Poet Laureate
  • Brock Vice – – Creighton – – Police detective
  • Kerwin Walton – – Texas Tech – – Angler
  • Rocket Watts – – Oakland – – Astronaut
  • Thomas Weaver – – Howard – – Rug merchant
  • Shahada Wells – – McNeese – – Wildcat oil driller
  • Jae’Lyn Withers – – UNC – – Thoroughbred horse trainer
  • Kam Woods – – NC State – – Carpenter
  • Freddie Word – – Charleston – – Author

And I have saved for last a compendium of players’ names that probably cause Nightmares For Copy Editors at newspapers around the country – – and maybe tangle the tongue for an announcer or two also:

  • Deraje Agbaosi – – New Mexico
  • Max Agbonkpolo – – Utan St.
  • Ileri Ayo-Faleye – – Vermont
  • Lav Cvetkovic – – UVA
  • Ebrima Dibba – – S. Carolina
  • Kymany Houinsou – – Washington St.
  • Oso Ighodaro – – Marquette
  • Zvonimir Ivisic – – Kentucky
  • Andrej Jakimovski – – Washington St.
  • Veikka Koivisto – – Charleston
  • Tuburu Naivalurua – – Oakland
  • Michel Ndayishimiye – – Vermont
  • Yanis Ndjonga – – Baylor
  • Chilaydrien Newton – – Grambling
  • Shaumba Ngoyi – – Long Beach St.
  • Emeka Nnaji – – Grambling
  • Zimi Nwokeji – – Dayton
  • Josh Ojianwuna – – Baylor
  • Ze’Rik Onyema – – Texas
  • Ugonna Onyenso – – Kentucky
  • Jackson Paveletzke – – Iowa St.
  • Ayodele Taiwo – – Howard
  • Jonathan Tchamwatchoua – – Baylor
  • Fousseyni Traore – – BYU
  • Obinna Ugwuakazi – – Charleston
  • Szymon Zapala – – Longwood

Finally, I’ll close with these remarks about names from a few folks far more famous than I:

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”  (Oscar Wilde)

And …

“Always forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”  (Robert F. Kennedy)

And …

“I shall write a book some day about the appropriateness of names.  Geoffrey Chaucer has a ribald ring as is proper and correct, and Alexander Pope was inevitably Alexander Pope.  Colley Cibber was a silly little man without much elegance and Shelley was very Percy and very Bysshe.”  (James Joyce)

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



A Short-Lived National Pastime

From April to October, baseball is the “national pastime”; for the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, NFL football is the “national pastime”; today – – for one solitary 24-hour period – – the “national pastime” is hyperventilating over which college basketball team was “snubbed” by the Selection Committee and which other teams that did get into the tournament were improperly seeded.  If the rhetorical gas that will be spewed today on those subjects were greenhouse gases, Greta Thunberg would be rendered catatonic. 

Let me set these arguments aside by saying:

  • No team was snubbed.  There are a bunch of slightly better than mediocre teams out there and deciding which ones are closer to “mediocre” than to “slightly above average” is an impossible task.  The Committee did its job and now it is time to play the games.
  • If I tell you that St. John’s belongs in the Tournament more than UVa belongs, it really doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not.  The fact is that UVa is in, and St. John’s is out.  Hi ho!
  • Think for a moment about how difficult it is to pick the 5 best teams in the country ranked in order.  There can be spirited debate about such an ordering.  Now try to get any sort of consensus about ranking the 5 teams from #41 to #45 in order.  Good luck getting a consensus there and that is the task the Selection Committee faces each year.

I said that this hyperventilating will only last for one day and the reason for that is another wave of debate is about to break over us.  As of tomorrow, everyone will have made peace with the brackets as they exist, and full attention will then be given to “bracket busting games”.  A friend – – by the way, an alum of James Madison University – – has already informed me that James Madison (a 12th seed) is going to beat Wisconsin (a 5th seed).  It is easy to recognize the bias there, but he also included in his note to me this morning that:

“… Alabama is going to lose to Charleston because when Alabama goes cold from the field, they can’t beat a pickup squad.”

[For the record, Charleston is seeded 13th and Alabama is seeded 4th in the West Bracket.]

It’s time to take a deep breath and get ready for lots of “couch time” with remote in hand.  Let the Tournament begin …

While waiting for the first jump ball tomorrow night, let me return to NFL player movements and look at three separate QB shufflings.

  1. The Eagles traded to acquire Kenny Pickett for a 3rd round pick and two 7th round picks next year.  That cost is almost nothing for a player who has been a starter for most of the last two seasons.  However, I am surprised by the Eagles move here.  The Eagles’ offense is built around Jalen Hurts who is a mobile QB that presents a threat to run on just about any down; Kenny Pickett is not that kind of QB.  So, a switch at QB for the Eagles is not going to be just a different voice in the huddle; it will be an offense with a totally different focus.
  2. The Steelers then went and acquired Justin Fields from the Bears for a 6th round pick next year.  That cost is even less than what the Eagles gave the Steelers for Pickett; it is hard to imagine that being a disaster for the Steelers.  [Aside:  Fields is far more mobile than Pickett; so, I wonder why the Eagles made the trade they did.  I am not an NFL GM, but that decision is a bit confusing to me.]
  3. The Commanders traded away Sam Howell to the Seahawks for what amounts to a 3rd round and 4th round pick swap.  A week or so ago, the Commanders signed Marcus Mariota and it looked as if he and Howell would “compete” to see who would be the starter in 2024.  Now, it seems to me that the Commanders are going to pick a “franchise QB hopeful” with the overall #2 pick in April’s Draft.

Just to refresh your memory, here is why QB drafting is a crapshoot and not a science …  Consider the 2021 NFL Draft and the QBs of note taken then:

  • Trevor Lawrence:  First overall pick; looks like the real deal.
  • Zach Wilson:  Second overall pick; has been less than fully successful so far.
  • Trey Lance:  Third overall pick; rarely sees the field and has already been traded.
  • Justin Fields:  Eleventh overall pick; just traded away for a bag of beans.
  • Mac Jones:  Fifteenth overall pick; was traded a week ago for next to nothing.

In case you think I am cherry-picking bad results, look at the 2022 NFL Draft and the QBs of note taken there:

  • Kenny Pickett:  Twentieth overall pick; just traded away for nothing.
  • Desmond Ridder: Seventy-fourth overall pick; can’t play.
  • Malik Willis:  Eighty-sixth overall pick: started 3 games, appeared in 11 games; zero TDs.
  • Matt Corral:  Ninety-fourth overall pick; has yet to see the field in an NFL game.
  • Bailey Zappe: One hundred and thirty-fourth overall pick; can’t play.
  • Sam Howell: One hundred and forth fourth overall pick; just traded away for a can of corn.
  • Brock Purdy:  Two hundred and sixty-second overall pick; seems to be doing well.

Finally, I began today talking about public opinion as it regards the work of the NCAA Selection Committee; so, let me close with Bertrand Russell’s view of public opinion:

“One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”

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



NFL Free Agency Rolls On …

The Romans called today the Ides of March.  In honor of a momentous event on this day in 44 BC, remember to enjoy a Caesar Salad with your dinner this evening…

The frenzy of NFL free agent signings has calmed down a bit since early this week, but over the past day or two there has been some potentially important player movement:

  • Derrick Henry signed with the Ravens.  When you pair Henry with Lamar Jackson, the Ravens now have a certified “thunder and lightning” running game.  I think this signing is a big deal making a very good team (Ravens) even better.

[Aside: Having said that, the Ravens are approaching a team category similar to the Cowboys.  They are very good; they will win double-digit games every season; they then flub in the playoffs.  The Ravens need to “finish” a lot stronger than they have recently.]

  • Aaron Jones was released by the Packers once the Packers signed Josh Jacobs as their featured running back.  Jones remained on the market for about an hour and a half before staying in the NFC North Division and signing with the Vikes.
  • Gus Edwards signed with the Chargers.  In his career, he has averaged about 5 yards per carry and given the degree to which Jim Harbaugh’s teams tend to run the football, this could be an important addition for the Chargers.
  • Jameis Winston signed with the Browns where he will be the backup to Deshaun Watson once Watson’s shoulder injury is completely healed.  This addition will allow the Browns another year to see if Dorian Thompson-Robinson can become an NFL QB.
  • Tyrod Taylor signed with the Jets where he will backup Aaron Rodgers.  Taylor may not even need to relocate his family with this decision since he played for the Giants for the last two seasons.
  • Drew Lock signed with the Giants seemingly to replace Taylor as the #2 QB on the depth chart.  The Giants also have Tommy DeVito under contract as a developmental project.
  • Mason Rudolph signed with the Titans.  My guess is that he will be listed at #2 on the depth chart for QBs behind Will Levis but could compete for the starting job if Levis falters in his sophomore season.
  • Sam Darnold signed with the Vikes presumably to replace Kirk Cousins who went to Atlanta.  I say “presumably” because the other two QBs on the Vikes’ roster now are Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall.  That is not a great “depth chart” for the Vikes at QB; it has all the depth of a parking lot puddle.
  • Joe Flacco signed a one-year deal with the Colts for a guaranteed $4.5M with a total potential value with incentives of $9M.  This makes sense; the Colts need a backup since Gardner Minshew left for the Raiders and Flacco showed he could still play at a reasonable level in 2023.  However, at age 39, Joe Flacco is no one’s “QB of the future”.
  • Irv Smith, Jr. signed with the Chiefs as a backup/insurance policy for Travis Kelce at Tight End.  Smith has been in the NFL for 4 years and has only produced modest stats in his days with the Vikes and then the Bengals.  However, it is never a “bad thing” for a pass catcher to be in a situation where Patrick Mahomes is the guy throwing the ball to you.
  • Patrick Queen signed with the Steelers staying in the AFC North and adding a quality player to an already very good defensive unit.  Queen was a second team All-Pro last year and was selected for the Pro Bowl; he will only be 25 years old when the season starts, and he has started every game in his four-year NFL career.
  • Calvin Ridley signed with the Titans to a 4-year contract worth up to $92M with $50M of that money guaranteed.  I mentioned above the Mason Rudolph signed with the Titans and might compete with will Levis for the starting job.  Whoever starts for the Titans will have two quality WRs to throw the ball at in Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins.

Those are the free agent signings that I think are worthy of mention at this time but there were also two trades this week that have interesting aspects:

  • Joe Mixon was traded by the Bengals to the Texans in exchange for a 7th round pick in this year’s Draft.  Obviously, this is a trade motivated by cap space and cap savings; Mixon was the featured RB for the Bengals over the past couple of seasons.
  • Diontae Johnson – – WR Steelers – – was traded to the Panthers for CB Donte Jackson.  Johnson has been a mercurial presence in Pittsburgh; he has led the team in receiving yards and TDs in his time with the Steelers since being drafted in 2019.  At the same time reports said that he had confrontations with teammates over the years including Mitchell Trubisky and Minkah Fitzpatrick.  The Panthers get another pass-catcher for Bryce Young which was a serious team need and the Steelers get a serviceable CB which is important for the defense.  This could be one of those trades that benefits both sides.

Finally, today has been all about NFL players signing contracts and getting paid.  So, let me close with this note from Mae West along similar lines:

“Keep a diary and one day it will keep you.”

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



Aaron Rodgers For Veep?

I try to keep politics out of these rants as much as possible, but sometimes the world of sports intersects the political arena even if only tangentially and temporarily.  Such is the case this morning because of the reports out there which say that presidential-hopeful, RFK, Jr. might be considering either Aaron Rodgers or Jesse “The Body” Ventura has his running mate for Vice President of the US.  Please take nothing here as an evaluation of this ticket and most certainly understand that I am not trying to influence your voting behavior in any way.

I only want to ask a couple of questions about the potential candidacy of Aaron Rodgers:

  • If he is on the ticket, would he be a part-timer on the campaign trail and an NFL QB at the same time or would he ditch the NFL gig?
  • If he ditched the NFL gig, where on a scale of 1 to 10 would the freak-out level of Jets’ fans be?
  • If he stays with the Jets as their QB while on the ticket as well, how long until someone pins the nickname “Secret Service” on the Jets’ OL who would be charged with protecting Rodgers from those defenders seeking to do him harm?

Regarding the candidacy of Jesse Ventura, please try to imagine the Vice-Presidential debate among whoever the Republican nominee is, VP, Harris and Jesse Ventura.  Perhaps the perfect moderator for that event would be one of the aliens from the Xygork Nebula who are in residence at Area 51.

Moving on …  That political situation is a potential fiasco; out in California there is an actual fiasco. Arena is the home venue for the LA Lakers, Clippers and Kings.  Outside that arena they have placed a bronze statue of Kobe Bryant in a pose that recalls Bryant’s 81-point game back in 2006.  The bronze casting is 19 feet tall and must weigh several tons.  What is the fiasco:

  • There are about a half-dozen misspellings in the casting.

Arena officials declare that they will be corrected but correcting a bronze casting is not quite the same thing as correcting misspellings in a Microsoft Word document.  Moreover, there are two more Bryant statues to be cast and dedicated in the future.

  • Memo to Arena Officials:  Retain the services of a proofreader for the other statues of Kobe Bryant scheduled to be erected there.  He/she will be a lot cheaper than “editing” the finished product.

Keeping the focus on LA and the Lakers for a moment, a friend sent me the following information related to LeBron James’ accomplishment of scoring 40,000 points in his career.  LeBron James came to the NBA in the 2003-2004 season as a 19-year-old straight out of high school; he is now 39 years old and is in the middle of his 21st season in the NBA.  Here is the amazing consistency he has shown in his scoring according to the data sent to me by my friend:

  • It took 368 games for James to score his first 10,000 points.
  • It took 358 games for James to score his second 10,000 points.
  • It took 381 games for James to score his third 10,000 points.
  • It took 368 games for James to score his fourth 10,000 points.

Staying with basketball but at a level down from the NBA, there is the possibility of a new fall tournament for college basketball.  Plans call for staging an 8-team tournament in the Fall of 2024 at the MGM Arena in Las Vegas and if successful, to expand that tournament to 16 teams down the road.  There are loads of early season college basketball tournaments and showcase events; so, why is the addition of yet another one of them worth contemplating?  Here is the difference:

  • This tournament will offer $1M in NIL money to each team in the tournament to be split among the players.
  • The tournament winning team will get an additional $1M to divvy up.

I have no problem with this as a business model, but I once again ask rhetorically if this is the sort of outcome people envisioned and approved of when they began the quest for college athletes’ NIL rights.  The objective here is for the NIL money – – the $1M appearance fee plus the $1M prize money that goes to the winner – – will be divided by the coaches and the players “as they see fit”.  The only restriction is that the money must go to current players and not be used as recruiting enhancements for future players.

The tournament organizers will also provide for transit, room and board to and from Las Vegas for the event.  With those expenses taken care of, I don’t think too many teams would turn down such an invitation.  And once again, the rich will only get richer.

The organizers can only make money here by selling off the television or streaming rights to this event.  Those “TV folks” will pay up to have recognizable teams with large followings in the field such as Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, Kansas, Kentucky – – you get the idea.  The coaches and athletic directors at schools like UAB, Marist and/or Wyoming need not sit by their phones 24/7 to take any calls here.

Finally, since I mentioned proofreading above, let me close with a paraphrase of my eleventh-grade English teacher as she instructed us on the important steps in the preparation of our “Junior Theme”:

“Do not treat your final paper the way policemen have to treat people they arrest.  Those people are innocent until proven guilty.  Proofread your final paper with the attitude that it is guilty until you prove it innocent so that there are no misspellings, no grammatical errors, and no punctuation errors.”

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



Women’s College Basketball And Men’s College Basketball

I am not one who is easily offended.  However, I was offended by something in USA Today late last week.  Here is the online headline for a piece written by Lindsay Schnell:

  • “Women’s basketball needs faces of the future to be Black.  Enter JuJu Watkins and Hannah Hidalgo”

The headline is not the problem – – but it hints at the problem that is coming.  Here are quotes from the article:

“With Caitlin Clark headed to the 2024 WNBA draft, where she’s projected No. 1 overall, Watkins, the nation’s second leading scorer this season behind Clark, is positioned to become the face of women’s basketball. She’ll be joined by Notre Dame point guard Hannah Hidalgo, the other favorite for freshman of the year.”

And …

“Not lost on any of the powerbrokers in the game: Both of these players are Black. And in a game built by Black women, it matters that the faces of the future look like the faces of the past.”

Let me be very clear; Caitlin Clark has probably gotten more exposure and coverage over the past year or so than all the rest of the women’s college basketball players combined.  That is a fact as is the fact that Cailin Clark is Caucasian.  And the recognition of those two facts does not justify the ridiculous conclusion drawn here that the “faces of the future” must be Black.

Do not take these next statements out of context.  I mean to say these things to demonstrate how outrageous Ms. Schnell’s assertion is here:

  • The sport of golf was built by men such as Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.  For a while, Tiger Woods was the “face of golf” and it’s a good thing that his stardom has faced so that the new faces of golf look like the past.

Or how about this one …

  • Women’s tennis grew in popularity on the shoulders of women such as Margaret Court Smith, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.  Now that Venus Williams and Serena Williams have reached the twilight of their careers, women’s tennis can get back to its roots and have a white woman as the face of the sport.

If I offered either of those statements seriously – – or some others I might concoct as outrageous examples – – I would expect lots of readers here to jump to the comments section to call me out either as a racist or as someone who is absolutely out of touch with US society in 2024.  And yet, I have heard almost nothing about Lindsay Schnell’s assertions and comments.

I am offended this morning by her assertion(s) and by the lack of outrage that her comments evoked.  As I said, I am not one who is easily offended, but this one is over the edge.

Moving on …  Let me switch from women’s college basketball to men’s college basketball with the hope that no one will take that change as some sort of fealty to the patriarchy.  There is talk of expanding March Madness from the current 68 teams to 76 teams.  In the past, there have been suggestions to expand it to even larger fields.  I understand that more teams mean more games; and up to some unknown point: more games mean significantly increased revenues.  I also understand that “increased revenue” is the golden calf to be worshiped by every college athletic director.  So, I am resigned to the fact that March Madness will be expanded sooner rather than later.

However, just as paying college athletes with Name, Image, and Likeness money arrived with unanticipated consequences, so will NCAA tournament expansion.  I think the most immediate consequence will be the final death blow to the college basketball regular season which has been rendered almost meaningless by gross overexposure on TV and by the football-driven conference realignments.  The Tournament in March remains hugely popular but to accommodate a field of 76 teams, there will need to be 12 play-in games instead of the 4 play-in games we have today.

The fact is that play-in games do not draw TV audiences nearly to the extent that the main tournament games do; so expanding the tournament by 8 more of the low-drawing games is not going to increase revenues in direct proportion to the number of games on the air.

Moreover, increasing the number of teams and games in the tournament is going to exacerbate an existing problem.  The big conferences get the big money, and the little guys get less money.  Please do not delude yourself that the TV execs who bid for and buy the TV rights are going to pay top dollar to see the second or third place team from the Ohio Valley Conference duke it out with the champion of the America East Conference to see which one will get to be the 16th seed in the bracket of 64.  [Aside:  Without peeking or Googling, name three teams from either the America East Conference or the Ohio Valley Conference.]

Expanding the tournament will require some sort of recognized names for those play-in games and “recognition” will be greater for the 8th place finisher in the Big-10 than for the second-place finisher in the Patriot League.  You can file that under “Reality Bites”.

Finally, I’ll close today with this observation by George Bernard Shaw:

“The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.”

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