Willie Taggert – Out At Florida State

The two biggest stories of the morning are:

  1. The Patriots lost a football game last night.
  2. Florida State fired Willie Taggert in mid-season.

I’ll discuss the Patriots’ loss in this week’s Football Friday, but the happenings at Florida State need to parsed now.  Something is very wrong at Florida State in the Athletic Department and I am not going to pretend to know what it is.  However, consider that John Thrasher, the President of Florida State University – not the Athletic Director nor some spokesthing for the Trustees – said that Taggert was fired because,

  • “… in the interest of the university, we had no choice but to make a change.”

Say what?  Willie Taggert was at the pilot of the football program and took that program into a nosedive; that seems pretty obvious to most college football observers.  But the statement from President Thrasher implies that something there is so dire that the university itself would be in jeopardy if Willie Taggert finished out the 2019 season on the sidelines.  Why do I think something “dire” is afoot?

  • Florida State will now pay out $17M to Willie Taggert as per the buyout clause in his contract signed in 2017.  The university would owe him that same amount in early December 2019 if they fired him ten minutes after the final game of the season; so, why did President Thrasher have “no choice but to make a change” in early November?

Let me be clear about something.  I have said since the middle of last season when the Seminoles were playing poorly that I thought Willie Taggert might be over his head in that job.  I am not advocating here that his record at Florida State is even close to what was expected when he was offered the job.  His tenure there has been worse than merely disappointing.  Willie Taggert had not earned himself – in my opinion – another year as the head co0ach at Florida State.  But with the team still having a shot at a bowl game, there must be something else going on in Tallahassee to evince a statement from the university president regarding a mid-season firing.

When Willie Taggert took over the job, he succeeded Jimbo Fisher who had been there for 8 seasons and had won a BCS Championship Game.  Prior to that, Bobby Bowden had been the coach at Florida State for 34 years; Bowden’s teams won 76% of their games.  This was an elite program; it needed a coach because Texas A&M thought sufficiently highly of Jimbo Fisher that they backed up a Brinks truck to his bank and shoveled money into that bank.

Willie Taggert got the job because Florida State took a leap of faith with him – – and lost.  Here is Willie Taggert’s coaching record as he arrived in Tallahassee in 2017:

  • He took over a Western Kentucky program that was a hot mess and posted a 7-5 record in his second season there.  In 3 years at W. Kentucky, his record was 16-20.
  • He took over the USF program and had a 2-10 record in his first year there.  After 4 seasons, USF was 10-2 and would go to 2 bowl games.  In 4 years at USF, his record was 24-25.
  • He took over the Oregon program which had produced a record of 199-78 over the previous 21 seasons under 3 coaches.  He went 7-5 in one season there – – and got the job at Florida State.

Kudos for turning W. Kentucky and USF around – – but those programs are not Florida State and they do not have Clemson, Miami and Florida on their schedules each and every season.  There are loads of reasons why a pilot who has a license to fly single engine aircraft do not get jobs as pilots for trans-Atlantic flights to Europe; they are not ready to do that competently.  I believe Willie Taggert was hired for a job he was nowhere near prepared to do to the standard that was expected of him.

And still … why did he have to be fired NOW “in the interest of the university”?

Switching gears …  I want to create a new word – fandelirium.  It is a state of euphoria for sports fans that leads them to exaggerate the greatness of the local heroes when those local heroes win something really big.  I arrived back in the DC area several days after the Washington Nats won the World Series and fandelirium was afoot in epidemic proportion.

Listening to local sports radio, one fan interviewed somewhere proximal to the victory parade told the station host and his listeners that Azdrubel Cabrera had “the best hands of any middle infielder ever”.  This phantasmal pronouncement came after a description of a very nice play Cabrera made late in Game 6.

  • Memo to Fandelirious Fan #1:  Cabrera has a career batting average of .268.  The Hall of Fame has several middle infielders whose career average was in that neighborhood.  If Cabrera is the best fielder ever, he should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.  Seriously…?

The second example is even more stunning.  Another fan called into a segment devoted to having fans explain the things that happened in the MLB playoffs that had not received sufficient attention in the media.  One caller said that Howie Kendrick’s’ clutch hitting throughout the playoffs was “at least as good as anything Big Papi ever did in the playoffs.”

  • Memo to Fandelirious Fan #2:  Please see someone in the mental health profession sometime soon…

Again, to be clear, Cabrera and Kendricks played significantly positive roles in the Nats’ playoff run to the World Series Championship.  I do not mean to denigrate their performance in any way.  I simply mean that fandelirium is out and about in the DC area.

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

“Burrito:  A delicious way to alienate the guests at the party you will soon be attending.”

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



A Minimal Football Friday 11/1/19

This is NOT a full-on Football Friday; nonetheless, there are football commentaries that should be made here.  First, Linfield College has guaranteed itself yet another winning season in football.  That streak of winning seasons began in 1956 – when Dwight Eisenhower was President.  Here is what happened:

  • On 19 October, Linfield beat Willamette 77-0
  • On 26 October, Linfield beat Pacific Lutheran 42-10
  • Linfield’s record is now 5-1 and with a 9-game regular season schedule, that means the Wildcats will be above .500 for the 2019 season.
  • Linfield is 4-0 in Northwestern Conference games; the conference champion gets an automatic invitation to the Division III playoff tournament once the regular season ends in mid-November.  Go Wildcats!

Once Football Friday gets back on a more normal footing, it is that time of the year when I begin to size up the worst teams in Division 1-A football in order to create my mythical SHOE Tournament field.  For those who have joined this wagon train in the last 12 months here is the deal:

  • SHOE stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.  It is not an honorific title.
  • The SHOE Tournament is purely fictional; it seeks to identify the worst team in college football each year and seeks to do so with on-the-field play.
  • A Committee-of-One – – namely ME – – seeds the 8 worst teams in the country.  The idea would be to have those teams play one another in a bracket format where it is the LOSER who must advance to the next round.  If a team wins a SHOE Tournament game, they can go home secure in the knowledge that they will not be saddled with the title of SHOE Team of the Year.

We are at the point in the season where it makes sense to start to identify the 8 teams worthy of inclusion in the SHOE Tournament.  I began a cursory search this week looking at the three teams who are still winless in 2019 and the schedules remaining for those teams.

  1. Akron is winless in 2019.  The Zips have 4 remaining games against MAC opponents.
  2. New Mexico State is winless in 2019.  The Aggies face Incarnate Word on 9 November and then UTEP – a perennial SHOE Tournament participant – on 16 November.  Failure to get a win in either game would guarantee New Mexico State a berth in the SHOE Tournament.
  3. Rice is winless in 2019.  The Owls face Middle Tennessee St and N. Texas St, down the line; neither opponent has a winning record to date.  Then, Rice closes the season against UTEP – a team with one win at the moment and dates with two sub-.500 teams so far this season.

This week in college football offers up a game between Miami and Florida State.  Twenty years ago, this would have been the biggest game of the college football season.  This week, the game makes it all the way up to the level of “Ho-Hum!”.

There are some rivalry games this weekend:

  • Army/Air Force is always an interesting game to watch.
  • K-State/Kansas is an interesting rivalry game every year.
  • Florida/Georgia is always an intense rivalry – – and usually an important and competitive game.  This is the Game of the Week in college football.

Utah/Washington and USC/Oregon are important games for PAC-12 standings and that conference’s potential participation in the CFP.

SMU and Memphis meet with conference championship implications all over this game.  SMU is undefeated for the season; Memphis has 1 loss (in conference to Temple) and needs a win here and then to win out over the likes of Houston, USF and Cincy to be this year’s “Group of Five Darling”.

IN NFL games this weekend:

  • Skins at Bills has a Total Line of 36.5.
  • Bears at Eagles is a critical game for both teams
  • Packers at Chargers could be a make-or-break game for the Chargers this year.
  • Pats at Ravens is the Game of the Week
  • Jets at Dolphins is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times recently.  It is relevant over many time zones…

“Dunbar High School of Dayton, Ohio – trailing 23-8 with 7 minutes left in the first half and already whistled for three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties – had to forfeit its football game against Cincinnati’s Roger Bacon when a Dunbar player head-butted an official.

“Bonus points:  The game was played at Welcome Stadium.”

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



Washington Nationals Are World Series Champions

Congratulations to the Washington Nationals.  They are the World Series Champions for 2019.  If the baseball gods were indeed scripting this event, they did so with an interesting twist.  For the entirety of the 2019 season, the Nats’ bullpen betrayed the team giving up leads and causing losses.  In Game 7, on the road, in the World Series, it was the Astros’ bullpen that imploded while the Nats’ bullpen held the line.

MLB enters that portion of the calendar year when its news is generated by off-field activities with a first-time champion.  The Nats – born as the Expos – had never won a world Series until yesterday.  As far as Washington is concerned, its last experience as World champion of baseball came when Walter Johnson was still pitching…

As college basketball teams aim toward the start of their regular season schedules, it is not possible for me to comment on all the 353 teams that will compete in Division 1 college basketball this season.  Nonetheless, I think there are a few coaches in some of the more “visible” schools who may be on a hot seat for the season.  Let me mention two of them here:

  • Danny Manning – Wake Forest:  Manning has been the head coach at Wake Forest since 2014; he has had time on the vine to make the Demon Deacons into an ACC contending team.  In fact, Wake has finished 10th or worse in each of the last 4 seasons.  I suspect the string may play itself out without significant improvement this season.
  • Josh Pastner – Georgia Tech:  The Yellow Jackets will not be allowed into a post-season tournament this year due to NCAA probation for things that happened on Pastner’s watch.  Couple that fact with the reality that Tech was below .500 in each of the last 2 seasons; that showing over the past 2 seasons tarnishes the fact that Pastner was ACC Coach of the Year in 2017.

And of course, there must be some degree of heat on the seats of the so-called “Felonious Four” – the head coaches involved to various extents in the actions that have led to the FBI/DoJ probe and prosecution of people involved in improper college basketball recruiting.  None of these gentlemen are going to be fired simply based on allegations made by DoJ prosecutors – – but if their teams falter badly, all bets are off.  Here they are listed alphabetically:

  1. Sean Miller – Arizona
  2. Bruce Pearl – Auburn [Aside:  Pearl has “history” with the NCAA from his days at Tennessee.  If the heat turns up here, it might behoove the school to remove Pearl as an “irritant” to the NCAA poohbahs.]
  3. Bill Self – Kansas [Aside:  The NCAA has already notified the school that it considers happenstances there to be significant violations of NCAA rules…]
  4. Will Wade – LSU

I need to acknowledge my ignorance here.  Until this week, I had not realized that CBSSports.com had been assigning power rankings to NFL Practice Squads on a weekly basis.  Now that I know that this happens regularly and that it is not a gigantic spoof on things like “power rankings” in any form, I feel that we may be witnessing a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Trent Williams has reported to the Skins – but did not practice due to “discomfort” with his helmet.  Recall that Williams’ holdout has to do with the Skins’ medical staff and a growth that had to be removed from his skull.  He has reported such that he gets credit for honoring his contract for 2019 leaving him only one year left on his deal.

The Skins’ failure to trade him before the deadline probably dropped his trade value.  A week ago, a trading partner could view Williams as an OT who could play 8 games or so in 2019 plus give that trading partner a year to see if there was an extended deal that made sense for both parties.  Now, Williams will be entering his contract year before any swap can happen; there was more value before the trade deadline than there is now.  Please do not be surprised that the Skins’ Front Office has made a mockery of what could have been a merely messy situation.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this question in the Seattle Times a few weeks ago:

“Michigan’s football team fumbled the ball away in its first three opening drives this season.

“So what’s next — bringing in Lucy to hold for extra points?”

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



Random Thoughts …

Well, there shall indeed be a Game 7 in this year’s World Series; the Nats won again on the road to force the deciding game. I will not be able to see it live since it will not begin until midnight or so here in Ireland; however,  #2 son has the MLB game package – or whatever it is called – so that I will be able to see the game in its entirety.

The problem with this World Series is that neither team deserves to lose it; both teams have played very well over the first 6 games.  Tomorrow will be a festive Halloween for one of these clubs and a nightmarish time for the other…

The US Women’s National Soccer Team has a new coach.  Vlatko Andonovsky takes over for Jill Ellis who merely won two consecutive Women’s World Cups for the team.  A native of Macedonia, Andonovsky formerly coached in the National Women’s Soccer League for 8 seasons being Coach of the Year twice.  He has large shoes to fill…

Glancing at the upcoming NFL schedule for this week, it is hard to ignore the Jets/Dolphins game on the card.  The two teams bring a combined record of 1-13 to the kickoff and the two teams have been outscored by 268 points in those games.  It might have been interesting for commentators to try to spin a storyline here about Adam Gase returning to Miami with his new team and blah, blah, blah.  Given how bad these teams have shown to be on the field, there is nothing cute that can possibly stand up to the brutal reality here…

At the other end of the NFL spectrum, the Niners and the Pats are the only remaining undefeated teams.  The Niners’ offense is for real.  Missing both starting tackles and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, [The man really does need to buy a vowel or two from Vanna White.] the Niners managed to score a middling 51 points on the Panthers last week.  Meanwhile, the defense has also blossomed into a much better than average unit putting the Niners in this exalted state in late October…

The Pats have been here before – – but this year it is their defense that is carrying the team.  The “decline” of the Pats’ on offense is directly related to two things:

  1. No Gronk – – and no replacement for Gronk who comes even close – – and
  2. A paucity of talent at WR.  Josh Gordon is on IR and will not play any more this year; Philip Dorsett was the top-shelf threat on the outside for the Pats until Mohammad Sunu showed up last week and N’Keal Harry is now eligible to return from IR.

It does not matter who the QB is if he does not have quality people to run the pass routes and then catch the balls thrown directly at them.  Some naysayers believe the Pats’ schedule has not been all that stringent so far this year, but it does get a bit tougher down the line with these entries:

  • Ravens (Week 9)
  • Eagles (Week 11)
  • Cowboys (Week 12)
  • Texans (Week 13)
  • Chiefs (Week 14).

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle was dealing with power outages in Northern California when he rediscovered this important social resource:

“No power at home, but I found this really cool place to set up shop. It has coffee, internet and tables. It’s like a huge Starbucks, but with all kinds of books! Sign says ‘Library,’ but don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I think it’s a chain.”

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



Short Stuff Today …

I got an email from a neighbor in Northern Virginia asking what happened to the Nats in the World Series going from a 2-0 lead to a 3-2 deficit.  Being in Dublin, I have not had the chance to watch every game that the Astros won; so, I am not qualified to give him – nor anyone else – any sort of detailed analysis there.  However, here is the substance of my response to him:

“In the 27 innings of the 3 games they lost to the Astros in DC, the Nats scored a total of 2 runs.  If my count is correct, they left 21 runners on base in those three games.

“Those are the stats for losing teams not winning teams…”

Only twice before has the visiting team won the first 5 games of a World Series.  (1906 Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs and 1996 Yankees vs. Braves.)  In both of those cases, the home team won the 6th game ending the Series at that point.  Therefore, history can be made in multiple ways in this Series:

  1. If the Nats win tonight, it will be the first World Series to see the visitor win the first six games.
  2. If that happens, then any outcome in Game 7 would be a “first”.

I did have the opportunity to see the condensed version of the Saints/Cards game from last Sunday.  I wanted to see that one because:

  • I had read that Drew Brees played well and I wanted to see that for myself.
  • I wanted to see the Cards new-fangled offense now that it has had several weeks to evolve and settle in.

Brees was indeed outstanding throwing 3 TDs and about 375 yards in the game.  If he had any “difficulties” with residual effects on his thumb surgery, they were not evident to me.

The Cards new and revolutionary offense looked ordinary to me.  I know that it was only one game and that I am not the most sophisticated film diagnostician the NFL has ever seen.  Nevertheless, other than having a very mobile QB who can run around and throw the ball from different locations and field angles, I did not see much from the Cards’ offense that would keep a defensive coordinator up late at night with anxiety attacks.

When I was a kid, I read Joel Chandler Harris’ compilation of Negro American folk stories called the Uncle Remus Tales.  That collection of stories is so blatantly politically incorrect in 2019 that I doubt you can find the book in most public libraries in the US.  One of the recurring characters in the tales is Brer Rabbit who is a trickster (at best) and a con man (at worst) who appears in many of the tales.  Once Brer Rabbit was caught by Brer Fox who was planning to eat Brer Rabbit.

The trickster/con man told Brer Fox that he could do anything he wanted – including boiling Brer Rabbit in a pot to make stew, but whatever Brer Fox did, he should not throw Brer Rabbit into the briar patch.  After several pleadings of this type, Brer Fox fools himself and throws Brer Rabbit into the briar patch whereupon Brer Rabbit gets away scot-free.  I mention this folk take because we have just witnessed a 2019 incarnation of Brer Rabbit.

The Chinese government did not allow any of the NBA Exhibition Games to be televised across China.  The result of that edict was that the Chinese people were spared watching the nonsense that is the NBA Exhibition Season.  The Chinese Government just threw the Chinese people into the briar patch; they were saved from Brer Fox masquerading as the NBA Exhibition telecasts.

Now the threat is that the TV ban will extend to early regular season NBA games.  Oh, the horror of that…

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Caesar, Julius:  Dictator of ancient Rome.  His nearly fifteen years of conquest, which resulted in the formation of the entire Roman Empire, now reduced to a salad.”

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



World Series Update…

Briefly today from Dublin, Ireland…  The World Series took a U-Turn in Washington.  The Nats came home from Houston with a 2-0 lead having beaten Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander on the road.  As I left town, fans there were talking about a sweep.  Well, the Astros repaid the favor and swept the games in DC to take the Series lead 3-2.  The only way for the Nats to win now would be to sweep the Astros in Houston once again meaning that the World Series would be won by having the visiting team win all 7 games.  For the record, I did not see that as even a remote possibility…

Last Saturday, Rutgers played a home football game against Liberty University.  Let me assure you that Liberty is not a football blueblood; it is not nearly the “Protestant analog to Notre Dame”.  Here is the embarrassing part:

  • Oddsmakers installed Liberty – on the road – as a 7.5-point favorite.

That line is a blight on the Big 10 Conference; other teams in the Big 10 think of Liberty as one of the tune-up opponents they get to come in for a game in early September; it is a step up from an intra-squad scrimmage.  Rutgers did save what little there is of its football cred by winning the game outright.  But still…

Just maybe there is a glimmer of hope for Pimlico racecourse.  A previous study indicated it would take $424M to upgrade the track and to do some development in the area such that the Preakness Stakes could stay at Pimlico.  No one stepped forward to foot that bill.  However, here is the latest development in a nutshell:

“A multi-party agreement dependent on legislative change has been reached to keep the Preakness, middle jewel of American racing’s Triple Crown, at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for at least 30 years.”

Here is a link to a report with the details of this agreement.  Of course, the four words here that provide plenty of uncertainty are “dependent on legislative change”.  Here is the translation:

  • There is a deal in place – – but the deals have not yet been made with the State legislators who will necessarily want to get something in return for their support of necessary “legislative change”.
  • Can the deal survive negotiations with the legislators?

Finally, here is an observation from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad:

“If it’s all about launch angle, I suspect Albert Einstein would’ve been an incredible baseball GM and sports bettor.”

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



Poor Baby…

I saw a report on ESPN saying that NBA players are sleep-deprived because the 82-game schedule has them in transit for so much of the time.  On the surface, one could read that statement and think something along the lines of “Poor baby…” and move on.  The problem is that there are too many questions one must consider before getting to that thought and moving on:

  • The NBA has played an 82-game schedule since the 1960s; someone just determined that today’s players are sleep-deprived.  Did that ever happen to any previous players?
  • The current NBA schedule covers more of the 12-month calendar than before; I would think that if this is a real problem now, it would have been a bigger problem in the past.
  • Transit today from city to city for NBA teams is faster and more comfortable than it has been in the past.  That sounds like more sleeping opportunities to me.
  • Perhaps – just perhaps – players could reduce their sleep deficit if they went to sleep after games instead of going out to clubs.

Now I can say to myself, “Poor baby…” and move on.

Since I mentioned the dreaded 82-game NBA regular season schedule, let me suggest that the length of the NBA season contributes to its meager TV ratings during that regular season.  The issue here is that there are at most a dozen “appointment viewing games” in and amongst the 1230 regular season offerings.  As a viewer, that means I am mining low-grade ore.

The NBA seems to believe that “more is always better” when it comes to televising its games.  Compare for instance the NBA Playoffs with 16 teams in the mix to the NCAA Tournament once you get to the Sweet Sixteen.  For college hoops, every game in the tournament is akin to a 7th game in the NBA playoffs.  One team advances and one team goes home.  However, in the NBA Playoffs there are lots of games lacking anything close to that kind of urgency.

Harvard University has a new policy in place regarding the captains of its intercollegiate teams.  Starting with the class of 2021, no one can be the captain of a Harvard team if that person chooses to belong to a “single-gender organization”.  This is ever so politically correct…

The Athletic Department at Harvard says it will basically use an honor system to enforce this new policy by asking players who choose to be part of “single-gender organizations” to remove themselves from consideration as a team captain.  I was once a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout when those were “single-gender organizations”; I guess that would disqualify me from being a Harvard team captain.

Think of the value inherent in a Harvard athlete who is gender-fluid.  (S)he is the antidote to any single-gender organization because her/his membership there immediately makes the organization a multiple-gender one.

One other point here…  As soon as this policy is used to deny or remove a Harvard athlete as a team captain – it could be a person of any gender or all genders – the university is in the role of depriving that athlete the opportunity of team captaincy on the basis of gender.  That is ever so politically incorrect…

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the first AARP-sponsored fitness park opened in St. Petersburg, FL this summer.  According to the report, AARP plans to open several dozen of these facilities around the country.  I am a bit surprised that AARP did not elect to have Boca Raton be the site of their inaugural facility; my guess is that the fraction of residents in Boca Raton who are eligible to be AARP members is about one-half.

Finally, Mike Bianchi had this tidbit in the Orlando Sentinel recently:

“Kevin Durant told the Wall Street Journal that sometimes ‘he hates’ the business of the NBA. I don’t know about you, but I would love every aspect of any business that is going to pay me $40 million next season not to work.”

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



Angles On Games…

Even though there will be no Football Friday this week, I had some time to browse around some of the football sites that I normally use to collect information for those sorts of things.  I ran across some interesting – not nearly important – betting trends for some NFL games this weekend.

The Saints host the Cardinals on Sunday:

  • In their last 16 games in October, the Saints have covered the spread in all 16 of them.
  • In their last 21 games in October, the Saints record against the spread is 20-1.
  • It will still be October when the game kicks off on Sunday.

The Steelers host the Dolphins on Monday Night Football this week.  Despite having a losing record for the season and a losing record at home, the Steelers are a 15-point favorite to beat the Dolphins in this game.

  • Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach of the Steelers in 2007, the Steelers have played on Monday Night Football 6 times.  The Steelers record in those games is 6-0.  Good luck to the Dolphins…

The Pats host the Browns this Sunday.  Since 2009, 62 teams from the AFC have come to Foxboro to play a game.

  • In those 62 games, the Patriots’ record straight up is 59-3.
  • In those 62 games, the Patriots’ record against the spread is 39-20-3.

The Vikings host the Skins on Thursday Night Football this week.

  • In their last 56 home games, the Vikes record against the spread is 39-16-1.

Wagering on sporting events is an expanding industry these days; state legislatures seem to be tripping over themselves to enact legislation that will bring some of that action to their states and some of the tax revenue generated by it to their coffers.  The NCAA of course steadfastly opposes such venal behaviors and sees gambling on college sporting events as an exploitation of the student-athletes.  [Aside:  There is a delicate irony in that position, but let’s just ignore that for the moment.]

At least two of the NCAA member schools have banned betting on games involving the school by players, students, faculty and staff at those schools.  St Joseph’s was the first to do so; about two weeks ago, Purdue followed suit.  Purdue’s President, Mitch Daniels said that the new edict intends to “protect student-athletes from people on campus looking for inside information.”

It is hard to argue with that intention.  However, I do have a couple of questions for President Daniels:

  1. A Google search says that the student population at Purdue is 41,573.  How is the university going to enforce this ban on wagering on Purdue games within such a large population?
  2. Wikipedia says that the faculty at Purdue consists of 3,055 people.  How will the university monitor the behaviors of these folks to assure that the new policy is followed?
  3. What is the scope of the new policy?  If Purdue makes the NCAA basketball tournament in the Spring, would a member of the Purdue family violate the policy by filling out a bracket for an online contest where he/she could win money?

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald reacted to the news that Eliud Kipchoge had broken the 2-hour barrier in a marathon:

“Kenyan superstar runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier in 1:59.40.2 Saturday, a once unfathomable feat. I once covered 26.2 miles even quicker, but didn’t get credit because I was in a car.”

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



Baseball Business…

As baseball fans prepare to feast on the World Series that begins tonight, there is another baseball story ongoing in the background.  The MLB owners are looking to reduce the number of minor league baseball teams from 160 to 120 by the end of next season.  The move is purely economic; so, it pays to check out some of the costs involved here.

Other than a few independent minor leagues, all the teams in minor-league baseball are funded by MLB.  Every player who signs a “minor league contract” gets paid by the major league team that negotiated that contract with that player.  When you go to see a minor league game in Altoona, PA, the players there are part of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system and their salaries and expenses are paid for by the Pirates.  The same goes for the managers and coaches for minor league teams; they are paid by the MLB club that is affiliated with the minor league team in question.

Even acknowledging that minor league salaries – for players, coaches and managers – are very low, eliminating an affiliated minor league team from a major league club will result in a cost savings.  Obviously, reducing costs puts more money in the major league club’s owner’s pocket; so, why hasn’t this contraction happened sooner?

I think there is a tripwire in here that the MLB owners need to avoid.  Right now, there are 160 cities and towns with minor league baseball clubs that are affiliated with major league teams.  If that number is contracted as suggested to 120 cities and towns, that means 40 areas will lose their teams – – and every one of those “losing areas” has a Congressthing.  MLB enjoys an anti-trust exemption based on a Supreme Court decision from almost 100 years ago.  When Curt Flood sued MLB in the 70s, the Supreme Court upheld the previous ruling but said explicitly that Congress could act to change the status quo.

Over the last 50 years or so, the Congress has chosen not to act.  MLB would like to retain that exemption; and so, it pays for them not to have 40 Congressthings get irate calls from constituents about losing the local minor league team.  This is a time for diplomacy and negotiation to be the order of the day; this is not the time for MLB owners to try to “Bigfoot the situation”.

From a fan’s standpoint, I do not see how contraction of minor league affiliations turns out to be a good thing.  Absent a few players who are ready and able to handle the rigors of being a major-league player at age 20 or 21, “prospects” need to be taught how to play the game.  That learning process includes on-field instruction and off-field instruction; the vast majority of players has a significant need for those lessons.  How, reducing the number of “minor league classrooms” will produce more “polished players” is certainly not obvious.

Stay tuned; this story will develop over the next year or so…

Errol Spence is the World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation welterweight champion.  He was also a member of the US Olympic boxing team in 2012 and is undefeated in 26 pro fights.  After winning a title unification bout, Spencer was involved in a spectacular auto accident from which he escaped essentially unhurt.  In fact, probably the worst part of the accident for him is that he was charged with DWI as a result of that accident.  Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this description of the situation that tells you what you need to know about it and puts it in perspective regarding boxing history:

“Welterweight boxing champ Errol Spence spectacularly flipped his Ferrari, but he apparently got off easy with fairly minor injuries. Spence, unbelted, was ejected from his chariot. Flash back decades. A flight attendant asks then-heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali to fasten his seatbelt. Ali: ‘Superman don’t need no seat belt.’ Flight attendant: ‘Superman don’t need no airplane.’”

I read a report of a press event where Roger Goodell was asked about the new NFL pass interference rule that allows coaches to challenge calls and non-calls for both offensive and defensive pass interference.  Supposedly, Goodell said that the rule was working “as expected”.

The efficiency and the effectiveness of the new rule is almost non-existent.  Perhaps in this year’s playoffs, the rule will allow a challenge that would negate the totally blown call from last year’s Saints/Rams playoff game.  Perhaps, if the rule is invoked to assure that the “right team” makes it from the Conference Championship Game to the Super Bowl, you could say that the rule is working “as expected”.  However, the rule’s effect to date has been as follows:

  • It slows the game down by allowing coaches to challenge more things within a game.  Every challenge produces a game delay.
  • It demonstrates that there is contact more than 5 yards down the field initiated by both the offensive and the defensive player on every play that is reviewed.

Pass interference is a judgment call in all but the most egregious circumstances.  Allowing judgment calls to be challenged is not a good idea.  Imagine a basketball game where blocking/charging calls could be challenged…

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this observation regarding an occurrence in the NLCS:

“Ronald Acuna Jr. drew the ire of his Braves teammates when he lost a surefire double off the wall because he slowed to admire his “home run” in a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS.

“On the plus side, though, Acuna’s got a Kraft Singles endorsement in the bag.”

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



Return of The Fog…

Several months ago, I attended my first live rugby game with my grandson in Dublin.  You may recall that I dubbed him The Fog – standing for my First and Only Grandson – and that he would sporadically be my rugby correspondent since he knows a lot more about the sport than I do.  The Rugby World Cup is ongoing, and I got this email from The Fog over the weekend telling me what happened in the match between New Zealand and Ireland.  The Fog is 12 years old; here is his report:

“On the 19th of October, Ireland faced off against New Zealand in the quarter final of the Rugby World Cup 2019. Some sports writers called it the ‘Titanic Tussle’. Ireland was second in the world before the game and New Zealand was first. This made Ireland the heavy under dogs.

“The first half started off brutally for Ireland with three early tries for New Zealand. Aaron Smith, the New Zealand scrum half had an amazing first period, in which he scored two tries. He also assisted Boden Barret over the try line. Richie Mo’unga, the New Zealand fly half, also had a stunning first forty minutes. He scored 7 points for his team. The first half ended with New Zealand winning 22-0 over Ireland. In the second half, things went from bad to worse, for Ireland. They were constantly on defence against a strong, New Zealand, front row. Ireland didn’t go quietly though. They scored two tries in the second half and they converted on both of them. It was too little too late though and the final score was 46-14. New Zealand advance to face England in the semi-final.”

Moving on to MLB in anticipation of the Nats/Astros World Series, I have two simple questions to pose:

  1. How does someone as small as José Altuve hit a baseball as hard and as far as he does?
  2. If his 9th inning home run on Saturday night had been hit in an outdoors stadium, might it have landed in Cuba?

I always find it interesting to see very good hitters facing very good pitchers; this World Series should provide plenty of such opportunities.  Both teams have 3 very good starting pitchers; both teams have more than a handful of good hitters; the mix-and-match possibilities look very good to me.  On paper, the Astros have a significant advantage with regard to the bullpen – – but games are played in the stadium and not on paper.  I think this will be an interesting World Series.

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas do not see the Series as being nearly as interesting as I do.  The Astros are minus-235 to win the Series with the Nats at +195.  Those are the shortest odds for a team to win the Series before the first game had been played since 2007.  Back then, the Red Sox were even heavier favorites to beat the Rockies – – which the Sox did.  Las Vegas may have the Astros as heavy favorites, but they do not seem to envision either team sweeping the series.  Here are those current odds:

  • Astros sweep the Nats is 7.5 to 1
  • Nats sweep the Astros is 25 to 1.

The NBA regular season will begin this week.  The NY Knickerbockers will play their first home game in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.  I wonder if in the pre-game festivities they will arrange for owner James Dolan to throw out the first fan of the season and revoke his season tickets.  Just a thought…

Also, I would like to pose a rhetorical question to the players on the team that wins the NBA Championship next June.  I am sure that many – if not most – of those players would choose not to accept an invitation to go to the White House as part of their championship celebration – and I have no problem with that at all.  Here is my question

  • If President Xi Jinping of China invites the NBA champions to come to his office for an honorary visit, would you go, or would you stiff the President of the PRC?
  • Oh, while I am at it, let me ask Commissioner Silver what his position might be in this circumstance?

Last week, I mentioned that Landry Jones had been assigned to the Dallas franchise in the XFL.  Because I did not remember, I went looking to see where Jones had been drafted by the Steelers when he came out of college.  In that search, I concluded that the 2013 NFL Draft was a low water mark for NFL QB prospects.  Most fans remember the 1983 draft which had John Elway, and Jim Kelly and Dan Marino up for grabs in addition to a couple of other guys who played positively in the league for a while.  Not so in 2013; here is the list of QBs taken then:

  1. E.J. Manuel – Round 1 – Bills
  2. Geno Smith – Round 2 – Jets
  3. Mike Glennon – Round 3 – Bucs
  4. Matt Barkley – Round 4 – Eagles
  5. Ryan Nassib – Round 4 – Giants
  6. Tyler Wilson – Round 4 – Raiders
  7. Landry Jones – Round 4 – Steelers
  8. Brad Sorenson – Round 7 – Chargers
  9. Zac Dysart – Round 7 – Broncos
  10. B.J. Daniels – Round 7 – Niners
  11. Sean Renfree – Round 7 – Falcons

That list would qualify as a Rogues’ Gallery …

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment regarding the recently passed Columbus Day holiday:

“Happy Columbus Day. During his voyage Columbus actually veered about 1200 miles off course. This was the first ever documented use of Mapquest.”

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