Football Overload ???

We all know that the wheels on the bus go round and round.  It appears that a football kerfuffle that has been around is about to go around again.  I refer here to the “18-game NFL regular season”; several reports say that someone discovered the crypt where that body had been buried with a wooden stake through its heart – – and went ahead to pull out the stake.  Once again, we know what happens next…

I have a simple request for the sports media on this one:

  • Can we please dispense with the obvious arguments that have been voiced before and only deal with new ideas or new constraints?

Here it is in a nutshell:

  • The league does not want it “for its wonderful fans”; the league wants it for the additional revenue it will create.
  • The players – – particularly veteran players – – do not want it at all because of wear and tear on their bodies.
  • There will be negotiations between the owners and the union.

I want to observe that the specter of an 18-game season wreaking irreparable damage on human bodies needs to be considered in light of:

  1. The CFL plays an 18-game schedule and has done so since 1986.
  2. With the expansion of the CFP to 12 teams, if a team seeded between fifth and 12th advances to the final game, they could also play an 18-game schedule.

That is not to minimize the players’ concerns, but that does put some context on it.

I also want fans not to assume that an 18-game schedule would mean more readily available games for them to watch and enjoy.  This year the NFL will play “Wednesday Games” on Christmas Day but if you do not have Netflix, you won’t be able to see them.  Thursday Night Football is already on Amazon Prime Video which also requires a subscription.  So, until and unless there are assurances that the NFL will add the “extra games” to the networks, do not assume you are about to get a special dividend out of these negotiations.

Now, if only reporters and “insiders” can only stick to their guns and report only new information instead of pre-packaged leftovers…

Staying sort of with the idea of “extra football for the watching”, there is going to be a test of the NFOR – – the National Football Overdose Response – – in December.  Check out this scheduling:

  • Thursday Dec. 19 @ 8:00 PM:  Browns/Bengals
  • Friday Dec 20 @ 8:00 PM:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ Noon:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 1:00 PM:  Texans/Chiefs
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 4:00PM:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 4:30PM:  Steelers @ Ravens
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 8:00 PM:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Sunday Dec 22 @ 1:00 PM:  Full Slate of NFL games through midnight
  • Monday Dec 23 @ 8:15:  Saints/Packers

From the start of Thursday games on December 19th until the end of the Saints/Packers game on Monday night, about 100 hours will have elapsed.  On a typical NFL Sunday, one can expect to switch back and forth between games in the early afternoon slot and then see the late afternoon “national game” and then wolf down a dinner to be in place for Sunday Night Football.  So that means in those 100 hours from Thursday night through Monday night you will have the opportunity to partake of 12 potentially top-shelf football games.

Oh, and if that is not enough for you, just two days later on Christmas Day there will be two games available for Netflix subscribers leading into the start of Week 17 of the NFL season on Thursday night.  Is this the point where the adage, “No rest for the weary,” applies?

I suspect the good folks who run sports betting establishments around the country are licking their chops over this weekend’s potential handle.  And that thought leads me to post a cautionary note here:

  • Gentlemen, get your Christmas shopping done early this year.  In addition to your being overloaded with football the weekend before Christmas when you usually do your shopping, there is the potential to “have a bad streak” at the betting window over this time which could leave you short when you get around to shopping on Christmas Eve.
  • As I learned in Latin class in high school, Verbum sapienti sat est.  [A word to the wise is sufficient.]

Finally, for those who think I have made mountains out of molehills today, let me close with a question posed by Ogden Nash:

“Do you think my mind is maturing late, or simply rotted early?”

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

 

 

Rest In Peace, Willie Mays

Willie Mays died yesterday.  There is no need to cite any statistics today as a basis for declaring him a treasure to sports fans.  He was a joy to watch because in addition to his greatness as a baseball player, he exuded his own joy in playing the game on the field.

Rest in peace, Willie Mays.

As I was meandering around the Internet yesterday in search of “rant material”, I stopped by ProFootballTalk.com to see if there were any tidbits there.  Indeed, there was a nugget.  The NFL will hold the 2025 Draft in Green Bay, WI.  Fans from around the country converge on the site of the Draft and when the league stages the event in places like NYC or Philly there is ample hotel space to accommodate the surge.  Green Bay is not nearly so large; the population of Green Bay is only 106,000 people.  The good folks at ProFootballTalk.com provided me a link to a report in the Green Bay Press Gazette with this headline:

  • Don’t want to stay 90 minutes from Green Bay for NFL Draft?
  • Lambeau Field-area Airbnbs can cost up to $18,000.

In this report, I learned that a three-bedroom house across the street from the Draft venue is available through Airbnb for $17,900 per night during the week of the Draft.  The report did the math for me; if one were to book the place for the full week the bill would look like this:

  • Rental fee = $125,300
  • Airbnb Service Fee = $17,675
  • Airbnb Cleaning Fee = $200
  • Total cost = $143,175   plus taxes.

The house can accommodate 10 people, so this listing boils down to a mere $2000 per person per night.  If you ever needed an example of The Law of Supply and Demand, this would be a good one.

According to this report, “nearly every hotel room in Green Bay is already booked” and property owners more than an hour’s drive from Lambeau Field have listed private residences or spare rooms for rent during this event.  If you decide to go, let me suggest you bring some food along with you because I suspect that dinner reservations are going to be difficult to come by.

Switching gears – – and sports …  The Euro 2024 soccer tournament is underway.  The Danish team opened against Slovenia and the first Danish goal was scored by Christian Ericson.  Why is that interesting?

Three years ago, Christian Ericson was playing for Denmark in the opening game against Finland when he suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch.  After 13 minutes of CPR on the pitch, he was “brought back to life” and transported to a hospital.  During those minutes, the Danish and Finnish players formed a wall around the medics and the fallen Ericson to keep prying camara eyes at bay; this year, the Danish team mobbed Ericson as a celebration of his return – – and the goal too.

The game ended in a draw:

  • Slovenia 1
  • Denmark 1

Moving on …  According to reports, ESPN and Shannon Sharpe have come to an agreement on a “multi-year contract”.  This deal maintains Sharpe’s appearances on First Take and it will have him expand his appearances on the network’s programming.  Sharpe originally joined ESPN about a year ago after a dispute with Skip Bayless that led to him leaving FS-1.  The details of that falling out between Sharpe and Bayless were uninteresting back then and certainly are not worth repeating here.  That original deal with ESPN had Sharpe appearing on First Take two days a week during the football season.

When the football season ended, a short term extension kept Sharpe on First Take through the end of the NBA season.  Now, here we are with what has been reported as a 4-year deal (one report said 3 years but let me be optimistic here) and it supposedly provides for expanded exposure for Shannon Sharpe on the network.

I like Shannon Sharpe; I particularly like the way he pushes back at Stephen A. Smith at times on First Take.  In those moments, he is pointed in his rebuttals but not antagonistic or pejorative.  Personally, I think he would be a good addition to ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown lineup as part of the “studio panel” on the program or as a person to do out-of-studio interviews with players or coaches or “The Commish” as the season unfolds.  We shall see what else ESPN has in mind for him…

Next up …  The Detroit Pistons posted the worst record in the NBA last season at 14-68 and the team endured a 28-game losing streak along the way.  Naturally, they fired their coach, Monty Williams – – as if he was the one missing all those open shots and the guy who gave up points on defense galore.  I don’t know if Monty Williams is a good NBA coach or not, but the Pistons’ braintrust probably thought so just a year ago when they signed him to a 6-year contract worth $78.5M.  Assuming a linear annual payment in that contract, the Pistons still owe Williams just a tad over $65M.

Finally, given the passing of Willie Mays and the return from near death by Christian Ericson, let me close with these words from Soren Kierkegaard:

“No one comes back from the dead, no one has entered the world without crying; no one is asked when he wishes to enter life, nor when he wishes to leave.”

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

 

 

Boston Celtics – – NBA Champions Again

Congratulations to the Boston Celtics; they are the NBA Champions for the 18th time this morning having beaten the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 in the NBA Finals.  Jaylen Brown was named the Finals MVP; I would not have been upset if that award had gone to Jason Tatum because both men played excellently.  Just a year ago, coach Joe Mazzulla was seen as a dunderhead who stood in the way of the Celtics on-court talent.  Today he has a championship to his name.

I do think there is an unsung hero on the Celtics – – although “unsung” is clearly too strong a word here.  Jrue Holliday is not the star of the team; he is not the team MVP.  He is, however, a disruptive player on defense and a more-than-adequate distributor of the basketball on offense.  The Celtics may well have won the championship without Holiday, but he was a valuable asset for the season and in the playoffs.

On the other side, Luka Doncic showed me in this series that he is a force majeure on offense and only marginally better than a stiff on defense.  I do not know if he cannot play defense or if he will not play defense; that is something to learn from Doncic himself and/or Mavs’ coach Jason Kidd.  Whatever the case, the Mavs are trying to guard five opponents with only 4 defenders on just about every opponents’ possession.  That deficiency is compounded by the fact that the Mavs’ other star offensive player, Kyrie Irving, also tends to treat defense as a pause in the action while he waits to play offense again.  The fact that Doncic and Irving made it to the NBA Finals attests to how good they are at the offensive end of the court.

Moving on …  Yesterday I mentioned ten QBs in the NFL who will make an average annual salary of $45M or more starting this season.  I think the 2024 NFL season is going to provide some benchmark information about five of those enormous contracts and about the QBs themselves.  In alphabetical order:

  1. Joe Burrow was having a good season in 2024 when he broke his wrist in November and missed the rest of the season.  When he arrived in Cincy, the team was a mess; since he has been there, the Bengals have gone 29-22-1 when he starts.  That is a significant improvement but 29-22-1 is not the expectation for a QB, making more than $50M a year.  Just last weekend, the Bengals signed Tee Higgins for 2024 which means Burrow will have his two best WRs to catch his throws this season.
  2. Justin Herbert suffered a late-season hand injury that is surely healed by now.  The Chargers have a new head coach with a fine pedigree in the NFL and they took an OT with the 5th overall pick in the Draft in April to protect Herbert.  The Chargers let RB, Austin Eckler, go in free agency but they signed JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards to man the fort at the RB position.  I expect Herbert to have a; good season in 2024 as is to be expected.  Again, Herbert joined the Chargers at a low point in the franchise existence, but his record as a starter is a less-than-stellar 30-32-0.
  3. Jalen Hurts had a great year in 2022; and – – to be polite – – he regressed in 2023.  He was not the architect of the Eagles’ monumental collapse in the final third of the 2023 season, but the QB takes undeserved blame for such performance just as he gets undeserved praise for the opposite.  Hurts gets a new system and a new OC (Kellen Moore), and he will have Saquon Barkley at RB this year.  If he does not bounce back significantly, the Eagles may come to regret that huge deal they signed him to.
  4. Kyler Murray missed the first half or so of the 2023 season and it took a while for him to shake off the rust.  The addition of Marvin Harrison Jr. raises expectations for Murray’s performance in 2024.  I think the Cards will suffer buyer’s remorse if Murray does not have a breakout season this year.  Granted, the Cardinals’ team has not been nearly dominant since Murray arrived in 2019; but Murray’s record as a starter is only 28-36-1 and that is underperformance for someone making more than $45M annually.  Also, remember that when he was originally signed to his big extension, the Cards had a clause in the contract demanding that he work on Cardinals’ offensive issues for a certain number of hours a week at home.  We shall see …
  5. Deshaun Watson is probably in a make-or-break situation.  Yes, he missed a ton of time due to his suspension for off-field nonsense earlier in his career; and yes, he had a shoulder injury last year.  But if he is going to be considered anything more than a complete bust in Cleveland, he needs to have a really good year in 2024.  Can he do it is the question …

Finally, since much of today dealt with “high expectations” for some NFL QBs in 2024, I’ll close with these words from Ron Williams, the former CEO of Aetna Inc.:

“Every morning, I have high expectations, and then I confront the reality of what happens at 4 o’clock.”

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

 

 

Speculation …

A while back, I noted here that the KC Chiefs have had a handful of players who have had unintended interactions with officers of the law during this off-season.  One of those players was DT, Isaiah Buggs who was then cited for animal cruelty.  That matter is still pending; and now over this weekend, Buggs has been arrested on new charges:

  • Domestic violence – – and – –
  • Burglary.

Buggs has been in the NFL for five seasons – -three with the Steelers and the last two with the Lions.  The Chiefs signed him after the Lions released him back in January when the Lions released him.  His contract with the Chiefs is for 1 year at a salary of $1.29M with a $100K signing bonus and $350K guaranteed.

Moving on …  The Jags signed QB Trevor Lawrence to a contract extension last week; the deal is for 5 years at $275M with $200M guaranteed.  Lawrence is now signed through 2030 and could hit the free agent market once again at the age of 31.  His signing bonus in the deal was reported to be $37.5M.  Lawrence and Joe Burrow both have contracts providing them with annual average salaries of $55M which is manageable under a projected increasing salary cap for NFL teams year over year.  Nevertheless, given the current cap and the terms of Lawrence’s deal, he will account for about 6% of the Jags’ total salary cap figure.

As of this morning, 10 QBs in the NFL are going to make average annual salaries of $45M or more.  Here they are alphabetically:

  1. Joe Burrow
  2. Kirk Cousins
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Justin Herbert
  5. Jalen Hurts
  6. Lamar Jackson
  7. Trevor Lawrence
  8. Patrick Mahomes
  9. Kyler Murray
  10. Deshaun Watson.

As you take in that list, please note that only one QB there has ever won a Super Bowl and that more than half the QBs on the list have never played in a Super Bowl.  Moreover, one QB on that list has never played in a playoff game let alone a Super Bowl.  Lots of speculation on display there.

The Jags have opened the wallet so to speak in this offseason.  In addition to the $275M they have just committed to Trevor Lawrence, please remember that the Jags signed LB Josh Allen for 5 years at $141M back in April.  And having mentioned LB, Josh Allen, please look at that list above one more time and notice that QB Josh Allen – – the one who plays in Buffalo – – is not on that list; he makes a paltry $43M per year in average annual salary based on his current contract which expires at the end of the 2028 season.

There are four QBs who will be coming up on negotiations for a new contract or a contract extension very soon:

  1. Jordan Love:  His contract has voidable years after this one meaning that he will either sign an extension with the Packers or become an unrestricted free agent – – assuming no franchise tag.  His current contract totals $13.5M for this season.
  2. Dak Prescott:  His contract has four void years after this one; he will either sign an extension with the Cowboys or become an unrestricted free agent.  He will make $29M in 2024.
  3. Aaron Rodgers:  His contract ends after the 2025 season.  The wrinkle in his case is that the Jets will take a huge dead money hit in 2026 if they do not sign him to an extension or work out a contract modification prior to the end of 2025.  Rodgers will make only $3.6M in 2024, but he did get a $70M signing bonus with the Jets back before the start of the 2023 season.
  4. Tua Tagovailoa:  His contract ends after this season and will be an unrestricted free agent then.  He is scheduled to make $23.1M in 2024.

Finally, since I suggested that QB salaries in the NFL have a degree of speculation built into them, let me close with this observation by Brian Acton – – one of the co-founders of WhatsApp:

“There’s a certain degree of speculation that goes into valuations. In so far as the market supports a valuation, everyone who gets a great one deserves it, but they should also be cautious because that speculation is temporary. I saw Yahoo go from $100 billion to $10 billion. It’s not a long-term measure.”

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

 

 

A Mixed Bag Today …

After Dan Hurley turned down the Lakers offer to coach the team, I mentioned here that Mike Krzyzewski has also turned down an NBA offer after he won a National Championship; Coach K also turned down an offer from the Lakers.  I received an email from a friend who notified me that I had missed another connection there.  Back in the 1970s, the Lakers tried to lure Jerry Tarkanian away from UNLV to come and coach the Lakers.  That too was an offer spurned by the college coach.  [Aside:  Tark did eventually take an NBA job with the Spurs in the 1990s and only lasted 20 games into his first season there after butting heads with the team owner.  Coach K never dipped his toe in NBA waters.]

Switching sports and switching gears …  The Buffalo Bills signed a free agent named Gable Stevenson as a potential addition to their defensive line.  Stevenson has no football experience – – but he did win a Gold Medal in wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.  Stevenson is 24 years old and is listed at 6’1” and 265 lbs.  And that background and physical size reminded me immediately of Curly Culp who eventually made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Culp was an NCAA wrestling champion and also played football at Arizona St. back in the 1960s.  The KC Chiefs signed him, and he became a top nose tackle in the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense.  Like Stevenson, Culp was similarly listed at 6’1” and 275 lbs.

Stevenson’s contract with the Bills was originally reported to be for 3 years which led me to believe that the team would take some time to “teach him football techniques” that could blend with his innate strength and agility as demonstrated by his wrestling accomplishments.  However, a check at Spotrac.com for details on the contract indicates that the contract is only 1 year in length for $795K which is the rookie minimum salary as defined by the existing CBA.

Moving on …  I and many other commentators have noted the amazing level of attention being paid to Caitlin Clark as she begins a career in the WNBA.  In terms of media attention and focus, it is easy to refer to her as the female version of LeBron James – – and maybe right now, it might be proper to refer to LeBron James as the male version of Caitlin Clark.  It is not about her exploits on the court; it is about Caitlin Clark as a person who has not quite morphed into an institutional figure.  In this morning’s Washington Post, there is an article on the front page of the sports section with this headline:

  • “Clark can’t escape noise, but she’s still finding joy”

The story consumes 43 column-inches of real estate in the sports section (including headlines).  It is at best a “feelgood piece”; in terms of “news value” let me be very generous and say you have to look very carefully to find any.  I bring this up not to cast any negative light on Caitlin Clark or even on the author here; this kind of stuff is appearing in many locales on the Internet.  I think this article and its kin demand a new vocabulary entry for sports commentary.  Let me explain.

If this kind of story were written about a male athlete who was of a similar stature in his sport and in the public eye, the piece might be classified as “jock sniffing”.  Let me be clear, that sort of label is wrong when applied to Caitlin Clark – or any female athlete – on multiple levels and I have ZERO intention to try to make such a figure of speech acceptable.  My problem is that I also have NO IDEA what to call this parallel phenomenon as it pertains to women athletes.

Next up …  The Patriots retired Tom Brady’s number and put him in the team’s hall of fame.  The fact of that happenstance should surprise no one who follows football even a little bit.  Brady was involved in a roast recently which veered off into some comments about his family life that one could characterize as “over the line”.  Whatever.  In his “induction ceremony” in New England, there was a comment that could easily have been part of that roast and was nowhere near “out of bounds”.  The line came from Drew Bledsoe – – the guy Brady replaced after Bledsoe was injured in a game:

“You were the worst backup quarterback in the history of the NFL.  You never understood that when I got healthy, you were supposed to go sit the hell down.”

Finally, let me usher in the weekend with some observations by George Carlin:

“Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?”

And …

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”

And …

“Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.”

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

 

 

Rest In Peace, Jerry West

Jerry West died yesterday at the age of 86.  He was a basketball lifer starring at West Virginia in the 1950s and then becoming the silhouette for the NBA logo.  I never saw him play in college, but I saw him play many times as part of the Lakers; he and Elgin Baylor were great fun to watch even though they never were able to break through the Bill Russell-led Celtics in the 1960s.  Praise for Jerry West rightfully dominated sports radio and studio sports shows on TV yesterday.  By all accounts, he was as great a person as he was a player and here are some of his achievements as a player; his NBA career spanned 14 seasons with the Lakers from 1960 to 1974:

  • He won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 at the Rome Games.
  • He made the All-Star team in each of his 14 NBA seasons.
  • He made the All-NBA team 12 times.
  • He made the All-Defensive team 5 times.

Rest in peace, Jerry West.

Staying with basketball, interest in the WNBA is soaring; media coverage is far greater now than it ever was; players are getting endorsement deals unheard of in previous times; attendance is way up as people are now setting their sights on seeing specific players and teams as they come to town.  And the WNBA is about to be the recipient of a huge bump in league revenues from a new media rights deal.  All of this is surely connected – – but perhaps not as linearly as it might appear.

Ben Strauss covers sports media for the Washington Post; he is a solid reporter whose facts check out with reality almost all the time.  He has a report in this morning’s Post detailing the “WNBA’s windfall” that is about to arrive.  There is too much info in it for me to try to summarize it’ so, let me provide this link to the article online.  I suggest you take a couple of minutes to read it.

A couple of interesting tidbits in the report:

  • The NBA still owns almost 60% of the WNBA
  • The NBA media rights deal – – expected to jump from $2.7B to $7B – – includes the WNBA media rights deal.  AND it is the NBA not the media rights winner who will decide how much of that new deal goes to the WNBA.

The NBA Finals are all but in the books after the Celtics won Game 3 last night and lead the series 3-0.  The Mavs two stars, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving did their part combining for 62 points last night.  The rest of the Mavs’ team contributed only 37 points.  No team in NBA history has ever trailed a playoff series 3-0 and come back to win that series.

Moving on …  I always glace at the MLB standings, but this morning I looked more closely than usual.  The National League is a mess right now; of the 15 teams in that league, only 5 have winning records and one of those 5 winning records is 37-35 which is just barely a winning record.  Moreover, none of the three division races in the NL are even modestly “compelling” as of this morning.

  • The Phillies lead the East by 10 games
  • The Brewers lead the Central by 7 games
  • The Dodgers lead the West by 6.5 games

Back before the season started, I made 10 predictions regarding the 2024 MLB season.  I decided to review those predictions to see how they were playing out:

  1. Prediction: Dodgers Under 105 wins.  Projection: 99 wins
  2. Prediction: Cubs Over 84.5 wins.  Projection: 79 wins
  3. Prediction: Braves Under 102 wins.  Projection: 87 wins
  4. Prediction: Astros Over 92 wins.  Projection: 73 wins
  5. Prediction: Nats Over 66.5 wins.  Projection: 77 wins
  6. Prediction: Rays Over 85 wins.  Projection: 76 wins
  7. Prediction: Pirates Over 75 wins.  Projection; 77 wins
  8. Prediction: Tigers Over 80.5 wins.  Projection: 77 wins
  9. Prediction: Yankees Under 93.5 wins.  Projection:113 wins
  10. Prediction: O’s to win AL East. Status: O’s trail Yankees by 2.5 games.

As of today, 4 of the predictions look good and 6 are looking like losers.  If you take a closer look:

  • Three predictions look solidly correct
  • Three predictions look wildly off the mark
  • Four predictions are still in doubt.

Finally, some words from George Bernard Shaw:

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

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

 

 

Gluttony …

Reports from yesterday said that Joey Chestnut will be barred from competing in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this July 4th because Chestnut accepted a “seven figure offer” from the company that makes “Impossible Burgers” – – fake meat – – to endorse that brand.  It turns out that Chestnut only got a $200K appearance fee last year to gorge himself on Nathan’s dogs on Coney Island.  An entity known as Major League Eating puts on the July 4th extravaganza and was obviously saddened by the loss of the perennial champion hot dog eater; here is what Major League Eating had to say about the matter:

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.”

I see this as an evolutionary process and not some grand strategic shift of loyalties or anything of the sort.  Here is the path that comes to my mind:

  • Gluttony as one of the Seven Deadly Sins morphed into a “sport” which has now retro-evolved into Greed as one of the other Seven Deadly Sins.

So, which of the Deadly Sins might be next – – Wrath or Lust?

Moving on …  The NFL Training camps are still a month off in the future; teams have recently conducted OTAs – – Official Team Activities – – and are into the shindigs known as mandatory minicamps.  Notwithstanding the early status of the upcoming season, it would appear as if the NY Jets were in mid-season form.  It never seems to matter if the Jets field a good team, a mediocre team or a bad team; in any circumstance the Jets provide NFL fans with bountiful drama.  And so, it begins in 2024:

  • Aaron Rodgers – – the best QB in franchise history who has played all of one series for the team – – is absent without permission from mandatory minicamp.  Coach Robert Saleh explained that Rodgers was AWOL because he needed to attend an event that is “very important to him.”  Players can be fined for missing mandatory minicamp according to the CBA – – after all, there must be some deference given to the word “mandatory” – – but no one believes the Jets are going to fine Rodgers for his absence.  I will not be surprised if Rodgers does not make it known obliquely or directly that he considers it a breach of faith that the Jets did not excuse his absence – – the equivalent of giving him a Hall Pass for the minicamp.

And …

  • Haasan Reddick is also nowhere to be found in the Jets’ mandatory minicamp.  Likewise, his absence is unexcused, and Coach Saleh said that Reddick is subject to fines for his absence.  The Jets acquired Reddick from the Eagles this offseason and inherited his $14M contract for this season.  Reddick wants more and he wants it for longer than the two years remaining on this deal, so that is the stare-down underway for the moment.  Assuming that Reddick misses the entirety of minicamp, the next time Reddick is required to report to the Jets would be at training camp, and that is a month into the future with all sorts of opportunities for leaks to the “Insiders”.

Ladies and gentlemen, the NY Jets appear to be in mid-season form and it’s only mid-June…

Saying with NFL maters but switching gears …  I ran across this data recently regarding the standings of the AFC West Division for the last 21 years.  In that time span:

  • The Division Champs have been the KC Chiefs 10 times – – including the last 8 seasons in a row.
  • The Division Champs have been the Denver Broncos 6 times.
  • The Division Champs have been the San Diego Chargers – – prior to relocation – – 5 times.

Note that the Oakland/Los Angeles/Las Vegas Raiders are absent from that compendium.  Their absence here is all the more stark than is their dominance of their division – – under various names – – in the 1960s and 1970s when the Raiders were division champions 9 times in the 10 seasons from 1967 to 1976.

Next up …  The Canadian Football League regular season began last weekend.  The Grey Cup Champion Montreal Alouettes opened the season against Western Division favorite Winnipeg Blue Bombers and won that opening game handily by a score of 27-12.  The Blue Bombers were at home and were a healthy 7.5-point favorite in the game, but the Alouettes clearly dominated.

The Grey Cup will be hosted by the BC Lions in Vancouver in mid-November this year.  If the Lions want to be in that game on their home field, they will need to up their game; the Lions lost on the road to the Toronto Argonauts in Week 1 by a score of 35-27.

My “favorite” CFL player – – based entirely on his name – – is Bo Levi Mitchell.  [Aside:  I am a “Bo-Liever”…]  Bo Levi is a QB and is with the Hamilton Tiger Cats this season; so, I guess I am all-in on the Ti-Cats for 2024 …

Finally, since today began with a comment on gluttony, let me close with some observations about gluttony:

“Our fear of hypocrisy is forcing us to live in a world where gluttons are fine, so long as they champion gluttony.”  [Jonah Goldberg]

And …

“Gluttony is not a secret vice.”  [Orson Welles]

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

 

 

Mostly Basketball Today …

The kerfuffle du jour centers on the fact that Caitlin Clark will not be part of the US Women’s Olympic Basketball Team this summer.  Some have called it a snub and others have used that fact as “further evidence” that other female basketball players and unnamed various basketball officials are “out to get” Ms. Clark.  I do not consider this a snub; here is my take:

  • There are people whose responsibility is to populate the US Women’s National Basketball Team.  Those people made a decision; unless anyone outside that group can furnish documentary evidence that those folks purposefully denied Caitlin Clark a spot on the team, calling this a snub is irresponsible.
  • The people who made that decision made a mistake in not having her on the team.  I do not say that because I think she is the best women’s basketball player in the country; I say that because she is unquestionably the face of women’s basketball in the country.  It would have been smart to have such a figure on the team.  Remember:
      • Never ascribe to malice that which can equally be explained by stupidity.
  • In the end, I think this is a small benefit to Caitlin Clark; it will give her an enforced break from basketball.  Clark played for Iowa in the NCAA Tournament until mid-April; she started training camp for the Indiana Fever about 10 days later and has played in 12 WNBA games between May 14th and today.  The WNBA schedule has a one-month hiatus during the Olympics; Caitlin Clark can probably use the time off.

Since I mentioned Caitlin Clark as the “face of women’s basketball in the country”, that provides a segue into the next topic.  I saw one of the speculative articles projecting NBA Draft picks and it said that Alex Sarr was the presumed overall #1 pick.  That name rang no bells, so Google was my friend and explained to me that Alex Sarr was playing basketball in Perth, Australia last season.  I felt relieved to some extent that someone who could possibly be the first pick in the NBA Draft was unknown to me because he played about as far away from my quarters in the DC area as is possible on the planet.

I said here about a month ago that the NBA needed a new player to emerge as the “face of the NBA”.  LeBron James is 40 years old; Steph Curry is 36 years old; they can still play well enough to attract attention to the league, but their days are numbered.  I argued then that the NBA should consider paying a few young players to go to college and to stay there for 3 years to develop those players as brands who could enter the league with some background of recognition.

The article about Alex Sarr made me continue searching for other opinions on the upcoming NBA Draft.  That led me to a compendium by Kevin O’Connor at TheRinger.com.  He listed there – – and explained his reasoning – – his projected draft order for the selections.  So, I did a rundown on the categories of players; O’Connor listed the top 58 selections.  Here is my shallow analysis.

Players who arrive in the NBA from the G-League and/or playing in a foreign league do not present themselves as a recognizable figure to the US or the Chinese audience – – the two major markets for the NBA.  Players who only played one year of US college basketball might in a few instances be immediately recognizable, but the majority still need time to connect with the sporting public.  So, here is the data from Kevin O’Connor’s list of 58 potential selections by NBA teams:

  • Foreign Players last year = 13
  • G-League Players last year = 3
  • Freshmen from college = 13
  • Upper classmen from college = 29.

Only fifty percent of that projected draft played enough college basketball to have had a chance to make themselves an immediate marketing commodity for the NBA.  Surely, some of the players in other categories will become very good players and develop a following in their fanbases, but there are only a few players on that list who the average fan might be able to identify in a police lineup with Moe, Larry and Curly.  [Aside:  Kevin O’Connor thinks Alex Sarr will be the overall #2 pick this year and not the overall #1 pick if that sort of thing matters to you.]

Now that paying college players is totally above board, the NBA should consider identifying some freshmen who declare for the draft as “high recognition players in the future” and work out a contract with them that pays them to stay in college and play for US college teams until the end of their junior or senior year (TBD in negotiations with individual players) before coming to the league.  This has little to do with players “developing their game” before going pro; this has to do with players developing a connection with the audience before going pro.

Staying with the NBA, here is an item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“TV timeout: Perfectly delivered sarcasm the other night from TNT NBA courtside analyst Stan Van Gundy as three officials reviewed a moment that never needed a second look. ‘I’ve heard,’ Van Gundy said, ‘from a lot of fans — they love watching the referees stand at the monitor and watch replays.’”

Van Gundy is totally right here – – and I particularly like it when NFL officials take 4 or 5 minutes to “get it right” and then half the audience disagrees with the call.

Finally, since today has been mostly about basketball, let me close with this comment from Dan Daly:

“To get called for traveling in the NBA you’d practically have to run the Boston Marathon.”

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

 

 

Another Challenge For College Sports

I am beginning to feel like Br’er Rabbit right after he began punching the tar baby. [Hat Tip to Joel Chandler Harris and “The Uncle Remus Tales.”]  I cannot seem to extricate myself from the tectonic shifts that are happening in college sports these days and one of the stories getting a lot of attention today puts another perspective on this stark fact:

  • College sports are not dead; college sports as I knew them growing up and as an adult sports fan are indeed dead.

And it is not just the players getting direct payments – – in addition to their NIL deals – – nor the de facto universal free agency of players via the Transfer Portal that have undergone change.  The rumor du jour is that the LA Lakers are going to make an offer to Danny Hurley to leave UConn and take the reins for the Lakers.  When I read that story yesterday afternoon, my first reaction was:

  • Why would he want to leave UConn where he has won two straight NCAA Championships to take on the daily drama that envelops the LA Lakers?

Obviously, there’s the money.  Reports say that Hurley’s deal with UConn is a 6-year deal worth up to $32.1M; other reports say that the Lakers are preparing an offer that would be worth more than $100M.  That is a lot of cheese, and that sort of offer would deserve consideration by just about anyone on this side of Warren Buffet.

But maybe there is more to the decision that Danny Hurley would face if he did indeed get such an offer.

  • Is it possible that the changes in college sports have changed the job of a college coach – – basketball or football – – to the point that experienced and successful coaches see the future in a negative light?

In fairly short order, the collegiate revenue sports have seen championship-caliber coaches abandoning their stature in their profession.  Here is a short list that comes to mind with no research effort at all:

  • Jim Boeheim – – National champion; retires abruptly
  • Jim Harbaugh – – National champion last year; leaves Michigan for the NFL
  • Mike Krzyzewski – – Multiple national championships; retires
  • Urban Meyer – – Multiple national championships; left for the NFL
  • Nick Saban – – Multiple national championships; retires abruptly
  • Jay Wright – – Multiple national championships; retires abruptly

The college basketball or football coach now and in the foreseeable future is not a teacher/mentor/coach; he is the GM and the coach of a for-profit enterprise.  Yes, college coaches have needed to do recruiting during their supposed off-season in the past; now, coaches need to re-recruit their own players in addition to seeking out others in the Transfer Portal and high schoolers who may or may not be ready for college life or college athletics.  [Aside:  By the way, the State of Florida has now cleared the way for high school athletes to receive NIL payments.  Raise your hand if you saw that coming; raise you other hand if you think that is a net positive for our society.]

About 20 years ago, Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a book, The Miracle of Saint Anthony; A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty.  If you have not read this book, let me recommend it without reservation to any sports fan.  Bob Hurley is Danny Hurley’s father; Bob Hurley is in the Naismith Hall of Fame for his high school coaching achievements; Danny Hurley – – and his brother Bobby Hurley – – played for their father at Saint Anthony in Jersey City.  Bob Hurley was a no-nonsense coach who stressed fundamentals and strict adherence to team rules; that is the coaching DNA that must have at least some representation in Danny Hurley.

None of Bob Hurley’s players had agents; their version of a Transfer Portal was to move to another city and enroll in another high school.  All that Bob Hurley did was to coach basketball and to guide inner city kids to adopt a way of life that could serve them well into adulthood.  So, if Danny Hurley has even a partial interest in emulating his father as a basketball coach and a molder of constructive citizens, does he really need to put up with all the rest of the ”distractions” facing college coaches.

And therein lies a Catch-22.  If the distractions of college level coaching are burdensome and interfere with the job of coaching/mentoring, what sort of opportunity for that sort of endeavor might present itself as the coach of a team led by a 40-year-old LeBron James – – the self-proclaimed “Chosen One”.  And viewed from that perspective, why not take the humongous pay raise – – fully guaranteed of course – – and reinvent your coaching behaviors and beliefs?

Assuming that the reports are accurate regarding the Lakers’ intent to make a nine-figure offer to Danny Hurley, he will face an important life decision.  One can paint that scenario in the most dramatic of terms, attaching almost cosmic importance to the implications of such a decision.  Here is the good news for Danny Hurley:

  • At the worst he will be coaching basketball for the next 5 years or so and pulling in something on the order of $30M for doing so.
  • I believe that is called a “safety net”.

Finally, let me close today with these words from Danny Hurley’s father, Bob Hurley:

“Your mark is what you do on a day when you don’t want to do it. How good are you on a day when you just don’t have it? Can you push yourself that day? That’s a mark of your character.”

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

 

 

RIP Larry Allen & T. J. Simers

After focusing entirely on the future of college sports since last weekend, I need to catch up here with two sports obits. Cowboys’ and Niners; OL, Larry Allen, died recently at the too-young age of 52 while he was on a family vacation in Mexico.   Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.  Fans debate if Larry Allen or John Hannah is the best offensive guard ever; rather than take part in that sort of thing, let us just recall Larry Allen as a truly great OL.  He made the Pro Bowl 11 times in 14 seasons and was named as an All-Pro 7 times.

Rest in peace, Larry Allen.

TJ Simers also died within the last week; Simers was a longtime reporter and columnist for newspapers in Denver, San Diego and LA.  To say that he had a “confrontational style” would be like saying Hemmingway could spin an interesting tale.  On the day that Around the Horn debuted on ESPN, TJ Simers was one of the five participants:

  1. Max Kellerman was the “host”
  2. Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe represented the East Coast
  3. Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times represented the Midwest
  4. Woody Paige of the Denver Post represented the Mountain Time Zone
  5. TJ Simers of the LA Times represented the West Coast.

The reported cause of death was brain cancer …

Rest in peace, TJ Simers.

Moving on …  I mentioned last week that the Texas sporting authorities had sanctioned the fight between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul.  Now it seems as if that fight will need to be postponed for at least a while due to “recent health issues” suffered by Tyson who is 57 years old.  Evidently, Tyson has an ulcer in his digestive tract, and he has been advised to stop training for a fight while that condition is in an active flare-up.  One physician who has treated athletes with active ulcer conditions says that he recommends a minimum of three weeks without any athletic training activity to allow the ulcer to “heal” or at least to go back to an inactive state.

I am not going to pretend that I have any medical training or any insight into gastroenterology, but it seems to me that if one’s stomach or intestines are actively bleeding internally, it would not be a good idea to set oneself up to participate in an event where repeated punches to the midsection could expand the ulcer and turn it into a full-blown perforation of the alimentary canal.  I said before that this was not a serious sporting undertaking; now, with this new information, saner heads should prevail and find a way for these two gladiators to move on to other things in their lives.

Next up …  MLB has banned Padres’ infielder, Tucupita Marcano, for life for betting on baseball.  You can read about his betting activities here; not only was he an unsuccessful bettor, but he also made the boneheaded choice of betting on the team he was playing for in MLB more than once.

Four other minor league players have been suspended for 1 year also for betting on baseball albeit not on their own team.  Here is an interesting thing about baseball and gambling.  This year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will have a sponsorship attached to it.  You guessed it, a sports betting entity – – FanDuel – – is the presenting sponsor.  Talk about a conflicted message…

Switching gears … Recall last week that I mentioned the accusations leveled against former Jags kicker Brandon McManus by two flight attendants on the Jags’ charter flight to London last season.  McManus had been signed by the Commanders for the 2024 season, but the team released him earlier this week after taking about a week to “gather information”.

Remember, the difference between a cynic and a realist depends on whether or not you agree with him.  I have no idea about the merits or the bases of these allegations but as I said last week, this is a case where there should be plenty of witnesses to be deposed under oath to help resolve guilt and innocence.  Having said that, I am not even mildly surprised at McManus’ release here.  He is a journeyman kicker not an “impact player” or even a starter on offense or defense.  If the situation had involved a starter for the team, I am certain that the team officials would still be “gathering information” with the intention of finding some way to retain his services with the team. But in the case of a peripatetic kicker … cut bait and move on.

Finally, I’ll close with one of TJ Simers’ observations about sports fans in general”

“The three most important things in the lives of most normal people are their spouse, their children and the NFL draft – not, of course, in that order.”

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