Finally, The NFL Is Back In LA…

The NFL owners have approved moving the Rams back to LA; they have given the Chargers the first option to join the Rams in a joint stadium situation akin to the Giants/Jets; they have left the Raiders in Oakland seemingly “twisting slowly in the wind”. [H/T to John Erlichman.] There are probably a dozen vantage points from which to view the decision(s) here leading to multiple dozens of interpretations and conclusions. My view is simple; my info sources are Forbes and Business Insider:

    Stan Kroenke owns the Rams. Forbes says his net worth is $7.5B as of 2016. The league approved his plan over and above any other.

    Dean Spanos owns the Chargers. Forbes says his net worth is $1.1B as of 2015. The league did not approve the plan he put forth but gave him the first option to join Stan Kroenke if the two of them can strike a deal.

    Mark Davis is the chief owner of the Raiders. Business Insider says net worth is $500M as of 2015. He was the tag-along partner with Spanos in the Spanos’ plan and now he is the owner most on the outside looking in.

The NFL owners are not – as a group – wonderful and philanthropic people. I seriously believe that they live by a statement made famous in the Abscam scandal about 35 years ago:

“Money talks and bullsh*t walks.”

If I am even close to correct, Mark Davis and Dean Spanos never really stood a chance of coming out on top here. The NFL’s “LA Relocation Committee” reportedly voted 5-1 to recommend the Spanos/Davis Carson CA “solution” to the owners en banc. But as soon as the owners met in plenary session, the magnitude of the potential returns to the league as a whole became the central issue and when that happened, the Kroenke Plan won in a walk. Dean Spanos has a year to decide if he and his Chargers will sign on with Kroenke and his Rams as tenants in the new playpen. If he does not act by then, Davis and the Raiders can opt in.

The “Kroenke Stadium” will be finished in 2019. Until then the Rams – and any other NFL team that signs on as a tenant in “Kroenke Stadium” – will play in the LA Coliseum. From my perspective, the folks in San Diego have one more short window of opportunity to decide if they want to spend a ton of taxpayer money to build the stadium that the Chargers want in the place that the Chargers want. If not, my guess is that the Chargers will be moving north.

What happens to the Raiders? Well, assuming that Dean Spanos does not let his first option to move to LA expire, I think the Raiders are up for bids. Look, the O.Co Coliseum is more than an anachronism; it is an embarrassment; the sewage lines back up periodically into team dressing areas; there is a baseball diamond in the middle of the field for the first half of the season. Oakland does not have a billion dollars lying around to build a new stadium and probably would be hard-pressed to borrow that kind of money at reasonable interest rates even if they thought that was a good idea. So, what does Mark Davis do now?

    Remember, his lease at O.Co Coliseum expired at the end of this season. He has to have a place to play games in 2016; that fact does not increase his leverage with the good folks in Oakland.

    He can wait it out to see if the Chargers do something stupid and let their option lapse. That is called kicking the can down the road.

    He can make nice with the folks in St. Louis who came up with a plan to do a new stadium there – even though it will be “junior varsity” as compared to “Kroenke Stadium” in LA. However, there will be no baseball diamond on the field and presumably, the toilet facilities will not back up into the locker rooms.

    He can warm up talks with San Antonio where he and the mayor had some “friendly chats” over the past year or so.

    Or … Mark Davis can be the owner who moves his team to London. The rub there is that the fee for moving a team is $550M. If Davis does not get the other owners to allow him to prorate those payments over a pretty long period of time, he cannot afford the payment to his fellow owners let alone any other expenses.

Lest you think my idea that the Raiders might wind up in London is far-fetched, consider that the NFL already has three “stadium deals” going on in the UK. The league started out with 1 game a year over there and it got traction; then it expanded to 2 games per year and will go further than that in the near future. Yes, that is different from having one team there permanently – and indeed there are scheduling hurdles to overcome – but there seems to be a clear audience/fanbase for NFL football in London. Next year, the NFL hopes to play games in London on 3 consecutive weekends with one of the teams involved staying there and playing two games on two consecutive weekends. And remember, greater London has a population of 8.6 million souls at last count

I said there were “three stadium deals” ongoing in London right now. Let me review the bidding here:

    Last year, the NFL agreed to play 2 games per year in Wembley Stadium through 2020. For details on this agreement, check here.

    Last year, the NFL signed a 10-year deal to play a game in the new stadium under construction for Tottenham Hotspur. That stadium will have a retractable roof and a retractable grass field (used for EPL games) with an artificial turf under that for NFL games. That sounds like a serious venue. For details, check here.

    Last year, the NFL signed an agreement with the Rugby Football Union to play 3 games (1 per year) at Twickenham Stadium in London. This venue seats 82,000 folks; it already exists; teams can play there tomorrow – if there were games tomorrow. For details, check here.

I do not know when this is going to happen, but the National Football League is going to become the International Football League one of these days. It seems to me that Mark Davis is in a position to be a pioneer here – if such pioneering tickles the pecuniary fancies of his fellow owners.

Finally, Dean Spanos and the Chargers have been doing the “New Stadium Boogie” with the San Diego pols for at least a decade now. Spanos has said that he and the team have done everything they could do to get a new stadium built there. I am certain that he and the team have worked hard on this but I take exception to his assertion that he did everything he could because:

      He never offered to build a stadium there on his own nickel.

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

Alabama/Clemson – A Great Championship Game

If you did not like the Alabama/Clemson game on Monday night for the College Football Championship, you must not like college football. The game featured two excellent teams; the teams played hard on every play; the game was close from start to finish and the outcome was still in doubt in the final minute of the game; there were excellent showings by excellent players on both teams. I can understand your not liking the outcome of the game if:

    You had Alabama minus-7 points and lost on the backdoor cover at the end.

    You are a student at or an alum of Clemson University.

    You are a student at or an alum of Auburn University.

    You think Nick Saban and/or Lane Kiffin are the Devil’s spawn.

However, I do not see how you can like college football and not have enjoyed watching that game.

Congratulations to both teams and to both coaching staffs. And congratulations to the folks who set up the College Football Playoff and set things up such that these two teams could be in a position to play one another for the championship. The current playoff system may not be perfect, but it is much better than the BCS which preceded it and a light-year better than the bowl games followed by polling which preceded the BCS.

In another aspect of college football, the Austin Business Journal reports that the University of Texas nearly doubled its concessions revenue at football games this year because for the first time they sold beer in the stadium. Fans bought beer to the tune of $1.8M for the six games played at Darrel Royal-Texas Memorial stadium this year. That is a lot of suds considering that a significant fraction of the fans in attendance are not – you know – legally allowed to purchase, possess or consume beer.

That same report said that Texas took down a profit of $812,798 from the $1.8M in sales. Here is the upshot as I see it:

    Texas will not be “re-thinking” or “re-evaluating” this decision any time soon.

    Other universities will be introducing this new convenience to their fans in the not-so-distant future.

Switching gears and sports, there are reports that the Brooklyn Nets are trolling John Calipari to come to Brooklyn to be the Head Coach and Grand Vizier of All Things Basketball for the franchise. Only a couple of months ago, there were similar reports saying that the Sacramento Kings were similarly fishing for Calipari. For all I know, those reports may have been planted by Calipari’s agent to see what sort of “action” it might stir up. Or, all of this might be nonsense…

In any event, the current reports regarding the Nets say that Calipari might think about making a switch if the Nets started their offer at 10 years and $120M. If other reporting is correct, this would be about a 50% raise from what his total package is worth at Kentucky. The thinking that is attributed to the owners who want to lure Calipari away from Kentucky is that he coached a lot of really good young NBA players at Kentucky and therefore he might have an inside track to get them to sign with Coach Cal’s team once they hit free agency. Who knows? That may actually be what the owners are thinking…

In addition to my faulty mind-reading skills, I am loath to try to figure out what sort of basketball-related reasoning might be percolating in the minds of either Kings’ owner, Vivek Ranadivé, or Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. Without going through a list of questionable basketball decisions/pronouncements from either owner, let me just say that I might not be alone in questioning their “basketball acumen”.

What could get interesting here is if Calipari and his agent somehow get these two owners to start bidding against one another to get “Coach Cal”. Phil Jackson reportedly gets $12M per year from the Knicks in a 5-year deal; Jackson’s credentials include enough championship rings to require a wheelbarrow to haul them around; if those two uber-rich owners get into a bidding war for Calipari and that bidding war turns into an ego-battle, I wonder how far beyond $12-million a year they might be willing to go…

In any event, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently regarding another time in John Calipari’s career:

“Questionable: From the What Are People Thinking Dept. comes news that UMass threw a two-day celebration this week for John Calipari, the rule breaker who took the school to the 1996 Final Four, only to have the team’s place vacated by the NCAA. The school is hanging a banner for Calipari in the gym rafters, a gesture normal people are not expected to understand.”

In one other NBA note, I think that the combination of the “Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour Across America” coupled with the obviously bad season Kobe is having in his final go-round is covering up something else. Flying under the radar so to speak is how bad some of the other Lakers’ players are playing. The team is obviously a mess; this morning, their record is 8-31 and they are a measly 28.5 games out of first place in the Pacific Division. Not all of that is Kobe Bryant’s fault. Consider:

    Roy Hibbert has started every game. He is shooting just under 43% from the field; remember he is 7’ 2” tall so he ought to be getting a bunch of dunks and 2-foot shots. Even worse, he is pulling down less than 6 rebounds per game. Hibbert is only 29 years old; he should be in the prime of his career.

    Julius Randle has started about half of the games. He is shooting 40% from the field. To his credit, he gets 11.5 rebounds per game but he turns the ball over about twice per game.

    DeAngelo Russell has started about half of the games. He too is shooting 40% from the field; he turns the ball over a bit more than twice per game; he does lead the team in assists with 3.2 assists per game. [The fact that 3.2 assists per game leads the team speaks volumes with regard to the style of play out there in LA.]

Finally, since I mentioned beer sales above, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“A 19-year-old named Bud Weisser was arrested for trespassing at the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis.

“Coincidence? Every Jack Daniels in town is suddenly under police surveillance in Lynchburg, Tenn.”

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

Concussion – The Movie…

The movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith is out. I am not a movie fan by anyone’s definition; I will surely not go to a movie theater to see this one. The film seems to have caused more of a stir prior to its release than it has since it has been “out there”. I do not have any intention of discussing the merits of the movie itself or the folks who made the movie but I do want to make a few general comments on the central topic of the movie and about documentaries in general.

    The movie focuses on the doctor whose research dealing with NFL players’ brains discovered the condition known as CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – was prevalent among NFL players. CTE is a degenerative and progressive condition that is correlated to – and probably caused by – concussions and/or repeated violent but non-concussive blows to the head.

    This move would be “course material” for a medical school without the dramatic addendum that the NFL purportedly tried to silence and/or intimidate the doctor. That takes the subject matter out of the realm of bland “textbook-material” and puts it squarely in the domain of attractive “screenplay-material”.

    I find it inconceivable that the NFL, anyone who played football in the NFL or any fan of the NFL did not realize prior to this doctor’s discovery that the banging of heads in NFL games would be detrimental to the condition of the brains contained within those banged heads. CTE was known before the time when the doctor who is the subject of Concussion tied CTE to playing football particularly at the NFL level. In the past, people did not know this by its scientific name, but the results of CTE were rather commonly known. Boxers were known to be ‘punch-drunk”; this was a phrase in common usage back when I was a kid. This is not something new or recently discovered.

I am not shocked by any assertion that – or any evidence to show that – the NFL did not receive the news of this doctor’s research well since it led to a demonstration that CTE was prevalent among retired NFL players. Large organizations – private sector or public sector ones – react to threatening news in a predictable way; they go into survival mode. Said survival mode usually takes the form of:

    Admit nothing.
    Deny everything.
    Make counter-claims/accusations against the adversary.

I do not need to go to the movies to have that sort of behavior “revealed to me” as if I ought to be surprised by its existence…

I have a particular skepticism about movies that are dramatizations of real events or ones that purport to be documentaries. “Real events” put truthfully onto film – or into a digital format these days – would be really low-grade entertainment. I always wonder how much “reality” got lost in the “spicing up” of those real events. Even worse to me are the movies that claim to be documentaries. The dictionary says that a documentary movie provides a factual record or report. My limited experience with such movies is that they are far more likely to be advocacy pieces than the presentation of all the facts. If a particular one is an advocacy piece disguised as a documentary, I can probably learn as much by reading a few public statements by the maker of the “documentary” as I will learn by paying $12.50 and sitting in a theater with a bunch of people I do not care to be with and watching the movie. Let me give you a real example and a “made-up example”:

    The Real One: The documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, starred Al Gore giving his lecture(s) on global warming/climate change and was made by the same person who made then-candidate Barrack Obama’s biographical film that “introduced” Obama at the Democratic National convention in 2008. I know what Al Gore has to say about global warming; I have read his books. Given the other works of this director, I seriously doubt that I will go to the theater and see any attempt to refute or challenge any of Gore’s assertions.

    A “Made-Up” One: If a movie hit the theaters next week billed as a documentary exposé of the evils and abuses of the “abortion industry” and Planned Parenthood in specific, I would be monumentally uninterested in seeing it. That monumental lack of interest would be magnified even more if I were to learn that it was produced and directed by Jerry Falwell. [Yes; I know that Rev. Falwell is dead. I specifically picked him for this fictional example to avoid anyone thinking that all of this is aimed at criticizing some living individual. Just follow me a little further here, please.] I do not need to go to a movie theater to find out how Rev. Falwell feels about abortion or what he thinks might be a proper role for Planned Parenthood in US society. If he were the producer/director, I think I know the bottom line(s) before I pay my $12.50 and belly-up to the popcorn stand.

Concussion may be entertaining for some folks; it is absolutely not my genre of choice. What I hope is that not too many folks leave the theater after watching it with the thought that many if any of the revelations in the story should be unexpected. I also hope that only the dimmest of bulbs exiting the theater were shocked to learn that playing professional football, concussions, and brain damage go hand-in-hand.

I mention this today because of a report this morning in the Washington Post saying that the doctor in question here – a man born in Nigeria – now thinks that racism may have been part of the reason that his findings were ignored and challenged. I do not know that to be the case; it would not shock me to learn that this assertion is correct; it would also not shock me to learn that this assertion is overblown. Here is something I can say with certainty:

    Not a single syllable of any word above has even a smidgen of racial overtone to it.

Switching gears, there were reports yesterday that the Buffalo Bills’ Head Coach, Rex Ryan, hired his twin brother, Rob Ryan, to be one of the defensive coaches for the Bills. Some people chose to become indignant about this hiring and called it nepotism. These folks might well be surprised to learn that Paris is in France if they think nepotism is rare in the NFL.

    News Flash: It happens all the time.

Frankly, I think there is a much more important aspect to this hiring that the suits at NFL Headquarters need to focus on:

    The Buffalo Bills must be the team featured on Hard Knocks next summer. Imagine the entertainment value with the Ryan twins together for an entire training camp and think about the bump the whole thing could get from a visit by Buddy Ryan to see how his progeny are implementing his “46-defense”. I tell you; this could be comedy gold…

Finally, here is Greg Cote’s reaction in the Miami Herald to the Dolphins’ hiring of Adam Gaze as their new Head Coach:

“Adam Gase, suddenly league’s youngest head coach at 37, makes it five Dolphins hires in a row (eight including interims) who have never before been an NFL head coach. Miami’s head-coach job posting: ‘EXPERIENCE REQUIRED PREFERRED TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.’

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

Baseball Hall Of Fame Inductees For 2016

The Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members next summer. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were both well above the 75% threshold in terms of votes received to merit their induction. Griffey was an absolute no-brainer; the voting is done by the members of the BBWAA – the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – meaning that everyone who has a vote is someone who is involved in covering and following baseball over a period of time. It is inconceivable that anyone who follows/followed baseball as the means to make his/her living could have seen Griffey play and not recognize that he was one of the all-time greats. About the only thing he never did was to come out before the game with the grounds’ crew and help them lay down the chalk for the foul lines.

Mike Piazza was another story. He has been eligible for 4 years and there had been a “PED cloud” over him. However, that cloud was as much innuendo/rumor/whispers as it was “evidence”. If you saw Piazza’s numbers standing alone, you would have to say he was Hall of Fame worthy but the BBWAA voters had issues with him. Perhaps it was exactly those “issues” that pressed forward changes in the BBWAA itself. Last year, a little more than 100 Hall of Fame voters lost their voting franchise because they had not covered baseball for the last 10 years.

Some folks have suggested that it was this “purging” of “old-timers” whose views on PED usage were ossified at best that propelled Piazza into the Hall of Fame. In prior years, there were almost 600 ballots distributed; this year, there were only 450. I do not read minds, so I will not try to tell you how or why folks voted the way they did. However, there is some math to suggest some validity here.

    Barry Bonds “benefited” from the “purge”. In his three prior years of eligibility, Bonds got 206, 198 and 202 votes. This year, he got 195. He seems to have a stable core of writers who believe that he belongs in the Hall of Fame and if the objective is to get to 75% of the votes, it will be easier to get there with only 450 voters than 600 or so voters. It will mean there are fewer minds to change. However, please note that Bonds’ vote this year is still well below 50% and not within hailing distance of the 75% needed for induction.

    Roger Clemens similarly “benefited” from the “purge” in the same sense that Bonds did. Like Bonds, Clemens seems to have a constant base of support for his candidacy. In his 3 years of eligibility, he has gotten 214, 202 and 206 votes; this year he got 199. Once again, his percentage is up because he got about the same number of votes while the total number of votes declined, but he too is still south of 50% of the vote.

I think the “PED cloud” will not dissipate until the BBWAA members have a chance to vote on the poster-child for PEDs – Alex Rodriguez. Like Griffey, Bonds and Clemens, no one could look at A-Rod’s numbers without a name attached to them and conclude that the player who achieved those numbers is unworthy of the Hall of Fame. Moreover, after A-Rod sat out an entire year on suspension for repeated PED use, he came back and played (purportedly) clean at age 40 and had a commendable season. The writers will have to decide when A-Rod is on the ballot what their collective stance will be for PED users because there is no question that he used them during his career. With both Bonds and Clemens, there is still that lingering argument that neither ever failed a drug test. [Aside: It must be pointed out here that Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test either and we know how that all turned out…]

I think that Mike Piazza indeed benefited from the “BBWAA purge” but I am not outraged by that in any way simply because whatever “evidence” there was that he was a “PED-cheat” seems far more flimsy to me than is the “evidence” in the Bonds or Clemens situations.

In any event, Piazza’s induction is a “rags-to-riches story” that might inspire a biopic somewhere down the line. He was hardly a “5-Star recruit” or a “top prospect” in his youth. In fact, in the 1988 MLB draft, Mike Piazza was selected by the LA Dodgers in the 62nd round; he was the 1390th overall pick that year; every team passed over him again and again and again… The lore is that the only reason the Dodgers “wasted” a pick on him is that Tommy LaSorda and Mike Piazza’s father were close friends. If that was the “only reason” then LaSorda and the Dodgers got awfully lucky; if there was a scout who put Piazza on the Dodgers’ draft board notwithstanding the LaSorda/Piazza Sr. friendship, that scout surely deserved a nice bonus.

One other note from the Hall of Fame balloting this year is that this was the last year of eligibility for Alan Trammel and Mark McGwire. Neither made it into the Hall. Now, they will fall under the scrutiny of the Veterans’ Committee and that body has been most stingy with its admissions to the Hall of Fame over the past several years.

Changing topics – and sports – Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Picked-up piece: With its victory over Michigan State in the CFP semis, Alabama won more games at Jones’ AT&T Stadium this season (2) than the Cowboys (1).”

I include that here because I know that one long-term reader of these rants is rabidly anti-Cowboys; and although he realizes that Jerry Jones is not the anti-Christ, he is certain that Jones and the anti-Christ are best buddies. If he had not already put those pieces together, I know he will read those words and give them a fist-pump. It is just another of the services I provide…

Finally, here is one more observation from Bob Molinaro.

“Another lifeline: After he was almost inexplicably retained as Colts coach, Chuck Pagano said, ‘This is absolutely the best day of my life.’ If he says so. But what about the time doctors told him that his cancer was in remission? Presumably that wasn’t such a bad day, either.”

Seriously now, better than the day you got married? Better than the days on which your kids were born? Better than the day you heard the word “remission”? Sigh… Coachspeak run amok.

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

Add One More…

Add one more NFL team looking for a new head coach to the list from yesterday. Late yesterday, the Tampa Bay Bucs parted company with Lovie Smith in a surprising move. In 2014, the Bucs won only 2 games; they were downright awful and had the overall #1 pick in the draft which they used to take Jameis Winston. In 2015, the Bucs finished at 6-10 which is a clear improvement. However, at one point in the season they were 6-6 and were in the mix for a playoff spot; then they lost their last 4 games in a row.

After Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa in 2002, he stayed on as coach there until 2008. Since then, the Bucs have gone through Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith as head coaches. The roster has talent; the fanbase is very much a front-runner group; the owners do not exhibit a lot of patience. It will be interesting to see what kind of enthusiasm emerges for that job.

I do not want to jump the gun here because the NFL Free Agency scrum is not going to happen for more than a month, but there are a few players whose contracts expire when their seasons’ end who played their way into a big contract during this year’s free agent frenzy. Just a couple off the top of my head in alphabetical order:

    Kirk Cousins: His rookie contract – the one doled out to a 4th round pick – is over and he is now a certified starting QB in the NFL. My guess is that Cousins has made about $2M in his first 4 years; my guess is that his salary next year will be north of $13M and will escalate each year that the contract is in force.

    Josh Norman: His rookie contract – the one doled out to a 5th round pick from a small college – is over and he is one of the top corner backs in the NFL. Like Kirk Cousins, he has probably made about $1.5-2M so far in his career but his contract next year will be significantly higher. Might he get a contract worth $13M per year on average?

    Russell Okung: His 6-year contract that was worth $48.5M is up and he is one of the best left tackles in the league. His only problem has been some nagging injuries. Okung is only 27 years old so he should expect a fat long-term deal.

    Muhammed Wilkerson: His 4-year contract with the Jets probably paid him a total of $3M and then the Jets picked up an option for 2015 at about $7M. Despite his injury in Week 16, Wilkerson is an exceptional defensive lineman. He may not get “JJ Watt money” (6 years for $100M) but he will cash some nice paychecks during the next deal.

I mentioned above that Russell Okung and Muhammed Wilkerson have had injuries to deal with. That reminds me that I have grown very tired of hearing analysts spout the same old stuff about how this team or that team will have to adopt a “next-man-up culture”. Frankly, that is pretty shallow thinking and it says nothing meaningful about what an injury situation really means to the team. What it says most loudly is that the analyst has no idea what to say about the future and so he falls back on what has become an “old saw” in only a few years. Consider:

    If every team with an injury to compensate for needs to adopt this “next-man-up” attitude, then it stands to reason that such an attitude is part of the essence of being an NFL team. If the supplier of tape and bandages to a team went bankrupt, no one would say the team needed to adopt a “next-tape-supplier-up” attitude. They would say that the team had to adapt to a new situation.

    If you think even a little bit about the idea of a “next-man-up” culture, you will realize that it is more than nonsensical; it is mandatory. If a team loses its starting middle linebacker to an injury, it has only 2 choices:

      It can play someone else at middle linebacker.

      It can play without a middle linebacker.

    That choice is not going to be very difficult for the majority of coaching staffs in the NFL…

While I am on the subject of nonsensical phrases that are overused to the point that they become meaningless, I am tired of hearing that this coach or that coach has “lost the locker room”.

    Memo to Oblivious Coach: Follow your nose and head toward the rancid smell of sweat and dirty jockstraps. You will find the locker room at the end of the line of stink.

Often, I tell you about culinary atrocities that are available at baseball parks around the country but I ran across a report about one that will clog your arteries at a football stadium. At Lambeau Field, you can buy something called The Horse Collar.

    No; it is not horsemeat.

    No; it is not a saddle.

    The Horse Collar is 22-inch long kielbasa bent into a long U-shape. It is served in a roll that is the same U-shape and the sausage – which has been cooked in beer – comes with melted cheese and deep-fried sauerkraut. That is correct; the sauerkraut, which is the only marginally healthy ingredient here, is deep-fried to add to the stress test you will set upon your Lipitor prescription.

    The description above is the “baseline Horse Collar”. You can add fried onions and/or fried peppers at your whim.

A horse collar tackle in an NFL game draws a 15-yard penalty because it is a dangerous way to bring down a ball-carrier. I wonder what penalty a cardiologist might wish to impose on a patient that he saw chowing down on The Horse Collar at Lambeau Field?

Finally, an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Baltimore Ravens behemoth John Urschel co-wrote a paper, published in the Journal of Computational Mathematics, titled ‘A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians.’

“And to think, some of his O-line brethren can’t even remember the snap count.”

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

RIP Bob Connolly

I am back from a week without my computer and with only periodic Internet access. I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year celebration. I learned some sad news last night when I checked my e-mails; Bob Connolly – one of the folks listed under “Columnists I Read” on the right margin of the website – passed away just before Christmas. I never met Bob in person but we were in frequent contact over the Internet. When I visited Ireland several years ago, we took a train from Dublin to Belfast and passed through Connolly Station; I took a picture and sent it to him asking if it was named for a relative of his. That led us into a lengthy exchange with regard to Irish/British history and Irish/British politics. Bob was an avid follower of boxing although as a polio survivor he could never participate in anything like boxing as an activity; he explained many things related to boxing to me over the years.

I will leave the link to his Dreams Blog on the website for a while in case any of you might want to check out his final writings.

Rest in peace, Bob Connolly…

There are 6 NFL coaching vacancies at the moment. Only one of them is really surprising to me and that is the Eagles. Jeffrey Lurie had shown great patience during the Andy Reid years as the team built itself up from the worst team in the league in 1999 to a Super Bowl participant in 2005 and a frequent playoff participant up through 2010. Given his enthusiastic verbal support for Chip Kelly, I did not think he would fire Kelly; but he did and the Eagles are looking for a new coach and a new personnel guy since Kelly wore both hats in Philly. Howie Roseman is in charge of personnel for the moment and he has been in Philly for several years now; that is good news and bad news at the same time.

    Good News: He knows the roster’s strengths and weaknesses and he has been doing this job for a while. He is not a novice.

    Bad News: He has butted heads with both Andy Reid and Chip Kelly. I do not know if that has led to a reputation around the league that might scare off top-shelf coaching candidates – but it might…

If you subscribe to the theory that a franchise QB is the single most important factor in a team’s and a coach’s success, then the six openings fall into two categories. Two teams have what appear to be “good QB situations”:

    Giants: The defense may be horrid and the running game shows up only once in a while, but the QB is a 2-time Super Bowl winner. Moreover, Eli Manning has talent to throw to at WR and at TE.

    Titans: Marcus Mariota is not an established star in the NFL yet but his rookie season indicates that he has the potential to become one. The Titans need help in plenty of other places on the roster, but barring injury, they would seem to be set at QB for a while.

The other four teams have what appear to be “not so good QB situations”:

    Eagles: Is Sam Bradford – who is a free agent and will need to be resigned – the long term answer? Yes, he was the overall #1 pick in the draft a few years ago, but still… Certainly, Mark Sanchez is not the long term answer. This is an “iffy situation” at best.

    Dolphins: Is Ryan Tannehill the long term answer? He plays well in stretches and then seems to regress for other stretches. Personally, I think the Dolphins need a huge upgrade in the offensive line in front of him more than they need to go on a QB search.

    Niners: The have an injured/rehabbing Colin Kaepernick – who seemingly regressed to “raw rookie status” last season – and Blaine Gabbert on the roster. Counting on either of those guys is pretty much a crap-shoot…

    Browns: Josh McCown will be 36 next season and finished the year with a shoulder injury. Nonetheless, he is the best QB on the roster. Enough said…

Of those four teams with “not so good QB situations”, I would have to say that the Eagles’ job should be the most attractive because the ownership situations with the other 3 clubs have shown themselves to be mercurial in some cases and downright incompetent in others. The next several weeks will be interesting…

Since I mentioned the Eagles above, let me switch here to another Philly team, the Sixers. Last month, the team hired Jerry Colangelo – rumor has it that the Commissioner pressured the Sixers’ owner to do so in order to bring some level of credibility to the team – and then they hired Mike D’Antoni as an assistant coach. Obviously, these two moves could not hurt a team that was 1-26 at one point in this season; in fact, the Sixers are 3-7 over their last 10 games but let us put that in perspective here.

    Because of their horrid start to the season the Sixers are still – after 37 games – on pace to win only 8 or 9 games this season. Eight wins would set a new record for the worst season record ever; nine wins would tie that record.

    D’Antoni is an offensive minded coach; the head coach, Brett Brown, is a defensive minded coach. If they blend their “basketball gestalt”, they might make the Sixers into a real team. Remember, a team with a 1-26 record projects to have a final NBA record of 3-79.

    The Sixers have played only 14 home games so far this year and have been on the road for 23 games. That means they have a preponderance of home games left on their schedule. They have not been fearsome at home with a 2-12 record but that is surely better than their road record of 2-21…

I am sure you remember Stephon Marbury and some of his antics in his NBA career. Marbury has been playing in China for the last several years and according to this report, a museum dedicated to him opened in Beijing late last month. He already has a statue in that city and is pictured on a Chinese postage stamp. Let me just say that he has obviously found his milieu in the Far East…

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this retrospective on 2015 in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Looking back: Because we’re accustomed to media losing perspective about everything, it wasn’t surprising that in 2015 the relentless fallout over the alleged PSI of a few Patriots footballs created far more outrage than the conviction of New England tight end Aaron Hernandez for the very real crime of first-degree murder.”

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

NFL Housecleanings … ?

We are at the point in the NFL season where speculation heats up with regard to coaches who are likely to be replaced in the upcoming off-season. To be sure, those sorts of discussions have begun but there seem to be other sorts of musings this year in addition to coaches on the hot seat. This year, there are reports/fantasies regarding NFL owners who are going to “clean house” in the front office or at least make significant changes in that part of their organization. Here is a sampling of what I have been reading/hearing and some of my thoughts on those musings.

In the AFC:

    Browns: Jimmy Haslem bought the team in 2012. In 3 seasons he has had 2 head coaches and the current head coach is not on the firmest ground you can imagine. He has also gotten rid of 1 Team President and 2 GMs since buying the team. Reports say he might be ready for another shake-up. Why not? The current regime is not exactly setting the world on fire. On the other hand, this sort of turmoil and instability cannot be attractive to the top-shelf candidates in the coaching/exec world. As miserable as this season has been, it might behoove Haslem to leave things alone – if he can.

    Titans: The coach is already gone and the interim replacement has not distinguished himself. Reports that ownership may be looking to sell the team is not particularly attractive but there are persistent reports that Peyton Manning and Bill Polian might be looking to join forces to run a football operation together and that Polian has his eye on Tennessee – where Peyton Manning happened to go to college. Polian is in the Hall of Fame as an exec; Manning surely knows something about the game. The current roster needs an overhaul and the Titans will have a top pick this year after grabbing their supposed franchise QB last year. This could be an interesting job situation.

    Colts: Given Jim Irsay’s comments about the team and the coach before and during the season, I doubt Chuck Pagano will be back unless the Colts win the Super Bowl – which they will not. The problem with the Colts job is the mirror-image of the problem with the Browns’ job. The Browns have instability; the Colts have stability – but that stability is named Jim Irsay. These jobs seem to me to be a “pick your poison situation”. Reports are that Irsay wants to trade draft picks to get Sean Payton as the coach; if that happens, you may be sure that Payton will demand to come with his own hand-picked GM or to be the coach/GM himself. Remember, Irsay is the guy who fired Bill Polian…

    Bills: The team is a mess and they are playing worse as the season wears on. Rex Ryan is still the new kid on the block so I guess he is safe but the roster is simply not strong enough or balanced enough to be a playoff team. If there are any changes in store here, I would look for the GM to take the fall.

    Dolphins: They have fired the coach and some coordinators and the team is still mediocre on its best days. Owner Stephen Ross is impulsive and is one given to “splashy hires”. If the Saints are serious about letting Sean Payton walk in exchange for draft picks, it would not be surprising to see the Dolphins in the midst of the bidding. On the other hand, Payton might look at the roster and wonder what he is supposed to do with it if he does not have draft picks… The head of football operations is Mike Tannenbaum who used to be the Jets’ GM and he is new enough that he might survive a purge, but the GM himself…??? The key question here might be, how do Mike Tannenbaum and Sean Payton get along?

    Chargers: With the team nominally poised to move to LA, they will need to kickstart interest in a team with a 4-10 record as of this morning. After two seasons with 9-7 records, the Chargers fell way short of expectations this year. However, they gave the GM, Tom Telesco, a 3-year contract extension back in the Spring of 2015 so it will cost them money to move him out. The coach, Mike McCoy, on the other hand…

In the NFC:

    Lions: You can always count on the Lions to do something off-center. This year they have fired their GM and other front office folks and their offensive coordinator and – – you get the idea. The guy they retained is head coach, Jim Caldwell. Given how poorly the Lions have played – after winning 11 games and making the playoffs last year – Caldwell’s presence means one of two things:

      He will be fired within 48 hours of the Lions’ final game – or –
      He will be the Lions’ coach for life.

    My money is on the former putting the Lions in the position of replacing just about everyone from the ticket sales manager on up. Former GM Ernie Accorsi has been hired by the Lions to consult with them as they look for a new GM but at age 75, Accorsi is probably not interested in doing the job himself.

    Niners: They are in medias res with regard to changing the management structure. It began with last year’s power struggle wherein Jim Harbaugh “opted to leave” and take the job at Michigan. The new folks in charge could not land a top-shelf coaching candidate and handed the job to Jim Tomsula who had never been a coordinator. Tomsula is a nice guy by every report but is also someone considered to be significantly over his head in his job. Now, if the Niners fire Tomsula after only one year, what sort of message might that send to front office and coaching candidates? The problem in SF is squarely one of ownership.

    Rams: This has been a disappointing season for the Rams and various rumors have owner Stan Kroenke starting over from scratch. I do not think that is likely to happen because I think Kroenke has much bigger issues to take up his time and attention than the coach and GM for his football team. According to reports, Rams’ GM, Les Snead’s contract is over at the end of this year, so if Kroenke wants to make a change, that makes it relatively easy. I believe that Fisher has one more year to go on his contract and that it would take something slightly north of $7M to buy him out.

    Falcons: There are plenty of reports that Arthur Blank is poised to make sweeping changes in the football organization. Remember, Coach Dan Quinn only arrived on the scene last February and he signed a 5-year deal which also gives him control over the 53-man roster for the team. “Sweeping changes” would likely have to include getting rid of the relatively new coach and paying off 4 years out of a 5-year deal is not going to sit well with any owner no matter how much his net worth might be.

    Giants: Ownership cannot be happy with the way this season has unfolded given that the Giants are in the hugely mediocre NFC East and are sitting in 3rd place in that pile of mediocrity as of this morning. The roster has a couple of star players and a bunch of journeymen; the coach has two Super Bowl wins on his ledger in the past 8 seasons. Tom Coughlin will be 70 years old when the NFL season starts next year; he may choose to retire but if he chooses not to retire, it might be a tough call for the owners to fire him. Ergo, if they feel they have to make changes, it might be only in the front office where change is easily accomplished.

    Eagles: Chip Kelly now does it all in Philly and while it is still possible for the Eagles to make the playoffs, the season has to be considered “unsatisfactory”. A large – and very vocal – segment of the Eagles’ fanbase would welcome Kelly’s departure from either or both jobs that he now holds down. In fact, some would be more than willing to provide transportation for him and his family to the airport. I do not see Jeffrey Lurie firing Coach Kelly; I doubt he will fire GM Kelly, but if he feels he has to make a change, it will be in the GM position.

As mentioned a couple of times above, the New Orleans Saints are a wildcard in all of this because they might be willing to “trade” coach Sean Payton at the end of this year. I think several of the teams mentioned here could be interested in acquiring Payton but there is another team that could be “in the mix”. The Dallas Cowboys might lust after Payton; Jerry Jones has praised him publicly in the past and the Cowboys hardly performed well on the field this year. However, one thing is for certain; Jerry Jones is not going to fire the Cowboys’ GM because the Cowboys’ GM is the same Jerry Jones who owns the team. So, if the Cowboys are seriously part of the expected “Sean Payton Sweepstakes”, it will be a simple coaching transaction and Payton will have to accept the GM in place – who is actually the GM for life.

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

College Football Bowl Games

A whole bunch of the college football bowl games have already happened. I have not been glued to my TV set for fear of missing some important event for most of the games. I did watch most of the Utah/BYU game because of the rivalry angle involved and what looked like a blowout early – 35-0 in the first half – turned out to be a 35-28 game with some excitement at the end. I do not want to harp on the fact that there are too many bowl games; you already know my position on that. Rather I want to talk about some of the economics of bowl games as they apply to the schools involved.

When schools accept bowl invitations, one of the strings attached to the invitation is that each bowl game will require the schools to sell an allotment of tickets to the game. If they do not meet the allotment, the school then owes the bowl committee the value of the unsold tickets. That is one of the reasons that I check in on many of the bowl games for enough time to get a couple of broad crowd shots on my TV. I want to see how full the stands are and – if possible – how big the cheering sections for both schools may be.

As you may expect, schools in the “prestigious bowl games” – and the ones played on “advantageous dates” – tend to sell out their ticket allotments entirely. For example, Michigan State announced that it has already sold out its allotment of 13,000 tickets for the Cotton Bowl game against Alabama on 31 December. In fact, Michigan State said that it had more than 16,000 requests for tickets and could easily have sold more. The Athletic Department at Michigan State has some sort of relationship with Stub Hub in the ticket reselling business and is directing alumni and other fans to Stub Hub to acquire tickets for the Cotton Bowl game.

Michigan State was in the Cotton Bowl last year playing Baylor but did not sell out its allotment for that game. This year, the Cotton Bowl is a stepping stone to the CFP Championship Game; last year it was merely a bowl game against Baylor. That should give you an indication that fan interest in bowl games – even ones with a long history – is marginal.

At the other end of the spectrum, consider the plight of Washington State as they prepare for the Sun Bowl game against Miami in El Paso, TX on 26 December. Washington State’s allotment is 6,000 tickets and based on a report late last week, they had only sold 1,900 of them. Let me try to figure out why:

    El Paso is a couple thousand miles from Pullman WA. Attending the game is going to cost a lot more than the cost of the tickets plus parking.

    The game is the day after Christmas. Fans will either spend Christmas away from home or will have to make a long journey with flight connections on game day.

    Miami is not a “big rivalry game”.

    El Paso is not exactly a tourist mecca or a “destination city”.

Washington State is probably going to eat the cost of at least half of their ticket allotment in addition to whatever costs it incurs in shipping the team and the coaching staff and the band and the cheerleaders to the venue; it is part of the cost of doing business in college football.

I am not picking on Washington State; their situation is mirrored at loads of other schools who are playing in games at inconvenient times against opponents with little meaning to their fans in inconvenient places at inconvenient times. So, why do teams accept bids to play in these minor bowl games in the first place? The reason is that coaches love them for the following reason:

    Teams not in bowl games had their last practices in late November or the first week of December. Teams in bowl games get to practice up until the time of the game. That gives “bowl teams” an extra 2 – 4 weeks of practice before the players show up for spring practices when the weather is nicer.

    Coaches love the extra practice time that non-bowl teams are not allowed to have.

That is correct; the college football system is set up to take the better teams this year – the ones nominally at or over .500 – and give them a greater advantage over the teams that were not-so-good this year. It is sort of the NFL Draft system with the logic inverted; it would be as if the team that won the Super Bowl would get the overall #1 pick…

The whole business of getting fans to travel long distances over the Holidays to go and see a meaningless football game is going on in the face of data saying that overall attendance at college football games is in decline. According to a report at, average attendance at a college football game this year was 43,288 fans. That is down from last year; it continues a slow 5-year decline and it is down 7% from the peak average attendance of 45,456 in 2008.

The “major conferences” were well above this average but the “minor conferences were not. To fill all of the minor bowl games, they need lots of schools from the “minor conferences” where fans do not show up when the games are conveniently on campus. In 2015, 29 schools had average attendance at home games below 20,000 fans.

    10 schools in the MAC were under 20,000; 5 averaged less than 15,000; 2 MAC schools averaged less than 8,000 fans per game.

    7 schools in the Sun Belt were under 20,000; 3 averaged less than 15,000 fans per game.

      [Aside: Idaho is in the Sun Belt Conference. Do they teach geography at Idaho?]

    6 schools in Conference USA were under 20,000; 2 averaged less than 15,000 fans per game.

    3 schools in the Mountain West were under 20,000 fans per game.

I understand that watching many of these teams play football is a lot more comfortable when done on TV. I also understand that football is not a big tradition at many of these schools. Nonetheless, it does point out that it is not going to be easy to get fans from those schools to undertake the expense and the inconvenience of Holiday travel just to see another football game that might well be ignored if it were played across the street.

Finally, there are these facts from one of the 2015 college bowl games that is already in the books:

    San José St (average attendance 15,312) beat Georgia St (average attendance 10,347) 27-16 in the Cure Bowl game held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL.

    With that win, San José St. ended its season with a record of 6-7.

    With that loss, Georgia St. ended its season with a record of 6-7.

    The Citrus Bowl seats 70,000 fans; the announced attendance for the game was 18,000 souls. Even with that obviously inflated report of the attendance, the Citrus Bowl was 75% empty.

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

The Dark Side Of Money And Sports…

In the Super Bowl of corruption, the two favorites are always the IOC and FIFA. Because of recent headlines, FIFA is the current favorite in that despicable contest. This morning there are reports that “the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee” – let the fact of the existence of such a body wash over you for just a moment here – had issued 8-year bans from any and all soccer related activities to Sepp Blatter and Michael Platini. Blatter was the guy who ran FIFA for the last umpty-squat years; Platini was the guy in charge of UEFA – the Union of European Football Associations. Adding just a pinch of irony here, Platini and Blatter were rivals in the soccer world; in the last FIFA election, Platini was one of the people who campaigned against Blatter citing the bad reputation FIFA had with Blatter in the driver’s seat. Now, both of them will be “off the pitch” so to speak. Platini was also one of the candidates angling to replace Blatter in the new FIFA election that will happen next year to replace Blatter after Blatter resigned several months ago.

This matter stems from an investigation that has roots in the Swiss Attorney General’s office and in the US Department of Justice. One of the matters at hand is an alleged “disloyal payment” involving millions of dollars made by FIFA to Platini for services nominally rendered by Platini about 15 years ago. The Swiss Attorney General alleges that Blatter knew of said “disloyal payment”. The FIFA Ethics Committee dusted off the FIFA Code of Ethics and discovered that there are sections within said Code dealing with Bribery and Corruption. To the surprise of many folks, those sections of the Code actually had negative things to say about bribery and corruption. Blatter and Platini were obviously surprised to learn of the negative aspects of the Code of Ethics with regard to bribery and corruption.

    Blatter is 87 years old. He has the right to appeal his banishment but let me assume for a moment that he chooses not to do that or that the ban is upheld. An 8-year ban for him is a lifetime ban for all practical purposes.

    Platini is 60 years old. He too can appeal this ruling. In any event, he will be able to return to the sport in whatever capacity he might carve out for himself at age 68. We may not have heard the last from or about him.

I mentioned above that the US Department of Justice was involved in an investigation of FIFA regarding an alleged bribe paid to FIFA of $100M by a now-defunct sports marketing organization called ISL. According to reports, a former FIFA official/employee/whistleblower/whatever told the FBI about the payment itself and that Blatter specifically knew of the payment/bribe.

We will rehash some if not much of this matter down the line when/if either Blatter or Platini appeals this banishment and/or when FIFA holds is new elections for a new major domo early in 2016. Until then, recall that the alleged bribes and payments involved in these investigations involve millions of dollars to Platini and $100M to FIFA and then consider that the Ethics Committee also fined these men the following amounts:

    Blatter was fined $50,000
    Platini was fined $80,000.

Those seem like an awfully small “cost of doing business” to me…

Dwight Perry had this comment in a recent column in the Seattle Times:

“Swiss government agents swept into a Zurich luxury hotel and hauled off 16 more FIFA officials on corruption charges.

“In lieu of arrest warrants, the feds stormed in holding up red cards.”

Let me switch gears here and talk about another sports-related situation involving money, a court proceeding and a former athlete. Clinton Portis was a running back for the Broncos and the Skins over a 9-year period. According to reports, he made over $40M in his career and he is now in bankruptcy court. Those proceedings reveal some details of his personal financial situation that would normally be hidden from sight and those details are strange indeed.

He owes creditors a tad over $4.8M; his income now consists of $3500 a month from the NFL in disability payments plus $1000 a month as a sideline reporter for Skins’ games on local broadcasts. That comes to $54K per year; even if every dime of that income went to pay the creditors, it would take almost 90 years to cover the debt – at 0% interest. That is not the strange aspect of this situation; bankruptcy always involves a huge imbalance of debts to assets. What is unusual in this case is the nature of the debts; this is a partial list:

    Portis owes a bit over $400K in domestic support payments to 4 different women.

    He owes about $400K in back taxes.

    He owes $1.2M in “mortgage deficiencies”.

    He owes $170K to the Borgata in Atlantic City

    He owes $287K to MGM Grand

    He owes $500K to a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight and CNN.

    He owes $500K to his mother.

The first five entries above are surprising in the sense that they are awfully large amounts of money in those “debt categories”; the last two entries above are simply unusual. As part of this filing there is another strange assertion for the court. Portis claims to have lost – and is trying to recover – $8M from a company that took his money and invested it in a casino venture that went belly-up. I know nothing about the details of that “investment” or anything about the company or the nature of the relationship between Portis and that company. Here is what I do know:

    It is really difficult to go broke running a casino.

Finally, sticking with matters involving sports and money, here is a comment from bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Loose change: Just in case Nick Saban’s $6.9 million yearly salary from Alabama isn’t enough to, you know, tide him over, he receives a $125,000 bonus for capturing the SEC title.”

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

Not Coachspeak – Coach-Misspeak…

Yesterday, I said that I did not know enough about what happened in the reported Aroldis Chapman domestic violence event and I would defer judgment/comment on it until I knew more. Washington Nationals’ manager, Dusty Baker, did not defer comment and many folks considered his defense of Chapman insensitive at best and atavistic at worst. The brouhaha over those comments seems to have allowed another of Baker’s recent utterings to slide gently off into the world ether with much less commentary than I think it deserves.

These words have been attributed to Dusty Baker. I did not hear him say them but I have also heard no denials from him or the Nats regarding them.

“I think the No. 1 thing that’s missing in the game is speed. You know, with the need for minorities, you can help yourself — you’ve got a better chance of getting some speed with Latin and African-Americans. I’m not being racist. That’s just how it is.”

If I take those words as presented here on the page, I agree that “speed” is not a dominant element of baseball in 2015 and adding speed to a team a plus. I also agree that – on average – a scout is more likely to identify a speedy player when he is scouting Latin or African-American players then when he scouting Asian or Caucasian players. Indeed, that is not racist; that is just how it is…

Having said that, if you read Baker’s remarks and recall the words of Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder, you may find a small parallel. What Snyder said was that Blacks “were bred” to be better athletes than Whites. Granted, Snyder’s use of “bred” reduces Blacks to the category of animals at worst or chattel property at best, but if you are talking about “speed” as an athletic attribute, what Snyder said was pretty much the same thing Baker said.

Now compare the reaction of the people in the media who reported both sets of remarks. Snyder was excoriated and even with an apology he was fired by CBS – or maybe it was NBC, I really do not recall. In the words of George Orwell’s 1984, Snyder was made into an unperson.

In no way am I defending what Snyder said. However, in no way can I accept what Dusty Baker just said as a mere slip of the tongue. Snyder was hired by one of the networks as a commentator, a person who was supposed to communicate with the public using words. His misuse of words was a firing offense. Baker is hired by a baseball team to help the team win games; he is not paid to be an orator or a communicator. Therefore, his words should not be even close to a firing offense. However, his words should bring him a healthy serving of public opprobrium and that has not yet been delivered.

While on the subject of managers/coaches whose public utterances may be just a tad off center, let me focus on recent comments by José Mourinho, the coach/manager of Chelsea in the English Premier League. Chelsea is not doing well at all this year; as of this morning, they stand 16th (out of 20 teams) in the EPL Table and they are exactly one point above the “relegation line”. Granted, the season is only near the halfway point, but this is indeed an unusual position for the Chelsea squad. Just last year, Chelsea finished 3rd in the EPL and only allowed 27 goals in 38 league games. This year, they have already allowed 26 goals in 16 games.

As you may imagine, the Chelsea fans and the football commentators are not pleased with Chelsea’s performance this year and as happens here too, much of the criticism is focused on Mourinho as the manager/coach. In the US, one might expect a coach under serious scrutiny and having this kind of a season to resort to coachspeak about working harder and correcting the “little things” that have been going wrong and etc. Not José Mourinho:

“One of my best qualities is to read the game for my players and I feel like my work was betrayed. I think [Leicester City] deserved to win because they were better than us during a long period of time. We conceded two goals that were unacceptable.”

And …

“All last season I did phenomenal work and brought [the Chelsea players] to a level that is not their level and more than they really are.”

The argot of the times would say that Mourinho just threw the entire Chelsea roster under the bus. Actually, if I look at what other coaches have said where those words were defined as “throwing someone under the bus”, I would characterize Mourinho’s remarks as “throwing the team under the bus, circling the bus around and running over their bodies a few more times and then pissing all over the huddled mass on the pavement”. This almost makes Stalin’s scorched earth policy seem humane.

I will not pretend to know how effective José Mourinho is/has been as a football manager/coach for his career. In US football terms, I am confident that he is somewhere on the spectrum between Vince Lombardi and Richie Kotite. In terms of being a coach who creates a warm and fuzzy environment in the locker room, I think I am on safe ground suggesting that he either has a lot to learn or that he just does not care about said warm and fuzzy environment.

For the next item, I need to set the stage for a moment. A maiden filly named Ruby Queen was supposed to run in a race at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Ohio; her form must have been awful because she went off in a race for fillies and mares at 110-1. Accidentally, the horse that entered the starting gate and ran in the race and blew away the field was a male horse named Leathers Slappin. Here are two paragraphs from the AP report on how this happened:

“An investigation found that a stable worker went into the wrong stall on Nov. 4 and brought out a male horse named Leathers Slappin instead of Ruby Queen, who was in a neighboring stall, said William Crawford, executive director of the Ohio State Racing Commission.

“A track employee, known as an identifier, then failed to properly check the horse before what was supposed to be an all-female race, he said. The identifier’s job is to verify each horse by looking at the numbers on its lip tattoo.”

I understand that “process” is important and that the identifier here may not have been nearly as alert as one might have expected. However, may I suggest ever so gently that there might have been yet another way to determine that the animal he was “identifying” was not a female of the species…?

Finally, here is another horse racing item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“American Pharoah will command a $200,000 stud fee and, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, could easily do 200 bookings in five months.

“Pass the Neighagra.”

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