Not The “Parent Of The Year” …

I do not expect to win any votes in the “2016 Parent of the Year Contest” with this remark:

    I have heard more than I want to hear about Drake LaRoche. The next thing I want to hear about him is that he graduated from high school as the class valedictorian and is weighing his options with regard to college or the MLB draft. Until then, can everyone please stop.

My tipping point came this morning when I read a column in the Washington Post by someone who can turn any report of any incident into a “women’s issue”. She spent about 800 words today saying that a woman could not get away with taking her daughter to her job every day the way Adam LaRoche evidently did and wanted to continue to do. Puh-leeez..!

I will not be the least bit surprised to hear this subject brought up in a future “debate” among Presidential candidates. Do not tell me it cannot happen; in the past, one of the “interrogators” asked about fantasy football.

This entire kerfuffle has nothing to do with “rights” nor does it have anything to do with the typical workplace except in the following sense:

    Each employer sets rules with regard to what will and what will not be allowed in the workplace the employer establishes. The limits on those rules are set to assure than no one’s fundamental rights are violated.

    If there is a “right” to have one’s child present in the workplace whenever the parent wishes to have said child there, I missed that phraseology in Article Whatever of the US Constitution.

Enough already… Adam LaRoche had a choice. He could play for the Chicago White Sox and earn a reported $13M this year but he would not be allowed to have his son, Drake, in the clubhouse whenever it was convenient for the LaRoche family. He chose not to play for the team because of the limitations placed on his son’s access to the clubhouse. He made his choice which is what adults do in situations such as this. So, leave it alone.

I have said more than a few times that coverage of Spring Training is generally a wasteland where there are not enough news events to justify six weeks of coverage of 30 MLB teams. In my opinion, the “Drake LaRoche Saga” is one more piece of evidence to support my assertions.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Drew Rosenhaus was the new agent for Johnny Manziel. Well, in typical agent fashion, Rosenhaus let it be known that there are teams (in the plural) who are interested in signing Manziel but he will not be elaborating on that just yet because the rest of Manziel’s life is so public that Rosenhaus wants to handle these negotiations in private. Sounds good – – except if you want to keep it all private, why did you drop that little tidbit in the first place?

I suspect that Manziel will indeed get another chance with an NFL team other than the Browns. He showed ability in college and talent trumps just about anything else in the NFL world. I also suspect that teams will be very reticent to sign him absent some actions on Manziel’s part to demonstrate that he has a degree of commitment to sobriety and to learning the craft of being an NFL QB. And therein lies an interesting contradiction:

    Anyone’s commitment to sobriety is a personal and private matter; that is why they call it “Alcoholics Anonymous”. If Johnny Manziel has made/is making/ever makes a commitment to sobriety, that should not be something that makes headlines nor should it be something posted online at one of the “Gotcha Websites”.

    Unfortunately for him, Johnny Manziel’s behaviors in the past related to a seeming lack of commitment to sobriety have been so public and so self-destructive that any change in that behavior will raise questions that go directly to any real or imagined commitment to sobriety.

I will not pretend to bring any expertise to the party here with regard to what sort of help Manziel may need to change the perception that fans and NFL coaches/execs have of him. I do believe that to change those perceptions, he will need to change at least some of his behaviors meaning that if he has a future as an NFL QB, he will have to find a way to alter his lifestyle. And that could bring us to the famous chicken/egg conundrum:

    Might a team sign Manziel with contract incentives tied to behavior changes prior to his participating in some kind of commitment to sobriety?

    Might a team demand that he makes such a commitment, seek help in finding ways to implement that commitment and then sign him to an incentive laden contract?

I believe that NFL agents get a 3% fee from their clients for the contracts negotiated and various services associated with that representation. If that is the case, I think that Drew Rosenhaus will earn every last penny of his fee in this matter.

Finally, this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot explains clearly the difference between “following the letter of the law” and “following the spirit of the law”. It really needs no further explanation:

“Officiousness: Wednesday night’s game between the Celtics and Grizzlies was held up for about a minute as officials went to the scorer’s table with 1.5 seconds left to look at a replay before adding 1/10th of a second to the clock. Why mention this? Because the Celts were leading by 20 points.”

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

Just A Bunch Of Stuff Today…

Well, I survived the orgy of 48 Tournament games in 4 days. Now, all I have to do is to re-introduce myself to my long-suffering wife who may or may not have been here for most of the past 4 days. I have a spotting to report. I was almost certain this “species” had gone extinct but on Friday it showed up and proved that it does indeed live in the dark shadows of the basketball world:

    In the VCU/Oregon St. game, I saw the officials call a 3-second violation. Seriously. My jaw dropped when I saw the official give the “lane-violation signal”.

    Later on the same day in the Texas/Northern Iowa game, there were two 3-second violations called on back to back possessions.

    I felt the way Dr. Frankenstein may have felt; I wanted to scream out, “It is alive! The 3-second violation is alive!”

Who knows? If indeed the 3-second violation percolated to the front of the minds of the game officials, perhaps we might have a sighting of a palming the ball violation sometime before this Tournament is over.

There were plenty of exciting moments over the weekend, but from here in Curmudgeon Central I feel obligated to mention the unquestionably ugliest game of the Tournament so far. The final score was Wisconsin 47 and Pitt 43. Would that I could say this was a battle between defensive titans. Actually, it was a combination of good-but-not-great defense and impossibly inept offense. Nigel Hayes is a good player for Wisconsin; he shot 3-17 from the floor. James Robinson is a good player for Pitt; he shot 3-15 from the floor. Truly an UGLY game…

After Yale beat Baylor to give the Elis their first Tournament win ever, Brad Dickson had this observation in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Yale outrebounded Baylor. So the flubber worked.”

The folks who run the PAC-12 schools have taken a step in a positive direction for collegiate athletics. They just passed a PAC-12 rule that will ban from any athletic team a transfer student who is ineligible to be re-admitted to the college from which he transferred for reasons of “misconduct”. What this means is that athletes who are dismissed from one school for reasons of anti-social behaviors will not be going to PAC-12 schools to continue their athletic careers. One of the enforcement mechanisms for that rule will be that such students are ineligible for athletic scholarships from PAC-12 schools. Here are more details on this new rule.

This is not a panacea for all that ails college (revenue) sports but it sure is a step in the right direction. So, that leads me to ask:

    How come the overlords at the NCAA in Indianapolis did not think of this?

    Just what is it that those folks do for a living?

Based on reports from last week, we have the potential for some juicy news tidbits over the next several months. You may recall that when Johnny Manziel was detained on charges related to domestic violence about 6 weeks ago, his agent dumped him. Now the Browns have also dumped him meaning that Manziel needs an agent to get him a contract with another team – particularly if he hopes to maintain his free-wheeling lifestyle. In what would seem to be a marriage made in Heaven for commentators, “Johnny Highball” – his new identity now that “Johnny Football” is off the table for the moment – has signed on with Drew Rosenhaus.

To be sure, not each of the 100 or so Rosenhaus clients is a “problem-child” but consider that Manziel will be joining these other players who may or may not have “issues”:

    Dez Bryant (current)
    Plaxico Burress (previous)
    Josh Gordon (current)
    Greg Hard (current)
    Chad Ochocinco (previous)
    Terrell Owens (previous)
    Warren Sapp (previous)
    Donte Stallworth (previous)

Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald over the weekend. I think it brings you up to date on a news story regarding the NFL from last week:

“Boca Raton hosts league meetings: A league executive, Jeff Miller, became first NFL official to acknowledge a direct link between football-related head trauma and brain disease. Meanwhile the NFL owners’ meetings are today through Wednesday in Boca.

Haven’t seen the complete agenda but I understand the main order of business is a resolution to make Jeff Miller shut up.”

Recently, Scott Ostler had a column in the SF Chronicle about the upcoming Rio Olympics and the lack of outrage over what has gone on there with regard to lack of preparation for the Games and with regard to the use of rather scarce public funds to make the Games look good on TV while averting eyes from the lack of infrastructure in Rio and in much of Brazil. As is almost always the case with Scott Ostler’s columns, this is something I suggest that you read in its entirety. You can find it here.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times saw a nexus between a political issue here in the DC area and the NFL:

“Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have proposed a plan to pay people not to commit crimes.

“’Good luck with that,’ said 32 NFL owners in unison.

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

Notes From Yesterday’s Games…

Here are some impressions/comments jotted down as I watched yesterday’s tournament games:

    UNC-Wilmington C, CJ Gettys went to same high school as Ben Roethlisberger. After seeing Ben for all these years, it is hard to imagine that he is not nearly the biggest guy to come out of that high school but Gettys is 6 inches taller and probably 30 pounds heavier.

    Duke’s defense was lethargic in the first half. They started the second half with animated defense and turned a 3-point deficit at halftime into a 10-point lead in about 6 minutes.

    Colorado/UConn was a sloppy game on offense and defense. Colorado C, Josh Scott is a big man with decent mobility and a very good interior passer.

    Butler/Texas Tech were not the best teams to play in the early time slot by a wide margin, but it was the best game to watch among those first four games.

    Iowa State is unimpressive but dominated Iona. Draw your own conclusions from that. Iona plays “AAU basketball” which is fine until you have to play someone who has a modicum of “team basketball skills”.

    Virginia simply outclassed Hampton. Same goes for Kansas and Austin Peay. Indiana looked like it was a scrimmage against Tennessee-Chattanooga. Once Kentucky decided to break a sweat, it was all over for Stony Brook.

    Yale/Baylor was a great game because it was a close game. Questions:

      Does Yale coach, James Jones ever smile? Does he ever get upset? Do you think his blood pressure ever goes above 105/60?

    When Arkansas-Little Rock finally beat Purdue in double-OT, that was the second #12-seed to win yesterday.

    Buffalo kept it close, but Miami was the better team.

    Wichita St. just kept grinding out plays to beat Arizona. The Shockers are tenacious on defense.

    Had only seen Utah once before yesterday and I was impressed. They toyed with Fresno State.

    Providence/USC was a great game. What more do you want than a game that goes down to the final 2 seconds before it is decided by one point with a layup?

    Gonzaga looked awfully good for an #11-seed. Domantas Sabonis – the son of Arvydas Sabonis proving that genetics works – was Dominant Sabonis here.

I have a few other notes from yesterday that do not speak directly to the games themselves. Yes, I did find a few “Bad Ads” that will receive mention in the annual “Bad Ads” compendium come December. In addition, here is one other observation from yesterday:

    We saw shots of players arriving at the arena wearing headphones. We saw shots of teams that were scheduled to play in the second game of a double header sitting in the stands watching part of the first game wearing headphones.

    Then it dawned on me… These student-athletes were listening to recorded lectures in Advanced Physical Chemistry or Macroeconomics in preparation for their mid-term exams back at school next Tuesday.

In women’s college basketball, there is a sordid mess ongoing in Florida. I will present here a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald that will likely give you more than you want to know about this:

“FIU: Panthers fire women’s basketball coach Marlin Chin. Let’s see here. An NCAA violation. Allegation of sexual misconduct with a player. And a 5-26 record. That would pretty much be the trifecta of how to get fired.”

Moving on to another topic, team sponsorships and promotional linkages do not always make sense to me. I plead ignorance when it comes to any sort of expertise or gut-feeling when it comes to marketing/promotional “stuff”. Having said that, this next one is unusual even for the world of marketing.

There is a German soccer club playing in the second level of the Bundesliga called Sportverein Sandhausen 1916 e.V. That is a mouthful even in Germany, so the team is simply referred to as Sandhausen and they have just entered into a sponsorship agreement with an enterprise in the nearby town of Heidelberg. The enterprise is Bienenstock Eros Center; you guessed it, it is a bordello.

Oh, but it is not just any run-of-the-mill cathouse… According to the Sandhausen folks, Bienenstock Eros Center is an “eco-brothel”. The building is a passive energy-conserving structure; smoking is forbidden in the brothel. A team representative stated definitively that players for Sandhausen would not receive discounts as a result of this sponsorship arrangement. He did not mention if that same discount ban applied to referees for Sandhausen home games…

Finally, here is another item from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“More than 24,000 runners were registered for Sunday’s Miami Marathon and Half Marathon won by Moroccan Benazzouz Slimani and New York’s Allison Kieffer. One entrant Larry Macon, 71, of San Antonio, competed in his 1,606th marathon. That’s 42,077 miles in a lifetime of running. Big deal. My car already has more than 7,000 miles and I’ve only had it six months.”

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

I Am Not “Deeply Troubled” Today…

First of all, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all – particularly the family contingent currently residing in Dublin, Ireland.

Second, congratulations to Michigan and Holy Cross as they won their “play-in” games to join the round of 64. If you are drawn to Cinderella stories, consider Holy Cross who is in the tournament with a sub-.500 record and who will need to make it to the Final Four to get their record up to .500. The first obstacle in the Crusaders’ way is #1 seed Oregon tomorrow…

Now, there was a disheartening report yesterday regarding Arnold Palmer. It seems that he will indeed be attending the Masters next month meaning he has been at Augusta National for the tournament every year since 1954. Palmer cited a shoulder injury that will prevent him from joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in the opening tee shot ceremony. I know there have been a bunch of golf tournaments already in 2016 but the fact is that the Golf Season really begins with The Masters. Palmer is 86 years old; there is a sort of majesty associated with the three great golfers walking to the first tee and hitting drives down the fairway to start the tournament and the season. This year, it will only be two-thirds as majestic as it was last year. Here’s hoping Palmer’s shoulder injury will heal sufficiently to let him join his colleagues on the first tee in 2017.

Back in the days of the NFL Combine, there was a report that one of the members of the coaching staff of the Atlanta Falcons asked one of the players there in an interview if the player was gay – or some question to that effect. The team disavowed the question and the player did not get himself into high dudgeon and the story went away. Personally, I filed it in the corner of my brain where I keep examples of people saying stupid things.

    [Aside: In the past, I had opportunities to give presentations to people with regard to my professional endeavors. At the end, I would invite questions by saying, “There are no stupid questions; there are only stupid answers. Ask what you want…”

    Based on the report of this interview, I may have to amend the premise of my invitation. There may, in fact, be stupid questions…]

In any event, the story went away … until yesterday. It seems that the Attorney General of New York – remember, the coach works for the Atlanta Falcons and the question was asked in Indianapolis – announced that he was “deeply troubled” by the incident and that he was going to ask some questions of his own. Please note, that the NFL Combine closed its doors on 29 February; it is more than two weeks since the stupid question was asked, answered, announced and forgotten. Personally, I think that is a significant measure of the “depth” of the troublesome feelings that the Attorney General may or may not have on this subject.

Look, I understand the impropriety and the illegality of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. If you read the two previous paragraphs, it should be clear that I do not think the assistant coach was in the right by asking what he did. Nonetheless, this smacks of a grandstand play of the highest order by the Attorney General.

As a result of his ”deeply troubled” state, he has asked the NFL to examine its hiring practices and cites as the basis for his intervention in the matter the fact that the NFL Headquarters is at 345 Park Ave in Manhattan. I will leave it to the lawyers who read these rants to explain the reasoning that is asserted there because I think it is a stretch worthy of Reed Richards of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four.

Imagine for a moment that the Jacksonville Jaguars fired a game-day parking lot attendant and that the attendant claimed that the basis for his termination was his sexual orientation. Would that be something sufficiently “deeply troubling” to the Attorney General of New York to get involved in some sort of dialog with the suits on NFL’s Mahogany Row about the league’s hiring practices? If so, the Attorney General of New York must simultaneously be able to assert that serious criminal wrongdoings have been rendered extinct in the State of New York and that is why he is inserting himself into such a matter.

Roger Goodell has shot himself in the foot – and perhaps in even more sensitive portions of his anatomy – with his handling of investigations into alleged misdeeds by players and coaches and equipment managers and etc. Despite his singular ineptitude in that arena over the past several years, he is not responsible nor should he be accountable for the stupidity of each and every person who is employed by the NFL. Similarly, the Attorney General of New York should not be held accountable for every mistake or blunder committed by someone working in that orbit of the State Government. If a mass murderer goes free because someone mishandled the critical evidence that would have put the mass murderer in jail forever-and-a-day, that is not the fault of the Attorney General and he should not be responsible for that result.

What the assistant coach did was inexcusable; it may in fact be illegal. But it did not happen in New York; the coach’s immediate employer is not in New York; the player who received the question is not a resident of New York. If the Attorney General is genuinely “deeply troubled”, I can see him contacting his counterparts in Indiana or Georgia or possibly a US Attorney in one of those areas since there may be Federal laws that apply here. Those contacts and expressions of his “deeply troubled” state of mind can easily and effectively be done quietly and privately. As opposed to…

Since I mentioned the Combine and the concept of being “deeply troubled” above, I want to make an observation about some of the hyperventilating coverage that event draws. Every year, there is a report – or multiple reports – where the writer cites a conversation with an unnamed “NFL scout” or “NFL personnel people” who the writer says were “deeply troubled” by the 40-yard dash time registered by some offensive or defensive lineman. Every time I read such a report, I wonder what the problem might be. Perhaps, the “NFL scout” in question here harbored some idea that his team might draft this lineman and use him also as a kick returner – but the slow time in the 40 would mean the special teams coach would not go along with that.

The NFL Combine is an unending source of irrelevant stories; it ranks second in NFL events in that category right behind Super Bowl Media Day. Sadly, this year’s Combine provided a story that lingers two weeks after the event – as if we did not have enough while it was ongoing.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding another sports story of minimal lasting importance:

“Nebraska hosted its first beach volleyball game. The World-Herald assigned its beach volleyball expert. It’s a guy who’s seen the movie ‘Blue Lagoon’ nine times.”

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

Law And Order…

Before launching into today’s rant, let me offer a welcome to Wichita St and Florida Gulf Coast as they make it into the Field of 64 for March Madness. The bar for success for these teams has been set rather high. VCU was a play-in winner and made it to the Final Four. Good luck to both schools…

Reports yesterday said that the NFL and the NFLPA were talking about changing the role of Roger Goodell when it comes to discipline. Goodell has said that he would welcome changes there and according to reports yesterday there may be some movement toward that end. Obviously, that has engendered discussion and I think this is an opportunity to stand back and look at this issue broadly.

Tony Kornheiser – with whom I agree more often than I disagree – said on Pardon the Interruption yesterday that “disciplinary functions” were part and parcel of being “Commissioner”. I think that was the case in the past but that it is no longer the case. The whole concept of a “Commissioner” came out of the Black Sox Scandal in 1919 and gave MLB Judge Landis as the “Overlord of the Sport”. In the early 1920s, that was probably a good idea because it was a necessary idea. Baseball was in a situation where the viability of the enterprise itself was in jeopardy; the sport – which was a business then just as much as it is a business today – needed a no-nonsense figure in charge of its rectitude. Judge Landis was then in a very different situation than Roger Goodell is today – or Rob Manfred or Adam Silver, or Gary Bettman is.

I believe the disciplinary function today needs to be seen as a two-part problem. Back in September 2014, I wrote that Roger Goodell was in a very difficult situation as the NFL’s de facto disciplinarian. Now that there is potentially serious consideration being given to making a change there, let me offer some broader perspective on the subject.

I will use Roger Goodell as my example here but I think that everything I suggest with regard to the NFL and the NFLPA would translate for the most part to the other sports. First, I would separate “Disciplinary Situations” into three categories:

    Discipline Category #1 – Existential Threats to the Sport: For this category, the Commissioner has to be the one to make the call. If a player or coach is found to be gambling on games that he participates in, that person has to be banned from the sport permanently; that has to be the Commissioner’s call. If an owner is found to be tampering with players on other teams, that owner needs to be disciplined; that has to be the Commissioner’s call – even though it means he will have to discipline one of his employers.

      Shades of Grey: What about a situation where someone does something that could well damage the sport – say reduce revenues by 30% – but would not “kill the sport”? I recognize there is a lot of wiggle-room here but I would tend to put this sort of necessary disciplinary judgment in the hands of the Commissioner also.

    Discipline Category #2 – On-field/In-game Discipline: For this category, I think the current system works satisfactorily because there have been a priori negotiations to frame the scope of the punishments handed down. However, if the idea is to look at the problem from afar to design a better mousetrap, “satisfactorily” is not good enough. Moreover, the current system which allows and justifies the situation whereby Roger Goodell hands down the disciplinary decision and then he is the unilateral arbiter of any appeal filed on behalf of the offending party is beyond tolerable. As I suggested back in September 2014, these decisions should be handed down by a small entity set up and funded jointly by the NFL and the NFLPA. That entity would not be “beholden” to either side; the people in charge would have to be acceptable to both sides; with nothing else to do, that entity can gather information and hand down decisions efficiently – and hopefully effectively too.

    Discipline Category #3 – Violations of Law/Anti-social behaviors: This is where it gets sticky… Let me use the infamous “Ray Rice Incident” as an example here. What Ray Rice did was inexcusably wrong under any circumstance short of self-defense where he was in fear for his life. I have no interest in “re-litigating” that event. However, what he did was not an “existential threat” to the NFL nor was it any sort of action that had any effect on the field of play. The judicial system of the United States is the place for punishment/exoneration to be determined and not the NFL or the NFLPA. The problem here is that such behavior does generate a negative image for the league and that does – potentially – affect the bottom line. Ergo… I would put this category in the basket of responsibilities of my suggested neutral entity – although I am sure that any people who might work there in the future would probably wish it were somewhere else.

So, how might disciplinary matters be handled in the future? Consider the sorts of common “infractions” and where they fall in my categories:

    Failing a PED test: That is Category #2. Players who use drugs previously determined to be PEDs are affecting on-field games. That means the Commissioner does not make the call here.

    Failing a “recreational drug” test: That is Category #3. Unless the failed drug test was administered – and analyzed – five minutes before kickoff of a game, this is a matter for law enforcement and not the league or the union. It does not affect the game on the field.

    After-the-fact “personal fouls”: That is Category #2. When the Commissioner fines a player $25,000 for a blow to the head – or in the case of Vontaze Burfict also adds a suspension on top of that – that should be handled by the neutral entity.

    DUI/Domestic violence/etc.: These are clearly Category #3. The challenge here is for the neutral entity to find ways to bring these matters to closure in a time-frame that is shorter than the one typically found in the judicial process. Whether or not one agrees with the lengthy suspension for Adrian Peterson, it would not have been a “good look” for the league to have him on the field for an entire season while the legal process made its way through the legal system. As I said above, this category can get very sticky and it will require serious negotiation by both the NFL and the NFLPA to come up with boundary conditions within which the neutral entity can operate in situations such as these.

The Framers of the US Constitution as a whole constituted a body of men with a degree of wisdom and foresight that would certainly be the equal of any group assembled to negotiate these changes. I mention that because even the Framers of the US Constitution recognized the need to be able to adapt to change in the future and included the mechanism to amend the Constitution. Likewise, if the NFL and the NFLPA come up with some version of what I call the “neutral entity” here, they also need to create ways to amend what it does and how it does the job. Since CBAs tend to be 5 years or more in duration, it is insufficient to say that the changes will come as part of those periodic negotiations. My suggestion would be for the three parties – the NFL, the NFLPA and the “neutral entity” to meet annually to consider changes in the processes and that any of the three parties should be free to offer suggested changes at such convocations.

Before I wrap up today, let me mention some significant discipline problems that are ongoing in another sport – tennis. It was not all that long ago when police in Europe charged gamblers with fixing tennis matches; one of the pros said proximal to the Australian Open that he had once been offered a hundred thousand dollars to tank a match; more recently, Maria Sharapova failed a drug test – for a PED – and said that what she was taking was under a doctor’s prescription and that she had been taking it for about the last 10 years.

    [Aside: If she had been taking it for 10 years before she failed a drug test, may I suggest that the tennis mavens change either the “randomness” of their sampling or the testing lab they employ…]

These incidents are “existential threats” to the sport. If tennis were anything more than a niche sport in the US, this would be a big deal as sponsors reacted to the barrage of bad news. This is not such a big deal in the news cycle simply because most people do not care enough about tennis at this time to do more than shrug their shoulders and turn the page to something more interesting to them.

The message for leagues, players and unions that represent players is that the bigger the sport gets economically, the more stringent the disciplinary boundaries need be drawn and the more severe the penalties for going over the boundary lines. The reason is simple; there is more at stake. If the NFL and the NFLPA find a way to break the logjam here and come up with some significantly different ways to investigate infractions and hand down discipline, it could be the model for every other major sport.

Finally, since I have been talking about the NFL and “disciplinary matters” today, here is an item from Gregg Drinnan recently in his blog, Keeping Score:

“The Cleveland Browns released quarterback Johnny Manziel last week, after just two seasons. Still, Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plain Dealer won’t refer to Manziel as the Edsel of NFL draft picks. As Shaw points out: ‘Let’s be fair. The Edsel lasted three years.’”

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

The NCAA Tournament And Names In The News

The 68-team field for the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is fixed. All that remains is to play the games – well, and for me to have my annual fun with the names of players participating in the tournament and the team mascots too. So, before we get started on that, let me get a few other peripheral notes out of the way:

    No team was snubbed by the Committee. Selection here is an art and not a science; therefore, there is no way to show that Team A (the one that got in) was unassailably less qualified for the Tournament than Team B (the nominal “snubee”)

    Seeding really does not matter all that much. If a team is going to win it all, it needs to win 6 straight games against whomever shows up as the opponent at tip-off time.

    Location does matter. The Committee needs to try to assure that teams do not play de facto home games in the Tournament and therefore have to ship some teams out to distant venues. Hey, if that is such a huge burden, all the team that has been “exiled” has to do is turn town the invitation. No one is forcing them to participate…

The NCAA likes to beat fans over the head with the message that NCAA student-athletes do so with no real hope of becoming professionals in their sport. The ads they run show lots of perky youngsters saying that they are “going pro” except they mean “in life” and not “in sports”. For the gymnastic teams and the badminton teams, I can buy that; for the “revenue sports”, not so much… Nevertheless, here are some players in this year’s Tournament whose name might indicate their focus in life and hence their major as the move toward graduation:

    Ron Baker, Sr. Wichita State – – Food Science
    Jabari Bird, Jr. Cal – – Ornithology of course
    Jalen Bond, Sr. Temple – – Finance
    Bennie Boatwright, Fr. USC – – Mechanical Engineering
    Alex Caruso, Sr. Texas A&M – – Music
    Lawrence Cooks Jr. Hampton – – he can open a restaurant with Ron Baker
    A.J. English, Sr. Iona – – nah, too easy
    Eric Green, Sr. Holy Cross – – Sports Management – golf
    Makai Mason So. Yale – – Structural Engineering
    Deondre Parks, Sr. South Dakota St. – – Agronomy
    Craig Ponder Sr. UNC-Wilmington – – Philosophy
    Ikenna Smart Fr. Buffalo – – he can major in anything he wants and be successful
    Diamond Stone, Fr. Maryland – – Geology
    Thomas Walkup Sr. Stephen F. Austin – – Real Estate Management
    Roger Woods, Sr. Arkansas-Little Rock – – Forestry

The Selection Committee gave us a Maryland/South Dakota St. game in the Round of 64. The mascots here are pretty close to matching the tortoise and the hare. The Selection Committee probably would have found a way to pair South Dakota University – if they were Tournament qualified – with Cal St. Bakersfield. That game would have been the Roadrunners versus the Coyotes…

We have several players with numbers following their names:

    Joel Berry II, So, UNC
    Gary Payton II, S. Oregon St.
    Frank Mason III, Jr. Kansas
    Wade Baldwin IV, So. Vandy

Surely many of the players with no numerical description after their names could rightly be considered “Joe Flabeetz I”. So all we needed was a “Sam Glotz V” to get a numerical lineup for the All-Tournament Numerical Suffix Starting Five…

Oh, and the All-Tournament Numerical Suffix Team should also include Edward Joyner, Jr. (Hampton) as its honorary coach.

Allow me to pause here to insert a comment on college basketball from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“North Carolina coach Roy Williams is fine after fainting during a game. Apparently, he passed out after hearing a Kentucky player planned to return for his sophomore season.”

The Tournament could name an All-Presidential Team:

    Jalen Adams, Fr. UConn
    Brice Johnson, Sr. UNC
    Shaquille Harrison, Sr. Tulsa
    Nigel Hayes, Jr. Wisconsin
    Justin Jackson, So. UNC

Oh, and do not forget that Austin Peay – the 16-seed in the South Bracket – is called The Governors. Governors like to try to become Presidents so maybe the All Presidential Team should get their awards on the campus of Austin Peay. Just a thought…

The Selection Committee gave us one game between Cats and Dogs in the first round. Villanova (Wildcats) take on UNC-Asheville (Bulldog)s in the South bracket.

It will not be easy for Seton Hall to play Hampton in the Midwest bracket. However, if they do meet, it will be the Pirates versus the Pirates – – Blackbeard versus Captain Kidd.

In the Midwest bracket, we could also see Texas Tech play Middle Tennessee. That would pit the Red Raiders against the Blue Raiders.

Stephen F. Austin starts both Trey Pinkney and Demetrious Floyd. Pinkney and Floyd. Hmmm.. Wonder if they ever thought of using Comfortably Numb as the background music for their practices?

Perhaps if Middle Tennessee does well, their coach might be hired on at a bigger school such as TCU. If that were to happen Kermit Davis would be coaching the Horned Frogs. How appropriate is that?

Iowa meets Temple in the first round in the South. Iowa’s coach is Fran McCaffrey; Temple’s coach is Fran Dunphy. Too bad the game is in Brooklyn and not in San Francisco.

Since the winner of too many office bracket pools is someone who would not know a basketball from quart of pus, here is a suggestion from Brad Dickson (Omaha World-Herald if you had forgotten) as a way to identify such people from the outset:

“Companies should keep Louisville in their NCAA tournament office brackets to weed out people who couldn’t identify a photo of a basketball but usually still win.”

Players who do very well in the tournament need to recognize that they might be putting themselves at risk by doing so. Think about it; the Philadelphia 76ers will have a high draft pick in this year’s NBA draft. Someone just might “play his way into Philly” with some outstanding play over the next few weeks. I shall consider the players properly and thoroughly briefed on this matter…

Look at the Midwest bracket that the Committee put together. It is just a tad overloaded with Bulldogs; Fresno State, Gonzaga and Butler are all among the low-seeds on that side of the bracket. Do you think that the NCAA is trying to get some sort of sponsor relationship started with the Westminster Dog Show?

Look at the West bracket that the Committee put together. This is the “Natural Rivalry” bracket with:

    Oregon and Oregon State
    Texas and Texas A&M and Baylor
    Texas and VCU (The Shaka Smart Confrontation)
    Duke and UNC-Wilmington
    Texas and Oklahoma
    Virginia and Hampton.

If the Committee had chosen Harvard as a second Ivy League school, I am pretty sure they would have been in the West bracket along with Yale.

In the South bracket, a game between Temple and South Dakota State would be a predator/prey game between Owls and Jackrabbits. In the same bracket, a game between Wichita St and Buffalo might be dubbed the Grain Bowl; Wichita St are the Shockers; Buffalo is coached by Nate Oats.

In the East bracket it is interesting to note that Stephen F. Austin (the Lumberjacks) is coached by Brad Underwood. Seems appropriate… Stony Brook is in the tournament for the first time. They are the Seawolves which is a bit confusing because wolves are not sea creatures. Once familiar with the tournament, perhaps Stony Brook will be back some day with a less confusing mascot.

The Selection Committee will swear that they make their decisions purely on the merits of the teams involved and are not influenced by outside factors – – such as TV ratings. Maybe so … However, consider the potential 2nd round matchups they put together:

    Kentucky could play Indiana – no rivalry history there
    Villanova could play Temple – two Big 5 teams from Philly
    Texas could play Texas A&M – no rivalry there.

In the East, the early round game to watch is West Virginia versus Stephen F. Austin. The Mountaineers might just go on to play in the East Regional final game; the Mountaineers might just lose this first round game to the #14 seed in the East.

In the South, the early round game to watch is Cal versus Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors have no household names in their starting lineup but they do have experience. They start 3 juniors and 2 seniors – not a commonplace lineup these days. That experience might propel Hawaii as the #13 seed in the South into the second round.

    [Aside: Riddle me this… Hawaii is ineligible for next year’s Tournament based on a ruling by the NCAA as reported here. All of the violations occurred in the past so some Hawaii players will pay a price for actions that none of them had anything to do with. Not cool under any circumstances, but why impose the sanctions next year and allow this year’s team to play?]

In the Midwest, the game I want to see will be down the road a bit. In each of the last two seasons, Michigan State eliminated Virginia from the tournament. This year they are the #1 and the #2 seeds in this bracket. That would be an interesting re-rematch.

In the West, there are two low-seeded teams that could be problematic opponents in the early rounds. VCU (#10 seed) and Northern Iowa (#11 seed) could both advance and both have plenty of upperclassmen in their lineups.

It would take both teams making it to the Final Four to see Xavier play Virginia. If that happens Myles Davis would be playing for Xavier and Tony Bennett would be coaching Virginia. That would be easy listening…

Of course, if you have a nostalgic streak you can root for Yale (#12 seed) here. The last time they were in the NCAA Tournament, John Kennedy was President, the Beatles had not yet come to the US and Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game against the Knicks. Or, you could root for Holy Cross (#16 seed if they win the “play-in” game) as the school that gave basketball Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn and Togo Palazzi.

Did someone ask for a Final Four prediction? Really, you expect me to do something that serious in a rant filled with basic nonsense? Well, if you insist:

    Kentucky/Kansas/Michigan State/Oklahoma

If you prefer something more akin to longshots:

    West Virginia/Miami/Dayton/Baylor

If you love the ACC:

    UNC/Miami/Virginia/Duke (and it would be an added “touch” if Miami were the team to eliminate Maryland)

If you are a fan of Catholic colleges:

    Notre Dame (or Providence)/Villanova/Gonzaga/St. Joe’s

Enough silliness for today – and for the year to be sure. The games start tonight and although none of the four “play-in” games are particularly compelling, they serve an important function. Think about the last time you dined at a fine and upscale French restaurant. After you sat down and got the menus and placed your cocktail order, the chef sent out an amuse-bouche. That is the name of that small complementary appetizer that is provided just to get wake up your taste buds and get your gastric juices flowing as you begin to peruse the main menu. The 4 “play-in” games are the amuse-bouche for the Tournament to come.

Finally, I want to thank CBS for their 2-hour program on the Bracket Selections. That’s right; I want to thank them. They provided a needed public service and they have not gotten credit for it. We had lost an hour’s sleep on Saturday night due to Daylight Saving Time and CBS gave me back that hour right away with their programming. Here is tip of the hat to CBS…

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

Special Weekend Rant…

No, I did not set my calendar ahead a day instead of setting my clock ahead an hour last night. This is a weekend rant simply because I know that I will not have any time to write one if I wait until tomorrow. So, on with the show…

Sports fans ought to be gearing themselves up for the single best sporting event of the year. As of tonight, we will know the teams and the seedings for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament; frankly, as much as I believe that the NCAA is a feckless and useless organization, I do believe that they put on the best sporting event of the year and perhaps for that reason alone should be allowed to continue to pollute the sporting world. What makes March Madness great is its finality. There will be 67 games; one team in each game will end its season with a loss; one team will win the tournament.

It is that finality which – unfortunately – seems to help to diminish the college basketball regular season. There are more than 300 teams that play Division 1 college basketball; they play multiple thousands of games and only a minuscule fraction of them have anything remotely similar to “finality”. Far too many of the regular season college basketball games are:

    Occurrences rather than events

    Games in which the outcome has only marginal meaning – and –

    On television.

On a typical weekend in the DC area, it would not be unusual to find 2 or 3 dozen college basketball games available on the various cable channels – and that does not even begin to count the reruns of those games multiple times on some of the channels. Now hear this:

    From around Thanksgiving time until the start of the conference tournaments (I am being generous here.) there is not a single week – let alone a weekend – where there are 2-3 dozen college basketball games that are significant.

    The humongous over-exposure of college basketball on TV is hurting the game as much – if not more – than anything else.

Believe me; I understand the economic driving forces that put so many games on TV. I also recognize that interest in the regular season games as a whole is significantly diminished from the days when there were only two or three “national games” on TV over a weekend. I doubt that network execs, athletic directors and broadcasters would want to acknowledge it but there is an application of the Economic Law of Supply and Demand at work here:

    The current demand for college basketball on TV is pretty much saturated.

    The current supply of TV games is more than the demand can consume.

    Ergo, the only thing that can happen is that the value of each regular season game diminishes.

Fortunately, we can put aside senses of apathy, torpor and indifference about now. From here on out, the games are for real.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot feels the same way about regular season college basketball as I do but perhaps for different reasons:

“In the shadows: I almost feel sorry for college basketball, which even as we approach the tail end of the regular season, takes a back seat – picture the third row of a mini-van – to talk radio’s and the Internet’s fascination with the NFL combine, mock drafts, landing spots for Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel and spring training. Until March, when a lot of people think it’s cool to pretend to care, college hoops is becoming more of a niche sport … I guess what I’m saying is, it’s a poor reflection on the sport when Pablo Sandoval’s stomach gets more attention in February than the college top 25.”

Since Professor Molinaro brought up the name Johnny Manziel in his commentary, that leads me to pose this pair of questions.

    Given the off-field situations that have accreted themselves to “Johnny Football” and the seemingly unending number of similar situations that continue to fall into his orbit:

      Will he ever start another NFL football game at QB?

      What will he do with his life once he no longer has a future in football – be it next year or whenever?

With regard to the first question, I believe there is reason to doubt he will ever get another starting shot based on the fact that it is only a 50/50 proposition that any NFL team will sign him now that he is a free agent. First you have to be on a team; then you get to be a starting player. Moreover, I cannot imagine that any NFL team would bring him in and anoint him as the starter; at best, he would be signed with the understanding he would be given a chance to compete for the starting job and to win it he will have to be clearly the best option on the roster.

With regard to the second question, I am not qualified to make any sort of definitive statement. His actions seem to me to be a combination of self-destruction, entitlement and a gross lack of maturity. I would defer to those trained in psychology to confirm or deny those labels and to predict what might be the future for someone with such presentations. I will simply say that from my perspective, his future does not look all that great.

Finally, since I mentioned Bob Molinaro above, let me close this weekend edition with another of his observations – this time about televised college basketball games. He is spot-on with this comment:

“Shouting back: When courtside analysts raise their voices asking why a college player committed a bad turnover or foul or took a wild shot, I sometimes find myself saying to the flat screen, ‘Because he’s 19. He’s a half-formed player who came out of AAU ball with minimal real coaching and probably less discipline. So shut up, already.’”

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

Timing … Timing … And Timing …

A few days ago, I suggested here that the significant jump in the NFL salary cap would cause folks to shake their heads at some of the contracts offered to good-but-not-great or even promising-but-unproven players. In terms of real estate, they say the three most important factors are “Location … location … and location”. Looking at the free agency frenzy this year, I think it is clear that the three most important factors for cashing in on free agency are:

    Timing …
    Timing … and

If reports are accurate, Brock Osweiler will over the next 3 seasons make $7.9M more than Tom Brady will make. Sure, Osweiler is younger and perhaps Tom Brady may not last for 3 more seasons. Nevertheless…

Recently, had a report saying that Roddy White blamed Falcons’ offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, for screwing up the Falcons’ season last year and blamed Shanahan for the team decision to release White. That report had the potential to become a “juicy story” but it seems to have blossomed and then faded into oblivion. Obviously, I have no insight into that situation whatsoever. However, I have said before and will say again here:

    If Kyle Shanahan’s last name were Flabeetz, he would not now be nor would he have been given a job as an offensive coordinator at such an early age.

Let me just suggest that Shanahan the Younger had one glorious season in Washington and then helped to preside over one of the most dysfunctional teams in North American sports for a couple more years. He next surfaced as the offensive coordinator with the Browns for a year; that was anything but a success and he asked out of his contract in Cleveland – admittedly a smart move – so that he could take the Falcons’ offensive coordinator job. Now this report…

Aubrey McClendon was a minority owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. McClendon was also currently charged with violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act; the charges include bid-rigging and improper collusion with regard to oil and gas contracts. Obviously, the details surrounding those charges are way above my pay-grade so I will not try to explain them here. Given the other news items related to McClendon, I suspect they have to do with securing fracking rights because he was routinely referred to as “The Shale King” and/or “The Fracking King”.

Earlier this week, Aubrey McClendon died in a fiery crash when the vehicle he was driving hit a bridge support at high speed and blew into a fireball. That happened one day after the Federal charges for anti-trust violations became public. Obviously, this has led to speculation that he took his own life. In terms of his ownership of the Thunder, he was a 20% shareholder in the group that originally bought the Seattle Supersonics back in 2007. Subsequently he increased his share of ownership buying out one of the other minority owners.

You may remember his name from back in that time; he was the minority owner who “let the cat out of the bag” regarding the purported willingness of the new owners to keep the team in Seattle if they got the kind of arena deal they wanted. It was McClendon who infamously said:

“We didn’t buy the Supersonics to keep them in Seattle.”

That significantly undermined the NBA’s negotiating position to get a new playpen for the team and then-Commissioner David Stern fined McClendon $250K for running his mouth. Given that he was probably worth something comfortably north of $1B at the time, I doubt that he minded.

Changing the subject here, perhaps someone can explain to me the current fascination with Ronda Rousey. Simply put, I do not get it. For a while she was a dominant force in MMA competitions beating many opponents in only a few seconds. She also engaged in a war of words with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the subject of which one would kick the other one’s ass and how often. Since my over-arching view of MMA as a sport is that it is pro-‘rassling where the blows actually land and the blood is real, I saw that interplay with Mayweather as typical promotional fodder. Never did I expect to see the two of them in any sort of ring engaged in a real fight.

Then Rousey lost a fight. Not only did she lose, she was KO-ed. But that seems not to have diminished her celebrity status even a little bit. There were reports that she revealed that she had suicidal thoughts in the days after her defeat. Given the previously convenient promotional exchanges with Mayweather, I took those reports with a grain of salt. It seems that the latest installment in her celebrity diary is that one of her rival MMA fighters has said that she is finished as a fighter because she is more interested in having a baby. There was another report calling Rousey a “broken woman”. Here is my question:

    Will there ever be a lid put on this sort of stuff?

I admit that I am a troglodyte and often have difficulties understanding the core of modern pop culture. That is why I need someone to explain this fascination to me because it makes no sense in my worldview.

Finally, much has been made of the Ivy League’s decision to ban tackling from its football practices during the season. Brad Rock of the Deseret News had a very interesting interpretation of that decision:

“Ivy League coaches have voted to ban tackling in practice during the regular season.

“Instead, players must shout out the Euler-Lagrange Equation to bring down a runner.”

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

Coaching Instability…

In professional sports, one of the indicators of a team successful over a long period of time is stability in the coaching ranks. Gregg Popovich has been the coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996; the Spurs have been very successful over that span of time. Bill Belichick has been the coach of the New England Patriots since 2000; the Pats have been very successful over that span of time. Mike Scioscia has been in the dugout with the LA Angels since 2005; the Angels have only had 2 losing seasons over that span and have never failed to win 78 games in a season. Compare those examples with the Palermo FC in the Italian Serie A.

This team is the poster-child for coaching instability; they just changed coaches about a week ago; this is the 12 “new coach” for the team since June 2012. I put “new coach” in quotation marks on purpose because for some of the individuals involved the coaching position was a revolving door.

    Giuseppe Sannino coached from June 2012 to Sept 2012

    Gian Pierro Gaspirini took over in Sept 2012 and lasted until Feb 13

    Alberto Malesani took over then and hung around until March 2013

    Gian Pierro Gaspirini came back in March 2013 and lasted less than a month

    Giuseppe Sannino returned to coaching in March 2013 – completing the circle of life? – and stayed for 3 whole months until June 2013

The owner of Palermo FC is Maurizio Zamparini. Either he has the attention span of a kitten or he is in the pantheon of meddlesome owners worldwide. Here is the more recent coaching history for his club:

    Giuseppe Iachini had been the Palermo coach for 2 years – an eternity there. He started in Sept 2013 and was comfortably ensconced until November 2015. Note that November 2015 was only about 4 months ago. Then…

    In Nov 15 Giuseppe Iachini was fired and replaced by David Ballardini

    In Jan 16, Ballardini was fired and replaced by Fabio Vivani

    In Jan 16 (less than a month once again) Vivani was fired and replaced by Giovanni Tedesco

    In Feb 16, Tedesco was fired and replaced by Giovanni Bosi

    In Feb 16 (less than a month yet again) Bosi was fired and replaced by – – wait for it – – Giuseppe Iachini


Unsurprisingly, Palermo is in 17th place in the Serie A and is exactly one point out of the relegation zone with 10 games to play. If the owner has had trouble getting along with coaches while his team is in the top league, just imagine how happy he will be should the squad get relegated at the end of this season.

Bernie Lincicome – as a Special Contributor to the Chicago Tribune – had a column there where he decried the 3-point shot in basketball. Truth be told, I tolerate it but if I were Dictator of the Universe, it would be relegated to history. My dislike is not even close to his; I never called the 3-point shot an abomination. I commend this column to your reading in its entirety and here is a sample to whet your appetite:

“The 3-pointer has become as dull as the intentional walk, and any competent player in the NBA can make a 3. There is no special skill to it. Some are better than others just as some are taller than others or more agile than others. They do not get an extra reward for being so. This is nothing against those who do it well. The concern is how easy it has become and how it has altered the game.

“A basket should count what a basket counts. If we start assigning greater value to the length of things, Pinocchio never would stop lying.”

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had a recent commentary on the 3-point shot and Steph Curry’s proficiency:

“Too good: Move the 3-point line back because of Stephen Curry? Did the NBA consider raising the basket when Shaquille O’Neal dominated? Here’s a suggestion for teams frustrated by Curry’s quickness and range: Figure out a better way to guard him.”

I have no quarrel with Professor Molinaro’s reasoning and conclusion here. I would have to point out, however, that the NBA has – in the past – changed rules because a player was too dominant under the old set of rules. Recall that the free throw lane – and thereby the 3-second violation zone – was more than doubled to assure that Wilt Chamberlain could not set himself up so close to the basket. My only point here is that there is precedent for the NBA to make such a specifically focused rule change.

Finally, Greg Cote had this observation in the Miami Herald last weekend with regard to the start of an annual sporting event:

“The Iditarod sled-dog race is underway in Alaska. I wonder if Sarah Palin can see it form her backyard?”

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

Getting Out Of One’s Own Way

Yesterday, I said positive things about the classy way Peyton Manning handled the announcement of his retirement. Today, I would like to turn attention to the other end of the spectrum. After the 2016 inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced, Terrell Owens took umbrage at the fact that he was left out. He played the “disrespected card” and made some comment about how Cris Carter had “begged his way” into the HoF. His comments reinforced in everyone’s mind two things that are apparent about T.O.:

    He has a strong narcissistic streak.

    He does not have even a 10-nanosecond delay line between his brain and his mouth.

There is a wide-receiver who will be inducted this summer; Marvin Harrison made it into the HoF and Harrison did not appreciate Owens’ fulminations. Here is what he said during a radio interview:

“The person who was supposed to get in got in. And that was me. If he didn’t get in, that’s his problem. He can talk all that other bullsh*t like he’s been doing. That’s on him. But I’m in. My jacket is gold. I will look in the rear view for nobody. So he can get his ass in whenever he gets in … if he gets in. If he doesn’t get in, too bad. The hell with him.”

If T.O. had said those words, people would have been marginally surprised at his potty-mouth but few would have shocked. Marvin Harrison was sort of like the “Silent Cal” Coolidge of the NFL during his career; he rarely said anything let alone anything at that level of candor. But there it is and there you have the essence of T.O.’s “problem” with Hall of Fame voters.

As I noted before the voting on the finalists was revealed, Owens’ numbers written on a piece of paper with no relationship to the human being who generated those numbers demand that the player be in the Hall of Fame. Having said that, the path to “getting a gold jacket” demands also that the player in question pass through the filter of a few dozen voters. Like it or not, those voters are humans and they will always put things in context when they ponder a decision they consider to be important.

The fact of the matter is that Terrell Owens still does not realize how off-putting he can be. Consider for a moment that Owens played for 5 different NFL teams. Even if you spot him his last two teams as merely the last gasps in a productive career wherein the team hoped he could recapture his prior productivity, that means that 3 different teams had enough of him and his antics while he was still performing at a Hall of Fame level.

    The Niners did not move Heaven and Earth to keep him in SF at age 30.

    The Eagles shed no tears when he departed Philly at age 32.

    The Cowboys just moved on when he left Dallas at age 35.

    Oh, and along the way he probably did not endear himself to anyone in Baltimore after reneging on a contract deal there. It was an ugly mess…

The two obvious personal characteristics I noted at the start of this rant allowed teams to deal with him taking his talents elsewhere without having the team sink into a terminal blue funk. The sort of outbursts we saw after his exclusion from the HoF this year surely would not have been “positive locker room leadership”. Moreover, this sort of tantrum-like behavior is likely to remain in the minds of a few of the voters – many of whom will be back “in the room” sifting through the final candidates. I wonder if Terrell Owens even recognizes that fact.

On the flip side of the coin here, try to imagine the induction speech T. O. might give somewhere down the line when he does in fact join the Hall of Fame. It could be memorable…

Former Cowboys’ RB, Joseph Randle, was arrested in Kansas on a warrant that says he failed to appear in court. At this point, I usually try to point out that final judgment needs to wait until more facts are in. Indeed, that remains the operative stance; but in this case, I might be tempted to conclude that Randle is living his life just a bit off-center. This is the sixth time he has been arrested by police in various jurisdictions in the last 18 months on charges to include inter alia theft, drug possession and assault.

Randle spent three years as a “student-athlete” at an NCAA Division 1-A school maintaining his eligibility all along the way. I have no idea what courses he took, but would it not be ironic if it turned out that he was a criminal justice major?

Bob Molinaro had this item in a recent column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Major slippage: After they blew another game – losing to the Clippers after being up 16 with 7:26 to play – it’s impossible to take the Oklahoma City Thunder seriously as a title contender. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may be fine entertainers, but the Thunder, who had a chance for redemption late Thursday night at the Warriors, are proving to be underachievers, chokers even. They’ve lost nine games this season when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. Only the 76ers have lost more that way.”

I am shocked by this commentary. I am not shocked by Prof. Molinaro’s assessment that the Thunder are disappointing underachievers; they certainly have played that way recently. Here is what I am shocked by:

    I would never have thought that the 76ers had held the lead at the end of 3 quarters enough times to top the Thunder in that “League of Lowness”.

Finally, one more item from Bob Molinaro:

“Did you realize that you can bet on MLB spring training games? Nothing says compulsive gambler quite like throwing good money at bad split-squad games featuring minor-league pitchers.”

He is right you know…

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