Christian McCaffrey To The Niners

A couple of weeks ago when the Carolina Panthers fired coach Matt Rhule, I wondered aloud if that meant the team was going to do a complete teardown and start over sort of thing.  It surely looked as if the team needed help in lots of areas, but there were two question marks that did not make it clear to me what the team direction would be:

  1. The GM that assembled the current iteration of the Carolina Panthers – the roster that has multiple areas of need – is still on the job.  So, is he ego-invested in the current roster to the point that the team would try to resolve its problems with a patchwork approach?
  2. The owner appears to be a well-intentioned and impatient man.  When he hired Rhule, he gave him a 7-year contract and said then that he and the team were embarking on a 5-year plan to become annual contenders.  Nonetheless, that 5-year plan was abandoned in less than two-and-a-half years; so, might an impatient owner be unwilling to watch his team “bottom out” for a year or two on the way to becoming an annual contender?

The decisions to jettison Robbie Anderson and then to trade away Christian McCaffrey indicate that the owner is OK with the idea of a tear-down/rebuild project for the team.  Anderson and the coaches got themselves crosswise during a game and Anderson was sent to the locker room by the head coach.  It is nearly impossible to walk back from that sort of confrontation; and at the same time, whatever happened to cause that situation to obtain diminished Anderson’s trade value significantly.  The Panthers’ brass took what they could get – – a 6th-round pick in 2024 and a 7th-round pick in 2025.  Those are slim pickings.

Then came the “big one”.  Christian McCaffrey is a valuable asset.  If you want to nitpick McCaffrey’s value, you would have to point to the fact that he has had injury issues for the last couple of seasons; but when healthy, he has All-Pro level seasons on the record.  Last week, the Panthers sent McCaffrey to the Niners in exchange for 4 draft picks – – a second, third and fourth round pick is 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024.

That transaction says to me that the “strategy folks” in Carolina are looking to the future and that their vision of the future is not just to take a nip and a tuck on the fabric of the team.  Here is why I think that way:

  • Assuming that the “strategy folks” have some level of faith in their scouts and talent evaluators, the four draft picks they just got for McCaffrey should produce 3 players for the roster.  It would be hugely optimistic to plan for even one of them to be an All-Pro caliber player, but three competent players is not an unrealistic expectation.
  • Also, barring a miraculous finish to the 2022 season, the Panthers will also be in the market for a new head coach in January 2023.  Having all of that extra “draft capital” should make the job in Carolina a bit more attractive to top-shelf candidates once the owner goes on the “interview circuit”.

Before anyone thinks that I see smooth sailing ahead for the Panthers, the team still needs a QB.  Ever since Cam Newton’s body broke down on him, the Panthers have been looking for a competent replacement.  That competent replacement does not appear to be on the current roster so the strategic direction for the team comes to the fore once again.

  • Is there sufficient patience to develop a young QB who can grow into something more than a journeyman status along with a bunch of young teammates?
  • We shall see…

What that trade tells me about the Niners is that their strategic plan is “Super Bowl in Feb 2023 or Bust”.  When I read the teams of the trade, I wondered why the Panthers did not get a first round pick as part of the mix; well, the reason the Niners did not offer up a first round pick is because they have already traded it away for 2023 in the deal that allowed them to move up in the draft to take Trey Lance.

Another aspect of this trade from the Niners’ perspective is that this move prevents the Rams from acquiring McCaffrey.  There were plenty of rumors floating around that the Rams were interested in making a deal with the Panthers and it is plenty clear that the Rams could use an upgrade at RB.  So, perhaps an element of the Niners’ thinking involved making the trade to prevent a division rival from acquiring an asset that it needs.

Trading away – – and therefore also trading for – – an excellent RB who still has mileage on the tires is not commonplace.  I tried to come up with comparable exchanges in recent years and the best I could come up with took me back more than a few years:

  • Jerome Bettis went from the Rams to the Steelers
  • Eric Dickerson went from the Rams to the Colts.
  • Marshall Faulk went from the Colts to the Rams

I am sure there are other examples that I have not dredged up from my memory, but I will note that looking only at that list, every one of those trades worked out well for the “acquiring team”.

Finally, Christian McCaffrey is on his way back to California where he went to college at Stanford.  So, let me close with this comment on “California” from humorist Ian Shoales:

“Most people in California come from somewhere else.  They moved to California so they could name their kids Rainbow or Mailbox, and purchase tubular Swedish furniture without getting laughed at.  It’s a tenet also in California that the fiber of your clothing is equivalent to your moral fiber.  Your ‘lifestyle’ (as they say) is your ethic.  This means that in California you don’t really have to do anything, except look healthy, think good thoughts and pat yourself on the back about what a good person you are.  And waiters in California want to be called by their first name.  I don’t know why.”

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

 

 

Knowing, Thinking, Feeling …

Several weeks ago, I tried a new “art form” here and enjoyed doing it; so, I am going to give it a try once again to see if it is something I want to continue to do when the Moon is in Capricorn or whatever.

Here are two things I know:

  1. I know that the ”secrecy” – or “mysteriousness” if you will – that the Boston Celtics have maintained regarding the Ime Udoka suspension is not helpful.  Obviously, whatever Udoka did was serious enough in the eyes of the folks who run that organization to suspend him indefinitely; I do not question their motivation or anything else associated with their decision.  However, by being as “secretive” as they were – and have been – the organization encourages rumor and speculation about just what it was that got Udoka in such trouble.  Left to the imagination, the speculations can become very lurid.
  2. I know that I hate political advertising on TV by any and all candidates in any and all time slots involving programs I might be watching.  For the record, I hate them even more when they assault my focus in the middle of a timeout in a football game.  Candidates who “approve those messages” should be boiled in oil.

Here are three things I think:

  1. I think Brett Favre’s image as a fun-loving country boy who also happened to be a great NFL QB is shot.  His involvement in the scandal to divert welfare funds from very needy people to something as crass as a volleyball venue at Southern Mississippi is pretty dark stuff.  Others involved in the mess have been charged criminally; as that number grows, it will become more difficult for Favre to “remain above it all”.  Even in the southeastern part of the US where football is revered, I think Favre has squandered his stardom.
  2. I think the NFL’s “Concussion Protocol” continues to need improvement.  It will never be “perfect”, but I do not think it is so good now that the league and the union can turn their attention elsewhere.  If the primary objective is “player safety” and if a brain scan device is not available at every game venue for use by the “unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant”, then no player going under examination should ever be approved to go back into a game.  And if that were ever to be the case, look for a threat to the “integrity of the game” as “spotters in the booth” who are never within 50 yards of a player on the field can take a player out of a game “for examination” …
  3. I think the lawsuits and the counter-lawsuits between the LIV Golf folks and the PGA Tour need to be settled via compromise.  Continuation on the current path is not likely to be beneficial to either organization or to any of the professional golfers who choose to play under either – – or both? – – entities.  The only beneficiaries are the law firms generating billable hours attached to these legal actions.  If it were the Congress that somehow set these suits in motion, I would have to call what the Congress did the “Litigators’ Full Employment Act”.

Here are two things I feel:

  1. I feel that too many people have taken Tom Brady’s diminished performance so far in 2022 and concluded that Father Time has caught up with him.  Maybe that is the case, but I feel that Brady’s problems this year are not physical or emotional.  I feel that Tom Brady has succumbed to his celebrity status and has begun to believe some of the nonsense that is written about him and said about him on radio/TV.  He missed two weeks of Training Camp – – so what, he’s The GOAT; he doesn’t need all that practice time.  He does not always practice with the team on Wednesdays – – so what, he knows the game plan better than the coaches do.  He skipped last week’s Saturday practice/walk-through to attend Robert Kraft’s wedding in NYC on Friday night – – so what, he is going to call audibles at the line of scrimmage half the time anyway.  Sorry …  Even Tom Brady needs to spend time practicing with this team this year because football is choreographed, and he needs to be in step with the other ten guys out there on offense.  The practice field is more important than the Red Carpet.
  2. I feel that far too many people have overlooked a truly valuable and positive contribution made to US society by Danny Boy Snyder.  We live in a time of serious division in the US.  Red States hate Blue States.  Progressives consider conservatives as demonic – – and vice versa.  There are issues dividing the genders and the generations.  We have hawks and doves along with globalists and isolationists.  I doubt if even the most fundamental US dispute has ever been resolved – – Great Taste versus Less Filling…  And into the middle of all that turmoil, you have the unifying factor of Danny Boy Snyder.  He seems to be The Great Unifier in the sense that just about everyone I know considers him to be a horse’s ass.  Remember this the next time you hear or read anything about this man…

Here is what comes next:

  1. A judge in Nevada ruled against the NFL in a motion to dismiss Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the league and the Commissioner regarding the release of his emails and his firing as the head coach of the Raiders.  Obviously, the league will appeal the ruling since it wants this matter heard under its very private “arbitration system” – – the results of which seem to resemble the outcomes from the Court of the Star Chamber.  This matter is far from over; this was a victory for Gruden in a minor skirmish.  However, if you think it might be fun to get a peek behind the curtain of mystery surrounding NFL owners, you should root for this action to remain in open court.
  2. The MLB Playoffs have reached the semi-final round; if the Phillies make it to the World Series as the “third-wildcard team”, look for lots of proposals to modify the playoff system to favor teams with better regular season records.
  3. The NHL and the NBA seasons are both underway.  Until the Super Bowl is finished, both sports will have to take a seat in the back row for US sports fans.
  4. College basketball has not begun just yet – – save for the annual exercise of ranking the Top 25 teams in the country having never seen any of those teams play any basketball at all.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close with two observations by comedians who are no longer with us:

“Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife.”  [Groucho Marx]

And …

“Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”  [George Carlin]

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

 

 

Football Friday 10/7/22

Benjamin Franklin said:

“Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”

Well, I did not prevent the habit of turning out Football Fridays and I do not have the resolve to break that habit.  So, the sensible thing to do is to get on with it for this week.

As usual, I will begin by reviewing last week’s selections – – unimpressive as they were:

  • College = 1-1-0                                  Season record = 7-6-0
  • NFL = 1-3-0                                        Season record = 5-7-2
  • Money Line Parlays = 0-2                Season record = 1-4
  • Money Line P&L = minus-$200            Season record = minus-$297

            Undaunted, I press onward…

 

College Football Commentary:

 

            The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record in 2022 to 3-0 last week with a thorough beat down of the Loggers of Puget Sound.  The final score was 72-2.  If you find that to be an “unusual” score, here is something else from the game that is even more “unusual”.

  • Linfield returned three punts for touchdowns in the second quarter of the game.

This week Linfield is on the road visiting the Pirates of Whitworth University in Spokane, WA.  The Pirates are 3-1 on the season and – like Linfield – they opened their Northwest Conference schedule last weekend with a blowout win.  The Pirates beat Lewis and Clark by a score of 66-28.  This looks to be a high scoring game.  Go Wildcats!

I think I have counted correctly; there are 16 teams in Division 1-A college football that are undefeated to this point in the 2022 season.  That number must be reduced by at least one this week because undefeated TCU will play undefeated Kansas.  As for the other undefeated teams, good luck to all of them.

Some of the lyrics in Frank Sinatra’s September Song remind us that:

“The days dwindle down to a precious few…”

Well, by analogy, the number of winless college football teams has already dwindled down to a precious few – – namely 2:

  1. Colorado
  2. Colorado St.

Colorado fired its coach this week.  Jay Norvell is the coach at Colorado St., and this is his first year on the job having taken over for Steve Addazio last winter.  His “newness” insulates him from overly harsh scrutiny but the Rams’ record to date is rather embarrassing:

  • The Rams are 0-4
  • The Rams have been outscored 164 – 43.
  • One of the losses was to a Division 1-AA team by the score of 41-10.

There are no more Power 5 schools on the schedule and there are two visits by two bad teams later in the season.  All is not lost for Colorado State yet.

The oddity associated with the Colorado housecleaning this week is that the head coach and the defensive coordinator were fired; the offensive coordinator was named as the interim coach.  Why is that odd?

  • Colorado has averaged 13.8 points per game in its 5 games this year.  That makes it the 128th ranked team out of 131 teams nationally.
  • And the offensive coordinator was put in charge of the whole shooting match?

Speaking of coaches getting fired, Dwight Perry had this item in his column in the Seattle Times last week about the previously separated Herm Edwards:

“Nick Canepa of The San Diego Union-Tribune, on Arizona State firing football coach Herman Edwards: ‘Guess the problem with Herm was that he played to win the games, but didn’t.’”

Things may be looking bleak for the flagship football teams in Colorado, but that is not the case is Mississippi.  Ole Miss is 5-0 this season coming off a victory over previously 7th ranked Kentucky and Mississippi St. is 4-1 having upset Texas A&M last week by 18 points.  Mississippi St. and Ole Miss will meet on November 24th – – Thanksgiving Day.  That could be a fun game to check out if one of the NFL games turns into a blowout…

Take a look at the Big-12 standings this morning.  Two of the undefeated teams are Kansas and K-State with a combined record of 9-1.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma and Iowa State are winless in conference games at 0-2.  Not quite the way I figured things would be going …

Similarly surprising are the standings in the Big-10 West this morning.  Before you go and peek, let me tell you that six of the seven teams there have a conference record of 1-1 and one team is 0-2.  Would you guess that the 0-2 team is Wisconsin because it is.  And Wisconsin also fired its coach this week after losing badly last week to Illinois by 24 points.

Paul Chryst was a former player at Wisconsin and had been the head coach there for several years amassing an overall record of 67-26 but the last couple of years have “disappointed” folks in Madison, WI.  Chryst has 4 years left on his contract so he will leave with a tidy “parting gift”.  Wisconsin was ranked in the Top 20 in preseason polls and now has an overall record of 2-3.  That is a big fall from grace – – or it shows you the usefulness and credibility of preseason polls.

Last weekend, CBS was hyping the games they were going to televise this week.  The noon game on CBS will be Michigan versus Indiana; and according to CBS, the game features an “electrifying Michigan team”.  Say what…?

  • Michigan is a very good team; there is no doubt about that.
  • Michigan is also anything but electrifying; they are more “businesslike” or “plodding” than they are “electrifying”.
  • I understand the need to “hype the game”, but maybe the folks at CBS could pretend that the people most likely to tune in are ones who have seen a college football game sometime earlier this season?

Looking at some games of interest last week involving Big-10 teams …

Illinois 34  Wisconsin 10:  This a home loss for Wisconsin and it dropped their record to 2-3 while Illinois sports a 4-1 record for the 2022 season.  Three turnovers and 10 penalties by Wisconsin did not help their cause even a bit.  The Badgers were shut out in the second half; here are the results of their 5 possessions in that second half:

  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 4 plays and TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 5 plays and TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 13 plays and TURNOVER ON DOWNS

The Illinois defense held the Badgers to a total of 2 yards rushing for the game – – TWO YARDS RUSHING!

Michigan 27  Iowa 14:  Michigan’s running game dominated here.  The Wolverines gained 172 yards rushing in the game and held Iowa to only 35 yards on the ground.  This is a good road win for Michigan.

Purdue 20  Minnesota 10:  The Gophers had been ranked 21st in the country going into this game but the Boilermakers used a solid defense and a strong ground game to win this one on the road.  Minnesota only had 46 yards rushing in the game.

Maryland 27  Michigan St. 13:  The Terps are 4-1 in 2022 and they won this game in a dominant performance.  Total offense for Maryland was 489 yards to only 321 for Sparty.  Maryland overcame 9 penalties in the game and committed the only turnover of the day.  This was Maryland’s game all the way.

Penn St. 17  Northwestern 7:    This was a defensive game from the start.  Northwestern’s ground game only produced 31 yards in the game on 28 attempts.  Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions ran the ball 56 times gaining 220 yards.

Nebraska 35  Indiana 21:  The game was tied at 21 apiece at halftime; then the Nebraska defense held Indiana scoreless in the second half.  This is the first win for Huskers’ interim head coach, Mickey Joseph, since he took over for Scott Frost a few weeks ago.

Here are some Big-12 results from last week …

TCU 55  Oklahoma 24:  The Sooners have lost two conference games in a row and this one was a beat down.  TCU outgained Oklahoma 668 yards to 355 yards in the game.  The Sooners lost their starting QB, Dillon Gabriel, after a hit to the head by a TCU player who was ejected for targeting.  That affected the Oklahoma offense, but the Sooners’ defense was overwhelmed.  The Horned Frogs had 4 TD plays of 62 yards or longer in the game.  TCU is undefeated at 4-0 for the season.

  • [Aside:  First year Oklahoma coach Brent Venables is a “defense guy”.  Well, the Sooners have given up 96 points in the last two games.  What’s up out there in Norman…?]

K-State 37  Texas Tech 28:  Both teams came to the game off upset wins two weeks ago.  The stat sheet says the game was dead even; Tech actually had a 14-yard advantage in total offense for the day and the Red Raiders had 26 first downs to only 16 for the Wildcats.  Four turnovers by Tech were the difference in the game.

Kansas 14  Iowa St. 11: Kansas remains unbeaten at 5-0 for the season.  Iowa St. won the stat sheet outgaining Kansas by 100 yards for the day.  It was a day of missed opportunities for the Cyclones; they missed 3 field goal attempts including a 37-yard try in the final two minutes of the game that would have forced OT.

Oklahoma St. 36  Baylor 25:  The Cowboys are still unbeaten in 2022 and used a 99-yard kickoff return at the start of the second half to control the game.

Moving along to SEC action …

Ole Miss 22  Kentucky 19:  This was the first loss of the year for Kentucky; Ole Miss stays undefeated at 5-0.  Kentucky had the ball in the Rebel’s red zone twice in the final 5 minutes of the game and fumbled the ball away both times.

 Alabama 49  Arkansas 26:  Bama ran off to a 28-0 lead in the game, but Arkansas closed that margin to 28-23 at the end of three quarters.  The 4th quarter was all Alabama.  The Crimson Tide had one drive in the 4th quarter of 1 play for a 72-yard TD and another drive of 2 plays for 75 yards and a TD.  Bryce Young left the game early in the 2nd quarter with a shoulder injury; Jalen Milroe took over and led the Alabama offense for the rest of the game.

Mississippi St. 42  Texas A&M 24:  This is the Aggies second loss this year and both losses are in conference.  It is not as if the Aggies did not have opportunities to win this game; they turned the ball over 4 times – – three of them in the red zone no less – – and the Bulldogs offense took advantage.

LSU 21  Auburn 17:  Auburn led the game 17-0 in the first half and led 17-14 at halftime;  however, they never scored in the second half.  Auburn outgained LSU 438 yards to 270 yards in the game.   Four turnovers by Auburn including an INT in the final two minutes of the game made the difference here.

Georgia 26  Missouri 22:  Georgia dominated the stat sheet 466 yards to 294 yards, but Missouri had the lead at 19-12 at the start of the 4th quarter.  By the way, those 12 points by Georgia were all field goals; Georgia had not seen the end zone in the first three quarters.  However, here are the Georgia possessions in the 4th quarter:

  • 10 plays – – 75 yards – – TD
  • 7 plays – – 68 yards – – TD
  • 8 plays – – 42 yards – – END OF GAME

Take this close game and put it alongside the lackluster performance by the Bulldogs against Kent State and you have to wonder if the Georgia players are starting to believe the hype about their invincibility?

Here are some ACC game comments …

UNC 41  Va Tech 10:  The Tar Heels pitched a shutout for the second half of this game and almost doubled the offensive output of the Hokies in the game – – 527 yards to 273 yards.

Duke 38  Virginia 17:  Duke raises its record to 4-1 with this win.  In my college football preview, I said I loved the OVER for 3 projected wins for Duke this season; well, that ticket is a winner already.

Ga Tech 26  Pitt 21:  This was a shocker.  Five days before this game, Tech fired its coach and named an interim coach.  Pitt was a 20-point favorite in the game and was playing at home.  Tech was outgained but forced 3 turnovers to hold on and win in Brent Key’s first game as the interim coach at Tech.

Wake Forest 31  Florida St. 21:  This is the first loss for the Seminoles, and it leaves both teams with one conference loss for the 2022 season.  Looking at the stat sheet, this game was dead even.

Clemson 30  NC State 20:  Clemson remains unbeaten in 2022; this was State’s first loss of the year.  The Wolfpack turned the ball over twice in the game and never got the ground game going (32 yards on 19 carries).

Out west in the PAC-12 …

Utah 42  Oregon St. 16:  The Utes intercepted 4 passes in this game.  That was the difference on the field and on the stat sheet.

Washington St. 28  Cal 9:  This was a comfortable win for the Cougars who advanced their record to 4-1 this year.  They held Cal’s running game to a net of 31 yards for the day.

Arizona 43  Colorado 20:  The Buffaloes are still winless in 2022 once again showing an anemic offense and a porous defense.  Arizona gained 673 yards in the game to only 340 yards for Colorado.

USC 42  Arizona St. 25:  The Trojans continue to look strong in 2022.  Arizona St. falls to 1-4 for the season with this loss and that win was over Division 1-AA Northern Arizona.

Oregon 45  Stanford 27:  The Ducks dominated the scoreboard leading 31-3 at halftime and equally dominated the stat sheet 515 yards on offense as compared to 332 for Stanford.

UCLA 40  Washington 32:  UCLA led 26-10 at the half; Washington had 3 possessions in the second half and scored a TD on all of them making a game of it.  UCLA had one drive in the second half where they held the ball for over 18 minutes resulting in a TD.

And some random games of interest from last week …

Georgia St. 31  Army 14:  This is the first win of the year for Georgia St.  [Aside: I said last week they could win outright even though Army was an 8-point favorite.]  As usual, Army had no passing game; they threw the ball 8 times and completed one pass for a net of 11 yards.

Air Force 13  Navy 10:  Air Force won the game on the stat sheet more convincingly than they did on the scoreboard.  It took a field goal with about 4 minutes to play in the game to provide the margin of victory here.

James Madison 40  Texas St. 14:  Madison is still undefeated in 2022 with a 4-0 record.

Eastern Michigan 20  UMass 13:  UMass led 10-0 at the half and got a Field Goal on its first possession of the second half to lead 13-0.  From that point on, here are the results of the next 5 UMass possessions:

  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and an INT
  • 10 plays and a TURNOVER ON DOWNS

UConn 19  Fresno St. 14:  The game was in Connecticut meaning Fresno St. traveled a long way just to lose to a mediocre-at-best UConn squad.

FIU 21  New Mexico St.  7:  Remember, FIU lost two weeks ago to Western Kentucky by a score of 73-0…

Before I get to games for the upcoming weekend, the season is ripe enough for me to keep you informed on the race to the bottom among college teams’ defenses.  The Brothel Defense Award is given each year to the defense that gives up the most points per game for the season.  The name of the award derives from the idea that “Everyone Scores on the Brothel Defense”.

So, here are the three top contenders for the Brothel Defense Award as of today:

  • Colorado gives up 43.2 points per game
  • Hawaii gives up 45.4 points per game
  • UNC-Charlotte gives up 46.3 points per game

 

College Football Games of interest:

 

For the record, I am writing this on Thursday evening and hope to finish it after the Thursday Night Football game.  I say that because the spreads and totals here may change over the next 36-48 hours when the games take place.

(Fri Nite) Nebraska – 3.5 at Rutgers (49):  Rutgers owns the conference record for most consecutive home losses versus conference opponents.  A less-than-fearsome Nebraska squad comes to New Jersey this weekend as a short road favorite.  Is this the week to break the streak?

Duke – 3.5 at Georgia Tech (54):  The oddsmakers must not be overly impressed by Tech’s win last week over Pitt since they have installed Duke as a road favorite here.

UNC at Miami – 3 (66):  The oddsmakers have seemingly forgiven the Hurricanes for losing at home to Middle Tennessee St. by three TDs.  There should be plenty of fireworks in this one.

Va Tech at Pitt – 14.5 (41.5):  Both teams have lost games this year to opponents who would not normally give them trouble.

Auburn at Georgia – 29.5 (49.5):  Auburn fans and boosters have their normal overly high expectations for their team – – and Auburn is not living up to the fans’ image of the team as a juggernaut.  There is a lot of criticism of the coach and the AD there.  I suspect it would be OK for Auburn to lose a close game on the road to a team ranked in the Top 5, but a blowout loss is NEVER acceptable to Auburn fans.  Meanwhile, Georgia has underperformed and not covered the spread in each of its last two games against teams they were expected to blow away (Kent St. and Missouri).  This will be interesting…

Ohio St. – 27 at Michigan St. (65):  Michigan St. had trouble scoring against Maryland and Minnesota; Ohio State has only given up an average of 14.8 points per game.  This might get ugly…

Florida St. at NC State – 3 (50.5):  This is an important game because both teams have 4-1 overall records and both teams already have one conference loss.

TCU – 7 at Kansas (66.5):  This is the “Battle of the Undefeateds” on the card for the weekend.  I think the losing team will score more than 30 points in this game – – absent a monsoon – – so I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

K-State – 2.5 at Iowa St. (44.5):  This is a big game for both teams.  K-State seeks to stay unbeaten in conference play; Iowa St. already has 2 conference losses so another one here would probably take them out of contention for the Big 12 Championship Game at an awfully early point in the season.

Oregon – 13 at Arizona (69.5):  Ever since Georgia held Oregon to a single field goal in the opening game of the season, the Ducks have scored 41 or more points in their next 4 games.  Arizona ranks 102nd in the country in scoring defense this morning giving up 31.2 points per game.  Oregon’s defense is not much better yielding 30.2 points per game.  This looks to me like another game of offensive explosions.  That is a big Total Line, but I will still take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Utah – 3.5 at UCLA (64.5):  On offense this year, the Bruins are averaging 41.4 points per game.  They have never been held under 32 points in a single game.  I doubt they can keep that string going against a solid Utah defense.  This is a big conference game for both teams.

Tennessee – 2.5 at LSU (65):  Both teams are undefeated in SEC games joining Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia in that status.  This is an important game for all five of those teams without a conference loss to date.

Texas – 7 versus Oklahoma (65):  If the Sooners lose this one, that will make them 0-3 to start the Big-12 conference games in 2022.  I doubt anyone had that even as a possibility back in July…  Which Texas team will show up here:

  • The one that came within a point of upsetting Alabamam4 weeks ago – OR – –
  • The one that lost to Texas Tech two weeks ago?

Texas A&M at Alabama – 24.5 (50.5):  This is the College Football Game of the Week.  Having said that, I do not see how anyone can project an outcome for this game without knowing who will play QB for Alabama.  Whatever … the game starts at 8:00 PM EDT and this ought to be a game you make time to watch.

Wisconsin – 10 at Northwestern (44.5):  The oddsmakers opened this spread at 8 points but bettors seem to believe the Badgers will rally behind their new interim coach because the spread expanded to 10 points soon after the announcement of Paul Chryst’s firing and has stayed there steadily all week long.

Iowa at Illinois – 3.5 (36.5):  These are good defensive teams and marginal offensive teams.  I am willing to believe the Iowa defense is very good; is the Illinois defense also very good?

UConn – 6 at Florida International (46):  UConn is a touchdown favorite over a team not known as the American Asthma Institute?

BYU at Notre Dame – 3.5 (51):  Tag this game as a “Religious War” if you must.  Nonetheless, it should be a good game featuring two very good defensive football teams.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Over the opening weeks of the season, I have been flipping back and forth on MNF between the Joe Buck/Troy Aikman presentation and the “Manning-cast”.  I like both presentations for different reasons.  The Manning-cast is different; it is like what happens in my living room when I am watching a game with a friend or one of my sons and we are going back and forth on every play.  Of course, we do not know one-one hundredth of what the Manning bros do about NFL football, but it is the banter/repartee that makes the situation fun.  Same goes for the “Manning-cast”.

At the other end of the spectrum are Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.  Meaning not even a smidgen of disrespect to the other leading network announcing teams, Buck/Aikman is the gold standard in 2022. The two broadcasts are almost good enough to get me to record one of them, watch the other one completely in real time and then go back and watch the game all over again just to hear what the “other guys” have to say.  Monday Night Football has returned to the status of must-see TV…

Having said all of that, let me throw some orchids at Amazon Prime TV and the announcing team of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit on Thursday Night Football.  If anyone in the broadcasting business today is demonstrably better on play-by-play than Al Michaels, I have not heard him/her.  I was “worried” when I heard that Herbstreit would be his on-air partner because on college football games, Herbstreit talks at least twice too much.  And so, I have been pleasantly – and significantly – surprised to see/hear Herbstreit do NFL games with Al Michaels.  His comments are measured; they are not panderingly glowing or harshly negative.  I don’t know if he is deferring to the legend of Al Michaels who is sitting next to him in the booth, but he is a lot more informative without being a didactic motor-mouth – – which is what he can be on a college broadcast.

There is another “London Game” this week as the NFL continues to try to expand its market/charisma in various overseas marketplaces…

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

Once again, a reminder…  This is being composed on Thursday night; NFL games will not kick off for another 72 hours or so.  These lines can swing A LOT in either direction; do not take the lines cited here as anything necessarily related to the final lines on the games.

The Thursday Night game this week (Colts/Broncos) was about as ugly a game as you might ever see from the NFL.  The score was 12-9 in OT; zero TDs and 7 field goals.  A game like that could result from great defensive play on both sides; that would be a great game to watch.  This game featured abject ineptitude from the first quarter through to the final possession of the OT.

Amazon Prime did not hope for games like this when it signed on to pay the NFL about $1B for the Thursday games.  And next week, the folks at Amazon will have to try to put lipstick on another pig when the Commanders and Bears square off.

 

(Sun Morning 8:00 Am EDT) Giants versus Packers – 7.5 (40.5) [Game is in London]:  Both Giants’ QBs are nicked; Daniel Jones has an ankle injury and Tyrod Taylor is in the concussion protocols.  If neither can go, the next man up is Davis Webb.  The only thing I can say about Davis Webb is this:

  • There are no scandalous rumors about him circulating that he is the unacknowledged love child of Jack Webb and Mo’ne Davis.

If you are up early on Sunday morning, check this game out because there is nothing else on TV at that hour that is even marginally as interesting.  However, if you choose to “sleep in”, congratulations on making a great choice.

Seahawks at Saints – 5.5 (46): This is a “fly home from Europe game” for the Saints.  No way I would take them as a favorite in that jet lag situation.

Texans at Jags – 7 (44):  I have this game tagged as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Jags lost to the Eagles in Philly last week in a sloppy game where the Jags lost 4 fumbles.  That will not happen again here.  The Texans are a feisty bunch who play hard and “never give up” but the Jags seem to have the better roster and equal if not better coaching.  The Jags are atop the AFC South as of this morning; I expect them to stay there once Monday night passes by.  But I am not willing to lay a full TD in this game…

Steelers at Bills – 14 (46):  The Steelers’ defense is for real.  If the team is going to have anything related to success in 2022, it will be on the efforts and the talents of the defensive unit.  When/if TJ Watt returns, that defense will become measurably better.  However, Watt will not be there on Sunday and the Bills’ defense should be good enough to contain whatever the Steelers try to offer up as an offense.  I will not make a selection on an NFL game with a full 2 TDs as a spread, but I expect the Bills to win comfortably here.

  • The Steelers have used 2 QBs so far this year – – Mitchell Trubisky for the first 3.5 games and Kenny Pickett for 0.5 games.
  • The Steelers’ QBs have thrown for a grand total of 2 TDs in the four games the Steelers played in 2022.

Just so you know, that is beneath “shocking” and goes all the way down to “miserable”.

Falcons at Bucs – 9.5 (48):  Take a deep breath; if the Falcons win here, they will be in sole possession of first place in the NFC South five weeks into the NFL season.  I never saw that coming; did you?  I did see the Bucs dominating that division, but I am not remotely willing to lay that many points to a division rival.  No selection here; I’ll pass…

Bears at Vikes – 7 (44):  How to say this nicely?  The Bears stink.  The Vikings are not a great team; they are more NFC pretenders than they are NFC contenders – – but they are better than the Bears and they are at home.  I like the Vikes to cruise to a comfortable win here; I’ll take them and lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Titans – 2.5 at Commanders (42.5):  As of this morning, these two teams are headed in opposite directions.  The Commanders have lost 3 games in a row and two of them were against NFC East foes.  This team needs a win more than the Donner Party needed to download the Uber Eats App.  The “problem” for the Commanders is that they have trouble protecting their QB and this week they will try to do so without their starting RT, Sam Cosmi.  I am not trying to pretend that Cosmi is some sort of pivotal player on the OL; he is a decent young tackle and nothing more.  However, given the rest of the OL, Cosmi is a veritable lynchpin.  The other humongous problem for the Commanders here is that their run-stopping begins and ends with their defensive line – – which is super talented.  But if Derrick Henry gets off to the next level beyond that DL, it will be a nightmare in DC only eclipsed by John Kerry returning to DC and threatening to give a 3-hour speech.  Give me the Titans on the road; I’ll lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Dolphins – 3 at Jets (45):  Teddy Bridgewater will be the Dolphins’ QB here; should he need to be replaced, the QBs on the roster who might play – – not thinking Tua Tagovailoa is even a remote possibility – – would be Reid Sinnet and/or Skyler Thompson.  You will be excused if you could not pick Sinnet or Thompson out of a lineup with the hosts of the TV show, The View.

Chargers – 2.5 at Browns (48):  The key question here is simple:

  • Can the Chargers contain the Browns’ running attack sufficiently to force the Browns to throw the ball more than they would prefer to do?

The Chargers will move the ball and will score; but if the Browns can control the clock and the tempo, the Chargers may never be able to exert control over the game.  Interesting game to watch; bad game to bet…

Lions at Pats – 3 (46.5):  The Lions’ offense is doing just fine; the Lions lead the NFL in points scored.  The Lions’ defense is a mirage; there is no there there.  The Lions give up more than 35 points per game.; that is what bad college teams give up per game not what guys who are getting paid to play defense give up per game.  But it is tough to take the Pats this week not knowing if Mac Jones or Bailey (Zappity-Doo-Dah) Zappe or Hugo Knucklebuck will play QB for the Pats.

Niners – 6.5 at Panthers (38.5):  This is a long trip for the Niners, and this is a let-down game for the team after beating the Super Bowl champion Rams on MNF last week.  So much for the negatives; the Niners are a far better team with a far better QB.  Just for giggles, give me the Niners to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Eagles – 5 at Cards (49):  For a reason I have never understood, the Eagles never play well in Arizona.  Add to that history the fact that the Eagles have a date with the Cowboys next week and the Cowboys are 100 times the rival that the Cards are.  The Eagles could maintain their mojo and roll past the Cards – – or they could lose outright by 10 points.  Watch this game if you can and enjoy it – – but don’t bet on it.

Cowboys at Rams – 5.5 (43.5):  I think this is the Game of the Week.  The Rams played poorly on Monday night losing to the Niners; there is no way to sugar-coat that.  The Cowboys are on a roll with Cooper Rush orchestrating their offense.  The Rams need to be able to give Matthew Stafford time to throws the ball; I think they find a way to do that and win this game.

(Sun Nite) Bengals at Ravens – 3 (48):  The Bengals’ offense came alive last week, and the Ravens’ defense is “suspect” at best.  Lamar Jackson had a down game for him last week; he will be striving to assure that does not happen two weeks in arow.  I see points galore here; give me the OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Raiders at Chiefs – 7 (51):  This game was the runnier-up as the Game of the Week.  This is also clearly the best rivalry game on the card for this week.  I like the Chiefs to win this game at home because it looked to me that they found an offensive rhythm against the Bucs last week.  The Raiders will pin their hopes on Josh Jacobs’ ability to control the clock with a running game that keeps that rhythmic Chiefs’ offense on the sidelines.  No selection here because I do not like that spread or that Total Line.

Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Kansas/TCU OVER 66.5
  2. Oregon/Arizona OVER 69.5
  3. Vikes – 7 over Bears
  4. Titans – 2.5 over Commanders
  5. Niners – 6.5 over Panthers
  6. Ravens/Bengals OVER 48

And just for fun here are two Money Line Parlays at an imaginary $100 each…

            Finally, let me close here with another point made by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“We like Central Florida’s chances of hitting a long-distance field goal, what with a kicker named Colton Boomer.”

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

 

 

Business Stuff On Labor Day…

You do not need to be an honors graduate of the Harvard Business School to recognize that the US economy is undergoing a period of inflation.  If you want to understand why that is the case and/or how such an economic trend might be altered, you should go and find an honors graduate of the Harvard Business School and get him to explain it to you.  In my simplistic reasoning, things cost more because there is more money out there in the economy than there was before.

Using my simplistic explanation, it is not unreasonable to expect that the sports world will see revenue growth in these times.  And there are reports of just such situations coming to pass.  For example, when the NFL recently announced its new media rights deals, some folks wondered if the prices paid by the media outlets represented a “bubble” – – an economic situation that could not be sustained because the costs were prohibitive to the broadcasters.  Well, here is the current situation:

  • Ad rates for NFL in-game time slots are up 7% over last year
  • A 30-second time slot in a national game (late afternoon on Sunday or Sunday night or Monday night) cost up to $860,000.
  • Networks report that more than 90% of the time slots for all NFL games have already been sold for the run of the regular season.
  • Media outlets will take in more than $7B from advertisers over the course of the NFL regular season.

Amazon, CBS, Disney, Fox and NBC will pay the NFL $110B over the next 11 years for the broadcasting rights.  Amazon will have the Thursday Night Football games this year and will certainly take in less money per game from advertisers than the other providers simply because Amazon Prime TV is available to fewer households.  But the other companies look to be in good shape economically since they have playoff games and then FOX has the Super Bowl telecast in February 2023 as added sources of revenue.  FOX reports that it has already sold “a majority of its inventory” for the Super Bowl and that the average in-game time slot is going for more than $6M.

As inflation continues, the networks can look to raise the rates they charge to advertisers while the payments they have to make to the NFL are fixed for the term of the deal.  So, maybe these cost levels for broadcast rights are sustainable after all?

There has been another recent economic event associated with the NFL that deserves a mention.  Recall that one of the Spanos siblings – – a co-owner of the LA Chargers – – was suing her brother and seeking to force the team to be sold claiming that the trust that allows the family to control the Chargers was in a financial state such that it could not meet its obligations.  That lawsuit had interesting potential because the finances of every NFL team other than the Green Bay Packers are not revealed publicly.  A trial of this kind would put a lot of that sort of information in the public domain.

Those folks who were relishing the opportunity to get a peek behind the veil got some bad news about a week ago. The judge in the case ruled in favor of a motion by Dean Spanos that the case would not be heard in open court but would be handled in the NFL’s arbitration system which is about as transparent as a block of granite.  Previously, the NFL named former US Attorney General, Eric Holder, as the person who would handle the arbitration proceedings.

Moving on …  There are reports that Netflix is considering a documentary on Johnny Manziel.  My first reaction was:

  • Why would anyone want to know anything more about Johnny Manziel?

But upon reflection, there is something attractive about watching a train wreck – – so long as you do not know anyone on the wrecking train(s).  And a documentary on Johnny Manziel would have train wreck qualities to it because it is a story of a rapid rise to celebrity status followed very quickly by a fall from grace to a status that is almost pitiable.  That is a story arc that a documentary film maker can exploit and sell to the public…

In the business of baseball news, the Oakland A’s would appear to be nearing a crossroads decision about the future of the franchise.  Earlier reports said that representatives of the A’s had met specifically with a billionaire in Las Vegas about specific  undeveloped piece of land that he controls in the city.  Now there is a report that the A’s have notched a victory in court that moves them closer to the ability to build a stadium and a surrounding developmental area in the city of Oakland.  Here is a capsule of what happened there:

  • The A’s proposed a humongous developmental project in a waterfront part of the city.  The plan would have a stadium, 3000 units of housing, retail space and a mid-sized hotel built on the plot.  Total cost estimate is $12B.
  • The A’s filed the necessary environmental impact statements and those documents were challenged in court by a variety of plaintiffs including the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
  • The court ruled in favor of the A’s saying the environmental impact statements were satisfactory.

For the A’s to realize their “Oakland option” the city needs to come up with a chunk of money to cover the development of necessary infrastructure in that part of town.  Currently the area is warehouses and a dock; clearly, that is insufficient in terms of infrastructure for the kind of development envisioned here.  There has been some money appropriated by the State of California and there is an application in for some Federal funding too.  Then the city will have to figure out if it can come up with the rest.

Finally, having mentioned Las Vegas as an option for the A’s above, let me close today with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Las Vegas:  A Nevada gambling and entertainment Mecca that sells itself as a naughty destination for the sexually adventurous nightclub set, when in reality it contains mostly doughy families from the Midwest whose idea of a night at the theater involves either a light show or a magician and row upon row of infirm emphysema cases going from one penny slot machine to another on their mobility scooters.  Sexy stuff, indeed.”

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

 

 

NBA Ruminations…


Let me begin today with a comment about the rumored trade between the Nets and the Lakers which would exchange Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving – – along with other guys to make the deal financially allowable.  I have no idea if this exchange of disgruntlement will happen, but I think people are looking at the possible outcomes from such a trade incorrectly.

Most of the reports seem to focus on the potential reunion of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving who had been teammates in Cleveland when the Cavs won the NBA Championship.  That relationship soured to the point where they parted company, but a lot of sand has dropped through the hourglass since then.  LeBron James wants to win another title – – remember he is still two titles behind Michael Jordan and tied in the number of titles with Steph Curry – – because “The Chosen One” needs to be in a class of his own.  Kyrie Irving has not even sniffed another championship since leaving Cleveland.

While that is an interesting storyline that might make the basis for a screenplay and a short film feature, I think the more interesting thing to do is to ponder the Nets’ situation should such a trade take place:

  • The Brooklyn Nets would have Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons and possibly Kevin Durant on their roster as their “Big Three”
  • Kevin Durant is a great player – one of the best ever.  He can score and he will play defense even though he is not a great defender.
  • Ben Simmons is a “reluctant shooter” which is a good thing because when shooting outside about 6 feet from the basket he is a bad shooter.  Simmons is a demon on defense though…
  • Russell Westbrook has never seen a shot he was reluctant to take, and he plays defense as enthusiastically as someone looks forward to a pay cut.

To me, that situation could create great synergy – – or it could collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  If that image does not immediately come to mind, here is a refresher for your memory; the refresher only takes 1 minute and 13 seconds…

One other trade speculation involving NBA teams has it that the Knicks would like to acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Jazz.  It surely appears from afar that the Jazz are seeking to do a full “tear-down and rebuild” to the team.  Coach Quin Snyder left town after the Jazz were eliminated from the playoffs; the team traded Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves for 4 first round picks plus the guy the Wolves took in the first round this year.  Mitchell should be an asset that carries a similar value to Gobert’s; so, let the bidding begin…

Let me be clear that I like Donovan Mitchell a lot; having said that, I do not think the Knicks are the best team for him.  I think there are several important reasons why the Knicks should be looking elsewhere to land a star player:

  • Mitchell is signed to a contract that runs through the end of the 2024/25 season with a player option for the next year.  He will make between $30.4M next year and up to $34.8M two seasons after that.  The option year would be at a salary of $37.1M.  The Knicks just signed Jalen Brunson to a deal with over $100M so they are not about to trade him.  But they must come up with a package of picks plus players that approaches $30M for the trade to be permissible.
  • That salary stipulation puts RJ Barret’s name front and center as a player the Jazz might be happy to have either to build around or to flip in yet another trade.  The Knicks’ problem is that Barrett is the best player they had prior to signing Brunson.
  • Mitchell and Brunson would be a strong backcourt tandem to be sure – – but the NBA is not won by small guards with questionable support from “the bigs”.  And if Barrett is gone, the best of the remaining “bigs” would probably be Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.  That tandem elicits a Meh! from these quarters.
  • Randle is the only Knick under contract whose salary in 2022/23 is nearly sufficient to allow a trade for Mitchell; Randle will make $23.9M next year.  The Jazz CEO for Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, would have to be on some sort of psychedelic trip to consider a Randle for Mitchell swap – – and he may not even want Randle at all given that the Jazz will be rebuilding, and Randle has been in the NBA for 8 years now.

Unless the Jazz value whatever draft capital the Knicks have very highly, acquiring Donovan Mitchell would either gut the Knicks of whatever young prospects they have on the roster and/or denude them of draft picks in the future.  [Aside:  Please see what I said about the NBA not being won by small guards alone…]  Donovan Mitchell would surely be an upgrade for the Knicks – but I do not think it is a good fit for Mitchell or the Knicks in the long run.

Then again, I am not an NBA GM…

One other NBA note today.  The Wizards signed Bradley Beal to a max contract over 5 years worth $251M.  The Wizards had a similar experience with John Wall and a “max contract which they traded away to get Russell Westbrook on a max deal who they then traded away.  You would think that the Wizards would have learned from those experiences that players of that style do not hold up well as they age.

Like I said, I am not an NBA GM…

Finally, having just mentioned Russell Westbrook I ran across an interesting stat about him and his contract with the Lakers.

Assuming Westbrook plays the entire 2022/23 season with the Lakers, he will have made a total of $91.3M in salary from the Lakers.

In 1979, Jerry Buss bought the Lakers franchise PLUS the LA Kings franchise PLUS The Forum from Jack Kent Cooke for a total of only $67.5M.

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

 

 

Hockey And Basketball Today

Congratulations this morning to the Colorado Avalanche; they are the Stanley Cup champions having defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games.  I will not pretend to be able to provide a meaningful analysis of how or why the Avalanche prevailed here other than to say that as I watched the series progress, it seemed to me that Colorado was faster than Tampa and it is awfully hard to defend against an opponent that you cannot keep up with.

I want to focus on a couple of NBA issues today.  The league is in its offseason – brief as it may be – but there are a bunch of storylines that need following over the next few days and others that will play out over the next couple of months.  The ones that have short-term “deadlines” have to do with players whose contract has expired but who also have player options for one more year.  Those players have until June 29 to choose one of three options:

  1. Decline the player option and work out a contract extension with their current team
  2. Let the deadline pass and become an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team
  3. Exercise that one-year option with their current team.

A report by NBC Sports says that Bradley Beal and the Wizards have agreed on a contract extension.  His option year would have paid him $36.5M but the new contract is purportedly worth $248M over the next 5 years.  Assuming that report to be completely accurate, Beal is setting himself – and most likely his grandchildren – up with an incredibly secure financial future.  At the same time, I suspect that he is consigning himself to being the best player on a mediocre team for the next 5 years.  The players surrounding him on the roster seem to me to be from Lake Woebegone – – everyone thinks they are slightly above average.

Another player who has to make a decision this week is James Harden.  According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harden is going to blend Option 1 and Option 3 above; the report says that he will exercise his one-year option at $47.4M and then sign a short term (2-year) deal with the Sixers on top of that which would give him a 5% increase in salary in each of those two seasons.  James Harden will be 33 years old when the next NBA season tips off; the last time he played in more than 70 games in a season was back in 2018/2019.  I do not want to go hyperbolic here and say that Harden is washed up because he is not; having said that, James Harden is not the player he was 5 years ago, and he is not likely to regain that form any time in the future.  This saga has a couple more days to run before the first shoe drops and Harden opts in for next year at $47.4M.  I think he would be crazy not to do that.

The third player in this situation is the one that brings the most drama to the storyline; that would be Kyrie Irving and that ought not be a huge surprise because Kyrie Irving can create drama over the preparation of a grilled cheese sandwich.  Irving’s option year with the Nets would pay him $36.4M next year; a couple of months ago, he announced that he intended to sign an extension with the Nets but that  seems to have run aground.  Let me try a thumbnail reset here:

  • Irving was drafted by the Cavs in 2011.  He was a major part of the Cavs’ NBA Championship team alongside LeBron James in 2016.
  • He spent 2 seasons with the Celtics and professed a love for the team and city assuring fans he was there for the long haul – – and then he bailed.
  • Signing with the Nets brought him close to his high school neighborhood in Elizabeth NJ and paired him with his friend, Kevin Durant – – but that has not seemed to make Irving into a reliable teammate.

To call Irving “mercurial” is an understatement.  More importantly, he is not reliable in the sense that he has not played in slightly more than half of the Nets’ games over the past 3 seasons.  From the Nets’ perspective, he is a part-time employee pulling down a full-time salary and according to reports, the Nets are not excited about the prospects of seeing that sort of situation perpetuate into the future until such time as Irving begins to whine and demand a trade.

At his best, Kyrie Irving is a dominant player.  When I watch him play, he does his thing so effortlessly that I wonder why everyone else doesn’t do those same sorts of things.  He is indeed a special talent on the court.  On the bench and “on the street”, it is a different story.  Irving does not “elevate the players around him” and he creates drama for himself and by extension for others involved with the team.  Last season, it was his refusal to take the coronavirus vaccine that created a maelstrom; in the past Irving felt it important to let everyone know that he believed that the Earth is flat and for some reason there was a need for scientists to have the general public falsely believe it is spherical.

  • [Aside:  Those utterances earned him the nickname “World B. Flat” placing him aside another legendary NBA free spirit, World B. Free.]

The Nets/Irving drama has seen the curtain come down on several acts and another one will come down on June 29.  The question for the Nets at that time will be:

  • How much are  you willing to pay for another string of acts in this play titled Irving and the Nets[Aside:  Not to be confused with Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets”…]

The reason that is the central question for the Nets is simple.  History shows that Kyrie Irving cannot exist without “external events” that affect his game or his ability to participate.  When no such circumstances exist, he will manufacture them.  Stay tuned…

Finally, today’s rant has dealt with people who are very rich; and so, I will close with this comment about rich people from George Bernard Shaw:

“What is the matter with the poor is poverty; what is the matter with the rich is uselessness.”

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

 

 

Basketball And More Basketball

The NBA Finals might be finished tomorrow; the Warriors lead the Celtics 3 games to 2 with tomorrow’s game in Boston.  If a 7th game is needed it will be Sunday in San Francisco.  The Series so far has been interesting, but the games have not been exciting; the average margin of victory has been 13.4 points per game; every game has been decided by double-digits.  Tomorrow’s game – and Sunday’s game if needed – should be worth your attention.

I want to focus on some of the remarks that Adam Silver made about the league earlier this month before the finals began.  The league did well this year on TV and its playoffs averaged more than 3.5 million viewers per game.  That is good news for the league and for its fans because the league lost a reported $695M to the pandemic.  Moreover, reports say that the losses are not restricted to the “small market teams”; the NY Post reported that the Brooklyn Nets lost at least $50M over the course of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The NBA national media deals expire at the end of the 2024 season; the existing deal will have brought in $24B in revenue to the league at expiration, and one report I read from CNBC suggested that the NBA will seek a multiyear deal worth $75B this time around.  If the league can triple its revenue from TV rights, that should go a long way to erasing the COVID-related losses.

As is always the case when a league Commissioner participates in one of these so-called “State of the League” press events, there is some focus on issues that seem far less important than things like TV ratings and revenue growth.  This year’s press event was no different.

Commissioner Silver said that there is still consideration given to a tournament for NBA teams in the midst of the regular season and that such a tournament might begin as soon as next season – – if they can figure out how to do that.  The Commissioner’s remarks there are important:

“We continue to talk to our Competition Committee about it, our team governors, the Players Association, to see if there’s a way throughout the season to create more meaningful games, more games of consequence, potentially a tournament that would arguably replace some of the regular-season games but would be more meaningful.”

“More meaningful games” and “more games of consequence” for the NBA regular season has been a bugaboo for at least the last 25 years.  There are way too many games that are of zero importance to anyone other than the participants on the floor and I have argued for years that the league needs to find ways to fix that.  My solution has been to shorten the season to 58 games where each of the 30 teams plays every other team twice – – home and away.

I am not sure if the league were to “take a break” and run a single elimination tournament in mid-season if that would add “meaningful games.”  Maybe the last three games of the brackets might be interesting – – or not.  I will say this about the idea of a tournament:

  • I cannot imagine a scenario where the Players’ Union would agree to institute a tournament in addition to an 82-game regular season schedule.
  • Even without a tournament, it is unusual to find a player who participates in all 82 games; adding more contests would seem to call for more consideration of load management.

One way that pro sports leagues have used to infuse capital into the league is expansion.  Rumors abound that the NBA will expand by two teams as soon as 2024 and that one of them will play in a new arena under construction in Las Vegas.  Silver seemed to throw some water on the specifics of those rumors in his remarks.  He said that indeed it was inevitable for the NBA to expand but that it is not something that is under discussion right now.  On this point, I think the Commissioner is correct.  There are supremely talented players in the NBA – – but there is not a surfeit of them.  Unless the league were to allow teams only to “protect” a starting five from an expansion draft, an expansion team – – or two of them – – would be hideously uncompetitive for several years.  The last team in that position was the Vancouver Grizzlies  It was not until the 5th season of the team’s existence that it was able to win 20 games in a season.  That is not something that bears repeating.

Switching attention to college basketball, the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel approved “allowing men’s basketball officials to assess Class B technical fouls to players who fake being fouled, beginning in the 2022-23 season.”   A Class B technical foul awards one free throw to the opponent.  Under the current rule/interpretation, the official would give a warning first before calling a “Flopping Tech”.

As a former official, I am of two minds on this one:

  • I totally agree with the intent to get flopping out of the game.  Fakery should not be part of basketball at any level.
  • I also know that every “flopping call” will have a component to it that requires mind-reading on the part of the official as he/she considers the intent of the potential flopper.  Basketball officials are not mind-readers; these calls – if there are many of them – will be VERY controversial.

Here is the explanation of this new rule interpretation that does not mention mind-reading.  It almost sounds as if you could measure it objectively:

“When evaluating potential flopping situations, officials will be asked to judge whether the player’s physical reaction to the contact with another player is consistent with what would have been expected, given the force of the contact. When the reaction is not consistent, the player is most likely exaggerating the nature of the contact in an attempt to gain an advantage, and flopping has occurred.”

Good luck with this one, folks…

Finally, let me close today with the definition of “Basketball” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Basketball:  A fast-paced and energetic team sport in which two opposing teams attempt score the most points by propelling a large orange ball through a hoop roughly ten feet off the ground.  The game is notable mostly for the fact that it is played in stadiums that used to have some individuality but are now named after a wide variety of telephone companies and office supply retailers.”

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

 

 

The FOG Returns…

Yesterday’s rant was brought to you by The FOG – – The First and Only Grandson – – and I said then that he would produce part of today’s offering as well.  Last weekend, Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in the finals of the UEFA Champions League.  The FOG was not in attendance but saw the game and sent me this description/analysis:

“The 2021/22 season drew to a close on Saturday the 28th of May in Paris as the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid commenced later than planned due to rioting from Real supporters outside the entrance to the Stade de France not allowing many Liverpool fans to enter the stadium. The atmosphere in the stadium was supposedly electric as Liverpool fans hoped for the second Champions League title of manger Jurgen Klopp’s reign whereas Real supporters sought to break their own record for most Champions League wins by making it 14 in total. There was a lot of history between these two clubs as they had met in the Champions League final before in 2018, a match where Liverpool was let down by both bad goalkeeping and an injury to their star player Mohammed Salah caused by Sergio Ramos who went unpunished much to the dismay of the fans.

“When the match finally got under way, around 40 minutes later than expected, Liverpool showed their hand immediately with a high line intended to press the notoriously lacklustre Real defence which had been a sore point for “Los Meringues” all season. It seemed to be working as within the first half hour the Liverpool strikers managed to get shots off frequently challenging Thibaut Courtois, the Real Madrid Goalkeeper. As the half progressed Real began to attack more but they were still looking as if they were outclassed by Liverpool, and it was only a matter of time before Courtois allowed a shot to bulge the net.

“This is until the 40th minute where Karim Benzema got on the end of a ball over the head of Liverpool centre back, Van Dijk, who was unable to catch up with him. Benzema looked as if he was about to shoot but he hesitated to long and was closed down by Alisson forcing him to lay the ball off to Vinicius Junior who could do little but poke at the ball managing to sneak it past Alisson and back to Benzema who put in the net. His celebrations and those of the Real Madrid fans were cut short though by an offside decision as it turns out that Benzema was behind Alisson leaving only one defender between him the goal line, therefore he was offside, and the goal didn’t count. Little more happened in the first half, and it ended 0-0.

“The second half was much of the same but Liverpool dominance over possession was slightly weaker opening the door for Real Madrid to counterattack. Liverpool continued to bombarde the Real goal forcing Courtois to shut down chance after chance with incredible saves. One that was particularly notable came when Salah expertly took down an over-the-top ball with his first touch but was foiled in his endeavour to give his team the lead by an incredible reaction save. Liverpool looked destined to win until one of those counter attacks combined with an error from Trent Alexander-Arnold and a pinpoint pass from Valverde gave Vinicius Junior an easy tap in to deliver Real the lead after 59 minutes of deadlock.

“Madrid, now with the lead, needed only to see off any more challenges from the Reds and hold on till the final whistle blew, but this would prove harder than expected as Liverpool only upped their chance production as they riddled the Madrid goal with shot after shot each one blocked by an expert save from Thibaut Courtois who I believe deserved a man of the match award as he personally kept “Los Blancos” in the match. As regular time ran out and all hope began to fade for the Liverpool supporters their shots became increasingly desperate coming from outside the box at awkward angles and many of them missing far wide of either post.

“When the clock struck 90 minutes the ref announce that he would be adding 5 minutes of injury time giving new life to the Liverpool team as they continued to press in search of an equaliser. The last few minutes were scrappy and Real Madrid players were taking every opportunity to fall on the ground and waste time with injuries that seemed to magically disappear 20 seconds later. In the end Madrid managed to hang on to their 1-0 lead, adding a 14th Champions League title to their trophy cabinet despite Liverpool’s dominant and objectively more impressive performance.”

Here are a couple of stats to give you an idea of how Liverpool dominated the action in that game – – to no avail:

  • Shots:   Liverpool 24  Real Madrid 4
  • Shots on Goal:  Liverpool 9  Real Madrid 2
  • Corner Kicks:  Liverpool 6  Real Madrid 2

Moving on …  Let me tie up another “loose end” here.  A week ago, I mentioned that Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest would face each other in a finals match to see which team would be promoted from the English Championship to the English Premier League next season.  The game was played last Sunday, and Nottingham Forest prevailed by a score of 1-0.  That means the three “promoted” teams are Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest.

I am not going to pretend to be a soccer maven here, but something jumps out at me from the Championship Table last season.

  • Fulham averaged 2.3 goals per game
  • The next highest scoring team (Bournemouth) averaged only 1.6 goals per game.

In the Premier League last season, only 2 teams averaged more than 2.3 goals per game.  Those two teams – – Manchester City and Liverpool – – finished first and second in the Premier League.  It will be interesting to see if Fulham can continue that sort of offensive prowess against better defenses next year in the top league.

Finally, I received an email from a friend who said he thought I was morphing from a curmudgeon into a pessimist.  Thinking on that “accusation”, I went to see if I could find a distinction and came across this observation by Oscar Wilde:

“Pessimist:  one who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.”

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

 

 

Quarterbacks Dominate The News Today

Well, the “quarterback situation” in the NFL changed just a bit yesterday.  Aaron Rodgers decided to sign with the Packers for 4 years and a deal that could be worth as much as $200M.  I will explain later but here is The Bottom Line regarding that deal:

  • Barring catastrophic circumstances, the Green Bay Packers are Super Bowl contenders for the next four seasons.

As if that was not sufficiently impactful news relative to the “quarterback situation” yesterday, there was also a humongous trade.

  • Broncos:  Get Russell Wilson plus a fourth-round pick.
  • Seahawks:  Get Noah Fant (TE), Shelby Harris (DL), Drew Lock (QB), two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a fifth-round pick.

The Broncos have been in a “quarterback wasteland” ever since they won the Super Bowl and Peyton Manning retired.  Here are the eleven players who have started at QB for the Broncos since the team last won the Lombardi Trophy:

  1. Trevor Siemian (24 starts)
  2. Drew Lock (21 starts)
  3. Case Keenum (16 starts)
  4. Teddy Bridgewater (14 starts)
  5. Joe Flacco (8 starts)
  6. Paxton Lynch (4 starts)
  7. Brock Osweiler (4 starts)
  8. Brandon Allen (3 starts)
  9. Jeff Driskel (1 start)
  10. Philip Lindsey (1 start)
  11. Brett Rypien (1 start)

The Broncos gave up a lot to get themselves stability at the quarterback position; that list should explain why they were so anxious for some stability.

I said I would explain why the Packers are now Super Bowl contenders for the next 4 seasons.  With Russell Wilson leaving the NFC in this trade, the imbalance in “star quarterbacks” between the NFC and the AFC has gotten even worse.  If I were to list the “Elite QBs” in the NFC this morning, Aaron Rodgers would go on the list, and no one would object.  After Rodgers, you might have to squint to add anyone to the list:

  • Matt Ryan – – maybe
  • Matthew Stafford – – maybe
  • Kyler Murray – – not yet
  • Dak Prescott – – maybe
  • You get the idea…

Now do the same sort of listing for “Elite QBs” for teams in the AFC:

  • Josh Allen – – sure
  • Joe Burrow – – highly probable
  • Derek Carr – – maybe
  • Justin Herbert – – sure
  • Lamar Jackson – – maybe
  • Trevor Lawrence – – ???
  • Patrick Mahomes – – sure
  • Russell Wilson – – sure

By the way, if Deshaun Watson ever suits up again with the Texans, you can add him to the of AFC Elite QBs too.  The path to the Super Bowl in the NFC looks to be a lot less cluttered than is the path in the AFC.

  • [Aside:  Thinking about quarterbacks brought this to mind.  Kenny Pickett (Pitt) is going to be drafted this year notwithstanding his small hands.  There have been lots of stories about him and every time I see his picture, he reminds me of “Bo Callahan” – the QB who everyone thought would be the first player taken in the movie, “Draft Day”.   Use Google images to see if you agree with me…]

The thread to the next topic is tenuous, but another “Broncos’ QB” has been in the news recently.  Brian Griese was originally drafted by the Broncos and played in the NFL for eleven seasons.  Since retiring in 2009, Griese has been in the broadcasting booth making it to the Monday Night Football announcing team on ESPN.  Griese has recently left ESPN to take a job with the Niners as their QB coach.

I think this is an excellent career move for Brian Griese.  I doubt that he had a lot of “growth potential” left in the broadcasting business; he had reached his level of competence.  But he is only 47 years old and that is not exactly “retirement age” for most folks.  So, this job offers him a challenge and an opportunity to become a “hot commodity” in the assistant coaching profession.  The Niners have a rookie they must like in Trey Lance; after all , the Niners traded up in the Draft to take him with the 3rd overall pick last year.  If Griese works with him and Lance emerges as a young star QB, Brian Griese – – rightly or wrongly – – will inherit the aura of a “Quarterback Whisperer”.  Those folks are almost as coveted as “Franchise QBs”…

Bonne chance Brian Griese…

Finally, #2 son sent me a note yesterday with a line from Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update that ties together current events and the sports world in a tidy package:

“Some people have been surprised that the Russians, despite superior firepower, have been slowed by aging equipment, poor motivation, and inept leadership.  So basically, they’re the Lakers.”

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

 

 

On Hiatus…

I will be “off the air” for the next week.  My long-suffering wife and I are going to the Maryland Eastern Shore for some sightseeing and seafood.  Maybe I will be back in time to write next Friday (Feb 18); if not, I’ll be back on Monday (Feb 21)

Stay well, everyone…