Danny Hurley Stays At UConn

Word came yesterday afternoon that Danny Hurley did not want to leave UConn to coach the LA Lakers and he rejected a contract offer that would have more than doubled the $32M he will be getting from UConn in his present deal.  I am not nearly qualified to say why he made the decision that he did but I will take note of the fact that nothing in Danny Hurley’s background screams LOS ANGELES or HOLLYWOOD.

  • He was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ which is about as like LA as day is to night.
  • He played college basketball at Seton Hall – – in South Orange, NJ.
  • He coached at Wagner College – – in Staten Island, NY
  • He coached at the University of Rhode Island – – in Kingston, RI
  • He coaches at UConn – – in Storrs, CT.

Danny Hurley is 51 years old; his life experiences have centered on the East Coast in areas lacking in glitz and glamor.  I am not shocked that he chose to stay in his comfort zone for $32M instead of striking out of that comfort zone to collect $70M.  It’s not as if his current $32M deal is going to see him and his family wondering where their next meal is coming from.

And it is not as if he is the first college coach of a national championship team to be courted by an NBA team.  I can recall Mike Krzyzewski turning down at least one such offer and there is a story – – perhaps apocryphal – – that says Red Auerbach approached Bob Knight after Knight’s Hoosiers won the NCAA Championship going undefeated in 1976.  Supposedly, Auerbach asked Knight if he would be interested in coaching the Celtics; Knight’s response:

  • Only if you guarantee that I will make more than the highest paid player on the team.

If the exchange really went along with that script, I suspect the conversation ended abruptly right about there…

As you might imagine the AD at UConn was happy to hear about Hurley’s decision; here is part of his reaction to the news:

“We are thrilled that Dan Hurley has made the decision to stay at UConn and continue building upon our championship tradition.  He has helped return our men’s basketball program back to the pinnacle of the sport, including back-to-back NCAA Championships, and we’re grateful for his loyalty to UConn … He will continue to bring great pride to Husky fans everywhere as we work toward a three-peat.”

So, fans and administrators at UConn got good news yesterday …  However, elsewhere in the basketball world, things are not going in a euphoric dimension for a former NBA player whose life has tumbled into a condition as bad as a dumpster fire.  Back in 2004, Delonte West and Jameer Nelson led the St. Joseph’s Hawks to the NCAA Regional Finals ending the season with a record of 30-2.  Both Nelson and West were drafted into the NBA; Nelson had a successful career; West’s life spun out of control.  West bounced around the NBA playing for 4 teams – – twice with the Celtics.  He also played for a time in the G League and in China.  He has been arrested on myriad drug charges and on a “weapons violation” about 15 years ago.  Last week, he was arrested in Fairfax County, Virginia for violating parole regulations stemming from prior run-ins with the law and for resisting arrest.  He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder – – which in concert with drug abuse incidents has turned him into a caricature of his former athletic self.  In that recent arrest activity, police officers administered Narcan at the arrest site as an “antidote” for an opioid overdose and when that did not relieve the drug situation, the officers took West to a hospital for a subsequent Narcan dosage that kept him alive.

Lots of athletes have succumbed to drug addictions but many others are not tragic figures that evoke caring emotions in people close to them.  West does.  His former teammates and coaches have repeatedly rallied to try to help him stabilize his life – – to little avail unless you consider that West is still alive, not having been found face down in a ditch somewhere with no vital signs.

  • Sic transit gloria mundi …

Switching gears – – or at least sports …  Another athlete has had an unusual run-in with the law recently.  Xavian Howard had been a quality CB for the Dolphins but was still unsigned as teams began their OTAs last week.  Howard is now being sued by two different people for “circulating photos and videos of himself and other women having sex to humiliate them and cause emotional distress.”  I know, you are thinking that is gauche and low-rent to be sure, but the kicker that takes this one over the top is that the lawsuits allege that he sent those “films” to a minor.  I believe that is the point where the slot machine shouts “JACKPOT!

Here is a link to the story at CBSSports.com about this whole matter.  Obviously, there are still tons of details to be fleshed out here, but I feel confident in making this assessment at this moment in time:

  • If Xavian Howard had been having difficulty finding a team in the NFL who wanted him at a price that he was willing to accept before this became public, his quest for a new NFL home just got orders of magnitude more difficult.

Finally, let me close today with some pertinent words from Will Rogers:

“If America ever passes out as a great nation, we ought to put on our tombstone: America died from a delusion she had Moral Leadership.”

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

 

 

Stirring The Pot – Taking The Plunge

It has been a little over 100 days since the KC Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas and those days have been just a tad tumultuous for the Chiefs’ roster.  In alphabetical order:

  • Defensive lineman Isiah Buggs stands accused in Alabama with cruelty to dogs.  His attorney says that this is a scam by the authorities in Tuscaloosa who only want Buggs to renounce his business license to operate an establishment called Kings Hookah Lounge in that city.
  • Kicker Harrison Butker kicked up a storm giving a commencement address that got lots of knickers tied up in knots when he suggested that women might find happiness and fulfillment in the home.
  • Offensive lineman Chukwuebuka Godrick was arrested on marijuana charges in Kansas.
  • Offensive lineman Wanya Morris was arrested along with Godrick on marijuana charges in Kansas.
  • Wide receiver Rashee Rice double dipped in off-season troubles:
      • First Rice was involved in alleged street racing in Dallas, TX that ended in a multi-vehicle pileup injuring about a half-dozen people and then he left the scene.
      • A few weeks later, Rice stands accused of assaulting a photographer in a nightclub in Miami, FL.

When FDR was inaugurated as President, he called the Congress into a special session and in 100 days 15 new laws came into being for the purpose of combatting The Great Depression.  Whether or not you agree with FDR’s politics, you have to concede that he had a better “100 days” than the Chiefs have had this off-season.  The good news for the Chiefs is that there seems to have been teamwork in these off-season shenanigans:

  • Godrick and Morris were arrested together.
  • There has been pot-stirring by offense, defense and special teams.

Moving on …  I admire French people and the way that they exhibit completely over-the-top behaviors when they decide to protest something – – and they do find lots of things to protest about.  For example, when the French government suggested some increased regulations for farmers and agricultural endeavors, the farmers protested by delivering tons of manure to the front steps of government buildings.  Point made…

Protests may be spontaneous, but some are planned in advance and may even be announced in advance to let folks anticipate what might be happening.  Such is the case with what seems to be a protest aimed at June 23rd of this year.  Let me set the stage.

Paris will be the site of the Olympic Games starting on July 26th; recall that Olympic organizing officials plan to use the Seine River as the means to conduct the Opening Ceremony by parading country athletes down the river on barges.  [Aside:  As noted before, there are some security concerns with that plan so it might be scrapped.]  In addition, the plan is to use the Seine River as the venue for the distance swimming events and the water portion of the triathlon.  However, the rub there is that the Seine is not sufficiently hygienic to make that a safe environment for the swimmers.

Not to worry, the organizers and some engineers have a plan to clean the river to a level where it will be safe; the plan could cost about $1.5B and some folks think that money might be better spent elsewhere.  That is the perfect backdrop for a protest – – but the French challenge there is find a way to put this protest into orbit.

To the rescue of the protesters come French President, Emmanuel Macron, and Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo.  These two political leaders said that they would personally swim in the Seine to demonstrate its suitability as the swimming venue.  M. Macron did not say when he would take a dip; Mme Hidalgo said she would take the plunge on June 23rd.

So here is the planned protest: [Warning:  What follows cannot be described as “in good taste” or in “polite language”.  Be forewarned …]

  • The protesters will organize a flashmob of people who surge to the river on June 23rd to take a dump in the river presumably upstream from where the mayor is swimming.
  • They have created a hashtag on social media – –  “JeChieDansLaSeineLe23Juin” – – which translates to “I Sh*t In the Seine On June 23rd”.
  • They have set up a website where one can learn about the timing and the precise location of the flashmob – – reported to be at Pont Marie.

Lest you think I am making all this up, here is a link to a report in the Washington Times on this planned protest.  As I said, you gotta love French protesters…

Finally, the closing thought today comes from author Wayne Dyer:

“If all you do is follow the herd, you’ll just be stepping in poop all day.”

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

 

 

Schedule Disruption …

I will definitely be off the air Monday May 20 and Tuesday May 21.

There is a possibility – – not quite a probability – – that I will find time to write on Wednesday May 22.  As of now, I would count that as another “dark day”.

Next Thursday, May 23, is a travel day so there will not be a rant then.

The plan is to be back on the air on Friday May 24.

See everyone then …

 

 

On Hiatus …

I will be off the air for about a week.  My long-suffering wife and I will be on travel hoping that the weather will allow us to experience the total eclipse of the sun next Monday.  The current plan is for us to return from that adventure late on Thursday (April 11) but I will likely not be able to have anything cogent to say until Monday (April 15).

So, I’ll see everyone back here on the 15th for sure – – and on the 12th if there is something obvious to rant on.

And for the record, I have indeed arranged our schedule such that I will continue my “streak” of watching NCAA Tournament final games even as we are on the road.

Stay safe and stay well, everyone…

 

 

Changing Times

The Women’s Basketball Final Four is set and the much-anticipated rematch between Iowa – -with Caitlin Clark – – and reigning champion LSU – – with Angel Reese – – did not disappoint.  Clark scored 41 points and handed out 12 assists; Reese scored 17 points and pulled down 20 rebounds in their Elite Eight showdown.  That was the fun aspect of that game.

The darker side involved LSU’s women’s coach, Kim Mulkey.  In the days leading up to the game, Mulkey declared that she knew that she was about to be the subject of a “hit piece” in the Washington Post; a reporter there had been working on a negative article about her for two years and that she had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the author and the Post for defamation.

The article – – written by Kent Babb – – was published.  It had some less-than-flattering things to say about Coach Mulkey, but they were sourced in the article and/or were retellings of things that had been written about her in the past.  Here is a link to the article if you want to read it for yourself.

I believe that defamation suits are decided by juries; if that is the case, let me say that based on my reading of Babb’s article, Coach Mulkey would have a difficult time convincing me that she was defamed by his words.  Perhaps, her threatened lawsuit caused editor(s) at the Post to remove some parts of the article that might have been closer on the spectrum towards defamation; that is possible.  However, if they were removed and not published, I don’t see how they can also be defamatory.  Should this case go to trial, I think I have just disqualified myself as a juror which does not upset me even slightly.  I thought my reading of the Post article would be the end of this story.

But wait, there’s more …

Earlier in the tournament, LSU played – – and defeated – – UCLA.  A writer for the LA Times understandably took the side of the local California team and referred to the LSU women as “dirty debutantes” which is alliterative and confusing at the same time.  Coach Mulkey did not call this defamatory; she said it was sexist which I guess is true in that all her players are females and only females can be debutantes.  It is the word “dirty” that does not fit here.  Here is what Coach Mulkey had to say about the Times piece:

“You can criticize coaches all you want.  That’s our business.  You can come at us and say you are the worst coach in America.  I hate you; I hate everything about you.  We expect that; it comes with the territory.  But the one thing I’m not going to let you do, I’m not going to let you attack young people and there were some things in this commentary that you should be offended by as women.”

The tone of her comments immediately recalled Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy and his famous rant about 15 years ago.  A writer covering the team wrote something critical of a demoted QB for the Cowboys and Gundy exploded at a press event telling the reporters to lay off the kids and to come after him because he was 40 years old and “I’m a man!”

Both Coach Gundy and Coach Mulkey are reading from a pivotal chapter in the “Coaches’ Almanac” where coaches take the blame in lieu of dumping it all on players’ ineffectiveness.  Hence, all the references by losing coaches to having been “outcoached” by victorious opponents and few if any references to botches by players.  When Coach Gundy went on his rant – – back in 2007 – – times were different.  The façade of college sports was that the games were contested by “student-athletes”; such is no longer the case.  Many college athletes – – to include some women who are participating in the basketball tournament – – are in receipt of NIL money.

When they accept that money, they are putting their name and likeness out in the public for exploitation; it is a transaction and not a “family matter”.  So, the protestation by Coach Mulkey and by any other college football or basketball coach along the lines of “Come at me and leave the kids out of it,” is noble and even quaint in these times when a star player might be earning six or seven figures playing a collegiate sport.  If the name, image and likeness of a player is worth that kind of money, then that player is ipso facto an adult public figure.

Switching gears – but staying on the subject of lots of money – the NFL announced that it will stage two regular season games on Christmas Day this year.  In case you are wondering why that is worth mentioning here, Christmas Day in 2024 is a Wednesday; few if any folks associate the NFL with Wednesday.  Here are my thoughts on how and why this is going to happen:

  • Last year, Christmas Day was on a Monday and the NFL simply “expanded Monday Night Football”.  In 2022, Christmas Day was on a Sunday, and no one was surprised to have some NFL football on TV on a Sunday.
  • Last year, the “Christmas Games” drew huge audiences; the average number of viewers for the games was 28.7 million folks.
  • The NBA staged 5 games last Christmas Day and the total audience for all five games was only about 30 million people; the NFL average audience was about the same size as the total NBA audience for 5 games.
  • So, if you are an NFL exec looking to increase revenues, why wouldn’t you play games on Christmas Day this year and in the future?

Obviously, this will require some scheduling legerdemain.  Having said that, I am confident that the NFL scheduling mavens have already figured out how to make this work. We will get all the details in May when the NFL releases its 2024 regular season schedule.  And according to reports, the NFL is going to put the broadcasting rights for these two games up for auction involving traditional networks, cable networks and streaming platforms.  One report said that bidding would start at $50M per game.  Let the good times roll …

Finally, let me close here with this comment from actor Jack Palance:

“The only two things you can truly depend upon are gravity and greed.”

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

 

 

Transgressions …

Late last week, I ran across a report related to a suspension for Juventus player, Paul Pogba.  He had a random drug test last August after a game and his testosterone levels were in a range considered “not to be created naturally” and the test revealed “non-endogenous testosterone metabolites present.”  He was suspended after that test and then a subsequent analysis last October of the “B Sample” from the offending test confirmed the elevated testosterone levels.  Last week the national anti-doping authorities in Italy banned Pogba from competition for 4 years.  That is not a typo; as things stand now, Paul Pogba will not play soccer for 4 years.  Pogba will turn 31 years old in about two weeks; a suspension of that length might just be the end of his career.  Naturally, he will appeal the decision as it stands to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which is centered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Paul Pogba may not be a household name here in the US, but he is a top-shelf footballer in Europe; he is a star and a leader for Juventus which is a top-shelf team in the Italian Serie A.  You can go to Wikipedia to read about the honors and the accomplishments in his career; if you do not want to do that, please take my word that this is not some minor figure in European football.  He is also not a multi-time positive tester; and yet, he got a 4-year suspension.

  • I have to wonder how many American pro athletes would take the risk of a 4-year suspension if that were the norm for a first offense.   

Moving on …  As I was grazing around Internet sports sites looking for material to use in these rants, I ran across this headline:

“Johnny Manziel will boycott Heisman ceremony until Reggie Bush gets his trophy back”

I don’t know how you feel about Reggie Bush having his Heisman trophy “repossessed” by the Heisman organization.  I recognize that it is their award, and they can issue it to whomever they please, meaning they should be able to repossess it on whatever basis they establish for said repossession.  On the other hand, Bush won the award for his play on a football field isolated from off-field happenings that were not criminal or sociopathic.  I have never lost a moment’s sleep pondering the events and the consequences of that whole business.

But I did react to that headline – – not in the way the headline writer or the article author might have preferred.  I did not click on the headline to see what the report had to say.  Rather, I made a note on my clipboard asking the following question:

  • Who cares if Johnny Manziel boycotts or attends Heisman ceremonies anytime between now and the Twelfth of Never?

For the record, I care even less about Manziel’s “boycott” than I do about who ought to be in possession of the Heisman trophy previously awarded to and then rescinded from Reggie Bush.

Switching gears … Bob Molinaro had this item in his column last week for the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Money for nothing: The arrogance of NFL owners is on display again, this time with the Carolina Panthers’ David Tepper raising ticket prices after his team’s 2-15 season. But he’ll get what he wants — all the owners do. Don’t waste sympathy on paying customers who cave to the new prices.”

The increase is not outrageous; according to reports it averages out to 4% stadium wide.  Molinaro mentions the team’s NFL-worst record of 2-15 last year but he preferred not to point out in addition that the Panthers were shut out in both of their final two games last season.  Those two shutouts put a perfect bracket on the Panthers’ season since they were also shut out in the Opening Game back in September.  In a less malevolent universe, Panthers’ season ticket holders would be getting a small rebate from last season’s purchase rather than a price increase for next season.

Oh, and speaking of the Panthers and their owner, David Tepper, let me offer a small bit of advice to the new head coach of the Panthers, Dave Canales:

  • The best predictor of future human behavior is past human behavior.
  • Ergo, rent – – don’t buy…

The following is the text of a Tweet by Tom Pelissero widely considered to be an NFL Insider:

“No surprises: The new kickoff rule crafted by NFL special teams coordinators would allow teams to attempt an onside kick only when trailing in the fourth quarter — and require them to declare it in advance, per sources. Language still being finalized and owners must approve.”

Teams would have to declare in advance that they are going to try an onside kick?  Is there any other play in a football game where the team must declare what it is going to do before they try to do it?  Using this reasoning, teams should also declare their intention to run a fake punt or a fake field goal before they break the huddle.

Look, there are precious few onside kicks in NFL games under the current rules.  There are 272 games in the NFL’s regular season; I would be shocked if there were more than 50 such plays attempted in those regular season games last year.  It seems to me that Special Teams Coordinators ought to have better things to do with their spare time in the offseason than this.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with an assessment of a novel in a book review written by Dorothy Parker:

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly.  It should be thrown by great force.”

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

 

 

In Union, There Is Strength …

After the Niners lost the Super Bowl Game in OT last Sunday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he hoped to have everyone on his staff back for next year.  Teams that make it to the Super Bowl need to expect that their coaching staff is ripe for poaching while agents for assistant coaches on Super Bowl teams look at the situation as a way to enhance the bankroll of their clients.  We are 4 days removed from the Super Bowl game and here is the toll to date on the 2023/2024 Niners’ coaching staff:

  1. Asst. OL coach, James Cregg => Raiders as OL Line coach
  2. Pass game Coordinator, Klint Kubiak => Saints as Offensive Coordinator
  3. RB coach, Anthony Lynn => Commanders as Run game Coordinator
  4. Asst. DL coach, Darryl Tapp => Commanders as DL Line coach
  5. Def, Coordinator Steve Wilks => ???  (He was “relieved of his duties.”)

So much for keeping the coaching staff intact…

After the Super Bowl game was over and the Lombardi Trophy was being handed around to notables on the raised platform, Patrick Mahomes declared that the KC Chiefs are never underdogs.  That had been their status three times during the playoffs this season and they obviously overcame that underdog status as the “last team standing”.  When I heard that, I took it for what I thought it was – – an emotional statement in a time when there was an awful lot of emotion overflowing the situation.  Then I ran across some data at ProFootballTalk that indicates Patrick Mahomes is onto something:

  • Since Mahomes took over as the Chiefs’ starting QB, the Chiefs have been underdogs 13 times (9 regular season games and 4 playoff games) when he started the game.  The Chiefs are 10-3 straight up in those games and 11-1-1 against the spread in those 13 games.  It does not take a mathematical prodigy to realize that a bettor who had backed the Chiefs and Mahomes whenever they were in underdog status would have done quite well.
  • Mahomes and the Chiefs win percentage in those 13 “underdog games” is a whopping .769.  Looking at all the games that Mahomes has started for the Chiefs when the Chiefs were the favorites in the game, the Chiefs’ record is 79-22 which is a win percentage of .782.
  • In other words, the Chiefs “pull an upset”/win as the underdog almost as frequently as they win as favorites.
  • Maybe Patrick Mahomes was not venting an emotion last Sunday evening; perhaps, he was simply speaking verifiable truth…

[Aside:  According to ProFootballTalk, the only time the Chiefs did not cover as an underdog in the Patrick Mahomes Era, was in 2022 when the Chiefs were 2.5-point underdogs to the Bills and lost the game by 4 points.]

The NFL schedule for next season will not be revealed in its entirety until sometime in May but we already know something about Week 1.  On Friday, September 6, 2024, the Eagles will open as the “home team” against an opponent to be announced later in the first-ever NFL game in Brazil.  The game will be played in Sao Paulo, and it is part of the NFL’s ongoing effort to expand the NFL brand to new overseas markets.

It is not an all-time first, but it has been more than 50 years since the NFL has scheduled a Week 1 game for a Friday night.  The last time that happened was in 1970 when the Rams hosted the Cards on September 18th.  To give you a perspective on how long ago that was, Jimi Hendrix died on September 18,1970.

In addition to the game in Sao Paulo in Week 1, the NFL will stage these other international games:

  • The Panthers will play a game in Munich.
  • The Bears, Jags and Vikes will each play a game in London.
  • The opponents in these other international games are still TBD.

Moving on …  There is a trend these days in online sites that comment on sports that I find annoying.  There are too many headlines out there that take this form:

  • “A Way-Too-Early Look At XYZ …”

XYZ could be “World Series Teams in 2024” or perhaps “CFP Selections in 2024” or even “NFL Rookie of the Year Candidates for next season”.

What is annoying is that indeed there is little to no solid information in such pieces and the headline is nothing but an attempt to harvest online clicks.  So, whenever I see such a headline on a posting – no matter if the site itself is highly reputable – I refuse to click on it.  For the record, here is my take:

  • If the author admits that it is “way too early” to write such a piece, why should I expend any effort to read it now.  I’ll wait until it is no longer “way too early” and the “time is right”.

Finally, today’s closing words came to me from a former colleague; he attributed them to novelist, Barbara Cartland:

“After forty, a woman has to choose between losing her figure or her face.  My advice is to keep your face and stay sitting down.”

Ms. Cartland is the ultimate pragmatist …

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

 

 

Two Thoughts Today …

Given the nationally televised bed-wetting achieved by the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, there are speculative pieces out there this morning suggesting that Jerry Jones ought to hire Bill Belichick to replace Mike McCarthy on the sidelines and, failing that, just replace McCarthy with anyone other than Charlie McCarthy (not known to be one of Mike’s blood relatives).  Putting emotion and hyperbole aside, let me suggest that you take a moment to read a recent Washington Post column by Sally Jenkins where she makes the case that a smart NFL owner should hire Bill Belichick post haste.

Here is the lead paragraph from that column:

“If somebody told you to trust your money to Bill Belichick to invest, would you? Now turn the question around. Why would you trust football decisions to a mall developer? It’s that time of year again, the NFL hiring cycle, when billionaire superegos confuse their industrial or inherited wealth with locker room expertise and go haphazardly shopping for a new coach who will establish “a winning culture.” Instead, what most of them will get is what they deserve: organizational misalignment.”

Personally, I think the marriage of Bill Belichick and the Dallas Cowboys would be about as stable as a barrel of nitroglycerin.  Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, is the most “hands on” owner in the NFL and the last thing that Bill Belichick is likely to tolerate is “kibbitzing” by the owner – – in the building or on a weekly radio program.  Sally Jenkins is right; owners should be seriously considering Belichick for openings around the league – – but not in Dallas.

Moving on …  Here is a story that has been around for at least 20 years and has yet to bear fruit.  Dig deep onto your memory bank and recall the last time you heard that there was a plan being formulated to renovate Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and the area around the racetrack to assure that the Preakness States would forever be contested at Pimlico.

The framework for this version of “Save Pimlico” revolves around a report to the Maryland State Legislature by a group known as the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority suggesting:

  • “Centering” racing in Maryland in Baltimore at Pimlico
  • Building a new training facility elsewhere in the State
  • Transferring the Preakness Stakes temporarily to Laurel Race Track
  • Redeveloping Pimlico on a schedule whereby it would open in 2027 and Laurel would be abandoned.

The proposal has a $400M price tag – – which makes sense since the previous idea(s) for dealing with the dilapidated condition of Pimlico were in the $300M range; so, with inflation, etc. …  The 2024 Preakness is scheduled to take place on May 18th and the idea would be to run the race at Pimlico at that time; then, shut the track down; move racing to Laurel; tear down Pimlico and rebuild it along with some hotel facilities and an event facility which would be developed and also be ready for business in 2027.  At that point, the new Pimlico would host racing on a “year-round basis”.

Let me set the scene here:

  • Pimlico has been a royal mess for about 30 years now; it has all the charm and appeal of a pile of rotting flesh.  The facilities there make an eyesore appear to be a work of art.
  • Pimlico is in a diverse neighborhood in Baltimore.  Some areas proximal to the track are old residential neighborhoods with upper middle-class residents; other areas proximal to the track are about as appealing as the track facilities themselves.
  • Horse racing is a dying sport in the US.  I have no doubt that the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority can find animals to compete “year-round” at whatever sort of track facility exists at the end of these planned activities, but this is not going to be a gold mine for the area or the State.
  • Yes, off-track betting and sports betting will help with the economics – – but remember that there was already off-track betting available at Pimlico in the past and that was insufficient to keep the operation in the black.

So, all this falderal boils down to this:

  • Pimlico needs lots of work just to be able to host one special race per year.
  • The business enterprises at the “new Pimlico” would not belong to the State; in this plan, they would be “privately developed”.
  • Is that worth $400M to the Maryland State Legislature?
  • Are the neighborhoods around Pimlico worth a $400M investment?

Finally, since Pimlico is in Baltimore, let me close with this observation from the “Bard of Baltimore” – – H. L. Mencken:

“Self respect:  the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.”

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

 

 

An Avalanche Of News

Some mornings when I approach the keyboard here in Curmudgeon Central, I need time to find something to write about.  There are days when I have to dig back a week or so to find an item on my clipboard that I have been saving for a day when nothing of note had come up recently.  Today is NOT such a day.

About two hours after posting yesterday’s rant, the Internet was vibrating with news that Pete Carroll was no longer the coach of the Seahawks but that he would be retained with the organization as an “Advisor”.  Team owner, Jody Allen, characterized this move as Carroll’s role with the team “evolving” from coach to advisor.  Carroll is 72 years old but only a few days ago he told reporters that he would be back to coach the Seahawks next year and had no plans to retire.  Assuming he did not get a visitation from three ghosts overnight – – one of which was the “Ghost of Super Bowls Future” – – this must be seen a serious demotion at the very best and most likely a firing.  And that is a bit shocking to me…

Pete Carroll’s record has been the head coach in Seattle since 2010.  His record over that time span is 137-89-1 with 10 playoff appearances, a Super Bowl Championship and a second unsuccessful appearance in the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks have been to the playoffs 20 times in franchise history since the mid-70s; Carroll has led the team to half of those playoff spots since 2010.  Trying to understand this from a “performance deficiency standpoint” is not easy.

The Seahawks made the playoffs in 2022 with Geno Smith at QB after trading away Russell Wilson to the Broncos and compiling a 9-8 record.  That was not an easy task.  This year, the team was again 9-8 with Smith at QB but that record did not qualify for a wildcard slot.  My take on those last two seasons in Seattle is that they show that Pete Carroll is a very good football coach; with a career backup at QB for two seasons – – 34 games – – his teams won more often than they lost.

If at age 72 Pete Carroll wants another job as a head coach somewhere, he might be a good fit for a team that does not need a total rebuild and thinks it has the roster necessary to make the playoffs next year.  Of the existing openings in the NFL also f this morning, the team that best fits that description would be the LA Chargers.  Or if his contract is as reported – – $15M per year through 2024 with a team option for 2025 – – he may decide to let his life “evolve” in a direction that does not involve being on the sidelines during a football game.

Bonne chance, Pete Carroll.

And as they say on those late-night infomercials,

“But wait!  There’s more …”

A couple of hours after the Pete Carroll news hit the streets, an even more surprising announcement was made:

  • Nick Saban has decided to retire as the head coach at Alabama.

Delve as deeply into Saban’s “numbers” during his coaching career as you prefer but these data stand out to me:

  • Nick Saban coached for 28 seasons and his teams won 297 games.
  • Ergo, Nick Saban’s teams averaged 10.6 wins per season.
  • Not counting the 2007 season when Alabama had to vacate 5 wins, none of Nick Saban’s teams at Toledo, Michigan St., LSU or Alabama ever finished below .500.

One of the “legacy items” for coaches at the top of college football and/or in the NFL is to “evaluate” their coaching tree.  I do not have the time or the inclination to track down every assistant he has had in his 28 seasons of coaching, but here are current head coaches who I know worked under Nick Saban at Alabama:

  1. Brian Daboll – – MY Giants
  2. Lane Kiffin – – Ole Miss
  3. Dan Lanning – – Oregon
  4. Mike Locksley – – Maryland
  5. Steve Sarkisian – – Texas
  6. Kirby Smart – – Georgia

Bonne chance, Nick Saban.

Now here is something they do not say on those late-night infomercials:

“Hang on!  We’ve got even more for you to consider.

            Early this morning news broke that the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick have gone in different directions.  In a 24-hour period, Pete Carroll, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick parted company with teams where the coach and the team were almost synonyms for a long time.  To be sure, the 2023 season was atypical for the Pats during Belichick’s tenure with the team.  I suspect that two elements in owner Robert Kraft’s decision-making methodology were:

  1. Kraft is 82 years old.  If he wants to be around to see his Patriots win the Super Bowl one more time, there must be urgency applied to the efforts.
  2. After Tom Brady left the team, things looked promising in Mac Jones’ first year with the Pats; they made it to the playoffs for a cameo appearance.  Since then, Jones has regressed; a series of bizarre decisions by Belichick have blown up in his face and he exhibits no sense of remorse for at least some of those decisions.

Three coaching icons are gone in the time it takes the Earth to make one rotation on its axis.  I suspect that has never happened before; and there is an interesting irony here:

  • Pete Carroll’s news started this avalanche of coaching change news.
  • Bill Belichick’s news put the exclamation mark on this avalanche of coaching change news.
  • In 2000, Bill Belichick took over the job as coach of the Patriots from – – Pete Carroll.

Bonne chance Bill Belichick.

Finally, the news over the past day represents an upheaval in the football world.  Perhaps the best way to close today is for me to offer this advice from Kelly Ripa:

“If I feel any sort of emotional upheaval, I go for jog and I feel better.”

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

 

 

Black Monday 2024 …

Today is known as Black Monday around the NFL.  The day after the NFL regular season ends always results in the firing of some head coaches which opens jobs at the top of franchises as well as positions such as coordinators around the league.  As of this morning, two teams have fired the coaches who were on their sidelines yesterday:

  • Commanders fired Ron Rivera
  • Falcons fired Arthur Smith.

Given that three teams had interim-head coaches on the job yesterday – – Chargers, Panthers, Raiders – – that means there will be a minimum of 5 horses to ride on the NFL’s head coaching carousel in 2024.  It will be interesting to see if the Patriots join the party here.  Reports say there will be a meeting this week between owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.

  • If losing 13 games in a season is a good reason to “move on” from a coach, then the Pats might be “in the market”.
  • If adhering to the idea that Mac Jones is a franchise QB for an NFL team is a good reason to “move on” from a coach …
  • If losing three consecutive regular season games where the defense never gave up more than 10 points in any of those games is a good reason to “move on” …

And …

  • If winning 6 Super Bowl titles for the Pats and leading 9 Pats’ teams to the Super Bowl is a good reason to retain a coach …

The Chargers, Commanders and Raiders at a minimum will definitely be in the market for new GMs in this “hiring season” since the previous incumbent has either been fired previously or – in the case of Rivera was serving double duty.  What makes the most sense in such a situation is that the team should either:

  • Hire the GM and tell the GM to hire the coach he is comfortable working with – – or – –
  • Hire the GM and the new coach as a tandem.

What makes little sense in such a situation is for the owner to hire a coach and a GM as separate events leading to confusion and potential conflict over roles, responsibilities, authorities and the like.  As you read the ongoing reports about various teams going about their business of seeking new GMs and coaches, always keep a focus on the commonality of the candidate search for both positions.

Switching gears …  Just out of curiosity, how many folks here remember who won the first of the NBA’s In-season Tournaments from about a month ago?  I’ll save you the trouble of Googling; it was the LA Lakers.  And after their trophy winning game, the Lakers proceeded to lose 10 of their next 13 games.  There are lots of conclusions to be drawn here such as:

  • See, a mediocre team (current record is 18-19) won this tournament meaning the players on other teams did not take it so seriously.
  • See, the Lakers proved that games involving qualifying for the Elimination Round of the Tournament were more important to them than any garden-variety regular season games.

Rather than try to psychoanalyze an entire team from afar, let me reject those explanations as perhaps fitting this famous observation by H. L. Mencken:

“Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible – – and wrong.”

Rather, I think the Lakers as a team are not nearly as motivated by an 82-game grind of a regular season as they are by an immediate challenge that has some recognition attached to it.  Winning a regular season game against the Raptors as part of a 4-game East Coast road trip is a grind; there is no recognition to come from winning that game or losing it.  The only thing the Lakers care about in the regular season is making it to the playoffs where every game in every series matters and recognition/affirmation is directly attached to winning as opposed to losing.

In the NBA, 20 out of the 30 teams will make it to the playoffs – – including the play-in rounds of the playoffs.  That being the case, I think the experienced Lakers’ roster only cares about finishing 10th or better in the Western Conference such that they get to be part of the NBA playoffs in April/May/June.  For those games, I would expect the Lakers to be focused on strategy and tactics game by game because every win and every series win adds to the overall reputation of the franchise and its players.

I am not nearly convinced that the majority of NBA players care a whole lot about the In-season Tournament nearly to the extent that the teams who finish in the standings in the “play-in zone” for each conference care about those play-in games.  I think that the Lakers have a roster made up in a way that will make them formidable in any sort of playoff/tournament situation and less-than-formidable in a random regular season encounter.

Now before anyone here can hit the “comment button” at the bottom of this rant, let me say clearly that my explanation fits the “Mencken Observation” very well.  It is simple and direct and plausible – – and perhaps wrong…

Finally, just because I enjoy doing so, let me close today with another piece of Mencken’s wisdom that sadly may portend much of the news in 2024:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

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