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…

MLB Hall Of Fame Ballot 2022

            The MLB Hall of Fame ballot for next year is out.  There are 13 new names on the ballot for the first time and only four of them are worth more than even a passing glance:

  1. Ryan Howard
  2. Tim Lincecum
  3. David Ortiz
  4. Alex Rodriguez

Howard and Lincecum had their moments in the spotlight during their MLB careers, but I truly do not think of them as “HoF material.”  The candidacies of both Ortiz and Rodriguez will be interesting to track – – because there are two players who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the tenth and final time this year:

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens

Bonds and Clemens have provided us with a decade-long debate about what it means to put a player in the Hall of Fame.  Neither player has been ”proven beyond a reasonable doubt” as a steroid user; nonetheless, many people – me included – think that they did indeed enhance their longevity and their statistics with some “biochemical assistance”.  Make no mistake here; my opinion on that matter is not relevant because it is nothing more than an opinion, but it has been a sticking point for many of the folks who vote for Hall of Fame inductees.

If you look purely at “the numbers”, there is no question that both Bonds and Clemens belong in Cooperstown.  If you want to “downgrade” some of those numbers because you think they are “chemically enhanced”, go right ahead and I still think Bonds and Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame with whatever reasonable degradation you might apply.  But the voters have looked beyond the numbers for these two players for the last ten years.

Now onto the ballot come David Ortiz and A-Rod.  There are more than a few whispers out there that Ortiz was “a user”.  There is no good evidence, but the whispers persist.  A-Rod is a different story; basically, he was caught twice with positive tests and served a full year’s suspension from the Commissioner.  Here is the question:

  • Will the “behavioral component” of the voting that has kept Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall of Fame and on the ballot for a decade be applied to either Ortiz or Rodriguez – – or both?

Interestingly, the “behavioral component” I referenced above is also a significant part of why another player is on the ballot for the tenth and final time this year.  Curt Schilling’s numbers – particularly in the playoffs and in the World Series – clearly tell me that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.  However, Curt Schilling is a wing nut who has espoused publicly more than a few off-center views of the world and the US political scene.  [Aside: I have no interest in discussing/debating some of his stated positions so let me leave it that I consider many of them to be “off-center”.]

Here is my suggestion:

  • Recognize that all five of the “controversial candidates” here (Bonds, Clemens, Ortiz, Rodriguez and Schilling) belong in the Hall of Fame when you consider their accomplishments on the field.
  • So, put them in there.  And also add a small second plaque to the standard one that is there for other great players like Aaron and DiMaggio and Mays and Ruth and Williams where the small added plaque says to visitors, some of the stats that got these guys admitted here may have been “chemically enhanced”.  [I will leave it to the baseball poets to come up with more acceptable prose here.]

Finally, since three of the five players (Clemens, Ortiz and Schilling) I have mentioned here as being at odds with the “behavioral component” of Hall of Fame voting played for the Boston Red Sox, let me close with this observation about Boston by comedian, Fred Allen:

“I have just returned from Boston.  It is the only thing to do if you find yourself up there.”

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



Boycott The Winter Olympics? Who Cares?

Since I am about to embark on a topic this morning that is laden with political nuances and sentiments let me declare my personal politics in a generic way:

  • I am not a Democrat.
  • I am not a Republican.
  • I am a Pragmatist.

I have not been able to buy into the ideologies or whatever passes for the guiding principles of either of the major US political parties for all of my adult life and both parties fail to attract me to their way of thinking because neither party can accomplish what they say they want to accomplish when they are “in power”.  What I care about in politics is successful achievement of new laws and new policies and new procedures that make life better.  To say that for the most part I have been “politically disappointed” over the last 50 years or so would be an understatement.

It is with that admittedly jaded attitude that I read last week that President Biden said he was “considering” a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing as a way to protest and to put pressure on the Chinese government to amend their human rights policies and practices.  The President is only considering preventing US diplomats and functionaries from attending the Games; the US athletes would be there to compete.

Since I am a political Pragmatist, it should not be much of a surprise that I think the US President should not “consider” such a thing for more than about a nanosecond because keeping US diplomats somewhere other than in Beijing during the Winter Olympic Games is not going to cause any change in behavior on the part of the Chinese government.  It just isn’t.

Even worse than pretending that such a symbolic gesture will cause even a minor change is the fact that we have empirical evidence that Olympic boycotts do not work.

  • In the late 1970s, President Carter was mightily miffed by the audacity of the Soviet Union to send army troops into Afghanistan.  The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were going to be held in Moscow and President Carter kept the US athletes home and out of the competition.
  • That boycott changed the behaviors of the Soviet leaders and the Soviet army not even a little bit.  It was not until the end of the 1980s that the Soviets pulled their troops out of Afghanistan – long after everything about the 1980 Summer Olympic Games had faced from memory.
  • Then in 1984, the Soviets chose to boycott the Summer Olympic Games that were held in Los Angeles.  About a dozen countries generally aligned with the Soviet Union joined that boycott which had no discernable effect on the Los Angeles Games.

An Olympic boycott is feckless; a diplomatic boycott of Olympic games is an expression of impotence.  And on another plane of thinking, would the US government change any of its fundamental behaviors based on our precepts because a foreign government made it clear to us that they think we are doing the wrong things within our borders?  I doubt it.  And so, we need to step back and be sure that we are not carrying a burdensome load of hubris when we take such positions.

When I read about this action being “under consideration”, I had to check and see what it meant to have diplomats boycott Olympic Games since I was certain that there were no athletic competitions reserved for members of the diplomatic corps of various countries.  If you did not know, First Lady, Jill Biden led a US diplomatic delegation to the Tokyo Games earlier this year.  Until this weekend, I was unaware of such a delegation, and I am still unaware of its purpose or its achievements.  But, now you know…

And while I am on the subject of useless and unproductive things, let me propose a Quick Quiz.  We have not had one of these in quite a while around here so let me pose the question and the form of the response:

What is the most useless and why:

  • Weekly NFL “Power Rankings”
  • Weekly College Football Rankings
  • “Bracketology” columns written in November?

Fifty words or less…

Finally, Dwight Perry had an interesting comment on another possible intersection between sports and politics in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke for 8½ hours into the early hours Friday morning in futile opposition to President Biden’s social spending bill.

“Veteran observers say it was like watching a Yankees-Red Sox doubleheader.”

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



NBA and MLB today …

Last week, there was a story at saying that Ben Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, claims that the Sixers are worsening Simmons’ mental health by levying fines on him for not playing/practicing/being part of the team and by giving him negative publicity because he has not done any of those things.  Simmons has been asking for a trade for several months now and that is at an impasse because the Sixers cannot get a deal done that gets them a return they feel is sufficient.  This has become a chicken and egg situation.

  • Simmons is being fined and is the subject of negative publicity because of his refusal to be part of the Sixers.  He claims that he needs to look out for his mental health.
  • Other teams do not want to give up valued assets to acquire someone who may revert to that sort of status after they trade for him.
  • Rinse and repeat…

And that brings me to the story that appeared last week.  It would seem to me that a player agent is retained and paid to elevate the player’s stature in the eyes of coaches/GMs and fans.  On that axis, I do not see how the claims made last week move things on a positive vector heading for Ben Simmons.  Here is a link to the story from last week.  I am not qualified to say – nor do I have any vested interest in the outcome of this contretemps – anything related to Simmons’ mental health status, but how do the statements made by Rich Paul enhance Simmons’ trade value which is one of the key elements in getting him off the Sixers’ roster and onto another roster where he will be happier to play basketball?  I just don’t get it.

Over the weekend, a friend pointed out to me that the Washington Wizards have the best record in the Eastern Conference so far in the 2021/22 season; that record is 9-3.  I have seen a couple of their games and parts of other games and there is a significant difference between the Wizards of this year and the Wizards of the past couple of years:

  • This year’s team actually plays defense!

Last year for sure and probably stretching back another year or so, the Wizards idea of “tight defense” meant that as the opponent was dunking the basketball, one or more of the Wizards players still had their eyes on him.  Even more importantly, the Wizards of this season box out and get rebounds; in fact, as of this morning the Wizards lead the entire NBA in defensive rebounds per game (39.1 rebounds per game) which is due to opponents missing shots because they are competently guarded and the fact that Wizards’ players are contesting the boards this year.

The Wizards have a new coach this year – – Wes Unseld, Jr.  He came to the team with a reputation that he focused on defensive basketball more than previous coaches of the Wizards had done.  Perhaps it is genetic because his father was a defensive force – and a rebounder par excellence – for all of his career in the NBA.  The Wizards are on track to win more than 60 games this season; it is far too early to make that sort of leap of faith even for team fanboys, but they are playing a much more intense style of basketball this year; and so far, it has put them in a good spot.

As I noted in a previous rant, there is not going to be a lot of free agent signings/movement in MLB until and unless there is a new CBA in place; the current one expires on December 1st.  However, once things get sorted out and there is a new CBA, there could be some interesting free agent/potential free agent doings.  Consider:

  1. Freddie Freeman is a free agent.  Freeman has been in the majors for 12 seasons all of them with the Braves.  Back in the 50s and 60s, they used to call Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub” for his importance to the Cubs’ franchise.  I doubt that anyone in Atlanta would argue that since 2010 when Freeman debuted with the Braves any other player would challenge him for the label “Mr. Brave.”  Freeman is 32 years old as of September of this year; it will be interesting to see what sorts of offers he gets and – potentially – might he give the Braves a “hometown discount”.
  2. This is the “Year of the Shortstop”.  There are five young shortstops who have hit free agency all in the same year and all five of them are excellent players.  In alphabetical order they are Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story; each of these five players should command a nice fat contract that stretches over more than 5 years.  There will be some sort of internal jockeying among agents for these players to see which one sets the market by signing first and then how others might – or might not – be able to leverage their deals off the deal signed first.  Adding to that sort of contract dynamic is the fact that the New York Yankees are in desperate need of a shortstop this year; it is inconceivable to me that they will start the 2022 season with Gelyber Torres at shortstop.  The Yankees do not have a history of penny-pinching.  Now add to the mix that Corey Seager might sign with a team other than the Dodgers where he has been for his major league career; if that happens, then the Dodgers would also be in the market for a shortstop, and they too have deep pockets.

It could take a while for the MLB free agent signing season to gather any momentum, but when it does, it could get very interesting very quickly.

Finally, here is a baseball-related item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-White Sox slugger Frank Thomas has purchased majority ownership of the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie site.

“The sale was approved by a 24-3 vote of the ghosts in the cornfield.”

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



Legal Stuff Today – – From A Non-Lawyer

According to a report at last week, Jon Gruden is “mulling his legal options regarding potential claims against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.”  Serendipitously, I happened to bump into a friend who is a retired attorney and asked what might be the basis for such a lawsuit.  He is an avid sports fan and was familiar with Gruden’s firing based on emails that the NFL had collected in its investigation of the toxic work culture that existed in the Front Office of the Washington Football Team.  He tried to explain to me the concept of “tortious interference”.  Here is what I understand from that 10-minute conversation:

  • Gruden lost a job for which there was a contractual relationship between Gruden himself and the Las Vegas Raiders.
  • The cause of his loss of job – and therefore an economic loss – was the release of emails that were in the possession of the NFL and were nominally to remain private.
  • Gruden will assert that the release of emails was intentional and not accidental.
  • Ergo, the NFL – or someone at the NFL with access to those emails – inflicted a loss on Gruden by interfering in his relationship with the Raiders even though he had nothing to do with the “toxic work culture” being investigated which caused the emails to come into the possession of the NFL and neither did the Raiders.

Please make of that skimming of the surface of this aspect of contract law what you will.  To me, this potential legal action means two things:

  1. This matter is not dead and could come back to life with a bang.
  2. This is a trial where I would like to be a juror; the testimonies and cross-examinations here could be extremely interesting.

While I am treading very lightly in the area of legal matters and the NFL, let me return for a moment to the Henry Ruggs II incident where Ruggs was arrested after a car crash that killed a woman in another vehicle.  The authorities say Ruggs was driving at 156 mph and had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.  Obviously, these charges need to be proven in court before the legal aspects of the case are decided; however, the NFL has a precedent for the way it might treat Henry Ruggs II once the Nevada authorities have completed their actions.

In 1999, Leonard Little (a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams at the time), was in a car accident that resulted in the death of a woman in another vehicle.  Little’s blood alcohol level was 2.4 times the legal limit at the time of the accident.  After the legal actions were resolved – Little was sentenced to 90 days in a workhouse, a thousand hours of community service and five years of probation – the NFL suspended him for the first 8 games of the 1999 season.

Times have changed since 1999 but in matters of crime and punishment, it seems to me that precedent is still an important element in balancing those two aspects of a case.  One can argue that what the NFL did 22  years ago was ”insufficient” in some way and that the league can now set a “more proper standard” for sanctions in matters such as these.  I believe that would be a difficult position for the league to take so I would expect something along the lines of an eight-game suspension to be the NFL’s action at the end of the legal process here.

Let me switch sports here but remain in the “legal realm”…  The CBA between MLB and the MLBPA expires 3 weeks from today on December 1st.  Normally, this is the time in negotiations where lots of things happen quickly as the deadline gets close; however, that does not seem to be happening this time around; there are no reports of progress at all.

Moreover, that three-week window to find a way to avoid a work stoppage includes the week of Thanksgiving.  I do not suspect that all the parties will take off on Wednesday and remain incommunicado for 3 or 4 days, but I do think there will be some “fallow times” during that week.  Given the choice, I suspect that folks on both sides of the negotiating table will prefer to be at a family Thanksgiving dinner table that week.

Baseball free agency has already begun – it started on November 7th – and it has been more than merely “quiet” since then.  Clearly, teams and player agents want to know what the new CBA is going to say about salaries and luxury taxes and arbitration and the like.  So, a lot of individual negotiating and a lot of trade proposals will have to be put on a back burner and then carried out in a condensed time frame if there is a work stoppage as of December 1st.

The union probably wants to find a fast-track for the younger star players to be paid in accordance with their on-field production.  Owners will want some significant concession(s) to relinquish the control they now have over their young stars.  If the union cannot get a lot of movement on that front, it would likely try to get an increase in the minimum salary for all players thereby moving the young stars up the economic ladder just a bit.  As always, this is about money and control; given where things stand now, I do not see a new CBA rising from the ashes in the next 3 weeks.

So, MLB is probably going to have a work stoppage.  In labor relations terms:

  • If the players initiate the stoppage, it is a strike.
  • If the league initiates the stoppage, it is a lockout.
  • If you are a baseball fan, it is frustrating no matter the label.

Finally, since I began today with a comment about a possible lawsuit by Jon Gruden against the NFL, let me close with a definition offered up by Ambrose Bierce:

Lawsuit, n.  A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.”

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



Football Friday 11/5/21

Some Biblical scholars say that rains that caused the Great Flood – the one that Noah rode out on the Ark – began on a Friday.  I have no reason to dispute such an interpretation, but I can report that today is Friday and the weather here outside Curmudgeon Central shows no indication of impending rain.  So, I guess it is safe to get going on this week’s Football Friday.

Traditionally, I begin these rants with a review of last week’s Six-Pack.  The fact that I will admit to have committed such thoughts to the memory of the Internet demonstrates my inability to embarrass myself; last week’s selections were putrid:

  • College:  0-3-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Total:  1-5-0
  • Money Line Parlay  0-1

Since the start of the season, here are the cumulative results:

  • College:  7-10-0
  • NFL:  14-16-1
  • Total:  21-26-1
  • Money Line Parlays  0-1


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats continued their unbeaten season last week with a home victory over the George Fox Bruins by a score of 38-7.  Linfield is 7-0 for the 2021 season and 5-0 in Northwest Conference games.  This week the Wildcats will travel to Salem, OR to face the Willamette Bearcats.  Willamette is not having a good year on the gridiron; they bring a 1-7 record to the kickoff, and they give up 42.4 points per game.  Go Wildcats!

Looking at the contenders for the Brothel Defense Award for 2020 – the college football team that allows opponents to score early and often:

  • Arkansas St. gives up 42/4 points per game
  • Kansas gives up 43.8 points per game
  • UMass gives up 46.3 points per game

Over the last week there were two reports of coaching changes for college football.  Both were surprising to me for different reasons.

  1. Gary Patterson and TCU went their separate ways.  TCU has not had a sterling season in 2021; the Horned Frogs are 3-5 this week and one of those 3 wins came over a Division 1-AA team.  The surprising element here is that Patterson has been the coach at TCU for 22 years; I never saw him leaving the program in mid-season.
  2. Clay Helton reportedly found a new job.  Recall that Helton was fired at USC back in September; if reports are correct that he has already accepted a job, that would mean he was never really looking to take some time off and live on his buy-out check.  Reports this week said that Helton has taken the job at Georgia Southern where the Eagles are 3-5 so far this season.  In terms of prestige, it sure looks like a big step down for Helton from USC (PAC-12) to Georgia Southern (Sun Belt).

Kudos to the folks who did the scheduling for the teams in the Big-10 East.  There are 4 very good teams there:

  • Michigan
  • Michigan St
  • Ohio St.
  • Penn St.

The schedule maker clustered the games among those teams toward the end of the season giving them added gravitas.  Ohio State – for example – still has games against Michigan State and Michigan; Michigan State has Ohio State and Penn State still on the calendar.

Speaking of the Big-10, here are happenings there from last week …

Wisconsin 27  Iowa 7:  In the first half, Iowa made 1 first down and had 19 yards of offense.  The total offense for Iowa in this game was 156 yards; they had 24 yards rushing on 30 attempts.  The Badgers did not set the world afire on offense gaining only 270 yards, but it was plenty given the performance of the defense.

Rutgers 20  Illinois 14:  Rutgers is 4-4.  Can they get to a bowl game?  They need 2 wins from these remaining 4 games:

  • Vs. Wisconsin
  • At Indiana
  • At Penn State
  • Vs. Maryland

I doubt that the Scarlet Knights will be favored in any of those 4 games but that is why they play the game on the field and not just on paper…

Michigan St. 37  Michigan 33:  Sparty moves to 8-0 for the season while Michigan is now 7-1.  I thought this would be a tight defensive game and took it UNDER 51.5 last week.  My bad!  Michigan had 552 yards on offense to “only” 395 for Michigan St.  State had a balanced offense for the day gaining 199 yards rushing and 196 yards passing.  Michigan kicked a field goal with 12 minutes to play in the game to take a 3-point lead 33-30.  From then on, here are the Michigan possessions:

  • Fumble
  • Turnover on Downs
  • INT

Ohio St.  33  Penn St. 24:  Ohio St. shut down the Penn St. running game holding the Lions to 33 yards on 29 attempts.

In games pertinent to the ACC…

Notre Dame 44  UNC 34:  UNC was ranked in the top 10 in the pre-season polls and this loss puts their record at 4-4.  Reporters never seem to hold the poll voters responsible for such “irregularities”.

NC State 28  Louisville 13:  Louisville led the game 10-7 at the start of the fourth quarter and outgained NC State by 73 yards in the game.  The Cardinals also committed 10 penalties in the game for 101 yards.  Here are the final two possessions for Louisville:

  • With 5:53 to go and State leading 21-13, the Cardinals get the ball at their own 25.  Faced with fourth down and 2 yards to go, they go for it and do not make it.  NC State gets the ball at the Louisville 34 and gets a TD to make the score 28-13.
  • With 2:21 to go and State leading 28-13, the Cardinals get the ball at their own 25.  Faced with fourth down and 3 yards to go, they go for it and do not make it.  NC State gets the ball at the Louisville 34 and runs out the clock.
  • Notice any symmetry here?

Wake Forest 45  Duke 7:  Wake remains undefeated at 8-0.  Moreover, Wake has scored 35 points or more in every game this year.  The Deacons lead the Atlantic Division; NC State is in second place there with only 1 conference loss.  Here is the rest of the schedule for Wake Forest; it is not an easy one:

  • At UNC
  • Vs. NC State
  • At Clemson
  • At BC

Clemson 30  Florida St. 20:  I took FSU +9.5 in last week’s Six-Pack.  FSU had a PAT blocked in first quarter.  Oh well…

Syracuse 21  BC 6:  Syracuse won its 5th game of the season meaning it can be bowl-eligible with another win.  The last bowl appearance for the Orange was in 2018 when they won something called the Camping World Bowl.  Syracuse has 3 games left to play in order to find another win; here is the schedule:

  • BYE Week this week
  • At Louisville
  • At NC State
  • Vs. Pitt

Miami 38  Pitt 34:  I said last week that Pitt tends to lose a game or two a year that they should not.  Here was one of them.  Pitt is now down to 6-2 overall but they still lead the ACC Coastal Division with only this one conference loss.  Miami was a 9.5-point underdog and were led by a big game from freshman QB, Tyler Van Dyke.  This is Miami’s second consecutive win over a ranked opponent. Miami has only 2 conference losses; this win keeps them relevant in the ACC.

Va Tech 26  Ga Tech  17:  Coaches often say they strive for balance in their offense.  Ga. Tech had a perfectly balanced offense here; they gained 183 yards rushing and 183 yards passing.  They had 20 rushing plays and 26 passing plays in the game.

In Big-12 action last week …

Baylor 31  Texas 24:  Baylor is still in the race for the Big-12 championship with only 1 conference loss.  Texas led 21-10 with 9 minutes left in the third quarter and 21-17 after three quarters. Then from about 9-minute mark in the third quarter to the 8-minute mark of the 4th quarter, the Texas defense gave up 3 TDs on three drives that totaled 208 yards.  Ugly…

Oklahoma 52  Texas Tech 21:  That is the kind of dominant win the Sooners should hang on mediocre teams.  Where has that sort of performance been earlier this year?  Sooner freshman QB, Caleb Williams posted this stat line for the day:

  • 23 of 30 for 402 yards with 6 TDs and 0 INTs.

Oklahoma St. 55  Kansas 3:  The Cowboys posted 534 yards on offense; Kansas managed to gain only 143 yards including only 44 yards passing.  Kansas had 7 first downs in the game and 3 turnovers.  It was a debacle.  The score was 45-0 with 3:50 to play in the 3rd quarter when Kansas kicked a 45-yard field goal to avoid the shutout.

In SEC games last week…

Mississippi St. 31  Kentucky  17:  The Bulldogs’ defense had it second consecutive strong showing in this game holding the Wildcats to only 216 yards in the game.  Meanwhile the Air Raid offense was clicking with 344 yards gained in the air.  Mississippi State’s QB, Will Rogers (not that one, he’s dead)  set an SEC record for completion percentage in a game with more than 30 pass attempts.  Rogers was 36 for 39 in the game.  Mississippi State needs one more win to be bowl eligible.  Here are the Bulldogs’ remaining 4 games:

  • At Arkansas
  • At Auburn
  • Vs. Tennessee State
  • Vs. Ole Miss

The Bulldogs have been to bowl games in each of the last 11 seasons.  They need to find a win on that schedule and the game at home against Tennessee State looks good from here…

Auburn 31  Ole Miss 20:  Here is another game where the stat sheet is much closer than the scoreboard.  The difference in offensive output was only 21 yards.  Auburn QB, Bo Nix, had an efficient and effective game passing for 276 yards including one TD pass and rushing for two more scores.  Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs 3 times in the second half.  Auburn has only 1 SEC loss; they have a difficult schedule ahead of them, but if they can get to the Iron Bowl against Alabama with only 1 loss, then a win there would put Auburn in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.  Here is Auburn’s schedule:

  • At Texas A&M
  • Vs. Mississippi St.
  • At South Carolina
  • Vs. Alabama

Georgia 34  Florida 7:  In terms of offense the teams were even; Florida gained 355 yards and Georgia gained 354 yards.   The score was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter; then, the score was 24-7 at halftime.  How did that happen?  Here are the Florida possessions in the second quarter:

  1. Turnover on Downs
  2. Fumble
  3. INT
  4. INT
  5. Halftime.

Georgia has Mizzou, Tennessee and Ga Tech (as Division 1-A teams) left on its schedule. With their win last week and Kentucky’s loss to Mississippi St., I believe Georgia is guaranteed to be the SEC East champion this year. They will be huge favorites in two of those games and will probably be only a 10-point favorite over Tennessee.  That will put Georgia in the SEC Championship Game – – and unless they get totally blown out there, I see them headed to the CFP.

            Out there in PAC-12 territory …

Washington St 34  Arizona St. 21:  The stat sheet for this game says it should have gone to OT.  Sun Devils gained 406 and the Cougars gained 400 yards.  The difference here is rather obvious:

  • Arizona St had 5 turnovers (2 INTs and 3 lost fumbles)
  • Washington St. had 1 turnover (an INT)

Utah 44  UCLA 24:  There is another game that was very close on the stat sheet but not on the scoreboard.  Utah scored touchdowns on its first 4 possessions and never looked back.  Utah now leads the PAC-12 South Division with only 1 conference loss; Arizona State is second in the South with 2 losses.

Oregon 52  Colorado 29:  This outcome was never in doubt.  The Ducks led the game 45-14 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Oregon leads the PAC-12 North with 1 conference loss.

Cal 39  Oregon St.  25:  By losing here, Oregon St. now has 2 conference losses  in the North Division.  If they can get to the final game against Oregon with only two losses, they could win the division with a victory over the Ducks.  Cal showed balance on offense along with efficiency.  The Bears gained 258 yards in the air and 245 yards on the ground.  Cal was also 12 for 18 on third down attempts.  Three turnovers by the Beavers did not help their cause.

USC 41  Arizona 34:  Arizona is still winless at 0-8.  The USC defense should not be proud of this game giving up 34 points.  In the 7 games leading up to this, Arizona had never scored as many as 20 points in a game and had been shut out once by Colorado.

In miscellaneous college football games:

Nevada 51  UNLV 20:  UNLV drops to 0-8.  Nevada gained only 20 yards (18 carries) rushing but then again UNLV only gained 10 yards rushing (24 carries).  Clearly this was an aerial contest…

Fresno St. 30  San Diego St. 20:  That is the first loss for San Diego St.  In the West Division of the Mountain West Conference, there are three teams with only one conference loss – – Fresno St., San Diego St. and Nevada.  Fresno State would own the tiebreakers here since it has beaten both Nevada and San Diego St.

Houston 44  SMU 37:  This is the first loss for SMU; both teams are now 7-1 for the season.  Houston led 20-0 late in the first quarter but the game turned out to be a close game in the end.  The Cougars have won 7 in a row since losing in Week 1 to Texas Tech.

Coastal Carolina 35  Troy 28:  Troy is a 4-4 team.  Maybe the “Coastal Carolina mystique” is no more?

Cincy 31  Tulane 12:  The score was 14-12 at the half; this was not a dominating performance by Cincy.  Tulane is a 1-win team and that win came at the expense of Division 1- AA Morgan St.  Another head-shaker here is that Tulane has given up 40 or more points in 5 of their 7 losses; Cincy only scored 31…

Liberty 62  UMass 17:  Liberty covered 5 TDs this time…  The score was 41-3 at halftime.

Foreshadowing… Starting next week I will be focusing on the teams that are in contention for an invitation to my imaginary SHOE Tournament – – where we could det3erming on the field which team is the worst team in the country for 2021.


College Football Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Utah – 9 at Stanford (54):  This is an important game for the Utes as they seek to maintain control of the standings in the PAC-12 South Division.  Interestingly, the spread for this game opened at 6 points and jumped to 7 points almost immediately.  The spread hung in at 7 points until Thursday when it went up to 9 points in the span of a couple of hours.

Army at Air Force – 3 (37.5):  Get ready for running plays in this game.  Air Force leads the nation in rushing attempts per game (63.8) and in rushing yards per game (318.4)  Army is second in the nation in rushing attempts per game (63.6) and is also second in the country in rushing yards per game (312.3).  Games between the service academies are always fun to watch…

Pitt – 21 at Duke (64):  Pitt could use a “get-right game” now after losing last week to Miami.  Duke will give them that opportunity.

NC State – 2.5 at Florida State (56):  The Seminoles were within a score of Clemson down to the final play of the game last week.  NC State cannot afford a loss which might put them 2 games behind Wake Forest in the ACC Atlantic Division race.

Wisconsin – 13 at Rutgers (38):  Rutgers is looking for two wins to become bowl eligible; this is not likely to be one of the places they will find one.  I will say, however, that this is a large spread to cover in what looks to be a very low scoring game.

Clemson – 4 at Louisville (46):  If Louisville loses here, it will be their 4th conference loss; they are irrelevant in the ACC Championship Game picture.  If Clemson loses, it will their 3rd conference loss and they too would become irrelevant.  An interesting game…

Iowa – 12 at Northwestern (40.5):  The Hawkeyes began the season 6-0 with wins over teams like Iowa State and Penn State.  They have lost their last two games and have only scored 7 points in each of those losses.  As an homage to Bill Cullen on To Tell the Truth:

  • Will the real Iowa Hawkeyes please stand up.

Houston – 13 at USF (53):   A let-down game for the Cougars after beating undefeated SMU last week?

Indiana at Michigan – 20 (51):  The Wolverines cannot afford another in-conference loss…

Wake Forest at UNC – 2.5 (77):  The oddsmakers believe that the Deacons’ perfect season will come to an end here.  Regarding that big number on the Total Line consider:

  • Wake is 5th in the nation in scoring (43.8 points per game).
  • UNC is 22nd in the nation in scoring (36.5 points per game).

K-State – 24 at Kansas (56):  This is a rivalry game where one of the rivals just stinks.

Florida – 18 at South Carolina (53):  Florida coach Dan Mullen really needs his Gators to win this game convincingly…

Baylor – 6.5 at TCU (58.5):  Baylor needs a win to stay within shouting distance of Oklahoma in the Big-12.  TCU will either be emotionally charged or emotionally let down by the news of Coach Patterson’s leaving the school.  Baylor is the better team and I think their motivation here is more predictable; I’ll take the Bears to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six Pack.

Oregon St. – 10.5 at Colorado (54):  This is an important game for the Beavers as they strive to maintain relevancy in the PAC-12 North.  For Colorado, this is just another football game…

USC at Arizona St. – 8.5 (60):  This is an important conference game for the Sun Devils; not so much for the Trojans.

Missouri at Georgia – 39 (60):  Even with that spread, this is a conference game and not a body bag game…

Ohio St. – 14.5 at Nebraska (66):  The Buckeyes have been on a roll since losing to Oregon in Week 2.  Since that game, they have only been held under 41 points once – – last week against Penn State.  Ohio State leads the country in total Offense at 547.6 yards per game.  Nebraska ranks 44th in the country in Total Defense and 26th in the country in scoring defense.  I like the Buckeyes to keep rolling here to stay in the Big-10 East picture and to maintain the attention of the CFP Selection Committee; I’ll take them on the road to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Mississippi  St. at Arkansas – 5.5 (55):  The Bulldogs need one more win for bowl eligibility; can they squeeze it out here?  I mentioned above that State’s QB, Will Rogers went 36 for 39 passing last week.  Here is data mining stat:

  • Against SEC opponents, Arkansas allows 66% pass completions.

I like the Bulldogs on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Oklahoma St. – 4 at West Virginia (49):  The Cowboys cannot afford another conference loss, but this is a dangerous game for them.  West Virginia is a tough out in Morgantown…

Tennessee – 1 at Kentucky (56):  The spread here opened with Kentucky as a 3-point favorite, but it has moved slowly and steadily in the direction of Tennessee all week long.

Michigan St. – 3 at Purdue (53):  The Boilermakers were the ones to hand Iowa its first loss of the season; can they do that again to Sparty?  Is this a classic let-down game for Michigan St. coming off a big win in a big rivalry game last week against Michigan?

Auburn at Texas A&M – 4 (49):  This is a big game for the Aggies; they still have a path to the SEC Championship Game.  They need to beat Auburn here and then root for Auburn to beat Alabama.  Since Texas A&M beat Alabama on the field, they would own the tiebreakers there.

Oregon – 7 at Washington (51):  This is an intense rivalry that gets far less coverage than it deserves.

Cal – 11.5 at Arizona (51):  Is this where Arizona finds its first win of the season?  I don’t think so…

UNLV at New Mexico – 1.5 (45):  Is this where UNLV finds its first win of the season?  They have a real shot here because New Mexico is not a good football team.

LSU at Alabama – 28.5 (67):  In recent years, LSU would not have been a 4 TD underdog to half of the NFL teams…


NFL Commentary:


Teams with a BYE Week this weekend:

  1. Bucs:  They lost last week and have two weeks to prepare for the Football Team.
  2. Football Team:  They lost last week and have two weeks to prepare for the Bucs.
  3. Lions:  They lost last week – – as they seem to do every week of every year…
  4. Seahawks:  They won last week and hope to have Russell Wilson back on the field next week.

Over the last two editions of Football Friday, I have taken note of how many blowout games there have been in the NFL and wondered if growing numbers of non-competitive games might damage the league’s popularity.  This week, NFL Insider, Jason LaCanfora, on echoed my thoughts.  You can find the entirety of his comments here.

Here are a few of his comments:

“We aren’t even at the midpoint of the 2021 season – the first of the expanded 17 game schedule – and there appears to be no end of high-school style beatdowns that are over in many cases before halftime.”

And …

“It feels like there is a blowout problem arising. Sometimes when it’s quite predictable, and occasionally when it’s not.   But, most often, it is one of the usual suspects involved, and Vegas is going to have to continue pushing the point spread to new highs in many cases to account for the trend.”

And …

“We’ll see if this ends up being a blip. Or if these egregiously lopsided kind of affairs are something we can come to expect a few times in each expanded window. But the degree to which some of these teams are unable to put forth a fight for even a half feels a little bit like what MLB is going through.”

With that as a prelude, there were “only” 3 outrageous games last week; I have pulled them out of the pile of results from last week…

Seahawks 31  Jags 7:  The Jags won the stat sheet 309 yards to 229 yards.  Geno Smith was efficient if not spectacular throwing for 195 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs.  The Seahawks’ defense has been heavily criticized this year, but it was pitching a shutout until the final two minutes of the game when the Jags finally scored.  That was the Jags’ only visit to the Red Zone all day long.  In addition, the Seahawks’ defenders stopped the Jags on 3 fourth-down tries.

Rams 38  Texans 22:  This is a blowout game because the score was 38 – 0 at the end of the third quarter.  Matthew Stafford threw for 305 yards and 3 TDs. The Rams’ defense recorded 5 sacks in the game.

Eagles 44  Lions 6:  This was the “early game” on FOX in my viewing area – – until the score was 31-0 and they switched us over to a “more competitive game”.   Jalen Hurts only threw for 114 yards in this game but the Eagles ran the ball for 236 yards on 46 carries.  (They only attempted 14 passes in the game.)  They held the ball for 35 minutes and converted 5 of 10 third down situations.  The Eagles’ defense sacked Jared Goff six times and pressured him continuously.  Frankly, the Lions  played as if someone had dissolved Quaaludes in their sideline Gatorade.

The rest of the games were as competitive as we have come to expect from the NFL…

Panthers 19  Falcons 13:  There was not a lot of offense in this game.  Matt Ryan threw for 146 yards, and he was the most prolific passer on the field.  A big difference in the game was third-down efficiency; the Panthers converted 10 of 17 situations while the Falcons went 3 for 10.  Panthers’ QB, Sam Darnold had to leave the game with a concussion and was in the league protocol for concussions.  Calvin Ridley did not play in the game for personal reasons; that could not have been something Matt Ryan wished for.

Steelers 15  Browns 10:  This game was the CBS early time slot game in my viewing area.  It was about as artistic an endeavor as an axe fight.  Steelers’ kicker, Chris Bowell was injured in the game on a fake kick and the Steelers had to try two-point attempts after their two TDs in the game; neither of those conversions worked.  The Browns had the only turnover in the game, and it came in the 4th quarter while the game was a one-score contest.  Ben Roethlisberger’s record against the Browns in Cleveland for his career is now 12-2-1.  The Steelers’ defense deserves plenty of credit for this win holding the Browns to 10 points and only 3 of 10 third down conversions.

Saints 36  Bucs 27:  Jameis Winston had to be helped off the field in the first half with a knee injury incurred when he was “horse-collar tackled” on a scramble.  Trevor Siemian came in to finish the game and posted a positive stat line:

  • 16 of 29 for 159 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

That may not look as gaudy as Tom Brady’s stat line – – but it was enough to win the game:

  • 28 of 40 for 375 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs

The Saints took the lead at 29-27 in the final two minutes with a 23-yard field goal.  On the next possession, Tom Brady threw a Pick Six to end the game.  This win puts the Saints on a par with the Bucs in the NFC South since both teams have 2 losses on the season – – and the Saints hold the tiebreaker as of now.  These tams will meet again on December 19th in Tampa.  Circle that game; it should be a critical game in the standings.

Here is the most interesting thing to me about the outcome of this game:

  • The Saints have beaten the Packers – resoundingly – and the Bucs.  Those are two excellent teams.
  • Meanwhile the Saints have lost to the Giants – a bad team in the same season.

Broncos 17  Football Team 10:  The game was tied at 10 apiece at the start of the 4th quarter.  Melvin Gordon scored his second TD of the game in the final 5 minutes to give the Broncos the lead.  Later, he lost a fumble at the Denver 24 yardline giving the Football Team a shot to tie the game in the final minute; but the Broncos’ defense held on for the win.  The Football Team saw its recently signed kicker, Chris Blewitt have two field goals blocked in the game.  The first was not much of a block because the ball was only about 6 feet off the ground when it reached the line of scrimmage where all the linemen were pushing and shoving one another.  Two weeks ago, the Football Team demonstrated total ineptitude in the Red Zone against the Packers and last week they got to the Red Zone twice and scored zero points.  The Broncos’ defense had 5 sacks and stopped the Football Team on 4 fourth-down tries.

I ran across this stat from this game:

  • WFT ran 19 plays inside the Broncos 30-yardline.  Total offense on those 19 plays was 17 yards.  Eleven of those plays resulted in either no gain, a loss or a turnover.
  • Yowza!

Pats 27  Chargers 24:  The stat sheet for the game was as close as the scoreboard.  The Pats’ offense was not particularly efficient, but the Pats got 4 field goals and a Pick-Six TD in the game.  The Chargers gained 163 yards rushing on only 20 carries.

Bills 26  Dolphins 11:  This game was 3-3 at halftime; here are the results of the first three possessions by the Dolphins in the second half:

  1. Three and out
  2. Three and out
  3. Three and out

The Dolphins’ defense tried to keep it close, and the score was a manageable 10-3 after three quarters.  The Bills put the game away in the 4th quarter with two TDs and a field goal in their 3 possessions in that 4th quarter.  The Dolphins turned the ball over twice including an INT in the final 3 minutes of the game.

Jets 34  Bengals 31:  I said last week in reference to this game that the oddsmakers feared a letdown game from the Bengals after beating the Ravens in Baltimore two weeks ago.  Well, this was a letdown.  Mike White made his first NFL start for the Jets; he threw for 405 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, and the Jets amassed 511 yards on offense for the day.  The Bengals led 24-17 at the start of the 4th quarter and coughed up a hairball from that point on.  The Jets held the Bengals to 41 yards rushing for the day.  The Jets have only 2 wins this year but they have come at the expense of the Bengals and the Titans – – two division leading teams.  The Jets’ defense sacked Joe Burrow 3 times in the game.

Niners 33 Bears 22:  The Niners dominated the stat sheet 467 yards to 324  yards.  Nevertheless, the Bears led 13-9 at halftime and 16-15 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Here are the second half possessions for the Niners; it is not an endorsement for the Bears’ defensive unit – – although to be fair Khalil Mack was not on the field for the game:

  • TD
  • TD
  • TD
  • Field Goal
  • Kneel out the game

Justin Fields ran for 103 yards and a TD in the game.  Jimmy Garoppolo ran for 4  yards and 2 TDs in the game.  Seriously …

Titans 34  Colts 31 (OT):  This was a game of momentum swings.  The Colts took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but only led 17-14 at the half.  This win puts the Titans firmly in command of the AFC South race.  The Titans have two losses, and the Colts have 5 losses – – including ceding the tiebreaker to the Titans in the process.  This score of this game is one that the Titans seem fond of in 2021; consider these results from earlier in the 2021 season:

  • October 31:  Titans 34  Colts 31  (OT)
  • October 18:  Titans 34  Bills 31
  • September 19:  Titans 33  Seahawks 30 (OT)

Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury that some reports say will be season ending   He had surgery on the foot in the last week; the Titans signed Adrian Peterson to the practice squad; it does not look good for a Derrick Henry return this season.  It is easy to say that the Titans offense for the last year and a half has “run through Derrick Henry.”  That is not a cheap attempt at a play on words; it is simply a statement of fact.

Cowboys 20  Vikes 16:  No Dak Prescott; no problem.  Cooper Rush played QB for the Cowboys and acquitted himself very properly here:

  • 24 of 40 for 325 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.

For the game, the Cowboys had 142 more  yards on offense than the Vikes had, but two turnovers and 11 penalties against the Cowboys for 96 yards kept the game close.  The winning TD came with 55 seconds left in the game when Cooper Rush hit Amari Cooper for a short TD.

Chiefs 20  Giants 17:  This was hardly an impressive win for the reigning AFC Champion against a team that is 2-6.  The Giants led early in the 4th quarter 17-14; however, in the 4th quarter, the Chiefs drove for two field goals while the Giants’ possessions produced a punt and then a turnover on downs.  The schedule for the Chiefs for the rest of the 2021 season is most difficult.

  • As of this morning, the Chiefs will not play a team with a losing record between now and the final game on Jan 9, 2022.


NFL Games:

Yes, I watched some of last night’s Colts/Jets game; the first quarter was interesting; after that…  The Jets had no answer for Jonathan Taylor who averaged 9.4 yards per carry in the game.  The Colts as a team ran the ball for 260 yards.  Mike White injured his arm and had to leave the game; at that point, the Jets’ fate was sealed. 

Texans at Dolphins – 5.5 (46):  The spread here opened at 7 points; the drop means there was “excess money” coming into the sportsbooks on the Texans.  Why anyone would bet on this game is a mystery to me.  Yes, I know; Tyrod Taylor is back to play QB for the Texans this week; maybe that is what “moved the line”.  This is unequivocally the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.    The loser here will likely gain in the competition for a high draft pick in 2022; other than that, there should be no interest here.

Broncos at Cowboys – 10 (49):  The Broncos’ defense is good, but the Broncos’ offense is less than mediocre.  I cannot see how the Broncos can keep pace.

Vikes at Ravens – 6 (49.5):  The Vikes play to their competition’s level and the Ravens are a good opponent.  The Ravens had a BYE Week last week to prepare for this one.  I have a hunch that the Ravens’; coaches were all over the defense for the last two weeks after a miserable outing last time and that the defense will show up lean and mean this week.  Give me the Ravens at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Pats – 3.5 at Panthers (40.5):  Bill Belichick has done a number on Sam Darnold and his former teammates in NY over the past couple of years.  He can do it again this time despite a stronger cast around Darnold – – and this assumes Darnold is fully recovered from his concussion last week.  I like the Pats to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bills – 14.5 at Jags (48.5):  I think the Bills will get themselves back to their norm after a week to ponder a lackluster showing against the Dolphins last week and will turn this into a rout.

Browns at Bengals – 2.5 (47):  This could be the Game of the Week if you live in Ohio and/or are a fan of any AFC North team.  However, we take a larger and longer view here in Curmudgeon Central; it is a good game but not the best one of the week.  Once again, Odell Beckham, Jr. is in the middle of a team soap opera in Cleveland.  Don’t look now, but the Browns are in last place in the division.

Raiders – 3 at Giants (46):  It is a long trip and a “body clock game” for the Raiders.  The good news is that it will be the Giants that take the field against them.  The Raiders lead the AFC West this morning; they have plenty of reasons to take this game seriously.

Falcons at Saints – 7 (42):  Which Saints team will we see?  The one that beat the Bucs last week and that beat the Packers by 5 TDs earlier this year? Or the one that lost to the Giants?

Chargers – 1 at Eagles (50):  The spread opened as “pick ‘em” and expanded from there.  One sportsbook this morning had the line at 2.5 points.  This is another “body clock game”  for a west coast team but the fact is that the Chargers are the more talented team.  The Chargers have lost 2 games in a row and are in danger of falling out of contention; the Chargers will put a stop to that in this game; I like the Chargers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Packers at Chiefs – 7 (48):  This is an example of the “Aaron Rodgers Effect”.  This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game – – until Rodgers was ruled out for a positive COVID-19 test.  This would have been the Game of the Week until that positive COVID-19 test.  Now, the interesting thing will be to see how much Jordan Love has learned by studying and practicing alongside Aaron Rodgers.  The key to the game now is simple:

  • The Packers will emphasize the running game.
  • The Chiefs have been vulnerable to the run all year long.
  • Can the Chiefs contain the Packers’ running game?

Cardinals at Niners – 1 (45):  Kyler Murray sprained an ankle 2 weeks ago and it looked as if it were still bothering/limiting him last week.  Is it fully healed?  DeAndre Hopkins had limited practice time last week.  Is he near full strength?  When you marry those injuries/limitations with the absence of JJ Watt from a leadership position on the defense, this game could be a lot closer than the team records in 2021 might indicate.

(Sun Nite) Titans at Rams – 7 (52.5):  Here is the Game of the Week.  The Titans have significant adversity to overcome with Derrick Henry on the shelf.  With the Colts victory last night, the Titans could see their 4-game lead cut to 3 games only a week after beating the Colts head-to-head.  The Rams hope that Von Miller is a quick study and that he is ready to contribute on defense.

(Mon Nite) Bears at Steelers – 6.5 (39):  The game should be close; that is the reason to watch it.  It would take a lot of imagination to think that this will be an exciting offensive display.

Let me add in here a College Football Money Line Parlay:

  • Ole Miss at minus-330
  • Mississippi St, at +160
  • Fresno St. at minus-200.
  • Parlay wins $408 on a $100 wager

And for good measure, here is an NFL Money Line Parlay:

  • Patriots at minus-180
  • Chargers at minus-120
  • Steelers at minus-280
  • Parlay wins $287 on a $100 wager.

Finally, I will close here with an NFL observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Minnesota Vikings are turning their practice facility into a community COVID-vaccination site.

“Hardcore fans are demanding to take their shots downfield.”

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