Looking For A Sinecure?

I remember studying vocabulary lists in preparation for the SATs many years ago and running across the word, sinecure. A sinecure is a job that provides earnings but requires little or no work or effort. I recall thinking in my youth that a sinecure would be a great career because it would put food on the table and still allow time to do fun things like go to see baseball games several times a week. I had a great career – but not because it was a sinecure. In fact, I now think I would have been bored to tears with a sinecure.

Nonetheless, if one were to go looking today for a position of that ilk, might I suggest that one seek to be on a baseball Blue Ribbon Committee or alternatively, to be assigned to do an investigation on behalf of the NFL. There may be some work involved there, but the “pace” of the job is extraordinarily leisurely.

    MLB set up a Blue Ribbon Committee to figure out how to get the Oakland A’s a new stadium while not having the SF Giants get their knickers in a knot. I do not have the exact date for the committee’s formation, but I will say it was about 5 years ago and there have still been no recommendations – let alone actions. This is not an easy problem to resolve; I will stipulate that. However, in 5 years one might think that there could be some kind of movement toward a resolution.

    MLB also set up a special investigation to determine if the Chicago Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon while he was still under contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. My recollection of this investigative endeavor is that it began before Thanksgiving of last year meaning it has been ongoing for at least 5 months now. Resolving territorial issues between teams while simultaneously considering the locale for a new stadium is a thorny issue; determining “tampering” vs. “non-tampering” vs. “not enough evidence to make either determination” is not nearly so thorny.

    Everyone must recall “Deflategate” because it was the biggest story of the NFL playoffs running up to the Super Bowl. You may or may not recall that the NFL assigned Ted Wells to do an investigation to determine why the footballs used in the Colts/Pats playoff game had an internal pressure that was outside the limits prescribed by the rules. The important distinction that has to be made is this one:

      Were the balls “underinflated” or were they “deflated”? Underinflated can happen simply because of human error; deflated involves a conscious and determined act.

    Well, that investigation is still ongoing 3 months later and Colts’ owner Jim Irsay says he is not surprised at the time this has taken and that he fully expects the investigation to go on for several more weeks.

In my retirement, I could always use a gig that will shore up my IRA but I would really like to still have the time to watch games and write these rants. Therefore, I will announce here that I am available at an amazingly low rate of pay to participate on any Blue Ribbon Committee or investigation of alleged wrongdoing in one of the pro sports leagues so long as the pace of my committee/investigation parallels the ones described here. At the rate they are going, someone will find out what happened to Judge Crater before all the work is done here.

Brittney Griner, the star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was arrested over the weekend in Arizona. According to reports Griner and another WNBA player, Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock were arrested based on an incident involving assault and disorderly conduct. As I skimmed the lead paragraph of the article, my first thought was that this was indeed unladylike and that I should make a comment about how Miss Manners might be extremely miffed at such behavior. However, I also noticed in the midst of a paragraph that Glory Johnson was identified as Brittney Griner’s fiancée. Well, that changes things a bit…

If these two ladies can manage to put this incident behind them and resume their relationship and ultimately marry one another, it will have to be the first time that a married couple will be playing in the same professional team sports league in the US. Now, allow me to offer up these words of wisdom to this young couple with the intention that they may indeed let this incident be a mere speed bump on the road of life. Here is what comedienne, Rita Rudner had to say about marriage:

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”

The MLB All-Star Game will be in Cincy this summer and Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Pete Rose will be part of the ceremonies surrounding the game. The Reds’ president/CEO, Bob Castellini, will work with the Commish to figure out just how Rose will be involved in the event. Allow me to suggest to Messrs. Manfred and Castellini one of the first things they need to do as they set out to determine how Pete Rose might be part of the All-star Game:

    Do not give Jim Gray a press credential. Do not let him get near Pete Rose with a camera and a microphone.

    Just don’t…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this observation over the weekend:

“This week, Pete Rose returned to baseball and Tim Tebow returned to football. You just know Brett Favre is sitting by the phone.”

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

The NFL Pre – Draft Analysis – 2015

Let me do a quick reset here for new readers. I watch a lot of college football on TV in the Fall for one simple reason:

    I like college football.

One of the things I like to do is to watch for players who I think can play at the NFL level and so I keep a notepad beside me and jot down things I see. With the NFL Draft upon me, I then go back and cut up the pieces of paper with the commentary on players and arrange them by position in order to create this feature.

That is really all there is to this. I am not a scout; I do not have access to inside information; I do my observing from the comfort of my living room; no NFL GM or personnel guy would waste even a nanosecond considering any of my commentary here. Importantly, my data source is my cable TV provider combined with my personal/family schedule regarding when I am free to sit down and watch a game or two. That means:

    Living in the DC area, I am going to see East Coast teams more frequently than West Coast teams. I have no rooting interest that creates an East Coast bias but the time zone where I live creates a de facto bias of that type.

    I am more likely to tune in to watch “major” schools play each other as opposed to “minor” schools. Villanova versus Syracuse might be an enticing game to see if the game is basketball; for football, not so much. Moreover, my cable provider tends to show lots more games involving “major” schools than “minor” schools. Hey, I am not a programming director.

    Often, I only see a team play one time in a season. A really good player may have had his worst game of his career on that day or missed that game with an injury and so I never noticed him as a “draft prospect”. If I ignored him, it is not due to any bias on my part.

The most logical way to do this is to go position-by-position and so I shall start with quarterbacks. Obviously, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be drafted early; they were the two best QBs I saw last year but that is not to say they are mortal locks for stardom in the NFL.

    Jameis Winston has a great arm; he made a couple of deep throws last year that made me say “Wow!” He is big and strong and knows how to play in the pocket. He is not, however, a scrambler; when forced to move and under pressure, he makes some throws that look like a high school QB on the run. He has plenty of “upside” and he also seems to bring plenty of off-field “baggage” to the party.

    Marcus Mariota is more accurate than Winston but cannot throw the deep ball nearly as deep. On the run, he is much more composed and accurate with his throws than Winston and he is faster. If he is going to be an early success in the NFL, he needs to go to a program that will allow him to continue to play the wide-open option offense that he knows. If he goes to a straight “drop-back passing offense”, it might take him a few years to blossom.

      If I were the Bucs with the first pick and with Lovie Smith as the coach, I would take Winston over Mariota because Lovie Smith is more likely to run a standard pro offense than an option-pistol offense.

    Brett Hundley (UCLA): This is the summary of my notes on Hundley: He is really fast; “if he had good hands he would have been a WR”; he locks in on his receiver awfully quick; not as accurate as he should be. I think he might be a good pick in Round 3.

    Bryce Petty (Baylor): He has a big arm that can throw darts and he can put air under a ball when that is needed. He is not as good under pressure and reports say he never had to call plays or memorize a play book playing in the spread offense at Baylor. Given the way that has hampered RG3, that would give me pause – except for that big-time arm. My note says “Round 3 or 4”.

    Sean Mannion (Oregon St.): “Tall and immobile” summarizes what I saw here. He is an accurate passer unless protection breaks down and then he is nothing special at all. “Late round pick” is what I have.

    Blake Simms (Alabama): Here is my note on him: “Does he look good because he has Amari Cooper to throw to?” That situation has obtained in the past and it could well be the case here. I doubt he is worth taking before Round 7 and maybe he goes somewhere as an undrafted free agent.

    Shane Carden (E. Carolina): He has a “better than average arm” and is “OK throwing on the run”. One question mark was “big enough???” One more note I had was that he might need to “cut down on the caffeine” a bit; he sometimes plays “out of control”. I think he will go very late in the draft or possibly be an undrafted free agent.

Staying in the backfield, here are my notes on running backs:

    Todd Gurley (Georgia): I did not see Gurley play last year due to his suspension and subsequent injury. I did see him a year ago and remember that I was impressed. However, how teams will weigh his injury history is a mystery to me. If he is fully ready to play the way he did in 2013, he should be a first round pick; otherwise …

    Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin): “Hits the hole quickly” and if he “gets through clean = BIG gain.” Looks “big enough” to take the abuse a RB gets in the NFL. Here is a note I have that might be important: “They do not ask him to do much pass blocking. Is that because he can’t?” He will go in the first round of the draft.

    Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska): Here is the dichotomy represented by my notes. “Really fast, very elusive” and “Looks awfully small”. My guess is second or third round.

    David Cobb (Minnesota): He is “built like a bowling ball and runs like one.” He showed “plenty of power/not much speed”. For the right team, he could be a valuable asset worth a third round pick; in a more general sense, he is more likely to go fifth or sixth round.

    Duke Johnson (Miami): He has “plenty of speed” but “not much of a power runner”. I also said “looks too small to be more than a 3rd down back”. I could see him going in the third or fourth round.

    Jawan Edwards (Ball State): He is “built low to the road” and is a “strong runner between tackles.” MAC defenses are a far cry from NFL defenses so he is likely to be taken very late in the draft if at all.

I only saw two fullbacks that caught my attention sufficiently to make me take pen in hand and both of them played in the SEC:

    Connor Neighbors (LSU): “Good lead blocker” and “good pass blocker” are things you want to see on your notes for a potential fullback. I have no mention here of his running ability or pass-catching ability so that must mean his real value is as a blocker. Where he might go in the draft really depends on how many teams are looking for blocking fullbacks this year.

    Jalston Fowler (Alabama): “Good pass blocker” and “power runner” are my two notes as to his football skills. My other note about him says “big bruiser” which is good for a potential fullback. As with Connor Neighbors above, where he goes in the draft depends on how many teams are shopping for fullbacks this year.

I shall now move along to the wide receivers where I have plenty of notes about players coming out this year. Before getting to the listing here, I realize that lots of folks have Devante Parker and Rashad Greene listed among the elite WRs. I saw Louisville play but made no notes about Parker; I saw Florida State play several times and made no notes about Greene. Make of that what you will… Nonetheless, I do have comments about 8 WRs in this year’s draft.

    Amari Cooper (Alabama): I have lots of notes about his play and his abilities but there is one note that sort of summarizes it all:

      “Only injury can stop this guy.”

      He definitely goes in the Top Ten picks.

    Devin Funchess (Michigan): He is “very big for a WR” and he has the speed and hands to play the position. He will be a good “possession receiver”. I would put him in the second round.

    Kevin White (WVU): “Tall and very fast” with “great hands” means he ought to be a first round pick.

    Tyler Lockett (K-State): “Undersized” but “finds ways to get open” and “good hands” means he is worth a look as a WR. He also played on return teams for K-state. Third or fourth round seems right to me.

    Dres Anderson (Utah): The announcers said he was Flipper Anderson’s son and so I paid attention to him. He has “good speed” but he “missed a couple of passes he got both hands on”. If you like football bloodlines, you might take this guy late in the draft but not much before that.

    Davaris Daniels (Notre Dame): Announcers said he was Phillip Daniels’ son and so I paid attention to see how the son of a defensive lineman played WR. My only note was “good hands”. Once again, if you like football bloodlines…

    Devin Smith (Ohio State): “Makes big plays when team needs it”. That is sort of what you would want a WR to do, right? He is “not as big as other WRs” but he can play. Probably a good bargain in the third round…

    Keith Mumphrey (Mich St.): “Good blocker on run plays to his side” and “good run after catch” are the positives. “Not very big” is the negative. That sounds like a late round pick to me…

Readers who have been around these analyses for several years might notice a glaring absence this year. Normally, I have e-mail notes from folks who have seen players at small schools in their area – or at their old alma mater – telling me about players I never get a chance to see. Indeed, I had about a half dozen of them but they went to the great bit-box in the sky when my previous computer went paws up. Therefore, to the folks who sent me those e-mails, I am not ignoring your comments nor am I “dissing’ your astute observations; your observations are not here because I lost them.

      [Aside: It is a good thing I create my notes with paper and pencil or I would have lost an entire season’s worth of notes with the demise of my computer. Then again, you would have been spared one of these draft analyses if that had that happened. You can decide among yourselves if you came out ahead in that calculus…]

Moving along to the tight ends…

    Jesse James (Penn State): Seriously, how can you not pay attention to a player named Jesse James? Too bad Penn State does not run the pistol offense… My notes say “made a nice catch” and “mediocre blocker on run plays”. That sounds like a low round pick to me if he gets picked at all.

    Blake Bell (Oklahoma): He is a “very large man” who “blocks very well” but who “looks awfully slow”. I would put him as a mid-to-late round pick.

    Max Williams (Minnesota): “Pass catching TE” who gains “lots of RAC”. “Seems not too interested in blocking” but “gets in defenders way”. With the emphasis on tight ends who can catch the ball down the seams these days, he will probably go by the end of the second round.

I do not try to make distinctions between guards and tackles on the offensive line because I have seen plenty of players move from one position to another going from college to the NFL. I do tend to think about centers as a unique position but I will lump them in here with offensive lineman:

    Brandon Scherff (Iowa): Most of the draft mavens think he will be the first offensive lineman taken this year. My notes may not reflect that same enthusiasm. I noted that he is “very big and very strong” and that he “leads runners 10 yards downfield” when the play is blocked correctly. However, I also noted “outside pass rushers give him problems”. If you are going to be a successful offensive tackle (his college position) in the NFL, you have to be able to handle the outside pass rushers. Everyone else thinks he is a sure-thing prospect; I think he needs more coaching to be a quality NFL player.

    La’el Collins (LSU): “Power blocker” and “big guy” are the plusses. “Not real good with the blitz” is the negative. Probably a late first round pick.

    Corey Robinson (S. Carolina): He is “a huge man” who is a “good pass blocker”. However, he is “rarely out in front on a wide run to his side”. Probably a good pick in the third round.

    Jake Fischer (Oregon): He is “very big and very fast”. He blocks his man and then races to find someone else to block and after a big gain he is “first OL to the new line of scrimmage.” Chip Kelly ought to be highly attracted to this guy. My guess is that he will be taken in the second or third round.

    Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma): “Good run blocker” and “not so good pass blocker” makes him seem like project to me. However, he is a big guy from a big time program so he may be worth taking late in the draft for developmental purposes.

    Shaq Mason (Ga Tech): “Very good drive blocker” and “quick enough to lead outside run plays” from center position are very positive things. The issue with just about any lineman from Ga Tech is that the Yellow Jackets rarely throw the football except when they absolutely have to. Ergo, “can he pass block at all”?

    Leon Brown (Alabama): He is a “good run blocker” who “pushes his man backward most of the time”. However, “not much speed to lead outside runs”. He should be a mid-to-late round pick.

    Trenton Brown (Florida): A “HUGE man – screen graphic says 6’ 8” tall”. “Very strong and very stationary”. “Not much speed” so this guy would be a real project for a team. But he is big and strong… Probably sixth or seventh round if he is drafted at all.

Before moving on to the defense, let me say that I have no notes regarding any punters in this year’s draft and only two notes on placekickers neither of which indicates to me that you will hear their names called from the podium until late on the last day of the draft:

    Sam Ficken (Penn State): “Got good depth on kickoffs in not great weather conditions”

    Kyle Brindiza (Notre Dame): “Big man/big leg”.

Now, for the defense, let me start with the defensive linemen and say unequivocally that Leonard Williams (USC) is going to be an impact player in the NFL unless he has a limb amputated. He is not only big and strong and a form tackler, he is also too fast to be a 300-lb man. He reminds me of a younger and faster version of Richard Seymour – and that is high praise for a guy who has never played a down in the NFL. If he does not go in the Top Five in the draft, there is some dark information out there related to Leonard Williams.

    Michael Bennett (Ohio State): “Very quick” and “plays to the whistle” on every play. My notes say “should be first-rounder”.

    Malcom Brown (Texas): I have two notes: “Big man to stop the run” and “reminds me of Vince Wilfork”. That sounds like a first-round pick to me…

    Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma): “Really big guy – screen graphic said 325 lbs”. Maybe that was before breakfast? He was “born to stuff the run”. Probably gone by the third round.

    Shane Ray (Mizzou): “Really good pass rusher” but “does not seem like he has run play responsibility”. If he is as one-dimensional as he looked to me, he could last until the third or fourth round.

Here are my notes on linebackers:

    Dante Fowler (Florida): “Super quick at the snap” and “hustles every play” combined with “sure tackler” makes him a candidate to go in the Top Ten in the draft.

    Bernardrick McKinney (Miss St.): “Meets runners head-on” and he is a “real bruiser”. A team needing an inside linebacker for a 3-4 defense can use him right away. Probably second or third round…

    Denzel Perryman (Miami): “Sure tackler – when he gets more than a finger on ball carrier it’s all over”. However, he is “not great in pass coverage” and “maybe too small?” I think he goes somewhere around the third round.

    Ramik Wilson (Georgia): He has “good size” and “good speed for a guy his size”. He “tackles well” but “struggles to defend passes”. I think he too goes somewhere around the third round.

    Taiwan Jones (Michigan St.): “Good against the run” and “already has NFL size” means he might be ready to play from the get-go. However, he “cannot cover receivers”. Probably another “thirdish rounder”.

    Marcus Rush (Michigan St.): What a great name for an outside linebacker…! He “needs to add some weight” but he is “very fast” which lets him cover backs out of the backfield. Probably a project so put him in the sixth or seventh round.

I have left two linebackers off the list above because I want to say something about each of them that goes beyond my notes. Randy Gregory (Nebraska) is a top-shelf NFL prospect. He went to the Combine and tested positive for drugs; reports say it was marijuana. I am not going to all moralistic on you here, but Gregory knew he would be tested and knew he would be tested for marijuana at the Combine in February. And he still got caught. That would lead me to wonder:

    Can he stay off the stuff enough in the future to avoid further positive tests when those tests are random? A suspended player is of little value to a team.

    Does he care enough about football to stay eligible?

    Is he so entitled that he does not care about the rules because they just do not matter to him?

    Is he dumber than a garden hose?

If Randy Gregory simply made a “youthful error” – as opposed to being an Olympic-class moron – he ought to be taken in the Top Ten in this draft. He is that good. However…

The other linebacker that really intrigued me was Shaq Thompson (Washington). Thompson has played linebacker, safety and running back at Washington and has been accomplished at all three positions. The screen graphic said he weighed 218 lbs which is generally too small to play linebacker at the PAC-12 level – but he not only played linebacker there, he played linebacker really well. I am skeptical that he can add enough weight to play linebacker in the NFL for very long but he is so athletic that he might actually be able to carry more weight effectively. And he can also be a safety of a running back too. They do not generally have slots on NFL teams for “utility player” as they do in baseball, but that is what Thompson seems to be. I have no idea how teams are going to view this kind of multi-dimensional player so I have no idea where he might go in the draft.

However, it would not surprise me even a little bit if Bill Belichick took Shaq Thompson somewhere along the line with the idea of making him into multi-dimensional player. If that were to happen, it would be interesting to watch and see how the Pats might use him.

I saved the defensive backs for last for a simple reason. If my notes are any guide, this is going to be a good year for teams to rebuild or add depth to their secondaries. Here are my notes on 14 defensive backs.

    Jalen Collins (LSU): “Big, strong and fast”, “plays the run well”, ‘good tackler”. First or second round pick.

    Landon Collins (Alabama): “Hits like a train”, aggressive in run defense”. Should go in the first or second round.

    Cody Prewett (Ole Miss): “Big hitter”, “covers back out of backfield”, “speed?” Second or third round pick.

    Cody Riggs (Notre Dame): “Good in coverage” “looks awfully small to play in NFL”. Probably a late round pick.

    Gerod Holliman (Louisville): “Big and fast”, “playing safety instead of corner, why?” I think he should go around the third round because he has versatility.

    Trae Waynes (Michigan St.): “Play’s press coverage most of the time”, “can also play off his man”, “did not see him in a zone defense”, “sure tackler”. Probably a first round pick.

    Doran Grant (Ohio State): “Sure tackler”, “good in man coverage”. Gone in the second round.

    Kyshoen Jarett (Va Tech): “Not very big but hits hard”; “covers backs and TEs – a safety in NFL”. Possibly third or fourth round.

    Eric Rowe (Utah): “Aggressive in man coverage”; “sure tackler”, “closes on ball”. Maybe first or second round?

    Erik Dargan (Oregon): “Strong against the run”, “good size/decent speed”. Should go in third or fourth round.

    Julian Wilson (Oklahoma): “Big CB good tackler”; “good in coverage”. Maybe second round?

    PJ Williams (Florida State): “Good size and good instincts”. Should go in second round.

    Ronald Darby (Florida State): “Looks like [PJ] Williams’ twin brother”, “aggressive in man coverage”. Should go in second round.

    Adrian Amos (Penn State): “Big kid who hits hard”, “good in coverage”, not super-fast”. Perhaps third of fourth round.

So now you are prepared to watch as much – or as little – of the NFL Draft as you want on TV. I am sure that the guys covering the Draft for ESPN and NFL Network will have volumes more to say about each player that I named here plus the 200 other guys who will have their names called. Trust me, I am not angling for a spot on those telecasts. Actually, I admire ESPN for taking the Draft and making it into a benchmark sports TV event every year; in reality, I think the NFL Draft itself is very close to the way Howard Cosell described it about 30 years ago:

“…the most overrated, over-propagandized annual event in American sport.”

Nevertheless, ESPN and the relentless NFL promotional machine have turned it into something that draws the attention of millions of fans. So who am I to fight against that juggernaut…?

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

Daily Fantasy Sports Wagering

Adam Kilgore wrote a lengthy article in the Washington Post recently describing the daily sports fantasy websites. This is a long-form piece but if you are interested in this subject, the article is well researched and well written. You can find it here.

The focus of the article is that the two main players in this arena – FanDuel and DraftKings – are exploiting a loophole in the Federal law that bars Internet gambling. The fact that there are loopholes in laws is not surprising or interesting to me; the fact that there are people smart enough to find and exploit said loopholes is not surprising or particularly interesting to me; the fact that the Feds who thought it was so important to pass a law to ban something for the public good cannot move quickly to close such obvious loopholes is not surprising or interesting to me. Here are some of the points made in this article that I find very interesting:

    More than 3 million people play fantasy sports using these two web-based companies on a daily basis.

    An estimated 41 million people play fantasy sports in venues other than these two daily fantasy sites.

    Consider this paragraph from the article:

    “On a typical NFL Sunday, FanDuel’s most popular game awards a $500,000 first prize to the winner of a massive pool with a $25 entry fee. Rather than simply hosting leagues for users, daily fantasy sports serve as an exchange. Players enter contests and win prizes for the best entries, and the Web site keeps a cut.”

    Now, can you explain to me how this event is not equivalent to playing online poker or why playing fantasy sports on this different from betting on NFL sporting events?

    MLB bought a financial stake in DraftKings two years ago. The NBA has a “partnership” with FanDuel. Since the two sites serve as an exchange in the sense that they take a small cut from every entry fee (call it a wager to be more accurate), that means that two of the major sports enterprises in the US are deriving revenue from wagering on their games along with other games.

    MLB specifically lobbied in favor of the insert in the bill that created this loophole. The NBA, NFL, NHL and the NCAA all lobbied to pass the bill that created this loophole. In essence, all of these organizations supported a law that specifically makes a form of gambling on sporting events legal.

    FanDuel has a “partnership” with the Orlando Magic in addition to its “partnership” with the NBA.

Even though I have exactly zero interest in fantasy sports – the season long variety or the daily variety – I find the topic interesting because of the mental gymnastics one has to go through when dealing with this topic. For example, they say fantasy sports betting is different from poker betting because in fantasy sports everyone starts with the same set of resources but in poker each player is dealt a different hand. Sounds good until you realize that is merely true if you set the level of your perspective. In poker, everyone sits down at the table with a stake (their wager) and the same deck of cards that will be used for the entire duration of the poker event. Once you resolve that dichotomy, you will know exactly how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

Another distinction is that fantasy betting is not sports betting because it does not depend on the outcome of any specific game. Again, that is literally correct but if you draft a team for a day in football and every player on your fantasy team is involved in a game where that player’s team wins 50-0, you stand a whole lot better chance of winning than losing.

My takeaway is that the pro sports leagues are already involved in gambling and some of that gambling is on games that their league puts on. Their players may indeed be playing fantasy sports and if that is not an apparent conflict of interest – a step below actual game fixing to be sure – then I guess I do not understand what a conflict of interest might be. To date, the NCAA is not part of this unholy cabal – but once the revenue streams are publicly known as they will be since these companies are seeking expansion funding, I am sure the NCAA will want to “dip its beak” so to speak. That will provide some fascinating mental gymnastics…

I mentioned recently that the latter-day Rosie Ruiz had been disqualified from the St Louis marathon. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took that fact and juxtaposed it with some other information to come up with this:

“The St. Louis Marathon disqualified women’s winner Kendall Schler after determining she crossed the finish line but never ran the race. There also are now suspicions about the man who claims to have won, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.”

Finally, here is one more observation from Greg Cote that is worth your attention. The NBA and the NBPA have agreed on the protocols and procedures by which they will test players for human growth hormone and testing is slated to begin over the summer. That annou8ncment produced this remark:

“There is something funny to me about the NBA, whose typical employee is freakishly tall, testing for human growth hormone. It’s like the International Sumo Federation testing for body fat.”

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

Hither, Thither & Yon

Sometimes you have to just shake your head in amazement and wonder if indeed the fall of civilization as we know it is imminent. Recent events in the sporting world might bring such puzzlement to the front of one’s awareness. Consider:

    The NFL schedule was announced to the sheep – er, the public – last night. NFL Network had a 3-hour special on it. Ever since the last day of last season, anyone who understood the NFL scheduling algorithm knew which teams would play which other teams next year. What we got yesterday was when and where each game would be played. If such a revelation is worth 3 hours of your life, you might want to consider assisted suicide; there is not a lot of hope for you.

    Rosie Ruiz is alive and well and racing in St. Louis – or at least a latter-day cheat who pulled the same kind of stunt as Rosie Ruiz. A runner in the GO! St. Louis marathon finished third last year and won the race this year. Not so unusual except that this runner did not run the full 26.2 miles either last year or this year.

      Memo to Marathon Cheaters Everywhere: If you want “marathon cred” you can get it by finishing third and fourth in races. They will scrutinize winners a whole lot more than third or fourth place finishers. Don’t get greedy and – while you are at it – don’t be a cheating a$$hole.

    Jay Feely felt it necessary to declare publicly in front of people who recorded his public statement that Tim Tebow is the worst QB he ever saw. I may be kind here for a moment and point out that Jay Feely never had to watch Jay Feely play QB and that might limit the scope of his knowledge… My problem with the reporting on this story is simple. After his pronouncement, why did no one ask him this simple question:

      Who asked you and who gives a fig what you think?

Given all the hoopla regarding the potential move of the Chargers and the Raiders to a new stadium in Carson CA, I have a friend who lives in So. Cal. and he sent me an e-mail with his views on the subject. Here are the salient points:

“I’ve never been to the stadium in Oakland but I’ve read about sewage plugs there enough times to get why the Raiders want out … I’ve been to Qualcomm as recently as 2012 to see the Chargers and it is not a bright and upbeat place. However, both those teams must really want out of where they are if they are seriously considering a move to Carson which is a dump.

“PS Ironically, the last time I was at Qualcomm Stadium it was to see the Chargers and Raiders.”

I do not know that I have ever been to Carson CA; in a former stage of my professional career, I did spend a lot of time in So. Cal., but Carson rings no bells in my memory. Therefore, I cannot really confirm or contradict my friend’s assessment of the town. I can understand why any team might want to leave Oakland and the sewage-challenged environment of the stadium there; while I have no first-hand experience at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, there are too many folks who say it has seen its better days and needs to have a wrecking ball come for a visit to wax poetically about its glories. However, what if my friend is correct and the Carson truly is “a dump”? Moving from Oakland to “a dump” is what The Peter Principle defines as a “lateral arabesque”; moving from San Diego to “a dump” is a giant step backward.

Speaking obliquely of the Raiders, they signed Michael Crabtree to a 1-year deal worth anywhere between $3-5M depending on incentives attained. If anyone asked Richard Sherman what he thought of the contract, I did not see it. Moving “across the bay” so to speak, seems to indicate a couple of things:

    1. Crabtree did not think that he would be a featured option in the Niners’ offense under Jim Tomsula.

    2. Crabtree thinks Derek Carr is at least as good – if not better – than Colin Kaepernick when it comes to getting the ball to WRs down the field.

    3. The Raiders do not have to play the Seahawks twice next year and that is a plus to Crabtree.

Here is my bottom-line on that Bay Area kerfuffle:

    I doubt that either team will make the playoffs. Therefore, this “transaction” is about as important as the breakfast menu on the Titanic for “tomorrow morning”…

Finally, if you want to be shocked an amazed by the abject asininity of an athlete in the midst of completion, please consider these words from Brad Rock of the Deseret News:

“Middleweight fighter Marvin Jones’ fight in Florida was delayed momentarily when his cell phone fell out of his trunks.

“He was later kayoed by Ramon Luis Nicholas — proving beyond doubt Jones doesn’t carry a smart phone.”

Seriously, the guy was carrying his cell phone in the midst of a boxing match. Many is the time that a pro ‘rassler has won a match by using a “foreign object” to his advantage but two things need consideration here:

    1. This is boxing and not pro ‘rassling.

    2. How might he have “taken a call” or “texted a friend” or “posted a selfie to a social media site” while wearing boxing – damned – gloves?

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

Adam Silver = The Anti-David Stern

I wonder if Adam Silver is intentionally working to make himself the obverse of his predecessor, David Stern, or if they are just wired differently. David Stern seemed always in dire need to demonstrate that he was the smartest person not only in the room but in the entire zip code. Silver is clearly smarter than the average bear (H/T to Hanna- Barbera), but he seems to be able to blend his intellect with the reality of common sense. David Stern could not allow himself to demonstrate common sense because if he did, that might detract from the hugeness of his intellect.

Recently, Adam Silver went on the Boomer and Carton show on WFAN in NY. I am anything but a fan of Boomer and Carton; I doubt that I have ever been able to stay tuned to their program for more than 20 minutes in a stretch. Nonetheless, Boomer and Carton spoke with the NBA Commish on the topic of gambling on NBA games – and other pro sporting events and elicited these remarks:

    After speaking about international soccer and European basketball where gambling is widely available and practiced, Silver said:

    “Because they have all that data, they’re able to monitor [game fixing activities] … And if there’s any irregular activity whatsoever, it’s like tracking insider trading on the New York Stock Exchange. If there’s a blip, if there’s unusual activity, they know to investigate. So first the issue for us is if all this betting is going to go on anyway, we should be able to monitor it. And then, No. 2, if all this betting activity is going to go on anyway, make it legal.”

    Later, the Commish said:

    “It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that. Putting aside whether or not we’re actually actively involved in any of the betting, it creates more engagement. We all know as fans if you have, even like a gentleman’s bet or a $5 bet with your friend on a game, all of a sudden you’re a lot more interested.”

What Silver did not say is that the NBA is indeed in a financial arrangement with one of those fantasy sports sites that offers “one-day games” and so the NBA is already directly involved with – and benefiting from – gambling activities involving NBA players and NBA games.

The other recent Adam Silver event that demonstrated that he is cut from different cloth than his predecessor was his press conference after the annual NBA board of Governors’ Meeting last week. He simply presented the outcome of the meeting in simple terms and admitted that there were some issues for which there is no obvious workable solution at the moment. I have trouble imagining David Stern verbalizing in that way. Here are two conundrums that Adam Silver and the NBA mavens have not yet figured a way out of:

    1. Tanking: The lottery was instituted to prevent tanking because 30+ years ago it was being done in spades to acquire the guaranteed #1 pick in the Draft. The problem now is that teams are about to be flush with cash and with oodles of salary cap headroom meaning that free agency will be a goat rodeo over the next year or two. Here is what Commish Silver had to say:

    “So what the basketball people pointed out – and they’re right – is that of course the draft lottery and the draft are just one component of team building. There’s also free agency and then there are trades, and that it’s very difficult then to look at that one aspect in the abstract. So my sense where we were coming out is that there’s still a sense that we need to make a change, but until we see what the team behavior is going to be with all this new cap room, we should hold it and wait and then look holistically at the whole system. This one again on the draft lottery, we agreed to continue looking at it, but it seems highly unlikely at this point that we’re going to make a change for next season.”

    Let me translate that for you:

      We haven’t the faintest idea how to attack this problem now and the cap room changes only make it more complicated. So, we are kicking the can down the road…

    2. Playoff entrants and seeding: Look at the Eastern teams in the playoffs vis-à-vis the teams who just missed the playoffs in the West. If you do not see the fundamental issue here by looking at those records, you are clearly a fan of the Brooklyn Nets. However, there is no agreement on how to fix this and here is how the Commish explained it:

    “When we presented all the data to the teams, what becomes clear is that there is no obvious solution because we play, for example, an unbalanced schedule in terms of you play your division members more than you do other divisions; you play in your conference more than you do the other conference. And I’ve said in the past, one of the competing issues is do we reduce the number of back-to-backs, reducing the amount travel for our teams. Of course, if we have a fully balanced schedule, that will increase the amount of travel.”

    Let me translate that for you:

      Teams in the East like the idea of playing other lesser competition in the East Conference more than teams in the West and have figured out that travel times to the West Coast are much longer than they are in the I-95 corridor and are using that as an argument to leave things as they are. Oh, and since changes to alignment or playoff eligibility require an affirmative vote of 2/3 of the teams, the chances of getting a bunch of Eastern teams to sign up for such change are zero. So we are punting…

Twins’ pitcher Ervin Santana is one of several MLB players on lengthy suspension for failing a PED drug test. Santana tested positive for Stanozolol which is the same thing that cost Ben Johnson his Olympic Gold Medals all the way back in 1988. Folks, this is hardly one of those so-called “designer steroids”… The interesting part of this story is that when Santana addressed his suspension, he said that he could not pinpoint how this stuff found its way into his bloodstream.

    Memo to Ervin Santana: When discussing the origins of how you wound up being suspended from MLB for failing a steroid test, you might not want to use the word, “pinpoint”. Just saying…

Finally, a cogent observation from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“Tough break for the San Jose Earthquakes with one-named midfielder, Innocent, being suspended one game for throwing an elbow.

“It’s also a whiff for Bay Area headline writers, who missed: ‘Innocent Guilty.’ “

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

Pete Rose On TV?

FOX Sports has hired Pete Rose as a studio analyst. Some folks see this as a harbinger of Rose’s ultimate reinstatement to MLB’s good graces. I think it is far too soon to jump to that conclusion. Regular readers here know that I favor Rose’s reinstatement and his induction into the Hall of Fame, but I am not going to celebrate just yet. Yes, this job puts Rose into a very public and very direct involvement with MLB; no, this does not guarantee his reinstatement.

    Memo to Pete Rose: Try never to start one of your analyses with the phrase, “I bet you…”

Yesterday, the Las Vegas 51’s played the Fresno Grizzlies and the day was set aside to honor Jerry Tarkanian in his passing. Dwight Perry anticipated this celebration with this comment in the Seattle Times:

“The minor-league Las Vegas 51s and Fresno Grizzlies will wear Jerry Tarkanian-themed jerseys April 19 to honor the late hoops-coaching great, then sell them for charity.

“What, no game-chewed towels?”

Johnny Manziel emerged from rehab after about 10 weeks. Many athletes who have gone to rehab for drugs and/or alcohol addiction come out after 4 weeks so the duration of his stay stands out for me.

    Does the added time indicate that he had a problem 2.5 times greater than other athletes?

    Does the added time indicate that he is 2.5 times more committed to resolving his problem than other athletes?

Obviously, the reason(s) for his more lengthy stay in a counseling environment are private matters and any reporting you may see regarding those reasons is most likely to be pure speculation. Manziel’s statement after leaving rehab touched on all the right points; and if he is committed to living up to what he said in that statement, he will be a better person for doing so.

Manziel’s rookie season experience with the Browns was inauspicious to say the least. Obviously, whatever issues he had to deal with in 10 weeks of counseling/therapy had to play a part in his on-field shortcomings. With those behind him – presumably – he may have the opportunity to re-start his NFL career. However, it may not be in Cleveland because there are persistent reports that the Browns may be looking to draft another QB this year and the team has already signed Josh McCown to compete for the starting job even if they do not take another QB in the draft.

Speaking of QBs who are in need of a career re-start, there are reports that the Eagles will sign Tim Tebow later today. Let us just say that the Eagles’ QB position is “crowded”:

    Sam Bradford arrived in a trade for Nick Foles
    Mark Sanchez re-signed during the off-season.
    Matt Barkley is still on the roster – – but should rent not buy.
    Tim Tebow is about to join the parade.
    Rumors persist that the Eagles want to trade up to draft Marcus Mariota.

Tebow has not played in an NFL game since 2012 when he was a “change of pace” player at QB for the Jets. His career stat line is unimpressive – the most glaring stat being that he only completed 48% of his passes at a time when starting QBs are expected to complete 60-70% of the throws. Nonetheless, Tebow is a good athlete and a smart guy; if Chip Kelly thinks his abilities fit with the Eagles’ offense and if Tebow’s QB mechanics have been improved by coaching and practice, this is not a signing that will present grave danger(s) to the Eagles’ franchise.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have some roster alterations to make this summer. Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor have been fixtures in the Steelers’ secondary for about a decade or so. Both of them have retired in the past couple of weeks and that should present a challenge to the Steelers’ defensive coaches.

Aaron Hernandez will not be playing in the NFL again either – for completely different reasons. You had to know that it would not take long for the late night comedians to comment on that jury verdict. Here is what Conan O’Brien had to say:

“Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. His lawyer plans to appeal. He’s trying to get the sentence reduced down to two seasons with the New York Jets.”

MLB set a new record for attendance at Spring Training games this year. [Aside: I am happy to have provided MLB some assistance in achieving this milestone.] Total attendance for 481 Spring Training games was 4,034,708 (almost 8400 per game). The previous record for Spring Training attendance was in 2013 at 3.8M fans so the increase this year is 5% higher than the previous record. Granted it is far too early to spot any trend here, but the early results for MLB attendance at regular season games is up an average of 1,226 fans per game after 184 regular season games as compared to last year.

Finally, here are two perspectives on college basketball’s “one-and-done” situation for this year:

“Perspective: Maybe like you, I only recently discovered that 21-year-old Masters champ Jordan Spieth was one-and-done at Texas. Led the Longhorns to the NCAA title and then split, same as Mike Krzyzewski’s three best players just did for Duke. Funny, isn’t it, how media and public hand-wringing are reserved only for basketball one-and-doners.” [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And…

“CNN.com reports the University of Phoenix has lost about half its students.

“Enrollment has dropped from 460,000 to 213,000 — making it second only to Kentucky in number of people leaving early for the NBA Draft.” [Brad Rock, Deseret News]

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

Home Again…

I am back from my visit to Dublin to see family there and back to a land where the sporting landscape extends beyond futbol and rugby. In case you have forgotten a significant portion of your World History class from high school, the English and the Irish peoples have had their “differences” in the past. Every once in a while, those “differences” led to confrontations that were far beyond verbal exchanges. Well, you might have a hard time recalling those times if you merely surveyed the folks in Dublin pubs watching sports these days. THE focus is on the English Premier League – the UAEFA Champions League games are relegated to the small screens over on the side walls of the pubs and usually have about 2 people watching them.

In the part of Dublin where we spent most of our time, it would seem that Liverpool and Manchester United have the largest following – although there were some folks sporting Chelsea gear walking about too. Last weekend, Manchester United beat Manchester City opening a door for Liverpool to gain ground on Man City in “the table” – or the standings as we might call it. When Liverpool won its game last weekend that put Liverpool in 5th place in the table only 4 points behind Man City in fourth place. Why might that be a vital issue that would cause Liverpool fans to approach a state of euphoria?

    The top four teams at the end of this season get to play in the European Champions League next year; the fifth place team is not invited.

With 6 games left to play this year, there is only a 12-point span between second place in the table (currently Arsenal) and seventh place in the table (currently Tottenham). It looks like there will be plenty of reasons for the Dubliners who follow the Premier League to get themselves to pubs to watch games between now and end of May.

Catching up on other stuff – in no particular order other than the order in which they come to mind:

    1. I am a bit surprised at the Aaron Hernandez verdict. I am not surprised because I think Hernandez is innocent; I am surprised that his legal team could not get at least a hung jury. While Hernandez’ actions do not enhance the image of the NFL in any way, there is some solace here for the league and for the union that his punishment will be handled by a party other than one constrained by the details of the current CBA.

    2. Some folks have cited Hernandez as proof that the Patriots’ touting of “The Patriot Way” for building a team that win on the field and builds character in its players as poppycock. Actually, I believe the Hernandez case demonstrates the value of “The Patriot Way”. When the team learned of the arrest and the charges and some of the evidence early on, the Patriots did not take the passive route and say that Hernandez was “one of them” until the legal process played itself out; rather, the Patriots released him and disassociated themselves from him.

    3. A former NFL player whose anti-social credentials are well-known made the news again last week. Lawrence Phillips is suspected of killing his cellmate in a California prison. Phillips is serving about 30 years in prison; among his prior malevolent behaviors, he was convicted of choking his girlfriend on at least two different occasions and then he drove his car into a group of kids in the aftermath of a pickup football game. Make no mistake, Lawrence Phillips is not a great humanitarian. In this case, the deceased cellmate is a person serving a sentence of “82 years to life” for first degree murder. It is not easy to pick a side here to root for…

    4. Three freshman players from Duke’s championship team have declared themselves eligible for the NBA Draft later this year. I have already said that I believe Jahlil Okafor should stay in college at least one more year to learn to play much better defense and to rebound in traffic. I love Justise Winslow’s game and I think it meshes with the NBA game better than any of the other duke players. Put simply, I really do not know what to think about Tyus Jones. His speed and his quickness are “NBA-ready”; his passing is very good but his shooting is sporadic and I seriously doubt that he can now defend against a real NBA point guard. All will go in the draft in the first 15-20 picks. I believe that only Winslow will have a serious impact next year on the team that takes him.

The NFL has “cleared” Adrian Peterson to play in the league once again; according to reports, Roger Goodell sent Peterson a letter informing him of his reinstatement to the league with two conditions attached. Peterson reached a plea deal in his trial in Texas involving child abuse that reduced the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. In return for that reduction in charges, the court said that Peterson had to fulfill certain obligations; Goodell informed Peterson that his reinstatement to the league was contingent on Peterson continuing to follow those court-ordered directives. In addition, Goodell notified Peterson of the new NFL policies on personal conduct making it clear – at least to me – that if Peterson violates any of those policies he will be back on the “not welcome here list”.

Peterson’s agent has said that Peterson does not want to play for the Vikings anymore and wants to be traded. That is nice; but frankly, I have heard that song sung too many times before to bother myself with it for more than a nanosecond. Recall that Bears’ linebacker, Lance Briggs once held out and swore he would never again play in a Bears’ uniform – and then proceeded to play there for about the next 5 or 6 years. When the agent states – as he surely will at some time – that this is “not about the money”, here is what he means:

    It is not about the money – until of course playing in Minnesota is the only place where there is any money for playing football. If it comes down to “money here” or “no money somewhere else”, we will choose “money here”.

Finally, Greg Cote explained this piece of sports history in the Miami Herald recently:

“By the way, ever wonder how the tradition of cutting down the nets began in basketball? Turns out it was started by the American Association of People Who Sell Basketball Nets.”

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

A Brief Hiatus…

I will be off the air for about a week as my long-suffering wife and I visit our grandson – and his parents too – in Dublin, Ireland.

I hope to be back late next week – either the 16th or 17th of April. Please check back then.

Stay well, all…

Strange Doings Here…

Over the winter, the Chicago Cubs’ organization set upon a renovation/update for Wrigley Field. Lord knows; it was long overdue. Let me just say that it would seem as if the folks in the Cubs’ organization who are in charge of overseeing all of this work are about as adept at that task as the Cubs’ teams have been on the field for the last century or so. It was evident from back around New Year’s Day that the new “Jumbotron” – or whatever they will call it in Chicago – would not be in place quickly enough to assure that the bleachers could be rebuilt around it. Indeed, that work continues. However, that is the good news…

On Opening Day, the Cubbies drew a capacity crowd for a game against the Cardinals; no surprise there. What was a surprise for the fans was that there were not enough rest rooms to accommodate that many folks in the stadium. Reports had it that fans had to wait in excess of 30 minutes in line to use the bathrooms that were functional. Reports also had it that patrons were urinating in empty beer cups and leaving the cups “around and about”.

Look, one of the reasons that the Cubs felt it was finally time to do this renovation/update is that Wrigley Field has always been short on the number of “relief facilities” available. To go with a renovation plan that would allow the stadium to open with even fewer “seats available” than were there before the renovation is purely stupid. How will the Cubbies resolve this problem?

    They will put porta-potties out in the left field concourse.

    They will have real toilets installed and functioning by “late May” according to Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations.

Just in case you do not realize, “late May” is approximately 25% of the way through the season; the Cubs will not have sufficient bathroom facilities for its fans for that period of time. In fact, by the time 31 May rolls around – that is “late May” indeed – the Cubs will have played 28 home games out of 81 for the season. In case the batteries in your calculator are dead, that represents 35% of the Cubs’ home games for the season. Here is a link to a report on this mess and a copy of the letter sent by the Cubs to their season ticket holders.

A headline on CBSSports.com yesterday caught my eye because it indicated that Dave Bliss was going to be coaching college basketball once again. Frankly, I could not believe that was really going to happen, but according to the report under the headline, Southwestern Christian University (an NAIA school) has hired him. If you do not recall Dave Bliss and his “fall from grace”, let me do a short reset:

    At Baylor, he had several players there who were having their expenses paid for but were not on scholarship.

    One of those players – one that Bliss had explicitly brought with him to Baylor from a previous coaching stop – was murdered. Much later a teammate was convicted of that murder.

    Bliss organized and orchestrated an intentional cover-up of the scholarship improprieties and scripted interviews to be given to police and investigators. Even less classy than that, he promulgated a completely fallacious story that the murder victim was involved with drugs and that his murder was a “drug crime”.

That all happened in 2003. Just to show that I have not just now manufactured these feelings of outrage, I found what I wrote about this subject in a Topical Rant way back then. I have posted it here in case you would like to see more about this sordid mess.

Yes, I do believe in redemption and I do believe that some people do turn the vector heading of their life around significantly. Yes, I believe that may indeed be the case here. And yes, I am skeptical and will need to see evidence of the change in vector heading. What he did – and what some of his assistant coaches did under his tutelage – back then was simply despicable.

The NFL is in the process of devising a rule change that will affect the PAT and the intent is to have that new rule in place for the 2015 season. There is a meeting scheduled in late May where the Competition Committee will make its recommendation to the owners.

    [Aside: I am confident that the NFL owners will meet in a venue in late May that has sufficient toilet facilities in place so that they need not use porta-potties. Just saying…]

Dan Daly posted a history of the NFL’s dealings with the PAT issue on his blog, ProfootballDaly.com. It turns out that at least one former Commissioner of the NFL hated the PAT and tried to have it removed from the game for more than a decade. Moreover, Professor Daly presents an argument as to why the league should not want to make the PAT significantly more difficult to convert. I think this a piece you should read in its entirety.

Finally, here is a suggestion from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“The Sacramento Kings signed Sim Bhullar to a 10-day contract, and the 7-foot-5, 360-pound center is the first NBA player of Indian descent. So can we call him Mahatma Grande?”

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

Duke 68 Wisconsin 63 – A Great Game

Four Duke freshmen combined to score 60 of the team’s 68 points last night and that was a key element of Duke’s fifth NCAA basketball championship. Last night, it was two of the “little guys” – guards Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones – who led the way with the “big guys” chipping in as needed. The Dukies also played superior defense last night. Wisconsin is a good shooting team; when they get open shots they drain them. Last night the Badgers only shot 41% from the floor (and only 33% from 3-point range) because most of their shots were contested.

It is fashionable today to complain about college basketball games and to suggest reasons for its decay and means to rejuvenate the game. Please do not feel compelled to nit-pick the tournament games from the Elite-8 down to the Final Game; those games showed me that when you put two good teams on the same floor in a “win-or-go-home” proposition, you get good basketball.

And, by the way, as much as I would love to watch Duke and Wisconsin play again because both are good teams that are excellently coached, do not even suggest any change to the “win-or-go-home” format of the basketball tournament.

A couple of months ago, I wrote that the Cleveland Browns seemed to want to join the Jags, Raiders and Skins on the list of “most dysfunctional franchises” in the NFL. Recently, I ran across some data that is an indicator of dysfunctionality. The current owner of the franchise, Jimmy Haslam, bought the Browns in 2012. I do not have the exact date that the deal closed so let me estimate that he has owned the team for 30 months. Here is what the Browns have done in those 30 months:

    They have had 3 head coaches
    They have had 3 GMs
    They have started 7 different QBs
    They have an on-field record of 11-21.

Even Danny Boy Snyder would have to stop and catch his breath in that degree of turmoil…

The NFL has hired its first permanent regular-season female game official. Sarah Thomas has worked some NFL exhibition games as a line-judge and has done C-USA football games in the past. Now she gets to be a permanent NFL official. The NFL used a woman as part of an officiating crew several years ago when the NFL officials were on strike but none of those replacement refs were permanent hires. Ms. Thomas was also the first woman to officiate a college bowl game when she was part of the crew for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl game between Ohio U and Marshall.

The ink on those reports was hardly dry when an NFL player announced to the world that this was a publicity stunt on the part of the league. Sen’Derrick Marks (DT Jags) said that the league hired Thomas for the same reason that one of the teams drafted Michael Sam in the last round of the 2014 Draft – publicity. Here is how Marks explained his conclusion:

“It’s just like the Michael Sam situation — if he wasn’t gay, he would have gone undrafted. Instead, the league drafts him because I think they are trying to monopolize every aspect of the world… the same thing with a female ref. For the league, it’s great publicity. The NFL is all about monopolizing every opportunity.”

Marks is walking a tight line here and it seems as if he has stayed out of a perilous place. Note that he did not say that Sarah Thomas is unqualified to be a game official – although he may be hinting at that with his off-handed dismissal of Michael Sam as even a 7th round draft pick. Had he gone there, he would be the target of significant scorn by now because – even if one believes that a woman cannot possibly be a good NFL official – one simply does not say such a thing out loud.

For the record, I have no issues about the chromosomal make-up of game officials. In my basketball officiating days, one of the best partners I ever did games with was a woman; she was an excellent official; she was better than I was.

Oh, two more “for the record” comments:

    1. The NFL is acutely aware of the value of good publicity and indeed misses few if any opportunities to generate some for itself.

    2. The NFL is also acutely aware that it has gotten itself some very bad publicity in the last year or so with regard to women and domestic violence matters. The best cure for bad publicity is some good publicity.

In case you have not heard enough about the upcoming NFL Draft already, here is how Greg Cote of the Miami Herald put all of that into perspective last week:

“Countdown: It is 25 days till the NFL Draft, and Mel Kiper Jr.’s 943 mock-draft versions (so far) indicate the Dolphins’ first-round pick could be anybody, at any position.”

Finally, an astute observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Baseball tradition: What makes me laugh? Stories that try to draw significance from who is named the starting pitcher for Opening Day. It’s one of 162, isn’t it?”

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