Baseball Hall Of Fame Inductees For 2016

The Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members next summer. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were both well above the 75% threshold in terms of votes received to merit their induction. Griffey was an absolute no-brainer; the voting is done by the members of the BBWAA – the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – meaning that everyone who has a vote is someone who is involved in covering and following baseball over a period of time. It is inconceivable that anyone who follows/followed baseball as the means to make his/her living could have seen Griffey play and not recognize that he was one of the all-time greats. About the only thing he never did was to come out before the game with the grounds’ crew and help them lay down the chalk for the foul lines.

Mike Piazza was another story. He has been eligible for 4 years and there had been a “PED cloud” over him. However, that cloud was as much innuendo/rumor/whispers as it was “evidence”. If you saw Piazza’s numbers standing alone, you would have to say he was Hall of Fame worthy but the BBWAA voters had issues with him. Perhaps it was exactly those “issues” that pressed forward changes in the BBWAA itself. Last year, a little more than 100 Hall of Fame voters lost their voting franchise because they had not covered baseball for the last 10 years.

Some folks have suggested that it was this “purging” of “old-timers” whose views on PED usage were ossified at best that propelled Piazza into the Hall of Fame. In prior years, there were almost 600 ballots distributed; this year, there were only 450. I do not read minds, so I will not try to tell you how or why folks voted the way they did. However, there is some math to suggest some validity here.

    Barry Bonds “benefited” from the “purge”. In his three prior years of eligibility, Bonds got 206, 198 and 202 votes. This year, he got 195. He seems to have a stable core of writers who believe that he belongs in the Hall of Fame and if the objective is to get to 75% of the votes, it will be easier to get there with only 450 voters than 600 or so voters. It will mean there are fewer minds to change. However, please note that Bonds’ vote this year is still well below 50% and not within hailing distance of the 75% needed for induction.

    Roger Clemens similarly “benefited” from the “purge” in the same sense that Bonds did. Like Bonds, Clemens seems to have a constant base of support for his candidacy. In his 3 years of eligibility, he has gotten 214, 202 and 206 votes; this year he got 199. Once again, his percentage is up because he got about the same number of votes while the total number of votes declined, but he too is still south of 50% of the vote.

I think the “PED cloud” will not dissipate until the BBWAA members have a chance to vote on the poster-child for PEDs – Alex Rodriguez. Like Griffey, Bonds and Clemens, no one could look at A-Rod’s numbers without a name attached to them and conclude that the player who achieved those numbers is unworthy of the Hall of Fame. Moreover, after A-Rod sat out an entire year on suspension for repeated PED use, he came back and played (purportedly) clean at age 40 and had a commendable season. The writers will have to decide when A-Rod is on the ballot what their collective stance will be for PED users because there is no question that he used them during his career. With both Bonds and Clemens, there is still that lingering argument that neither ever failed a drug test. [Aside: It must be pointed out here that Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test either and we know how that all turned out…]

I think that Mike Piazza indeed benefited from the “BBWAA purge” but I am not outraged by that in any way simply because whatever “evidence” there was that he was a “PED-cheat” seems far more flimsy to me than is the “evidence” in the Bonds or Clemens situations.

In any event, Piazza’s induction is a “rags-to-riches story” that might inspire a biopic somewhere down the line. He was hardly a “5-Star recruit” or a “top prospect” in his youth. In fact, in the 1988 MLB draft, Mike Piazza was selected by the LA Dodgers in the 62nd round; he was the 1390th overall pick that year; every team passed over him again and again and again… The lore is that the only reason the Dodgers “wasted” a pick on him is that Tommy LaSorda and Mike Piazza’s father were close friends. If that was the “only reason” then LaSorda and the Dodgers got awfully lucky; if there was a scout who put Piazza on the Dodgers’ draft board notwithstanding the LaSorda/Piazza Sr. friendship, that scout surely deserved a nice bonus.

One other note from the Hall of Fame balloting this year is that this was the last year of eligibility for Alan Trammel and Mark McGwire. Neither made it into the Hall. Now, they will fall under the scrutiny of the Veterans’ Committee and that body has been most stingy with its admissions to the Hall of Fame over the past several years.

Changing topics – and sports – Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Picked-up piece: With its victory over Michigan State in the CFP semis, Alabama won more games at Jones’ AT&T Stadium this season (2) than the Cowboys (1).”

I include that here because I know that one long-term reader of these rants is rabidly anti-Cowboys; and although he realizes that Jerry Jones is not the anti-Christ, he is certain that Jones and the anti-Christ are best buddies. If he had not already put those pieces together, I know he will read those words and give them a fist-pump. It is just another of the services I provide…

Finally, here is one more observation from Bob Molinaro.

“Another lifeline: After he was almost inexplicably retained as Colts coach, Chuck Pagano said, ‘This is absolutely the best day of my life.’ If he says so. But what about the time doctors told him that his cancer was in remission? Presumably that wasn’t such a bad day, either.”

Seriously now, better than the day you got married? Better than the days on which your kids were born? Better than the day you heard the word “remission”? Sigh… Coachspeak run amok.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 1/10/16

There were no Mythical Picks last week; however, the Mythical Picks from two weeks ago were en fuego. Three weeks ago, I had the best week of Mythical Picking” this year at 12-4-0; two weeks ago, was even better with a record of 12-3-0. That brings the cumulative record for the season to 127-116-5 which is solidly above .500 and very close to being mythically profitable against a 10% vig.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was 1-0-0 two weeks ago. For the season, The Coin did exactly what one might expect from a flipped coin. The season record for the coin – and presumably there will be no coin-flip games in the playoffs – stands at 17-17-1.

The “Best Picks” from two weeks ago were taking the Falcons +7 and seeing them win outright against the Panthers and taking the Rams +13 and seeing them beat the Seahawks straight up.

The “Worst Pick” from two weeks ago was taking the Steelers minus 10 points against the Ravens and having the Ravens win the game.

Notwithstanding the hot streak shown in the last two versions of Mythical Picking, no one should consider anything written here as authoritative or informed with regard to the outcome of playoff games this week – or in future weeks for that matter. One would have to be pretty stupid to use these musings as the basis for making a real wager on a real game involving real money. How stupid?

    You would probably sprinkle sugar on your pillows to ensure sweet dreams.

General Comments:

The NFL owners will meet next week in an attempt to resolve the “LA Situation”. The problem here is very simple; you learned about the principle in ninth-grade science class:

    Two bits of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

The problem the NFL owners need to resolve is this one:

    They want to put a maximum of 2 teams in the LA market – and perhaps only 1.

    The problem is that 3 teams want to move there.

    That is akin to the difficulty of putting 10 lbs of horsesh*t in a 5-lb bag.

The NFL bylaws say that any proposal to move a team requires the affirmative vote of 24 owners. Now, the fact that the impending meeting has not allowed any of the reporters who follow the league closely to report how things are going to turn out tells me that the league does not know how things are going to turn out. The national reporters who cover the NFL are very good at working their sources; by this time, I would have expected to read at least a half dozen reports on what was going to happen at next week’s meeting with only minor variants among the reports. What I have seen is dead silence…

The only recent pronouncement of note was a comment in a report issued by Stan Kroenke – owner of the St. Louis Rams. He said that any team that is in St. Louis – or moves to St. Louis – is on the path to “financial ruin” and that ruination would be bad for the NFL as a whole. Here is a link to a CBSSports.com report on Kroenke’s remarks and his proposal to the NFL for moving the Rams to LA.

The tone of his remarks would lead me to conclude:

    If Stan Kroenke were running for mayor of St. Louis against Satan, the polls would likely have the race as “too close to call”.

What the NFL seems to need is leadership – by the Commish or an owner or two – to broker a compromise deal. If all three of the owners who want to move have cobbled together a solid group of 8 other owners who will back their position and no other position, this is NFL gridlock that could be more restrictive than Congressional gridlock – and that is not an easy situation to obtain. Stand by for some sort of temporizing move by the league next week…

The Cleveland Browns hired Paul DePodesta to be their strategic leader that will take the Browns from their status of “adrift at sea” to “relevant in the NFL”. The unusual thing is that the Browns hired DePodesta away from the NY Mets of MLB. Time will tell if this was innovative or just plain stupid…

DePodesta replaces Ray Farmer as the guiding light. Farmer demonstrated rather clearly that he had no clue how to create a draft board that yielded productive players for the team; the roster is significantly low on talent. Farmer’s claim to fame for this tenure in Cleveland is that he was suspended for 4 games for sending text messages from his perch in the stadium to one of the assistant coaches on the sideline during a game. With that record, let me just say that DePodesta does not have a tough act to follow.

The move from MLB to the NFL is sort of a mirror-image of the move made by Bo Schembechler who went from Head Coach and Athletic Director at Michigan to be the President of the Detroit Tigers in the early 90s. Schembechler lasted about 2 years in the job and his signature achievement was to fire Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who was rehired by the Tigers about as soon as Schembechler was shown the door. If that is another yardstick by which DePodesta is to be measured, it does not provide him a daunting task.

Probably the biggest obstacle to DePodesta being successful is the mercurial owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslem, who seems to have the patience and attention span of a kitten. Here is what Haslem had to say about this new hire:

“We are fortunate to bring in Paul, an extremely talented, highly respected sports executive who will add a critical dimension to our front office. His approach and ambition to find the best pathways for organizational success transcend one specific sport and his experience as a high-level sports executive make him a terrific addition to the Cleveland Browns.”

If history is any guide, DePodesta will have 24-36 months to find those pathways to organizational success and to traverse them into the realm of success. Or else – back to baseball…

Here is what I think is the most important aspect of DePodesta going from the Mets to the Browns:

    Will the Mets retaliate by trying to sign Johnny Manziel and anointing him as “Johnny Baseball”?

Indy Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, announced that the Colts will keep both Coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson for next season. Given all of the reports of turmoil and strife amongst those three folks over the last year or so, that was an unexpected move. Here is the deal; the Colts underachieved last year for three reasons – and two of the reasons are intimately related:

    1. Andrew Luck got hurt

    2. The OL stunk and could not protect Luck or his replacements

    3. The defense stunk; they gave up 51 points to Jax for Heaven’s sake.

Now, how did those situations obtain?

    Is this a result of coaching malfeasance/incompetence?

    Is this a result of roster-building malfeasance/incompetence?

    Or both?

    The answer here cannot be “Neither!”

For the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the Colts record was 22-10 – an enviable record on the surface. However, there is a hidden factor at work there. The Colts are in the AFC south with the Jags, Texans and Titans; in 2013 and 2014, those three teams stunk and the colts record against them was 12-0. Against the rest of the NFL, the Colts went a mediocre 10-10. Moreover, the Colts were dispatched from the playoffs in both 2-13 and 2014 by losing blowout games to the Patriots. There is a “smoke-and-mirrors” aspect to that gaudy 22-10 regular season record…

I cannot read minds but it seems to me that keeping everyone in place means that Jim Irsay thinks that the Colts are serious championship contenders in the very near future and he does not want to “piss in the soup” so to speak. If my conclusion is correct here, then I have to say that I do not share Jim Irsay’s rosy view of the team. Yes, the colts have a very good young QB and yes, they have talent at the offensive “skill positions”. However, I do not think they are a player or two away from greatness or a mere “tweak of the scheme” away from elite status in the league.

I said in a rant earlier this week that I was surprised to see the Eagles fire Chip Kelly – not because I think Kelly is a great coach but because Jeffrey Lurie had shown lots of patience in terms of making coaching changes in the past. The never-to-be-labeled “shy” fans in Philly had a vehement faction that wanted Kelly tarred and feathered prior to being ushered out of town. There was a similar venting of spleen in Philly 3 years ago regarding Andy Reid and his ability to find his ass with either hand. And so, I ask Eagles’ fans this rhetorical question:

    Are the Eagles a better team today than they were when Andy Reid was fired and Chip Kelly took over?

Before we get to the picks for the week, here are my thoughts on NFL awards for the regular season:

    MVP: Cam Newton – with Carson Palmer running a close second.

    Offensive Player of the Year: Carson Palmer – only 1 award per player.

    Defensive Player of the Year: JJ Watt – with Josh Norman a close second.

    Rookie of the Year: Amari Cooper – with Todd Gurley and Jameis Winston getting consideration.

    Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera – with a tip of the hat to Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles and Andy Reid.

The Games:

Here are the four teams with Bye Weeks:

    Broncos: Peyton Manning saved the top-seed slot for the team with a second-half comeback last week. To the surprise of no one outside the Brock Osweiler household, the Broncos announced that Manning will start next week. The team will use the two-week interval to allow Manning to “sharpen his game” hopefully without aggravating his physical condition.

    Patriots: Given the number of injuries to the pats’ OL, I would not be surprised to learn that the team has signed two guys to the roster who have been employed as piano movers in the Boston area for the last 5 years.

    Panthers: The Panthers are loose and cocky at 15-1 for the season. Their challenge is not to become the first team with that kind of record to lose their first playoff game.

    Cardinals: Are they rooting for the Seahawks to be their opponent next week to avenge that 36-6 drubbing they absorbed only a week ago? Or are they rooting for anyone else to come to town?

(Sat. 4:35 PM EST) KC – 3.5 at Houston (40.5): There is an eerie similarity between these two teams. The Chiefs started out 1-5 having lost their best offensive weapon – RB Jamaal Charles. The Texans started out 2-5 and lost their best running back, Arian Foster. The Chiefs rallied to win 10 in a row finishing 11-5 but could not catch the Broncos who built a huge lead in the early part of the season. The Texans rallied to finish with 7 wins in their last 9 games; that was good enough to get them the AFC South title and hence the venue for this game. If you like historical trends, consider these:

    The Texans are 2-0 at home in playoff games.

    The Chiefs have not won a playoff game on the road since 1993.

Both teams win with defense leading the way. The Chiefs allow only 17.9 points per game; the Texans allow only 19.3 points per game. The Chiefs enjoy a 4 points per game advantage on offense but neither squad will be confused with offensive juggernauts such as Carolina, Arizona or New England. Absent 2 scores by defensive units and/or special team units, I like this game to stay UNDER.

(Sat. 8:15 PM EST) Pittsburgh – 3 at Cincy (45.5): According to reports, Andy Dalton did not practice on Wednesday. Since he has not thrown a pass in anger in about a month, my guess is that means he will not play and AJ McCarron will. That might be comforting to Bengals’ fans in the sense that Dalton cannot lose this playoff game for them as has been his custom for the last several years. According to reports, DeAngelo Williams did not practice for the Steelers on Wednesday and reportedly was “wearing a boot” on Wednesday nursing his leg/ankle injury. That would seem to indicate an even higher dose of Ben Roethlisberger throwing the football on Saturday than is normal – and the Steelers throw the ball a lot. Here are a few trend stats for you:

    The last Bengals’ playoff win was in 1990. Sam Wyche was the coach then.

    Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in playoff games with the Bengals.

    Ben Roethlisberger is 11-2 against the Bengals in Cincy for his career.

The much-maligned Steelers defense gives up lots of yards per game (363.1); they rank 21st in the NFL in that category. However, that same defense does not give up as many points per game as one might expect (19.9); they rank 11th in the league in that category. The Bengals’ defense ranks 2nd in the NFL in points allowed (17.4 points per game). I surely prefer Ben Roethlisberger over AJ McCarron here in a playoff atmosphere. I’ll take the Steelers to win and cover on the road.

(Sun. 1:05 PM EST) Seattle – 5 at Minnesota (39.5): The Total Line for this game opened at 42.5 and has dropped to this level probably due to folks hearing about where the mercury will drop to come game time. The Vikes play outdoors until their new playpen is finished and the forecast for Sunday calls for the high temperature to be 3 degrees and the low temperature from Saturday night to be minus-10 degrees. Add the forecast of 12 mph winds and you can pretty much figure out that Jerry Lee Lewis could do a halftime show featuring the song:

    Whole Lotta Shiverin’ Goin’ On

A month ago, the Seahawks beat the Vikes in Minnesota 38-7; the score that day accurately reflected the better team on the field. Somehow, I do not think the Vikes are “climatically advantaged” over the Seahawks to the point that it would compensate for a 31-point butt-stomping. Oh, and in case you had not noticed, the Seahawks have won 5 consecutive road games going all the way back to October 11. I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points here.

(Sun. 4:40 PM EST) Green Bay at Washington – 1 (45): This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game. You can still find it that way at 2 Internet sportsbooks. You can also find the game with the Packers as a 1-point favorite at 1 Internet sportsbook. The majority of venues have the game with the Skins as the single-point favorite. The Skins won 9 games this year including their last 4 in a row. That is the good news. Here is the bad news. The Skins did not beat a single team that posted a winning record for the 2015 season. In fact, the Skins only played 3 games against teams with a winning record and here were the outcomes:

    Oct 18: Jets 34 Skins 20
    Nov 8: Pats 27 Skins 10
    Nov 22: Panthers 44 Skins 16

    For the record, the Packers are 10-6 this season.

Do not get carried away with a case of “Packer euphoria” just yet. The Packers are a flawed team; their wide receivers do not stretch the field; they are only a mediocre running team and their offensive line is injured to the point of marginal competence. The Packers’ defense allows 3.5 points per game fewer than the Skins’ defense does and 33 fewer yards per game than the Skins’ defense. Nonetheless, the Packers are not going to win this game by shutting down the Skins’ offense; if the Packers’ defense is to be the “star of the game” it will have to do it by creating a few turnovers. I make this a venue call; I’ll take the Skins to win and cover at home.

Finally, here is my wish for this week – or for the remainder of the playoff games for that matter:

    Let there be no officiating blunders that directly affect the outcome of any of the games regardless of which team benefits from said blundering.

There have been far too many blunders this year even with the intervention of replay. I hope we all have seen the full quota of such events for the season; we do not need any more.

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

Add One More…

Add one more NFL team looking for a new head coach to the list from yesterday. Late yesterday, the Tampa Bay Bucs parted company with Lovie Smith in a surprising move. In 2014, the Bucs won only 2 games; they were downright awful and had the overall #1 pick in the draft which they used to take Jameis Winston. In 2015, the Bucs finished at 6-10 which is a clear improvement. However, at one point in the season they were 6-6 and were in the mix for a playoff spot; then they lost their last 4 games in a row.

After Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa in 2002, he stayed on as coach there until 2008. Since then, the Bucs have gone through Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith as head coaches. The roster has talent; the fanbase is very much a front-runner group; the owners do not exhibit a lot of patience. It will be interesting to see what kind of enthusiasm emerges for that job.

I do not want to jump the gun here because the NFL Free Agency scrum is not going to happen for more than a month, but there are a few players whose contracts expire when their seasons’ end who played their way into a big contract during this year’s free agent frenzy. Just a couple off the top of my head in alphabetical order:

    Kirk Cousins: His rookie contract – the one doled out to a 4th round pick – is over and he is now a certified starting QB in the NFL. My guess is that Cousins has made about $2M in his first 4 years; my guess is that his salary next year will be north of $13M and will escalate each year that the contract is in force.

    Josh Norman: His rookie contract – the one doled out to a 5th round pick from a small college – is over and he is one of the top corner backs in the NFL. Like Kirk Cousins, he has probably made about $1.5-2M so far in his career but his contract next year will be significantly higher. Might he get a contract worth $13M per year on average?

    Russell Okung: His 6-year contract that was worth $48.5M is up and he is one of the best left tackles in the league. His only problem has been some nagging injuries. Okung is only 27 years old so he should expect a fat long-term deal.

    Muhammed Wilkerson: His 4-year contract with the Jets probably paid him a total of $3M and then the Jets picked up an option for 2015 at about $7M. Despite his injury in Week 16, Wilkerson is an exceptional defensive lineman. He may not get “JJ Watt money” (6 years for $100M) but he will cash some nice paychecks during the next deal.

I mentioned above that Russell Okung and Muhammed Wilkerson have had injuries to deal with. That reminds me that I have grown very tired of hearing analysts spout the same old stuff about how this team or that team will have to adopt a “next-man-up culture”. Frankly, that is pretty shallow thinking and it says nothing meaningful about what an injury situation really means to the team. What it says most loudly is that the analyst has no idea what to say about the future and so he falls back on what has become an “old saw” in only a few years. Consider:

    If every team with an injury to compensate for needs to adopt this “next-man-up” attitude, then it stands to reason that such an attitude is part of the essence of being an NFL team. If the supplier of tape and bandages to a team went bankrupt, no one would say the team needed to adopt a “next-tape-supplier-up” attitude. They would say that the team had to adapt to a new situation.

    If you think even a little bit about the idea of a “next-man-up” culture, you will realize that it is more than nonsensical; it is mandatory. If a team loses its starting middle linebacker to an injury, it has only 2 choices:

      It can play someone else at middle linebacker.

      It can play without a middle linebacker.

    That choice is not going to be very difficult for the majority of coaching staffs in the NFL…

While I am on the subject of nonsensical phrases that are overused to the point that they become meaningless, I am tired of hearing that this coach or that coach has “lost the locker room”.

    Memo to Oblivious Coach: Follow your nose and head toward the rancid smell of sweat and dirty jockstraps. You will find the locker room at the end of the line of stink.

Often, I tell you about culinary atrocities that are available at baseball parks around the country but I ran across a report about one that will clog your arteries at a football stadium. At Lambeau Field, you can buy something called The Horse Collar.

    No; it is not horsemeat.

    No; it is not a saddle.

    The Horse Collar is 22-inch long kielbasa bent into a long U-shape. It is served in a roll that is the same U-shape and the sausage – which has been cooked in beer – comes with melted cheese and deep-fried sauerkraut. That is correct; the sauerkraut, which is the only marginally healthy ingredient here, is deep-fried to add to the stress test you will set upon your Lipitor prescription.

    The description above is the “baseline Horse Collar”. You can add fried onions and/or fried peppers at your whim.

A horse collar tackle in an NFL game draws a 15-yard penalty because it is a dangerous way to bring down a ball-carrier. I wonder what penalty a cardiologist might wish to impose on a patient that he saw chowing down on The Horse Collar at Lambeau Field?

Finally, an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Baltimore Ravens behemoth John Urschel co-wrote a paper, published in the Journal of Computational Mathematics, titled ‘A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians.’

“And to think, some of his O-line brethren can’t even remember the snap count.”

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

RIP Bob Connolly

I am back from a week without my computer and with only periodic Internet access. I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year celebration. I learned some sad news last night when I checked my e-mails; Bob Connolly – one of the folks listed under “Columnists I Read” on the right margin of the website – passed away just before Christmas. I never met Bob in person but we were in frequent contact over the Internet. When I visited Ireland several years ago, we took a train from Dublin to Belfast and passed through Connolly Station; I took a picture and sent it to him asking if it was named for a relative of his. That led us into a lengthy exchange with regard to Irish/British history and Irish/British politics. Bob was an avid follower of boxing although as a polio survivor he could never participate in anything like boxing as an activity; he explained many things related to boxing to me over the years.

I will leave the link to his Dreams Blog on the website for a while in case any of you might want to check out his final writings.

Rest in peace, Bob Connolly…

There are 6 NFL coaching vacancies at the moment. Only one of them is really surprising to me and that is the Eagles. Jeffrey Lurie had shown great patience during the Andy Reid years as the team built itself up from the worst team in the league in 1999 to a Super Bowl participant in 2005 and a frequent playoff participant up through 2010. Given his enthusiastic verbal support for Chip Kelly, I did not think he would fire Kelly; but he did and the Eagles are looking for a new coach and a new personnel guy since Kelly wore both hats in Philly. Howie Roseman is in charge of personnel for the moment and he has been in Philly for several years now; that is good news and bad news at the same time.

    Good News: He knows the roster’s strengths and weaknesses and he has been doing this job for a while. He is not a novice.

    Bad News: He has butted heads with both Andy Reid and Chip Kelly. I do not know if that has led to a reputation around the league that might scare off top-shelf coaching candidates – but it might…

If you subscribe to the theory that a franchise QB is the single most important factor in a team’s and a coach’s success, then the six openings fall into two categories. Two teams have what appear to be “good QB situations”:

    Giants: The defense may be horrid and the running game shows up only once in a while, but the QB is a 2-time Super Bowl winner. Moreover, Eli Manning has talent to throw to at WR and at TE.

    Titans: Marcus Mariota is not an established star in the NFL yet but his rookie season indicates that he has the potential to become one. The Titans need help in plenty of other places on the roster, but barring injury, they would seem to be set at QB for a while.

The other four teams have what appear to be “not so good QB situations”:

    Eagles: Is Sam Bradford – who is a free agent and will need to be resigned – the long term answer? Yes, he was the overall #1 pick in the draft a few years ago, but still… Certainly, Mark Sanchez is not the long term answer. This is an “iffy situation” at best.

    Dolphins: Is Ryan Tannehill the long term answer? He plays well in stretches and then seems to regress for other stretches. Personally, I think the Dolphins need a huge upgrade in the offensive line in front of him more than they need to go on a QB search.

    Niners: The have an injured/rehabbing Colin Kaepernick – who seemingly regressed to “raw rookie status” last season – and Blaine Gabbert on the roster. Counting on either of those guys is pretty much a crap-shoot…

    Browns: Josh McCown will be 36 next season and finished the year with a shoulder injury. Nonetheless, he is the best QB on the roster. Enough said…

Of those four teams with “not so good QB situations”, I would have to say that the Eagles’ job should be the most attractive because the ownership situations with the other 3 clubs have shown themselves to be mercurial in some cases and downright incompetent in others. The next several weeks will be interesting…

Since I mentioned the Eagles above, let me switch here to another Philly team, the Sixers. Last month, the team hired Jerry Colangelo – rumor has it that the Commissioner pressured the Sixers’ owner to do so in order to bring some level of credibility to the team – and then they hired Mike D’Antoni as an assistant coach. Obviously, these two moves could not hurt a team that was 1-26 at one point in this season; in fact, the Sixers are 3-7 over their last 10 games but let us put that in perspective here.

    Because of their horrid start to the season the Sixers are still – after 37 games – on pace to win only 8 or 9 games this season. Eight wins would set a new record for the worst season record ever; nine wins would tie that record.

    D’Antoni is an offensive minded coach; the head coach, Brett Brown, is a defensive minded coach. If they blend their “basketball gestalt”, they might make the Sixers into a real team. Remember, a team with a 1-26 record projects to have a final NBA record of 3-79.

    The Sixers have played only 14 home games so far this year and have been on the road for 23 games. That means they have a preponderance of home games left on their schedule. They have not been fearsome at home with a 2-12 record but that is surely better than their road record of 2-21…

I am sure you remember Stephon Marbury and some of his antics in his NBA career. Marbury has been playing in China for the last several years and according to this report, a museum dedicated to him opened in Beijing late last month. He already has a statue in that city and is pictured on a Chinese postage stamp. Let me just say that he has obviously found his milieu in the Far East…

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this retrospective on 2015 in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Looking back: Because we’re accustomed to media losing perspective about everything, it wasn’t surprising that in 2015 the relentless fallout over the alleged PSI of a few Patriots footballs created far more outrage than the conviction of New England tight end Aaron Hernandez for the very real crime of first-degree murder.”

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

Off The Air…

I will be off-the-air until January 6 or 7 in 2016. Please check in around then for more sports commentaries.

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope 2016 is a healthy and prosperous year for all.

Stay well…

Bad Ads – 2015

The Earth has journeyed around the Sun yet one more time. As it proceeded on its way, I passed plenty of time watching sports on TV. The beauty of retirement is doing what you want to do when you want to do it – – and I am retired. What I often want to do is to watch a sporting event and so that is what I do.

The downside is that I have to watch/pass through loads of commercials on TV that are the funding source for my ability to watch those sporting events. I recognize their necessity; that does not mean that I have to like them. And, I most certainly do not like lots of them. As a Boy Scout one learns that one must take the bitter with the sweet. However, there is nothing in the scouting experience that precludes one from trying to make the bitter into something marginally sweet – or at least less bitter. That is what I try to do here.

I keep a set of notes on particularly annoying or stupid ads that I see on TV and compile them here as the final rant of the year. They may be annoying to watch, but at least I get some writing material from them. Before I start in on my list, I do want to take note of two dates:

    I saw my first “Christmas shopping ad” on October 20th. It was an ad for K-Mart touting their lay-away program for purchase of Christmas gifts.

    I saw my first two “Christmas automobile sales ads” on November 5th. Audi showed a car with a bow on the hood in a driveway and VW had an ad for leasing a car where the couple took the car and went hunting for a Christmas tree during the test drive.

    Ho, Ho, Ho…

Anyhow, here are some of the bad ads you and I were subjected to last year…

Beer companies sponsor lots of sporting events and that means I saw loads of beer ads making it rather probable that I would see some bad ones. The folks at the beer companies and their ad agencies did not disappoint:

    Budweiser told me, “We don’t brew halfway.” Well thank goodness for that. I do not claim to be a master brewer – or even an accomplished amateur. However, I do recall brewing some beer years ago and halfway through the process, the wort is not pleasantly aromatic and has a nasty flavor. Come to think of it, maybe the folks at Budweiser are indeed only brewing their beer halfway…

    Bud Light maintained their ad campaign saying that you should drink Bud Light if you are “up for whatever”.

      Memo for Bud Light: Here is what I would be “up for”. I would love for you folks to make a new set of ads that are not immensely stupid. I would also appreciate a beer that did not taste as if I were drinking it for the second time. Thank you in advance…

    Miller Lite would not be outdone in the quest for annoying TV ads this year. Recently they have paid good money for TV time to inform me that their swill now comes in the original short necked bottle that it came in when it was first introduced. And I should care about the packaging for what reason…?

There are categories of ads that put fine print on the bottom of the screen. These are disclaimers that seek to indemnify the sponsors for saying things in the ad that are not the whole truth and nothing but the truth and/or for showing something that might be deceptive in some way. As a rule of thumb, look at the amount of fine print at the bottom of the screen and recognize that the length of the message there is directly proportional to the degree of fibbing or exaggeration that you have been subjected to in the ad. Basically, there are two categories of here:

    Ads – usually for automobiles – that show something outrageous to the point where they would be dangerous if any viewer were stupid enough to try to duplicate it in real life. The message at the bottom of the screen translates to:

      Don’t be an ass! Don’t even think of doing this yourself.

    Ads where there are restrictions on the offers/claims made in the ad you are watching/listening to.

      Some car rebates are for only the 10% of dealer inventory that has been on the lot the longest. You do realize that means they are cutting the price a little more than normal for those cars they have not come close to selling yet. Such a deal…

      Websites that can get you “cash in your checking account tomorrow” are not lenders or brokers and do not make lending or credit decisions. And they are often illegal in a string of states. No wonder the print is so small; anyone who read that stuff would be really leery of contacting those folks.

      Law firms who want you to call them if you – or a loved one – has taken some medicine and suffered one of a series of dire consequences including death. That firm will probably not represent you but will refer you to a law firm in your area – which you could find for yourself if you tried.

A T-Mobile ad had a disclaimer at the bottom of the ad that negated much of the benefit that was touted in the ad. T-Mobile claimed that other cell phone companies “steal your unused data” at the end of the month after you paid for it but T-Mobile will roll it over into the next month. Sounds good, no? The problem is that you only get to use that rolled over data after you run out of the allotted data in the next month – and if you did not use it all in January, why is it a certainty that you might use all of it and then some of the roll-over data in February? But even more problematic is that after one year of rolling over all that data, you lose it if you do not use it. Here is the bottom line:

    T-Mobile will “steal your data” just like the other cell phone companies but they will do it a year later than the other companies.

    Somehow, that does not sound like such a great deal anymore…

Zaxby’s Chicken had a bunch of ads on during March Madness last year. They had one of the goofs from Duck Dynasty in the ads. In a particularly stupid and annoying one, the “Duck Dynast” could only place his order for the chicken in a series of grunts exchanged with the genius at the cash register. In another, he dressed in “chicken camo” so no one could see him eating his chicken. On the stupidity scale from 1 to 10, those rate a 12.5. I do not recall ever seeing a Zaxby’s Chicken here in the Northern Virginia area but I will say without reservation that those ads would keep me from trying the food there rather than enticing me into the place.

DirecTV tried to convince me to use their satellite TV service with a series of ads showing Hannah and her talking horse. Their pitch was that DirecTV rated higher than Cable TV in each of the last however-many years. Wonderful! DirecTV also probably rated higher than used car salesmen, cops setting up speed traps, child abusers and people who rarely bathe. If you say that my comparisons are irrelevant, my response is that they are as relevant as a woman and a talking horse are as spokes-creatures for a satellite TV company. And for the record, the idea of a talking equine specimen is not novel; anyone besides me recall Francis the Talking Mule from the 1950s?

KFC ads feature the reincarnation of “The Real Col. Sanders”. Here is the message that I get from those ads:

    The folks in “creative” at the ad agency simply have no good ideas at the moment.

I heard an ad on the local sports radio station for one of the online universities. I do not know if that is a national ad or just one put on the air here to annoy the inhabitants of the DC metro area. The ad is based on the premise that some industrial leader once said:

“If you don’t control your own destiny, someone else will.”

The message of the ad is that you should take control and call this school and enroll immediately or suffer the consequences of someone else controlling your destiny. Sorry, but either the industrial leader got it wrong or the enlightened folks who will be instructing you at the online university have it wrong.

    Neither you nor anyone else can control your destiny or any other destiny. If it were controllable, it would not be destiny.

Should you call the number and think about paying those people to instruct you in courses leading to a college degree, recall that they got your attention by trying to convince you to control something that cannot be controlled. So, how smart must they be…?

TD Ameritrade touted its investment tools in an ad featuring Andrew Luck. He offered folks a “piece of Luck” by plucking a few hairs from his beard and dousing the people with it. Some of the folks said that TD Ameritrade had given them those investment tools so they were confident in their planning for retirement. Finally, they tell you don’t need luck when you have confidence.

    Really?

    So, if I am confident that I am going to win the $300M Powerball Lottery this week, I don’t need luck?

    I don’t think so…

This year seemed to be one where the auto companies all got together and decided that they would bombard viewers of TV sporting events with stupid ads. There were so many that it strains credulity it could have happened totally randomly.

    Scion ads for their little cars used the slogan:

    “Scion; what moves you?”

    On one hand, it might be considered an interesting play on words. Scion is a car; cars move you from Point A to Point B. Clever? Not really. The first time I heard the ad pose the question here was my answer:

      “Prune Juice”

    The Ford Edge ads tell you to “Be Unstoppable”. Well, if I am in my Ford Edge I am not sure that I want to be unstoppable. I think I would prefer that the brakes worked properly.

    Lincoln had to have decided to creep out a minimum of 75% of the viewers with those ads with Matthew McConaughey driving along on a dark night with not another car on the Interstate. I can imagine the meeting between the folks at Lincoln and the folks at the ad agency:

      Ok, no other car maker has gone after the very-rich, the very-aloof and the clearly-creepier-than-Hell demographic. So, here is what we came up with for you…

    For Volkswagen, harken back to the days when they touted Fahrvernugen – the joy of driving one nominally got from a Volkswagen. Well, in 2015 we learned that some of the “pep” in the engines of some of those VWs came from software that allowed the cars to pass emissions inspections but then drive in higher pollution mode to improve performance. Sure, I’ll believe the next round of VW ads…

    Oh, and Audi had some “software shenanigans” too. For several years now, Audi has been flogging us with the slogan “Truth in Engineering”. I wondered if they might amend that this year to be “Truth in Engineering Plus Emissions Software Hijinks”. No, they did not…

People who buy cars also need to buy auto insurance so the demographics of sporting events tells insurance companies that they should spend some ad dollars there. Sadly, they do so and put bad ads in front of us.

    Progressive Insurance still has Flo involved. Let me say this simply:

      If Flo were drowning in a swimming pool, I would throw her a bowling ball.

    Liberty Mutual seems intent on capturing the naïve segment of the insurance market. Several of their “spokesfolks” opine into the camera that they are outraged when they “use their insurance” [file a claim] and then learn that their rates increase. That is how insurance works. That is why you will pay more for life insurance if you smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day or are 500 lbs overweight.

    There is another Liberty Mutual genius who is shocked to learn that if he totals his new car, he only gets the depreciated value of it from the insurance company. Obviously, he lived in a cave until the moment he went to the car dealership to buy that car that he immediately wrecked.

      Memo to Liberty Mutual spokesthings: If you get the company’s accident forgiveness and/or new car replacement coverage, your monthly premiums will be higher. That is how it works. It is like the old ads for Fram oil filters:

        You can pay me now or you can pay me later.

    Allstate has a particularly annoying ad featuring a couple sitting in a restaurant. The woman asks if the man recalls saying that women are not as good at driving as men; he acknowledges that he remembers that. At that point the woman gets out her “safe driving reward check from Allstate” and proceeds to flaunt it at him for the rest of the ad. The only way to save that ad would be for the man – who is obviously a chauvinistic idiot in the first place for making the broad generalization that started all of this – to take his plate of food and smash it into the face of the preening schmoo of a woman he is with.

    Geico has had some good ad campaigns over the years and a few that have surely outlived their utility. I did not think I would ever be in this position but indeed I am:

      Every time I see “Peter Pan” fly into the reunion hall with his classmates who have aged while he has not, I say to myself, “Why can’t Geico bring back the cavemen?”

Cialis now comes in a low-dosage form that men can take every day. Cialis likes to say that it allows men with Erectile Dysfunction to be ready anytime. If they left it at that, I would think that the ad campaign was sensibly directed at the aging male demographic and move on. However, Cialis also tells us that it is sometimes effective in treating the symptoms of BPH – Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia – or an enlarged prostate that is not caused by prostate cancer one of which is frequent need to urinate both day and night. And so to cover all the bases, the ads begin by saying:

    When a moment turns romantic, why stop to take a pill?

      OK, I guess. Spontaneity is a good thing… Unless of course it happens in a crowded restaurant or a movie theater or a church service…

    And why stop to look for a bathroom?

      Uh … hold on there. If the moment is turning romantic and either party needs to go to the bathroom, it is probably a good idea for that person to find one and use it because it might become a significant reason why said moment ceased to be romantic.

      Another important reason to “stop and look for a bathroom” is that we spend time and energy teaching children that it is not socially acceptable to wet themselves whenever they feel like it wherever they are. When an adult “stops to look for a bathroom” he is behaving like a socially adjusted adult instead of an annoying rug-rat in need of potty training.

    These ads are even dumber than the vintage Cialis ads where couples in parallel bathtubs held hands while staring off into the horizon.

Napoleon Grills had an ad last year that showed a neighbor sneaking into a guy’s backyard to use the neighbor’s Napoleon Grill to cook a bunch of food. Even when confronted in the act and reminded that he could get his own grill, the guy keeps cooking. What is the message I am supposed to take from this?

    Buy a Napoleon Grill and then install a perimeter security system around your home so that potentially psychopathic neighbors do not sneak in and use your grill.

    I don’t think that is the message they want…

Until there were some legal issues with some state regulatory authorities and/or attorneys general, we were bombarded with ads for daily fantasy sports websites, Draft Kings and FanDuel. Mercifully, those seem to have abated in the past several weeks. I have 2 questions for the folks who are in charge of marketing those sites – leaving aside the questions of legality that will be settled in a totally different realm:

    1. If you are going to buy up 50 ad slots for a Sunday’s worth of NFL games, why not invest enough money to make more than two different ads that you will run in those 50 slots?

    2. If I did not respond to the two ads you did make the first 1569 times I saw those ads, what makes you think I will respond to the 1570th time?

One of the fantasy draft sites had an ad where Victor Cruz asked Odell Beckham, Jr. if he (Cruz) should start Beckham or Julio Jones that week. The catchy part of the ad is obviously supposed to be that Cruz and Beckham are teammates in real life and that is nominally an awkward moment. There is another message there and it paints Cruz as someone who is dumber than a paper clip.

    Beckham and Jones are two of the best WRs in the NFL.

    Fantasy football teams start 2 WRs.

    If Cruz were lucky to have both on his team, why would he even think of only playing one of them?

When the ad bombardment for Daily Fantasy Sports sites was at its crest, there was a potential danger facing our country and our civilization. Look at all of those ads; they all said the same thing. Sign up, put up some money and you – Joe Flintwhistle sitting there at home – can win big money and we will take video of your celebrations there in your home and put it on the air. What is the potential danger in that?

    It is not a giant leap for some guy in creative to look at those videos and pitch the idea of creating another “Reality Program” where the content is video of groups of fantasy sports players watching games and hyper-reacting to various plays throughout the day. Splice those together with a few interspersed narrative interviews of the participants and you have a new Reality TV Show.

    1. If anyone ever made such a monstrosity of a show, might I suggest they call it “Survivor: Insufferability”.

    2. We need another Reality TV show like we need an outbreak of rectal boils.

Blue Buffalo Dog Food shows an ad where a pet owner is sitting in a chair and is presented with the ingredient list from three different dog food brands. He says that he would select the brand of food for his pet based on the ingredient list. OK, that makes sense; if they stopped there, this ad would not be stupid. Here is what comes next:

    The pet owner says “If you can understand what is in the (dog) food, it’s good food.”

    Really?

    Suppose the first ingredient listed – the one in the greatest quantity in the dog food – is “Mule Snot”. You understand what that is if you have an IQ greater than a hunk of cheese, but that does not make the product good dog food.

The folks at Fairfield Hotels tell me that their guests include marathon jugglers, Olympic gymnasts, a “balancing wizard” and an American Ninja. Moreover, these folks do their act in the lobbies and halls in the Fairfield hotels. This does not make me want to stay there for fear I might encounter one of more of these goofs.

Wells Fargo Bank has a Christmas ad showing a stage coach traveling through a snow-covered terrain when it stops so that the horses can eat carrots offered to them by snowmen by the side of the trail. Then the stagecoach goes on to deliver presents to a child.

    Question: What in the name of Figgie Pudding does any of that have to do with banking?

Way too many ads tell us at the outset that these are “real people” and “not actors”. Given that the majority of those “real people” are being compensated for doing what they do, the distinction is sort of “blurry”. In any event, here are two messages for the folks who make those commercials and give us that disclaimer:

    1. It never occurred to me that those were holograms on my screen. Of course they are “real people”; they are not animations.

    2. Since when are actors not “real people”?

I do not know if hhgregg is a national company or a local one here in the DC area; they sell kitchen appliances and some electronics and things like that. Yesterday on the NFL early game shown here, they ran an ad for a one-day sale on the Saturday after Christmas. They paid to run an ad on Sunday for a one-day sale on the day before. I never took the course, Marketing 101, but somehow, that does not seem like a good idea to me.

Finally, dumb ads are not restricted to television. As I was browsing on one Internet site looking for stuff to use in my website rants, I ran across an ad along the right side of the screen with this “headline”:

    An overlooked method to pay off your credit card balance.

No, I did not go and read what that ‘overlooked method might be simply because I have a foolproof method for doing that which works every time:

    Step 1: Do not carry any credit card balances in the first place.

    Step 2: If that fails and you find yourself with a balance carried forward, then pay more each month than you spent on that credit card in the last month.

    Step 3: In short order, the balance will go to zero and then you can stay there by following Step 1.

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

Administrative Note

There will be no rant tomorrow on Christmas Day. I will return to the air on Monday 28 December with the final rant of the year – the annual “Bad Ads” rant reviewing some of the bad TV commercials of the previous year.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate Christmas. Happy Holidays to those who celebrate some other holiday at this time of the year.

For everyone, stay well…

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/27/15

Allow me just moment of gloating here. Last week’s Mythical Picks were outstanding; the record for the week was 12-4-0. If I were one of those touts on TV, I would scream at the top of my lungs that I have a “documented” 75% win rate picking NFL games and that everyone should call my toll-free hotline and buy my picks for the rest of the season at a greatly reduced rate because I am so smart and so magnanimous and so – – phony. Indeed, last week was a great week of Mythical Picking; the reality is that the inclusion of that great week into the season record makes the season record 115-113-5.

    The season record is above .500.

    Nonetheless, the season record is mythically unprofitable playing against a 10% vig.

The Coin Flip Games were in the black too with a 2-1-0 record. That bring’s the coin’s season record to 16-17-1.

The “Best Picks” from last week were the picks in the Eagles/Cards game. I liked the Cards minus 3 points and the Cards covered easily; I also liked the game to go OVER 51 and it did so.

The “Worst Pick” was taking the Niners + 6 points against the Bengals. The Niners lost by only 10 points but it took two garbage-time TDs for them to get that close.

Please notice that I was being completely sarcastic above when I said people should call to subscribe to my Mythical Picks for the rest of the season. No one should even think of doing that; in fact, no one can do that because there is no way to subscribe to my Mythical Picking service other than to read on from here. It would be the height of folly for anyone to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Here is how dumb one would have to be to do that:

    You think “Instagram” is having your grandmother on speed-dial.

General Comments:

In the battle for “supremacy” in the AFC South, the Texans beat the Colts 16-10. The Texans won in Indy for the first time in franchise history – and remember, since these teams are in the same division, the Texans have played the Colts in Indy every year of their existence. It was not that long ago when the Colts were on a winning streak and people were asking – in a serious tone of voice – if the Colts should keep playing Matt Hasselbeck at QB even if Andrew Luck were healthy enough to return to action. Look, Matt Hasselbeck is a warrior and he has earned every dime of whatever his contract calls for him to make. However, behind that marginal OL, he has taken a beating – as did Andrew Luck – and Hasselbeck’s 40-year old body is just not ready to take much more of the same.

The Texans’ defense dominated the game. The Colts managed only 190 yards total offense in the game and a truly meager 68 yards of offense in the second half of the game. The Texans started TJ Yates at QB but he went down with an ACL injury; their starter, Brian Hoyer, is still in the concussion protocol – the second time this year he has been part of that convention. Coming off the bench to “save the day” was none other than Brandon Weeden. There is some delicious irony here:

    On the same weekend that Brandon Weeden “guided” the Texans to a win that puts the Texans in position to make the AFC Playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys were eliminated from the NFC Playoffs.

    Dallas had to replace its starting QB for reasons of inadequacy and turned to Kellen Moore. Weeden was no longer available to them.

    Now, if Hoyer is still not cleared to play and if the Texans make the playoffs, Weeden will be the QB for a team from Texas in the playoffs. Simultaneously, the Cowboys will be sitting at home watching the games.

Please do not misinterpret what I just said. Brandon Weeden still has a long way to go if he is to be labeled as a journeyman back-up QB. But, he took the fall in Dallas for the Cowboys’ demise in the middle of the season and none of the QB play for the Cowboys since his departure has been even as good as mediocre. Nice move by the folks in Dallas who do “roster building”…

The Jets needed a field goal with about 30 seconds left in the game to beat the Cowboys 19-16 last week. The Cowboys lifted Ryan Mallet and inserted Kellen Moore for his first extended action in an actual NFL game. He threw a TD pass in the first half to give the Cowboys a halftime lead; unfortunately, he also threw 3 INTs as rookie QBs are wont to do.

    With this win, the Jets remain in the midst of the AFC wild card picture with the same record as the Chiefs and the Steelers.

    With this loss, the Cowboys are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Even Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother cannot help them now.

The Cardinals easily handled the Eagles by a score of 40-17. Rookie RB, David Johnson from Northern Iowa, had himself a game. He ran for 187 yards and 3 TDs leading a Cardinals’ running game that gained 230 yards on the ground. The win was the 12th one for the Cardinals and it marks the first time in franchise history that a Cards’ team has won 12 games.

    I mentioned above that the Texans beat the Colts in Indy for the first time in franchise history; that history only goes back to 2002.

    The Cardinals, on the other hand, have been around for a while with incarnations as the Chicago Cardinals (1920 – 1960) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1961 – 1987) before becoming the Arizona Cardinals.

The Eagles did nothing to help their cause by turning the ball over 4 times in the second half of a game where they only trailed 17-10 at halftime.

The Panthers remained undefeated last week beating the Giants 38-35. The Panthers led 35-7 late in the 3rd quarter and had the game on cruise control thereby letting the Giants score 28 straight points to tie the game. At that point, Cam Newton put it back in “serious mode” and led the Panthers to the game-winning field goal. For the game, Cam Newton became the first QB in NFL history to rush for 100 yards and throw for 5 TDs in the same game.

Here is something I said in last week’s Mythical Picks:

“For the ‘game within a game’ think about seeing Odell Beckham, Jr. being covered all day long by Josh Norman. That alone could be worth the price of admission.”

I wish that confrontation had limited itself to straight football. The antics by both players was unattractive at best and closer to disgusting on the spectrum of behaviors. Without rehashing here is my reaction to what happened:

    Odell Beckham Jr. deserved a suspension. His targeted head shot to Norman was despicable. Frankly, I think he deserves a suspension much longer than a single game.

    Josh Norman did not distinguish himself with his actions in the game. He is a defensive back and not a ju-jitsu competitor. He was flagged for 2 penalties and could easily have been flagged for a half-dozen.

    Where was the “leadership” on the sidelines from players and/or coaches to put a stop to the nonsense on the field?

    How did the officials allow that kind of thing to escalate? Yes, they called penalties on some of the confrontations; when that did not work, why did they allow the combatants to remain in the game?

The Skins took over the lead in the NFC East beating the Bills 35-25 in a game that was not that close; the Skins led 28-3 and controlled every phase of the game. The Bills’ season was on the precipice; if they lost, they were done; even if they won, they needed some other things to break in their favor, but a loss was going to be catastrophic. In that milieu, they came out as flat as Kansas. The Bills are now out of the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season. I guess you can hang some of the blame on the coaching staff for the team coming out flat; I know you can hand some of the blame on the coaching staff for these two events in the game:

    In the first half, the Bills used a timeout with 13:13 left to play in the first quarter. No one had worked up a sweat after only 1:47 of action and the Bills had to burn a timeout.

    In the second half, the Bills used a timeout with 11:02 left to play in the third quarter. After 20 minutes of halftime to get organized and to get things straight about what had to be done in the second half to salvage the game, the team was sufficiently discombobulated that it had to burn a timeout after only 3:58 of action.

The Pats beat the Titans 33-16 last week. Just as the Cardinals unleashed a new RB on the Eagles, the Pats put Joey Iosefa into NFL action for the first time. Iosefa played at Hawaii in college; he was drafted by the Bucs this year and played for the Brooklyn Bolts in the FXFL (the Fall Experimental Football League) this year. Last week, he carried the ball 14 times for 51 yards playing the role vacated by LeGarrette Blount due to Blount’s hip injury. Iosefa is listed as 6’0” and 247 lbs.

Marcus Mariota had to leave the game in the second quarter with a knee injury; frankly, I do not think that changed the outcome of the game at all.

The Chargers beat the Dolphins 30-14. If that was indeed the last game for the Chargers in San Diego, at least they go out with a win. On the other hand, it was a contest that sought to identify the least worst team in town that day. The Dolphins were indeed the worse of the two pounding out all of 77 yards of offense in the first half. Danny Woodhead caught 3 TD passes in the game.

The Lions beat the Saints 35-27 in a meaningless game that was not particularly entertaining to watch. Here is how bad it was:

    During a timeout, I went grazing through the cable channels on my system and I discovered that there was a pro ‘rassling exhibition on the air on another channel.

    I went back to the football game – – but I wondered how many other fans would have done that if they had made the same discovery that I did. The game was indeed, that bad…

The Saints’ pass defense is poised to be the labeled the worst pass defense in NFL history. The record for most passing TDs allowed is 40 and it was set by the Denver Broncos back in the wild-and-wooly days of the AFL in the early 1960s. With two games left to play, the Saints have given up 39 passing TDs – – almost 3 per game. The next two opponents for the Saints will be the Jags and the Falcons. The question is this:

    What will be the passing combination that scores the 41st passing TD this season hanging that level of humiliation on this Saints’ defense?

One of the Saints’ defenders has already set an NFL record with two games still to play. Brandon Browner has now committed the most penalties called on an individual player in NFL history. The previous record was 22; Browner has already taken the flag 24 times in 2015 and 21 of those penalties have been accepted. As a DB, Browner’s penalties have been very serious in that they give the opposition a first down. Here is a breakdown:

    Defensive holding: This is always a first down; there have been 11 of those.

    Pass interference: This is always a first down; there have been 3 of those.

    Face mask: This is always a first down; there have been 3 of those.

    Unnecessary roughness: This is always a first down; there have been 3 of those.

    Illegal contact: This is always a first down; there has been 1 of those.

The Steelers beat the Broncos 34-27 last week rallying from a 27-13 deficit at halftime. When asked how the team did that, Mike Tomlin had a simple explanation:

“We stopped kicking our own butts.”

Indeed, the Steelers shut out the Broncos in the second half but it was more than just keeping them out of the end zone; the Steelers dominated the second half. The Broncos had the ball 9 times in the second half and here are the results of those ‘drives”;

    Punt
    Punt
    Punt – one more time
    Punt
    Punt
    Punt – yet again
    Interception
    Ball goes over on downs
    Ball goes over on downs

If I have read the game chart correctly, the most productive drive for the Broncos in the second half was a 4-play drive that gained 29 yards before ending in a punt. The total yardage amassed by the Broncos in the second half was 72 yards. Brock Osweiler has done some really nice things in his first starting QB opportunities this year; the second half of this game was not one of those really nice things.

The Bengals survived their first week having to start back up QB, AJ McCarron; the Bengals beat the Niners 24-14. The game was 24-0 in the second half and the Niners scored twice in what amounted to “extended garbage time”; this was not a close game at all. Blaine Gabbert threw the ball 50 times in this game; 3 of those were INTs. The only real bright spot for the Niners was that it held the Bengals’ running game in check; the Bengals ran the ball 36 times for 68 yards – less than 2 yards per attempt.

The Chiefs beat the Ravens 34-14; it was the 8th straight win for the Chiefs after a 5-game losing streak that had the team record at 1-5 back in October. The Chiefs scored twice on defense; one was a long “scoop and score” after a fumble; the other was a “Pick Six”. The Ravens scored one of their TDs on the final play of the first half with a Hail Mary pass from 50 yards out.

The Seahawks beat the Browns 30-13. Russell Wilson had another highly efficient day gong 21-30 for 249 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Doug Baldwin caught 2 of those TD passes. Johnny Manziel played QB for the Browns and he played well enough to demonstrate that the Browns need to consider him as their QB for next year if they do not stumble across a better candidate between now and the start of training camp in 2016. The Seahawks’ defense is really playing well; against that unit, Manziel was 19-32 for 161 yards plus 1 TD and 1 INT. Those are not eye-popping numbers, but they are not “throw-up all over your shoes numbers” either. The Browns only managed to run 52 plays in this game.

The Vikings beat the Bears 38-17 and maintained their position in the NFC wild card picture. The Bears’ OL seemingly took the day off because the Vikes sacked Jay Cutler 5 times in this game. Terry Bridgewater threw 4 TDs in the game and ran for the other score himself. The outcome of this game was not in doubt for long…

The Packers beat the Raiders 30-20 holding onto their 1-game lead in the NFC North. The Raiders defense played well here; they held Aaron Rodgers to 204 yards passing and the Packers offense to a total of only 293 yards. Often, that is enough to win a game but last week Derek Carr had a really bad game. He threw 2 INTs; one of them was a “Pick Six”; the other gave the Packers the ball in the Raiders’ red zone; those two throws basically handed 14 points over to the Packers. Amari Cooper continued to show that he is going to be an elite WR in this league; he caught 6 passes last week for 120 yards and 2 TDs.

The Falcons beat the Jags 23-17. This win brings the Falcons back to .500 and the loss shows that the Jags are not yet ready for prime-time despite being only one game out of first place in the AFC South at kickoff time. The win snapped a 5-game losing streak for the Falcons and may have lowered owner Arthur Blank’s blood pressure to manageable levels. Julio Jones caught 9 passes for 119 yards and a TD; not a bad performance. The game was tied at 17-17 after 3 quarters; the Falcons got 2 field goals in the 4th quarter, but the story was the performance of the Falcons’ defense in the 4th quarter to seal the win:

    1st Jax possession: 3-and-out, minus-5 yards, 1 minute 25 seconds.

    2nd Jax possession: 3-and-out, 6 yards, 1 minute 49 seconds.

    3rd Jax possession: 6 plays, 30 yards, 39 seconds, ball goes over on downs.

The Games:

(Thurs Nite 12/24) San Diego at Oakland – 6 (46.5): Last week, the Chargers played what may have been their last game in San Diego and they used that as a momentum builder in a game against a less-than-mediocre Dolphins squad. Flip the script here. The Raiders are playing what may be their last game in Oakland (the Raiders go on the road next week to KC) against a less-than-mediocre opponent. In terms of anything else that might give meaning to this contest, the only thing I can come up with is this:

    If the Raiders win, they will avoid another double-digit losing season – something they seem to have specialized in over the last decade or so.

That is not exactly a rousing locker room speech… Nonetheless, I’ll take the Raiders and lay the points.

(Sat Nite 12/26) Washington at Philly – 3 (47): If the Skins win, they are the NFC East champion and go to the playoffs; if the Skins lose, it is still a 3-way race in the NFC East. On defense, the Skins give up 370 yards per game putting them 25th in the NFL; the Eagles give up 393.3 yards per game putting them 29th. I see points happening in this game so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Sun Nite 12/27) Giants at Minnesota – 5.5 (45.5): This is the “flex game” for the week. The Giants have to win if they want to stay in the NFC East 3-way race – assuming the Eagles beat the Skins on Saturday night. If that incentive is gone, the Giants have nothing to play for and with Odell Beckham Jr. suspended they have a seriously diminished squad to play with. The Vikes can cement themselves in the NFC playoffs with win. The availability/effectiveness of Adrian Peterson is up in the air; he left last week’s game with an ankle injury and did not practice on Wednesday this week. Still, I do like the Vikes ability to throw the ball against the Giants’ meager pass defense. I’ll take the Vikes at home and lay the points.

Chicago at Tampa – 3 (45.5): So far, I have been able to impute some sort of value to the games on the menu for the week. For this one, it is a stretch indeed. The Bucs still have a shot at finishing at .500 for the season if they win out; the Bears – – well, they are sure to show up for the rest of their scheduled games. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game; the coin says to take the Bears plus the points. Remember folks, these are Mythical Picks done for fun…

Carolina – 7 at Atlanta (47): The Panthers continue their quest for an undefeated season; the Falcons continue their quest for time off in January. Last time these teams met in Charlotte, the final score was 38-0; presumably that will give the Falcons some reason to play with a tad of emotion. Maybe the way the Falcons’ defense showed up in the 4th quarter last week (see above) was a portent of their effort this week? Purely a hunch, make this a venue call; I’ll take the Falcons plus the points.

Dallas at Buffalo – 6 (42.5): The Total Line opened the week at 44 and has been sagging all week long. You can find it at 42 at one Internet sportsbook this morning. Kellen Moore gets his first NFL start against the Bills’ defense. I am not a Rex Ryan acolyte, but he does present a defense that has a variety of ways to play; a first time starter might have some difficulty with that. Moore has been in the NFL for 4 seasons but last week was his first action in a real game; I think he might just be faked out with some of the wrinkles the Bills will show him here. One would think the venue would be part of the selection here but the Bills are only 3-3 at home while the Cowboys are much better on the road than they are at home. This year the Cowboys are 3-4 on the road and 1-6 at home. I like the Bills to win and cover.

Jax at New Orleans – 3.5 (51.5): This game got lots of consideration from the Selection Committee for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams are 5-9; it is an inter-conference game so there is no sort of natural rivalry involved between teams that meet – on balance – once every 4 years. The only thing here that might be interesting would be a shoot-out. Both teams can score; the Saints are 9th in the NFL in points per game and the Jags are 12th; given their records you should expect that both defenses leave something to be desired. Because I said there would be a pick for e very game, I’ll take this game to go OVER.

SF at Detroit – 9.5 (43): The spread opened at 7.5 and has been climbing all week; you can find it as high as 10 points at 2 sportsbooks this morning. Here we have the winner for the title of Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Look, the Niners are a bad team and they are on the road where their record this year is 1-6. However, I am not sanguine about taking the Lions and laying more than a TD against another team consisting of guys who collect paychecks for playing football. I will hold my nose and avert my eyes as I take the Niners plus the points here.

Cleveland at KC – 12 (43): The Chiefs have won 8 in a row; if they win out, they are guaranteed a wild-card slot in the playoffs and they could still be the AFC West champions and host a playoff game. The Browns – – are the Browns. However, that is an awfully fat line – almost as fat as Andy Reid. I’ll take the Browns plus the points even though I have no inkling that they might win the game outright.

Indy at Miami – 2.5 (44): The spread opened at 1 point and has moved up as the week progressed. The Dolphins are 5-9; they are out of the playoffs; at home this year they are only 2-4. And they are favored here over a Colts’ team that is 6-8 (better overall record) and 3-4 on the road (better record than the Dolphins at home). The Colts can still win the AFC South but that depends on them winning out. I do not understand this line. Therefore, I will go with my gut and take the Colts plus the points.

New England – 3.5 at Jets (46): The Pats are guaranteed a Bye Week in the playoffs; as of this morning, they hold a 1-game lead over the Bengals and a 2-game lead over the Broncos for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That sounds like lots of incentive for this game until you consider what the Jets are looking at. The only way into the playoffs for the Jets is as a wild card; as of this morning, the Jets, Chiefs and Steelers have identical records at 9-5. However, if all three wind up with the same record at the end of the season, the Jets will lose out on tie-breakers. Therefore, the Jets have to win out AND have either the Steelers or Chiefs lose one of their final 2 games. This week, the Steelers play the Ravens and the Chiefs play the Browns and both are double-digit favorites. The Jets have to win this game. The Jets normally play the Pats well and they are at home. I like that hook on top of a field-goal’s worth of points in the spread. I’ll take the Jets plus the points.

Houston at Tennessee (no lines): The starting QB for both teams remains up in the air as of this morning so the lack of any lines is no surprise. In terms of motivation, the Texans lead their division by a game; if they win out, they make the playoffs. The Titans sport the worst record in the NFL as of this morning; enough said. Bottom Line:

    I can’t make a pick if there are no lines.

Green Bay at Arizona – 4 (49.5): Both of these teams are going to be in the NFC playoffs. The Packers currently lead the Vikes in the NFC North and the division winner hosts a game so there is incentive there. The Cards can still get home field advantage by winning out so long as the Panthers lose out too. Hey, it could happen. While it might seem as if the Packers have the motivational edge, I think that will not be enough to overcome the edge the Cards have on offense against the Packers’ defense. I like the Cards at home to win and cover.

St Louis at Seattle – 13 (40.5): The Total Line opened at 42 and dropped to this level very quickly. I like both defenses in this game and you could convince me that the Rams will struggle to score more than 13 points. However, even in that scenario, covering 13 pints is a challenge. Last week, the Seahawks covered 15 points against the Browns; the Rams are hardly a top-shelf team, but they are better than the Browns. I’ll take the Rams plus the points.

Pittsburgh – 10 at Baltimore (47): The Steelers are on a roll; they have won 3 in a row and 5 of their last 6 games. Even in their most recent loss, they scored 30 points on the Seahawks’ defense. In the last 6 games the Steelers are scoring an average of 35 points per game. The Ravens are reduced to playing their JV squad. As mentioned above relative to the Jets’ playoff situation, the Steelers will make the playoffs with a three-way tie for the wild card but the only way for the Steelers to assure that sort of thing is to win out. They play an out-manned Ravens’ squad this week and the Browns next week. If they lose a game there, it will be a self-inflicted wound. I do not think the Ravens can keep this one close. I’ll take the Steelers and lay all of those points even on the road.

(Mon Nite 12/28) Cincy at Denver – 3.5 (40.5): The Total Line opened at 42, dropped to this level right away and has stayed here for the balance of the week. This is the Game of the Week – and ESPN deserves a good game for MNF after last week’s Saints/Lions hot mess. The Broncos are 10-4; the Bengals are 11-3; both of them are looking up at the Pats who are 12-2. Two of those three teams will have a Bye Week in the Playoffs and one of them will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A Broncos win keeps their hopes alive for a Bye Week; a loss dooms those hopes. Both defenses are top-shelf; the Broncos lead the NFL in yards allowed per game and the Bengals are 9th in the league. Both teams will start inexperienced QBs meaning that offensive stats for the entire season are not really applicable here. I see this game going down to the final possession in a game were points will be scarce. Therefore, I will take the Bengals plus the points.

This is the last offering of Mythical Picks for the calendar year and for the NFL regular season. Family events will preclude Mythical Picks for Week 17 but absent some sort of cataclysm, I will be back in the Mythical Picking arena for the start of the NFL playoffs in January.

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

NFL Housecleanings … ?

We are at the point in the NFL season where speculation heats up with regard to coaches who are likely to be replaced in the upcoming off-season. To be sure, those sorts of discussions have begun but there seem to be other sorts of musings this year in addition to coaches on the hot seat. This year, there are reports/fantasies regarding NFL owners who are going to “clean house” in the front office or at least make significant changes in that part of their organization. Here is a sampling of what I have been reading/hearing and some of my thoughts on those musings.

In the AFC:

    Browns: Jimmy Haslem bought the team in 2012. In 3 seasons he has had 2 head coaches and the current head coach is not on the firmest ground you can imagine. He has also gotten rid of 1 Team President and 2 GMs since buying the team. Reports say he might be ready for another shake-up. Why not? The current regime is not exactly setting the world on fire. On the other hand, this sort of turmoil and instability cannot be attractive to the top-shelf candidates in the coaching/exec world. As miserable as this season has been, it might behoove Haslem to leave things alone – if he can.

    Titans: The coach is already gone and the interim replacement has not distinguished himself. Reports that ownership may be looking to sell the team is not particularly attractive but there are persistent reports that Peyton Manning and Bill Polian might be looking to join forces to run a football operation together and that Polian has his eye on Tennessee – where Peyton Manning happened to go to college. Polian is in the Hall of Fame as an exec; Manning surely knows something about the game. The current roster needs an overhaul and the Titans will have a top pick this year after grabbing their supposed franchise QB last year. This could be an interesting job situation.

    Colts: Given Jim Irsay’s comments about the team and the coach before and during the season, I doubt Chuck Pagano will be back unless the Colts win the Super Bowl – which they will not. The problem with the Colts job is the mirror-image of the problem with the Browns’ job. The Browns have instability; the Colts have stability – but that stability is named Jim Irsay. These jobs seem to me to be a “pick your poison situation”. Reports are that Irsay wants to trade draft picks to get Sean Payton as the coach; if that happens, you may be sure that Payton will demand to come with his own hand-picked GM or to be the coach/GM himself. Remember, Irsay is the guy who fired Bill Polian…

    Bills: The team is a mess and they are playing worse as the season wears on. Rex Ryan is still the new kid on the block so I guess he is safe but the roster is simply not strong enough or balanced enough to be a playoff team. If there are any changes in store here, I would look for the GM to take the fall.

    Dolphins: They have fired the coach and some coordinators and the team is still mediocre on its best days. Owner Stephen Ross is impulsive and is one given to “splashy hires”. If the Saints are serious about letting Sean Payton walk in exchange for draft picks, it would not be surprising to see the Dolphins in the midst of the bidding. On the other hand, Payton might look at the roster and wonder what he is supposed to do with it if he does not have draft picks… The head of football operations is Mike Tannenbaum who used to be the Jets’ GM and he is new enough that he might survive a purge, but the GM himself…??? The key question here might be, how do Mike Tannenbaum and Sean Payton get along?

    Chargers: With the team nominally poised to move to LA, they will need to kickstart interest in a team with a 4-10 record as of this morning. After two seasons with 9-7 records, the Chargers fell way short of expectations this year. However, they gave the GM, Tom Telesco, a 3-year contract extension back in the Spring of 2015 so it will cost them money to move him out. The coach, Mike McCoy, on the other hand…

In the NFC:

    Lions: You can always count on the Lions to do something off-center. This year they have fired their GM and other front office folks and their offensive coordinator and – – you get the idea. The guy they retained is head coach, Jim Caldwell. Given how poorly the Lions have played – after winning 11 games and making the playoffs last year – Caldwell’s presence means one of two things:

      He will be fired within 48 hours of the Lions’ final game – or –
      He will be the Lions’ coach for life.

    My money is on the former putting the Lions in the position of replacing just about everyone from the ticket sales manager on up. Former GM Ernie Accorsi has been hired by the Lions to consult with them as they look for a new GM but at age 75, Accorsi is probably not interested in doing the job himself.

    Niners: They are in medias res with regard to changing the management structure. It began with last year’s power struggle wherein Jim Harbaugh “opted to leave” and take the job at Michigan. The new folks in charge could not land a top-shelf coaching candidate and handed the job to Jim Tomsula who had never been a coordinator. Tomsula is a nice guy by every report but is also someone considered to be significantly over his head in his job. Now, if the Niners fire Tomsula after only one year, what sort of message might that send to front office and coaching candidates? The problem in SF is squarely one of ownership.

    Rams: This has been a disappointing season for the Rams and various rumors have owner Stan Kroenke starting over from scratch. I do not think that is likely to happen because I think Kroenke has much bigger issues to take up his time and attention than the coach and GM for his football team. According to reports, Rams’ GM, Les Snead’s contract is over at the end of this year, so if Kroenke wants to make a change, that makes it relatively easy. I believe that Fisher has one more year to go on his contract and that it would take something slightly north of $7M to buy him out.

    Falcons: There are plenty of reports that Arthur Blank is poised to make sweeping changes in the football organization. Remember, Coach Dan Quinn only arrived on the scene last February and he signed a 5-year deal which also gives him control over the 53-man roster for the team. “Sweeping changes” would likely have to include getting rid of the relatively new coach and paying off 4 years out of a 5-year deal is not going to sit well with any owner no matter how much his net worth might be.

    Giants: Ownership cannot be happy with the way this season has unfolded given that the Giants are in the hugely mediocre NFC East and are sitting in 3rd place in that pile of mediocrity as of this morning. The roster has a couple of star players and a bunch of journeymen; the coach has two Super Bowl wins on his ledger in the past 8 seasons. Tom Coughlin will be 70 years old when the NFL season starts next year; he may choose to retire but if he chooses not to retire, it might be a tough call for the owners to fire him. Ergo, if they feel they have to make changes, it might be only in the front office where change is easily accomplished.

    Eagles: Chip Kelly now does it all in Philly and while it is still possible for the Eagles to make the playoffs, the season has to be considered “unsatisfactory”. A large – and very vocal – segment of the Eagles’ fanbase would welcome Kelly’s departure from either or both jobs that he now holds down. In fact, some would be more than willing to provide transportation for him and his family to the airport. I do not see Jeffrey Lurie firing Coach Kelly; I doubt he will fire GM Kelly, but if he feels he has to make a change, it will be in the GM position.

As mentioned a couple of times above, the New Orleans Saints are a wildcard in all of this because they might be willing to “trade” coach Sean Payton at the end of this year. I think several of the teams mentioned here could be interested in acquiring Payton but there is another team that could be “in the mix”. The Dallas Cowboys might lust after Payton; Jerry Jones has praised him publicly in the past and the Cowboys hardly performed well on the field this year. However, one thing is for certain; Jerry Jones is not going to fire the Cowboys’ GM because the Cowboys’ GM is the same Jerry Jones who owns the team. So, if the Cowboys are seriously part of the expected “Sean Payton Sweepstakes”, it will be a simple coaching transaction and Payton will have to accept the GM in place – who is actually the GM for life.

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

College Football Bowl Games

A whole bunch of the college football bowl games have already happened. I have not been glued to my TV set for fear of missing some important event for most of the games. I did watch most of the Utah/BYU game because of the rivalry angle involved and what looked like a blowout early – 35-0 in the first half – turned out to be a 35-28 game with some excitement at the end. I do not want to harp on the fact that there are too many bowl games; you already know my position on that. Rather I want to talk about some of the economics of bowl games as they apply to the schools involved.

When schools accept bowl invitations, one of the strings attached to the invitation is that each bowl game will require the schools to sell an allotment of tickets to the game. If they do not meet the allotment, the school then owes the bowl committee the value of the unsold tickets. That is one of the reasons that I check in on many of the bowl games for enough time to get a couple of broad crowd shots on my TV. I want to see how full the stands are and – if possible – how big the cheering sections for both schools may be.

As you may expect, schools in the “prestigious bowl games” – and the ones played on “advantageous dates” – tend to sell out their ticket allotments entirely. For example, Michigan State announced that it has already sold out its allotment of 13,000 tickets for the Cotton Bowl game against Alabama on 31 December. In fact, Michigan State said that it had more than 16,000 requests for tickets and could easily have sold more. The Athletic Department at Michigan State has some sort of relationship with Stub Hub in the ticket reselling business and is directing alumni and other fans to Stub Hub to acquire tickets for the Cotton Bowl game.

Michigan State was in the Cotton Bowl last year playing Baylor but did not sell out its allotment for that game. This year, the Cotton Bowl is a stepping stone to the CFP Championship Game; last year it was merely a bowl game against Baylor. That should give you an indication that fan interest in bowl games – even ones with a long history – is marginal.

At the other end of the spectrum, consider the plight of Washington State as they prepare for the Sun Bowl game against Miami in El Paso, TX on 26 December. Washington State’s allotment is 6,000 tickets and based on a report late last week, they had only sold 1,900 of them. Let me try to figure out why:

    El Paso is a couple thousand miles from Pullman WA. Attending the game is going to cost a lot more than the cost of the tickets plus parking.

    The game is the day after Christmas. Fans will either spend Christmas away from home or will have to make a long journey with flight connections on game day.

    Miami is not a “big rivalry game”.

    El Paso is not exactly a tourist mecca or a “destination city”.

Washington State is probably going to eat the cost of at least half of their ticket allotment in addition to whatever costs it incurs in shipping the team and the coaching staff and the band and the cheerleaders to the venue; it is part of the cost of doing business in college football.

I am not picking on Washington State; their situation is mirrored at loads of other schools who are playing in games at inconvenient times against opponents with little meaning to their fans in inconvenient places at inconvenient times. So, why do teams accept bids to play in these minor bowl games in the first place? The reason is that coaches love them for the following reason:

    Teams not in bowl games had their last practices in late November or the first week of December. Teams in bowl games get to practice up until the time of the game. That gives “bowl teams” an extra 2 – 4 weeks of practice before the players show up for spring practices when the weather is nicer.

    Coaches love the extra practice time that non-bowl teams are not allowed to have.

That is correct; the college football system is set up to take the better teams this year – the ones nominally at or over .500 – and give them a greater advantage over the teams that were not-so-good this year. It is sort of the NFL Draft system with the logic inverted; it would be as if the team that won the Super Bowl would get the overall #1 pick…

The whole business of getting fans to travel long distances over the Holidays to go and see a meaningless football game is going on in the face of data saying that overall attendance at college football games is in decline. According to a report at CBSSports.com, average attendance at a college football game this year was 43,288 fans. That is down from last year; it continues a slow 5-year decline and it is down 7% from the peak average attendance of 45,456 in 2008.

The “major conferences” were well above this average but the “minor conferences were not. To fill all of the minor bowl games, they need lots of schools from the “minor conferences” where fans do not show up when the games are conveniently on campus. In 2015, 29 schools had average attendance at home games below 20,000 fans.

    10 schools in the MAC were under 20,000; 5 averaged less than 15,000; 2 MAC schools averaged less than 8,000 fans per game.

    7 schools in the Sun Belt were under 20,000; 3 averaged less than 15,000 fans per game.

      [Aside: Idaho is in the Sun Belt Conference. Do they teach geography at Idaho?]

    6 schools in Conference USA were under 20,000; 2 averaged less than 15,000 fans per game.

    3 schools in the Mountain West were under 20,000 fans per game.

I understand that watching many of these teams play football is a lot more comfortable when done on TV. I also understand that football is not a big tradition at many of these schools. Nonetheless, it does point out that it is not going to be easy to get fans from those schools to undertake the expense and the inconvenience of Holiday travel just to see another football game that might well be ignored if it were played across the street.

Finally, there are these facts from one of the 2015 college bowl games that is already in the books:

    San José St (average attendance 15,312) beat Georgia St (average attendance 10,347) 27-16 in the Cure Bowl game held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL.

    With that win, San José St. ended its season with a record of 6-7.

    With that loss, Georgia St. ended its season with a record of 6-7.

    The Citrus Bowl seats 70,000 fans; the announced attendance for the game was 18,000 souls. Even with that obviously inflated report of the attendance, the Citrus Bowl was 75% empty.

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