For the last week or so as the opening of the college basketball season approached, one of the storylines focused on a variant of this question:
- Will there be a Zion Williamson this season?
- Who may emerge as this year’s Zion Williamson?
- You get the idea…
The answer is simple. The 2019/1010 college basketball season will not have a player who has the star-power of Zion Williamson and that fact has already become clear. Williamson was a phenomenon before he ever played a minute of college basketball; he was known nationally to basketball fans at the end of his junior year in high school. No player since LeBron James had that level of attention as a high school athlete. There will of course be a handful of excellent freshman college basketball players this year – – but it is already a year too late for them to “be a Zion Williamson”. In fact, unless you start seeing some ESPN highlights of a high school senior on SportsCenter on a routine basis in the next 4-6 weeks, there is not going to be a “Zion Williamson” next year either.
The NY Post reports that the ESPN telecasts of XFL games starting in February will have far more fan access than NFL games do. You should recall that the on-field camera shots that are commonplace now for NFL games began as an XFL innovation about 15 years ago. Here are some of channels of “increased access” that will happen this time around:
- Multiple players will have microphones – not just one.
- Producers will have access to coach-to coach and coach-to-player communications meaning they can be part of the live telecast or part of the game analysis.
The MLB offseason has begun and that means speculation about the landing spots for free agents is the order of the day. Recognize that this game of musical chairs will be replayed in myriad orders between now and the time when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training as various players find the teams they choose to sit down with. Clearly, there are some very valuable player assets up for grabs this winter. In alphabetical order, here are players I think could be major additions to teams that acquire their services – and significant subtractions from current employers:
- Gerrit Cole
- Marcel Ozuna
- Anthony Rendon
- Hyun-jin Ryu
- Stephen Strasburg
There is no real value in that short list; any baseball fan not currently in a coma could duplicate that listing. However, I do think there are two free agents out there who might be valuable additions – – IF they have indeed overcome injury issues:
- Dellin Betances: His season in 2019 was truncated indeed. He had a shoulder injury that kept him out of action until September when he returned to face 2 batters. He struck out those batters and his season ended the next day with a diagnosis that he partially tore his Achilles tendon. Betances will be 32 years old when the 2020 season starts – – but he could be a very effective bullpen asset if healthy.
- Alex Wood: He had lower back “problems” for most of 2019; he only appeared in 7 games and pitched to a less-than-gaudy ERA of 5.80. However, he will be only 29 years old when the 2020 season starts and his stats prior to 2019 are solid if not spectacular. He will not be a team’s “top of the rotation” starter, but he might be very effective as a third or fourth starter if healthy.
Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot a week ago about TV viewership:
“Numbers game: It’s not that surprising that after five games, the Nationals-Astros World Series was the least-watched on TV in MLB history. The Nationals have no national following. Same for the Astros. Still, it’s not a great look.
“The Series was drawing an average of 11.6 million viewers, while routine NFL games across all networks attract more than 15 million weekly. According to the Nielsen rating service, Sunday night’s Series game was watched by 11.4 million, while on another network, the Packers-Chiefs game drew an audience of 18.3 million. Once upon a time, this would have been embarrassing for baseball.”
I mention that observation as one more datum to recall the next time you read a “shock piece” about how the NFL is on the precipice of a steep decline because of something or other. And the counterpoint to the NFL popularity here is demonstrated by the TV data in the UK for the Finals of the Rugby World Cup where the South African Springboks beat England.
- The final match was the most-watched event on British TV this year.
- Peak audience was 12.8 million viewers – in a country one-fifth the size of the US.
- At its peak, the game drew 79% of the total TV audience in the country; last year’s Super Bowl in the US peaked out at 67% of the total TV audience.
[For the record, the Springboks won the game 32-12.]
To demonstrate the importance and value of sporting events as TV properties, the Rugby Finals in Britain became the most viewed program of the year bypassing another sporting event – – the semi-finals game in the Women’s World Cup between England and the US.
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Ice discovered in craters at the moon’s south pole could be more than a billion years old Brown University scientists say.
“Canada’s first lunar mission, we assume, will include a Zamboni.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………