Back And Forth Today …

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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………



The NFL Season Mid-Point…

The NFL season is at the halfway mark; this week’s general NFL commentary will be about the playoff possibilities for much of the league and which teams will navigate the second half of the season well enough to play on in January.  As is customary here in Curmudgeon Central, I want to look at the other end of the spectrum.  I want to examine the bottom-feeders as they stumble toward getting the first pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

The bottom quartile of the NFL consists of 8 teams that have won 2 games or fewer to date.  I will focus on those teams and ignore the possibility of a total collapse by any of the 4 other teams that have won only 3 games this year.

The two-win teams:

  • Cleveland Browns:  Twas oh so fashionable back in July and August to portray the Browns as a Super Bowl contender – or even a participant.  The Browns have physical talent; they are also hugely undisciplined.  They lead the NFL in penalties by a wide margin averaging over 12 penalties per game.  Last year, Baker Mayfield was electrifying; this year he is about as useful as a blown fuse.  Just because there is so much raw talent there, I cannot see the Browns losing out.  They will not be “on the clock” starting in January…
  • NY Giants:  Daniel Jones has had growing pains, but he appears to have the makings of a decent NFL QB.  The loss of Saquon Barkley for several games earlier this year did not help Jones’ development at all.  The Giants now have two studs on the DL – Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence.  That is a good place to start rebuilding the defense which has been horrid so far this year.  With the Jets, Dolphins and Skins still on the Giants’ schedule, I suspect they will win at least one more game and stay out of the top draft slot for next year.
  • Tampa Bay Bucs:  Jameis Winston often throws for 350 yards or more in a game; he also often throws 3 INTs in a game and loses a fumble just to add some spice.  Oh, and sometimes he does both in the same game!  There is no consistence on offense.  Same goes for the defense that started the year as one of the best – statistically – in the league but now seems not to be able to stop a runny nose.  The Bucs have the Falcons twice and the Cardinals still on the schedule.  The Bucs will not be in the top draft position next year.

The one-win teams:

  • Atlanta Falcons:  The defense has been awful, and the O-Line has not been any better.  It was only two years ago that the Falcons led the Pats in the Super Bowl 28-3 with less than 7 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  From that moment until now, the Falcons vector heading has been ‘south”.  Other than two games against the Bucs, the Falcons will be underdogs from here until the end of the season.  I don’t see the Falcons winning more than 2 games this year.
  • Miami Dolphins:  This team is assembled to lose every week; their best players – young and old – have been traded away for draft assets.  Then last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick whipped up another batch of Fitz-magic and led the Dolphins to a win over the Jets.  The Dolphins have 4 games left with less-than-fearsome opponents – – Browns, Jets, Giants, Bengals – – and the players just might ruin the Front Office strategy of tanking the season to control the 2020 NFL Draft.  I think the Dolphins will win again.
  • NY Jets:  This franchise is as attractive as prolapsed rectum.  They spend money on free agents who get hurt and don’t play (CJ Mosley) or who play marginally well before they get hurt (LeVeon Bell).  Sam Darnold has not blossomed under the supposed quarterback-grooming excellence that is Adam Gase.  The Jets have the Giants, Skins, Bengals and Dolphins in upcoming games.  Remember, this team beat the Cowboys; also remember, this team lost to the Dolphins.  I think the Jets are viable contenders for the overall #1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
  • Washington Skins:  The team is solid on the defensive line.  Adrian Peterson can still run the ball well enough not to embarrass the team.  Other than that, this squad is on Gilligan’s Island – – and Gilligan is the GM.  Probably the most fun way to approach the 2020 Draft would be for the Skins to own the overall #1 pick because they will not draft another QB and could deal away that top pick to another team for a basket of picks.  The fun would come from watching Gilligan find a way to screw that up…  Why not hope for a train wreck?  Let’s pull for the Skins to win the Race to the Bottom.

The winless team:

  • Cincinnati Bengals:  The Bengals are 25th in the league in total offense this year and dead last in the league in total defense.  I know the team needed a change from Marvin Lewis, but this new coaching regime is not covering itself in glory to date.  The remaining schedule has the team playing the Jets, the Dolphins and the Browns twice.  They need to win two of them to scamper past the Skins to set up my dream draft scenario.

While I am in the mode of looking at the bad teams so far this year, let me pose a rhetorical question here.  Which team has been the most disappointing team so far this year:

  • The Browns with all their offseason hype – – OR – –
  • The Bears who made the playoffs last year and whose offense has gone into hibernation?

You make the call …

Finally, Greg Cote had this insightful comment in the Miami Herald recently:

“World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships have begun in Azerbaijan. That’s like regular gymnastics, only more ridiculous.”

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



Willie Taggert – Out At Florida State

The two biggest stories of the morning are:

  1. The Patriots lost a football game last night.
  2. Florida State fired Willie Taggert in mid-season.

I’ll discuss the Patriots’ loss in this week’s Football Friday, but the happenings at Florida State need to parsed now.  Something is very wrong at Florida State in the Athletic Department and I am not going to pretend to know what it is.  However, consider that John Thrasher, the President of Florida State University – not the Athletic Director nor some spokesthing for the Trustees – said that Taggert was fired because,

  • “… in the interest of the university, we had no choice but to make a change.”

Say what?  Willie Taggert was at the pilot of the football program and took that program into a nosedive; that seems pretty obvious to most college football observers.  But the statement from President Thrasher implies that something there is so dire that the university itself would be in jeopardy if Willie Taggert finished out the 2019 season on the sidelines.  Why do I think something “dire” is afoot?

  • Florida State will now pay out $17M to Willie Taggert as per the buyout clause in his contract signed in 2017.  The university would owe him that same amount in early December 2019 if they fired him ten minutes after the final game of the season; so, why did President Thrasher have “no choice but to make a change” in early November?

Let me be clear about something.  I have said since the middle of last season when the Seminoles were playing poorly that I thought Willie Taggert might be over his head in that job.  I am not advocating here that his record at Florida State is even close to what was expected when he was offered the job.  His tenure there has been worse than merely disappointing.  Willie Taggert had not earned himself – in my opinion – another year as the head co0ach at Florida State.  But with the team still having a shot at a bowl game, there must be something else going on in Tallahassee to evince a statement from the university president regarding a mid-season firing.

When Willie Taggert took over the job, he succeeded Jimbo Fisher who had been there for 8 seasons and had won a BCS Championship Game.  Prior to that, Bobby Bowden had been the coach at Florida State for 34 years; Bowden’s teams won 76% of their games.  This was an elite program; it needed a coach because Texas A&M thought sufficiently highly of Jimbo Fisher that they backed up a Brinks truck to his bank and shoveled money into that bank.

Willie Taggert got the job because Florida State took a leap of faith with him – – and lost.  Here is Willie Taggert’s coaching record as he arrived in Tallahassee in 2017:

  • He took over a Western Kentucky program that was a hot mess and posted a 7-5 record in his second season there.  In 3 years at W. Kentucky, his record was 16-20.
  • He took over the USF program and had a 2-10 record in his first year there.  After 4 seasons, USF was 10-2 and would go to 2 bowl games.  In 4 years at USF, his record was 24-25.
  • He took over the Oregon program which had produced a record of 199-78 over the previous 21 seasons under 3 coaches.  He went 7-5 in one season there – – and got the job at Florida State.

Kudos for turning W. Kentucky and USF around – – but those programs are not Florida State and they do not have Clemson, Miami and Florida on their schedules each and every season.  There are loads of reasons why a pilot who has a license to fly single engine aircraft do not get jobs as pilots for trans-Atlantic flights to Europe; they are not ready to do that competently.  I believe Willie Taggert was hired for a job he was nowhere near prepared to do to the standard that was expected of him.

And still … why did he have to be fired NOW “in the interest of the university”?

Switching gears …  I want to create a new word – fandelirium.  It is a state of euphoria for sports fans that leads them to exaggerate the greatness of the local heroes when those local heroes win something really big.  I arrived back in the DC area several days after the Washington Nats won the World Series and fandelirium was afoot in epidemic proportion.

Listening to local sports radio, one fan interviewed somewhere proximal to the victory parade told the station host and his listeners that Azdrubel Cabrera had “the best hands of any middle infielder ever”.  This phantasmal pronouncement came after a description of a very nice play Cabrera made late in Game 6.

  • Memo to Fandelirious Fan #1:  Cabrera has a career batting average of .268.  The Hall of Fame has several middle infielders whose career average was in that neighborhood.  If Cabrera is the best fielder ever, he should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.  Seriously…?

The second example is even more stunning.  Another fan called into a segment devoted to having fans explain the things that happened in the MLB playoffs that had not received sufficient attention in the media.  One caller said that Howie Kendrick’s’ clutch hitting throughout the playoffs was “at least as good as anything Big Papi ever did in the playoffs.”

  • Memo to Fandelirious Fan #2:  Please see someone in the mental health profession sometime soon…

Again, to be clear, Cabrera and Kendricks played significantly positive roles in the Nats’ playoff run to the World Series Championship.  I do not mean to denigrate their performance in any way.  I simply mean that fandelirium is out and about in the DC area.

Finally, here is an item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Burrito:  A delicious way to alienate the guests at the party you will soon be attending.”

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



A Minimal Football Friday 11/1/19

This is NOT a full-on Football Friday; nonetheless, there are football commentaries that should be made here.  First, Linfield College has guaranteed itself yet another winning season in football.  That streak of winning seasons began in 1956 – when Dwight Eisenhower was President.  Here is what happened:

  • On 19 October, Linfield beat Willamette 77-0
  • On 26 October, Linfield beat Pacific Lutheran 42-10
  • Linfield’s record is now 5-1 and with a 9-game regular season schedule, that means the Wildcats will be above .500 for the 2019 season.
  • Linfield is 4-0 in Northwestern Conference games; the conference champion gets an automatic invitation to the Division III playoff tournament once the regular season ends in mid-November.  Go Wildcats!

Once Football Friday gets back on a more normal footing, it is that time of the year when I begin to size up the worst teams in Division 1-A football in order to create my mythical SHOE Tournament field.  For those who have joined this wagon train in the last 12 months here is the deal:

  • SHOE stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.  It is not an honorific title.
  • The SHOE Tournament is purely fictional; it seeks to identify the worst team in college football each year and seeks to do so with on-the-field play.
  • A Committee-of-One – – namely ME – – seeds the 8 worst teams in the country.  The idea would be to have those teams play one another in a bracket format where it is the LOSER who must advance to the next round.  If a team wins a SHOE Tournament game, they can go home secure in the knowledge that they will not be saddled with the title of SHOE Team of the Year.

We are at the point in the season where it makes sense to start to identify the 8 teams worthy of inclusion in the SHOE Tournament.  I began a cursory search this week looking at the three teams who are still winless in 2019 and the schedules remaining for those teams.

  1. Akron is winless in 2019.  The Zips have 4 remaining games against MAC opponents.
  2. New Mexico State is winless in 2019.  The Aggies face Incarnate Word on 9 November and then UTEP – a perennial SHOE Tournament participant – on 16 November.  Failure to get a win in either game would guarantee New Mexico State a berth in the SHOE Tournament.
  3. Rice is winless in 2019.  The Owls face Middle Tennessee St and N. Texas St, down the line; neither opponent has a winning record to date.  Then, Rice closes the season against UTEP – a team with one win at the moment and dates with two sub-.500 teams so far this season.

This week in college football offers up a game between Miami and Florida State.  Twenty years ago, this would have been the biggest game of the college football season.  This week, the game makes it all the way up to the level of “Ho-Hum!”.

There are some rivalry games this weekend:

  • Army/Air Force is always an interesting game to watch.
  • K-State/Kansas is an interesting rivalry game every year.
  • Florida/Georgia is always an intense rivalry – – and usually an important and competitive game.  This is the Game of the Week in college football.

Utah/Washington and USC/Oregon are important games for PAC-12 standings and that conference’s potential participation in the CFP.

SMU and Memphis meet with conference championship implications all over this game.  SMU is undefeated for the season; Memphis has 1 loss (in conference to Temple) and needs a win here and then to win out over the likes of Houston, USF and Cincy to be this year’s “Group of Five Darling”.

IN NFL games this weekend:

  • Skins at Bills has a Total Line of 36.5.
  • Bears at Eagles is a critical game for both teams
  • Packers at Chargers could be a make-or-break game for the Chargers this year.
  • Pats at Ravens is the Game of the Week
  • Jets at Dolphins is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times recently.  It is relevant over many time zones…

“Dunbar High School of Dayton, Ohio – trailing 23-8 with 7 minutes left in the first half and already whistled for three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties – had to forfeit its football game against Cincinnati’s Roger Bacon when a Dunbar player head-butted an official.

“Bonus points:  The game was played at Welcome Stadium.”

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



Washington Nationals Are World Series Champions

Congratulations to the Washington Nationals.  They are the World Series Champions for 2019.  If the baseball gods were indeed scripting this event, they did so with an interesting twist.  For the entirety of the 2019 season, the Nats’ bullpen betrayed the team giving up leads and causing losses.  In Game 7, on the road, in the World Series, it was the Astros’ bullpen that imploded while the Nats’ bullpen held the line.

MLB enters that portion of the calendar year when its news is generated by off-field activities with a first-time champion.  The Nats – born as the Expos – had never won a world Series until yesterday.  As far as Washington is concerned, its last experience as World champion of baseball came when Walter Johnson was still pitching…

As college basketball teams aim toward the start of their regular season schedules, it is not possible for me to comment on all the 353 teams that will compete in Division 1 college basketball this season.  Nonetheless, I think there are a few coaches in some of the more “visible” schools who may be on a hot seat for the season.  Let me mention two of them here:

  • Danny Manning – Wake Forest:  Manning has been the head coach at Wake Forest since 2014; he has had time on the vine to make the Demon Deacons into an ACC contending team.  In fact, Wake has finished 10th or worse in each of the last 4 seasons.  I suspect the string may play itself out without significant improvement this season.
  • Josh Pastner – Georgia Tech:  The Yellow Jackets will not be allowed into a post-season tournament this year due to NCAA probation for things that happened on Pastner’s watch.  Couple that fact with the reality that Tech was below .500 in each of the last 2 seasons; that showing over the past 2 seasons tarnishes the fact that Pastner was ACC Coach of the Year in 2017.

And of course, there must be some degree of heat on the seats of the so-called “Felonious Four” – the head coaches involved to various extents in the actions that have led to the FBI/DoJ probe and prosecution of people involved in improper college basketball recruiting.  None of these gentlemen are going to be fired simply based on allegations made by DoJ prosecutors – – but if their teams falter badly, all bets are off.  Here they are listed alphabetically:

  1. Sean Miller – Arizona
  2. Bruce Pearl – Auburn [Aside:  Pearl has “history” with the NCAA from his days at Tennessee.  If the heat turns up here, it might behoove the school to remove Pearl as an “irritant” to the NCAA poohbahs.]
  3. Bill Self – Kansas [Aside:  The NCAA has already notified the school that it considers happenstances there to be significant violations of NCAA rules…]
  4. Will Wade – LSU

I need to acknowledge my ignorance here.  Until this week, I had not realized that had been assigning power rankings to NFL Practice Squads on a weekly basis.  Now that I know that this happens regularly and that it is not a gigantic spoof on things like “power rankings” in any form, I feel that we may be witnessing a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Trent Williams has reported to the Skins – but did not practice due to “discomfort” with his helmet.  Recall that Williams’ holdout has to do with the Skins’ medical staff and a growth that had to be removed from his skull.  He has reported such that he gets credit for honoring his contract for 2019 leaving him only one year left on his deal.

The Skins’ failure to trade him before the deadline probably dropped his trade value.  A week ago, a trading partner could view Williams as an OT who could play 8 games or so in 2019 plus give that trading partner a year to see if there was an extended deal that made sense for both parties.  Now, Williams will be entering his contract year before any swap can happen; there was more value before the trade deadline than there is now.  Please do not be surprised that the Skins’ Front Office has made a mockery of what could have been a merely messy situation.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this question in the Seattle Times a few weeks ago:

“Michigan’s football team fumbled the ball away in its first three opening drives this season.

“So what’s next — bringing in Lucy to hold for extra points?”

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



Random Thoughts …

Well, there shall indeed be a Game 7 in this year’s World Series; the Nats won again on the road to force the deciding game. I will not be able to see it live since it will not begin until midnight or so here in Ireland; however,  #2 son has the MLB game package – or whatever it is called – so that I will be able to see the game in its entirety.

The problem with this World Series is that neither team deserves to lose it; both teams have played very well over the first 6 games.  Tomorrow will be a festive Halloween for one of these clubs and a nightmarish time for the other…

The US Women’s National Soccer Team has a new coach.  Vlatko Andonovsky takes over for Jill Ellis who merely won two consecutive Women’s World Cups for the team.  A native of Macedonia, Andonovsky formerly coached in the National Women’s Soccer League for 8 seasons being Coach of the Year twice.  He has large shoes to fill…

Glancing at the upcoming NFL schedule for this week, it is hard to ignore the Jets/Dolphins game on the card.  The two teams bring a combined record of 1-13 to the kickoff and the two teams have been outscored by 268 points in those games.  It might have been interesting for commentators to try to spin a storyline here about Adam Gase returning to Miami with his new team and blah, blah, blah.  Given how bad these teams have shown to be on the field, there is nothing cute that can possibly stand up to the brutal reality here…

At the other end of the NFL spectrum, the Niners and the Pats are the only remaining undefeated teams.  The Niners’ offense is for real.  Missing both starting tackles and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, [The man really does need to buy a vowel or two from Vanna White.] the Niners managed to score a middling 51 points on the Panthers last week.  Meanwhile, the defense has also blossomed into a much better than average unit putting the Niners in this exalted state in late October…

The Pats have been here before – – but this year it is their defense that is carrying the team.  The “decline” of the Pats’ on offense is directly related to two things:

  1. No Gronk – – and no replacement for Gronk who comes even close – – and
  2. A paucity of talent at WR.  Josh Gordon is on IR and will not play any more this year; Philip Dorsett was the top-shelf threat on the outside for the Pats until Mohammad Sunu showed up last week and N’Keal Harry is now eligible to return from IR.

It does not matter who the QB is if he does not have quality people to run the pass routes and then catch the balls thrown directly at them.  Some naysayers believe the Pats’ schedule has not been all that stringent so far this year, but it does get a bit tougher down the line with these entries:

  • Ravens (Week 9)
  • Eagles (Week 11)
  • Cowboys (Week 12)
  • Texans (Week 13)
  • Chiefs (Week 14).

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle was dealing with power outages in Northern California when he rediscovered this important social resource:

“No power at home, but I found this really cool place to set up shop. It has coffee, internet and tables. It’s like a huge Starbucks, but with all kinds of books! Sign says ‘Library,’ but don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I think it’s a chain.”

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



Short Stuff Today …

I got an email from a neighbor in Northern Virginia asking what happened to the Nats in the World Series going from a 2-0 lead to a 3-2 deficit.  Being in Dublin, I have not had the chance to watch every game that the Astros won; so, I am not qualified to give him – nor anyone else – any sort of detailed analysis there.  However, here is the substance of my response to him:

“In the 27 innings of the 3 games they lost to the Astros in DC, the Nats scored a total of 2 runs.  If my count is correct, they left 21 runners on base in those three games.

“Those are the stats for losing teams not winning teams…”

Only twice before has the visiting team won the first 5 games of a World Series.  (1906 Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs and 1996 Yankees vs. Braves.)  In both of those cases, the home team won the 6th game ending the Series at that point.  Therefore, history can be made in multiple ways in this Series:

  1. If the Nats win tonight, it will be the first World Series to see the visitor win the first six games.
  2. If that happens, then any outcome in Game 7 would be a “first”.

I did have the opportunity to see the condensed version of the Saints/Cards game from last Sunday.  I wanted to see that one because:

  • I had read that Drew Brees played well and I wanted to see that for myself.
  • I wanted to see the Cards new-fangled offense now that it has had several weeks to evolve and settle in.

Brees was indeed outstanding throwing 3 TDs and about 375 yards in the game.  If he had any “difficulties” with residual effects on his thumb surgery, they were not evident to me.

The Cards new and revolutionary offense looked ordinary to me.  I know that it was only one game and that I am not the most sophisticated film diagnostician the NFL has ever seen.  Nevertheless, other than having a very mobile QB who can run around and throw the ball from different locations and field angles, I did not see much from the Cards’ offense that would keep a defensive coordinator up late at night with anxiety attacks.

When I was a kid, I read Joel Chandler Harris’ compilation of Negro American folk stories called the Uncle Remus Tales.  That collection of stories is so blatantly politically incorrect in 2019 that I doubt you can find the book in most public libraries in the US.  One of the recurring characters in the tales is Brer Rabbit who is a trickster (at best) and a con man (at worst) who appears in many of the tales.  Once Brer Rabbit was caught by Brer Fox who was planning to eat Brer Rabbit.

The trickster/con man told Brer Fox that he could do anything he wanted – including boiling Brer Rabbit in a pot to make stew, but whatever Brer Fox did, he should not throw Brer Rabbit into the briar patch.  After several pleadings of this type, Brer Fox fools himself and throws Brer Rabbit into the briar patch whereupon Brer Rabbit gets away scot-free.  I mention this folk take because we have just witnessed a 2019 incarnation of Brer Rabbit.

The Chinese government did not allow any of the NBA Exhibition Games to be televised across China.  The result of that edict was that the Chinese people were spared watching the nonsense that is the NBA Exhibition Season.  The Chinese Government just threw the Chinese people into the briar patch; they were saved from Brer Fox masquerading as the NBA Exhibition telecasts.

Now the threat is that the TV ban will extend to early regular season NBA games.  Oh, the horror of that…

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Caesar, Julius:  Dictator of ancient Rome.  His nearly fifteen years of conquest, which resulted in the formation of the entire Roman Empire, now reduced to a salad.”

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



World Series Update…

Briefly today from Dublin, Ireland…  The World Series took a U-Turn in Washington.  The Nats came home from Houston with a 2-0 lead having beaten Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander on the road.  As I left town, fans there were talking about a sweep.  Well, the Astros repaid the favor and swept the games in DC to take the Series lead 3-2.  The only way for the Nats to win now would be to sweep the Astros in Houston once again meaning that the World Series would be won by having the visiting team win all 7 games.  For the record, I did not see that as even a remote possibility…

Last Saturday, Rutgers played a home football game against Liberty University.  Let me assure you that Liberty is not a football blueblood; it is not nearly the “Protestant analog to Notre Dame”.  Here is the embarrassing part:

  • Oddsmakers installed Liberty – on the road – as a 7.5-point favorite.

That line is a blight on the Big 10 Conference; other teams in the Big 10 think of Liberty as one of the tune-up opponents they get to come in for a game in early September; it is a step up from an intra-squad scrimmage.  Rutgers did save what little there is of its football cred by winning the game outright.  But still…

Just maybe there is a glimmer of hope for Pimlico racecourse.  A previous study indicated it would take $424M to upgrade the track and to do some development in the area such that the Preakness Stakes could stay at Pimlico.  No one stepped forward to foot that bill.  However, here is the latest development in a nutshell:

“A multi-party agreement dependent on legislative change has been reached to keep the Preakness, middle jewel of American racing’s Triple Crown, at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for at least 30 years.”

Here is a link to a report with the details of this agreement.  Of course, the four words here that provide plenty of uncertainty are “dependent on legislative change”.  Here is the translation:

  • There is a deal in place – – but the deals have not yet been made with the State legislators who will necessarily want to get something in return for their support of necessary “legislative change”.
  • Can the deal survive negotiations with the legislators?

Finally, here is an observation from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad:

“If it’s all about launch angle, I suspect Albert Einstein would’ve been an incredible baseball GM and sports bettor.”

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



Poor Baby…

I saw a report on ESPN saying that NBA players are sleep-deprived because the 82-game schedule has them in transit for so much of the time.  On the surface, one could read that statement and think something along the lines of “Poor baby…” and move on.  The problem is that there are too many questions one must consider before getting to that thought and moving on:

  • The NBA has played an 82-game schedule since the 1960s; someone just determined that today’s players are sleep-deprived.  Did that ever happen to any previous players?
  • The current NBA schedule covers more of the 12-month calendar than before; I would think that if this is a real problem now, it would have been a bigger problem in the past.
  • Transit today from city to city for NBA teams is faster and more comfortable than it has been in the past.  That sounds like more sleeping opportunities to me.
  • Perhaps – just perhaps – players could reduce their sleep deficit if they went to sleep after games instead of going out to clubs.

Now I can say to myself, “Poor baby…” and move on.

Since I mentioned the dreaded 82-game NBA regular season schedule, let me suggest that the length of the NBA season contributes to its meager TV ratings during that regular season.  The issue here is that there are at most a dozen “appointment viewing games” in and amongst the 1230 regular season offerings.  As a viewer, that means I am mining low-grade ore.

The NBA seems to believe that “more is always better” when it comes to televising its games.  Compare for instance the NBA Playoffs with 16 teams in the mix to the NCAA Tournament once you get to the Sweet Sixteen.  For college hoops, every game in the tournament is akin to a 7th game in the NBA playoffs.  One team advances and one team goes home.  However, in the NBA Playoffs there are lots of games lacking anything close to that kind of urgency.

Harvard University has a new policy in place regarding the captains of its intercollegiate teams.  Starting with the class of 2021, no one can be the captain of a Harvard team if that person chooses to belong to a “single-gender organization”.  This is ever so politically correct…

The Athletic Department at Harvard says it will basically use an honor system to enforce this new policy by asking players who choose to be part of “single-gender organizations” to remove themselves from consideration as a team captain.  I was once a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout when those were “single-gender organizations”; I guess that would disqualify me from being a Harvard team captain.

Think of the value inherent in a Harvard athlete who is gender-fluid.  (S)he is the antidote to any single-gender organization because her/his membership there immediately makes the organization a multiple-gender one.

One other point here…  As soon as this policy is used to deny or remove a Harvard athlete as a team captain – it could be a person of any gender or all genders – the university is in the role of depriving that athlete the opportunity of team captaincy on the basis of gender.  That is ever so politically incorrect…

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the first AARP-sponsored fitness park opened in St. Petersburg, FL this summer.  According to the report, AARP plans to open several dozen of these facilities around the country.  I am a bit surprised that AARP did not elect to have Boca Raton be the site of their inaugural facility; my guess is that the fraction of residents in Boca Raton who are eligible to be AARP members is about one-half.

Finally, Mike Bianchi had this tidbit in the Orlando Sentinel recently:

“Kevin Durant told the Wall Street Journal that sometimes ‘he hates’ the business of the NBA. I don’t know about you, but I would love every aspect of any business that is going to pay me $40 million next season not to work.”

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



Angles On Games…

Even though there will be no Football Friday this week, I had some time to browse around some of the football sites that I normally use to collect information for those sorts of things.  I ran across some interesting – not nearly important – betting trends for some NFL games this weekend.

The Saints host the Cardinals on Sunday:

  • In their last 16 games in October, the Saints have covered the spread in all 16 of them.
  • In their last 21 games in October, the Saints record against the spread is 20-1.
  • It will still be October when the game kicks off on Sunday.

The Steelers host the Dolphins on Monday Night Football this week.  Despite having a losing record for the season and a losing record at home, the Steelers are a 15-point favorite to beat the Dolphins in this game.

  • Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach of the Steelers in 2007, the Steelers have played on Monday Night Football 6 times.  The Steelers record in those games is 6-0.  Good luck to the Dolphins…

The Pats host the Browns this Sunday.  Since 2009, 62 teams from the AFC have come to Foxboro to play a game.

  • In those 62 games, the Patriots’ record straight up is 59-3.
  • In those 62 games, the Patriots’ record against the spread is 39-20-3.

The Vikings host the Skins on Thursday Night Football this week.

  • In their last 56 home games, the Vikes record against the spread is 39-16-1.

Wagering on sporting events is an expanding industry these days; state legislatures seem to be tripping over themselves to enact legislation that will bring some of that action to their states and some of the tax revenue generated by it to their coffers.  The NCAA of course steadfastly opposes such venal behaviors and sees gambling on college sporting events as an exploitation of the student-athletes.  [Aside:  There is a delicate irony in that position, but let’s just ignore that for the moment.]

At least two of the NCAA member schools have banned betting on games involving the school by players, students, faculty and staff at those schools.  St Joseph’s was the first to do so; about two weeks ago, Purdue followed suit.  Purdue’s President, Mitch Daniels said that the new edict intends to “protect student-athletes from people on campus looking for inside information.”

It is hard to argue with that intention.  However, I do have a couple of questions for President Daniels:

  1. A Google search says that the student population at Purdue is 41,573.  How is the university going to enforce this ban on wagering on Purdue games within such a large population?
  2. Wikipedia says that the faculty at Purdue consists of 3,055 people.  How will the university monitor the behaviors of these folks to assure that the new policy is followed?
  3. What is the scope of the new policy?  If Purdue makes the NCAA basketball tournament in the Spring, would a member of the Purdue family violate the policy by filling out a bracket for an online contest where he/she could win money?

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald reacted to the news that Eliud Kipchoge had broken the 2-hour barrier in a marathon:

“Kenyan superstar runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier in 1:59.40.2 Saturday, a once unfathomable feat. I once covered 26.2 miles even quicker, but didn’t get credit because I was in a car.”

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