Winning & Musing…Volume 2.20

Greetings sports fans…what a strange year it has been, right?? No March Madness. The Masters, all three Triple Crown horse races, & the Indianapolis 500 postponed. And now, with COVID-19 spiking again, there are serious questions about whether we’re even going to have a football season. I hate all of it, but atleast the whole mess gives us a few things to discuss.

 

 

 

 

Kudos to NASCAR & the PGA for giving us a little bit of entertainment. To be honest I don’t even miss the live crowd when watching a car race, and golf is almost as entertaining without a gallery, except in those moments when someone makes a spectacular shot & there would normally be a roar from the crowd. NASCAR especially has stepped up, altering their schedule to have races on the occasional random weeknight. Perhaps that doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, and maybe a lot of people actually hate it, but in my particular circumstance at the moment I have really appreciated the distraction.

 

 

So I guess Major League Baseball will be playing a 60 game season beginning in a couple of weeks. That’s cool, and I’ll watch (especially if I can manage to find any Pirates games on where I am), but we’ll need to put an asterisk on the 2020 season. I don’t believe whichever teams make the playoffs and whoever ultimately wins The World Series can ever consider those to be legit accomplishments, but I’ll give them credit for doing something to provide us with some much needed entertainment.

 

 

The NBA & NHL had already played a majority of their season when everything shut down, but both leagues will be concluding their seasons with a few additional regular season games and then the playoffs. I’m not even going to dive into the details because I’m not necessarily sure I even understand all of it, but I will opine that the champions in both sports will aleast be more authentic than whatever goes on in baseball.

 

 

Speaking of NASCAR, I understand why they caved to the PC Police about the Confederate flag, and truly I’m kind of tired of all the arguing. I recognize where we are as a nation, and it’s just not a battle those of us opposed to such pandering & virtue signaling are going to win right now. However, I was disgusted with the whole Bubba Wallace/”noose” controversy. Even after the “noose” was discovered to have been a garage door pulley that had been there for years Wallace & the sports media refused to admit the mistake and doubled down on the whole victim angle, which is pathetic. I hope Wallace enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame, because now he’s back to being a mediocre driver who hasn’t actually won anything.

 

 

Strangely enough I don’t even get ESPN where I am right now, but I’m not sure I mind all that much. The last time I was able to tune in they’d essentially abandoned talking about sports and had gone all in on being “woke”, which isn’t why I watch their programs. And now I find out that The Flagship in Bristol is essentially tossing my man Mike Golic aside in favor of a more diverse morning show starring Keyshawn Johnson. Trust me folks…no one was jonesing for Keyshawn Johnson to get more airtime. It’s just another example of how out of touch ESPN has become. Y’all will recall my deep & abiding affection for Mike & Mike and how upset I was when that show ended, but atleast Golic & Wingo was a reasonably entertaining facsimile. Now there will be absolutely no reason to watch ESPN in the morning. Look, I don’t give a damn about a person’s race or ethnicity. If you’re intelligent, entertaining, & good at your job you have an opportunity to earn my fandom. Mike Golic had done that. Mike Greenberg had done that (although he’s far less tolerable without Golic). I’m not a supporter of change for the sake of change. If ESPN had an ounce of sense they’d reboot Mike & Mike, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be their plan.

Winning & Musing…Volume 1.20

Football is over (mostly). Pitchers & catchers have reported. March Madness is right around the corner, and before it arrives we’ll have the Daytona 500. We have a lot on our plate folks…it’s a veritable sport-asbord. Well okay…that’s probably not a word that’s going to become anything, so let’s just jump on in.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Super Bowl. A few thoughts:

*Congrats to the Kansas City Chiefs. I thought they’d win their division, but I also assumed they’d fall short in the playoffs. Thankfully the New England Patriots FINALLY showed some chinks in their armor and the Chiefs were able to take advantage and take home their first Lombardi Trophy in a half century. Well done.

*As much as I like Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes he should not have won Super Bowl MVP. That award rightly belonged to RB Damien Williams, who averaged over 6 yards/carry and had a touchdown. I know how these things work…Mahomes was destined to be the MVP no matter what if his team won. That’s just how it is. It’s a better story. But let’s be honest…Mahomes didn’t really get things going until the 4th quarter. Williams was consistent the entire game.

*The only commercial that even registered with me was the Jeep ad featuring Bill Murray in a Groundhog Day spoof. Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that I adore Groundhog Day, and since the big game just so happened to take place on the “holiday” it was simply perfect.

*Unlike a lot of older church folk I was not overly offended by the halftime show featuring Shakira & Jennifer Lopez. It was just about what I expected. There are a ton of more musically gifted artists that the NFL could have booked for the gig, but that’s not what the halftime show is about. Occasionally the ideas of musicality & showmanship intersect…Paul McCartney (2005), Michael Jackson (1993), Bruno Mars (2014), Prince (2007)…but more often than not they are two separate concepts. People must realize that the NFL isn’t going to drag The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or The Gaither Vocal Band out onto the field to sing hymns for the Super Bowl halftime show.

 

 

I was never a big fan of Kobe Bryant during the two decades he played for the Los Angeles Lakers, and I was harsh on him when circumstances dictated. However, sports fans do tend to enjoy aging athletes going out on a high note even if we’ve cheered against them their entire career, and Kobe’s 60 point game in his NBA swan song a few years ago was epic. In retirement he had transformed into a doting Dad, and really, who could dislike that?? To call the helicopter crash that killed Kobe tragic seems like an understatement. Nine people lost their lives, including three teenage girls, with one of those being Bryant’s daughter Gigi. I don’t believe in deifying athletes, but I also understand that it is difficult for human beings to wrap our mind around such a heartbreaking catastrophe. It made me sad to learn that Bryant had a disagreement with his parents & siblings a few years ago and wasn’t on speaking terms with them at the time of his passing. I cannot even imagine the pain that his family, along with the loved ones of the others killed in the crash, must be going thru.

 

 

Congratulations to the LSU Tigers for winning their third national title since 2003 (all three coming under a different head coach). It seemed inevitable, especially in the latter part of the regular season, but getting past the Clemson Tigers in the championship game was no easy feat. Would the Ohio St. Buckeyes (who were upset by Clemson in the semifinal) have given the Bayou Bengals a tougher fight?? Perhaps, but it’s folly to speculate. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has certainly paid his dues in the sport, seems like a genuinely decent man, and is a perfect fit in his home state of Louisiana.

 

 

Zach beat me in our bowl picks. He was 28-13, while I went 22-19. Picking Ohio State to win the national championship didn’t help my situation since they essentially lost two games for me. However, the good news for yours truly is that I did come out ahead in our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity. I was 61-43, while Zach finished with a .500 record of 52-52. As always a big thank you to my nephew for playing our silly little game. It’s all in good fun. There’s no money involved. We’re just two football fans who enjoy a good challenge.

 

 

With pitchers & catchers having reported now seems like a good time to weigh in on the sign stealing scandal that cost three MLB managers…AJ Hinch (Houston Astros), Alex Cora (Boston Red Sox), & Carlos Beltran (New York Mets)…their jobs. Cora was a bench coach for the Astros a few years ago while Beltran was a player for the team. To say that the situation “rocked baseball” feels inaccurate, since MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has taken very little action. Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on his own team (which obviously means he didn’t throw games), while the Astros won a World Series by blatantly cheating, yet none of those players are facing a ban and there’s no threat of their championship being stripped. Seriously?? Fay Vincent has got to be rolling over in his grave.

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.19

Hold on Lil Troopers…spring isn’t too far away!! Oh I suppose we may get hammered with snow a few more times because March is always a wildcard, but when McDonald’s is already serving shamrock shakes, NASCAR is back on the track, and baseball is part of the sports discussion we know the light at the end of the tunnel will be shining soon. Thankfully there is always more than enough sports news to discuss, although I’m not sure how much of it is all that pleasant at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring training is in full swing, but let’s not overlook what MLB has done off the field. It was recently announced that they will no longer use the term “disabled list” in regard to injured players. The change was made at the suggestion of advocacy groups for the disabled “out of concern that the term disabled for injured players falsely conflates disabilities with injuries and an inability to participate in sports”. As a disabled (handicapped, crippled, differently abled, handicapable…choose whatever buzzword you believe won’t offend anyone) individual who has spent my entire 46 years on this planet using a wheelchair allow me to opine that this is absolutely one of the dumbest instances of idiotic virtue signaling I have ever seen. No one with an ounce of common sense or capable of critical thought has ever confused baseball’s disabled list with those of us living our lives with a disability, and anyone offended by the term “disabled list” is a complete moron that should never be allowed to breed or even interact with the public. Also, as a person with a disability, it ticks me off that this is the sort of thing that “advocacy groups” are spending their resources on. Any such organization should be defunded immediately.

 

 

I come not to praise New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, but neither do I seek to bury him. If you’ve been paying any attention at all the past few days you know that Kraft is in some hot water for getting his jollies at a “massage parlor” in Florida, an establishment that got caught up in a big prostitution ring. I am not condoning the activity or Kraft’s involvement in it, and y’all know that I’ve despised the Patriots for the past two decades. Having said that, it must be noted that 77 year old Kraft lost his wife of almost fifty years awhile back. Myrna Kraft died of ovarian cancer at the age of 68 in 2011. Certainly that is no excuse to engage in illegal activity, but it does suggest a man that is lost & lonely despite his immense wealth & success, and I am willing to have some measure of sympathy in that regard. Loneliness & grief are awful things and can steer people in directions they wouldn’t otherwise go. What I cannot understand is why a billionaire with some level of prominence would decide to…seek pleasure…at what the media is describing as a rather trashy & foul (not to mention public) establishment. One would assume that Kraft has the means to obtain anything he’d want in complete privacy, so it is a bit perplexing to think that he would unnecessarily put himself in harm’s way (on multiple levels). Obviously the NFL will get their pound of flesh (pun unavoidable). The league’s personal conduct policy applies to owners & coaches as much as it does players, and about five years ago Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was fined $500k and suspended from running the team for six games after being arrested for DUI & drug possession. I’m not sure what exactly a typical owner of a professional sports franchise does on a daily basis that effects operations, and a half million dollars is pocket change to them, so that “punishment” seems rather hollow, but I assume Kraft will receive a similar penalty. I’m sure the legal consequences won’t amount to much either, but the damage to his reputation is immeasurable and probably irreparable.

 

 

I am at a loss to explain just what has happened to the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team. After making it to the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness three out of the past four years the ‘Eers won’t be making the NCAA, NIT, CBI, or any other post season tournaments in 2019. Injuries, dismissals, and just about every other calamity one might conjure has imploded their season to the point that a winning record is mathematically impossible unless they go on an incredible run in the Big 12 conference tournament. WVU has been the runner-up in that tournament the past three years and needs another similar finish to keep on playing. I normally try to remain optimistic, but will confidently predict right now that that isn’t going to happen. Head coach Bob Huggins has built up a lot of goodwill over the years as a hometown guy, alumnus, successful coach, and leader of winning teams in Morgantown, but trust me…he needs to figure out what went wrong and fix it, because all the benevolence shown him will turn sour real quick if next season is another disaster.

 

 

Have y’all checked out the Alliance of American Football?? I have to be honest…I watched part of one of the first games a few weeks ago, and haven’t given the league a second thought since. Part of the issue is completely mine…I work on weekends so I’m gone all day and in bed pretty early at night. However, I think there’s a bigger obstacle than just me for The Alliance. The AAF has eight teams… Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, & Orlando Apollos in the East, and Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, & San Diego Fleet in the West. Known entities like Steve Spurrier, Mike Singletary, & Mike Martz are head coaches. The initial games I watched were on CBS, but after that the NFL Network & CBS Sports Network took over, and that’s a bit of a problem since those are channels that I don’t typically “surf”…I have to specifically be seeking something out, and I’m just not there yet with The Alliance. On the field the games themselves aren’t anything too wacky. Unlike some other fringe football leagues that have come & gone in the past the AAF isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or compete with the NFL, but there are a few differences. There are no kickoffs, which I don’t like but realize that it’s a concept that’ll be embraced by college football & the NFL sooner or later. Neither are there extra points. Somewhere Skip Bayless is squealing with glee about the new league’s marginalization of kickers. Defenses are somewhat limited as far as what they can do, so if you like swarming defense with a lot if blitzes the AAF might not be your cup of tea. Overtime has each team start on their opponent’s 10 yard line, which is even goofier that the college OT rules. There is only one overtime, so the game can end in a tie (no field goals!!). The revelation that has hit me about the AAF is that…atleast for me…as The Bible says, “to everything there is a season”, and as big of a football fan as I am I’m ready to move on after the Super Bowl. It’s February, which means that emotionally & psychologically football is in hibernation for me and I’m ready to move on to golf, NASCAR, basketball, & baseball. This realization surprised me a little bit, because I had thought it’d be great to have more football, but I just can’t become invested. I’m guessing that my perspective isn’t unique, which probably spells doom for The Alliance after another season or two, but hey…they tried.

 

 

If you think MLB is silly…well, one minor league team has surpassed that stupidity. The Hartford Yard Goats, a Double A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies in the Eastern League, recently made the decision to ban peanuts & Cracker Jacks altogether in deference to those with a nut allergy. But wait…there’s more!! Not only is their stadium now peanut free, but management has decided to change the lyrics to Take Me Out to the Ballgame, which of course contains the line “buy me some peanuts & Cracker Jacks”. Oh my…where to begin. These kinds of people absolutely exhaust every ounce of patience I possess and are a contributing factor to me adopting a reclusive lifestyle. First of all, about 2% of the population has a peanut allergy. The Yard Goats play their home games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, which has a capacity of about 6200. So at a home game there MIGHT be about 125 people in attendance with a nut allergy. But instead of simply designating a section of the ballpark for those fans the geniuses that run the team instead chose to deprive over 6000 others of the opportunity to buy a snack that has been closely associated with baseball for decades. This is what is wrong with society. It used to be that the majority ruled, but nowadays we go out of our way to kowtow to the vocal minority & every fringe group that decides to whine about something. Look, I am not unsympathetic to folks with a nut allergy. No one is suggesting that they shouldn’t attend games, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with reasonable accommodations to make their experience as pleasant as it should be.  However, I just do not understand why a nut free section wasn’t enough of a compromise. This whole thing reeks of virtue signaling & grandstanding at its worst. And I haven’t even gotten to the song!! Take Me Out to the Ballgame was written in 1908 and has been a standard at ballparks for decades, oftentimes sung by the crowd during the “seventh inning stretch” (most famously at Wrigley Field during Chicago Cubs games). So because the food mentioned in the song has been banned at this particular ballpark they feel it is necessary to alter the lyrics too?? ASININE!!!! Every executive employed by the team should be fired immediately and NEVER be allowed to work in sports management EVER again. I’d be embarrassed to be a fan of the team, play for the team, or even live in freakin’ Hartford, CT. Hell, if I lived in Hartford I might sell my house and move, citing the stupid Hartford Yard Goats as the reason for my departure. I hope they lose every single game until the business implodes & the team folds. Perhaps a competing club will be created and they can call them the New Haven Nut Lovers or the Fairfield Cracker Jacks.

Winning & Musing…Volume 6.17

Sorry non-sports fans…there are a few things going on about which I feel compelled to comment. Take heart though…the holidays are coming up soon so there is some fun stuff in the pipeline, and of course there a couple of long term projects that I need to complete plus one or two that I need to actually get started on, so if you’re not into football or basketball stay with me…I won’t forget about y’all.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Houston Astros for winning their first World Series championship. I didn’t think I’d be all that interested in the Series this year, but a disaster was averted when Houston beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS because a Yankees-Dodgers World Series would’ve had zero appeal for me. I know that sounds strange, but as a sports fan I need an underdog, a little engine that could, to root for. I enjoy a good David vs. Goliath story. I realize that’s not how the real world works. In reality the bigger, better entity with more power, money, & influence wins the vast majority of the time in virtually all walks of life. However, part of the romance in sports is that sometimes the little guy actually wins, and that’s not just a fantasy birthed in 1976 with Rocky. In my opinion it’s kind of weak & uninspiring to jump on the Goliath bandwagon. Before this season the Astros hadn’t won a division title since 2001 and had only made the playoffs once since 2005. They’d played in just one World Series since the franchise’s inception in 1962, losing to the Chicago White Sox in 2005. In the past decade they’d had seven losing seasons, including a three year stretch from 2011-13 in which they were a combined 162-324. So even though Houston itself is the 4th largest city in America the Astros have never been among baseball’s elite…until now. It doesn’t hurt that the games themselves were really fun to watch, and anytime we get to a Game 7 in anything it’s pretty cool. I’m sure the L.A. Dodgers will be back in the thick of things next year. They’ll go out and buy a couple of bigtime free agents or make a blockbuster trade. Same with the Yankees. Second place isn’t good enough for such teams. They think that, because of their huge TV market and bottomless coffers, they’re entitled to a trophy. But all of that just makes me yawn.

 

 

Speaking of yawning…

I guess the NASCAR season is almost over?? Honestly I haven’t watched a race since…the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend…I think. And unlike the past couple of years when I was consciously objecting to NASCAR for various reasons, in 2017 I haven’t even given NASCAR a second thought. I just don’t care. They totally lost me as a fan. Their “playoffs” are stupid, their stage racing is stupid, and their drivers are boring. I’m probably supposed to get all misty & nostalgic about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement, but I don’t care about that either. He’s just a sellout who has never been worthy of carrying his father’s name. Good riddance.

 

 

Dear ESPN: Declining ratings for football has EVERYTHING to do with anthem protests and politics interfering with our enjoyment of sports. Y’all can try to spin things all you want, blaming injuries and weak teams to deflect from the controversy, but just as your ratings have deteriorated due to not-so-subtle sociopolitical propagandizing with which a sizeable portion of the audience disagrees, football is suffering for also promoting a provocative agenda unrelated to the sport that fans tune in to watch. These people are so insufferably full of themselves and impressed with their own intellect that they’ve become totally out of touch with the viewing public.

 

 

It’s still really early in the NBA season, but I can’t help but chuckle at the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers & San Antonio Spurs are off to subpar starts, and the Golden State Warriors have lost more games in the first few weeks of the season than they did before the end of November last year. Perhaps if players & coaches for those teams had spent the offseason appreciating their success and preparing for more of the same instead of flapping their gums and displaying their ignorance about real world issues they’d be winning more games right now. Sadly it is probable that all three teams will be just fine, make deep playoff runs, & battle for the NBA Championship, but I’d like nothing better than for them to struggle all season and make early playoff exits. Just as the NFL is learning, the NBA needs to eventually realize that we just want them to shut their pieholes and play ball.

 

 

As recently noted, I have no issue with the initial College Football Playoff rankings that put Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, & Clemson at the top for the moment. But you can bet that if the final four team field includes two teams from the same conference & an independent and excludes three of the Power 5 conference champions that playoff expansion debates will heat up really quick. We’ve known all along that it would happen eventually. Expansion of the playoff has been inevitable from the beginning. I’d like to see a six team field, with the top two teams receiving a bye, but I assume that what we’ll get at some point is an eight team playoff. I don’t care what the talking heads say…if conferences are going to continue to exist then conference championships need to mean something, otherwise what’s the point??

Winning & Musing…Volume 4.17

I am well aware that some citizens of The Manoverse are not sports fans and skip right past posts like these. That’s okay, I understand, and stay tuned for other non-sports goodness coming your way. I also know that I just published the previous edition of W&M less than a week ago. But I’ve got more to say and I just can’t hold it in, so climb on, strap in, & ride the wave!!

 

 

 

 

In offering thoughts about the NFL Draft I neglected to address one significant topic of conversation…running back Joe Mixon. The Cincinnati Bengals chose Mixon in the second round, and the looks of disdain on the faces of the talking heads could not go unnoticed. In 2014…his freshman year at Oklahoma…Mixon pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for punching a woman in a restaurant during the summer before the school year began. The details of the incident aren’t important and I am NOT here to defend Mixon. His actions were appalling…few would dispute that fact. Having said that, I have two issues with how the situation has been handled & reported. First of all, I fervently disagree with anyone who equates Mixon’s circumstances with those of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, who you’ll recall was suspended from the NFL in 2014 after punching his fiancée (now wife) in an Atlantic City elevator. Rice hasn’t played a down of football since and probably never will again. The huge difference to me is that Rice was a 27 year old professional who should’ve known better. I have no problem with the fact that he hasn’t gotten another opportunity to play in the NFL. It’s a privilege to do so, not a right. Conversely, Mixon was a barely 18 year old college freshman. He was suspended for a year from the Oklahoma football program and caused no further issues after his return. Yet there were reportedly NFL teams that didn’t have him on their draft boards at all, and after he was drafted guys like ESPN’s Adam Schefter (who I usually like a lot) looked like they might actually cry, vomit, or do both simultaneously. Where’s the mercy?? Holy cow…if we were all held perpetually accountable for the idiotic things we did in high school and/or college I know a plethora of successful people who never would have gotten a job interview. Granted, punching a woman in the face is much more serious than the stupidity that my friends & I engaged in during our youth, but the point still stands. Joe Mixon did something truly awful as an 18 year old kid. He shouldn’t have to pay for it for the rest of his life. Admittedly it was a bit tone deaf for the Bengals, who’ve had more than their fair share of lawbreaking miscreants don the orange & black in the past decade or two, to choose Mixon, but that’s on them. I assume the young man will be under a zero tolerance policy, and rightfully so. If he even so much as looks angrily at someone he should be waived and forced to get a 9 to 5 job like the rest of us working stiffs, but if he stays on the straight & narrow I think allowing him to pursue a professional football career is proper. The other issue I have with this whole thing is the relatively new idea that professional athletes need to be model citizens. I have opined multiple times over the years that just because an individual can run fast or has superior athletic skill doesn’t mean they are a good person, and it didn’t used to be a requirement. The history of sports is chockful of drunks, junkies, bullies, & criminals of all kinds, from baseball’s Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb to football’s Joe Namath & Lawrence Taylor to basketball’s Dennis Rodman & Allen Iverson and many many other examples from every level of athletics. Some people ultimately ruined their careers while others were just branded as “colorful”, but because they were supremely talented all were given an opportunity…oftentimes numerous opportunities…and no one seemed to mind. However, in the ultra-PC 21st century there are those eager to toss aside someone who made one big mistake when he was barely 18 years old?? Again I ask…where is the mercy??

 

 

Add NFL Hall-of-Famer and favorite Steeler Jerome Bettis to the list of those dismissed in the much discussed ESPN bloodbath. I’m a huge fan of The Bus, but I’m not shedding too many tears for him because I happen to know that he’s involved in various business pursuits and will land on his feet just fine. To be honest he didn’t add all that much to the already copious amount of NFL coverage on The Mothership and likely won’t be missed.

 

 

I wonder if journalist Brian Windhorst gets down on his knees every night and thanks the Good Lord above for Lebron James?? Windhorst has parlayed a local career in his hometown of Akron, OH during which he covered Lebron’s high school games into a gig with the Akron Beacon-Journal, then the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, & now ESPN. He has basically been Lebron’s personal reporter for almost two decades, and now he has written a book that I just finished reading called Return of the King, about Lebron’s homecoming to Cleveland a few years ago and the Cavaliers’ failure then success in pursuit of an NBA title. The book is pretty good if you’re into those kind of books, which I am. Good job Windy!!

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who gutted out a seven game series victory over the Washington Capitals to move on in the NHL playoffs. The Pens will have to take down the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals to earn a shot at defending their Stanley Cup championship.

 

 

 

Some ideas to “fix” the NBA:

*Expansion. It is necessary for my math to work. There are currently 30 teams in the league, but we need 32. Maybe you give Seattle a team back. Ditto for Vancouver. How about Vegas?? The NFL’s Raiders are moving there and the NHL is expanding there as well, so why not?? I’m a little partial to the idea of awarding a team to Pittsburgh. I don’t know…discuss amongst yourselves. All I know is that we need two additional teams.

*32 teams would allow us to reduce each team’s schedule from 82 games to 77. Not much of a decrease, but every little bit helps, right?? I’m tired of all the whining about resting players & such. The league would be split into an Eastern & Western Conference. Divide each conference into North & South divisions if you want…it doesn’t really matter. A team would play everyone else in their conference three times…45 games. They’d play each team in the other conference twice…32 games. 45+32=77.

*I’m not sure how you’d handle scheduling. My vote would be to play as many back-to-back games as possible to reduce travel just as they do in MLB, but basketball players seem to complain a lot about back-to-back games. I’ll leave it up to people smarter than me to figure out logistics.

*Even though we are expanding the league and reducing regular season games we’re still going to go ahead and trim the playoff field from 8 teams in each conference to 6. The top two teams in each conference (you could make these division champs) get a first round bye. Each first round series is just three games, as is each second round series. The conference finals are 5 game series, and the NBA Finals would be the only round with a 7 game series.

*Out of the 26 teams that don’t make the playoffs the BEST five go into the Draft Lottery to see who gets the #1 pick. Well…actually it’d decide the top five picks. If you still want to do the bouncy ball thing then each team’s number of balls would be equal to their number of wins. After that win/loss records would determine the draft order. So the worst team in the league would receive the 6th overall pick. This system would eliminate the ridiculous practice of tanking, which is a stain on the league. Not only would good teams be competing to make the playoffs in the waning days of the regular season, but not so good teams would be competing to get into the lottery rather than purposely losing. It would encourage competitive balance and wise management, because teams that just missed the playoffs are (theoretically) adding the best players, putting playoff teams on notice.

 

 

I said about a month ago that I would postpone offering an opinion on my Pittsburgh Pirates until a little further into the season. Well, we are more than 30 games in and the Pirates are dead last in their division and painful to watch. We Pirates fans endured two decades of losing until a few years ago, then had a couple of years when the team actually made the playoffs as a wildcard. But now it feels like we are right back to square one. I’ve never believed that pitcher Gerrit Cole is a true ace, but he’s the best they’ve got and there is chatter about him being traded. Outfielder Starling Marte screwed the pooch by getting suspended for most of the season for PED use, but I’m not sure his presence would make that much of a difference. There has been talk of trading all-star outfielder Andrew McCutchen as far back as last season, but even if they keep him it feels like his prime years are being wasted. I watch games and don’t even know who some of these guys are!! I am tempted to say that it’s time for manager Clint Hurdle to go, that he is too passive and the players aren’t listening to him anymore. That may be true, but I don’t think changing managers would help that much either. The problem with the Pirates is ownership. The business is profitable and fans continue to fill the ballpark because that’s just how dedicated & loyal Pittsburghers and fans from surrounding areas are. It’s in their DNA. Winning would be a nice bonus, but it doesn’t seem necessary to the powers-that-be. I don’t have any answers. I wish I did.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 5.16

I’ve been trying to avoid making The Manofesto too sporty, but this time of year it is really difficult. For you sports fans out there this isn’t an issue, but I know not everyone falls into that category.

 

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh_Pirates2The baseball season is winding to a conclusion and my Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t going to make it into the playoffs. The slight decline wasn’t completely unexpected, and after two decades of losing I can’t hardly complain about three straight playoff appearances followed by a season where the team isn’t mathematically eliminated until deep into September. Having said all that, I wouldn’t be opposed to some changes. I’m not sure that general manager Neil Huntington is the right man for the job at this point, and as great of a guy as he seems to be I think maybe manager Clint Hurdle needs to be politely shown the door. Kudos to those men for bringing back our Pirates from the abyss of interminable futility, but it seems as if they’ve taken the team as far as they can. Much like Moses observing the land of milk & honey from Mount Nebo I suspect that when the Pirates finally make it to the Promised Land of the World Series Hurdle & Huntington will be watching from afar.

 

 

As predicted FoxSports 1 has new acquisition Skip Bayless starring in a replica of First Take, his old ESPN show. I haven’t undactually watched a single episode and have no plans to do so, but I did check out a couple of clips online. The new program, called Undisputed, pairs Bayless with former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe, which makes me laugh. Honestly, one really needs subtitles to make sense of anything Sharpe says. He is not a good fit for television. I am quite sure that Bayless & Sharpe try to top each other with outlandish & controversial opinions, and I suppose some people enjoy that shtick. I’m just not one of them. As maddeningly leftist as ESPN can oftentimes be it is clear that FS1 isn’t on the same level and will remain a second tier channel as long as they continue to make desperation moves such as hiring blowhards like Bayless and fellow Bristol refugee Colin Cowherd.

 

 

arnieA fat guy in a wheelchair would probably be considered by most to be an unlikely golf fan, but from a young age my father instilled in me an abiding fondness for the game. By the time I got into it though Arnold Palmer had long since moved onto the Senior Tour before retiring altogether a decade ago. However, way before the world got to know Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, & Jordan Spieth I was hearing stories and learning about Palmer. It helped that he became a pitchman for various products and an ambassador for the game, therefore never really disappearing from the pop culture consciousness. He, Jack Nicklaus, & Tom Watson were the first golfers that I became a fan of, even though I am too young to have seen many of their greatest moments. Most of the time death is a sad & tragic event, and fans of golf will undoubtedly miss ol’ Arnie, but in his 87 years on the planet the man certainly made an impact and created unforgettable memories, and we can’t be too sad about that.

 

 

Early thoughts on the NFL season:

  • Eagles’ rookie QB Carson Wentz looks like the real deal. I wish I would have drafted him in my fantasy dynasty league.
  • In my season preview I pondered whether or not RGIII would rejuvenate his career in Cleveland. Now I feel stupid for even asking the question.
  • Who will be the first coach to lose his job?? Rex Ryan (Buffalo)?? Gus Bradley (Jacksonville)?? Mike McCoy (San Diego)?? nfl-footballJay Gruden (Washington)??
  • I was way wrong about the Minnesota Vikings. The desperation trade for QB Sam Bradford after losing starter Teddy Bridgewater in the pre-season was a masterstroke. Even after noted child abuser Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury the Vikings haven’t missed a beat. Their defense has been amazing. This team looks like a legit Super Bowl contender.
  • As much as I hate the New England Patriots I have to give credit where credit is due. It doesn’t seem to matter who plays quarterback…the team just keeps right on rolling. Belichick is an evil genius. Oftentimes I emphasize the evil part of that equation, but I’d be remiss not to give a respectful tip o’ the cap to the genius part.

 

 

marvI’ve expressed my opinion on the whole Colin Kaepernick anthem protest thing already, but let me just add a thought. What is more troubling than the hoopla itself is the fact that these types of demonstrations are spreading to college & pro football and other sports altogether. Suddenly it is cool & fashionable to disrespect our flag & the national anthem. It doesn’t help that the media has run the story into the ground and somehow made Kaepernick into a trailblazing hero. The whole thing makes me sad.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.15

Don’t you just love the ebb & flow of sports?? It’s almost magical how the baseball season opened on the same day that the championship game wrapped up college basketball. Or how Nascar pops back into our lives just as we are starting to miss football. The Nascar folks are even nice enough to take the day off when they know that between The Final Four and Easter Sunday our weekend is jam packed. Okay okay…I am smart enough to realize that there are people who make lots of money to carefully coordinate the well-timed ebb & flow, but in my heart I still believe in magic. Anyway, today we have a good mix of things to contemplate, so let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the 2015 NCAA basketball national champion Duke Blue Devils. I Duke_Blue_Devilshave no issue with them winning even though they certainly aren’t the kind of underdog that I typically cheer for. I thought the game itself as well as the tournament in general was poorly officiated, but that can’t be held up as the single reason Duke prevailed. Coach K seems like a genuinely decent dude, although I can’t go so far as to say he has eclipsed legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

 

 

 

Baseball season is underway and I am mildly excited about that. It’s a long season so ppiratesone has to modulate enthusiasm throughout the next few months so that interest doesn’t wane during the dog days of summer. I expect my Pittsburgh Pirates to be in the midst of the pennant race again, although I do have some misgivings about their bullpen and whether or not that weakness will cost them a division title.

 

 

 

There’s been a lot of discussion during March Madness about what’s wrong with college basketball and what should be done to fix it. Most agree that the tournament is just dandy, but it’s the 3 or 4 months that precede it that has issues. One thing that is constantly mentioned is the 35 second shot clock and how it should be lowered to 24 seconds “just like the NBA”. Decreasing the shot clock is a valid debate, but what is with this compulsion to copy the NBA?? College & pro basketball are two similar yet basketballdifferent games and I think I prefer it that way. Contrary to popular opinion I find the collegiate game much more entertaining. It’s raw. It’s genuine. And yes, it’s got lumps, just like tasty homemade gravy, which has so much more flavor than the mass produced stuff one finds in a jar at the grocery store. College athletes are extremely talented, but there’s a wide range of skill and, at the end of the day, they are still a bunch of somewhat capricious & undeveloped 18-22 year old youngsters. There are highs. There are lows. There are flashes of dramatic, heroic triumph, and moments of inexplicable disappointment. Yes the NBA has that stuff too because the players are still human beings, but the game is undeniably more refined, less dramatic, more predictable, and too often as bland as store bought gravy. So revise & improve college basketball. Go for it. Nothing is perfect and tinkering can be fun. But be innovative. Be practical. Don’t focus on replicating the NBA. It’s lazy, redundant, & lacks imagination.

 

 

 

$100 for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?? I don’t think so. I’m not really a boxing fan and won’t be brokenhearted if I miss it altogether, although I may look around and see boxing_2_lgif I can catch it for free. There are ways. I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and haven’t paid for a PPV in a few years. Technology is a good thing…most of the time.

 

 

 

wrestling-clip-art-PSS0166Speaking of pro wrestling, it has caused a rift in my relationship with ESPN talking head Colin Cowherd. I had been a fan of Cowherd’s daily radio show that is simulcast on ESPNU…until a few weeks ago. Colin’s buddy and fellow ESPN personality Bill Simmons is a fellow wrestling fan and had appeared on WWE Raw. Cowherd was reviewing Simmons’ performance on the show and had some rather demeaning & unprofessional comments about wrestling fans, saying that we all live in our parents’ basements and everyone who had attended that particular event outside of Simmons had probably been driven there and dropped off by their mother. And his comments weren’t said in a good-natured, joking manner. He was intentionally being an insulting jackass. I happened to have some free time that day so I tweeted #boycottCowherd and got much more of a response than expected. It was the most interaction I’ve ever had on Twitter. Some folks were supportive while some tried to match their hero Colin in the abuse department. Cowherd himself replied to me stating that his show had the best ratings on ESPNU, as if that is a noteworthy accomplishment when the truth is that better & more popular shows like Mike & Mike, Pardon the Interruption, & First Take air on ESPN or ESPN2. My God, even Dan Lebatard & his Papi are shown on ESPN2. Cowherd apparently doesn’t understand that his show airing on ESPNU indicates just how insignificant it is in the eyes of his bosses. At any rate, I’m not crazy enough to think that one man can take down an entire TV show or colincowherdthat my feelings matter to a self-important blowhard like Colin Cowherd, but I’ll damn sure never watch him again. I realize that professional wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. That’s fine. But to those of us who enjoy that sort of thing it is as valid a form of entertainment as anything else. There are any number of television shows…Game of Thrones, Scandal, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey…that the masses love but I’m not interested in, yet I don’t go around bullying & verbally assaulting fans of those shows. The idea that all wrestling fans are a bunch of toothless hillbillies or socially inept psychos who are unemployed and live with their parents is a tired cliché that is no longer funny. Wrestling fans are male & female, black, white, & Hispanic, affluent & poor, young & old, urban & rural…just like the fan bases of any other kind of entertainment. Does Cowherd really think the backward recluses he trumpets as the typical wrestling fan could even afford to go to the shows, purchase the merchandise, or buy the pay-per-views?? Maybe someone should call EMS to bring the jaws of life to ESPN and extricated Colin Cowherd’s pea brain from his anal cavity before he suffocates and becomes an even bigger moron than he has already proven himself to be.

 

 

 

It’s still a little bit surprising to me that the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t make it to the national title game. I know I’m not the only one who felt like them winning it all was a foregone conclusion. But it seems like in the process of obliterating my WV Kentucky-BasketballMountaineers in the Sweet 16 the ‘Cats fired all their bullets and didn’t have much left in the tank. They barely got by Notre Dame in the Elite 8, and then finally were beaten in the Final Four by Wisconsin. Now I will grant you that the Badgers are an extremely talented team and had the added revenge factor (after UK beat them in last year’s Final Four) as motivation, but I sincerely believe that Kentucky would defeat Wisconsin in 9 out of 10 games. In a single elimination tournament though anything can happen (and no…I don’t think that format should change…for now).

 

 

 

The argument over trying to get NCAA basketball to mirror the NBA made me think of baseball’s designated hitter rule. Upon further ponderation I think I like things the way they are, with the American League having the DH and the National League not utilizing it. It makes each league unique, which is something we’ve begun to lose in the United States. We’re all about homogenization. I’m not as well traveled as I’d prefer, baseball drawingbut I know that every city & town in this country has a lot of the same stuff. The same restaurants. The same retail outlets. The same radio & TV stations that play the same music & shows day after day, week after week, year after year. Every mall has the same stores. Every movie theater is essentially the same. Every automaker makes the same kinds of vehicles that aren’t nearly as singular & cool as cars back in the 40’s & 50’s. This uniformity is comforting on some level, but it is also bland & uninspiring. Just like college basketball shouldn’t try so hard to emulate the NBA I hope the American & National Leagues will always remain similar yet distinctive.

America’s Pastime??

Barry Bonds in action.

Barry Bonds

I had every intention of doing a full blown 2009 baseball preview. That obviously didn’t happen. Opening Day has come and gone and so it seems a rather pointless exercise.

I remember not that long ago when Opening Day was an event. Everyone, even the most fair weather baseball fans, knew when it was approaching. I suppose it’s still a big deal for a significant amount of baseball aficionados, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have the cachet that it once did. I didn’t even realize it was occurring until I heard it mentioned on the radio in my car about an hour before the first pitch was to be tossed. There didn’t seem to be much coverage of spring training this year, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

There are probably a lot of reasons for the decline in popularity of baseball, atleast in relative terms when compared with our ever-increasing love affair with football. For me personally I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and they haven’t been anywhere close to competitive for about 17 years. We Pirates fans have no real reason for hope or anticipation and usually quit paying close attention before summer even officially begins. I’m sure this apathy spreads to fans of other teams like the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, and Cleveland Indians, whose teams are rarely that good. This can be traced to the lack of a salary cap, something football has and baseball sorely needs. There are also the constant scandals that have rocked the sport for the last couple of decades. I don’t believe it’s out of bounds to hypothesize that the beginning of the end for baseball started with the downfall of Pete Rose about 20 years ago. Then in 1994 there was a players’ strike that cut the season in half and forced the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. Baseball has never fully recovered from that season and the wrath it instilled in loyal fans. It came very very close to a much desired reconciliation with its public in 1998 due to the excitement involving Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s chase of Roger Maris’ vaunted home run record. But during the past 4 or 5 years even that progress has been unraveled as we’ve learned that all those home runs were likely a mirage, the numbers skewed by illegal substance abuse. One by one mighty heroes of the diamond have fallen from grace, from Barry Bonds to Jose Canseco to McGwire to Alex Rodriguez. Even pitchers, chief among them the legendary Roger Clemens, apparently aren’t above cheating.

We also cannot ignore the changing landscape of our nation. We prefer fast and frenetic these days, as opposed to slow and easy. Football appeals to our more modern, chaotic sensibilities, while baseball seems nostalgic and bucolic. Baseball is a relic, a living monument to a bygone era we recall with a certain sense of wistful wonder. It’s a nice place to visit occasionally, but it’s not something we can really sink our teeth into for the long haul. And with its 162 game season plus playoffs and then a World Series baseball definitely encompasses a long haul. Transversely, football season seems much shorter, even though it really isn’t. Close examination reveals that baseball opens in April and concludes in October…..7 months. Football, if one takes into consideration both college and the NFL season which basically overlap, begins in late August and climaxes in early February…..7 months. Of course there is a significant difference when one factors in that each team in football plays once per week, while in baseball your favorite team likely plays 4 or 5 times. Youngsters today consider baseball slow and boring. They have so many other choices…..video games, the internet, DVDs, Ipods. Our culture is on sensory overload, and baseball easily gets lost in the shuffle.

Football has better PR as well. Does anyone think football players don’t use performance enhancing drugs? If you do, you’re more than naïve. But no one seems to make nearly as big a deal out of it. Also, when was the last time you watched or attended a college baseball game? College baseball has an extremely limited following, while college football is HUGE. We are able to follow our beloved football players every step of the way from their recruitment to the university of their choice, through their entire college career, to speculating who’ll choose them in the NFL Draft (does anyone actually watch the MLB Draft? Ummm…no), through their (hopefully) long NFL career. We’re invested in football every step of the way. Baseball…..not so much.

This examination is not meant as an insult to baseball. I’m still a fan. I just find it unfortunate that circumstances have converged in such a way that prevents me, and legions of others, from being a passionate fan. Calling baseball America’s Pastime is nothing more than a marketing tool. It is more a reflection of America’s past.