Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/21/14

I need to change the format here at least temporarily. My computer is very uncooperative at the moment and so I am limited in the number of things I can have open at one time to be able to flip back and forth among them. This is either going to require significant professional treatment after the Holidays or perhaps a new machine.

In any event, last week’s results boiled down to the weekly Mythical Picks going 9-7-1 bringing the total season record to 103-137-5.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games were 3-1-0 for the week edging the coin closer to the expected .500 level. The season total is 17-22-1.

Disclaimer: No one should use any information here as even a small part of a decision to make a real bet involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Anyone doing that would be so dumb that blondes would tell jokes about him/her.

General Comments:

I have a confession to make. I yielded to temptation last night. No, not that way; get your mind out of the gutter! Let me explain…

My intention for last night was to clean up after dinner and repair to Curmudgeon Central to begin to write today’s Mythical Picks piece. I had exactly zero intention to watch the Titans/Jags game on Thursday Night Football. However, the news broke on SportsCenter at 6:00 that the Celtics had traded Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks and then I learned that ESPN would have its Grantland Basketball Show (with Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose) on at 7:00. Of course, I wanted to see that…

And that got me to 8:00 and I had not descended to the den that is Curmudgeon Central and it was really close to kickoff time and … I told myself that I was only going to watch a couple of series and then turn the game off. Well, I did not do that; I actually was mesmerized by the blatant ineptitude on display. Moreover, as each blunder unfolded on the screen in front of me, I began to wonder if I was the only person tuned in who did not have “a little something” on the game. With that thought in mind, I wondered how many of the viewers with “a little something” on the game really needed an intervention and a visit to a counselor.

Both teams brought 2-12 records to the field last night. The Jags won the game; it is their third win of the season. However, the curmudgeonly centerpiece of the game is The Tennessee Titans. Consider:

    Last Sunday, the Titans (then 2-11) faced the NY Jets (also 2-11). The Titans lost that game.

    Four days later, the Titans (then 2-12) faced the Jax Jaguars (also 2-12). The Titans lost that game too.

The Titans, Bucs and Raiders all have 2 wins as of this morning. The Bucs and Raiders have 2 games to play and the Titans only 1. This is the race to the bottom to see what the draft order will be next Spring. My understanding for tie breaking at the bottom of the standings is that strength of schedule is the primary criterion. Without going through all of the calculations, my suspicion is that this would favor the Raiders because they have 6 games in their division against teams over .500 and that cannot be said of the Bucs in the NFC South or the Titans in the AFC South.

In last week’s loss to the Jets, Titans’ players got into a brawl with Jets’ players on the field after someone hit Geno Smith with a sucker punch after a play. That was probably the most entertaining moment of the game for those folks who tuned in either because it was the only NFL game on the air in their part of the country or because they had “a little something” on the game.

Last week also brought us the NFL debut of Johnny Manziel as a starting QB. He was just plain awful; and to his great credit, he said just that in his post-game session with the press. The Browns’ total offense with Manziel running the show was 107 yards for the game; the Browns only snapped the ball 38 times on offense; the Browns gained less than 3 yards per offensive play. That is not merely bad; that is embarrassingly bad. I want to be clear about two points here:

    1. Brian Hoyer is not a great QB by any definition and he had played less-than-satisfactorily for the last 3 or 4 games as the Browns’ starter. However, none of his performances came close to being as bad as the stinker Johnny Manziel dropped on the turf last week.

    2. How come no one asked Mike Pettine after the game what it was that he saw in Manziel during recent practices that gave him the idea – obviously wrongheaded in hindsight – that starting Manziel gave the Browns a decent chance to win that game? Remember, the Browns were in the thick of the playoff race going into the game. They are not mathematically eliminated today, but the Browns will need lots of things to break right for them to get back onto the playoff picture. Most NFL teams do not have fairy godmothers looking out for them…

Browns’ fans have to be hoping about now that Johnny Manziel is “The Anti-RG3”. Griffin’s first game was spectacular and his first season was “transformational” according to some folks. Today, RG3 is not playing nearly as well as Brian Hoyer has played this season. Now if Manziel is “The Anti-RG3”, fans can take that horrid first game and a virtually meaningless rookie season and project great things for Manziel in 2016. That is how fanboys roll…

Here is my “glass is half full” assessment for Manziel’s first start:

    If he plays worse in future games, someone is going to begin to suspect that he has “a little something” riding on the game – and that he took the opponent and laid the points. That should be motivation for him to play better…

The Bucs and the Panthers met in a scintillating NFC South showdown; the Bucs lost sinking their season record to 2-12. However, consider these two things:

    1. The Bucs have lost 4 games this year by 5 points or less. Had those games gone the other way, the Bucs would have 6 wins and would be tied for the lead in the NFC South and they could look at the final game of the season at home against the Saints as a possible ticket to the playoffs. How sad is that?

    2. If the Bucs braintrust looks at that and concludes that they are only one player away from being a good football team, they will have descended to a level of self-delusion equivalent to Chuck Norris trying to play Hamlet.

One more thing about the Panthers/Bucs game. If the Panthers manage to win the NFC South and go to the playoffs, please remember that Derek Anderson was the starting QB for two of those wins – both at the expense of the Bucs.

The Falcons held Steelers’ RB, Le’Veon Bell to 47 yards on 20 rushing attempts last week. So, where has that run defense been all year? In any event, that effort was not sufficient for the Falcons to win the game…

The Saints had their way with the Bears last week. It is an open question as to whether the Saints’ defense began to demonstrate competencies in that game or if it was just piss-poor offense on the part of the Bears. I tend to lean toward the side of the “dysfunctional offense” on that particular continuum. The Saints recorded 7 sacks in the game and on some of the plays, I am not sure Usain Bolt could have scrambled his way out of harm’s way.

The Cardinals and the Rams played a defensive game with no TDs scored. There were, however, plenty of “three-and-outs”. In fact, in their first 5 possessions of the second half, the Rams produced 5 “three-and-outs”.

I mentioned the Jets/Titans game from last week above. Some of the stats from that game were far short of inspirational:

    Titans were 6 for 16 on third down. That was actually very good because the Jets were 2 for 13 on third down.

    Total yards passing in the game was 416 yards – that is the total for both teams.

    Titans’ leading rusher gained 50 yards on 156 carries.

The Lions beat the Vikings by 2 points last week. In that game the Vikes’ kicker missed all three of his field goal attempts. (To be fair, the last “miss” was a desperation try from 65+ yards on the final play of the game.) In any event, do the math…

The Chiefs scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter to beat the Raiders 31-13. If Dick Vitale did color commentary for the Raiders – perish THAT thought – he would definitely call the Raiders a Dow Jones team. They go up and then they go down… Consider:

    After losing their first 10 games from Sept 7 through Nov 16:

      Nov 20: Raiders beat Chiefs 24-20. UP!
      Nov 30: Raiders lose to Rams 57-0. DOWN!
      Dec 7: Raiders beat Niners 24-13. UP!
      Dec 14: Raiders lose to Chiefs 31-13. DOWN!

I do have a question for the Raiders’ offensive coaches from the most recent game. The Raiders only trailed 10-3 at the half; they were in the game. Nevertheless, you had Derek Carr throw the ball 56 times in the game. Really?

The Broncos beat the Chargers last week to secure themselves a playoff spot – and likely a bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Philip Rivers threw 2 INTs on the final 2 possessions for the Chargers.

In the Ravens’ win over the Jags last week, they sacked Blake Bortles 8 times and he spent more than a few other plays scrambling for his life. I got to watch much of this game and noted that the Jags had not quit despite their miserable record. They played hard for the whole game; they just do not have sufficient talent/experience to compete against teams like the Ravens.

The Pats also secured a playoff spot last week beating the Dolphins handily. I said last week I anticipated a rout in this game; that is precisely what happened. The Pats’ defense has to get some mention here despite the fact that the Pats scored 41 points in the game. The Dolphins were only 3 for 16 on third down attempts; that is good defense.

Remember back in late September when the Chiefs had just beaten the Pats 41-14 and folks were wondering if the Pats’ dominance of the AFC East had come to an end and perhaps if Tom Brady had gone beyond his expiration date? Well, here is what has transpired since then:

    Pats record is 9-1 (The loss was at Green Bay)
    Pats have averaged 36.2 points per game.
    Pats have scored 41 or more points in 5 of those 10 games.

The Bills proved last week that you can beat the Packers if you get them away from Lambeau Field. The Packers’ loss coupled with the Lions’ win puts the Lions in first place in the NFC North. However, the Lions and the Packers will meet in the final game of the year next week and that game will be at Lambeau Field…

By the way, I mentioned last week that there was a report that Aaron Rodgers and his main squeeze refrained from sex on Packers’ game days. After last week’s outcome, I wonder if either or both of them might be reconsidering…

The Eagles/Cowboys game was three games in one. The Cowboys ran out to a 21-0 lead and it looked as if the Cowboys could do whatever they wanted in the game. Then the Eagles rallied to lead 24-21 and it looked as if the Cowboys were going to go into a December swoon for which they have become infamous. Then the Cowboys came back to life and won the game 38-27.

The Colts beat the Texans to assure themselves of the AFC North title despite the fact that the Texans’ defense held the Colts to 2 for 12 on third downs. The Texans lost Ryan Fitzpatrick to a broken leg; that sort of sealed the deal. Rookie Tom Savage came in and the best thing one can say here is that he played better in his first extended action than Johnny Manziel did in his first start. However, the Texans’ bad luck continued when Savage needed an MRI after the game… The next guy up would be Thad Lewis and Texans’ fans have to hope that Thad does not go Thud. Teams that have to start 4 different QBs in a season usually do not do very well…

The Seahawks beat the Niners convincingly last week putting the Seahawks squarely in the middle of the NFC West race and putting the Niners out of playoff contention. Look, I stipulate that the Seahawks have a dominant defense, but there was no way to avoid noticing that the Niners’ offense was pathetic in that game.

The Skins and the Giants put on a far less-than-entertaining show last week. Given the records of the two teams, “entertaining” was really all that fans could hope for; they did not even get that. Here are 3 observations from that game:

    1. Colt McCoy started the game but did not make it through the first quarter. While he was in the game, he was lobbing the ball on pass plays and none of the throws went “deep” in any sense of the word. Question:

      Which doctors pronounced him fit and ready to play in that game?

    2. Bashaud Breeland is a rookie CB for the Skins – and he is probably their best “cover corner”. In the game, he committed a personal foul, had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was called for pass interference twice. And he is probably their best “cover corner”…

    3. Giants’ rookie WR, Odell Beckham Jr., caught 12 passes for 143 yards and 3 TDs. All of the other Giants’ pass catchers caught 11 passes for 109 yards and 0 TDs. Question:

      Does the “defensive scheme” have any double coverage packages in it?

Gregg Drinnan had this comment in his Keeping Score blog:

“Hey, TSN, it’s one thing to have the same NFL game on four channels, but you did it with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.”

The Games:

(Sat Afternoon) Philly – 7.5 at Washington (50): This is a “must win” game for the Eagles if they continue to harbor playoff aspirations. The Skins are playing for next year’s jobs. I’ll take the Skins plus the points with that half-point hook on top of the TD in the spread.

(Sat Nite) San Diego at SF – 2 (41): The Chargers need one of the AFC North contenders to stumble in order to get into the playoffs. The Chargers hold the tiebreaker with the Bills based on their win over the Bills back in September. The Niners just do not score points. I’ll take the Chargers plus the points here.

Minnesota at Miami – 6.5 (41.5): This is a lackluster game between two teams that are neither very good nor very bad. The best news here is that the game is in Miami where the weather has to be nicer than it will be in Minneapolis at this time of the year. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss Game and the coin says to take the Vikes plus the points.

Green Bay – 12 at Tampa (48.5): The Packers need to win this game to set up their showdown with the Lions next week. Frankly, the Bucs would do better if they lose this game and secure a higher draft position next Spring. I do not think the Bucs are going to tank the game on the field or on the sideline, but it is pretty clear to me where the incentives and motivations lie in this game. Then again, I do hate to lay double-digit points… I shall turn the selection in this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Detroit – 8.5 at Chicago (44): The spread opened at 6.5 and the Total Line opened at 46.5. Then the Bears announced that Jimmy Clausen would take over the QB slot from Jay Cutler and the lines moved almost immediately. Sportsbooks prefer not to have to move lines from one side of a common score difference like 7 points to the other side of that score difference because it creates the possibility for bettors to play middles. Nonetheless, that is what happened here and it happened in about no time at all. The last two times these teams played, Jay Cutler threw the ball 48 times; if the Bears call 48 pass plays for Jimmy Clausen it will probably be due to the fact that they are down by 4 TDs early on. The Lions’ offense has been an underachieving unit for most of the year but the Bears’ defense is lots worse than merely “underachieving”. I’ll take the Lions to win and cover despite them being outdoors and on the road.

Atlanta at New Orleans – 6 (56): Despite the records, this game is important to both teams in terms of making the playoffs or not making the playoffs. You cannot say that about many of the games this week. Neither defense is any good at all. Nonetheless, both defenses showed something positive in games last weekend. Both offenses have been erratic/unreliable this year but when they are on, both of them can rack up yards and points. A loss for the Falcons eliminates them from the playoffs. I like the game to go OVER because I just do not trust either defensive unit here. I’ll also take the Falcons plus the points because of the “elimination factor”.

New England at Jets – 11 (47): When the Jets beat the Titans last week, they moved from the category of a “2-win team” to the category of a “3-win team”. Their draft position suffered from that meaningless win. Were it not for the fact that Bill Belichick loves to stick it to the Jets, I would consider the possibility that the Jets might rise up and win another game here just to give their NFL Draft focused fanbase a giant case of agita. The Pats want to win in order to have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Jets plus the points.

KC at Pittsburgh – 3 (47.5): If my calculations are correct, a loss for the Chiefs eliminates them from playoff participation. A loss for the Steelers would not eliminate them from the playoffs but it could put them in a precarious position. Neither team is consistent from week to week so this is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Cleveland at Carolina – 3.5 (40.5): Both teams are mathematically alive for the playoffs; realistically, neither team is likely to get in. Cam Newton practiced this week and says he wants to play; he is listed as “questionable” as of this morning. Johnny Manziel has to be better this week than he was last week. The question in my mind is this:

    How bad would Manziel have to play in the first half to be benched at halftime so that Brian Hoyer could return to the QB position?

    If that were the case, it would be a good thing for the Browns that this is not a home game…

Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points.

Baltimore – 5.5 at Houston (42): Short and simple here. The Ravens defense is going against a 4th string QB. I know that the Ravens’ defensive backfield is suspect due to myriad injuries, but still… I like the Ravens to win and cover.

Giants at St. Louis – 6.5 (43): I am going to call this the Dog Game of the Week (ignoring of course the Titans/Jags game from last night) because neither team can make the playoffs and both are below .500. I like the Rams at home to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.

Buffalo – 7 at Oakland (38.5): Is this a week where the Raiders look like a real NFL team or is this one of their JV squad imitations? The Bills faced Peyton Manning two weeks ago and then Aaron Rodgers last week; the Bills split those two games. This week they face Derek Carr; draw your own conclusions here. I am reaching for the Curmudgeon Central Coin; the coin is in the air and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Indy at Dallas – 3 (56): Dallas needs a win to stay in the lead in the NFC East; if they win out, they make the playoffs. The Colts are in the playoffs. However, the Colts are not in good shape to get a bye in the playoffs having lost to both the Broncos and the Pats this year meaning that one or both of those teams would have to lose both of their remaining games for the Colts to move up in the seeding. Not likely… Obviously, the injury to Demarco Murray is a big deal for this game. Nevertheless, I’ll take the Cowboys at home to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) Seattle -7.5 at Arizona (36): The Seahawks’ defense is playing now the way I expected to see them play from the beginning of the year. The Cardinals are down to their 3rd string QB and their best running back is also injured. However, the Cards’ defense is also a formidable unit. Last week, the Cards and Rams played a game where no TDs happened; the Cards might find this game unfolding in the same way. Purely a hunch here but I like the Seahawks to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) Denver – 3 at Cincy (47.5): Peyton Manning’s “curse” is that he does not play well in cold weather. Night games outdoors in Cincy in December tend to happen in cold weather. Andy Dalton’s “curse” is that he does not play well in big games on national TV. This is a big game and it is on MNF. With all the cursing happening here, it might be the football equivalent of a Howard Stern show. Here is the final Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game of the week and the coin says to take the Broncos to win and cover on the road and in the cold.

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

Jay Cutler To The Bench…

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that there had been stories in Chicago that the Bears had contemplated benching Jay Cutler back in Week 12. I said then that the idea of turning the season over to Jimmy Clausen with 5 or 6 games still to play would not have been a positive step for the team. Well, the Bears are now out of the playoffs by a significant margin and there are only 2 games left on the schedule… Last night, Adam Schefter reported on ESPN that the Bears would indeed put Jay Cutler on the bench this weekend and start Jimmy Clausen against the Lions.

I am not going to try to pretend that I have any “sources close to the situation” who have spoken to me on background – because I do not. Nonetheless, it might be interesting to ponder what may have transpired earlier this week to bring about the change. My conjecture begins with the assumption that Jay Cutler did not go to anyone in the coaching ranks or the front office and asked out of this week’s game. Obviously, that is a possibility; I prefer not to have to deal with that.

Did Mark Trestman make this call? If so, I see the decision as a desperation measure on his part to extend his tenure in Chicago. If he is trying to make the case that he should be back at the helm of the Bears next year, he can positively spin just about anything Clausen does on Sunday.

    If Clausen stinks in spades and throws 3 INTs while getting sacked 5 times, it might demonstrate to the front office and the owner’s suite that “quarterback” is not the team’s major problem. That is important for Trestman’s credentials because his label is “a quarterback whisperer”.

    If Clausen beats the Lions by throwing 5 TD passes, it might demonstrate to the front office and the owners’ suite that, in fact, his system works and it would be a good idea to extend its run in Chicago.

That is the good news for Bears’ fans. Here’s why… If the GM or anyone in the owner’s suite made this call and “directed” this change in the starting line-up, the Bears as a team are on a dangerous path that could lead to Danny Boy Snyder levels of “executive meddling” with the football operation. The Bears’ owners are descended from George Halas, but football acumen is not genetically transferred; the Bears’ GM is the same guy who – in January 2014, only 11 months ago – signed the guy the Bears will put on the bench this Sunday to a long-term contract worth $126M with $54M of that total guaranteed. If that jamoke “ordered” the new starter this week, one might have to ask him what the Hell he was thinking back in January and what he did since them to make him any smarter about recognizing “QB Quality”.

I bear no animus whatsoever for Jimmy Clausen; I hope he plays well. I also hold out only a microscopic smidgen of hope that Clausen will ever be as good as an “average NFL QB”. The Bears are in a dark and foreboding place:

    Their defensive backfield is sub-standard.
    Their linebackers need to improve to be sub-standard.
    Their offensive line is aging.
    Their best running back is aging.
    And now, they are separated from their franchise QB.
    Moreover, the GM there seems not to make good decisions.

Look around at the bad teams in the NFL – not just the ones that are bad this year, I mean the ones that have been bad for a while. Compare their status with the assessment above and you will find that the Bears as a franchise are beginning to look like some of the bottom-feeders in the league.

I think there will be repercussions to this decision that will go well beyond the game this Sunday…

Back in August, Niners’ DE, Ray McDonald, was arrested for domestic violence. After an investigation, the authorities did not file charges; that situation is over and done with. Given that the “Ray Rice Affair” was in the news around that time, there was more than a little clamor for the Niners to suspend McDonald as the league had done with Rice. The team refused to do that and team president, Jed York, kept insisting that McDonald had to have due process before he was comfortable with taking action in the matter. You can debate the merits of that position all you want; it is his team and that is what he wanted to do.

Yesterday, the Niners released Ray McDonald. The San Jose police are in the process of investigating a sexual assault allegation; a woman has accused McDonald of sexually assaulting her and sought treatment at a hospital after the alleged assault. Just as it might be interesting to ask the Bears’ GM what may have changed to merit changing QBs in Chicago, it would be interesting to know why it was OK to keep McDonald on the field back in August while waiting for due process to happen but now it is also OK to cut him even without an arrest in this matter let alone any charges.

    A cynic might say that the Niners saw themselves as a playoff team in August and already had one of their defensive stalwarts – Aldon Smith – on a league-imposed suspension and it was in the team’s self-interest to keep McDonald on the field. Those playoff aspirations do not obtain any more…

    A more sensitive person might say that McDonald’s continued employment by the team came with a warning that he must not do anything that might put the team or the owner in a precarious PR position in the future. If that “warning” happened, then his release is a logical consequence of this allegation.

Not surprisingly at all, the NFL issued a statement regarding McDonald’s release saying that the league is “looking into the matter”. When I heard that, I had a flashback:

    The NFL hired former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, to “look into” what happened to cause the league to bungle the “Ray Rice Affair”.

    Given how long that has taken, I will expect to see Mueller’s report written in iambic pentameter when it hits the street. After all, they did not ask Mueller to solve the case of the Lindberg baby kidnapping or the disappearance of Judge Crater…

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

Least Influential People?

Drew Magary writes feature items for GQ Magazine. While GQ is not one of my normal “go to sources” for material for these rants, Messr. Magary did a feature a couple of months ago about the “least influential people in the world”. I would not presume to know enough about the “celebrity world” or the “arts world” in sufficient detail to weave into a narrative of this kind the “least influential” folks in those orbs and I certainly could not create a composite list. However, Messr. Magary included several folks from the sports world onto his list and I do feel marginally competent to comment on those entries.

Let me say from the outset that if one were looking at “influential” in a strict sense of the word, someone like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve would have to be high on the list. One word from the person in that position and interest rates for a few hundred million people change whether or not the people in debt or seeking to become new debtors want it to be so. The list does not appear to take such a level of power/influence into account and that is why some folks from the sports world can possibly make the list. Here are some of the sports world figures on the list in alphabetical order:

    Roger Goodell: I think I could agree that Goodell had a very bad year in 2014 but to say he is not influential is rather naïve. The extant CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA grants wide-ranging powers and authorities to the Commissioner – and Roger Goodell is indeed the Commish as of this writing. Simply looking at the world of pro football, the Commissioner of the NFL has far more influence than multiple hundreds of players, coaches, scouts, GMs and whatever. You may or may not like the way Roger Goodell has handled his position in the past year and you may wish for him to lose his job, but until he does lose his job, he is not one of the least influential people in the world. Unless of course you believe that anything having to do with sports is inconsequential ab initio

    Derek Jeter: Unless or until Jeter makes a comeback in MLB or he becomes a manager or a team owner or the next Commissioner of MLB, this nomination is literally correct. Jeter is a retired shortstop who – if the gossip columns are to be believed – has used whatever “influence” he ever had to bed a sequence of hot celebrity personalities. In his retirement days, he will have no sports accomplishments to keep him in the limelight and that may or may not alter the frequency with which he can change his hot bed partners. In the future, he is likely to have little influence beyond his bedstead. Nonetheless, he had a significant influence in 2014:

      He convinced me that I had seen enough of season-long farewell tours for players no matter how good they may have been or how well known they may have been in their careers. Hopefully, MLB learned something from the incessant silliness of Jeter’s last year in the majors to the point that we will not have to see/experience another of them again until at least 2024.

    Stephen A. Smith: Oh, come now… Stephen A. Smith was a very good columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer whose coverage of the NBA stood out from the crowd. ESPN hired him to do his shtick on radio and TV; in his choosing to do that shtick to the point where the shtick became the reality of his public persona, he ceased to be a reporter/journalist, columnist and became the modern-day version of a clown. As a “clown”, he has little influence for the simple reason that clowns never have much if any influence at all. Should the day come when Stephen A. Smith chooses to return to the ink-stained world of column writing, he will cease to be a clown and his opinions/observations within his writing will again have influence.

    Donald Sterling: For a brief moment, he was highly influential as the owner of a major sports franchise in the US who had weathered about a half-dozen publicly known scandalous situations. Then he became embroiled with V. Stiviano while he was in the midst of what would become a “juicy divorce” and he happened to do all of that while there was a new sheriff in town – Adam Silver. Sterling’s “influence” was all in a negative direction/sense and whatever “influence” he may have had is now gone as surely as the need for the Pony Express is gone. If everyone is entitled to 15 minutes of fame (hat tip to Andy Warhol), Sterling probably used 13 of his minutes in 2014 and is now out of minutes.

Should you want to see the entirety of Magary’s list in GQ, here is the link.

When I was a Boy Scout – no, we did not have to worry about attacks by tyrannosaurus rex on our camping trips – we learned that we always had to be prepared. After all, it was not possible to know when or if one would have good fortune or ill fortune. We learned that we had to learn to take the bitter with the sweet because that was the way of the world.

    [Aside: For the record, I hated camping as a Boy Scout and I took a solemn oath on the day I ceased to be a Boy Scout that I would never again sleep on the dirt. That vow happened in 1958 or 1959 and I have never slept on the dirt since then. I realize that at some point, I will take a long nap UNDER the dirt, but that is different; it is not ON the dirt.]

I mention the lessons learned as a Boy Scout here only to set the stage for my reaction to breaking news in the sports world this week. ESPN has extended Jon Gruden’s contract to work MNF games through the 2021 NFL season. Anyone who has read these rants for more than a few moments knows that I would prefer to listen to fingernails scraping on a blackboard or the rhythmic stylings of a teenage drummer than to listen to Jon Gruden do the color on MNF. I need to take the bitter with the sweet … I need to take the bitter with the sweet…

I guess that this would be the wrong time for me to suggest that every time the folks on MNF talk about “The Gruden Grinder”, my wish is for them to re-enact the scene from the movie Fargo where one of the characters is fed through a wood chipper. I doubt that I need to fill in the blank here as to which corpse within the MNF family ought to be the one spewing out of the wood chipper and onto the snow.

Finally, here is a cogent observation from Gregg Drinnan form a recent iteration of his blog, Keeping Score:

“The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are undergoing almost a complete makeover, may have one of those rare management groups that chose to keep the manager and fire the players.”

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

NFL Coaches Back Next Year?

Just as it makes no sense to put out pre-season rankings for college football and basketball teams in advance of any live action, it always seems to me to be premature to think about which coaches in the NFL might not be back with their teams the next year until about now. For about half the teams in the NFL, the die is cast; those are the ones that will definitely not be in the playoffs. There are still a few teams clinging to playoff hopes by their collective fingernails. The playoff coaches are most likely to be returning. Therefore, I want to take a quick tour around the league and ponder the potential employment status for the 2014 NFL coaches with regard to 2015.

Let me start with the AFC West. The Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs seem set with regard to their coaching situations. However, the Raiders have an interim coach in Tony Sparano. He took over a dysfunctional team with an 0-4 record earlier this year; since then the Raiders have gone 2-8. On one hand, that is an improvement; on the other hand, I see no way that the Raiders’ organization keeps him on in a permanent capacity unless no other football coach above the Division I-AA level in college would take the job.

In the AFC North, all of the coaches look secure in their positions.

In the AFC South, the Colts and the Texans seem to be in a good spot with regard to their coaches. The other two teams are struggling – to be polite about it. However, both the Titans and the Jags, have relatively new head coaches. I am not a huge Ken Whisenhunt fan, but it is not his fault that Jake Locker keeps getting hurt or that Zach Mettenberger is still a raw rookie. Gus Bradley has the Jags playing hard even in light of their miserable record so he must be connecting with whatever talent he has on that team. Fans who expect their head coaches to be miracle workers may call for the heads of either of these coaches on a plate, but I think both will and should be back next year.

In the AFC East, we should agree that the Pats are set with regard to their head coach until the day that Bill Belichick decides that he wants to leave Foxboro. He is about as close to a “Coach for Life” as anyone in the NFL since the days of George Halas. [Aside: Remember, Halas had a “special relationship” with the owner of the Bears’ franchise back then…] The other three teams present different situations:

    Doug Marrone has the Bills playing .500 football; and while that may not seem like much, he is doing that without a good QB and with a set of RBs that spent as much time in rehab as in the huddle. I would keep Marrone around because I think the Bills have a much bigger question to answer. They have to decide if EJ Manuel has any hope of becoming a real NFL QB; because, if not, they need to find a new QB far more than they need to find a new coach.

    Joe Philbin has the Dolphins playing .500 football; that may not be sufficient. Dolphins’ owner, Steven Ross, seems always on the lookout for a “glamor-hire” or a “celebrity tie-in”. My guess – notice I said, “guess” – here is that Ross is an owner who might over-value the talent on his team and so he may consider that Philbin is an underachiever. Surely, with regard to glamor and celebrity status, Philbin does not measure up; he is the polar opposite personality to a coach like Steve Spurrier.

    Then there is Rex Ryan with the Jets. The only question I have is this:

      Will the Jets wait until the Monday morning after the final game to fire him or will they do it as soon as the team clears the locker room after the final game?

In the NFC West, The Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks seem set with regard to their coaching situation. The folks who run and own the Niners have gotten cross-wise with Jim Harbaugh to a degree that is irreconcilable even if only half the reports out there are true. Harbaugh has one more year to go on his contract so the Niners could trade him although they have given up a lot of leverage in that area by allowing so many negative reports to hit the streets. Maybe Harbaugh is the “glamor-hire” that Steven Ross covets? In any event, I count Jim Harbaugh as “Gone” from the Niners in 2015.

In the NFC North, the Lions, Packers and Vikings have stable coaching situations. The Chicago Bears on the other hand have gone from a team that looked as if it was “on the rise” to a team that is not quite as bad as a tire fire over the last couple of weeks. I think there is plenty of blame to heap on the GM/Front Office in Chicago with regard to their miserable defensive showing this year. However, that does not exonerate Marc Trestman because there is plenty of talent on offense and that unit seems not to be playing anywhere near potential or expectation. Trestman has not been in Chicago very long, but I think he has just passed his “use by date”.

In the NFC South, I could be convinced that every coach in the division could be gone next year because of how bad every team there has played. However, the Bucs just hired Lovie Smith last year; they are not likely to fire him despite the current 2-12 record. The Panthers played the entire year without Greg Hardy – their best or second best defensive player – and without a healthy Cam Newton. There was talk that the Panthers might fire Ron Rivera last year but the team made the playoffs and won 12 games. Yes, the Panthers have regressed but I think some of the regression is injury-related and not coaching-related. The Saints have had too much success under Sean Payton to fire him after one disastrously bad season – particularly since the Saints would be a playoff team despite their 6-8 record if the playoffs started this weekend. I think the only really vulnerable coach in the AFC South – despite how badly all of the teams have played this year – is Mike Smith with the Falcons. I think it is a toss-up with regard to his tenure in Atlanta for next year.

In the NFC East, the Cowboys and Eagles are set at the coaching position. Tom Coughlin has another year on his contract in NY and despite two very disappointing seasons in a row, Coughlin has two Super Bowl wins for that franchise. I suspect that the Giants will not fire him but I do hold out the possibility that Coughlin might decide that he has had enough of the coaching racket and that it is time for him to hang up the whistle. I think he will be back. Then there is the Washington Soap Opera involving Danny Boy Snyder, Bruce Allen and first year coach Jay Gruden. Here are the factors:

    Gruden has a 5-year guaranteed contract. There is a lot of time and money left in that deal.

    Danny Boy Snyder has his own well-documented special relationship with RG3 and it is clear that Gruden wants no part of RG3 as his QB.

    If you were making a movie about the Washington franchise, GM Bruce Allen would be played by Claude Rains. Either he is lying low to stay out of the almost inevitable crossfire between Gruden and Snyder or he has no clue what to do next so he is hiding under his desk hoping for a miracle.

I think Snyder would love to fire Gruden – but even Danny Boy might be starting to get the message that the only reason any good coach would come to Washington is for the paycheck. Even Saint Joseph of Gibbs bailed out on him before Gibbs’ contract was up. At the same time, I think Gruden would love to get the axe from Snyder so that he can collect the rest of that contract without all of the non-football dramatic nonsense that constantly surrounds the Skins’ franchise. If I am correct about Gruden’s inner desires here, it will be interesting to see how “rebellious” he is with regard to the next two games in terms of how he deals with RG3 during and after the games. This is a Mexican Standoff Situation…

Finally, I assume you do know about the new cocktail offering at many bars created by a world-renowned mixologist. It too is called the Mexican Standoff and consists of equal parts of prune juice, kaopectate and tequila.

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

Just Drifting Around Today…

John Daly won a professional golf tournament about a week ago. The last time he did that, he won the Buick Open back in 2004. The tournament he won recently is just a tad less widely known than the Buick Open. Daly won the Beko Classic.

The Beko Classic is a tournament held at the Gloria Golf Club in Belek,, Turkey. For those of you who did not major in geography, Belek is a city on the south coast of Turkey about 500 miles southeast of Istanbul. The tournament was a 54-hole event and Daly’s first prize purse came to $8,000.

In 2004, the prize money for the Buick Open was $4.5M. Using the rule of thumb that the winner of a PGA event gets about 20% of the total prize money, Daly collected about $900K for that win. How the mighty have fallen… had an article last week explaining that Aaron Rodgers and his main squeeze, Olivia Munn, refrain from having sex on Packers’ game days. I do not expect you to believe that just because I say it, so here is the link to prove it was there. Now, I wonder if your reaction to this “news” is anything close to mine:

    Who cares?

I am interested in what Aaron Rodgers does on the field on Packers’ game days. I am blithely uninterested in what he does on any other day of the year – so long as it does not involve some kind or sociopathic behavior. Moreover, I do not care what Olivia Munn does or does not do at any point in time. Seriously now, do you feel better informed and elevated in your comprehension of the cosmos because that article appeared on that website?

In the college football game where coaches play musical chairs with open jobs, Mike Riley left Oregon State to take the job as Nebraska. He went from the mid-pack of the PAC-12 to the mid-pack of the Big-10. In not much more time than it took Riley to clean out his office and catch a flight to Lincoln, NE, Gary Andersen took the Oregon State job and left his position at Wisconsin. He went from a higher place on the Big-10 food chain than Nebraska to the same PAC-112 status that Riley left.

There has been a ton of speculation about why he left and all of it sounds good and logical – but much of it relies on “unnamed sources” and “stuff everyone knows”. That is why I call it speculation… One interpretation might be the following – acknowledging from the outset that the basis for this is mind reading, which is something I admittedly cannot do:

    Riley was tired of being second fiddle in the State of Oregon and tired of finishing in the middle to the bottom of the standings in the PAC-12 North. In 12 years at Oregon St., the kinds of bowl games he has gone to include the Las Vegas Bowl, the Sun Bowl and the Alamo Bowl. Maybe he would like a shot at something “bigger”.

    Andersen was tired of having to get by Ohio State – or occasionally Michigan State – to get to a bowl game other than the Outback Bowl. Perhaps he realized that for now, the PAC-12 is a better conference than the Big-10 and going to Oregon State and doing well there would be a nice entry on his résumé.

Perhaps, it is just as simple as that…

What has happened to the Michigan basketball team? They lost two consecutive games to New Jersey Institute of Technology and three days later to Eastern Michigan; compounding the felony, both losses were at home. In the loss to Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines scored all of 42 points. This does not bode well for the folks in Ann Arbor. They already fired Brady Hoke and they cannot go back in time and fire Lloyd Carr yet again. What are they to do…?

While I am at it, what has happened to four of the ‘pillar franchises” of the NBA? I am talking about the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knickerbockers and the Philadelphia 76ers. As of last weekend, the combined record for those four teams stood at 21-70. People who busy themselves with myriad forms of conspiracy theories will have plenty of material to work with if any of these four teams makes it to the playoffs – let alone to the NBA Finals.

The Sixers are the only team in the NBA not to win a home game yet. Both of their wins happened on the road. So much for home court advantage…

Here is Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle with an observation about the rancid Knicks:

“I don’t know if Steve Kerr is religious, but if he is, he’s on his knees every day giving thanks he didn’t take the Knicks’ job. That team makes the 49ers’ franchise look functional.”

Here is an item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Hawaii play-by-play broadcaster Robert Kekaula has apologized for signing off from a telecast at Fresno State with the words ‘Good night from the armpit of America.’

“Coincidence? His player of the game was the right guard.”

I have traveled extensively in the US; one of the jobs I had early in my career had me “on the road” more than 100 days per year for 5 years. I have been to all 50 of the States. I have been to Fresno – the last time was 6 months ago – and it is certainly not one of my favorite spots in the country; there is exactly zero chance that I will be taking the writing of these rants to Fresno at any time in the future.

Having said all of that:

    Memo to Robert Kekaula: You need to travel far more extensively on the mainland before you identify the “armpit of America”. There are many other venues that will make you want to take a 4-week vacation in Fresno.

Finally, here is one more item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And, just when you thought the world had reached its hall-of-fame limit …

“Hanzo, a 6-year-old boxer, and two other legendary board-riding canines had their paw prints embedded in concrete as the inaugural inductees into the International Surf Dog Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, Calif.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 12/13/14

Bye the bye, before we review last week’s Mythical Picks, notice the date in the headline here – 12/13/14. This is the last day in this millennium where the month/day/year numbers will be sequential. That will not happen again until January 2, 3003. Armed with that important information, go forth and accomplish big things today…

Now for a look at last week’s picks:

    I liked E. Carolina-6.5 over UCF. E. Carolina lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Arizona +14.5 against Oregon. Oregon won by 38. Boo!

    I liked Cincy – 6.5 over Houston. Cincy won by 7. Yea!

    I liked Ok. St. +20 against Oklahoma. State won outright. Yea!

    I liked Marshall -12.5 over LaTech. Marshall won by only 3. Boo!

    I liked Alabama -14.5 over Missouri. Bama won by 29. Yea!

    I liked Fla St -4 over Ga Tech. State won by only 2. Boo!

    I liked Ohio St. +4.5 against Wisconsin. State won 59-0. Yea!

    I liked Fresno St. +21 against Boise St. Fresno lost by only 14. Yea!

It was close; but last week was “mythically profitable” at 5-4-0. The season record for NCAA Mythical Picks stands at 113-109-1. That record is above .500 (barely) but would not be “profitable” if you consider the vig.

There is only one game this week. I will make a pick here. Do not use my preference here to influence you in any way if you are thinking about putting down real money on the Army/Navy game. You would have to be dumber than a parsnip to do that.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats beat previously undefeated Widener University 45-7 last weekend to advance to the semi-finals of the Division III football tournament. This week, the Wildcats take on Wisconsin-Whitewater. The other semi-final game matches Mount Union and Wesley. Go Wildcats!

We now know the four teams that will be in the first College Football Playoff and I want to make a few comments here about the new playoff system:

    1. Far too many folks claimed that a playoff would ruin the college football regular season. That was nonsense; the regular season this year was at least as good – if not better – than last year or the year before that.

    2. The complaining from the schools that were close to making the playoff but did not is annoying. Look, we bitch and moan about the teams that get snubbed in March Madness and in that case we are complaining about the team left out of a field of 68 “qualifiers”. Naturally, folks do not like being snubbed but it is the logical consequence of leaving someone off the list. Face it, the committee here was the “Selection Committee” and not the “All-Inclusive Committee”.

      [Aside: In March, the complaining lasts only about 36 hours because then the focus of attention turns to “Bracket Selections” and “Final Four Picks” and “12-5 Upsets”. In football, the playoffs do not start for almost a month. Maybe the biggest downside to the playoff system is the time available for the complainers?]

    3. I have always preferred the idea of an 8-team playoff instead of a 4-team playoff and I continue to do so. However, people who advocate expanding the current playoffs – even before the first one starts – and try to justify it by saying it will minimize the complaining are wrong. With an 8-team playoff, the teams considered to be #9 and #10 will be the ones doing the complaining and not the ones considered to be #5 and #6.

    4. Lots of folks said a playoff would “ruin” the bowl system. Would that it were so. There are 38 bowl games this year – more than there were last year. The system is not ruined; it is flourishing. They will even play a game on Christmas Eve this year in the Bahamas. Everyone knows that the Bahamas has been a hotbed of college football interest and activity for decades…

Since I mentioned the bowl games, let me take a look at the lineup here because I promise that I am not going to pay attention to more than a handful of the games as they are played. Far too many of these games are nonsensical. By the way, since I am not going to “review” all 38 games, that means I will leave some out and that does not mean that I “approve of them” simply because they are omitted here. Think of me as the “Selection Committee”…

    The New Mexico Bowl 20 Dec: This matches Utah St and UTEP. The best thing I can say about this game is that neither fanbase will need to travel very far to get to the stadium.

    The Cameilla Bowl 20 Dec: This matches South Alabama and Bowling Green. If you only have time to watch one game on 20 Dec, do you watch this one or the New Mexico Bowl? Or do you decide to sit in a dark room and contemplate what the world would be like if it were run by the Visigoths.

    The Poinsettia Bowl 23 Dec: This matches Navy and San Diego St. The game is in San Diego; it is essentially a road game for Navy.

    The Hawaii Bowl 24 Dec: This matches Fresno St and Rice. Fresno St. is 6-7 entering this game. What more do you need to know?

    The Bahamas Bowl 24 Dec: This matches Central Michigan and Western Kentucky. Nothing says “Christmas Eve” to me like two “directional schools” playing a football game.

    The Military Bowl 27 Dec: This matches Va Tech and Cincy. The game is not to be confused with the Armed Forces Bowl (see below). Consider that Va Tech was shut out by Wake Forest in regulation time and lost in double OT 6-3. And now you expect me to watch them play another game?

    The Pinstripe Bowl 27 Dec: This matches Penn St. and BC. Talk about two boring/plodding teams. You will need plenty of strong coffee to make it through this one.

    The Armed Forces Bowl 2 Jan: This matches Houston and Pitt. The game is so important that the Pitt coach just took another job (at Wisconsin) and will miss this titanic struggle.

    The TaxSlayer Bowl 2 Jan: This matches Tennessee and Iowa. If you watch this game, you will probably want to rename it the Ho-Hum Bowl.

Other than providing programming for sports channels that have to put something on the air 168 hours a week, these 9 bowl games serve no constructive purpose and cannot possibly be rationalized as being part of the central core mission of the universities involved.

There are two matchups that could be interesting games:

    The Orange Bowl 31 Dec: This matches Georgia Tech and Mississippi St. Both teams run the ball a lot but in very different ways. It should be an interesting game.

    The Cotton Bowl 1 Jan: This matches Baylor and Michigan St. Big time offense meets big time defense. This will be worth watching.

And of course there are the playoff games too and they will be worth watching…

Here is something I found in a recent Sideline Chatter column by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Stat of the Week:

“Washington State football coach Mike Leach — 12-25 with the Cougars — would need to go 54-2 over the next five seasons to match the 66-27 mark that got Bo Pelini fired at Nebraska.”

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week there was 1 Ponderosa Spread Game.

The favorite, TCU, covered.

The season record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spread Games is 40-34-1. That makes two years in a row that Ponderosa Spread favorites would have been profitable against the vig. Before anyone draws the wrong conclusion, betting those favorites would have shown a loss in each of the two years prior to the last two years.

The SHOE Tournament:

The field is set. There was a major upset last week when SMU went on the road and beat UConn. What that did was to take SMU out of the Top Seed and it put UConn into the field.

Here is the final seeding. The idea here would be to stage a playoff where the loser of any game has to continue playing; the winner gets to go home and stop embarrassing itself. In the end, there will be an ultimate loser. I call that the SHOE Team – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement Team.

    #1 Seed: Georgia State
    #2 Seed: SMU
    #3 Seed: Idaho
    #4 Seed: Eastern Michigan
    #5 Seed: New Mexico State
    #6 Seed: Tulsa
    #7 Seed: Miami (OH)
    #8 Seed: UConn

Rather than cheering, a round of the raspberries seems appropriate here.

The Game:

Army vs. Navy – 15 (57.5) (Baltimore MD): There is no mystery that Navy is the better team here. Army has 4 wins this year; one came against Division 1-AA Fordham and another came against UConn whose faceplant last week against SMU got them into the SHOE Tournament. Both of these teams want to run the football. If forced to throw, Navy has more firepower. The game will be interesting because the players will play hard to the whistle on every play. I think Army is overmatched here. I’ll take Navy and lay the points.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/14/14

First, we need to review last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Cowboys -3.5 over Bears. Cowboys won by 13. Yes!

    I liked Ravens +3 against Dolphins. Ravens won the game. Yes!

    I liked Ravens/Dolphins OVER 45. Total score was 41. No!

    I liked Steelers +3 against Bengals. Steelers won handily. Yes!

    I liked Colts/Browns OVER 49. The game was a PUSH.

    I liked Jags +5 against Texans. Not nearly enough points. No!

    I liked Giants/Titans OVER 46. Total was 43. No!

    I liked Saints -10 over Panthers. Saints lost by 31. No!

    I liked Saints/Panthers OVER 49.5. Total was 51. Yes!

    I liked Bucs +10.5 against Lions. Bucs lost by 17. No!

    I liked Skins +2.5 against Rams. Not even close. No!

    I liked Jets +5.5 against Vikes. Jets lost by 6. No!

    I liked Broncos – 9.5 over Bills. Broncos won by only 7. No!

    I liked Cards over Chiefs “pick ‘em”. Cards won the game. Yes!

    I liked Raiders +8 against Niners. Raiders won outright. Yes!

    I liked Seahawks/Eagles OVER 48.5. Total was 38. No!

    I liked Chargers +3.5 against Pats. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Packers -12.5 over Falcons. Packers won by only 6. No!

Well, you have to admire my consistency. Last week’s Mythical Picks were about as bad as most of the Mythical Picks this year. The final tally was 6-11-1, which brings the cumulative record to 94-130-4. I think the adjective you should apply here is “pathetic”.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games had a good week going 2-0-1. Nevertheless, the coin still has a long way to go to make it to its expected .500 record. The season record for the coin is 14-21-1.

Undaunted, I shall press on… However, I would assume that nothing in the performance to date would even tempt anyone to use any information here as the basis for a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money. Just to be sure, let me state unequivocally that anyone stupid enough to do that is also stupid enough to think that Sherlock Holmes is a retirement community.

General Comments:

Here is another measure of how bad the NFC South is this year:

    None of the four teams there has a winning record at home. The Falcons are the best of the lot with a 3-3 record at home.

Now let me give you an idea of the level of self-immolation the Saints engaged in last week as they lost to the Panthers:

    Thanks to two early turnovers, the score was 17-0 in the first quarter and the Saints had run exactly 3 offensive plays.

    The Saints’ defense – if you can call it that – gave up 155 yards rushing to Jonathan Stewart. Stewart’s total rushing yardage for the previous 3 games was 145 yards.

The Saints were not alone in terms of statistical nightmares last week:

    The Seahawks shut down the Eagles’ offense. Total offense for the Eagles in the first half was 67 yards.

    The Skins were shut out by the Rams – and made to look like a bad JV team in the process. I happened to see that game live and in person; I felt embarrassed for the team.

      Skins ran the ball 18 times for 27 yards. A major reason for that lack of production was that the Skins’ tight ends seemingly were “on strike” on every running play. If one of them had a solid and sustained block on any of those attempts, I missed it.

      Rams had 7 sacks in the game costing the Skins a total of 53 yards. When a team loses twice as many yards in sacks as it gains on running plays, it is clearly in for a bad day.

      The Skins had 7 consecutive “drives” of 5 plays or less.

      On special teams, the Skins returned only 2 punts for the day totaling 3 yards. Meanwhile, the Rams returned 4 punts for a total of 78 yards and a TD.

    The Niners’ passing attack against the Raiders was more like passing gas. Total yardage was 151 yards on 33 pass attempts. Oh, and the Niners threw two interceptions to boot…

    The Jags’ passing offense was equally bad. Total yardage was 188 yards on 40 pass attempts. Oh, and the Jags threw an interception into the mix too.

    The Bucs threw the ball 39 times and gained 207 yards in the air while throwing 2 interceptions at the same time. By comparison, Calvin Johnson alone gained 156 yards on pass receptions in the game for the Lions.

    Meanwhile, the Titans failed to throw the ball efficiently too. Total yardage was 146 yards on 35 attempts plus 2 interceptions.

The Bills did not allow Peyton Manning to throw a TD pass; that broke Manning’s streak of 51 consecutive games doing so. The Bills total offense was 109 yards more than the Broncos’ total offense. The Bills’ passing yardage was almost double the Broncos’ passing yardage. The Bills had a 7-minute advantage in time of possession. The “turnover battle” was a push. Nonetheless, the Bills lost the game and one reason had to be the Bills’ 11 penalties for a total of 98 yards.

Just to reset here, I have never been a huge fan of Jay Cutler as an elite QB going all the way back to his days at Vandy. I stipulate that he has a great arm and that he does not just “mail it in” on random Sundays. However, were I an NFL GM, I would hope to have someone else as my franchise QB. Having said that, there are “stories” in Chicago coming from unnamed sources that say the Bears were toying with the idea of benching Cutler prior to the Bucs game in Week 12. [Aside: The Bears won that game 21-13.] Let me assume for just a moment that those “stories” are dead solid perfect in terms of accuracy:

    Can you imagine the “salary cap mess” such a move would have precipitated? Earlier this year, the Bears signed Cutler to a 7-year contract worth $126M and $54M of that contract is guaranteed money.

    Moreover, if Cutler were on the sidelines holding a clipboard and wearing a baseball cap, that means the Bears would have Jimmy Claussen under center.

    At that point in the season, the Bears were 5-6 and still had a ray of hope with regard to making the playoffs. Such a move at that point would have been worse than waving a white flag.

    I am sure you have read/heard about the QB strife here in DC with regard to RG3, Jay Gruden and others involved with the Skins. It is not a pretty picture; the ongoing narrative is not pleasant or comforting. Had the Bears done what those “stories” say they were considering, it would have been a lot worse in Chicago…

Speaking of QBs whose play is out of sorts, I wish I knew what was wrong with Colin Kaepernick. There are tons of opinions out there but what I see is a guy who is not playing with the same degree of “instinct” that he did in the past. He seems tentative and mechanical.

    Maybe he has “fat-wallet syndrome”? He did sign a new contract earlier this year.

    Maybe he is being “over-coached”?

    Maybe he is a one-trick pony and defensive coordinators have figured out the trick?

    I wish I knew…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Arizona at St. Louis – 4 (40.5): The Rams have shut out two opponents in a row. Granted, they shut down offensively challenged teams (Raiders and Skins); however, with the NFL rules firmly in favor of offense, two shutouts in a row is a big deal. The Rams started the season disastrously at 1-5; since then they are 5-3 and they have beaten the Seahawks, Niners and Broncos. The Cards lead the NFC West by a game over the Seahawks and those two teams meet next week; the Cards must not look ahead to that encounter. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Oakland at KC – 10.5 (41.5): The spread opened the week at 12 points and has steadily dropped to this level; in fact, you can find it as low as 10 points at one sportsbook. The Raiders have won 2 of their last 3 games; the Chiefs have lost all of their last 3 games and the first of those three losses came at the hands of the Raiders out in Oakland. This is a must-win game for the Chiefs if they have any hopes of post-season participation but the fact that Jamaal Charles had limited practice time earlier this week is not a good omen. I think that line is fat; I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Jax at Baltimore – 14 (45.5): Like the Chiefs above, the Ravens see this as a must-win game. The Ravens’ secondary is a patchwork unit due to injuries so their pass defense is predicated on the pass rush. The loss of Haloti Ngata to a PED suspension will not help the Ravens’ defense. Last week, the Jags surrendered 4 sacks; the Ravens should get more than that. Because I think the Jags might have difficulty getting to double-digits in points, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Pittsburgh – 2 at Atlanta (45): The Steelers have already managed to lose to two NFC South teams this year (Saints and Bucs both at Heinz Field no less) and those two inexplicable losses put the Steelers in the playoff predicament they find themselves now. A third loss to an NFC South team could well leave them out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the sorry-assed Falcons lead the uber-dorky NFC South on the basis of tiebreakers with a less-than-gaudy record of 5-8. Sad as it may be, this is an important game for both teams. The Steelers secondary is not very good; if Julio Jones is fully recovered from his hip injury last week, he might go for 200+ yards against the Steelers here. If Jones cannot play … This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Houston at Indy – 6.5 (49.5): The Colts hold a 2-game lead over the Texans in the AFC South but the Colts have hardly looked like a good team in recent endeavors. They needed late-game heroics to beat the Browns last week and the Browns were so unhappy with their performance last week that they chose to bench their QB and go with a rookie this week. This is make-or-break for the Texans. Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Texans on the road plus the points.

Cincy at Cleveland – 1 (43.5): This spread opened the week with the Bengals as 2-point favorites on the road. After the Browns announced that Johnny Manziel would start, the line has moved steadily toward the Browns. What will the headline be the morning after this game?

    Johnny Football Sparks Browns Victory

    Andy Dalton Comes Up Small In Big Game Again

    Bengals Run Ball Down Browns’ Throats En Route To Victory

    Browns Playoff Aspirations Get A Boost

This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bengals on the road plus the points.

Miami at New England – 7.5 (47.5): The Pats have a 3-game lead over the Dolphins in the AFC East with 3 games to play; therefore, to the surprise of very few folks, the Pats are going to win the division championship. The incentive for the Pats is that they do indeed want to have the first seed in the AFC playoffs so that every opponent needs to come to Foxboro if they want to get to the Super Bowl. The Dolphins have been vulnerable to the run recently and the Pats have big backs and fast backs to test the defensive front seven. I think this game will be a rout; I’ll take the Pats and lay the points.

Tampa at Carolina – 3 (41): Here are two bad teams – and one of them has its franchise QB out with two fractures of transverse processes in his spine due to a car accident last Tuesday. Normally, this game would be in contention for the AYFKM Game of the Week. [AYFKM = Are You F*****g Kidding Me] However, I cannot do that because the Panthers are still in the hunt for the NFC South title with their 4-8-1 record. The QB duel here will be Derek Anderson versus Josh McCown. No way can I guess the way this one will go and so I shall turn the pick over to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Panthers and lay the points. Why not?

Washington at Giants – 6.5 (46): Here we have a 3-10 team – and one by the way that puts the “dis” in “dysfunctional” – going on the road to play a game against a 4-9 team that beat the pants off the 3-10 team when the 3-10 team was at home. Notwithstanding all that muck and mire, this too is not the AYFKM Game of the Week. Here is something I said last week:

“I am going to assume that the Skins’ defensive secondary has had their heads surgically removed from their asses this week and that they will play to a level of merely ‘less-than-fully-competent’ here instead of ‘are-you-effing-kidding-me awful’.”

I was wrong; their heads remained firmly implanted up their butts and this week they get to try to cover Odell Beckham Jr. Good luck with that. Please understand; I am fully cognizant of the Giants’ ability to look like an Ivy League football team on occasion. Nevertheless, there is no way I can take the Skins on the road here. I’ll take the Giants to win and cover.

Green Bay – 4.5 at Buffalo (50): The Packers lead the NFC North by a game and currently have the same record as the Cardinals. The Packers would love to have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; they play REALLY well at home. Buffalo is mathematically alive in the AFC East – but not much more than that. The issue here is that the Packers are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home and Buffalo lives on the strength of their defense. I like the Bills plus the points here.

Minnesota at Detroit – 7 (42.5): The Lions trail the Packers by a game and they have a date with those Packers on the final weekend of the regular season. They do not want to lose this game – and they are at home. The Vikes have not won a division game yet this year. The Vikes should have trouble scoring on the Lions’ defense but I do not think the Lions will have any parallel difficulties. I like the Lions to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.

Jets – 2.5 at Titans (42): This spread opened the week with the Titans as 1-point favorites. I mention that only because the line movement is a big one and that is something positive to say about this game. After all, this IS the AYFKM Game of the Week. Both teams bring 2-11 records to the field; the main consequence of the game is that the winner is going to drop down in the draft order for next spring. Bad news for the Jets is that Percy Harvin is out; bad news for the Titans is that Jake Locker is in. This is the fourth Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game this week and the coin says to take the Jets and lay the points. Excuse me, but I have to go and wash my hands after typing those words…

Denver – 4 at San Diego (50.5): Finally, we have a really good game to discuss. The Broncos need a win to stay with the Pats in a race for top-seed in the AFC playoffs and a win here would assure them of the AFC West title. Even with a win here, the Chargers are nothing more than a longshot to win the division title, but they need a win to hold position in the AFC wildcard race with all the teams in the AFC North. The Chargers defense has to wonder what the schedule makers have against them; they played the Pats and Tom Brady last week and not get the Broncos and Peyton Manning. I like the Broncos to win and cover.

SF at Seattle – 10 (37.5): The opening spread in this game was 8.5 points but jumped to this level almost immediately. These teams are headed in opposite directions; the Seahawks have won 3 in a row; the Niners have lost 2 in a row. A loss for the Niners here not only eliminates them mathematically from the NFC West division race, it probably eliminates any real chance they have for making the playoffs. The problem the Niners face here is simple:

    Their running attack has been very ordinary for the last month – and –

    Their passing attack has been less than anemic for the last 2 months – and –

    The Seahawks’ defense is playing very well for the last 3 weeks.

The only way this game stays close is if Pete Carroll calls off the dogs. Now what are the chances he will do that with Jim Harbaugh on the opposite sideline? I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the double-digit points.

(Sun Nite) Dallas at Philly – 3 (55): This is the Game of the Week because it matches two teams with 9-4 records and it could decide the NFC East title. The Eagles ran away from the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving; their offense looked a full step faster than the Cowboys’ defense. This is a big game that matters a lot to both teams. I like the Eagles at home to win and cover.

(Mon Nite) New Orleans – 3 at Chicago (54): Let me give you the only good reason to watch this game:

    It is on Monday Night Football and there are no other games to watch.

Last week, both teams rolled over and played dead. The Saints lost by 31 points as s a 10-point favorite. If I said that performance “sucked” I would be sugarcoating it. The Bears seem to have been mailing it in for a while now. Having said all that, the Saints might just see themselves in the driver’s seat in the NFC South at kickoff time should the Falcons swallow an avocado pit against the Steelers on Sunday. This game features two porous defenses and two QBs who can – when they are on – light up very good defenses. Since I do not care to root for either team here – that would be like picking my favorite Menendez brother – I’ll just take the game to go OVER and root for both defensive units to continue to stink out the joint.

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

Pretending To Be A Senator…

When a US Senator gets up to speak, he/she usually begins by asking for unanimous consent to revise and extend his/her remarks after the fact. Setting aside for the moment the idea that Senators would be accountable for their words simply because they are among the first people to scream for “accountability” for everyone else when something goes awry, this just means they can go back and make it seem that they made no errors when they spoke. If I could have done that, I would have gotten a perfect score on my SAT exams…

Well, today I am going to “extend” one of my remarks from yesterday. The reason for that is that I just plain forgot to include this commentary when I was talking about the NHL probing the depth of interest in NHL hockey in Las Vegas. It should have been in yesterday’s rant but I biffed on that one.

    Comment #1: Is Las Vegas a place for ice hockey in the first place or is this another “Sun Belt Team” that will struggle to create and maintain a fan base? I do not know how many kids in Clark County, Nevada grow up playing ice hockey. Do the high schools in Clark County even play interscholastic ice hockey?

    Comment #2: One report that I read said that the Maloof brothers were minority partners in the group that wants to own the expansion franchise. Let me just say that the overall caliber of the Maloofs’ ownership of the Sacramento Kings was not very high.

In NBA happenings – and at this point in the season there are precious few NBA happenings that are of any real significance -, the Philadelphia 76ers won a game. They beat the Minnesota Timberwolves coming from behind; the Wolves led 34-32 at the half. You read that correctly; two NBA teams played for 24 minutes and the score was 34-32 at the half. Forget for a moment that fans could have nodded off between baskets in that first half because you have to consider the importance of the outcome of the game:

    The Sixers will NOT go 0-82 for the season.

Now, the fact that I could even consider making such a snarky comment brings up a serious issue regarding the NBA. The Sixers are tanking another season; the management of the team makes no bones about the fact that they are adhering to some kind of “long-term plan” they have in mind and at least one key element in that plan is to play so poorly for a few years that they always get one of the top picks in the draft. They are not trying to win games; they would prefer to lose games to get better a position in the draft lottery.

    [Aside: I am not saying that the players are throwing games or that the players are not trying. I am saying, however, that the people who are assembling the roster for the Sixers are intentionally creating a team on the floor that is not capable of winning very many games. Those are two very different conditions.]

The problem here is that what the Sixers’ “roster assemblers” have done – and continue to do – assaults the “integrity of the game”. A fundamental precept of a professional sport is that every team in every league strives to win. Obviously, in every season, there are some that fail to do so; that is a natural mathematical consequence of keeping score and publishing the standings in the sport. However, when a team – or worse yet a handful of teams – in a league simply go “paws to the sky” on purpose, it diminishes the stature of the league and casts a shadow of doubt on the integrity of the games it puts on for public consumption.

I think there needs to be greater attention paid to this situation by the folks who pay the bills for the NBA – namely the TV networks carrying the games. Adam Silver and the owners need to find a way to put an end to this kind of team management; it does not enhance the NBA brand even a little bit.

Oh, and with regard to the issue of “integrity”, here is an important thing for NBA moguls to remember:

    Integrity is like virginity; you only get to lose it once.

Brad Rock of the Deseret News had this more upbeat observation about NBA doings recently:

“Dwyane Wade recently played a one-on-one game with a 90-year-old grandmother/Miami Heat fan.

“After which Tim Duncan allegedly shouted, ‘I got next!’ “

In addition, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald made this observation about the moment when Kobe Bryant set the NBA career record for missed field goal attempts:

“Kobe Bryant set a new record for career missed field goals at 13,418. Shaq asked, ‘Can I present him his award?’ “

I hope you see the point here. It is a lot better for the league to have folks making snarky comments about the NBA and its players that are clearly made in good spirit than it is to muse about teams intentionally trying to lose NBA games.

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle demonstrates with this comment that one can make a humorous observation about the NBA even in the circumstance when you have to refer to one of the NBA’s darker moments:

“Draymond Green says he has been working on his jumper with the help of a coach who once worked with Dennis Rodman. Isn’t that like going to Donald Sterling for advice on achieving marital bliss?”

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

Stadium And Arena Venue Issues Today

Today would seem to be stadium/arena venue day. I must have missed the memo and I never saw any Hallmark cards commemorating the day. The reasons for today’s “celebration” come from cities around the country where stadium/arena venues have percolated to the surface at about the same time…

Let me start with news from St. Petersburg, FL where news reports say that the Tampa Bay Rays and the city of St. Petersburg have reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to look for a new stadium site in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The Ray’s lease on their current home – Tropicana Field – runs through the end of the 2027 baseball season but the recent agreement says that they can “buy their way out” of that lease on the following schedule:

    If the Rays move before December 2018, they would owe the city of St. Petersburg $4M per year for each year left on the lease.

    If the Rays move between January 2019 and December 2022, they would owe the city of St. Petersburg $3M per year for each year left on the lease.

    If the Rays move between January 2023 and December 2026, they would owe the city of St. Petersburg $2M per year for each year left on the lease.

The location of Tropicana Field has been an issue with regard to the meager fan support for the Rays. According to reports, the team believes that if it can find a new place for a stadium “on the other side of Tampa Bay” it will make home games more accessible – and therefore more attractive – to local fans. Of course, then will come the discussions about who will pay to construct a new stadium in a new location …

The NHL is considering expansion. I suspect the motive behind this thinking is that the league believes it can sell expansion franchises and current owners would like to take a sip of that revenue cascade. Some of the cities “under consideration” make sense.

    Quebec has had an NHL franchise in the past and hockey is a large part of the local sporting scene in Quebec.

    Seattle has a team in the WHL and it could establish a rivalry with nearby Vancouver pretty naturally.

Las Vegas is also a “strong contender” for joining the NHL to the point that the league has given the prospective owner of the putative expansion franchise permission to stage a season ticket sales drive to probe the depth of fan interest. According to one report I read, if the fan interest is there, the league would then “explore the next step”. When I read that, I wondered what the “next step” would be other than to award the guy with the money a franchise and call the scheduling folks to tell them they had to work to do. Then I read another report that said the league is concerned about where the team would play. That second report said there is no NHL-satisfactory arena in Las Vegas at the moment. Hence, another part of the country with ongoing stadium/arena venue issues…

Here in the DC area, there are actually two such stories playing themselves out on completely different levels. The DC government is about to agree to build a small soccer-only venue for DC United of MLS. I tend to oppose stadiums built solely with taxpayer money; in the case of this proposed facility, my opposition is much less strenuous. DC United has not threatened the city with leaving town; rather, DC United has made the case that it has been a positive corporate citizen and that it has been a positive social force in the area for almost 20 years. Those are not empty PR words; those mirror reality.

Adding to the reasons that I am less concerned by tax expenditures here than usual is where DC United has played its home games since coming into existence in 1995. RFK Stadium is a dilapidated and miserable venue for just about any kind of event. The best thing one could bring to RFK Stadium would be a wrecking ball. The new stadium under consideration would seat about 25,000 fans; that is much smaller than RFK Stadium, but it would be sufficient for DC United’s needs.

Simultaneously here in the DC area, there is another movement ongoing that would have to involve stadium/arena venues. Washington DC is one of the US cities that hopes to be the US city put forth by the US Olympic Committee to the IOC as the host city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. My sentiments about cities/countries volunteering to host the Olympics are well established here; in summary:

    Unless a city has hosted the games sufficiently recently that most of the venues are already in place and in use, it is a bad idea to seek to host the Olympics.

Clearly, I would oppose a Washington DC bid for the games – but no one is going to ask me so my opposition is not very important. I also have to make sure everyone here realizes that I do not move in circles that allow me access to the thinking and the motivations of folks who are involved in such grand schemes. Those folks are not “my kind of people”. However, my deductive reasoning abilities suggest to me a sub-plot in the whole “Olympics to Washington” business. Follow along…

    If the Olympics were to come to DC, there would definitely need to be a new stadium for the Opening Ceremony/Closing Ceremony and probably the track and field events. RFK Stadium is far too small even if it were gussied up to look presentable.

    Track and field stadiums are – naturally – large ovals.

    Football fields are also large ovals.

    FedEx Field was never a glorious venue; it is basically cinder block and concrete construction with paint to make it “pretty”.

    Hmmm… I wonder to what use the DC government folks might put that large oval stadium once the Olympics are over and done with…?

I will not be shocked when – not really if – this kind of plan comes to light. The USOC is supposed to pick the city that will be the US standard-bearer to the IOC sometime early in 2015. The contenders are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Washington. Stay tuned…

Finally, some words of wisdom from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Snow job: What if they had to cancel an Olympics because of lack of interest – in hosting? For the 2022 Winter Games, it has come close to that, with only two countries – China and Kazakhstan – bidding for the opportunity to throw away billions on facilities that will be abandoned soon after the Games are closed. This may be a setback for the Olympic movement, but for the rest of humanity, it’s a sign of progress.”

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

Bad Pro Football Teams 2014…

Sometimes a team with a bad record is one that has a string of bad fortune and the bad fortune caused the bad record. More commonly, teams with bad records deserve each and every morsel of the humble pie they are forced to eat; they earned their bad record; they truly are what their record says they are. Let me give you two examples from NFL action yesterday regarding teams with dismal records that deserve those records:

    The NY Jets: Even nomadic yak herders living in yurts on the high plains of Kyrgyzstan know that the Jets have “QB issues” – which is to say the team does not have a fully competent NFL QB on the roster. A week ago, the Jets implemented a game plan against the Dolphins that had as its major theme:

      Under no circumstances will we allow Geno Smith to throw the football lest he lose the game for us with his arm.

      That game plan worked for a while but came up short in the end.

    Yesterday, the Jets must have thought that the Vikings’ defense would be primed to stop the run thereby ignoring to a degree the pass. So, on the first play from scrimmage, the Jets dropped Geno Smith back and had him throw a simple 8-yard slant over the middle. Naturally, a linebacker picked it off and returned it for a TD.

    The Washington Redskins: Forget for a moment all of the melodrama regarding the owner and the coach and the not-so-favorite-son QB and forget for a moment that the team’s “special teams” are really “teams with special needs”. With the exception of only a few players, this team is not out there playing as a team; each player seems to be playing for himself.

      In the first half of that game with the score still only 6-0 in favor of the Rams, Skins’ LB, Ryan Kerrigan sacked Rams’ QB, Shaun Hill and forced a fumble. The ball was just sitting there on the ground while Skins’ DL, Chris Baker, danced around with his arms in the air celebrating a sack he had nothing to do with. Of course, the Rams recovered the loose ball to keep possession…

As of this morning, the Jets are in a five-way tie for the worst record in the NFL at 2-11. Next week, the Jets go on the road to play the Titans – one of those other teams sitting at 2-11. The week after that, the Titans and Jags (both with 2-11 records as of this morning) play a “national game” on Thursday night; NFL Network execs probably wish they could televise the National Knitting Championships instead, but they cannot. With the Oakland Raiders inexplicably winning two of their last three games, the race to the bottom of the NFL has become interesting…

With the Jets’ record as bad as it is, you might not blame a few of the Jets’ fans who are old enough to remember the details for harkening back to the days of Richie Kotite as the on-field leader of the franchise. The year was 1996; the Jets came out of the gate losing their first 8 games; then they won a game in Arizona against the Cardinals and entered their “Bye Week”. Sorry, there is no heroic twist to the rest of the story here; when the Jets came back from their extra week of preparation, they proceeded to lose their last 7 games of the season and to finish with a 1-15 record. Richie Kotite announced his resignation as the head coach a couple of days before the last game of the year; notwithstanding that uplifting announcement, the team went out and lost the last game of the year at home to the Miami Dolphins.

Interestingly, the Jets’ final game this year is also against the Miami Dolphins – only this year the last game will take place in Miami. I doubt Rex Ryan will resign just prior to that game; resignation/surrender is just not in his DNA; however, the team might announce just prior to that game that Ryan will not be back in 2015 meaning he will be on the sidelines in the role of “Dead Coach Walking”. There might be some interest in in that final game of the year after all.

The “Big News” for college football is the announcement of the 4 teams in the college football playoff. While I would have wished for Ohio State to be left out and for the Selection Committee to say explicitly that the reason was their pathetic non-conference scheduling, I have to acknowledge that Ohio State’s 59-0 win over Wisconsin shows that they belong in the playoff. As to the fact that there are no Big 12 teams in the mix:

    1. With 5 “power conferences” and 4 playoff slots, it is a mathematical certainty that at least one of the “power conferences” would be left out.

    2. TCU’s out of conference schedule was not exactly “difficult” and Baylor’s out of conference schedule was easier than either Ohio State or TCU.

    3. Baylor coach Art Briles’ opinion that there were not enough “southerners” on the Selection Committee demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what the Committee was there to do. They were not there to get 4 really good football teams from all the regions of the US; they were there to try to get the 4 BEST football teams into the bracket.

      Memo to Art Briles: Those “non-southerners’ on the Selection Committee had no difficulty in recognizing Alabama as “playoff-worthy”. Last time I checked, Alabama was in the South AND Alabama is significantly better than Baylor as a football team in 2014.

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News ran across two Tweets from José Canseco soon after the Rosetta spacecraft made its landing on a comet. I tell you, Canseco is the gift that keeps on giving:

“If Earth can control the comet transportation system, we will run the Milkyway [sic],” he wrote. “Think about that.”

“Galactic Beings have used comets as star taxis for eons.”

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