Blog Post

September 15, 2014

Week 2 Cardinals (2-0) 25 Giants (0-2) 14
In his post-game presser, when he was asked about this loss, Coach Coughlin said that the players knew what to do but they didn’t execute. That meant they didn’t have the ability. They turned the ball over four times (2 ints-2 fumbles) and committed 9 penalties. Arizona scored 5 times (2 td-3fg). I can’t root for the Giants to make the playoffs; I can only root for them to win 5 games.
Packers (1-1) 31 Jets (0-2) 24
I couldn’t believe that 3rd Q td was disallowed because the officials said time was called. Where were the replays showing that Morningweig ran down the side line to have Ryan call time? I don’t believe it happened. The ref blew it. They didn’t get it right. However, that wasn’t the reason the Jets lost. They were up 21-3 and let the Pack come back. Smith looked pretty good- not so the Jets D. Green Bay had 6 scores with 310 yds. passing.
Discipline
The Sports Curmudgeon gave his opinion: “More than a few folks have written – and sports talk radio is all over this idea – that Roger Goodell has to be fired in the wake of the goat rodeo involving Ray Rice and his fiancée/wife. I do not think that is necessary or justified and I believe that those who are calling for his dismissal are missing the point about what a Commissioner for a major sport is supposed to do. The problem is history.
The first sports Comish in the US was Kennesaw Mountain Landis; he got the job to be the capo di tutti capi in MLB after the Black Sox scandal in 1919. He was supposed to rule with an iron fist and make sure everyone in the game toed the line. Most people think he did that; I happen to think that Landis was a lot more bluster than tough guy but I am probably in the minority there. People have come to think that Job Duty #1 for a sports commissioner is to be a disciplinarian. Not so…
The job of the commissioner is to grow the league and the measures of league growth are things like revenue, attendance, public awareness, TV ratings etc. All of those are intertwined but when you take them as a package and add to them the responsibility to deal constructively with the players’ union, you have the modern set of responsibilities for a league commissioner. Unfortunately, they also seem to carry the burden of history with them and they are also expected to be “The Disciplinarian”. That role does not mesh well with “grow the league” and “deal constructively with the union”.
I think the best solution to the angst and anger that exists at the moment over the Ray Rice matter is to look for ways to evolve the system to a point where “The Disciplinarian” is a job separate and distinct from the NFL front office and from the NFLPA. Like the US, these folks need a “third branch of governance”.
The Disciplinarian” and whatever staff he/she needs will cost money. Everyone in every position is beholden to whoever pays his/her salary. Therefore, the costs for “The Disciplinarian” and his/her staff need to be borne by the NFL and the NFLPA in equal measure.
If there were indeed a person who was “The Disciplinarian”, no one would be thinking that Roger Goodell should be fired about now because he is doing his main job (grow the league) quite well.”
Best QB Start
Dan Daily gave this to us: “BEST WEEK 1 RECORDS FOR STARTING QUARTERBACKS SINCE 1960
1969-79 Roger Staubach Cowboys 9-0 1.000
2002-13 Tom Brady Patriots 11-1 .917
2002-13 Michael Vick Falcons, Eagles 6-1 .857
2007-13 Jay Cutler Broncos, Bears 6-1 .857
1963-68 Frank Ryan Browns 5-1 .833
2008-13 Joe Flacco Ravens 5-1 .833
Quite a group, isn’t it? You’ve got a guy who served four years in the Navy, including a stint in Vietnam, before starting his NFL career (Staubach). You’ve got a guy who’s married to a supermodel (Brady). You’ve got a guy who did time in prison for running a dogfighting operation. And you’ve got a guy who titled his doctoral thesis in math: “Characterization of the Set of Asymptotic Values of a Function Holomorphic in the Unit Disc” (Ryan).
(The latter will always get a laugh at parties, by the way. Just say, preferably when one of your friends has a mouthful, “I’ll take ‘Characterization of the Set of Asymptotic Values of a Function Holomorphic in the Unit Disc’ for $1,000, Alex.”)
Anyway, would have expected to see Vick on this list? Or Cutler, for that matter? (Flacco I had a vague awareness of just because he plays up the road.) Some other factoids that might interest you:
● Dan Marino (10-6, .625) didn’t make the cut, but he did win his last eight openers (1992-99). Heck of a streak. Dan Fouts (9-3, .750) didn’t make the cut, either, but he won nine of 10 openers in one stretch (1976-86, an injury keeping him out in ’77). Another terrific streak.
● Brady has won his last 10 (2004-13), though he made only a cameo appearance in the ’08 game, when he blew out his knee against the Chiefs.
● Peyton Manning is almost as good in openers as his father Archie was bad (2-9, .182). Of course, his dad got stuck playing for the Saints in their Paper Bag Days. Brother Eli, meanwhile, is 4-5 Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.32.43 AM(.444).
● Wins by Brady (vs. Miami) and Manning (vs. Indianapolis) would give each of them 12 opening-game victories, as many as any QB has had in the modern era.” More Of Perry’s Patter
Scientists can use DNA analysis to identity 19th Century serial killer Jack the Ripper, but we can’t avoid “added time” to the scoreboard clock in a world-class soccer game?
Ex-PGA Tour golfer Dan Halldorson, to the Medicine Hat (Alberta) News, on how he lost 20 pounds during his three-month stint as an instructor in China: “I was using two sticks to

Dreams Blog

September 9, 2014

Week 1 Jets 19 (1-0) Raiders 14 (0-1)
We saw Geno open the game making bad choices resulting in an INT and a lost fumble. He turned it around going 23/29 in the air with 1 INT. The Jets’ D was impressive allowing only 158 total yds. The Jets even rushed for 212 yds. (102 by Ivory and 68 by Johnson).
Johnette Howard (ESPNNY.com) gave a few thoughts on game: “Oakland’s rookie quarterback, Derek Carr, make the Jets pay for the error-strewn game Smith and the offense hung up, the scoring attempts they squandered and the offense’s part in committing seven of those 11 penalties, three of them momentum-killers by veteran guard Willie Colon. (An eighth penalty for offensive holding was declined because Smith was sacked anyway.) But the Jets won’t beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers — or survive the Bears, Lions, Chargers, Broncos and Patriots that come right after that — if they’re not sharper.”
Lions 35 (1-0) Giants 14 (0-1)
This was a terrible game for a Giants fan to watch. The Lions had 341 yards in the air, while the Giants had 163- along with 2 INTs and two sacks. NY was 23% in 3rd down conversions. In total yards it was: Detroit 417 NY 197. This wasn’t a failure of the west coast offense as much as a failure of the front office to put talented players, on both sides of the ball, in uniform.
A Look Back
Dan Daley, who wrote for the D.C. Post, now has a sports blog where he wrote about Red Smith, who had a flair for writing that hasn’t been equaled since. One snippet is included here as an example of his talent. It deals with the 1958 “Ice Bowl” between the Packers and the Cowboys: “It was the coldest Dec. 31 in the Green Bay records – 13 below zero at kickoff with a perishing wind carrying misery out of the northwest at 15 miles an hour. In spite of the 14 miles of 1for cleats. On the sidelines, players huddled under canvas hogans warmed by electric heaters, but out on the field there was no mercy.”
Dan talked about the vanishing NFL shutouts, “NFL defenses posted just three shutouts last season, one off the all-time low. There weren’t many the previous three years, either — six in 2012 and five in both ’11 and ’10. You don’t have to be Norman Einstein, as Joe Theismann would say, to figure out that’s one shutout every 53.9 games — in this decade, at least.
The whitewash in pro football is even more of an endangered species than the complete-game whitewash in baseball.
If this offensive explosion keeps up — and it shows no signs of abating — the shutout may go the way of the single-bar facemask. Especially with kickers becoming increasingly accurate. Since 2000, 183 shutouts have been spoiled by a single field goal. That didn’t happen nearly as often in the Pre-Soccer-Style Era.
How about the 1970 Cardinals (8-5-1) — Beat Houston Oilers 44-0, Patriots 31-0, Cowboys 38-0. (Note: A three-week stretch in which they outscored their opponents 113-0.) Missed playoffs. Hall of Famers (2): CB Roger Wehrli, FS Larry Wilson.”
NFL Development
Dan wrote about this anniversary, “A fairly noteworthy 50th anniversary is coming up — on Sept. 13, to be exact. It’ll be interesting to see how much attention is paid to it. On that date in 1964, in the Bills’ opener against the Chiefs, Pete Gogolak kicked the first soccer-style field goal in pro football history. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of too many developments in the game that have been more impactful than that.
In ’57, NFL kickers — all of them using their toes instead of the side of their foot — were successful on 52.2 percent of their field goal tries. Last season they made 86.5 percent (and were good on 67.1 from 50 yards and beyond).
Then, too, kickers are now specialists, among the most important members of any team. In the ’50s, when rosters were much smaller, they tended to be position players who were versatile enough to handle two jobs.(Pat Summerall was an end and Paul Hornung- a RB).
And it all began — in the pros, at least — 50 years ago with Pete Gogolak stepping back at Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium and side-footing through a 13-yarder to give the Bills an early 3-0 lead in Week 1. Two seasons and 47 field goals later, Gogolak was in such demand that he jumped leagues and joined the Giants, a signing that intensified the AFL-NFL war and helped bring about the merger.
Strikeouts Curve Is Trending Up
Ready for today’s physics lesson?
Strikeouts are on a steady rise. Of the top 14 strikeout kings of all time, four are active. When you think of strikeouts, you think of Reggie Jackson, the all-time whiff king (2,597), but he played 21 seasons, and only twice did he top 156 strikeouts. His worst season was 171. Whiff-wise, Reggie couldn’t carry the jock of Chris Carter, who struck out 212 times last season.
The shame factor is gone. When was the last time you saw a batter choke up with two strikes?
Put this on a graph: In 1950, two major-league hitters struck out 100 times or more. In 1970, there were 27. In 1990, 37. This season, there will be about 110.
Babe Ruth never struck out 100 times.
Reasons for the whiffademic? Pitchers throw harder, for fewer innings, have more pitches and throw them in less-predictable patterns. Batters swing harder and miss more. Fewer balls are squared up, catchers are dodging (or not) more bullets.
Sorry, catchers, there’s no solution, unless we can bring back Joe DiMaggio or at least Reggie Jackson. Your bell is going to get rung. In the words of former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith: “Ice up, son.”
Idle Thought
Bob Molinaro (HamptonRoads.com) thought that, “Tiger Woods fired his swing coach because the golfer couldn’t fire himself.”
Far Out Debut
Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) told us about, “Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, who hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat, added two more in his third game, leaving him with a gaudy 1.545 slugging percentage.
(Readers: Insert your own “Soler power” punchline here.)”

Dreams Blog

August 29, 2014

giants/jets
I deliberately used lower case letters because both teams as a whole have to step up their play when the season begins to get their fans on board.
Joey Chestnut Tackle This
Dwight Perry (Settle Times) wrote that: “The Green Bay Packers are rolling out theHorse Collar, a 22-inch U-shaped kielbasa covered in beer cheese and fried sauerkraut, at concessions stands this season.
“It’s made for two,”
Heath Barbato, Lambeau Field’s executive chef, told ESPN.com. “If you can tackle this one alone, you’re a champ.”
And it’s just $20 — tax, Tums and five-way quintuple-bypass surgery not included.”
Where Do NFL Coaches Come From
Ray Fittipaldo (Pgh. Post-Gazette) wrote, “In the National Football League, the criteria for selecting a head coach has little to do with one’s playing career. The owners of the 32 NFL teams might as well have “No Experience Required” in boldface on the job description for the most important position in their organizations.
The number of head coaches with NFL playing experience has decreased dramatically in the past 30 years while the other three major sports churn out ex-player after ex-player for head coaching jobs.
In MLB, 83 percent of managers on opening day this year played in the majors.
In the NHL, 60 percent of the head coaches reached the league and 43 percent in the NBA.
In the NFL, only 19 percent — six of 32 ­— of the head coaches who will lead their teams into the 2014 season played in the league.
Playing experience has never mattered much in the NFL. It has become less important as head coaches become more like CEOs. They must be able to delegate to assistants because the job entails so much more than it once did.
Vince Lombardi, who is widely considered the greatest head coach of all-time, never played in the NFL. Neither did Bill Walsh or Paul Brown.
Still, as late as 1984, half of the league’s head coaches ­— 14 of 28 — had played in the NFL. This season only Ron Rivera of Carolina, Doug Marrone of Buffalo, Jason Garrett of Dallas, Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco, Jeff Fisher of St. Louis and Ken Whisenhunt of Tennessee played in the NFL.
Numerous factors have contributed to the trend. The game’s economics are one factor. Higher player salaries mean more players don’t have to work in retirement if they are smart with their money.
The average NFL salary in 1970 was $23,000. Today it is nearly $2 million.
D-Back’s Woes
Ray Fittipaldo told us about all of the pass interference calls being made this pre-season, “Officials continue to throw flags in preseason games with alarming regularity. Defensive players continue to complain.
Penalties are up by 45 percent overall this preseason and defensive penalties have almost doubled. Those of the defensive holding or illegal contact variety have more than tripled.
Instead of starting the season the week of Labor Day, the NFL should have kicked off in the second week of June — on Flag Day.”
Bavetta Retires His Whistle
NBA senior referee is going to retire this year after working in the league for close to 40 years. He was fortunate enough to have learned from the likes of Mendy Rudolph and Ritchie Powers. Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald said about Dick Bavetta, 74, finally retiring as an NBA referee: “Bavetta has seen it all in 39 years. Well, except for traveling.”
Curmudgeon Comments
The Sports Curmudgeon commented on Bavetta and more. “NBA official, Dick Bavetta, is calling it quits after 39 years on the whistle in the league. He began his career in 1975; to put that in perspective for you, the NBA/ABA merger did not happen until 1976. Bavetta is 74 years old; he has earned some peace and quiet in his retirement years.”
“Last week, MLB upheld a game protest for the first time in about 30 years. The game was called because the field was unplayable after the Cubs’ grounds crew was unable to get a tarp onto the field to protect it from a monsoon like rain. MLB said that the Cubs could not win a game for that reason and ordered the game to be classified as a suspended game and resumed at the point where play stopped. [Aside: The Cubs eventually won the game but did so after playing a full 9 innings.] That is enough of a story to point a finger at the Cubbies as “loveable losers” and say that even their groundskeepers are inept. However, there may be more to the story…
According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the inability of the grounds crew to get the tarp out effectively stems from a major reorganization that occurred within the Cubs last winter. According to that report, the fundamental reason for the reorganization was to be sure that the seasonal workers on the grounds crew stayed under 130 hours of work per month because if they got to 130 hours per month they would then be classified as “full-time workers” under the Affordable Care Act and … well, you can fill in the blanks here.

Is that really the reason for the failure of the grounds crew to be able to put out the tarp? Obviously, I have no inside information on that but let me assume for moment that the Sun-Times’ report is correct. If that is the case, then the folks who own the Cubs should be put in the stocks and publicly shamed. Please do not interpret that last statement as an endorsement of the Affordable Care Act; the utility or futility of that law will become self-evident sometime around 2017 or 2018; there is no need to worry about it now. What I mean is that the Cubs as an organization is a high revenue operation that operates in something called “Major League Baseball”. That kind of behavior is anything but “Major League”
Perry’s Post
Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) quoted:
“Argus Hamilton, scoffing at the NFL penalizing players for smoking pot: “The only way marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug is if somebody puts a Hershey bar on the goal line.”;

Dreams Blog

August 23, 2014

The Hues News
On Friday, August 22nd, we saw “Gang Green” meet “Big Blue” at CitiField for bragging rights in NYC won by the Giants 36-24. This was still technically still a preseason exhibition game where numbers don’t count toward a season’s final record. It interested me because it was our two teams playing. The Giants showed that cohesion was needed on the “O” line and in pass coverage. They seemed to run well with 119yd.
The Jets were impressive and I liked Geno’s game improvement. He looked 100% better than the start of last year. He knew where he was supposed to be on nearly every play. The team seemed to feed on his improvement running for 146 yds. which is a huge improvement from last year.
In the final analysis, I sure that both teams are glad they have another week to get better.
A Chilling Answer
Bruce Jenkins (SF Chronicle) gave me a reason that I shouldn’t have rooted for Tim Brosnan in the MLB Commissioner’s election, “Tim Brosnan, is a real beauty. As executive vice president of MLB’s business wing, he has presided over the comprehensive blackout policy that prevents fans around the country – particularly those in outlying areas – from watching baseball. Old “deny fans the product” Tim. Nice philosophy.”
Is The Mic On?
The Sports Curmudgeon looked at some of those athletes turned commentators and found some he liked and others- not so much. He liked Aikman, Collingsworth, and Simms. I agree except I just don’t like Aikman.
He passed on Tony Siragusa: “He tries too hard to be the latter-day Art Donovan,” Michael Irvin: “What he does to the English language is what workers in an abattoir do to the carcass of a steer. I fear that my 12th grade English teacher – wherever she may be in the cosmos – gets a twinge in her spine every time Irvin goes off on one of his expository flights of fancy. As often as not, I change the channel mid-way into one of his commentaries,” and Curt Schilling: “He is destined to make Sominex an unnecessary product.”
GOTW
TV ratings for the MLB Game of the Week have dropped like stones. New Commissioner Rob Manfred has to realize that the GPTW has lost its appeal because most baseball games are being shown on TV, except in LA, so there’s no special draw. When there were fewer games on TV, there was an interest in watching out of town games, so MLB has to find a new source of revenue.
What about screening exhibition games against foreign national teams?
Marketing Move
Bob Molinaro (Hampton Roads.com) told us that although, “He won’t be wearing it until his return from a fractured leg, but Paul George has changed his Indiana Pacers uniform number from 24 to 13 so that he can go by the nickname PG-13.”
Rio Return
The Sports Curmudgeon talked about the new Olympic logo designed by the same people who built all of those unusable sports venues: “The folks in charge of the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 revealed their “Look of the Games” branding design for the event. I cannot even begin to describe it; you will have to look there to see it for yourself.
The creators of that “thing” say that it demonstrates the “harmonic diversity” of Brazilians and it took them a year’s worth of “research” to bring it forth. I admit that I have about as much appreciation of abstract art as your typical Visigoth; but to me, it looks more like something a kid in first grade might do with finger-paints in art class. Looks more like “atonal nonsense” than “harmonic diversity” to me.” I think it looks like something out of “Sponge Bob.”
“There has been a lot attention to the Notre Dame football players who have been suspended while an investigation goes on regarding academic fraud and cheating. No matter what the findings of the investigators and the school’s tribunal, that situation will not end well. When one juxtaposes that story with the monumental hypocrisy of the NCAA with regard to exploiting athletes in the revenue sports, it is pretty easy to get to a point where one’s gag reflex is initiated. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel looked at that situation and came to this conclusion:“Notre Dame supposedly has sidelined four football players because of academic fraud. My question: Is there a bigger oxymoron in college football than “academic fraud”? Don’t kid yourself, all of the big-time programs — by hiding their dozens of scholastically challenged players in gut courses and pointless majors — are academic frauds down to their very core.”
Perry Patter
Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) wrote:
“This is what you call perspective-
Golfer Jim Furyk hasn’t won on tour since September 2010 — and he blew a three-stroke lead in the final round to lose last month’s Canadian Open — but you won’t see him complaining.
‘I get to do what I love to do for a living,’ Furyk told AP. ‘I play a game. I get to make a pretty darn good living doing it. So for me to feel bad for myself, I would venture that close to 100 percent of the world is not going to feel too bad for me. And I don’t think they should.’
Footnote: Furyk, during his so-called dry spell, has earned prize money totaling $13 million.”
“Drastic measures-
“The NFL announced they are placing tracking chips in players’ shoulder pads to measure how far and fast they run in a game,” noted Alex Kaseberg. “This from the league that still measures first downs with three guys, two sticks and a chain.”
“They bobbled this one-
The Tigers handed out 10,000 Miguel Cabrera bobble-head dolls Friday night, depicting the slugger holding two National League MVP awards.
Hey, don’t laugh: Miggy did hit .391 in interleague play last season.”
“At AL.com: “ ‘Johnny Football’ to begin season as ‘Johnny Bench. ” “Just asking-Since Johnny Manziel’s obscene gesture came in a preseason game, shouldn’t any resulting fines qualify for an early-bird discount?”
Bah Humbug
Dwight Perry told us that, “LeBron James is scheduled to play his first game in Miami, since returning to the Cavaliers, on December 25th.
Merry Christmas, Heat fans!”

Dreams Blog

August 15, 2014

Pandora’s Box
J. Brady McCollough (Pgh. Post-Gazette) wrote, “In a 99-page ruling, Judge Wilken wrote that “the Court will enjoin the NCAA from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their [Division I-A] football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid [scholarship].”
Judge (Claudia Ann) Wilken said the injunction will prohibit the NCAA from enforcing any rules that would prevent “its member schools and conferences from offering to deposit a limited share of licensing revenue in trust for their [Division I-A] football and Division I basketball recruits, payable when they leave school or their eligibility expires.
“Although the injunction will permit the NCAA to set a cap on the amount of money that may be held in trust, it will prohibit the NCAA from setting a cap of less than $5,000 [in 2014 dollars] for every year that the student-athlete remains academically eligible to compete.”
She recalled in her ruling that NCAA president Mark Emmert testified that “the rules over the 100-year history of the NCAA around amateurism have focused on, first of all, making sure that any resources that are provided to a student-athlete are only those that are focused on his or her getting an education.” She then responded, “The historical evidence presented at trial, however, demonstrates that the association’s amateurism rules have not been nearly as consistent as Dr. Emmert represents.”
(Lester Munson- ESPN legal analyst) “The turning point of the trial was the testimony of Roger Noll, a retired Stanford economist who testified for the athletes and explained college sports to Judge Wilken. Again and again in her 99-page opinion, Wilken relied on Noll’s studies and expertise to support her decision. On everything from recruiting rules to the “competitive balance,” Wilken used Noll’s testimony as the basis for her analysis. If there were a rating system for expert witnesses like the rating system in the NFL for quarterbacks, Noll would have broken all records with his testimony for O’Bannon and the other athletes. He was charming, he was knowledgeable and he was insightful. Wilken recognized it and relied on him throughout her opinion.”
Jay Bilas(ESPN college basketball analyst) wrote that, “Joseph Farelli, an attorney with the New York-based law firm of Pitta & Giblin who specializes in labor law, said the NCAA didn’t have a choice after U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken on Friday shot down the NCAA’s argument that its model of amateurism was the only way to run college sports. Wilken wrote that football players in FBS schools and Division I men’s basketball players must be allowed to receive at least $5,000 a year for rights to their names, images and likenesses, money that would be put in a trust fund and given to them when they leave school. “I would expect them to appeal it because now you’re going to have a permanent injunction that says the NCAA can’t regulate what colleges do with their student-athletes,” Farelli told The Associated Press. “If they don’t appeal, now you have a federal court precedent.”
“If the NCAA allowed that decision to stand, Farelli said, it could lead to even more litigation against the NCAA on hot-button topics such as Title IX and whether there should be any cap on how much money athletes should receive.”
Money Matters
Bob Molinaro(HamptonRoads.com) said, “Virginian-Pilot alumnus Kyle Tucker, now breaking news at the Louisville Courier-Journal, obtained flight records showing that Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari and football coach Mark Stoops combined to take $450,000 worth of chartered flights for recruiting purposes during the 2013-14 fiscal year. But that doesn’t include their commercial flights, hotels and car rentals or travel expenses for assistants. This provides an idea of what it takes to support big-time college athletics. No matter how much money is available to help coaches, though, we keep hearing there just wouldn’t be enough left to award modest stipends to athletes. Funny how it works that way.”
I Know “Noth-ink”
I agreed with the Sports Curmudgeon when he said, “Managers in particular had to choose not to realize that some of their players in the late 80s and 90s were using PEDs. When I think of “shot up teams”, the Braves do not leap to mind but they probably had some users in the clubhouse. However, the Yankees, the A’s and the Cardinals – the teams managed by Torre and LaRussa and the teams that won all of those games that got these gentlemen elected to the Hall of Fame – were serious and serial offenders when it came to steroids. I can accept Torre’s entry into the Hall of Fame because he was a borderline candidate as a player and I can accept Cox’s entry too. However, I have said since the day the votes were counted that putting Tony LaRussa in the Hall of Fame is a travesty. His plaque should have the likeness of Sgt. Schultz on it.”
Perry Patter- OOF!
From Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) we have:
“Starring in California’s best slow-speed police chase since O.J.: a 150-pound fleeing tortoise, clocked at speeds of up to 1 mph.
Apparently the Alhambra cops nabbed him at a shell station.”
“The National Scrabble Championship take place in Buffalo through Wednesday.
Defensive strategists predict it’s going to be tougher than ever getting a word in edgewise this year.”
“Bill Littlejohn, after a jogger in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park discovered a skeleton wearing a Nets cap: ‘It was reportedly still waiting for a pass from Deron Williams.’”
“Golfer Chris Wood completely split the seat of his pants en route to his first-round 66 at Valhalla on Thursday.
In other words, they tried to hold a PGA Championship — and a skins game broke out.”
Brendan Alert
Last week was Hulk Hogan’s 61st birthday. Unless, of course, this is also according to a script.
I’m Rooting For
My favorite in the search for someone to succeed Uncle Bud as MLB Commissioner is Tim Brosnan. He is currently MLB’s ExecVP for business and a grad of Fordham Law.

Dreams Blog

August 8, 2014

Jets
Michael Vick’s brief appearance might mean that Ryan didn’t want to allow another top QB to get injured in an exhibition.
I think Smith could flourish with Vick’s teaching. It’s said that top QBs need three full seasons to get to where they could lead a team successfully. It wasn’t fair and unproductive to throw Smith onto the field last year without that tutelage. Matt Simms remains the back-up for both Smith and Vick.
McK Got Me
Friend, Bob McKenty corrected my spelling error from last week, “Lester is Jon(athan), not as bad as Jhonny Peralta. –Bob McK.”
Mason-Dixon Line
The trading deadline is traditionally the point in the MLB season when fans can see if their teams are going to be play-off bound or not.
As of 7/29, the Mets are 51-55/ .481. To get to my mythical 95 win play-off mark, they must win 44 of the remaining 56 games- .786. For 90 wins, they have to play .696 ball.
The Yankees are 54-51/ .541. To get to that 95 mark they have to play .719 ball; for 90 wins, they need to play .632. That translates into a snowball’s chance- but still a chance.
I think that tells you if our guys are going to be buyers or sellers and what the season’s outlooks are by the front offices.
“It’s probably time for baseball to update its deadlines,” wrote John Shea (SF Chronicle), “Change with the times. The July 31 deadline has been in place since 1986, when there were just four playoff teams with all four division winners going directly to the League Championship Series.
Baseball expanded its format in the mid-’90s, forming six divisions, adding a wild card and inviting eight teams to the playoffs.
Now, with a second wild card, it’s 10. A third of all teams.
I thought Aug. 31 would be a better non-waiver deadline, giving teams an extra month to determine their direction. A’s pitcher Jeff Samardzija, when I passed it by him, made a convincing argument from the players’ standpoint that Aug. 31 is too late.
“You don’t want to wait and get them together in August. You want a team to be together and have to earn a playoff spot.”
“Fair enough. So a compromise: Aug. 15. Fifteen extra days. Would still make a difference.”
Molinaro Marinara
Bob Molinaro (HamptonRoads.com) wrote:
“Redundancy: The Yankees have designated Sept. 7as the Derek Jeter tribute game, thus thoroughly confusing fans who thought every game this season was a Jeter tribute game.
Lester: more than a World Series champion
John Shea (SF Chronicle) gave us his thoughts about Jon Lester: “In his final eight starts with the Red Sox, who traded him and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes on Thursday, Lester had a 1.07 ERA.
In 11 career starts against Kansas City, his ERA is 1.43.
His playoff ERA in 11 starts: 1.97.
World Series, three starts: 0.43.
Three All-Star appearances, two championship rings and a no-hitter. He’s 30, and the A’s have him through 2014, counting October when their rotation – also featuring Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir — will be must-see with gobs of high expectations, barring a horrendous team slump between now and then.”
Scott Ostler (SF Chronicle) gave Cespedes a final grade for his glove work- Center Field- F Left Feld-A for adventure.
Missing Hitters
The Sports Curmudgeon talked about some of the big hitters and how little they failed, “Stan Musial had 3630 hits and struck out only 696 times.
[Musial played 22 seasons. Only three times did he strike out 40 or more times in a whole season.]
Tony Gwynn had 3141 hits and struck out only 434 times.
[Gwynn played 20 seasons. Only once did he strike out as many as 40 times in a single year.]
The strikeout stats that I found most interesting were for Joe DiMaggio. While he did not hit a ton of home runs, DiMaggio did hit plenty of doubles and triples; he was not a “singles hitter”; his career slugging average is a highly respectable .579. For his career, DiMaggio came to bat 7673 times and he struck out only 369 times. That represents less than 5% of the total number of times opposing pitchers had the opportunity to strike him out. Moreover, in his rookie season, he struck out 39 times. In all of his subsequent seasons, he struck out fewer times than that.
In 1941 – the year of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak – he came to bat 622 times and struck out only 13 times.
Some players today would be happy to strike out only 13 times in a three-week span…”
How about Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome:
Reggie Jackson struck out 2597 times in 21 seasons.
Jim Thome struck out 2548 times in 22 seasons.
Knucklehead
Scott Ostler gave his “Knucklehead of the week award” to “Roger- the Punnishment Dodger- Goodell. After stripping away all the technicalities, legalese, comparisons and bullcorn: Ray Rice cold-cocked a woman in an elevator.”
Cote’s Thought
Greg Cote (Miami Herald) said, “Everything was simpler back when Vin Scully started out, back when ignorance was bliss.
A lot of the same things were happening. Athletes were as flawed.
We just didn’t see it, or particularly care to.
Now we see it all, and sometimes wish we didn’t.”
Watch Your Steps
Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) told us that, “A company in India has come up with a “smart shoe” that tracks your footsteps with the help of Google Maps.
Which means that we might witness the first travelling call in NBA history.”
Numbers Are Deceiving
Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) said that Bill Littlejohn talked about, Josh Gordon, “After Browns receiver Josh Gordon claimed he’d passed at least 70 drug tests: Problem is, he’s taken over 1,000.” You Cannot Be Serious
Dwight Perry told us, “Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde claims she smoked marijuana with John McEnroe when he played at Wimbledon.
Here’s a scary thought: The Brat was throwing those tantrums when he was mellow?”

Dreams Blog

August 1, 2014

BOOM
It was just a few hours before the MLB trade deadline that the Red Sox put an end to all of the John Lester rumors by sending him to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes. Boy- talk about a block-buster. We’ll hear more after the smoke clears.
Dungy Doings
The Sports Curmudgeon answered one of my notes by saying that I should put this in my column, “I haven’t said anything about all of this back and forth, about Tony Dungy, because I don’t think it should be splashed over the media. He’s not a player, not a manager, or an owner. He was only giving an opinion based on his thoughts. They belongs to someone’s private business.
A person’s thoughts are never wrong to them, and are only thoughts.
Perry Patter
“RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com was not impressed that Pau Gasol signed with Chicago: “He’ll just be another Spaniard running with the Bulls.”
“Germany’s World Cup trophy somehow got a piece chipped off during the title celebration.
Conspiracy theorists immediately claimed that Luis Suarez bit it.”
Dwight gave us this week’s heartwarming headline, “Tyson-Holyfield patch it up.” “With what, Super Glue?”
How strong are the ratings? “In a sad sign of the times, wrote Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, the new Hercules movie has been linked to the BALCO lab.”
Did you hear what Jimmy Fallon said the other night? Dwight did. “ABC’s Jimmy Fallon said, after a horse belonging to Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for a banned substance: Officials say it’s either steroids or whatever it is has helped the queen live to be 188.”
Clark The Cub
The Sports Curmudgeon told us, “Sticking with baseball doings for the moment, the Chicago Cubs introduced a new mascot – Clark the Cub – earlier this year. Now the team is suing several people it alleges have dressed up as Clark the Cub and have been “engaging in bad behavior” in the neighborhood of Wrigley Field to include participating in a bar fight that wound up on social media. The Cub s say the imposters – the fake Clarks – are engaging in trademark infringement and their behavior damages the reputation of the Cubs’ team. I can understand the trademark infringement bit; damaging the reputation of the Chicago Cubs is an awfully high bar to the defendants to cross.
Dwight Perry told us what was said about this bar fight, “NBC’s Seth Meyers, on the Cubs suing a man who got into a bar fight while impersonating the team mascot: “They could tell he wasn’t affiliated with the Cubs because he won.”
Shifting Sands
Gene Collier (Pgh. Post-gazette) talked about the infield defensive shifting we’ve been seeing, “As tracked by Baseball Info Solutions, aggressive defensive shifting continues to proliferate almost geometrically throughout the game. There were some 2,500 shifts on balls in play in the 2011 season, nearly 5,000 in 2012, more than 8,000 last year, and major league teams were on pace to deploy them more than 12,000 times this season.
Rather than hit it where they ain’t (ancient baseball axiom), major league hitters continue to play right into the metrics, driving down runs, averages and before long, I’m afraid, interest.
When the game becomes a nearly endless session of pitch and catch (in the ignoble effort to run up pitch counts), interrupted primarily by batters grounding out to what appears to be the short fielder from some softball game, is that still baseball?
Or are we now watching Mathworks?
There are two potential solutions, the first superior but far more labor intensive: Hitters have to adjust, forcing the positioning pendulum back toward the conventional.
My own estimated adjustment period: Five years.
Ted Williams saw it in the 1940s, and Tony Gwynn in the 1980s, and neither had much difficulty adjusting to the shift, but that’s essentially what made them Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn. Those were once-in-a-generation talents, each with a stroke of diamond cutter, the likes of which we might not see again.
It takes an extra level of physical ability to stay on pitches that are longer, to let the ball get deeper, to fire quick on balls that are inside, Hurdle said. One of the easiest things, in all actuality, to do, from my experience in the game, is to pull the ball.
The other solution could be in place in time for next season: Ban the shift..”
A Tee Party
The Sports Curmudgeon talked about a Rockies’ give away, “The Rockies decided to give away a T-shirt that looked like a Rockies’ uniform and with Tulowitzki’s name and number on the back of the shirt.
Here is the problem:
The Rockies did not do anything close to “sufficient quality control” when they began to give away shirts with the name “Tulowizki” on the back.
What’s missing? Of course, it is the letter “t” in the middle of his name…
The Rockies obviously need to make amends with their fans over this egregious error. What the team has done is to offer to exchange the “misspelled jersey” for one with the name spelled correctly at a variety of venues. In addition, if fans turn in the jersey with the name spelled wrong for one with the name spelled right, that fan can also get a free ticket to a future game – this year or next year – at no charge.
I wonder how Rockies’ fans might feel should the team decide to trade “Tulo” between now and the nominal baseball trade deadline of 1 August. On one hand, the team would have bid “Sayonara” to its best player. On the other hand, he was not going to lead the Rockies to anywhere interesting this season and that is how he became “expendable” in the first place.”
What A Draft
The Pittsburgh Steelers draft class of 1974 included: Lynn Swann (1st round), Jack Lambert (2nd round), John Stallworth (4th round), and Mike Webster (5th round). There had never been a draft class that included 4 future HOF’ers and hasn’t since.
I Was Surprised
I was going through the SF Chronicle looking for Scott Ostler’s column when an ad caught my eye. It said: “Find your Zen in Connecticut.”

Dreams Blog

July 25, 2014

The Next Derek Jeter
Jayson Stark (ESPN.com) talked up Mike Trout: “But who is better positioned to grab that torch and not let go than Mike Trout?
The more we see of him, the more we get to know him, the more it feels as if he rolled into baseball out of the pages of a W.P. Kinsella novel. Larger than life. Too gifted and humble to be real.
So why can’t this be Trout’s night, too? A night to put his stamp on a special All-Star Game. A night with the potential to make us reflect on where he’s going — for about the next two decades — and on where he might be taking this whole sport along with him.
“Derek Jeter is going to have an All-Star moment, but it’s going to be more of a career-reflection moment,” said Bill Sutton, one of America’s brightest sports-marketing minds, and the director of the Sports and Entertainment Management MBA program at the University of South Florida. “But if Mike Trout does something that becomes an All-Star moment, it’s not a career-reflection moment. It’s a whole different kind of thing. … It’s about the future of the game.”
And inside baseball’s inner sanctum, there’s nothing they root for harder than for Mike Trout to BE the future of their game. Heck, even the commissioner, good old Bud Selig, found himself telling a story recently of how he asked a longtime scout friend about the legend of Trout.
“I said, ‘Compare him to somebody,'” Selig recalled. “He thought for a second — and he was dead serious — and he said, ‘Mickey Mantle-type ability.’ And that’s breathtaking. Really breathtaking.”
“Mickey Mantle-type ability,” the commissioner repeated, after swirling those words around in his brain for a few seconds. “Breathtaking.”
Not So Instant Replay
The Sports Curmudgeon wrote, “The problem with replay is that all of the logical and rational arguments for its use are negated by practice. Let me take those logical and rational arguments and examine them in light of actuality:
-We have to get the call right. No one in his right mind would argue that we need to get the call wrong; nonetheless, sometimes officials get it wrong. The problem is that if there is a definitive “right call”, then why is there so much dispute/confusion after a replay review? The fact is, replay does not get all the calls right.
-Change only comes with “conclusive video evidence”. Really? How many times have you looked at replay in super slo-mo and from 4 different angles and come up with an answer that is different from the one that comes from the replay folks? “Conclusive” must also mean something else to these folks.
-Replay will confirm – or correct – calls on plays that decide games or championships. I completely agree that replay should confirm a play such as Santonio Holmes’ TD catch in the Super Bowl with about 30 seconds to play. Everything rode on getting that right. However, replay is also used for trivial matters – such as a tag play at second base in the second inning of a game.
-Replay will eliminate arguments between the manager and the umpires. Surely, you jest…”
Michael and LeBron
The Sports Curmudgeon quoted Gregg Drinnan’s thoughts, “Gregg Drinnan was the Sports Editor for the Kamloops Daily News until the paper closed up shop early this year. He used to write a notes column, Keeping Score, which ran on Saturdays – except when it didn’t. That was his description, not mine. He has kept that column alive in blog form here. In his 5 July posting, I found this item:
“[LeBron] James, it seems, is intent on spending his playing days chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan. What James, who has two NBA championship rings, seems to forget is that Jordan won six rings in eight years and did it all with one team, the Chicago Bulls.”
I think there is more to it than that. Michael Jordan and the Bulls went to the NBA Finals 6 times. The Bulls won all 6 of those series AND Michael Jordan was the MVP of the finals all 6 times. The simple fact is that James cannot meet let alone exceed that standard. James and his teams (Cavs and Heat) have been to the Finals 5 times. The Cavs/Heat have only won 2 of those 5 series. It would seem to me that the only way to exceed 6-for-6 would be to go 7-for-7. That is mathematically impossible…”
World Cup Diving
Bruce Jenkins (SF Chronicle) gave us Julie Foudy’s thoughts on the women’s World Cup, “”I actually think women don’t like that side of the game,” former U.S. star Julie Foudy told the New York Times. “Women play far too honest sometimes. They take the hit, ride the tackle and stay on their feet, when they would have drawn a foul if they’d gone down.”
Foudy went on to say, “I think that will change. My cynical side tells me that as women get more sophisticated and the stakes get higher, it will become more prevalent.” Foudy would know best, but I’m taking the other side. I can’t say exactly why, but I see the women’s game forever upholding the honor of honest competition.
Disco Demolition 2, You Better Belieb It
Any fan (of the Charleston River Dogs, owned by Bill Veeck’s son), wrote the Sports Curmudgeon, who brought a piece of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus memorabilia got into the game for $1; those memorabilia were destroyed on the field after the game. Moreover, fans got a “Bobble-Leg” to honor Bill Veeck who had a wooden leg as a result of a war injury in WW II. It is not just a bobblehead; there have been tons of them; this one has a bobblehead and a bobbling wooden leg too.
Somewhere in the cosmos, Bill Veeck nodded approvingly…”
Park Review
Scott Ostler (SF Chronical) looked at the ‘Niners new home Field, “As a nod to the team’s 49er roots, each restroom will feature a gold-panning sluice. Nuggets can be exchanged for concession items.”

Dreams Blog

July 18, 2014

From John Shea’s (SF Chronicle) All Star Notes
“The Rod Carew statue outside the park shows his classic pose, crouched stance and bat parallel to the ground. He said he developed it after Nolan Ryan kept striking him out, and suddenly Ryan’s pitches appeared straighter. Ryan didn’t like it, Carew said, and yelled at him, “Stand up, stand up.”
Parallel MLB Universe
The Sports Curmudgeon looked at the other side of the statistical coin to show that MLB collects these numbers: “Speaking of individual player stats, consider White Sox catcher, Tyler Flowers. He has 257 at-bats this year and he has struck out 102 times. If, instead, he had 102 hits in those at-bats, he would be hitting .397. For his career, Flowers has struck out 303 times in 786 at-bats so this year’s level of futility at the plate is only slightly greater than normal for him.”
The Washington General
I received this notice from ESPN.com news services: “Louis “Red” Klotz, the mastermind of the Washington Generals and other teams that traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters and regularly lost for more than 60 years, died Saturday (July 12th) at the age of 93.
Klotz formed a working relationship with the Globetrotters in 1952, putting together the Generals in addition to the Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds, New York Nationals, International Elite, Global Select and World All-Stars to face the famous traveling team and mostly lose.
He was a player, coach and owner at various times throughout the partnership.
Klotz scored the winning basket the last time one of his teams beat the Globetrotters. While playing for the New Jersey Reds as a 50-year-old player/coach, his last-second shot lifted his team to a 100-99 victory on Jan. 5, 1971, in Martin, Tennessee.
He became the first non-Globetrotter to have a jersey retired, when in 2011 he received the honor in his native Philadelphia. He is one of six people to have his jersey retired by the Globetrotters, joining Curly Neal (No. 22), Goose Tatum (No. 50), Marques Haynes (No. 20), Meadowlark Lemon (No. 36) and Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13) as those to receive the distinction.
“The Harlem Globetrotters organization is extremely saddened by the passing of Red Klotz, and our deepest sympathies go out to his entire family,” Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider said in a statement. “Red was truly an ambassador of the sport and as much a part of the Globetrotters’ legacy as anyone ever associated with the organization.
“He was a vital part of helping the Globetrotters bring smiles and introduce the game of basketball to fans worldwide. He was a legend and a global treasure. His love of the game — and his love of people — will certainly be missed.”
Klotz briefly played in the NBA, joining the Baltimore Bullets in the 1947-48 season and serving as a member of the squad that defeated the Philadelphia Warriors in six games to win the 1948 title.
Penalty-kick Shootouts: Bruce Jenkins (SF Chronicle) talked about World Cup shootouts, “I’m not among those vehemently opposed to this manner of settling a game, but I always loved this by Ian Thomsen, then with the International Herald Tribune: “The equivalent of taking Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson off the Augusta National after 72 even holes and ordering them to settle the Masters at the Putt-Putt miniature golf course on Route 17 somewhere outside the city.”
Jenkins Recap
Bruce told us, “Give full glory and credit to the Germans, who scored a long-awaited victory in the storied Estadio do Maracana. Wish all those Argentine fans a safe trip back home. And for Messi? Maradona vowed that he’d “lay out the red carpet” if Messi returned with a World Cup title. The man in the parallel universe would have settled for his country’s blue and white. As it stands, it’s little more than an empty dirt road.”
Dwight’s (Seattle Times) Slight
Dwight riddled this question:
“Q: What’s last thing that a FC Barcelona player wants to hear from new teammate Luis Suarez?
A: I’ve got your back.”
The Sports Curmudgeon’s Home Companion
The SC passed Wrigley Field while on vacation and thought of Garrison
Keillor’s explanation of the Cubs’ jinx, “Garrison Keillor – normally not one of my favorite entertainers – offered an excellent alternative hypothesis to the futility of the Cubbies over the past 106 years:
“It’s the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field in Chicago, which was built in 1914 on the site of the old Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary. And right there is the key to the story of the Chicago Cubs. This team is the living embodiment of Lutheran theology, which if I need remind you is not about winning. It’s not about being No. 1. It is about taking the back seat and being of service to others.
“The Cubs have been of service to so many other teams. They have pulled other teams out of losing streaks. Batters who were in painful slumps have recovered their confidence against the Cubs.
“It’s a good Lutheran team you’ve got there on the North Side of Chicago.”
Cubs’ fans have tried myriad ways to exorcize the demons they believe afflict their team; perhaps – if Professor Keillor is correct – they should try something new. Perhaps the Cubs’ owner needs to go and nail a document of 95 Theses on the Bud Selig’s door. After all, none of the other exorcisms has worked…”
Perry Patter
From the Sometimes These Items Just Write Themselves file comes word that among those gored (in the thigh) this year was Bill Hillman — co-author of “How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona.”
AND
Tour de France cyclists say spectators taking selfies while standing in the road of oncoming competitors is putting the riders in danger.
Too bad this fad hasn’t caught on at the Running of the Bulls.
Need A Chuckle?
Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) told us to “Just say the words ‘Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles’ – then remember that John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase played in them.”
Late Breaking News
“The Left-field fence,” Dwight said, “Caught fire during the minor-league Lancaster (CA) JetHawks annual Fireworks Night.
In other words, third base was only the second-hottest corner.”

Dreams Blog

July 11, 2014

NBA Snake
The Daily News referred to Jason Kidd as being shifty and being “A common snake.” Bruce Jenkins (SF Chronicle) quoted Harvey Araton (NY Times) as saying, “New York Times columnist Harvey Araton referred to Kidd’s “well-chronicled reputation as a viper” and cited his various indiscretions from the past: facing domestic-abuse charges, pleading guilty to DWI and conspiring to get coach Byron Scott fired when Kidd played for the New Jersey Nets.
What if the Bucks, fearing a wave of negative publicity, back off Kidd’s desire to run the team? Then he’ll simply be the head coach in Milwaukee, possibly the NBA’s least attractive destination. A fate well deserved, some would say.”
A Cup Recap
Ann Killian (SF Chronicle) gave us her impression of the American appearance in the World Cup tournament:
‘It would have been a breakthrough.’ “According to Landon Donovan – left off the U.S. team but providing commentary for ESPN – the back-to-back losses to Germany and Belgium proved where the United States is compared with the truly elite teams.
‘That’s the level we need to aspire to,’ Donovan said. ‘We need to develop the technical skills so we’re the team creating 25 chances.’
“This is exactly what Klinsmann meant when he said our country isn’t capable of winning the World Cup, not yet. He was skewered for his honesty, but it’s a simple fact. Though the games with Germany and Belgium were close, and with a little luck the U.S. team could have pulled the upset, the talent divide between that level and the Americans was obvious.” (b: that divide wasn’t that great. We took them all to OT’s. Now we’re seeing good new players like 19yr. old Julian Green and 20yr. old DeAndre Yedlin, arriving.)
A Stunning Defeat
Bruce Jenkins (SF Chronicle) talked about the Germany-Brazil shocker- well I guess to the really knowledgeable it wasn’t a surprise. “Then the game was played – and for Brazil’s 7-1 loss, there will be no forgiveness. There can be no rationalization of a disgrace. Most observers were immediately calling it the most astonishing, inexplicable match in World Cup history, and surely the critiques were more severe among Brazil’s devoted populace.
Fans were in tears well before halftime, and those were the people who weren’t in shock. Normally goals are a treasure in this sport, something to be appreciated and replayed in the mind. In Germany’s hands, they were as common as groundballs to the second baseman. However one places this match in historical perspective, there’s no question that a seven-minute stretch in the first half, where Germany’s lead grew from 1-0 to 5-0, has no equal in the World Cup’s realm of the unexpected.”
Bruce Jenkins then talked about Argentina’s Messi: “When it comes to Messi and Argentina, there are no fond memories of the past. He’s the most technically brilliant player in the world, but until this World Cup, he’s had a tenuous relationship, at best, with his home country. And it all goes back to a tiny little kid who needed one of American sport’s dirtiest words – steroids – to become whole. Messi was so undersized at the age of 10, his parents sought medical advice. Without treatment, they were told, he would grow no taller than 5 feet as an adult. Thus began a series of human growth hormone injections, effective but also expensive, to the point where neither Messi’s parents nor his soccer club could afford to pay. The HGH treatment was a five-year plan, and when Lionel was 13, his family moved to Barcelona, where he could join the world’s most prestigious club and not have to worry about finances.
He grew to just 5-foot-7, but as the world soon discovered, his was a towering presence. Graced by the midfield genius of Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta, among other stars of the football galaxy, Messi became the centerpiece of an elegant, technically superior powerhouse. What a contrast of storied performers. It now seems obvious that Argentina needed to move on from Maradona, with his history of underworld associations, cocaine abuse and countless other unsavory episodes. On Saturday, as Messi’s phenomenal dribbling led to Gonzalo Higuain’s goal, the only one in the quarterfinal against Belgium, it seemed the transition was complete. Argentina will meet the Netherlands in the semifinals, and it seems entirely possible that Messi can orchestrate a long-awaited championship.
FIFA Questions
The Sports Curmudgeon posed questions about some future World Cup locations selections: There are more chapters to be written here, but as things stand in 2014, there are a few questions we all should keep an eye on as time marches forward:
1. The 2018 World Cup Tournament will be held in Russia. What could possibly go wrong there?
2. If Sepp Blatter thinks the only issue involving the 2022 bid won by the Qataris is the climate, is he ready to tell the world how he – and his august colleagues – did not know that it is hotter than Hades in Qatar in the summertime back when they did their voting?
3. What contractual pressures can individual clubs and national leagues – and international competitions such as those run by UEFA – put on FIFA with regard to moving the World Cup to the winter?
4. How come one of the 2022 major sponsors – Emirates Airlines – located in Dubai has not found it important to register its discomfort with the alleged human rights issues regarding their neighbors in Qatar?
These kinds of issues can keep me focused on international soccer politics and practices for the next few years. However, I prefer to close here with an issue that Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle honed in on back when the vote was taken to assign the tournament to Qatar.
‘The government of Qatar is still questioning the need to sell beer at World Cup matches in 2022. Isn’t Qatar in the desert? Yo, vendor, gimme a hot chocolate!’”
Far Out
Dwight Perry(Seattle Times) told us, in case you missed it, that 7/2 was world UFO day. “In keeping with the theme, 87 people swore they saw Dennis Rodman drive by.

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