Category Archives: sports

The NFL Season in Review

Many of you are aware that I said goodbye to the NFL this fall after the Ray Rice scandal hit and wonder how I did.  Here are my thoughts of the NFL season that never was.

  • I still watched some football.  I am a Notre Dame fan and of course Mark plays high school football (where he played every position on the defence this season).  I enjoyed a lot of it.  I also came to grips that I am not a CFL fan.  I wish I was a bigger one but I really am not.
  • We cancelled cable and I got rid of my NFL Now subscription.  That hurt a bit but I vowed not to give the NFL any money in 2014.  I didn’t.
  • I spent my Sundays with Wendy which was time well spent.  We went for coffee at City Perk, out for walks, and explored the city.
  • I realized how much time some of my friends spend watching the NFL.  Sunday, Monday, and Thursdays.   That’s a lot of time in front of a television.
  • After spending 25 years a die hard Denver Broncos fan, it was weird not to know how they were doing during the season.
  • Despite giving up on the game, I still heard a lot about Jonny Football.  That isn’t a good thing.
  • I am still a fan of the game but Roger Goodall makes the game almost impossible to respect.  Even if you get past him, you have Jerry Jones, Jerry Richardson, Woody Johnson, Jimmy Haslam, Jerry Jones (whose stadium uses more oil than Liberia on game days), and of course Daniel Snyder who are all owners who have done horrible things.  Of course the NFL and other leagues all have horrible owners (Darryl Katz anyone?) but the idea of me giving my money to them really bothers me.  Again, I’m not calling for a boycott, it’s just a personal decision.
  • I have spent a little more time watching the Raptors (maybe because they are good), the Calgary Flames (after we had a breakup back in the late 90s during the second last lockout) and while I can’t watch such bad hockey, I find myself enamoured by the train wreck that is the Edmonton Oilers.
  • I should link to this, other pro sports owners are horrible humans as well.
  • In the end, not watching the NFL wasn’t really that big of deal.  It is a bunch of millionaire athletes playing a child’s game in the hope of winning a championship which will somehow validate themselves in their minds.  It’s fun to watch but doesn’t matter a lot to me in the big picture.
  • It is also a big business in which local communities are pitted against each other to keep their billionaire franchise owners even richer.  That part is what I find so offensive.
  • I was happy to see the NFL take a tougher stance against Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson but at the same time, this should have been done decades ago.  For all of the Ray Rice’s, there was a Warren Moon who was never suspended.  I am hoping there are changes moving forward but I am still going to take a wait and see.  I just have no faith in Goodall or owners like Richardson who won’t cut or suspend Greg Hardy.

Can someone help Kevin Lowe up from under that bus

Well that was an awkward press conference

Is it MacTavish’s fault? His intense forensic investigation has discovered that ….

… no.

No, this is totally not his fault, according to no less an authority as Craig MacTavish.

When grouped in with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson as part of the Oilers’ braintrust, MacTavish bristled.

 “I’ve been on the job for 18 months. So you want to lop me in … I coached the team for a long time, but I have nothing to do with management. So don’t lop me into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization,” he said.

MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. The idea that he didn’t have input on player personnel decisions is, frankly, nonsensical. So essentially here he’s passed the buck for the poor construction of this roster over the years to former GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, who is MacTavish’s boss and currently being helped from under a bus.

But MacTavish has attempted to position himself not as another example of the franchise’s addiction to nostalgia and cronyism, but as an “outsider” that is coming in to fix this mess. And claiming this isn’t his mess – and he lack of restructuring in both the roster and the team’s maligned scouting department says it is, at least partially – helps establish that persona.

“I’m pissed off. No one lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off,” said the Rebel GM.

“We’re going to continue making rational, responsible decisions based on the situation that we’re in.”

No panic buttons. Stay the course. Patience with the young players. 

More of the same. Another year in the basement.

The Mess that is the Washington Football Club

This is a train wreck in Washington

Less than a year after a showdown over Robert Griffin III, another appears to be brewing. Jay Gruden’s desire to part ways with the ineffective quarterback may put him at odds with owner Daniel Snyder and President and General Manager Bruce Allen, potentially leaving the Washington Redskins searching for a coach yet again.

Late last week, battle lines were drawn between the coaching staff and senior management at Redskins Park after multiple team employees revealed Gruden is done with Griffin, as much because of the 24-year-old’s spotlight-craving antics as his shortcomings in the pocket. Prompted by the news of Gruden’s position, an unnamed Redskins official told ESPN that Griffin could start again during the team’s final four games, lending credibility to the notion that Gruden’s bosses still are committed to the league’s 2012 offensive rookie of the year.

This mess has been going on since Dan Snyder bought the team

Snyder supported the risky move to trade four high-round picks in order to select Griffin second overall in the 2012 draft. A former high-ranking team official said at the time of the trade the move would weaken the franchise for as much as a decade if Griffin failed to become a longtime superstar.

Considering his substantial investment in Griffin and how well the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner played in his rookie season, it wouldn’t be surprising if Snyder took a wait-and-see approach. Also, Snyder and Griffin developed a personal relationship, sharing high-dollar dinners and mingling with Hollywood stars. For Allen, trading Griffin could be a career-killer.

Allen strongly encouraged Shanahan, who had roster control, to move up in the draft to select Griffin, people within the organization say. Internally, Shanahan expressed major reservations about giving up so much for a college quarterback who did not play in a pro-style system.

But Shanahan agreed to the deal, in part, because of Allen’s persistence. After botching his first offseason in charge of the roster, trading Griffin would signal yet another failure on Allen’s part.

Allen had no role in hiring Shanahan and benefitted from Shanahan being ousted from power when Snyder gave him final say over the roster and added team president to his title. In contrast, Allen hand-picked Gruden to lead Washington after they worked together in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization.

I haven’t watched a game this season but even while avoiding the NFL I can’t avoid the train wreck that is the Washington football team.

U.S. Defends America’s Cup in… Bermuda?

Long time readers of this blog know how much I love the America’s Cup, partly because I find it to be the world’s purest sport; a sport contested by billionaires and their lawyers as amateur sport should be but this is kind of crazy.  The United States is defending the cup not at home but in Bermuda.

The America’s Cup has generated some strange partnerships and situations in its 163 years. A yacht club from landlocked Switzerland once won the Cup in New Zealand with a crew full of New Zealanders. Another Cup match was an unfair fight between a big, single-hulled boat and a nimble, wing-masted catamaran.

But Tuesday provided one of the oddest plot twists in the long-running story line of the event, sailing’s most prestigious, as an American team chose — with no outside pressure — to defend the Cup outside the United States.

Larry Ellison, an American software magnate and one of the world’s wealthiest men, spent hundreds of millions of dollars — only some of it on lawyers — hunting down the Cup, and then defending it in San Francisco Bay in 2013 with his syndicate Oracle Team USA. But after considering domestic options, above all San Diego, Ellison’s team announced Tuesday that it had chosen Bermuda as the site of the next Cup, in June 2017.

This was a first for an American team. And it was only more symbolic that the announcement came in New York, home to the New York Yacht Club, which zealously kept the Cup in the United States for 132 years.

”I think it’s a curious choice,” said Gary Jobson, a former Cup sailor who is now a broadcaster. “It’s not in the United States, which I find very disappointing as a past president of US Sailing. The whole thing makes me scratch my head.”

Bermuda has long caused sailors concern — consider the Triangle — but the worries this time are that it offers too small a commercial base for teams in search of sponsors and too small a fan base, with its population of 65,000 perched on a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Bermuda is a fine and picturesque place for a sailboat race. It has a rich maritime history and is already the finish line of the Newport-Bermuda Race, held every two years. Many of the Cup’s stars, including Ainslie and Oracle’s skipper, James Spithill, know the islands and their waters well.

But shipping the Cup to Bermuda certainly does not seem like the ideal route to building big interest in the event in the United States, which was one of Ellison’s stated goals before the last edition. Oracle’s historic comeback against Emirates Team New Zealand, in which it rallied from an 8-1 deficit by winning eight straight races, generated real buzz at home as well as abroad. But instead of riding that wave in San Francisco, Ellison and Russell Coutts, Oracle Team USA’s chief executive, have chosen to start anew in a British overseas territory — as close as the British have come to staging the Cup since they lost the inaugural regatta at home off the Isle of Wight in 1851.

“Well, we’re halfway there,” said Ben Ainslie, a British yachtsman who sailed for Ellison in 2013 but is now the head of a British team, Ben Ainslie Racing.

Moving the race closer to Europe was a major reason for choosing Bermuda, Coutts said, as was the territory’s proposal to build a central base for teams and spectators. For now, there are five confirmed challengers for the 2017 Cup: Team New Zealand, Ben Ainslie Racing, Artemis, Luna Rossa and Team France. Four of those teams are from Europe.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyFinding the right time zone for European television “was absolutely critical to us,” Coutts said in an interview Tuesday.

RIP Pat Quinn

I learned this about Pat Quinn today

He was much more then the “Big Irishman” from Hamilton.  He was a well educated and big thinking coach.  In many ways he was hockey’s Phil Jackson.

Quinn for me was always the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Canucks but he had a great run in Philadelphia.

Quinn twice won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. The first came in 1979-80, his first full season on the job, after the Flyers fashioned a record 35-game unbeaten streak that is unlikely to be broken now that shootouts are used to settle tied games. The Flyers also reached the Stanley Cup final that year.

His second coach of the year award came after the 1991-92 season with Vancouver. Two years later he guided the Canucks to within one victory of the Stanley Cup before they fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the final.

Quinn also served as the general manger of the Canucks and the Maple Leafs.

One of my favourite coaches of all time, even if his Canucks broke my heart by beating the Flames in the playoffs.

What it is like to have a billionaire racist boss

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin on what it was like to work for Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling literally introduced me to everyone. Here’s how he did it, every single time, to every single group of people, while holding on to my hand:

“Everyone, have you met our newest star? This is Blake! He was the number one pick in the entire NBA draft. Number one! Blake, where are you from?”

Then I’d say I was from Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma! And tell these people what you think about LA.”

Then I’d say it was pretty cool.

“And what about the women in LA, Blake?”

It was the same conversation with every group of people. When he would start having a one-on-one conversation with someone, I’d try to slip away, and he’d reach back and paw my hand without even breaking eye contact with the person. Whenever he didn’t have anything left to say, he just turned around and walked us over to the next group.

“… Have you met our newest star?”

It went on like this forever. At one point, a guy who had clearly been to a bunch of these parties turned to me and said, “Just keep smiling, man. It’ll all be over soon.”

At this point, a lot of you are probably wondering why I didn’t pull my hand away, or why I didn’t just leave the party. For one, I was a 20-year-old kid from Oklahoma. But even if I had been 25, I don’t know if it would’ve been any different. The guy was my boss. Ask yourself, how would you react if your boss was doing the same thing to you?

Umm, I’d walk out, call my agent, demand a trade and if that didn’t happen then, file a complaint with the union, the NBA, and then evaluate my options of holding out and playing in Europe.  Of course that is just me.  I enforce my personal bubble.

The post comes from The Player’s Tribune which is Derek Jeter’s new venture.

How the CBC lost Hockey Night in Canada

This is a sad story of how CBC lost it’s cash down and part of it’s soul

Hockey Night in Canada

The victors strode into the CBC’s Toronto headquarters at 250 Front St. West on June 1 in an especially humiliating denouement for what was left of the public network’s sports department and its version of Hockey Night In Canada.

Not only had Rogers Communications Inc. wrenched the Canadian national broadcast rights to NHL games from the CBC’s grasp with a stunning $5.2-billion payout over the next 12 years, but the Visigoths were actually at the gate. Part of the ensuing deal, in which those in charge of the CBC meekly handed over the company’s airwaves for free, was that the Rogers people connected to Hockey Night, along with some people hired from rival TSN, would use the CBC’s studios and take over the show’s office space on the north side of the eighth floor – the plushest in the building thanks to the show’s status as the network’s biggest money spinner.

The cash-strapped national broadcaster may have lost a Canadian institution it held for 62 years because it could not hope to match the money Rogers threw at the NHL, but no one was actually going anywhere. The show’s staff stayed put and the new bosses moved in. Hockey Night will continue to be broadcast on the CBC’s stations across the country – the show makes its season debut Saturday night after Rogers officially unwrapped its new toy this week with Wednesday Night Hockey to cover the NHL’s opening night – but the money all goes to Rogers now.

The only revenue the CBC will get is from renting its studios, offices and some staff to the conquerors.

Not long after the Rogers people moved into the CBC building, a notice went up: The eighth-floor boardroom was now off-limits to CBC staffers. If they wanted to use it, a request had to be made through Rogers.

“I’d say weird is a great way to put it,” one Hockey Night staffer said of the atmosphere in the offices on the eighth floor, adding that another emotion has a greater hold. “I’m angry at the CBC for how they handled this. I think a lot of people are mad. They fired 50 people in sports and those are people with families. This didn’t have to happen.”

It didn’t have to happen, staff at both the CBC and Hockey Night say, because they believe NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his marketing chief John Collins were willing to offer the CBC a compromise that would have saved a scaled-down version of Hockey Night for the network that still would have been a significant source of revenue. Those staffers also believe the CBC executives missed this chance because of their failure to recognize the changed broadcast landscape and to see the threat posed by Rogers and BCE Inc., which owns the TSN and CTV networks. The CBC negotiators insisted throughout an exclusive negotiating period with the NHL that any new deal would see the network stick to a regional and national schedule by carrying all games played by Canadian-based NHL teams on Saturdays.

A humiliating blow to the CBC which will have an impact on Canadian broadcasting for years to come.

What the NBA’s MASSIVE TV deal means for the salary cap

From Zach Lowe at Grantland

Kevin Durant

This is a huge moment for the NBA and Adam Silver — perhaps an even bigger test than the Donald Sterling fiasco, though certainly not as viscerally interesting.
It’s a massive victory, of course. The NBA’s current national TV deal, signed at a relative low point in basketball’s popularity, pays the league about $930 million per season. The league has soared since then. Everyone knew the next deal, which picks up in 2016-17, would trump that figure in a landslide. Two years ago, smart teams began projecting a rising salary cap, and industry experts wondered if the new TV deal might crack $2 billion per year on average.

Ha, ha. The New York Times was the first to report last night that Disney and Turner will pay the NBA nearly $2.7 billion per year, on average, over nine years to retain exclusive broadcasting national broadcast rights. Holy f—ing crap. The sheer size of the number sent shockwaves through the league late on what had been a peaceful Sunday. Executives wondered what the TV cash bonanza might mean for the salary cap, for contract extension talks under way now, for the prospects of a lockout in 2017. The mood was a mix of excitement and, most of all, uncertainty. Planners don’t like uncertainty.

The importance of the league’s cap situation cannot be overstated. It has been the single biggest topic of conversation among team executives for the last year. The salary cap rises and falls hand in hand with league revenues, and this TV contract will be the largest injection of revenues in NBA history. It is a goddamned jolt.

The cap over the last 10 years jumped from $49.5 million to $63.2 million, a 28 percent increase. It stayed flat at around $58 million for a half decade before finally leaping about $5 million this season due to an uptick in revenue. This has been a period of cap tranquillity; an $8 million contract signed in 2007 was worth about the same, proportionally, as an $8 million contract signed in 2012.

The league right now projects a jump to $66.5 million for 2015-16, a modest rise pegged to the final year of that modest $930 million TV deal. If the new TV deal kicks in for the 2016-17 season just shy of $2 billion, the cap could exceed that same $14 million leap, all the way to around $80-plus million, in a single year. If for some reason the new TV deal starts north of $2 billion in the first year — meaning it would include smaller year-over-year jumps — the cap for 2016-17 could leap even higher. If it started at that exact $2.68 billion figure, it would break $90 million, according to my own math and some bleary-eyed late-Sunday projections from cap gurus around the league.

The plans as of now are to start at $2.1 billion in 2016-17, the first year of the deal, and escalate in even year-over-year increments to a peak of $3.1 billion in the final year, per sources who have reviewed a memo the league sent to teams today.

No one knows exactly how the league plans to infuse the money, and the solution could create fissures among the NBA’s 30 teams. Already, teams have started lobbying for scenarios that most benefit them. The league and players union would both seem to have some interest in avoiding any giant one-year leap in the cap number, a mega-jump that would most likely occur ahead of the 2016-17 season — just in time for free agency in July 2016, headlined by Kevin Durant.

This could have total chaos for the league.  Instead of one or two teams vying for Durant, you could have 30 teams with the cap room to sign him.  Heck, the L.A. Lakers would have enough room of three max deals.  This could turn the league upside down in a bad way if done poorly.

The problem with the NFL is it’s owners (and corrupt politicians that enable them)

Amazing column by the New York Times’s Michael Cooper

Lesson 1: If you pull often enough on state and municipal levers, the gold of public subsidies inevitably tumbles into your hands.

Last week I strolled from the Mississippi River and the sylvan parks that line its banks, past the elegant Guthrie Theater and handsome condos, to a construction site and its forest of giant yellow cranes. A new stadium for the Vikings is rising here with a roof and state of the art everything. It is undeniably impressive, as it should be: This Taj Mahal will cost state and city taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.

Through their lobbyist, the Wilfs noted that they would pay rent on this stadium, which is grand of them. The project will also create a jewel of a public park next to the stadium.
Unfortunately, this park will not be as public as advertised. The fine print gives the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority control on most weekends other than those during the deep chill of winter. (The Vikings may place a soccer team in the stadium, which would extend their control of the park.)

The city remains on the hook for park maintenance. According to an analysis conducted for the Park and Recreation Board, the park came without any financing to pay for its upkeep.
“They’re running circles around us like we’re rubes,” former Gov. Arne Carlson said. “You have children living outside in parks and tents. We don’t have the money to take care of that problem. But we have hundreds of millions of dollars to pour into Zygi Wilf?

“It’s an embarrassment, really.”

The genius of the N.F.L. is that when talk turns to public financing, shame is viewed as a disabling emotion. We obsess on the failings of Roger Goodell, commissioner of the $10 billion nonprofit National Football League. But the men who own the league’s franchises are more intriguing, not to mention more powerful.

Continue reading the main storyThe league makes relatively few demands of these owners, other than requiring that they are terribly wealthy. And it offers them a prime directive: build ever-grander stadiums and make sure that every stream of revenue — suites, seats, concessions, parking — sluices into your coffers. Do this, and we’ll help you gang tackle cities and states. We’ll even throw in a Super Bowl to boot.

Read the entire column and ask yourself if this is a league that deserves your money.  It’s sickening to realize how it literally loots cities and states to grow it’s business.

No one wants the 2022 Winter Games

From Dan Wetzel

The IOC has billions of dollars laying around and billions more coming because to most people the Olympics is just a television show and the ratings are so high that the broadcast rights will never go down. The IOC doesn’t pay the athletes. It doesn’t share revenue with host countries. It doesn’t pay for countries to send their athletes. It doesn’t lay out any construction or capital costs. It doesn’t pay taxes.

It basically holds caviar rich meetings in five star hotels in the Alps before calling it a day. That and conduct weak investigations into corruption charges of the bidding process, of course. “No evidence uncovered” is on a win streak.

It’s a heck of a racket. Only FIFA does it better.

The world has caught on, though, which is why the mere mention of the IOC is toxic to all but the most desperate and totalitarian of governments.
The USOC is a non-governmental body, so unlike just about every other nation, it receives no direct public financing. It would love to host another Olympics, but the bid process is so unpredictable that wasting money and political capital on trying is risky. And then there would certainly be a public cost in the construction and hosting.

You want a good host for the 2022 Winter Olympics? Salt Lake City, which held it in 2002 and has all the venues and infrastructure already in place. There’d be some updating at minimal cost and, bang, a great location.

The IOC is too snooty for that, however. They don’t like returning to the same city so soon so they’d prefer either Aspen, Colo., (complete with bullet train from Denver which has no practical use post Olympics) or Reno/Lake Tahoe. That would require billions building all the same stuff Salt Lake City already has in place.
Anyone want to put that up for a vote?

Then there is all the kissing up and glad-handing and who knows what else? Forget just the alleged direct payouts. How petty and ridiculous are these sporting aristocrats? Their actual listed demands are ridiculous, including their own airport entrance, traffic lane and prioritized stoplights. And just providing a five-star hotel suite isn’t enough.

“IOC members will be received with a smile on arrival at hotel,” the IOC demands.

Instead the world is giving them the middle finger.

So China or Kazakhstan it is, the last two suckers on earth willing to step up to this carnival barker.

One lucky nation will win. The other will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.