Sports: Hockey, Is It

Before I question the validity of NHL hockey, let me say that I think that hockey is a great game. The skating skill and overall athleticism of hockey players, is something to behold. Now that I have that out of the way, the product that the NHL puts out there, for viewer consumption, I do not consider it a sport. What sets NHL hockey apart from other professional leagues, is the fighting and the referees. No other league allows fighting. The enforcing of the rules in hockey is bizarre, to say the least. I would assume this is all overseen by the league, but it makes the referees seem to be the most incompetent in all of sports. This is not a sports league that is bubbling over in popularity. They are at the bottom of the barrel, when it comes to fan viewership. Here is looking at the numbers from 2019. In each of the league’s major event, the NHL is bringing up the rear, and I mean they are way back. Around 6 to 9 million people watched the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. Compare this to 14 to 15 million in baseball and basketball for their championship series and a whopping 42 million for the AFC and NFC championship games. The U. S. Open in golf drew between 7 and 10 million in 2019, when Gary Woodland won, not exactly a household name. Despite the fact that hockey is not very popular, on a national level, none of the above problems seem be to even close to going away. Let’s take a look at each one and see if hockey can become a sport again.

The first issue, is that fighting, is not really seen as a problem in hockey. Hockey advocates feel that fighting increases fan interest and viewership. Yeah, I would hate to see all those 6 million fans, stop watching. They also say, that hockey just wouldn’t be the same without fighting. That statement is true. It wouldn’t seem so ridiculous, disgusting and staged. Fighting in hockey reminds me of fighting in studio wrestling, a very well choreographed performance. Stopping fighting is the easiest thing to do. In the other major sports fighting is severely punished with fines, and suspensions. Fighting is not the every day process in other sports as it is in NHL hockey. If they would stop fighting they may lose some fans but the gains would far outweigh the losses. Secondly, compared to other sports, they don’t have that many fans to lose. Then, there is the officiating. There are so many “unwritten rules” that the written rules often get overlook. There are studies that have been done, that predict on which team the next penalty will be call. The factors, are which team is the home team, the accumulated penalty differential, the time of the game, and the relative strengths of the teams. Whatever happened to a penalty is a penalty. There is also this unwritten rule that a penalty will not be called during the last 5 minutes of the game, unless it is flagrant. Thank God other sports did not adopt this policy, although the New Orleans Saints may beg to differ. I do not think the NHL really cares, but here are some things that could be done, or maybe a new league should form like they did 120 years ago.

In the 1890’s, the National League played baseball, much the same way the NHL plays hockey, today. They broke rules, kept players from running the bases, and fights broke out in almost every game. The fans had had enough, and it was a prime opportunity for a new league to be born. The American League began as a major league in 1901. They cracked down on all the rule violations, and penalized players harshly for fighting. Don’t look now but the American League is still around. This is a perfect time for a new Hockey League to form, that will ban fighting, and call the games, as they see them. This new league should have one major rule change. No more offsides. This would really open the game up, and create a new and exciting brand of hockey. You know the NHL is never going to ban fighting, because of the archaic idea, that this is what the fans want and expect. What fans? As I wrote at the start of the blog, hockey is great game, with some of the greatest athletes in world playing the sport. The game is too beautiful to be made so ugly, by fighting. However this barbaric tradition started, it needs to stop now, and let the sport be played as it was designed.

Golf: The Dilemma

The dilemma in golf is very simple. We are trying to hit a target with a ball, without looking at the target. We are using a method of hitting this target, that seems to be very complicated, especially for longer or full shots, which in turn, makes hitting the target, very difficult. This makes golf totally unique. There are sports, that have some similarities with golf, which I am going to discuss, but none of them have all the elements, that golf requires to achieve the desired goal. This process, of trying to hit the target, in golf has a tendency to make the mind go in all kinds of directions. This causes both mental and physical confusion. The biggest thing golf does, is that it makes the participant try to do things, that they are not capable of doing. Nobody would ever drive the Indy 500, if they have never driven in a car race before. This might sound like an exaggeration but golfers try shots that only the best golfers in the world should attempt. They do this, probably multiple times a round. Before we get to what we might be able to do about this, let us look at sports, that come close to the golf dilemma.

The first thing that comes to mind, is the tennis serve. The tennis player needs to hit the ball to a particular part of the tennis court. In the process, he winds up and has a backswing and a downswing and looks at the ball he is about to hit to a particular target. The big difference of course, is his target does not change, and is relatively close. The environment does not have a major impact on the process. I suppose wind could be a factor, but usually tennis is played in a rather enclosed arena. So repeating the exact same motion every single time, should result in the desired result. I know the expert puts different types of spin on the ball, but the motion of the body is basically the same. This is not true in golf. The body has to go through some subtle changes, as you progress through the clubs. Another sport that seems to have a lot of similarities to golf is baseball. From pitching to batting, comparisons are made to golf. Pitching, in particular, with the wind up being compared to a backswing and downswing scenario. The big difference, the pitcher is very capable of looking at the target while he is doing his motion. There have been some great pitchers over the years, while going through the pitching motion, will take their eyes off the target. Just before they release the ball, they will pick up the target with their eyes. The baseball swing is often compared with the golf swing. The player is intent on keeping his eye and head on the ball, as soon as it leaves the pitchers hand. Of course, the batter does not have to chase his foul ball, and does not have to control the ball any where near what a golfer has to do. Hockey players are looking at the net until they are just ready to shoot and then look quickly at the puck before firing away. There are more examples I could give, but no sport encompasses all the elements of trying to hit the target that golf does. Is there anything that can be done to make this problem easier to deal with.

We will start with the green, and one method that has been done. Players have tried looking at the hole, and not the ball, while making the putting stroke. The most successful player to this was Jorden Spieth. He seemed to do this, only on short putts, but seemed to make a lot of short putts. It makes you wonder, what made him stop, since now he seems to be having trouble with the short ones. I am surprised, that this has not caught on more, on tour. A method of ball striking, that has never taken off is the early head lift, that was done by Annika Sorenstam and David Duvall. These are two highly successful professional golfers, and each one, made the unique move of lifting their head toward the target, before they made contact with ball. In her book, she writes about this as being a simultaneous lift of the head as she strikes the ball. The pictures in the book of her swing, show this to be trues. When you would see her on TV, in the heat of the tournament, the head would be coming up before she actually struck the ball. She wrote in the book, that was a method to help free up her swing, and have a full release through the ball. I have to wonder though, if this was a way to pick up the target, just like the pitchers do, when they take their eyes off the target during their delivery. She never mentions this but it could have been a subconscious behavior. You wonder if the reverse is true. You certainly can not look at the target and make a golf swing. You know I would try such a thing and it is impossible. However, you could start your swing, while looking at the target, and then let it go back down to the ball as the club shaft was getting to about parallel to the ground. Yes! Another thing to try. I think there are two other things that stand in the way of hitting the target in golf. The first, which I have discussed before, is the swing thought. To put this as simply as possible, how can you be thinking of one thing when you are trying to do something else. You are trying to hit a target, and thinking of making a complete backswing, or whatever about you swing. Let that sink in awhile, and then forget about swing thoughts. The second is playing to a wrong target. How are you supposed to hit something, that you know deep down inside, your either incapable of hitting, or is just too risky to go at. This can range from going for tucked away pins, cutting doglegs, or going over a far distance hazard. This golf dilemma has been around since the game has been invented, and quite frankly, not much as been done, to make things easier, for those of us, who struggle along with this confounding game. Um, looking at the target while you start your swing. I will let you know, maybe.

Sports: Injuries

One of the big factors in sports, especially the major team sports, is injuries. Teams that can stay healthy, and seem to avoid a slew of injuries, have a better chance of getting a championship.  Injuries throughout the history of sports, have always been a bit of a mystery.   Some players seem to avoid injuries, and other players always seemed to be plagued, with various injuries.  Some years teams will experience the same thing. One year there seems to hardly any injuries, and the next year the whole team seems to go on the shelf.  What I find interesting, you do not hear much about teams in any sport, trying to avoid injuries.  It seems they leave it up to Devine intervention.  All teams, in all sports, seem to go through some heavy duty workout routines, but they really don’t seem to make much difference, in injury avoidance.  I do not think there is any doubt that football has the most injuries, with the other three sports, baseball, basketball, and hockey running neck and neck, with maybe hockey having the second most.  The latter three seem to have their own set of unique issues, when it comes to injuries.  Baseball with the arm issues, basketball with the knees, and hockey with various upper body injuries. If you google why one player seems to be able to avoid injury, and others seem to be prone to injuries, there are lots of articles. Let’s look at some theories, which for the moment don’t seem to be helping much.

One theory is  the micro injury or tear, which goes unnoticed, until the repetitive action of the motion causes a bigger problem. These are termed, the injuries of redundancy of action.  Working out can cause these injuries, and throwing motions in the respective sport, can be good examples, of potential injury causing problems. One study looking at football injuries, narrowed it down to three issues.  Muscle Imbalance, Core Stability Deficits, and Poor Neuromuscular Control.  There has been developed a set of 7 Functional Movement Screens which evaluates the aforementioned factors, and is  scored anywhere from 1 to 3.  The top score is 21 and anyone scoring lower than 14 is consider prone to injury due to having a problem with any of the three.  Of course, if you are resistant or prone to something, it must be genetics.  Apparently collagen and bone density is the big factor hear. Another factor that is always considered when something has gone wrong, is stress.  The stress factor in over emphasizing winning, could lead to an increase in injuries, some hypothesize.  I looked at one team that was probably under a lot of  stress to win, the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s and compared them with the best  team of this past decade the New England Patriots.  I looked at it from the standpoint on how many players from each team were able to play every game during the regular season.  Now granted, in 1960 the season was only 12 games, but then expanded to 14 games in 61, and for the rest of the decade.  The Patriots had to play 16 game seasons.  The Packers, averaged 21 players a season that played every game, with their best year being 23 players in 1960 and their worst was  17 players in 1961.  For the Patriots of the past decade, they averaged 17 players, who played every game, with their best year being 2016 and 17, where they had 21 players play every game, and their worst year was 2015, with only 13 players playing every game. Despite the fact that we should have more information on the function of the human body, the number of injuries, at least in football, seem to be worse, than they were 50 to 60 years ago.

Nobody seems to be very concerned that injuries seem to be dominating the sport news of today.   It seems like work out routines are becoming more and more intense, even though there seems to be more injuries everyday.   There was one interesting comment by Zack Greinke when spring training was in full bloom, before the pandemic.  On his first outing of the season his fastball velocity was up when compared with other spring trainings in the past.  When asked about that Greinke  responded, that he was throwing more during the offseason, but worked out less. He also stated that he felt better, by not working out as much. I know this is only one athlete, but it makes you think back to a time in sports, when essentially nobody really “worked out”.  They just seemed to play their sport and they played it often.  Back in the 20’s and 30’s baseball players almost played the game year around. They barnstormed the south playing games against players of the Negro Leagues.  We always talk about the long season in baseball, but players of that era practically played the game year around, with no off season.  I still feel the best exercise for golf, is to simply swing the golf club.  You do not have to hit a ball, but simply take a club and keep swinging.  I am not too sure if isolating on one muscle, or a group of muscles, is all that great for the body, as a whole.  I do not know if that is the answer for the injury issue in sports, but I am sure going to watch Zach Greinke this year to see how he does.  Stay safe and watch you step.

 

Sports: Baseball, The 60 Game Season.

Next Thursday, the 2020 Major League Baseball season, will get underway.  It will be a 60 game season.  Just like everything else in 2020, this will be unchartered waters, for our American pastime. This will be the least amount of games played, for a season, in the history of baseball.  Even though many of the experts that cover baseball, feel that anything can happen, everyone thinks  that the cream will rise to the top, and the best  teams will make the playoffs, and world order will return.  Of course, once  opening day and the schedule was announced, the in-depth analysis has been going on and on and on. There is this obsession with Shohei Ohtani, the universal DH, and the extra inning rule.  Despite all of this, I think there has been things that have been overlooked  and because  I’m about to lose my mind, I will make my own predictions for the coming season, sort of.

I think, one of things, that has been over looked, is the lack of travel, that has been built into the schedule.  A lot of teams will hardly leave their time zones.  This should help more veteran ball clubs, from a fatigue standpoint.  There should be less need for days off.  This means your better players, should be able to play almost every game.  A team should be able to ride the hot streak, of a player, and not worrying about tiring him out. I know injuries, and testing positive for the virus could be big factors, but with a shorter schedule, I feel, with any luck at all, depth may not be a big issue, for some teams. Let’s face it, you do not have to be lucky, for as long, to avoid injuries, this year.  You can not say that a 60 game season is a sprint, but it is far from a marathon.  Pitchers, down the stretch of the last 10 to 15 games, can be used more than they would be at the end of a 162 game schedule.  The other factor, that seems to be overlooked, is that there will not be any of those cold weather games that you see in April and May.  I feel this affects some teams more than others.   Many people feel that teams, like the Blue Jays, Padres, White Sox and Rangers could be contenders, because of all the young talent they have.  I feel that it will be the more veteran teams, that will be fighting for the playoffs. The short season may make bullpens less important, down the stretch.  The bullpen may be important to start the season, since some starters will need to stretch out early in the season.  However, this is the perfect season to ride the starting pitching the last 14 games and right through the playoffs.  One of the big factors will be, what team can remain the coolest, when things start to go wrong. Panic mode will be hard to avoid with only 60 games to be played. So, what do I think might happen.

There are seven teams, the Orioles, Marlins, Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Pirates, and Giants that are given no chance to make the playoffs.  I feel that one of them will make the playoffs.  Of these teams, I feel the Pirates may have the best chance.  I think the NL central, is by far the weakest division in baseball, and that the winner of the division may finish at .500 or below. For lack of a better term, with the whole division floundering around, the Pirates may be able to flounder up a hot streak at the end, and pull out the division.  The Giants have a veteran presence, and may be able to slip in as a wild card. The other teams would be a bigger surprise, but in 60 games anything can happen.  On the other side of coin, I feel the Astros will not make the playoffs. Without playing a game, the Astros have caught a couple of  breaks, by having the season delayed, and with no fans in the stands, to harass them.  However, this team has a stigma surrounding it, that will be hard to overcome.  If they get off to a shaky start, they would have to live in a cocoon, not to hear all the insinuations, that the only reason they won, was by cheating. This, like any sporting endeavor, is a game of confidence, and theirs could be shot by the 10th game.   When spring training started in March, I thought it was a foregone conclusion, that we would have a Dodger-Yankee World Series.  I still feel that way, but I think there may be one team, that could spoil the party.  The Oakland A’s could be a team, that will benefit the most from this shortened season.  They have always been a team that has waxed hot and cold.  I think they will win the division, if the Astros decline, like I think they will.  They can avoid the one and done wild card game, which may be enough to get them into the World Series.   In this crazy year, it would be nice to see this Oakland regime finally get a ring.

So, there you have it, the baseball season preview, with some rare predictions by yours truly, which I will revisit in about 2 months.  Let’s hope most of all, that the players stay safe, and we can enjoy this very unique baseball season, that is about to start. PLAY BALL!

Golf: Stories, The 60’s Part II

The 60’s would be the decade of playing golf with my father, most of time.  Little did I know, it would be the last decade of playing golf with my father.  For some reason, he quit playing the game. That may have been partly due to  the fact, that I did not play much golf in the 70’s, and for the first half of the 80’s, but that is for another blog.  As I wrote in the previous blog, we played only on the weekends, in the early part of the 60’s, and the course was always crowded.  One of the things my Dad  did, when we had to wait on the tee box, for the group to clear, was to look for golf tees.  I still do this today, walking around the tee box looking for tees, just as a reminder, of  how much I enjoyed playing with my father.  The man was my one and only mentor.  I went to school for twenty years of my life, but I can honestly say, I learned more from my father, than any other person I was ever around.  He died in February 1999, at the age of 83, and the memories still live on, and I  see him in my mind many times.  The rounds we had together were great and so enjoyable, that even though they were very competitive, I do not recall the first time I beat my Dad for 18 holes.  Certainly as the decade ended I was beating him on a regular basis.  There were lot’s of good times and golf would always give us something to laugh and talk about.

Every once in awhile, my Dad and I would play some evening golf, arriving at the golf course about 5 to 6 o clock.  Most of time the first tee would be empty, and we would get around with no problem. This particular Saturday was no exception, and the tee box was empty when we went in to pay.  The first hole was a straight away par 4, that went uphill a little bit, about 200 yards out, and then flattened out about 120 yards from the green. When we got down to the first tee, it seemed like there was a lot of people, about 50 yards short of the green.  They were out of range, so we hit our drives.  We walked out to our drives, and it was quite an entourage that was on the first green.  But the one thing that really caught our eye, was a baby carriage right on the green. We stopped counting  when we got to 10 people  on the green.  When they brought out the movie camera, and started taking pictures of everybody, that was too much for my Dad.  He just looked at me, and told me to pick up my ball, we were heading for the second tee. It was the first and only hole, he ever skipped in his life.   Sometimes, my mother would just walk the course when we played in the evening.  By the 8th tee was a picnic area.  In the evening there would be guys playing volleyball, and of course drinking and eating, but mostly drinking.  These games could get a little intense, and there was always a lot of yelling and screaming, while you were hitting your tee shot on this long par 3, of over 200 yards.  One evening the combination of intensity and drinking, probably got carried away, because as we were getting ready to hit, there was more screaming, than yelling, then it got suddenly quiet.  The quiet made us look over to the volleyball game. Then the yelling and screaming became more intense.   Here, one player had stabbed another one, right in the belly.  I think it was only superficial, but the panic was deep. The guy that was stabbed, was bleeding pretty good, but they used somebodies T shirt to put pressure on the wound, and the game came to an abrupt end, with everyone hauling ass to their cars.  My mother looked at me as said” Please, Bobby stick to golf.”  We didn’t see a volleyball game there for awhile.  Another time in the late 60’s, my buddy and I were playing on a Sunday and we got to the 7th hole. These two guys came up to us, and just wanted to play this hole, so they could get to the food behind the 8th tee.  We said sure, since play was slow anyway, due to the outing. The first guy was what I call, a feeling good drunk.  In other words, he was loosie goosy, and he could swing the club, and hit the ball.  The second guy was gone drunk, which meant he could barely stand and walk.  After several failed attempts at trying to hit the ball, he just started the long walk of 568 yards, to get to the picnic area.   About half way there, he just whipped it out, and started urinating right down the middle of the  fairway, as he was  walking, with most of the urine going down his leg and pants.  When we got to the 8th tee finally, there was a big delay as usual, and they allowed us to go over a get a sandwich, to show their appreciation.     The seventh hole, the par 5 would give one more unique story.  We were playing with this guy who had joined us, and again because of slow play, he  was debating whether  to quit after the 6th hole, because the green was not  far from the clubhouse, about 150 yards.   He first said, he was just going to hit a drive, and walk in.   He hit such a good drive, by far the best of the day, he said he couldn’t end the day like that.  Low and behold, he hit a great  2ond shot right up on the green, and would be putting for an eagle.  He then proceeded to 5 putt.  Without much fanfare he picked the ball out of the hole, said good bye, and walked  about 600 yards to the parking lot. Never let you golf shots, affect your decision making process.

In the 60’s there would be two shots that I would always remember.  My first hole in one that was struck with a 7 iron on the par 3 second on July 31, 1968.  It hit about 10 yards short of the green on a rock hard fairway, and took 2 big hops, and then on  the third hop hit the pin, which I heard all the way back at the tee box, and disappeared.  The other shot I will always remember was just strange and more unlikely than the hole in one.  On the par 3 sixth hole at Mazeroski’s,  I hit this beautiful high 6 iron, and was watching it intently, thinking this was going to be a good shot, when suddenly, the ball collided with a bird, and both dropped from the sky, with the bird being killed. I do not remember what kind of bird it was, only that it was killed with a golf ball.  Believe it or not, this would not be the last time, I would see an animal killed with a golf ball.  I would finish the decade getting my first taste of competitive golf, but it would not be until the 70’s, that I would do anything competitively worth writing about.  As I mentioned before, the 6th green was fairly close to the clubhouse, and it was nice, that as darkness approached,  you could get in that extra 6 holes.  One day I was playing the 6th hole, and I could see that there were some pretty good storm clouds, moving in.  By the time I was putting out, there was thunder in the background and the wind was blowing.  I started running toward the clubhouse, that was about 150 yards away.   I was running pretty hard, with the golf bag over my shoulder, and getting a little winded, as I approach the first tee, where I was going to have to run uphill.  I was slowing down, thinking I was pretty safe, when a bolt of lightening hit a tree about 200 yards to my right.  Needless to say I got an adrenalin rush, that gave me that new surge to run my ass off, the remaining 50 yards to the clubhouse.  If I had been dumb enough to continue playing, there may never have been any 70’s stories.

Sports: Can’t Buy Me Luck

For those of us that remember the Beatles, one of their big hits was the song, “Can’t Buy Me Love”.  Well, the same thing can be said about luck, just ask the New York Yankees. In baseball, where there is very little limitations on what teams can spend to sign players, the Yankees have one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, and have built a juggernaut of a team.  Last year, despite having an unbelievable number  of injuries, this team still had enough talent to win more games, than anybody in the American League.  They signed Gerrit Cole to a record contract, and I made the comment, that they may win more games than any team in history.  Of course, that won’t happen, because the season will probably have less games, because of the Corona Virus. But the injury bug continues to haunt them, which would have affected their season, anyway.   That is one type of luck that affects sports, the injury bug.  This blog is going to discuss the  luck, that happens during the game.  Luck has always been a part of sports and life, that is  uncontrollable.  Everyone has heard the saying, I’d rather be lucky than good.  Nobody in the media ever will say that the only reason a team won a championship, was because they were lucky.   How much has luck been a factor in the various sports. and is it given too much  or not enough credit, when evaluating why a game turned out the way it did?  Which sport does luck play the biggest factor?  Let’s take a look at each of the four major team sports.

There is no question in my mind, that the sport where luck plays the biggest factor is football.  The reasons just pile up.  The shape of the ball is an oblong sphere.  Because of this, you have  crazy bounces, and deflections, that can have a major effect on the outcome of a game.   All the championships are decided by one game. If this was the case in other sports, there would be a whole different list of champions.   There is lots of down time in football.  The clock is running during  huddles and players going back to the huddle.  Even though the game is 60 minutes long, there is not near that amount of time, when action is taking place.  I know there are comebacks in football but time can be stalled more in football than any other sport.  The next down the luck line is hockey.  Again the puck is a disc that has a tendency to take crazy jumps and bounces, which will affect the game.  Goals can be deflected into the net, which can add to the luck of the game.  In the playoffs you rarely see the team with the best record making a long run into the finals. In a seven game series luck can be even a bigger factor. No other sport has  as a person on their team that can make or break them like a goal tender. He can single-handedly win or lose a game or a series.     Next is baseball.  Baseball has a round ball, and a long season.  There is an old saying, in the long run, class will tell.   Baseball has no clock, so teams can overcome a bad luck streak in a game, to make a come back.  In order to win a game, a team must perform one task.  They have to get the last out. Some teams have never gotten that last out. No sitting on a lead in baseball.  But in my mind, basketball is the sport where luck plays the least factor.  The big factors are, the ball is round, the game is indoors, you must make an offensive move in 24 seconds, and you are limited on what you can do to stop a team from scoring.  The proof of all this is, unlike hockey, usually the team with the best record during the regular season wins the NBA Championship. In fact it’s happened 12 times since 2000, almost double any other sport.

Even though I think luck is the biggest factor in football, I no way mean to imply that it was only luck that enabled the Steelers to win 4 Super Bowls in the 70’s, teams like the 49er’s and Cowboys to dominate their respective decades, and New England to dominate the 2000’s .  In fact luck, can go both ways.  Maybe it was some bad luck that kept these teams from dominating even more. So how much of a factor is luck when it comes to the various sports?  What makes a championship team?  You need a combination of talent, hard work, and coaching to go along with luck to be able win a title in any sport.  One of the four components, acquiring talent, needs to have some good luck to go along with it, too.  In football I think the break down is this:  Talent 33%, Hard Work 26%, Coaching 25% and Luck 16%.  For the other sports, I think there is a gradual decline in how much luck is a factor in winning a Championship, coming down to 6% for basketball.  The rest of the factors probably have some variability from sport to sport, but luck will always have to be figured into the equation, when giving reasons for teams winning one or multiple championships.   People never want to think that something so unrelated to the business of the game, could contribute as much as it does, to winning it all. Dropped balls, missed or bad calls, wind, bad hops, deflected balls, that do or do not end up in the opponents hands, hitting or not hitting posts and poles, all have played significant roles, in how important games, have turned out. Post game analysis always wants to talk about all the great plays, and how well coached, and talented the winning team is.   When a player drops a ball in the end zone, it has nothing to with the other teams talent, hard work or coaching. The bottom line is this.  Nobody really wants to give luck, whether it is good or bad, it’s just due. If it wasn’t for luck the sports world would look a lot different when it comes to who won, what championships.

Sports: What Sports

The sports world has been brought to a grinding halt, by the corona virus.  By now, everyone knows that every major sport, or sporting event has been canceled or postponed for around 6 to 8 weeks at least.  Everybody but the NFL, which is proceeding like nothing is wrong, is taking precautions to keep their players and organization safe. It makes you wonder if the NFL hierarchy is concussed. It just solidifies the fact, that the NFL is one of the most primitive and backward organizations in the world.  The newly ratified players agreement also supports this.  Let’s spread the virus, we don’t start play until September, and no one who is 60 or older plays football.  Over all, the sports world is not the brightest bulb in the room, anyway.  Even the NBA commissioner was talking about having some games, to help the American psyche.  What would really improve the American psyche, is too get back to work, feel productive and be able to pay the bills. The governor of Florida has shit for brains, also.  He refused to close beaches during spring break, which was a direct move to kill old people, and make sure they would be exposed to the virus as much as possible. Especially when all those people come back up north, and expose more old people.   I feel once this is over, that the government should build a canal across northern Florida, so it would be easier to quarantine the people that went down there, if we have a future pandemic.  Obviously, Florida officials do not care about health and safety. This entire crisis is historic, and no one seems to realize what a threat this is, to our everyday life, and the American way.  This is the worst economic crisis, since the great depression, and people are not doing their share, to keep everyone as safe as possible.

The main problem, is that this is the first time, that anything like this has happened in the history of the world, let alone in anyone’s lifetime.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, knows what is going to happen.  If fear of the unknown is a problem, then we are at an all time high, for stress and anxiety.  The more our high officials speak, the more they just look stupid, because none of them, in there entire lives,  have ever answered a question, by saying, I don’t know.  That should be the answer, to almost any question concerning this virus, and emergency.  If this gets as bad as some feel, and again nobody knows, it will really expose just how mediocre are health care system is. Already, the lack of testing is putting us way behind, in knowing what is really going on out there. Thank you money grubbing FDA.  These are tests, not drugs that might kill people.  We can only hope that most Americans are staying home and not mingling, that will help stem the tide.  Hopefully, warmer weather may help the situation, but this is not like the flu, so who knows.  These waters are uncharted, but it still does not mean, that all will be lost. Like everyone else, we will just have to see what happens on a daily basis.  If we follow the recommendations of  the Center for Disease Control, we can only hope that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner than later.

Of course, you can not write about the corona virus pandemic without discussing, TOILET PAPER.   I still feel that the governor of Florida and the NFL had something to do with this.  It has been shown, that a family of 4, should go through about 17 rolls of toilet paper, in about 2 weeks. Now, there were pictures of numerous people on various sites, that had at least 60 rolls in the their grocery carts, and sometimes even more.  Some have said that people were buying in droves, to sell on E Bay.  I was amazed, that the focus for so many people, was toilet paper.  There are other ways to clean yourself, after a bowel movement.  I am not going into all of that in this blog.  I am trying to figure out, what this says about people, in general. One thing ,that there was not a shortage of, during the entire time of panic buying, was fruits and vegetables. Maybe buying toilet paper, and not following the CDC  guidelines, have some kind of relationship. Maybe these people know, that they are not going to make the sacrifices, that other people are going to make, and therefore they feel the crises will last a lot longer than anticipated, and  things like shelter in place, may last 4 to 5 months. It makes you wonder, if toilet paper has an expiration date that nobody talks about.   Maybe something will go wrong with the toilet paper, if stored for more than 6 months, which may cause your anus to fall off. That’s asshole for all you toilet paper buyers out there.   If that does happen, we will all know who bought too much toilet paper.  The good news, no restaurants will have to close over that.  Good luck to everyone, over these next days and weeks, or however long this will take, to get our lives back to some degree of normalcy.

Sports: Super Bowl, Oh So Wrong

This Sunday will be Super Bowl 54, with the San Francisco Forty Niners playing the Kansas City Chiefs. This will be the last time you see the names of the teams, in this blog.  The first Super Bowl was in January 1967, and the powers to be in the NFL, decided to make this a unique game.  Pete Rozelle, the commissioner of the NFL at time, gets a lot of credit for bringing professional football to the top of the rung, in professional sports.  This is one place, where he went off the rails.  Everything the NFL did, and continues to do concerning this game, is just succumbing to the whims of the television networks, who do not have the games best interests at heart.  Lets face it, the Super Bowl is nothing more than the NFL Championship game, just like the World Series, the NBA finals, and the Stanley Cup finals is to those sports.  Maybe football has a bit of an inferiority complex, because it is only one game that decides their championship, rather than a series. During the playoffs, you never hear that old adage, the NFL use to sell, that any team can be beat any other team, on any given Sunday. Where did the NFL go wrong when it started the SUPER BOWL. Let me count the ways.

First, they decided to play the game at a neutral site. The reasoning was they wanted to make weather less of  a factor in such an important game.  This, despite the fact that some of the most iconic games in NFL history, have had weather has part of the equation.  The very next year was the famous Ice Bowl of 1967.  There was also the feeling, that this was too important of a game for one team to have a home field advantage.  The  result of this was giving the fans, who had supported the team for all those years, the shaft.  In this day and age, it takes most fans their life savings to go to the Super Bowl.  This ended the electricity of the home field created by those home field fans.  Just think of all those terrible towels at Three Rivers Stadium, or Hines Field, if the Steelers would have been able to play some of their Super Bowls, at home. Thank God, that the other professional sport leagues did not follow this idiotic  thinking.   The home field is what gives the other sports that special feel for their championship series and games. Pro football will never have this, and they really don’t care, since everybody is getting their pockets lined.

The decision to have two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.  Another decision to increase the hype, but in my view led to games that were not very well played.  Athletes are creatures of habit, and back when the Super Bowl started, there were no bye  weeks and no first rounds byes.   Once the season started the games were played every week with no breaks until boom, 2 weeks off till the Super Bowl.  Even today there is a debate, if a first round bye is a good thing in the playoffs.  I think the two weeks off is less of a factor today, because teams do have bye weeks during the season, and the bye week in the playoffs. There is no need to take the two weeks off, other than to increase the hype of the game, and give people a chance to make travel arrangements.  The game has gotten lost in the shuffle of what the Super Bowl has become, a non football event.

Yes, here is the final coup d’etat. Because of the HALF TIME SHOW, half time at the Super Bowl is about twice as long as the regular season.  Half time during the regular season is about 15 minutes.  The Super Bowl halftime  usually takes about 30 minutes.  To hell with what the players are use to, and the natural flow of the game.  This would be like making the 7 inning stretch in baseball 15 minutes, during the World Series.  You have to wonder,  do players warm enough before the start of the second half.  Then there is the commercials.  Many times  you see on social media, that someone says, I only watch, because of  the commercials. A new use for the DVR  fast forward the game and watch the commercials. This is pro football at its finest.  You have to wonder if the players realize how insignificant their championship game is, or are they just too concussed to know.  The Super Bowl is still one of the most watch events in the world, so nobody really cares, that it is being watched for all the wrong reasons. The NFL has taken a great game and turned it into a carnival.  Last years version was about as dull as it could be, so  is this finally starting to affect the players.  This years Super Bowl, sans the New England Patriots, is one of the most anticipated in a long time.  Everyone is expecting it to be a great game.  Sunday, we will find out if the players are more interested in winning a championship, or watching J Lo perform at halftime like the rest of the world.

Sports: Thoughts

Lot’s going on in the sports world, and not all of it good or uplifting news, but I will discuss some of the bigger stories, and some things going on in Western Pennsylvania. Most of the problems in sports are, in my view, media driven.  The media, a lot of times, even creates the problem, and does little to come up with a solution.  Every problem has a solution, but sometimes it is never found.  One media driven problem is that baseball will have a strike when the labor agreement ends. It is the example of the media’s obsession with predicting gloom and doom.  The media, whether its the sports or news, thrives on trying to create fear, anger, and stress.  They like to call it keeping everyone informed. Do they ever keep you informed of good things?  The answer is rarely.  But now to the world of sports.

Baseball elected two new members to the Hall of Fame.   Derek Jeter and Larry Walker became the newest members of the Hall.  Both players were deserving, and it is a shame that Walker had to wait until his last year on the ballot to gain entrance. The steroid issue came up, with Bonds and Clemens making very small gains, around 1 to 2%, which does not bode well for their future chances. Many of the same people that are appalled at the Astros sign stealing methods, still voted for Bonds and Clemens.  They acquired their astronomical statistics from cheating.  You hear all kinds of excuses for voting for Bonds and Clemens.  I am not even going dignify these lame reasons by listing them.  Here is a possible solution to the problem.  Take away all the stats they acquired while on PED’s.  Everybody knows when they started to take the drugs.   All you have to do is look at Bond’s and see when his head got as big as a basketball.  This may help Bonds and Clemens get into the Hall of Fame because their stats are that good before they took PED’s.  The record book will look a lot better with Hank Aaron at the top of the career leader board and Roger Maris the season leader in home runs.    Of course the media is still talking about the Astros.  They want the players to apologize and if they do, then everything will be fine. Please move on from this but I know this will not happen.

Then there is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  What are you doing? I don’t mean the what are doing, when you see someone putting peanut butter on a medium rare filet mignon. I mean, the what are you doing with the rest of your life.  Are they going to rebuild or not.   Of course, by the time I get to the end of this sentence Starling Marte could be traded, but lets assume the Pirates are going with what they have in 2020.  What  they have is 6 solid players at 1st, 2ond, SS, LF, CF,and catcher. In fact they have a top 10 first baseman, left fielder, and center fielder, in all of baseball.  The two big holes are 3rd base and right field. There are two things that this management team must be hoping for, or counting on. One, that Gregory Polanco can play 130 to 140 games. I don’t think they even care how well he plays them, just that he plays them.  Two, Ke’Bryan Hayes is ready for the major leagues.   The other big weakness in 2019 was the pitching staff.  Without any additions to the staff, management is hoping for the new coaching staff to really improve the performance of this staff.  It could happen.  As a long time Pirate fan I am very comfortable with the current situation, and I think this team could contend with the above happening.  Even though the moves of this team have been very very modest to say the least, they have upgraded a horrible defense.  We are about 2 months from opening day and a lot could still happen, which could change the outlook, but for now I say things are looking up.

A couple of brief comments to finish up.  I only follow college basketball peripherally, during the regular season, but it does seem that the top 5 in basketball, is losing on a regular basis.  I often think, that there will be an NCAA basketball tournament someday, that will have the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th seed as the final four.  Maybe this will be the year.  Another week, where a couple of NFL players were arrested, which still makes me think that there should be a clock on NFL.com running with the caption, it’s been this long since an NFL player has been arrested.  A week from Sunday is the SUPER BOWL, between Budweiser and Frito Lay.  I think that Budweiser will win the commercial battle by 2.  I have one final question. Does anybody watch all of the Super Bowl pre game shows, from beginning to end, even just on one network.  I hope not, but there probably is. There is something wrong when the event is bigger than the game.  Congratulations NFL for making your championship game, irrelevant.

Sports: Astros Much Ado About Nothing

The sign stealing scandal of the Houston Astros has the baseball world talking, with   MLB Network almost giving  it 24 hour coverage.  There is outrage everywhere, and talk of vacating the Astros World Series title. According to the media, players have been scarred for life, because of the way the Astros beat them.   Some of the coverage and writing acts like this is something new to baseball, cheating.  You have got to be kidding, me.  Baseball has had the most cheating, and circumventing of the rules than any sport in history, and this goes back to the very beginning of the game.  The team of the 90’s, the Baltimore Orioles were one of most cheating teams in all of baseball.  The Baltimore Orioles were the  team of the 90’s? Yes, they were the best team of the 1890’s.  More on that later, but let me clear up one thing here.  I do not condone what the Astros did in the least.  In fact, I am not sure the penalties were harsh enough.  I suspect that Alex Cora may get a 2 year suspension.  However, this idea that the Astros title should be vacated is absurd.  None of the biggest cheaters have ever had their records removed from baseball.  Go to any statistical site and you will find that Barry Bonds is  the all time home run leader.  In my mind Hank Aaron still is.    People that write about vacating the Astros title, probably vote for Bonds and Clemens to get into the Hall of Fame.  Let’s look at all the cheating that has gone on in baseball over the years, and I will try to keep this brief, but it will be difficult.

There are many areas of the game that players and coaches have figured out, how to cheat. . The steroid era, which saw so many home run records broken, and MLB did nothing about it, until forced, because home runs started to fill the seats, when it was desperately needed.  In fact, 6 of the top 15 home run leaders all time were considered steroid users.  Considering the steroid era lasted around 10 years, that is quite a high number.  Nobody is changing the records books any time soon. Many people feel that steroids saved baseball, because of all the exciting home run races and the records that were broken in a short period of time.  Next we have pitchers, doctoring up the ball, by applying substances to the ball or roughing up the ball with sandpaper and nail files.  The spit ball has a long and interesting history.  It  was made illegal, when it was thought a spit ball  hit a player in the head and killed him around 1920.  What was interesting about making the spitball against the rules, was that pitchers that were highly skilled in throwing the pitch were grandfathered in, and were allowed to throw the pitch until they retired.  See, baseball has always had screwed up thinking.  The advantage of  making the ball slippery whether by spit, or a substance like vaseline, is that it would take spin off the ball so the ball would act a lot like a knuckle ball, but with more speed.  The most famous spit ball pitcher of the modern era was Gaylord Perry  and of course he was rewarded for his cheating by being elected to the Hall of Fame.  Another victory for cheating in baseball.  Then we have doctoring the bat by using pin tar and cork.  The best bat doctoring though has to be by those 1890’s Baltimore Orioles, who would shave down one side of the bat to make bunting easier, which was a major part of the game at that time.  Finally there has been gambling, that has tainted baseball.  Pete Rose and the Chicago White Sox of 1919 and the players involved were banned from baseball for life.  You can do lot’s of things in baseball but don’t bet.

Now, lets turn to that team of the 1890’s the Baltimore Orioles of the National League, the only league at the time. They were, by far, the dominate team of the decade.  This team did not stop at just shaving bats to gain an edge.  This team sneaked balls into the outfield so if a ball got past them they would be able to get to the other ball quicker. They blocked opposing runners in the base paths. They interfered with foul balls near their dugout. They did many other things to break the rules.  The press called their play “aggressive” and chastised teams that played more by the  rules.  The entire National League was a rough and rowdy league.  Fans were finally beginning to tire of the act.  Thus the American League was born, and vowed to clean up the game and play by the rules.   The league was founded in 1901, which was basically a league derived from the Western League.  Their success was rapid to the point, that the first World Series was played in 1903 between the two leagues, with the Boston Americans beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 9 game series.  If it wasn’t for cheating the American League may have never existed.  That brings us back to sign stealing, which has been going on forever.  Now, even Bobby Thompson’s shot heard around the world is “tainted” because the Giants devised something to get the info to Thompson before the pitch.  Really now, after almost 70 years that home run is diminished.  Maybe we should vacate the Giants National League pennant.  Let’s face it cheating has benefited the game more than it has hurt it.  Steroids brought the crowds back into the stadium, it helped start the American League, and it got rid of the dead ball era after the Black Sox scandal. Ten years from now someone will find a new way to circumvent the rules.   Cheating is part of the folklore of baseball and despite the severe penalties for this latest sign stealing scandal, the game will move on and most likely thrive. Let’s hope the media can, but I am not too sure.