Football is back as far as I’m concerned because this is the week we ink-stained wretches descend on Chicago for Big Ten media days. Before heading west, I thought I would clean out the notebook.
- If the Big Ten again fails to get a team into the playoff, you can probably blame the schedule-maker. None of the big hitters get to dodge everyone from the other side of the conference this fall, which should be fun for fans if another headache for the commissioner. (In such case it might be a good thing there will be a new commissioner since the current one has proven to be far too reactionary in the latter half of his tenure and might want to do something stupid like eliminate divisions but keep the conference championship game.)
- The Wall Street Journal published a story this week about NFL owners wanting to expand the season to 18 games, potentially with the caveat every player would be forced to sit for two of those games to save wear and tear. This phenomenally stupid idea is not going to happen because it makes no sense and would drastically reduce the quality of the regular season, but it does provide a reminder the obvious move remains to simply eliminate a preseason game and add another bye week to the regular season. (Play 16 games in 18 weeks instead of 17.) Then broadcast partners get another full week’s worth of real content, the players get more rest during the season more money since the TV money is largely what fuels their paychecks. It’s a win-win-win.
- Despite what you might read elsewhere, fullbacks still rule and have use in modern football, at least for coaches who see them as more than a sixth offensive lineman. Apparently, Penn State coach James Franklin is not one of those people, but his lack of willingness to consider all options for moving the football probably tells us more about him than the position since his PSU offense was a disaster before he brought in Joe Moorhead and sunk again when Moorhead left. BTW: The PSU assistant also dismissing the potential value of a fullback in that story is the same guy allegedly revitalizing Michigan’s offense this year by making it a lot more like what everyone else is doing. Speaking of the Wolverines…
- Does this say more about Michigan or the oddsmakers? (Or bets people are willing to make, I guess…).
- I’ve said all along disappointment in Jim Harbaugh is mostly a result of unfair expectations. He’s not proven to be an elite coach (good not great) and recent history calls into question whether or not Michigan is even an elite program anymore. A lot could change quickly, but for now there are the inconvenient truths UM has one half of a national championship since World War II and no Big Ten titles in the past 14 years even though the league has been crappy half of that time. Michigan hasn’t been as good at producing NFL players as it used to be, either, but otherwise things are great in Ann Arbor.
- The Reds could be buyers before trade deadline, but it’s kind of hard to envision what they might do unless it is something like the Scot Rolen trade. Perhaps move Jose Peraza and a couple prospects for a veteran hitter who will be around? None of the one-year guys would being much back plus they are some of the best players right now. Whatever happens it seems like it would be more out-of-the-box than simply picking up an ancillary piece.
- Big news last week were some baseball rules changes being tested in an independent minor league. I am not a fan of the electronic strike zone. It’s not necessarily more accurate on high and low pitches, but I do like preventing another Tom Glavine by getting the outside edges more consistent. Still I think this sterilizes the game to a certain degree. The give and take between players and umpires and managers and umpires is really part of the game. If everyone is there just humming along with the eye in the sky making final decisions that can’t be disputed then that’s one more moment of blah in a game with too much robotic thinking already now that analytics have stolen people’s minds.
- I do like the idea of being able to steal first base though, and I’m actually sort of surprised that hasn’t been the rule all along. It probably makes more sense than not to be able to run to first base when there’s a ball on the ground. You can advance on the bases already obviously.
- I’m sort of surprised the rule didn’t evolve this way 130 years ago because most of the baseball rules were just made up as people went anyway. I like forcing the pitchers and catchers to tighten up, and this enhances the small ball elements of the game that are slipping with the shift and the growing focus on hitting home runs.
- Meanwhile, Peter Gammons had a story around the all-star break reminding us MLB teams are even stupider about developing pitchers these days than the major political parties are about politics.
- But at least they might be starting to get smarter about how they sell tickets: Who knew a lower price could equal more fans in the stands and greater revenue? Wild!
- I guess the reason I feared kid TV before becoming a father was I had mostly only seen Nickelodeon shows, which are terrible, rather than Disney, which are pretty good.
- There’s pretty much no way Space Jam 2 will be watchable. The first one made no sense but was just weird enough to be endearing and came out at a time when entertainment choices were much, much more limited. Whatever was out that summer was what you went to see and talked about because the alternative was staring at the wall and/or broadcast TV reruns. Now the movie lives on for nostalgia more than because it was good. We’re way too jaded and overstimulated now to enjoy something that irreverent, especially if it’s not even a novel idea.
- RIP Anthony Davis’ reputation as superstar. After spending his first seven seasons in the NBA developing into one of the best all-around players but not having much pressure to win anything, he is now at the mercy of the LeBron James Media Superfriends, who will no doubt starting writing about how he was really never that great as soon as the Lakers lose a playoff series.
- That said, Kawhi Leonard saved the league (or at least next season) by going to the Clippers instead of the Lakers. I’m all for the players being able to play where they want to play and with whom they want to play, but from a fan perspective I am out on super teams.
- James, Davis and a cast of good/role players winning the NBA title would be a good story. So would Leonard and the Raptors defending their championship, but Lebron, Davis and Kawhi winning it together would feel like cheating.
- It would also put LeBron in a pretty weak light. Someone who wants to be considered the best player of all time has to bring in the best all-around player in the league and the reigning Finals MVP to get back to the top of the heap? That’s so pathetic it’s almost comical. I mean how does one exactly think that works in favor of his case to be considered on par with Michael Jordan? It’s not as weak as Kevin Durant giving up on trying to beat the Warriors and leaving a good team after doing all the hard work of team-building just join Golden State, but that is not a neighborhood one wants to be even near.
- More heart-wrenching sad scene: The Shrek/Donkey/Princess falling out or Jessie’s origin story from Toy Story 2?
- I used to be pro salary cap, but now I’m not so sure. The best idea in in this story about how it screws things up in the NHL is figuring out a way to let teams who draft well benefit more. Oddly enough the biggest problem in the NHL seems to be the opposite of the other leagues, where everyone either gets huge money or the minimum and a lot of players in between are unhappy. The middle class among hockey players is too strong for the cap to handle. Everybody who has two decent years gets a big fat raise and suddenly there’s not room to keep them on a team that already has a couple of big salaries. (I should clarify it’s not bad at all players get a nice bump in salary early. It’s just that that seems to mess up the cap calculus involved in building a balanced roster with both star power and depth. The other leagues don’t have this problem because they makes lot more money and the cap goes up more each year.)
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