A sportswriter with imagination

Right now there are no sports going on anywhere, so there is virtually no sports writing. But this is when we need writers & reporters the most. So why isn’t there anything worth reading in the media? The truth is that most sports “journalists” are nothing without their VIP access & being spoon-fed information by the machinery.

I’m going to use three screenshots from ESPN.com, which were all taken on this publication date, to discuss & analyze their content. Let’s start with the NBA, which is supposed to be finishing it’s regular season and starting its play-offs in a few weeks.

Of course the NBA was the first major American sports league to shut down, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert test positive for COVID-19, only days after conspicuously wiping himself all over press corps tape recorders. He’s been in quarantine & all apologies since.

This was to be the “Kobe season” after Bryant’s tragic death in January. But now it’s the “coronavirus season.” This puts reality in its proper perspective, I say. Too many NBA-ers still want to try to finish the season, which is insane. Too many spoiled rich athletes don’t really understand what it takes to put on one single event, such as a NBA game.

Unless it’s the Lakers-Clippers, it involves one team traveling to another city, which means air travel, ground transportation & hotels. The players are taken care of by their handlers, so they don’t always appreciate the labor involved.

Once at the event, the arena needs service personnel of every type. Players need trainers, medical & coaching staff. The fans expect food & drink vendors, and clean facilities. You need engineers to design these wonderlands, and labor to build them. To maintain them, every skill set from electricians to janitors are essential, and they are needed in numbers.

How is the NBA going to get service personnel back to work under pandemic conditions? There is little-to-no testing for the workers, and no proper PPE. So what’s their incentive to risk their lives to restart these carnivals? I write about sports all the time, and honestly I’m fine without them for now. It’s one less beat for me to have to cover. The point is, I don’t miss them that much, and a lot of other people feel the same way.

If you want to crown a NBA champion in 2019-20, it will only be by fan debate. I don’t follow too closely anymore, but I thought Clippers were going to win it, defeating the Lakers in the Western finals, or something like that. As far as Kobe Bryant goes: he was an all-time basketball great, but his legacy pales in comparison to the importance of what humanity is facing with COVID-19.

The ESPN headlines for the NBA today are the same as yesterday, and the day before, etc. “No decisions until May according to commissioner Adam Silver.” “NBA is eyeing faster testing.” Some no-name Kentucky Freshman guard has declared for the upcoming NBA draft…

ESPN always broadcasts the NBA draft which was to be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. But now that’s a pipe dream, as this will have to shifted to a virtual event. Once again, how are you going to get service people to work without protection in a pandemic? They need PPE and hazard pay. The ruling classes scream in unison that this is not feasible. That’s going to be the stand-off. All reporting on the NBA draft & mock drafts don’t discuss these realities and their implications. Makes you wonder.

Coronavirus is changing everything today, and into the future. How are sports leagues going to get fans packed back into stadiums & arenas during a pandemic? I don’t want pay to go, do you? That’s the current unreality of the NBA and its media.

Above is ESPN’s MLB homepage today, with Jeff Passan being left to answer the title: Is it safe to start the MLB season in May? The answer is obviously no, but the current MLB proposal is a 4-and-1/2 month “biodome quarantine” for players, coaches and staff, with all games to be played in the Phoenix area. No contact with family & friends during the season, and no fans in the stadiums. Television, radio & internet broadcast only. I hope that makes sense to you, because it makes no sense to me.

MLB was force to shut down near the end of spring training, so what this comes down to is money, which is why such crazy ideas are being floated. The players are for it, only so they can get paid, Canceling the season means no player paychecks. That’s a lot of families that need to eat, especially for pre-arbitration players with league-minimum contracts. These are the vast majority of younger players which dominate MLB rosters today.

Of course, the minor leagues are cancelled too. MLB owners wanted to scale back MiLB, so here it is. Zero baseball. The truth is that there will be no MLB season in 2020. How these “guaranteed” contracts are to be paid out, will be a contentious labor issue– for sure. It’s still quiet on this front, only because it’s early.

Beyond that, how do organizations scout for amateur drafts beyond 2020, with no baseball being played anywhere this year? The 2020 J-2 international draft probably needs to be cancelled. Any analysis & discussion of this in the sports media? They’re all afraid to ask, much less answer these questions.

One final footnote on MLB 2020. I theorized during the Mookie Betts salary dump saga that MLB would not sanction the Boston Red Sox for their iPhone cheating scandal during their 2018 World Series championship season with manager Alex Cora. It’s clear now that MLB has let their transgressions go. The Houston Astros will be the only MLB organization to be punished for electronic sign stealing, and then thrown to the media. The Astros are still taking heat for this, and the many Red Sox boosters in the MLB commissioner’s office are there to make sure this doesn’t happen to Boston.

[Edit: April 23, 2020] The final penalty for the Boston Red Sox electronically stealing signs is 2018 is the loss of a 2nd round pick in this year’s June amateur draft. Also, the Red Sox video replay system operator, J.T. Watkins, is suspended for two seasons. That’s it. Alex Cora was already fired, so suspending him (& Watkins) for 2020 (which will be cancelled anyways), is an empty gesture.

This punishment is nothing close to what the Houston Astros received for similar transgressions, and now it’s all swept under the rug by MLB. No media attacks on the Red Sox, or calls for players & management to explain themselves to the fans. Just as I analyzed & predicted, months ago. It helps to have friends in high places.

According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s 15-page report, “I find that the Red Sox front office consistently communicated MLB’s sign-stealing rules to non-player staff and made commendable efforts toward instilling a culture of compliance in their organization… No other member of the 2018 Red Sox staff will be disciplined because I do not find that anyone was aware of or should have been aware of Watkins’s conduct.”

No mention of iPhone watches in the Red Sox dugout in 2018. Everything in Manfred’s report is meant to minimize the impact on the Boston Red Sox, from its language to its actual content. Example: it is footnoted on page 4, that losing a second-round pick may be more meaningful to the Red Sox in 2020, because there may only be 5 rounds to the draft this year. Do you see how the Red Sox suffer? The Houston Astros will also lose their second-round pick this year, so what is that footnote about?

MLB’s final 15-page report spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the actions of a video replay system operator, and not enough about what the coaches & players did with that information & when. No rational baseball fan believes that J.T. Watkins was the sole mastermind, and manager Joey Cora was the sole beneficiary in this scandal. But that’s what MLB wants you to believe, and they have a compliant lapdog media to assist them with their false narrative. This is a despicable cover-up by MLB, proving extreme east-coast bias towards the Boston Red Sox.

The NFL (above) is to start its draft on April 23, broadcast on ESPN & ABC. This is a prime-time annual event on the ESPN calendar, with Mel Kiper Jr & Company ready for analysis on every selection, and then at the end, the “big board” for next year. The NFL confirmed yesterday it will be a virtual draft, with team personnel at their homes.

The draft was originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders. Since all the scouting & combines have happened, a NFL draft can be accomplished online. The issue is the upcoming season, which is supposed to begin its training camps on July 15. No way that happens for all the reasons discussed above. What’s the point of draft picks & agents negotiating contracts with teams, if there isn’t going to be a 2020 NFL season?

What about NCAA football? When 2020 gets cancelled, then teams will have no scouting for the 2021 draft. Same with high-school football, and college recruiting.
Do you see how tied-in all this is? This is why Donald Trump conference-called all these league commissioners (& NHL) on Saturday, April 4.

“President Trump said he believes the NFL season should start on time in September, sources familiar with the call told ESPN. ‘I want fans back in the arenas,’ Trump said later in a briefing at the White House. ‘I think it’s … whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.'”

For reference in Europe, less than a week ago professional tennis cancelled its men’s & women’s tours through the French Open & Wimbledon, which was to run June 29 to July 12. No comment on 2020 US Open, which is scheduled August 24 through September 13 in Queens NY. The site is the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is currently closed until further notice– due to coronavirus.

The last ATP & WTA major before coronavirus COVID-19 was the 2020 Australian Open in January. That event was affected by wildfires raging across the continent at the time, and this was considered the major world news story of the day. Everywhere except China & their region in Asia. Both these pandemics (wildfires & coronavirus) are linked to global warming.

The tours that have responded best are the ones that have pivoted online. One somewhat surprising example is NASCAR, whose top drivers are now competing in iRacing, which is competitive video game racing online. The top drivers are nowhere near as good as the gamers at this, but racing fans still have interest. Dale Earnhardt, Jr discusses this Kyle Busch here:

The best part is that fans can follow their favorite participating drivers, observe their skills, and see their personalities come out– without NASCAR BS.The ruling establishment connected with every nation needs these carnival tours to recommence in real life, otherwise it’s going to be a revolution on all fronts. That’s what a sportswriter with imagination has to say today.

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Top-10: Minnesota Vikings Terrible

This list was surprisingly easy to compile, ~ 30 minutes off the top of my head. This organization is a model of dysfunction, remarkable in its inefficiency, even by capitalist standards.

10) PK Rick Danmeier, the last of the toe-punch kickers in the NFL. His XPM % would be <50% with today’s rules. Vikings head coach Bud ‘Stoneface’ Grant stuck with Danmeier’s awfulness season-after-season, saying he didn’t see the need to replace him. Maximum FG range– 43 yards or so, depending on the conditions…

Vikings hypothetical scenario in 1983:  4th & 9 on the opposing 28 yard-line, with the wind slightly gusting…. Bud Grant has a decision to make?  The field-goal attempt is spotted 7 yards back in that day, making it highly questionable…. Punter Greg Coleman (brother of Vince with the MLB St. Louis Cardinals), is an option here…

Frequent Result: “Vikings called for delay of game penalty– five yards… That definitely takes them out of Danmeier’s range… Coleman boots it high & deep…. and it’s a touch-back. Opposition’s ball on their 20-yard line– 1st & 10.”

9) 1998, when they were by far the best team in the NFL, and still lost in the NFC championship game– to a mediocre Atlanta Falcons team, that lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. That team is the NFC version of the 18-1 NE Patriots, that lost the Super Bowl to the NY Giants.  Roughly equivalent to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors 73-win season, where they lost the finals the Cleveland Cavilers.

8) Losing 4 Super Bowls— all in the 1970’s. Truth is: Tom Landry & Don Shula were more innovative, with roughly the same level of talent.

7) Never making it to another Super Bowl, since loss #4. With all of Bud Grant’s limitations, he’s still the best head coach in their history. I don’t know how you can be proud of that, but many faithful still are. It’s Brad Childress & Dennis Green competing for next-best Vikings head coach by result.

6) Trading HoF WR Randy Moss to the Raiders, for a 1st-round pick, which was yet another draft bust. Hall-of-Fame playmakers don’t grow on trees. Smart teams hold onto them. The only lasting playmakers the Vikings ever drafted (since 1960) are QB Fran Tarkenton, WR Anthony Carter, WR Randy Moss, and RB Adrian Paterson; with too many busts in between.

5) Scat-back Darren Nelson, instead of RB Marcus Allen;  In 1983, QB Dan Marino was available, but the Vikes took FS Joey Browner, etc… They’ve never replaced QB Fran Tarkenton, hence their SB-appearance drought. The Bills are are 0-4 in their Super Bowl appearances, but at least they got the QB they needed to get there (Jim Kelley) in this once-in-a-lifetime 1983 draft class. The Bills had to wait for Kelley, who signed with the USFL and played there for three seasons before it folded. That was the inaugural USFL draft, and the top player selected in it was Dan Marino. Their original ownership had more brains & innovation than the NFL, but then Donald Trump (& the rest of corporate America) came along [1].

4) Mike Lynn’s Herschel Walker trade, probably the worst trade in sports history. No deal represents such astounding ownership mis-management & short-sightedness more clearly, with a complete inability to identify talent or essential needs correctly.

3) Losing the 2009 conference championship game to the Saints, when they had the better team with QB Brett Favre in his last great season. They probably would have beaten the Colts in the SB, but were robbed by incompetent & inexplicably bad officiating. The NFL even changed its overtime rules because of how the game ended. It’s characteristic for the Vikings to lose in this fashion, it just is.

2) Les Steckel in 1984.  Steckel, a coach with a military background emphasizing discipline, became the 3rd head coach in franchise history, replacing Stoneface. Steckel ran a marine-style training (boot) camp, where his players didn’t learn to play football together, but instead competed for individual endurance & fitness prizes. For the record: All-Pro TE Steve Jordan won the overall team fitness award; and (50-year old) K Jan Stenerud won among the kickers, punters & QB’s [!]. I think they each won a VCR. The Vikes went 3-13 and were the joke of the league that season. Bud Grant briefly came out of retirement to replace Steckel in 1985. For true die-hards, this season hurt like no other in franchise history.

1) The Metrodome & now U.S. Bank Stadium with its a fixed-roof stadium. Metropolitan Stadium was better for the Vikings than either of these boondoggles, but then money rules. Artificial turf is an affront to athletes, as their health and well-being is being disregarded, for the preferences of the bourgeoisie.  The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome extended a trend of artificial turf playing surfaces in the 1980’s, precisely when it should have gone away…

… onward to the present:

One of the NFL teams that should sign QB Colin Kaepernick is the Minnesota Vikings. They won’t because they are too stupid to ever win a Super Bowl. One note on blacklists, they’re “unofficial” by nature– therefore impossible to “prove,” unless you use your head and follow the money. Identifying blacklists is very much like dealing with dog shit. If it looks & smells like dog shit– it probably is.

The converse to that is this dirty parable: Two guys are walking along a road and come upon what appears to be a pile of dog shit.
The head guy say to the other, “Looks like dog shit. Take a closer look…”
So the other guy gets down on his knees and looks closely, then responding, “Looks like dog shit.”
Then the head guy says, “Smell it.”  So the other takes a whiff and replies, “Smells like dog shit.”
Then the head guy says, “Taste it.” So the other guy sticks his tongue on it and winces, “Tastes like dog shit!”

Then head honcho then grins & nods while summarizing, “Good thing we didn’t step in it.”

Colin Kaepernick would be an immediate upgrade for ~20 NFL teams, yet he can’t find a job. No question he’s blacklisted, that’s what his lawsuit against the NFL for collusion is about [2].

It’s a real problem in America when a top-level QB is blackballed for expressing a political opinion, for which he has every right to express; while (for instance) a serial rapist is still the starting QB in Pittsburgh.

This defines the “character” of the NFL and many of it’s fans. It’s getting to be too much nonsense, with these apologists in favor of blacklisting political dissent. If you feel the same, then speak up and act while you still have the right. It’s those who agree, but remain silent, who are the most complicit. Such behavior parallels Germany in the 1930’s…

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