No Buzz For Baseball?

Last night the New York Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win a great hockey game 4-3 and move into first place. The New Jersey Devils traded future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr to Florida. The Battle of Brooklyn went to overtime and St Francis, one of only five original NCAA teams to never make the tournament, took another step towards ending that streak. Any of these stories could have led the local sports reports on TV last night, but two of them weren’t even mentioned on the channels I watched. Instead, we got detailed reports from Tampa and Port St. Lucie on the state of the Yankees and Mets, including a home run total for A-Rod’s batting practice session.

Yet the print media has decided that their is no buzz around the Yankees. They are writing columns about how people don’t seem to care about baseball in New York. Maybe they will be ultimately proven right. If we hit July and the Yankees and Mets are out of the race and under .500, baseball may become an afterthought. But for now, it certainly isn’t and pretending it is five weeks before opening day is just silly.

Super Saturday?

A few years ago the NFL tried to shove an 18-game regular season down the players’ throats. It didn’t work, but one of the reasons for it was a very good one- an 18 week season would put the Super Bowl on the Sunday before Presidents’ Day. The NFL would have granted a long-standing wish of most sports fans- the day after the Super Bowl would have been a national holiday. Since that isn’t happening, and the NFL has no desire to move the regular season start to a later date, how about they do the next best thing? Move the Super Bowl to Saturday Night.

“Super Saturday” sounds very similar to “Super Sunday” so that wouldn’t be a problem. The teams would get one less day off, but still would have 13 days to prepare for the game. The only real objection is that Saturday Night is the worst night of the week for TV viewership. Somehow, I think the Super Bowl would overcome that fact. Businesses would be excited to have fewer hungover people at their jobs the day after the Super Bowl. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I doubt the NFL will concur.

One thing that may influence the possibility of a Saturday Super Bowl is next year’s NCAA College Football Playoffs. Because the Rose Bowl demanded to stay on New Year’s Day, and the Sugar Bowl did too, the semifinals will only be on New Year’s Day when those bowls are the semifinals- as happened in 2015. Next year, the semifinal bowls will rotate to the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl, but both games will be played on New Year’s Eve. This strikes me as stupid, but the TV viewership for these games could influence the NFL and the Super Bowl. If the games do well, it should convince the NFL that a Saturday Super Bowl is possible. If not, Sunday will probably remain the day of the big game and we will all have to deal with the Monday repercussions of that.

Stop Winning!

That wasn’t a misprint you saw under NBA scores last night, the Knicks really did beat the Thunder. In fact, the Knicks have now won four-of-five to “surge” into a tie with Philadelphia for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Worse still, they are now a game better than Minnesota.

Finishing with the third-worst record in the league means not only a 10% reduction in your chance of landing the top pick, but also going from a guaranteed top-four pick, to a top-six pick. And with the Lakers now only three games ahead of them, the Knicks could ruin their chances even further.

But Langston Galloway is great and Hardaway is showing the form he displayed as a rookie you say. The future is appearing right now! Please, stop saying that. Galloway  has played NINE games. Let’s see him play the rest of this season before we anoint him the next Jeremy Lin. (See what I did there?) Hardaway looks better, but again, let’s see it last for half a season or more.

What appears to have happened is that the Knicks shed some of the “divaness” and added some lunchpail type players. Smith, Amundson, and Thomas are not afraid to get their uniforms dirty. They hustle and scrap, something the Knicks sorely needed. Every team needs guys like that, but the Knicks are still bad. They really only have Carmelo to put the ball in the hoop (Again, nine games for Galloway) and the defense is better, but still bad. If this team had started the season together, maybe it wins 30 games. But we are a long way from a championship, and will continue to be so, unless we snag a big draft pick.

So keep trying guys, just not too hard. (wink)

 

Deflating

I know I should probably be focusing on a more NY-centric topic like the Knicks doing their best to sabotage their season by beating the Sixers last night, but football rules the news cycle always and this “deflategate” mess is the sports news of the moment.

Deflating the balls used in a game wouldn’t be hard. Once they are inspected, more than two hours before the game starts, they are placed in a zippered bag and given to the ball boy for each team. Each ball has been marked with a special mark by the referee crew to prevent illegal balls from being substituted in. (I suppose duplicating that mark wouldn’t be very difficult). To deflate a ball, you just need an inflation needle that you pop into the ball and let some air out.

Deflating a ball makes it easier to catch and hold. If you doubt this try it yourself. A fully-inflated football has some bounce to it. It is hard and doesn’t give.

Deflating a ball would make it harder to kick, but this doesn’t matter in the NFL because there are separate kicking balls used whenever there is a punt, PAT, or field goal.

This has happened before at the college level, and I think the results of that investigation are a good proxy for what may happen here. A student manager at USC was fired, and that was that.

The problem for the NFL and its investigators is going to be first proving that something was deliberately done, and then proving that it was done with orders from someone on the coaching staff.

Based on the reports we have heard so far, it seems like the NFL will have at least a circumstantial case that something was done. If 11-of-12 Patriot footballs were under-inflated, while all of the Colts balls were correctly inflated it would be impossible to argue that a freak occurrence had happened and the balls were not tampered with.

But then what? The NFL will investigate further (And we have seen how bad they are at investigating things) and interview the ball boys. Will one of them admit to deflating the ball? Probably not, but even if they do, will one of them admit to deflating a ball under the orders of a coach? I would say definitely not. And without at least one of those things happening, how would the league prove that someone tampered with the ball beyond the fact that when 11-of-12 balls for one team are under-inflated while the other teams balls are not, something was obviously done.

So this provides great fodder for the media, but I suspect it will end up with little being done.

Keep On Losing

Friends keep asking me if I am upset about the Knicks’ season. Some variations of this question include queries if I have become a Nets fan (NO!) , or if I am ready to give up on pro basketball (Maybe, but not because of the Knicks). As far as I am concerned, the Knicks’ season is progressing splendidly.

Coming into the season at best, and I mean absolute best, I could imagine the Knicks winning around 45 games. And if I tried incredibly hard, I could have dreamed of a first round playoff victory and a competitive loss in the second round. That was the absolute zenith for my dreams, and while it would have represented an accomplishment for the Knicks of the present, it hardly measures up to what fans really want- a championship. One we haven’t seen since 1973 and the only way the Knicks are getting close to that in the next few years is to get a great draft pick and a great free agent in the near future.

So these Knicks will help themselves by losing this year and they are doing a great job of it. While I was writing this they took over the worst record in the league and traded away two of their “better” players- JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. Without them in the lineup, the Knicks could lose 70 games. (They actually are on pace for that right now, but I thought they would rebound a bit in the second half. Now I am not so sure. But even with that, only five teams in history have lost 70 or more games.)

And now on with the horror show that is the 2014-15 Knicks.

 

Simmons Nails It

Bill Simmons has written a great piece about Carmelo which is well worth your time. In it, Simmons demonstrates how good Carmelo is, but also correctly lays part of the blame for the Knicks situation on him. It was Carmelo who forced his way out of Denver and forced the Knicks to give up way too many pieces in that trade. If he had waited to be a free agent, the Knicks could have signed him and kept their players and their draft picks.

But Carmelo didn’t want to wait because the NBA lockout was looming and waiting would have cost him money. So he forced the trade, got the big contract, but left the Knicks diminished in the process. That is why Knicks fans were so ambivalent to his free agency. Carmelo made the mistake of talking about how he had been waiting for this opportunity to be a free agent two-plus years after forgoing that opportunity. Knicks fans knew he was going to take the biggest paycheck, it was just a matter of whether or not it would be a sign and trade or a return to the Knicks.

I made the case the other day that if you separated out the execution of it form the actual result, “The Decision” was a great move. It was a superstar player taking less money so he could surround himself with the talent needed to win a championship. LeBron won two and played in two more, that’s great. That’s what Knicks fans wanted to see from Carmelo. We wanted to see him take less and help the team get better. Instead he took $122-million of a possible $129-million. That’s why we aren’t cheering his return.

Final World Cup Ratings

Neil Best of Newsday reports that ABC drew 17.3 million viewers for yesterday’s World Cup final. Univision drew another 9.2 million. Just taking the ABC viewers brings the World Cup final very close to the viewers for Game 5 of the NBA Finals (18 million)  and Game 6 of last year’s World Series (19.2). Throw in the Univision viewers and the World Cup is much higher than either of those.

Those aren’t football ratings, but they are big numbers. The 2018 World Cup probably won’t come close to those numbers because it will be contested seven time zones ahead of us, but it will be very interesting to see where soccer stands in four years.

Congrats Cleveland

Good for you Cleveland. I don’t think there is another city in the U.S. that deserves a good sports thing to happen to them more than Cleveland. While Cubs fans have often been held up as the paragon of patient suffering, it is worth remembering that most of them are also Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears fans. They have had championships to soothe them beyond baseball.

Contrast that with the Cleveland fan. 1964 was the last time they won a title. Surprisingly, that is only the third-longest streak in North America behind Ottawa and San Diego, but Ottawa has only one team and San Diego two. Cleveland has three and they have been fairly miserable most of the time. Sports fans everywhere should feel happy for them today.

And good for LeBron. “The Decision” was a boneheaded move and it obscured what an admirable decision it was otherwise. Here was an athlete who could have demanded a huge deal taking much less because he wanted to win a championship. (If only Carmelo had been paying attention) And, he delivered the goods with two titles and four-straight appearances in the Finals. Now he rectifies that and short of the Knicks playing the Cavs, I will be rooting for him and for Cleveland. I hope he delivers a title to his hometown fans.

 

Carmelo+LeBron=??

The latest twist in NBA free agency is that Carmelo is trying to get LeBron to come join him in New York. Let’s avoid debating the probability of this happening for a minute and focus on the basketball implications of it.

Obviously, any team that gets LeBron and Cermelo is going to be very dangerous. But even this Knicks fan, desperate for a reason to believe, can’t find a way to make this combination into a title contender. In order to get both players, the Knicks would have to get rid of Amar’e and Bargnani. That would leave New York with a starting five of Calderon, Hardaway, James, Anthony and Dalembert. Is there anyone who thinks that five wins the Eastern Conference let alone a NBA title? I don’t think so and that’s why I find these latest rumors insane. To me there are two very clear choices for LeBron. He can go back to Miami or he can go back to Cleveland.

Either one of those moves preserves his legacy. Yes “The Decision” was a poorly executed maneuver, but you cannot argue with the results. Four-straight appearances in the Finals and two titles. If he returns to Miami, how can any rational fan argue with that? And returning to Cleveland would be a nice homecoming. Who could argue with that?

Any other scenario is going to bring out the haters again. If LeBron goes out and wins more titles, they will be quieted, but if not…. So what is the upside for him in New York? He gets bashed for leaving Miami. He gets bashed for not going home to Cleveland and he will get get bashed for not winning a title in New York. That’s lose-lose-lose and that’s why he isn’t coming here.

Interesting

Nielsen has come out with their viewership figures for yesterday’s World Cup game and the figures are interesting to say the least. 21.6 million people watched the game. Compare that to the World Series, which averaged 14.9-million viewers and saw 19.2-million viewing the final game. Or the NBA Finals, which averaged 15.5-million viewers (yup, more than baseball) and 18-million watching the final game.

Now, Ann Coulter would point out that 16.5-million watched the game on ESPN while the rest watched it on a “Spanish” channel. But, 16.5-million is still greater than the average viewership for the NBA Finals or World Series. It’s also in range of the Sunday Night Football average viewership.

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