NCAA: Don’t Pay the Players – But Let the Players Get Paid

Full disclosure, I love Arizona Basketball. In fact, I think I actually ended up at Arizona because I went to the 1988 Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games at the Kingdome, and Steve Kerr became my favorite college basketball player.

And now the Arizona basketball program is in – shall we say – some turmoil. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t say SOMETHING. But since I know NOTHING, what can I really say?

Except this.

Any NCAA athlete should be allowed to profit from their likeness.

We don’t need schools to pay athletes. We should just allow people who want to pay athletes out of their own pockets to pay them. If that means the guy who runs Tuscaloosa Ford and Chevy wants to give an 18 year old kid $250,000 to be a spokesperson, who cares? If John L Scott in Seattle decides a good use of funds is paying $80k to a UW QB to be their official face of Instagram, why not?

What does it hurt to let 18-22 year olds get paid for the notoriety that 90% of them will never have again?

You could argue that we can’t let high school kids be corrupted by agents who want to take advantage of them. But that is a solvable problem. There are ways to create a licensing program where only people who properly qualify – and stay qualified – can gain access and negotiate on the behalf of a minor. It would actually lend legitimacy to an already existing corrupt system.

Now should the NCAA be paying the players? Thats a thornier question that begets a ton of problems. But in the meantime, let’s just let players get paid by people who want to pay them.

What I Learned – Scott Servais on the 2018 Baseball Season

My baseball season officially kicked off Tuesday night. I was able to join about 50 other fans as Art Thiel of SportsPressNW interviewed Mariners skipper Scott Servais.

So what did I learn/infer from listening to Scott’s answers to 45 minutes of questions from Art, and 45 more from the audience?

  1. Kyle Seager is on the trade block – One of two things will be true on July 31. Seager will have gotten off to a hot start, leading the Mariners to a respectable record and as the trading deadline approaches, The Mariners will be in a position to make a run. Or…… Seager will have gotten off to his customary slow start, and as the only real trade chip the team has, he’ll be dealt for prospects.
  2. This is the last year of the Cruz, Cano, Felix window – It was made clear that witht he amount of money tied up in the Big 3, there was no way to rip the team down to the studs, a la Houston and Chicago. But this is the last year of Cruz’ deal, and if Felix wants to be regarded in the same breath as Glavine, Maddux, Pedro, etc… he needs to pitch another 6-8 years. If 2018 goes poorly, I suspect you’d see Cruz dealt at the deadline and Felix redo his contract to be part of an overhaul so he can get another 150 career starts.
  3. You’re going to see a lot of Zunino, Segura, Haniger, and Paxton in the Mariners marketing materials –If you’re gong to trade any of the Big 4, you need some new guys to make bobbleheads for. The Mariners seem ready to phase out some of the old guard and put their promotional arms behind some new guys. I suppose this is meant to lessen the blow when our favorite guys disappear.
  4. “Performance” is going to mean something different – With the hiring of Dr. Lorena Martin as Director of High Performance, the Manager is going to have a few lineup decisions “strongly suggested” to him. Players will be evaluated constantly on aspects such as fatigue, conditioning, strength, mentality, etc… So while a 5 for 5 day may have previously earned you a week in the starting lineup, if you tired yourself out running all those bases, it may be highly suggested that you be given the day off.
  5. The Mariners decided not to look for new pitching, and are going to try to simply outscore teams – To their credit, they realized there weren’t going to be a lot of great pitching options to pick up this off-season. So as I wrote about last year, they built their 2018 starting rotation under the guise of competing for a 2017 playoff spot. They have accumulated average to above average throwers who they expect can give them 150+ innings. If those guys can get them through the 5th and only give up 3 runs, they will hand the ball off to the bullpen in hopes it gives up just 1-2 more runs. Meanwhile, they’ll try to bang out 5-6 runs a game on offense. Do that enough times and you make it to the playoffs. Now the downside is that if you try to do that in the playoffs, you’ll lose each game 8-3. But the team isn’t shooting for a World Series. It just needs to make the playoffs.

So those were my takeaways. I’m sure other people heard different things. But pay attention to the interviews Servais is doing all week on sports radio. Were his comments Tuesday off the cuff, or do they fall into some pattern of talking points?


The Conspiracy Theorist’s Guide to the NFL Playoffs

(This is a work of fiction. I do not believe there is an NFL conspiracy. At least, I’m pretty sure there’s not.)

It’s Playoff time! And our favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, are seeded um,  wait a second?! No Seahawks in the Playoffs? So in order to keep these playoffs interesting, I’m going to make some predictions based on the ludicrous idea that the NFL is scripted by screenwriters in New York.

Overarching themes for the playoffs:

  • The NFL need some new and exciting matchups. And one of those is going to be a new Belicheck vs Brady rivalry, with Belichick leaving for New York after a disastrous 2017 post-season. So this year, no Patriots in the Super Bowl.
  • There a couple of new cool young QB’s. They’ll lose in the first round.
  • There’s one team left that needs a new stadium and new ownership.
  • The NFC is going to win.

Week 1:

  • Tennessee vs Kansas City: The NFL wants the young but not elite QB’s to do well enough to stay interesting. Mariotta fits that bill. He leads the Titans to victory over the coach that the NFL hates for some reason.
  • Falcons vs Rams: Goff vs the NFC West is the storyline in the division for 2018 and beyond. But Matt Ryan’s revenge is more compelling this year. Falcons win, but the Rams are going to be poised and positioned to be the NFC favorite next year.
  • Buffalo vs Jacksonville: Buffalo tried to lose this season, and yet the NFL needed them to be a playoff contender so the rich guys in Toronto would want to adopt them. A playoff birth is really all this terrible team needed to get. Now the franchise is worth an extra $250mm dollars. Jacksonville wins.
  • Carolina vs New Orleans: The NFL is still annoyed at Cam Newton. Saints make him look silly and he has a meltdown in his press conference.

Week 2:

  • Tennessee vs New England: Here’s the dumb upset of the playoffs. It’s inexplicable but the necessary plot twist to cause the Belichick/Brady breakup. Tennessee wins.
  • Jacksonville vs Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh has some of the most exciting players in NFL. Plus, I’m pretty sure the Rooney and Mara families have a deal with the NFL where one of them makes the Super Bowl every 3 years. Jacksonville is 2018’s team, this year Pittsburgh wins.
  • Atlanta vs Philadelphia: There is something about seeing Philly fans of any sport be miserable. But they’ll be more miserable if they lose next week. Philly wins.
  • New Orleans vs Minnesota: Best game of the playoffs. It goes down to the wire and New Orleans wins, because the NFL needs enough time to get Minnesota’s stadium ready for the Super Bowl.

Week 3:

  • Tennessee vs Pittsburgh: We can try to pretend this will be competitive, but Pittsburgh blows them out.
  • New Orleans vs Philadelphia: As we said before, it’s nice to see Philly fans miserable. And everyone in Pennsylvania would be hoping for an intra-state Super Bowl. So karma leans to the Saints.

Super Bowl

  • Pittsburgh vs New Orleans: Brees vs Roethlisberger. Ingram and Kamara vs Bell. Good WR’s on each squad. An exciting Super Bowl ends with the Saints getting screwed on a bad replay call, and the Steelers get the Super Bowl win.

Sounders Release 2018 Schedule

The Sounders 2018 schedule came out this morning. And it definitely has some interesting angles to it.

  1. The 1st round of the Concacaf Champions League matches are the week before the MLS season starts. So you can travel down to Santa Tecla, El Salvador on Feb 22 for Leg 1, or just wait until Thursday, March 1 for Leg 2 at home.
  2. MLS Opening Day is Sunday, March 4 vs the newest entry into the league, Los Angeles FC.
  3. After that, you have to wait 27 days for the next home match, a 3/31 7:00pm tilt vs Montreal.
  4. If you’re ready for more soccer, grab your patience pants. It’s 22 more days before you get to see Minnesota United come for a day game on Sunday 4/22. So if you are counting at home, that’s just 3 home games in the first (and rainiest) 9 weeks of the season. That seems like a good deal for us fans.
  5. Things don’t get too much busier in May. Dates on the 5th vs Columbus and the 26th vs RSL is all we get. So we enter June with just 5 home matches under our belt.
  6. That means things start to get busy in June. 6/9 vs DC United, 6/23 vs Chicago and then the big one. 6/30 vs Portland.
  7. After a 3 week break, we really get into the meat of the home schedule in late July and August. Hope you didn’t have vacation plans.  7/21 vs Vancouver, 7/29 vs NYCFC, 8/12 vs Dallas, 8/18 vs Sigi and the Galaxy, 9/1 vs Sporting KC.  That’s 5 home games in 7 weeks.
  8. As the kids head back to school, we close the season on a pretty regular cadence of home and away matches. 9/19 vs Philly, 9/29 vs Colorado, 10/6 vs Houston and the finale 10/28 vs San Jose.

That’s 17 MLS home matches and one Concacaf match, with 14 of them coming in May – October. There will be more Concacaf matches, likely against a Mexican League squad, if they progress past El Salvador.  So I suspect no friendlies will be officially scheduled until we see what happens in the Champions League.

If you’re looking for good excuses to get out of Seattle, a couple of away matches stand out: Sunday 4/29 in LA is a good time to escape the rain. July 4 in Colorado could be a lot of fun.  And July 15 in Atlanta would be a fun excuse to see their new stadium, especially since it’s indoors.

Happy 2018. Go Sounders.

Mariners Trading Deadline Moves Indicate Strong Push for 2018

It’s no secret that the last time the Mariners made the post-season was 2001. And so with the team within striking distance of the playoffs this year, an impatient management team could go all-in with a pair of 6’s and hope for the best. Thankfully, this team held onto its chips and is preparing for the next hand.

Bad luck happens. Who knows where the team would be with a healthy Smyly and Iwakuma all year? Give them +4 wins with those guys and the standings look different. But that’s baseball.

Sure, they may still make an unexpected run in September this year and make the Wild Card. In which case they’d have to fly to New York or Boston and win a one game series against Sonny Gray or David Price. And their reward for winning that would be a five game series with Houston.

I think the Mariners made the right moves by not betting the farm – literally. You have to figure the team has at best about a 20-25% chance to make the Wild Card, a 35-40% chance of winning the Wild Card game, and a 30-35% chance of beating the Astros. Multiply those out and it gives you about a 3.5% chance of making it to the ALCS. That isn’t worth mortgaging the future.

This year the problem was that they made it to the trading deadline, wanted to bring in some added help, and didn’t have much to give in return. So the team did the next best thing. If they couldn’t get people to help in 2017, they went and got a few players they could use at the 2018 deadline.

When we get to July 31, 2018, hopefully the Mariners will be within striking distance for the AL West. Let’s assume the team can pick up a piece or two via free agency this off-season to add to a solid core (Segura, Cano, Cruz and Seager,) a good young outfield, some quality starting pitchers and a lights-out bullpen. Then with a depth of starting pitching acquired at this year’s deadline, and an improved farm system, they’ll have the trading pieces they need for some key late season acquisitions.

Whether or not they make an unexpected run this year, the table is set for 2018 and beyond. And that’s a good thing.

Some Fun Trivia to Celebrate Mariners Opening Day

It’s the home opener of our favorite hometown 9, the Seattle Mariners. So let’s take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and review some stats and trivia since the day the Mariners were bounced from the last playoff game in which they participated, October 22, 2001.

Things that did not exist the last time the Mariners were in the playoffs:

  • Xbox (launched 11/15/01), Century Link Field (2002), Facebook, Instagram, iPhone, Amazon Web Services, Seattle Sounders, Oklahoma City Thunder, Tesla, Uber, Snapchat, Link Light Rail.

Notable stats from October 2001:

  • U.S. President: George W Bush
  • 2001 U.S. House of Representatives: Democrats 213, Republicans 220
  • 2001 U.S. Senate: Democrats 50, Republicans 49, Independent 1
  • 2001 Seattle Mayor: Paul Schell through November, then Greg Nickels elected
  • 2001 Washington Governor: Gary Locke
  • 2002 Oscars (for movies produced in 2001):  Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind | Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Training Day) | Best Actress: Halle Berry (Monsters Ball)
  • Top 10 TV shows, 2001-2002 season: Friends, CSI, ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, Law & Order, Survivor, Monday Night Football, The West Wing, Will & Grace, Leap of Faith
  • 2002 Grammy Awards (for songs produced in 2001):  Song of the year: Fallin, by Alicia Keys | Record of the year: Walk On, by U2 | Album of the year: O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
  • 10 Richest People in the World: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Karl and Theo Albrecht, Paul Allen, Larry Ellis, 5 heirs to Sam Walton – Jim, John, Alice, S Robson, Helen

Sports Champions since the day the Mariners lost in 2001:

  • World Series winners: Arizona, Anaheim, Florida, Boston (3),  Chicago White Sox, St. Louis (2), Philadelphia, New York Yankees, San Francisco (3), Kansas City, Chicago Cubs.
  • Super Bowl winners: New England (5), Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh (2), Indianapolis, New York Giants (2), New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle (YAY!), Denver
  • NBA Champions: Who cares, the league ceased existing to me in 2008.

Statistical Points of Interest:

  • Seattle Population:  2001 – 570k | 2013 – 652k
  • Cost of Super Bowl Ad: 2001 – $2.2 million  | 2017 –  $5.0 million
  • Internet Advertising Revenue: 2001 – $7.2 Billion | 2015 – $59.6 Billion

Meet Your New 2017 Sounders

The MLS season is a long one, running a full 9 months from early March to early December. So before the ink was even dry on the papers forever documenting the 2016 Sounders MLS Cup win, the wheels of progress were underway to form the 2017 version. Many of the players who played a decent sized role in the title run found themselves trading their Rave Green uniforms for flights back to their home countries. Meanwhile, a new set of Sounders filled out change of address forms, and made plans to move to Seattle.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the turnstyle over the last 3 months. (For a full review, read this article from SounderAtHeart.)

Who’s Out?

The MLS has some pretty onerous salary cap rules. Add in 2 new expansion teams this year in Minnesota and Atlanta, and it makes it hard to keep a team together. Here are the 18 names you won’t see wearing a Sounders uniform this year:

  • Nelson Valdez (released because he was too expensive and signed with a team in Paraguay)
  • Tyrone Mears (released and signed by Atlanta)
  • Dylan Remick (released and redrafted by Houston)
  • Erik Friberg (released and signed by a team in Sweden)
  • Andreas Ivanschitz (released and signed by a team in the Czech league)
  • Zack Scott (retired)
  • Herculez Gomez (retired)
  • Some guys you may or may not recognize were also released and signed with minor league teams (or retired): Darwin Jones, Charlie Lyon, Jimmy Ockford, Victor Mansaray (loaned out) Michael Farfan (retired), Nathan Sturgis (still unsigned), Oalex Anderson (still unsigned)

Who’s New?

New Sounders are often guys we’ve never heard of. So, for these 8 new players, I’m sharing the 0-100 ratings the video game FIFA 2017 gives them.

  • Clint Dempsey, F, (Back from Disabled List): 80
  • Gustav Svensson Mid, / Def (from Sweden and Chinese League): 72
  • Will Bruin, F, (from Houston): 69
  • Harry Shipp, Mid, (from Montreal): 68
  • Bryan Meredith, GK, (from San Jose): 61
  • Nouhou Tolo, Def, (Sounders 2): NR
  • Henry Wingo, Mid, / Def (Homegrown): NR
  • Seyi Adekoya, F, (Homegrown): NR

Who’s Back:

Check and make sure your favorite players are still here. Just 14 remain from the team that won in Toronto, but 9 of them started that night.

  • Tony Alfaro, Def: 62
  • Osvaldo Alonso, Mid: 79
  • Brad Evans, Def / Mid: 70
  • Alvaro Fernandez, Mid:  70
  • Oniel Fisher, Def: 61
  • Stefan Frei, GK: 73
  • Joevin Jones, Def: 66
  • Aaron Kovar, Mid: 62
  • Nicolas Lodeiro, Mid: 78
  • Chad Marshall, Def: 74
  • Tyler Millar, GK: 58
  • Jordan Morris, For / Mid: 68
  • Cristian Roldan, Mid: 65
  • Roman Torres, Def: 72

Now I’m no math genius, but if you lose 18 players and add 8, you should still have some roster space available. In fact, an MLS team can carry 28 players on their roster at one time, so since the Sounders only have 22 on the current sheet, logic dictates you’ll see 4-6 more players either get signed from Sounders 2, or come in a late transfer window signing. The primary MLS transfer window runs from Feb 18 – May 11.  Then, the secondary one opens from July 10 – August 9.

The Sounders still do have one ‘Designated Player” spot available, meaning they can essentially sign a player for any amount of money they want and not have it hit the salary cap. (Dempsey and Lodeiro are the other two. Valdez was the 3rd, so they cut him to get that Designated Player spot back.)

So there you go; that’s your 2017 Sounders squad. See you at Century Link.

A Conspiracy Theorist’s Predictions for the 2017 NFL Playoffs

We all know the NFL playoffs aren’t rigged. But if they WERE being written by a team of storytellers in New York, here’s how it would go down.

Houston: No NFL team has ever won a Super Bowl in the year their city hosted the game. The host city needs the tourist revenue. So no Houston this year. 1st round out.

Oakland: Their QB is out so they should have no chance. BUT, that wasn’t supposed to happen. The NFL needs the Raiders to become America’s favorite team so that either Oakland or Las Vegas will build them a new Billion Dollar stadium. Oakland is going to the Super Bowl behind a rookie QB who has never started an NFL game. Cinderella plus history + need for stadium = NFL preference.

Seattle: This is a tough one. The NFL finally had a team full of interesting characters a few years ago. Richard, Marshawn, Earl, Russell, Kam, and everyone’s favorite grandpa coaching them. But then something happened and the storytellers saw their characters go off script. Beast Mode quit, the goody-two-shoes QB married 50 Cent’s ex, Earl got hurt and spoke of retirement, Sherman seems to have lost his cool. This isn’t a team the NFL loves anymore. This is the team that goes down inexplicably this year.

Detroit: The Cavaliers, Cubs, Indians, Donald Trump… notice a trend? The world is conspiring to provide some relief to the Rust Belt. Detroit gets a cinderella win this year, even though they stink.

Miami: No one cares about the Dolphins, including Miami. If a team loses a playoff game and no one in the city notices, did they actually lose? Doesn’t matter. 1st round out.

Pittsburgh: I’m pretty sure the Rooneys and Maras have a deal with the NFL that one of them gets to win the Super Bowl every 4-5 years. They also fit well into the Rust Belt conversation. I see them to the AFC Championship where they do what is best for the league and lose to Oakland.

Giants: The Giants vs Cowboys rivalry is going to be THE rivalry for the next 3 years. But it starts in earnest next year. This year is the appetizer where we learn how important the regular season will be to each team. The Cowboys get a bye, the Giants go down in the best game of the 1st round. OR, they win a few games and end up losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship where home field matters. This is a tough one.

Green Bay: Is it the end of an era? Or is this the transition year where Aaron Rodgers gets a new cast of characters to make great? Once Tom Brady is gone, Aaron Rodgers will have another 5-7 years. I think Green Bay gets a win but goes on a Super Bowl drought until Rodgers’ final year when he gets to have his Peyton Manning Swan Song. OR, they have to bow to New York and let the Giants vs Cowboys NFC Championship game take shape.

New England: Every year, they could be the team that wins it all. They’re the guys you know will get there one or two of every three years. And this year they are simply going to need to take one for the league and let Oakland get to the Super Bowl. It’s just good business sense to let Oakland beat them.

Kansas City: Blah. No one outside of Kansas City cares about Kansas City. A league that saw TV ratings go down this year needs a HUGE Championship weekend and Super Bowl. Neither of those lead to Kansas City success. Out as soon as possible.

Atlanta: The Falcons have managed to get tax payer money to get a new stadium built. That was rewarded with a trip to the playoffs. But the idea of Aaron Rodgers vs Dak Prescott is too good to pass up.

Dallas: GOD the NFL needed Dallas this year. It’s a ratings bonanza. Kids love Dak and Zeke. Old guys love Dez and Whiten. This is NFL gold. Pencil them in to go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Round 1:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Houston (4) and Pittsburgh (3) over Miami (6)

NFC: Detroit (6) over Seattle (3) and Green Bay (4) over New York (5) (or vice versa)

Round 2:

AFC: Oakland (5) over New England (1) and Pittsburgh (3) over Kansas City (2)

NFC: Dallas (1) over Detroit (6) and Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) over Atlanta (2)

Championship Round:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Pittsburgh (3) in a classic AFL battle that makes the old people happy.

NFC: Dallas (1) over Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) in a classic NFL battle that makes old and new young people happy.

Super Bowl: TBD.


My Unsolicited Opinions on the College Football Playoff

In no particular order…

  1. There’s an irony that we’re arguing about whether we need 2, 4 or 8 teams for a proper playoff. If this was the old days, Alabama would go win the Sugar Bowl, finish 14-0, and there wouldn’t be a discussion about it.
  2. You can’t make Conference Championships part of the parameters for making the College Football Playoff if the Conference Championship criteria is based on arbitrary regional divisions. Get rid of the divisions and have the best 2 teams in the conference play for the title. Otherwise the designation is just ceremonial.
  3. In the world of, “Things that would never happen,” I would actually prefer that all of the Conferences be constrained to 10 teams (taking us back to a Power 6) and that each Conference had a schedule where everyone played each other. Then you don’t need a meaningless Conference championship game because…
  4. …By the way, did anyone else notice that no one attended the Conference Championship games? Stadiums were 1/2 empty.
  5. So if you didn’t need Conference Championship games anymore, that weekend would be your 1st round of the 8 team playoff. 6 Conference Champions and 2 wild cards. Now that would be a fun weekend of football.

Ok, so if you implemented my plan, your top 8 this year would be something like: 1) Alabama (SEC champ)    2) Clemson (ACC champ)   3) Washington (PAC 12 champ)   4) Penn St  (Big 10 champ)   5) Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)    6) Someone like Louisville, Pittsburgh, etc… (Champ of the new Big East)   7) Ohio St (Wild Card)    8) Michigan (Wild card).

Winners go on to the New Years Eve Final 4. Losers get to play in the other New Years 6.

Now that’d been an entertaining round of football. Once it was re-seeded, that weekend would have been fun to watch. Way better than having to slog through Florida, Colorado or Wisconsin posing their way in fake Championship games.

But again, no one asked me. So at least we get 4 really good teams. That’s better than nothing. Unless you are Penn St or Michigan…

A Possible Answer to Why NFL TV Ratings are Down

It’s being well documents that the NFL’s TV ratings are down. There are hundreds of explanations, from the poorer quality of play, a general disgust for the Commissioner, a weariness of all the concussions and injuries, or even backlash at the National Anthem protests. I’ll throw my supposition on the list – Fantasy Football.

I posit that the growth of Fantasy Football caused people who normally wouldn’t tune into a Jacksonville vs Cleveland debacle, got sucked into a few games to see what their QB or WR looked like in real life. The NFL had stars like Dez Bryant, Russell Wilson, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and more. Guys who were on your fantasy team and were guaranteed to score a touchdown or do something cool every game.

But the game evolved. Teams stopped feeding running backs the ball 35 times a game. Instead of having one or two studs to watch on every team, coaches started implementing systems of running back by committee. Plus, wide receivers get hurt every week. Your average fan can’t keep track of the 2nd string tailback and 4th WR for the Lions.

So Fantasy Football becomes less interesting because your lineup has a bunch of guys you don’t care about. And then you add all the other reasons not to watch football, and you realize that there are a lot of other things to do on Sunday. And Thursday. And Monday. And whenever else the NFL is trying to cram a game down my eye sockets.

So too much football on TV + lower quality football + players no one cares about + a decline in the reason new people were watching other teams in the first place = apathy and depressed ratings. It will be interesting to see how the NFL responds.