Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. For once, I am happy to see a month fly by. Seriously…does anyone like January? Yes, we get playoff football…but if the truth be told, I am tired of football as well. It is pretty difficult for me to admit this, because I am someone that truly loves football. With the Super Bowl…football is over. Rather than looking forward to the big game, I find myself looking back at the 2014 season. What I see is troubling to me. It is not so much how the season played out, but rather the leadership or lack of leadership that Roger Goodell has displayed. With the recent furor surrounding the amount of air in the Patriot footballs, I have a question. If the league had received a complaint that the Patriots were playing with balls that were underinflated, why not just go to the Patriots and discuss the problem. Richard Sherman has stated that because of the relationship between Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft that the Patriots will escape punishment. If the relationship with Kraft and Goodell is so strong, wouldn’t Goodell simply give Kraft a heads up regarding the balls? While the Patriots have experienced some recent embarrassment, my guess is that the lasting embarrassment will be for the NFL. I have a strong suspicion that after this season is over that the owners will take a long look at the job performance of Roger Goodell.
The phrase NFL investigation has become the punch line to many jokes. The integrity of the NFL has been questioned and the buck stops with Roger Goodell. How can the NFL owners be happy with what they are getting for their $44 million dollars? The NFL is riding high and filling its owner’s pockets…but this can change. The landscape for football is changing. Fear of concussions leave many parents reluctant to allow “little Johnny” to play football. Will Johnny be a football fan when he grows up? Will the lack of perceived integrity in the NFL change our viewing habits? The NFL really needs to face the facts and find a leader that is more visionary than Roger Goodell.
With the tainted NFL season soon to end, I am eagerly awaiting the return of baseball. I know that for those of you dealing with snow, spring is probably not on your radar yet…but it is coming! The most obvious change for baseball is a new commissioner. Bud Selig is gone and Robert Manfred has taken the reins as the MLB commish. Do you realize that in the history of baseball there have now only been 10 commissioners? I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to learn this. So how will you remember Bud Selig? I will give him is due with regard to solving the labor issues of baseball. I will give him credit for the wild card and interleague play…but I cannot forget how he turned a blind eye to the ped issue in baseball. In reading and listening to Rob Manfred, I like most of what I hear. Here are words from Commissioner Manfred:
The mission before us is clear: To honor the game's history while welcoming new people to our great sport -- people who will one day pass their love of baseball down through the generations. That is what our parents and grandparents did for us, and it is what we are doing for our own children. Baseball is a game firmly rooted in childhood experiences, and its vitality and growth rely heavily on giving young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to play and watch baseball.
This notion that baseball is the game of children is central to my core goals as Commissioner. Maybe that is because my own Little League experience in upstate Rome, New York was such an important part of my childhood. I will never forget my intense dedication to that club and to my teammates -- each of whom I can still name to this day -- and being part of a perfect game.
My top priority is to bring more people into our game -- at all levels and from all communities. Specifically, I plan to make the game more accessible to those in underserved areas, especially in the urban areas where fields and infrastructure are harder to find. Giving more kids the opportunity to play will inspire a new generation to fall in love with baseball just as we did when we were kids. Expanding Little League, RBI and other youth baseball programs will also help sustain a steady and wide talent pool from which our clubs can draw great players and create lifelong fans.
As Commissioner, I will draw closer connections between youth baseball and MLB. I want to inspire children's interest in baseball and help parents and coaches foster that passion. In the coming years, MLB will work with college, high school, amateur and youth baseball programs to help grow our game and to ensure that the best players and talent have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. I call it "One Baseball" -- a partnership between all professional and amateur groups involved in our game.
In reading his words, I wholeheartedly agree with his concept. With the focus of injuries in football, baseball is offered a prime opportunity to gain big strides toward regaining the title America’s pastime. When you think about it, baseball offers a place for a Randy Johnson or Jose Altuve. It allows players of all sizes to excel and in my opinion places more value on intelligent play than other sports. By grabbing kids when they are young, the sport has a much better chance for those kids to be life time fans. I am encouraged to read his words about pursuing a closer tie with college and high school baseball and youth baseball. I think that in the past, baseball has lost some of the best athletes to other sports. I am anxious to see how Manfred plans for MLB to work with college, high school and amateur baseball as I am hopeful that some of the better athletes will consider baseball a better option in the future.
With the good, I suppose there has to be some bad. I am worried with the infatuation of putting a clock on baseball. In the past three years, here is the average time for games:
The average NFL game in 2014 was 3 hours and 7 minutes and college football is much longer than this. Why would anyone think that baseball games need to be shorter? It is pretty funny that in reading how some would propose shorter time between innings. Given that this is when advertisements run, what is the likelihood that this will happen? Commissioner Manfred also suggested that he would look to “modernize the game without interfering with its history and traditions.” I welcome this approach, but I worry when I hear discussion about restricting teams from utilizing the defensive shift. This thought has been offered as a way to improve the scoring opportunities in baseball. I am steadfast in my belief that you must have the game change itself. Players must attack the shift with intelligence instead of brawn. When I was coaching, I was really big on hitting the ball where it was pitched. I coached a couple of kids that were dead pull hitters and I spent quite a bit of time in their ear trying to teach them that pitchers would not pitch them middle in if they could not hit middle away. There are two simple ways for professional hitters to succeed against the shift…bunt or learn to hit the other way. It is a simple game, don’t mess with it. Of course, I had to laugh in listening to MLB Tuesday night. They pointed out that with more offense the games are longer…well, there is that.
With the recent passing of Ernie Banks, I had to take a moment to reflect on the life of “Mr. Cub”. I have to admit that I have sort of overlooked just how great of a player that Banks was. In all honesty , it was Banks that gave us the first power hittng shortstop, not Cal Ripken. Banks won a couple of MVPs when players like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were terrorizing the National League. His career home run total of 512 is an amazing feat for a shortstop. As great as Banks was, I think that most would agree that he was a better person. As I thought about the life of Banks, I realized how similar it was in some aspects to my dad. They were born the same year and lived 30 miles apart. Banks father had a strong dislike for whites and my grandfather carried his Georgia racism with him to Texas. The more I thought about this, the more I realized just how significant it was for each of them to break away from the thinking that they were raised with. I was raised to be colorblind, they were not. This generation that is passing is one of great character and integrity. Although racism still exists, these two men found a way to move beyond it with how they treated people. I wrote in my dad’s eulogy that he lived live with a heart full of love; I think the same applies to Ernie Banks. In closing my dad’s eulogy, I used a quote from Dr. Seuss…”Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” I think the same applies for Ernie Banks…RIP Mr. Banks.
I read this week that the Yankee marketing agreement with Alex Rodriguez calls for him to receive a $6 million dollar bonus each time he passes another icon on the HR board. Rodriguez currently sits at 654 HRs and can realistically pass Willie Mays at 660 in the coming season. The Yankees have decided that because it has been proven that Rodriguez used PEDs during his time as a Yankee, they are going to fight paying the bonus. While I have NO love for ARod, I am torn with this decision. I am curious…what do you think about this? Is this a bad precedent or does ARod deserve to lose this “bonus”? Of course, the Yankees could sit Rodriguez on the bench and make the payment a moot point. I have to admit, it would not hurt my feeling to see Mays remain ahead for Rodriguez. As I understand this "contract"...it is not his normal employment contract, but a special marketing agreement that was unique for Rodriguez.
I don’t usually have much to say regarding the NBA, but I had to add this video of Blake Griffin. Camera’s never blink Blake!
That's all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey:
Martha says the interesting thing about fly fishing is that it's two lives connected by a thin strand. Come on, Martha...grow up.
Even though he was and enemy of mine, I had to admit that what he had accomplished was a brilliant piece of strategy. First, he punched me, then he kicked me, then he punched me again.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own...
Greetings from the Hoodwood where the flags are at half-staff for Mr. Cub
Coach K gets his grand victory
I’ve never been much of a Duke fan, I think they are the poster boy of the snobby ACC. I detested Duke for being the ones that the pundits pointed to as basketball the “right way” and how they celebrated when Duke stunned UNLV in the 1991 national semifinals in a game I still swear was fixed to give UNLV their comeuppance. The thing is as much as detested the school and program. I actually respected Mike Krzyzewski, he always seemed like a coach who actually believed in principles like staying in school. I thought for the longest time Duke didn’t put up its 1990 final four banner because of how they got humiliated in the national championship but it was because one of the players didn’t graduate. I found out later that the player. Alaa Abdelnaby did come back finish his coursework and the banner went up. But in any case, the more I read about Krzyzewski and his come up from humble beginnings in Chicago, and his yeoman like rise from coaching his alma mater to nearly being run out of Duke after a couple years, the more I respected him as much as I loathed the team that he coached. In any case, Krzyzewski has made himself a coaching institution and believe it or not been at Duke as long as Dean Smith was at UNC and has more wins he has 927 at Duke, and after the Blue Devils rallied smartly to down a plucky St. John’s squad at MSG Coach K became the 1st men’s coach in Div-1 to amass 1000 wins. Keep in mind, Coach K still has about 3 seasons to go to surpass Pat Summitt’s 1089 wins but he has a milestone that it’s a testimony to his great teams whom he was quick to put to the forefront and effusive in praise for. But also to his longevity, you don’t coach somewhere 35 years without winning pretty consistently and he has done that in spades.
MLB changes leaders
As much as it catches me off guard to think Coach K has been at Duke for 35 years it makes me pause, but to think that Bud Selig has stepped down from his post as MLB commish, a job he held since 1992 makes me feel old. Selig has been MLB’s grand poobah since the owners ran Fay Vincent out after the 92 season. He has had the job officially since 1998 when the farcical acting title was finally removed. I’ve never been big on Bud Selig, as I’ve always thought of him as a puppet for the owners as he once was one as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. I also thought that his ideas for contracting two teams (one of whom were my beloved Minnesota Twins in 2001) was ham handed and smelled like a plot to take care of his daughter who was then running the Brewers but that plan fell through, the Twins got good, the Expos moved to fertile baseball country in Washington and Selig soldiered on. Now some of his ideas I liked. Interleague play, moving the Brewers to the NL and the wild card were good. Others like the steroid bumbling, the aforementioned contraction and the inane All-Star-home field advantage But Selig was the 2nd longest tenured commish behind the first to hold the office, the bigoted Kennesaw Mountain Landis. With Selig’s retirement the mantle passes to Rob Manfred who has been the deputy CEO of MLB and by and large has the approval of the talking heads of MLB. We’re hoping that Mann looks at further improving the game and will be his own man and not a puppet of the owners.
NBA: Kobe done for the season…and for good?
This is a haunting refrain that is getting all too familiar. Kobe Bryant has played all of 41 games for the Lakers in the last two seasons suffering through injuries to his knee and Achilles but another injury, this time to his rotator cuff which will shelve him for the remainder of this season and will be the third time in as many season that Bryant will not finish the season healthy and leaves many to wonder will this be the last time we see the self-styled Black Mamba on the court. I think it won’t be, I think that Bryant will try it one more time. I can’t see Bryant walking away from the game after an injury. I think Bryant can be self-absorbed and selfish as a player but he has a legacy of a winner and a tough customer. I can’t see him letting an injury be the checkmate for him.
PHAT DAP\HEAD SLAP
Phat Dap- In Memoriam for Mr. Cub
In lieu of a phat dap, Hoodwood takes a moment to remember Mr. Cub. Ernie Banks. The player universally loved in the baseball and revered in Chicago passed away this past Friday at 83. One of the first players of color to play for the Cubs, Banks’ infectious play and boundless spirit fueled the otherwise sad sack Cubs of the 50’s and 60’s, he retired in 1971 as the Cubs all-time home run leaders and is still 2nd but his 1636 RBI’s are still team best. He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame on his first year of eligibility in 1977. His catchphrase “Let’s Play Two” was his enduring symbolism of his love for the game. The Cubs family have lost one of their greats, and the whole baseball and sports world grieves with them.
To Russ Knight who works for the CBS affiliate in Phoenix and was hired by the NFL as an assistant frequency coordinator for the Super Bowl festivities going on in the Valley of The Sun. Knight was given highly coveted All-Access Super Bowl credentials for his job. Rightly excited he took a picture and posted it on Facebook. That was a no-no. The NFL contacted him immediately and told him that his credentials would be revoked since there would be a slim but realistic chance that the picture of the credential could be zoomed in on can be duplicated. Considering how tight security is for the Super Bowl nowadays it’s not surprising that the NFL is so strict on posting pics especially of its prized credentials. Knight for his part took ownership of his goof blaming no one but himself. But he still gets a head slap for wasting a golden opportunity to be at the year’s biggest game.
The Pro Bowl really needs to go back to Hawai’i and after the Super Bowl
The NHL All-Star was in Columbus and in a way I’m sad I missed it but 29 goals? That’s too much
The Yanks don’t want to pay A-Fraud his bonuses. Y’all act like you didn’t know???
Richard Sherman is the best corner in the league and doesn’t like inane questions about it
Doing away with defensive shifts, here’s a tip hitters should hit ‘em where they aint
Now the CFP won’t budge on their dates…did you think that they would give up their valuable cash cow dates?
You have been tasked by the NFL with providing feedback on the Pro Bowl to the owners and commish of the NFL. What do you say? What is your plan for the future? If the Pro Bowl isn't the answer, can you provide something that brings in revenue for the NFL? If so, what?
After a week of talking heads discussing “deflategate,” essentially a week of lost preparation time for the Patriots, Belichick came to the podium on Saturday afternoon and told the assembled reporters and the NFL to take the whole story and stuff it. Yesterday, Radatz took the final word on the controversy - at least in my book - but I want to explore a couple of things about Belichick’s press conference because it was a prime time example of The Art of War. I loved it so much, I actually replayed it a few times.
At 2:15, the Patriots announced they would be holding a press conference at 2:30, essentially forcing the national media camped out at Gillette Stadium all week to scurry around like cockroaches when the lights come on to find a seat. At the appointed time, exactly nothing happened. Ten minutes later, exactly nothing happened. Nothing happened for 40 more minutes. There they were - assembled by the simple word that the Patriots had something to say.
They weren’t told who would be speaking, they weren’t told what the topic was, only that the Patriots had called a press conference. And there they were left to speculate - which only demonstrated how little any of them actually knew. There they were twisting in the wind - the lot of them - without anything to report, only their own speculation.
The local radio station in Boston went 90 minutes without a commercial because they didn’t know when someone would come to the podium and didn’t want to miss anything. Bill had them by the short hairs. I heard all kinds of wild speculation what may be said: he cops to deflating balls, Brady cops to it, that the Patriots and the NFL had reached an agreement whereby the league would give the team the chance to come clean first. Just wild stuff. These guys had no idea they were playing right into what the good coach wanted them to do. Twist in that wind.
40 minutes after the appointed time, Coach Belichick came to the podium and without an apology began his presser. Lesson one, young grasshopper, you need me and don’t you forget it. I determine your schedule, I determine what access you have to me, you jump when I say jump. Real Machiavellian stuff, but it was very clear there was a message being sent - funny thing though, I haven’t seen any of the talking heads talking about that: who reports when the media gets taken to school? Instead they talk Mona Lisa Vito and what a bizzare press conference it was.
He then asserted that the New England Patriots have played by the rules. Period end. He talked about the process of preparing game balls - more or less - and told the assembled that the organization had conducted its own study and found that the process artificially increased ball pressure. He then told us that the team presented the game balls to the officials and asked that they be inflated to 12.5 PSI - what they did with that he didn’t know, you’d have to ask the officials. BOOM. Someone get that? Right back on the game officials and the League. He essentially said the game officials determine the football’s pressure. Interesting.
Now, who knows if anything he said, or represented makes sense. What matters is he said something. Frankly I don't care if Bill Nye believes him or not, the key here is that Belichick specifically said that the officials were asked to inflate the balls to 12.5.Science or not, it would appear the expectation was that it was to the officials to ensure proper inflation. I don't know, frankly I don't care. The whole thing is ridiculous and a side show. If this were the Colts it wouldn't be an issue. (Beware though, when you're on Bill's S-list you will get cut - what's Mangini doing now a days? That's right, last year he was a Tight Ends Coach.)
So now that he’s told the press who is in control, thrown the officials under the bus, and flipped off the NFL, he would now take questions. So, of course, the number one thing on everyone’s mind is…”Spygate?” Yeah, he took that question and verbally undressed the guy who asked it - he said coaches put signals out there in front of 80,000 people, our camera guy was filming in front of 80,000 people like a lot of other teams were at the time, but we were wrong and we’re not going to do it again. Boom. Can we stop talking about this now?
In fact that’s what Belichick said. He’s not talking about it any more, he’s embarrassed at how much time he’s spent on this crap this week, and now it’s up to the NFL to talk to them about it. Interestingly enough, earlier in the day Patriots wide out Matthew Slater (the teams NFLPA player rep) announced that the NFLPA has now advised the players not to speak with the league regarding the investigation. Which played right into Belichick’s hands, as he likely knows what the league has, knows they’re not getting any more, and now he delivers the final thrust. En garde! If you’re just reading articles about the press conference, you’ll know he cracked a joke (“I’m no Mona Lisa Vito of the football world…”) and you’ll know that he denied any wrongdoing, and you’ll know he went into the evidence. But you won’t know why he’s a great coach. He spent 22 minutes ramming deflated footballs down the throats of the press, the league, John Harbaugh, Chuck Pagano and the Colts’ organization.
That press conference was the work of a master strategist and brilliant tactician. Hey, Goodell, here’s a free gift for you:
On Thursday, the assembled media took Tom Brady and tried to humiliate him. He was asked how he would explain the situation to the kids. I wish he had thrown the question back: “How would YOU explain all the ‘ball’ double entendres in the media?” Belichick, in one final flourish, showed his quarterback how to own the media. Saturday was one big STFU, one big, information dump and one huge challenge - if you’re gonna say we broke the rules, if you’re gonna say we cheated, PROVE IT.
The thing is the league won't be able to. The evidence was a deflated ball...that was summarily reinflated for the second half so far as I can tell. What the league has here is a ridiculously lax procedure for balls. The league will have to point their finger at someone and this time Bill has basically said they're going to have to point it at either themselves or at the officials. He's gotten his team fired up because he believes in them. He told the media who is their daddy. He told the league to prove it.
Bring on the Super Bowl. It's going to be a great one.