Fixing Major League Baseball

1986

We’re a week into the Major League Baseball season (at least we are when I started writing this, with my writing prowess it could be the All-Star break before this actually gets published), and it’s time to revisit one of my favorite pieces of this blog – fixing something that really isn’t broken.

Baseball’s a phenomenal sport, and reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated.  It will never overtake the NFL – well, at least not until someone dies on the gridiron and the masses flee in droves – but it’s also never going to lose its ground to the NBA or NHL.  That said, there are still some relatively simple fixes that will make a great game even greater.  Without further ado:

Expansion/Contraction

A fair number of my suggestions will require an even number of teams in each League, so we should address the expansion/contraction of teams first.  My personal opinion is that there are 2 too many teams in baseball, and the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay prove that out.  If it were up to me, we’d contract the 2 teams that have never been to the World Series – the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals – and move the Rays and A’s to those respective cities for the sake of franchise continuity (I’m a history geek like that).

But since we know that, barring a catastrophic financial situation – like, say, the bursting of the television rights fee bubble – no professional league is going to contract its teams, so let’s add teams in Montreal and Charlotte or Portland and call it good.

On Field Improvements

Universal Designated Hitter

Major League Baseball is the only sport on the planet (i.e., in the U.S., which is all that matters, amirite?) where half the league plays by one set of rules and the other half plays by another.  With year-round interleague play (we’ll get to that in a minute), that means a team built to play with the designated hitter may have to play a season-ending series with the playoffs on the line with their DH on the bench.  And anyone who’s ever seen Justin Verlander swing a bat knows that you’d much rather have Victor Martinez batting in a big situation.

So we’re changing the rules and either eliminating the DH or making it universal.  And while we can all marvel at Madison Bumgarner’s home run hitting ability, we tend to ignore the fact that he’s a career .186 hitter, and he’s the best hitting pitcher.  The simple fact is that watching a pitcher swing the bat is generally boring and painful (Bartolo Colon notwithstanding), and it leads to ridiculous managerial decisions where a guy throwing a shutout is pulled for a pinch hitter after 73 pitches because the offense can’t put up any runs.  No, it’s time for the NL’s antiquated rules to go by the wayside and MLB to adopt the DH permanently.  The fans will love it, the players will love it (more money for aging veterans to finish out their careers), and the owners…well, screw the owners.

Pitch Clock

I’ll get push back here – and I know this because I got plenty of push back from a buddy of mine when we were discussing it on Opening Day – but for a league that’s attempting to cut the length of their games so Millennials with attention spans measuring in nanoseconds can stay engaged, the pitch clock makes too much sense not to happen.

You can’t implement the pitch clock with men on base, because there are too many variables with that baserunner to force the pitcher to stick to a clock without disrupting his rhythm or making a stupid mistake.  But when there’s no one on base, there’s no reason a pitcher (or a batter) needs more than 20 seconds to make the next pitch.  Start the clock when the catcher receives the pitch, and if the umpire determines that the batter or pitcher is stalling, they’re punished with a ball or a strike against them.

Automated Balls/Strikes

In 2017, when anyone with a smartphone has access to PitchFX that shows exactly where every ball crosses the plate, there’s absolutely no reason for a human being to call balls and strikes.  Talk to me all you want about the human element, but I don’t want the game determined because some umpire didn’t see where the ball went across the plate.  The “human element” applies to the players; fair or not, the officiating of a game needs to be as close to perfect as possible.

With so few baseball calls being truly subjective – especially now that they’ve gotten rid of the neighborhood play on double plays – I’d argue that all officiating could be automated, but let’s start with baby steps.

Overhaul Instant Replay

Aside from Screech on Saved by the Bell, there’s not a person on Earth who has ever watched a game because of who’s officiating that game.  And yet we give the teams challenges to question when an umpire might have made an incorrect call, instead of insisting that the calls just be right.  So we’re going to remove the challenge system and put a fifth (or, in the case of postseason play, seventh) umpire in the broadcast booth, and if an umpire screws up, that extra umpire is going to correct him.  We’re not going to continue to allow the umpires’ egos to determine whether or not a game gets called correctly.

Drastically Reduce Ejections

Some ejections are deserved – I’m looking at you Bryce Harper.  But in a lot of cases a batter will question a call just a little bit more emphatically than the umpire likes (although not at all egregiously), and he’s gone.  The problem is that it drastically reduces the flexibility of the manager, and if someone like Miguel Cabrera gets ejected and has to be replaced by Andrew Romine, the strategy for the remainder of the game is changed immensely.  So unless someone is risking physical harm to another player or an umpire, or truly making an ass out of himself, we’re going to keep the Umpshow to a minimum.

Scheduling

154-Game Schedule

The owners will never go for it.  The players will love it.  Eliminate 8 games from the season to return to what was standard prior to expansion in 1961.  If you want to placate the owners, increase the cost of everything by 5%.  Well, everything except my beer.

Eliminate Interleague Play

Interleague play is over.  It’s played out.  It was never particularly interesting to start, and it ruined the truly novel approach that only MLB had – namely, that the two teams that met in the World Series had not met in the regular season.  MLB loved the “natural” rivalries in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Florida, and a few other places, but they didn’t account for truly dreadful games like Padres-Mariners.  And because the interleague games all took place on designated summer weekends when the weather was nice and the rivalry games were naturally more appealing to the local fans, MLB could proclaim that interleague games were more popular than your average American League or National League games.  It’s worth pointing out that since they’ve gone to year-round interleague play, we haven’t seen proclamations about the popularity of the games, likely because that April Marlins-Orioles game is dragging down the average.

Balanced Schedule

With 16 teams in each league, a 154-game schedule, and the elimination of interleague play, you can play 10 games against each team with 4 games left over.  The remaining 4 games can be rotated among the teams on an annual basis, or you could add a series based upon where the teams finished the previous season (for example, the best team plays the second best team, third place plays fourth place, etc.).  Either way, it’s better than 19 Royals-White Sox games a year.

Holiday Doubleheaders

There are 5 “major” holidays throughout the baseball season: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.  We’ll throw out Mother’s Day and Father’s Day since those are Sundays by rule and thus travel days.  But every team is required to play doubleheaders on 2 of the remaining 3 holidays – one at home, and one on the road.  If that holiday falls on a Sunday, the doubleheader will revert to the previous Saturday.  The players hate doubleheaders, but we’ve just cut 8 games out of the schedule, so they’ll get used to it.

Beginning/End of Season

Every season begins on the first Monday in April.  If you want to cater to ESPN and have them air a Sunday night game the night before, fine.  But this year there were 3 Sunday games to start the season, and that’s just insane.  One’s enough as a showcase for the game.

And since we’ve cut 8 games, plus 2 additional days of game play via the new doubleheader rule, there’s no excuse to be playing games in November.

Playoff Scheduling

Major League Baseball has deduced that playing 4 straight Division Series games on a Thursday will garner more television viewers than running 2 games simultaneously.  This seems dubious to me, but I’ve tended to default to the position of, “Someone smarter than me is making that determination.”  I mean, they have to be, right?

Still, it sucks for the fans with tickets.  Because the playoff schedule isn’t set until a day or two before the games start, you could wind up buying a ticket to a noon playoff game that you can’t use because you can’t get off work.  So either show the fans that there truly are more viewers for a Thursday noon game than there are for 2 games airing simultaneously, or cut out the weekday afternoon games.

Also, while I understand that games involving teams from New York and Chicago are going to garner more viewers than Oakland or Tampa Bay games will, it’s kind of crappy when all of the Oakland League Championship Series games get relegated to the 4pm games.  So alternate the LCS games so that both teams get prime time treatment.

Playoff Determinations

Realignment

In 2015, the three best teams in all of baseball all played in the National League Central.  The St. Louis Cardinals won the division with 100 wins, while the Cubs (97 wins) and Pirates (98) were subjected to a 1-game playoff to determine who moved on.  The Pirates and Cubs were punished because they were geographically close to the Cardinals.  And just to add insult to injury, because the team with the best regular season record automatically plays the winner of the Wild Card game in the Division Series, the Cardinals were punished by having to play the a 97-win team instead of the 92-win Dodgers or 90-win Mets.  This is asinine.  The best teams should be rewarded for having a superior regular season.  So we’re eliminating divisions.  Two Leagues, 16 teams each, with a balanced schedule.

Oh, and the Brewers and Astros are going back where they belong.

Playoff Seeding

Playoff seeding is simple: the top 5 teams in each League make the playoffs.  The top 3 teams get a bye to the Division Series while the 4th and 5th place teams play the Wild Card game to move on.  There’s no reason to reward a team for being located in a geographically advantageous location.

Conclusion

I’ll admit that a lot of these rule changes seek to fix some of the quirks that make baseball “great”.  Fans love to see pitchers hit dingers and the Wild Card situation I discussed isn’t particularly common.  But the Giants can still refuse the DH to let Bumgarner hit (which they’ve already done in interleague games), and no one’s going to weep because we close a loophole to give an advantage to a better team.

And I’m not going to stop watching because these rule changes aren’t made (because, let’s face it, most of them won’t be), but we could definitely make the game better.

 

Good Riddance, Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant walked away from the NBA with an “epic” 60 point game on Wednesday.  And while most felt the need to comment on what an amazing farewell it was, I choose to see it as the perfect embodiment of Kobe’s me-first attitude.

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And because I’m nothing if not timely – something that on this rare occasion benefited from my laziness – I’m taking this opportunity to spell out exactly why I hate Kobe so.

1996 NBA Draft

In 1995 Kevin Garnett became the first high schooler in over 2 decades to jump from high school directly to the NBA (primarily because he was too stupid to get into any of the dozens of colleges that were recruiting him).  Kobe Bryant followed suit in 1996, although admittedly he wasn’t as dumb as Garnett.  He did so with all of the class that would follow him for his entire career.

In 2010, LeBron James held a truly tasteless press conference at a Boys & Girls Club in Connecticut to announce where he’d go in free agency (although gladly we can blame this particular farce on Jim Gray).  One of the most hated aspects of his press conference was the fact that LeBron announced his choice by tone-deafly saying, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”

So why are we talking about LeBron in a post about Kobe?  Because what people seem to forget was that 14 years earlier Kobe had used the exact same phrase when announcing he was skipping college, stating, “I’m going to take my talents to the NBA.”  Why we hated on LeBron for using the same line Kobe had years earlier I’ll never know, although it’s fair to say that by 2010 everybody hated Kobe, so perhaps this would’ve just been piling on.

If this was his greatest flaw relating to the draft, he could be forgiven.  It wasn’t.  Many people remember that Kobe was traded by the Hornets to the Lakers immediately following the draft.  What they – and Kobe himself, apparently – seem to forget is that Kobe pulled a John Elway and told pretty much the entire NBA that he wanted to play for the Lakers.  His agent wouldn’t allow teams to work him out (including the Hornets) and they got him to last until the 13th pick, which allowed them to pull off the trade that sent Vlade Divac to Charlotte.  Years later, Kobe maintained that Dave Cowens didn’t want him and worked the trade to the Hornets.  I believe that like I believe the girl in Colorado consented (we’ll get to that later).

2004 NBA Finals

I’m going to be very unpopular in Detroit – and by that I mean the 4 people I know who read this will be irritated and may even comment as such – for saying this, but it’s highly likely that Kobe cost the Lakers the 2004 title.

Here’s the thing: the Pistons pulled off an impressive 5-game “sweep” of the Lakers in ’04, with Kobe hitting a buzzer beater in Game 2 to send the game to overtime, ultimately leading the Lakers to win their only game.  No Kobe shot, no buzzer beater, Pistons going home with a 2-0 lead and the Lakers are done, so Kobe kept them in the series, right?  Not so.  What people forget is that the Pistons took a 6-point lead with 47 seconds left.  Then Shaquille O’Neal took over.  He dropped a layup with 35 seconds left, got fouled, hit the free throw (never a given considering Shaq’s free throw woes), then pulled down the defensive rebound that ultimately allowed Kobe to tie the game.  Shaq then scored 6 of the Lakers’ 10 points in overtime (although to be fair Kobe scored the other 4 and the Pistons only scored 2) and the Lakers went back to Detroit tied.

Shaq was a beast in that series.  He scored 26.6 points per game and shot 63.1% from the field.  And he should’ve scored a ton more.  Kobe took 113 shots in the series to Shaq’s 84, almost 6 shots more per game.  This might have made sense if Kobe hadn’t shot at a 38.1% clip.  In game 1, Shaq was 13-16 with 34 points.  For every shot he took,  he scored 2.13 points.  Kobe was 10-27, scoring less than a point per attempt.  So why the hell did Kobe take 11 more shots than Shaq did when the Pistons couldn’t stop him inside?  As Shaq said at the time, “Beats the hell out of me.”

Kobe and Shaq were engaged in a heated battle of “Who’s Team Is It” in 2004, ultimately leading to Shaq’s trade after the 2004 season.  Kobe was fine with the Lakers’ three-peat from 2000-02 (and Shaq’s 3 Finals MVP awards), but by ’04 he wanted the Lakers to be “his” team.  Did he want it enough to effectively sabotage his team by taking the ball out of Shaq’s hands and trying to play the hero?  Knowing Kobe’s personality like we do, I say hell yes, especially since he already had 3 rings.

Let’s do a simple breakdown (and yes, this is VERY simple).  If Shaq takes 10 more shots per game in that series and Kobe takes 10 fewer, several of the games probably turn out very differently.  Take Game 1.  Ten more shots for Shaq at the previously mentioned 2.13 points per attempt comes out to 21 more points, while Kobe’s 10 fewer points costs the Lakers only 9 points.  The Lakers net an extra 12 points in a game they lose by 12.  Do the Lakers win the game in that circumstance?  Possibly/probably.  Let’s give it to the Pistons just for argument’s sake, so with the Lakers’ OT win in Game 2 it’s 1-1 going back to Detroit.  Game 3 was a 20 point win for Detroit and any change in play probably doesn’t make a difference.  But make the same change in Game 4 and the Lakers net 9 extra points in a game they lost by 8.  It’s a 2-2 series and the Lakers are guaranteed to take the series back to L.A.  Game 5 went to the Pistons and, as with Game 3, any change in shot selection by the 2 superstars probably doesn’t change the outcome.  But with the Lakers holding home court in Games 6 and 7, and winning 2 of the 3 hypothetically close games, it’s not unreasonable to think the Lakers take the series if the ball’s going to Shaq more thank Kobe.

The ’04 series is looked at as one of the biggest upsets and most unlikely titles in NBA history, although that was somewhat tempered when the Pistons took the Spurs to Game 7 in the ’05 Finals; had the best record in the league in 2006 (where they lost to Shaq’s Heat in the conference finals); and were taken down by LeBron’s coming out party in 2007.  But I have to think that if it wasn’t for Kobe’s selfishness, we may well have had a different champion that year and the Pistons would’ve joined the Buffalo Bills in terms of missed opportunities.

2006 Suns Series Game 7

By 2006 the Lakers were a shell of themselves, making the playoffs as the Western Conference’s 7-seed, facing off against the highly-favored Phoenix Suns.  They held a 3-1 series lead before the Suns won the next 2 to force Game 7 in Phoenix.  Kobe was 8-13 in the first half, scoring 23 points, but quit in the second half, taking 3 shots and scoring 1 point as the Suns blew the Lakers out of the arena.

Kobe said after the game that in order to get back in the game they needed to have everyone contributing.  That’s bullshit.  Despite the fact that he willed his team to Game 7 (and almost pulled off the upset in Game 6 before losing in OT), Kobe knew his team was crap and decided to prove it by taking the second half of Game 7 off.  You can find columns by Lakers fans that will tell you that Kobe found guys with open looks, but Kobe’s not an assist man.  Kobe quit.

On the plus side – for Kobe anyway – he was able to prove that his team was crap, which allowed the Lakers to swindle the Grizzlies (run by Lakers’ legend Jerry West) for Pau Gasol, leading the Lakers to titles in 2009 and 2010.

But still…can you picture Michael Jordan taking a quarter off to prove a point?  Or is it more realistic that he’d try to throw the team on his back and try to pull the win?

Black Mamba Nickname

Look, this is a short one.  Kobe gave himself a nickname.  It’s a decent nickname, one that fits his personality, but the fact remains he gave himself a nickname.  He didn’t have enough friends – or the respect of his teammates or the media – who would give him a nickname, so he came up with one himself.

Only sociopaths give themselves nicknames.  I’m pretty sure the Zodiac Killer gave himself that nickname.

The Rape Charges

Kobe’s a rapist.  It’s not really open to interpretation.  Hell, he admitted it when the case was settled, saying that the girl didn’t view it as consensual (here’s a hint Kobe: if you have sex with someone who doesn’t view it as consensual, that’s rape).  Lakers fans will tell you she was a whore, that she had the DNA of 3 different guys in her underwear.  That may be true, but it also doesn’t mean that she wanted to fuck Kobe.

Of course, because the defense – and Lakers fans – attacked the girl’s character (which, to be fair, is part of their job), the victim decided to take a settlement from Kobe to avoid having to take the stand.  Now, I don’t know what the settlement amount was, but it took a $4 million ring to keep his wife from divorcing him after the ordeal.  I’m guessing it took a helluva lot more to keep him out of prison.

(Also, Kobe married a whore.  If you take a $4 million ring in exchange for staying with a guy, you’re a whore.  But hey, to each their own.)

And let’s not forget he threw his teammates under the bus when he was charged.  No one pretends professional athletes are saints – Magic Johnson didn’t get HIV sitting in his hotel room reading the Bible (just ask A.C. Green).  Plenty have cheated.  In fact, Kobe’s own team had an internal crisis when DeAngelo Russell secretly videotaped Nick Young admitting he had cheated on his fiance and the video went public.  The problem was never that Young had cheated, but that Russell had violated his teammates’ trust by secretly videotaping the discussion.  But when the rape charges came out, Kobe was quoted as saying, “I should’ve just paid her, that’s what Shaq does.”  In other words, Kobe’s a snitch.  Ask Carmelo what happens to snitches.

Barry Bonds is a pariah.  So are Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.  None of them raped anyone.  None of them had so much as a misdemeanor on their record, as far as anyone knows.  They retired – or in Bonds’s case was blacklisted into retirement – and baseball immediately pissed on their proverbial coffins because of their links to baseball’s steroid scandal.  Kobe Bryant gets a farewell tour.  Fuck the NBA.

The Farewell

As I said before, Kobe’s farewell game was the perfect ending to his me-first career.  It was obvious his teammates were told to feed Kobe the ball as much as possible, which is fine, but it allowed a rapist to walk off a hero (and overshadowed the Warriors setting the all-time record for wins in a season).

The problem with Kobe’s farewell was not just that it lasted the entire year, but that the Lakers admitted they had sacrificed the season in deference to celebrating Kobe.  Thing is, they gave Kobe a 2-year, $48 million extension for his last 2 seasons, when he was clearly on the downside of his career.  Hell, they signed him to the extension when he was recovering from a torn Achilles, so there was no guarantee he’d provide any kind of meaningful play.  A farewell tour is nice, $24 million a year when you’re a crap player – which Kobe was – is nicer.  And allowing your team to sacrifice the development of their younger players and killing the team’s salary cap so you could get a proper send off is horse shit.

And so very Kobe.

Back to that farewell game.  Kobe scored 60 points.  Amazing, right?  I mean, even I shouldn’t crap on that.  Except I can.  Kobe took 50 shots.  You give any NBA player 50 shots and they’re going to put up points.  Kobe was 22-50, or 44%, from the field.  The league-wide average was 45.2%.  The NBA average came out to 1.21 points per attempt; Kobe was at 1.20.  In other words, for a guy who put up 50 shots, Kobe was below average.  For comparison, in his 81-point game in 2006 – truly an epic performance – Kobe put up 46 shots.

But that doesn’t even tell the whole story.  It’s not so much that Kobe put up 50 shots, it’s that he didn’t even acknowledge that he had teammates on many of those possessions.  Anytime the Lakers pulled down a rebound, they handed the ball to Kobe and got out of his way.  He didn’t try to find an open man – although, again, Kobe’s not an assist guy – he just did whatever he could to put up a shot and rack up the points.  Kobe could’ve played the game 1-on-5 and there would’ve been no noticeable difference to what he did in his farewell game.  His fans will tell you that he hit the game winning shot, and that he pulled off a full-court assist leading to a game-clinching dunk to close out his career.  His haters – myself included – will say it’s a meaningless game and the assist only came about because he didn’t have time to get down the court on his own.

Kobe Bryant’s farewell was the perfect capper to his career.  It allowed his fans to fawn over his 60 points and his critics to point out what a selfish player he was.  It was a manufactured farce that doesn’t belong in the same conversation as the final games of John Elway, Ted Williams, Derek Jeter, or even Peyton Manning.  It sure as shit wasn’t epic.

Kobe Bryant was the most selfish, me-first player of his generation, and perhaps of all time.  He was, quite literally, never the best player in the league (Don’t believe me?  Check this out…he was never better than third).  You could argue that he wouldn’t make the Lakers’ all-time starting 5 (on a team that’s had players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Shaquille O’Neal, this is far from a ridiculous statement).  He rigged the draft to suit his desires.  He never won a title without Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol (compare Kobe’s supporting casts to Michael Jordan’s).  He quite possibly cost his team a title that would’ve allowed him to match Jordan’s six.  He tanked another series out of spite.  He raped a woman and snitched on his teammates when lamenting his crime.  For all that he got a heroes goodbye.

Not from me.  I say good riddance.  Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Fixing the NFL (Part 2)

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It’s Super Bowl Sunday (or, if my writing/editing/posting history is any indication, sometime around Draft Day), which means football is on the brain.  As opposed to the other 365 days – it’s a leap year, remember – where football is on the brain.  Still, it strikes me as being as good a time as anyway to take another look at how we can fix the NFL.

My devoted readers – I’m talking to you, Dad – may remember that I already did a “Fix the NFL” post a few years back, and if you don’t, you can read it here.  Despite the fact that the NFL has stupidly listened to exactly none of my ideas (ok, they fixed the extra point, but they did it in a less than satisfactory way), we’re not going to rehash many of those issues here.  Instead we’re going to look closer at the business and societal issues with the game more than what happens on the field.

Without further ado:

Fire Roger Goodell.

Fire Roger Goodell out of a cannon.

Fire Roger Goodell out of a cannon into a brick wall.

Fire Roger Goodell out of a cannon into a brick wall on the surface of the sun.

Have I mentioned firing Roger Goodell?

Look, I think Goodell has his fans.  He has at least 32 of them, because if he didn’t the owners would’ve fired him already.  Unfortunately, a drunk monkey could’ve run the NFL during Goodell’s era and there would’ve been no difference.

People will tell you that Goodell’s grown the NFL’s business by leaps and bounds during his time as commissioner.  But that growth is due to, in my eyes, four things: gambling, fantasy football, the public financing of stadiums, and the DVR.  I’ll elaborate.

Fantasy football and gambling are no-brainers.  The NFL wouldn’t exist without it.  Or if it did it would be the NBA and Major League Baseball would still be America’s pastime.  Doubt me all you want, but I’m right.  The NFL could probably exist without fantasy football, and it did so with explosive growth up through the 1980’s, despite two seasons with work stoppages.  The reason is that football is so easy to gamble on that millions of people watch the games with absolutely no interest in who actually wins the games.  And football has been gambled on since the sport began, well before Roger Goodell was able to get his grimy claws on the game.

As for public financing, if you include the forthcoming Minnesota, Atlanta, and L.A. stadiums, 9 teams will have moved into new stadiums during Goodell’s reign.  Add the renovations in Buffalo and Kansas City and the fact that the Raiders and Chargers will eventually move, and you’re up to 13 teams that will have moved into new or renovated stadiums during Goodell’s reign.  All of these stadiums have been at least partially financed with public funds, with the billionaire owners claiming that the government – and the public that pays for government – needs to pony up because a new stadium offers so much benefit to the municipalities.  (I won’t go much into the scam, but if you want more information, go look at Field of Schemes.)

The thing is, since Jacksonville and Carolina entered the League in 1995, only the Bears, Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons, and Saints remain in the same facilities; we’ve discussed the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Bills, and Falcons, and only the Packers haven’t taken public funds for renovations (although the Packers breed a special breed of stupidity, as they financed their stadium by suckering their idiot fans into buying stock certificates that have no actual benefit of team ownership).

My point is that teams were suckering their fan bases into paying for their stadiums well before Goodell came into power.  Hell, they’ve been doing it in every other sport, with practically every team threatening to move if they didn’t get a new stadium financed with public funds.  This isn’t new, and it surely isn’t Goodell’s doing.

Finally, we come to the DVR.  Back in 2000 TiVo introduced the first DVR, and as their use has become more and more common in American households, the networks are looking for DVR-proof programming.  And nothing is more DVR-proof than sports.  Sure, there are a decent number of people who start the game an hour late, skip the commercials, and finish when everyone else does.  But for the most part people who are watching sports are doing it live, meaning they are consuming the commercials that are so important to the networks.  As a result, TV rights fees for sports have shot through the roof.  From 2006-13, TV rights fees were $3 billion/year.  From 2014-21, they were over $5 billion.  That’s not Roger Goodell’s doing, it’s because the networks are desperate.

And for all this business that Goodell had nothing to do with, what has he given us?  Embarrassment.  League disciplinary processes that leave us sympathetic to pieces of shit like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy.  Suspensions so heavy-handed in the Bountygate investigation that his predecessor was brought in to overturn his findings.  Discipline that was probably light in the infamous SpyGate scandal, although we’ll never know because immediately after the penalties were handed down he destroyed all the evidence to protect his buddy Robert Kraft.  And a ridiculous make-up suspension – a suspension he’s still suing to uphold despite the fact that numerous arbitrators and courts have ruled that the suspension was ridiculous – of Tom Brady over some deflated footballs (to make up for the aforementioned light SpyGate penalties) that were so important to the outcome of the game that the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0 after the offending footballs were removed from play.

And that doesn’t even mention the concussion catastrophe, which I’ll get to later.

Fire Roger Goodell.  Hire a drunk monkey.  It’s not that hard to be a commissioner in American sports.  Hell, Gary Bettman’s been doing it for over 20 years.

Fix the Concussion Crisis

Look, I get it.  Football is a dangerous game.  We watch as much for the bone-jarring collisions as we do for the amazing catches from Antonio Brown and the amazing runs from Todd Gurley.  But it’s recently become amazingly clear that playing football at all levels kills people.  It’s simply by the grace of God that no one has died on an NFL field as a result of a violent collision.  It is coming and it will likely destroy the League.  But the NFL can get in front of it and prevent that with a couple of easy fixes.

First, have independent concussion doctors on site at every game.  Let’s make it 3 doctors at each game who will have the power to stop the game if they see a guy struggling and will review him away from team personnel to determine if he is capable of returning to the game.  Players go into concussion protocol now, but players still believe that the doctors are more concerned with the team that employs them than they are with the players’ well being.  So we’re removing the concept of team concussion doctors and replacing them with League concussion doctors.  And just so we make sure that the League can’t step in and say that Cam Newton is cleared for the Super Bowl (when we know it would be an utter disaster for the League if Derek Anderson had to start), the doctors will be hired independent of the League.  Let it be the state’s medical boards that handle it.  If the NFL doesn’t like it, threaten to pull their favorable antitrust status.

Second, lifetime medical insurance for anyone who’s ever played for, been drafted by, or signed with an NFL team.  This will prevent the League from even trying to make the argument that the problem wasn’t caused by their football history.  Make it retroactive for any living player and have an independent board review the status of any of the decedents of deceased players.  It’ll save the League on lawyers fees and it’ll gain them immeasurable public relations points.  It’ll be expensive, but the NFL’s a cash cow.  And when a player inevitably dies on the field, the NFL will be able to say, “Hey, we know it’s dangerous, but we’re taking care of it.”

How are we going to pay for it?

Expand the Season

But wait, DSC, how can you complain about the inherent dangers of the NFL and then tell us we need to expand the season?  Simple.  We’re not adding games, we’re adding weeks.

I didn’t see Concussion, mainly because the Sony email hack scandal showed that the studio pulled some punches out of fear for being sued by the League, but also because I both watched the League of Denial documentary and read the book, so I didn’t feel like paying to watch a movie that thinks Luke Wilson is a convincing Roger Goodell.  But the trailer had one interesting line, and that’s that the League owns a day of the week.  And it’s true: from September until early February, every Sunday is NFL Sunday.  So what better way to add income then by giving them more of those Sundays?

As it stands now, we get 4 crappy preseason games and 16 regular season games over 21 weeks, with each team getting one regular season bye week.  The owners have started to realize that fans don’t want to pay full price for a preseason ticket, so they drop the price of the preseason games and spread the difference over the regular season games.  And we pay it, because we’re stupid sheep.

Now imagine 2 preseason games and 16 regular season games over the same 21 weeks, but with 19 weeks in the regular season.  What’s the difference?  I’m glad you asked.  And if you didn’t ask, you should have.

As it stands now, if you’re one of the 99% of America that has cable (that’s an estimate, but it’s not far off), you get to see 5 games a week – Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and 2 on Sunday afternoon (and if you choose to skip around you can see 3 of the games on Sunday afternoon).  That’s 85 games a season, or 33% of the 256 games on the schedule, and that doesn’t include the nationally televised Thanksgiving games or the occasional late-season Saturday games.

Now, expand that 2 weeks without adding any games, and you’ll see 105 games, and you’re up to 41% of the season, all without dropping another penny.  And you do it in a way that helps player safety, and everyone loves that.

You may recall that in my prior diatribe about fixing the League I suggested that the final week of the regular season should be the final Sunday of December, with the playoffs starting the first week of January.  With this in mind, Week 1 would take place the week of August 23 and Week 19 would take place the week of December 27.  Is August 23 early?   Yes.  However, this would mean that the preseason games would start on August 9 (no sooner than normal), with the “real” games starting sooner.  And who would hate that?

(Well, Major League Baseball, but we’re not talking about them right now.)

So how will it work?  Each team plays a 16-game season with 3 bye weeks.  The players get added time to rest and recover and we likely see more players playing more games.  There will be no bye weeks from Weeks 1-4 and 17-19.  Two divisions each (one from each conference) have a bye week every fourth week from weeks 5-16, with the same divisions on the same bye weeks to eliminate any competitive advantage with teams getting longer gaps between bye weeks.

What’s the benefit?  You just gave the networks two additional weeks of DVR-free unstoppable NFL programming, which always finishes at the top of the ratings.  That’s roughly 12% more games for the people to see, and, more importantly, 12% more TV revenue.  At $5 billion a year as it currently stands, you’ve just added $600 million additional revenue without requiring the players to play another game.

If this isn’t the most brilliant and simplest fix to the game, I don’t know what is.

Lifetime Bans for Violent Criminals

Greg Hardy is a pile of shit who threw his girlfriend onto a futon full of assault weapons while she begged him to kill her, paid her off so that she wouldn’t press charges, and then promised to come out guns blazing when his suspension was up (and let’s not even discuss his comments about his opponents wives and girlfriends).

Adrian Peterson whipped the shit out of his 4-year-old son, scraping his legs and testicles, and while he was off on a league-mandated sabbatical (he was only retroactively suspended), he got caught smoking weed and threw himself an elaborate Egyptian-themed birthday party where he refused to allow anyone to discuss the charges against him.  He has shown zero remorse and seeks no redemption, despite the fact that publications such as Sports Illustrated really want to give it to him.

The NFL Players Association, because these pieces of shit are dues-paying members, are required to stick up for them, so when Goodell tries to do something good like banish these monsters in a manner that fits their crimes, he does it based on guidelines that aren’t in place and require the NFLPA to stick up for them.

So I say ban them for life.

Electrocuted a dog?  Gone.  Killed a guy while you were driving drunk?  See ya.  Knock your wife out and then dragged her out of an elevator?  Banned.  Threw your girlfriend onto a pile of assault weapons?  Outta here.  Beat the shit out of your kid?  Get out.

Playing football is a privilege.  In exchange for your considerable talents you are paid a ridiculous sum of money and expected to not be a total garbage human being.  If you fail to do so, that privilege is taken away.  And for anyone who says we’re taking away his right to earn a living, save it.  We’re not doing that.  He can go work as a janitor, or a clerk at a 7-11, or, perhaps, he could use his college education, say he made a mistake in job interviews and it’s cost him dearly, and hope he can make something of his life.

But if you’re guilty of committing a violent crime, you’re done.

And just so we don’t let the teams off the hook, they’ll be required to pay the remaining guaranteed amount of his contract to a charity of the victim’s choosing.  We won’t be total dicks though…we won’t make them take a salary cap hit.

“Fix” the Playoffs

Let’s face it, the NFL playoffs are about as good as it gets, second only to the NCAA tournament in terms of excitement and watchability.  But it can get moderately better with a few tweaks.

First, add a wild card team.  The NFL ditched one of their wild card teams when they expanded to four divisions in 2002; this corrects that issue.  It also makes securing the top seed a more important endeavor as it gives that team the only first-round bye.  And perhaps most importantly for the League, it gives them two additional playoff games, which means additional revenue.  An opening-weekend tripleheader on both Saturday and Sunday would be to everyone’s liking, I’m certain.

Second, seed the teams by record.  I’m fine with division champions being guaranteed a playoff berth (for the most part…I’ll get to that in a second), but that’s it.  In the 2015 playoffs, all four home teams lost in the Wild Card round.  If we seeded based on record, two of those teams would’ve played on the road.  The NBA is going this route, and while I hate to tell anyone to follow the NBA’s lead, in this case they’ve got it right.

Third, and definitely more controversially, a division title doesn’t guarantee you a playoff berth.  If you’re under .500 and there’s a team that has a better record than you and would otherwise be left out of the playoffs, you’re out and they’re in.  If you’re at or above .500 and a team has 2 more wins than you and would otherwise be left out, they’re in and you’re out.  Don’t like it?  Tough.  I hate rewarding teams for geography.

(If you read my first “Fix the NFL” post, you’ll notice I proposed a massive overhaul of the playoffs and the divisions.  I like that better, but this is more realistic.)

Kill the Coin Toss

There’s no such thing as home field advantage in football (same thing in basketball, but again, not my concern here).  In baseball you get the last at-bat at home, in hockey you get the second line change.  So the home team gets to determine whether to kick off or receive.  Same thing for overtime.  This eliminates any potential embarrassments such as the one we saw in the Green Bay-Arizona playoff game this year.

(And for you degenerate gamblers out there, because the Super Bowl is a neutral site, we can keep the coin toss for that game and that game only.)

Fix Overtime

I don’t have a simple fix for this one.  All I know is that the NFL’s overtime is stupid.  They changed it a few years back because the ball was taken out of Brett Favre’s hands after the Vikings lost the coin toss in the NFC Championship game (never mind the fact that Favre threw an asininely stupid interception that prevented the Vikings from kicking the game-winning field goal in regulation).  So now both teams are guaranteed a possession in overtime unless the team who wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on the first possession.  That’s just needlessly complicated.

The simplest answer is to just eliminate the sudden death nature of football’s overtime and play the full 15 minutes.  And because I’m lazy, let’s just do that.

Fix Replay

We’re instituting a couple of simple changes.  First, you have as many challenges as you have timeouts.  If that means you get 14 challenges and because the refs keep screwing up and you keep correctly pointing out that the refs keep screwing up, so be it.  Get the call right.

Second, everything is reviewable.  Some penalties are just obvious and aren’t really the judgment call that the referee’s union would like you to believe.  Illegally batting a ball out of bounds?  Reviewable.  Picking up the flag on an obvious pass interference?  Reviewable.  Thumb barely grazed the quarterback’s helmet, leading to a nonsensical facemask call?  Reviewable.

(Is it obvious I’m a Lions fan?)

Are you going to review a missed hold on 2nd-and-8 in the 2nd quarter?  No.  But you are going to review a play that would’ve given you the ball back late in the game or ended the game on the final play.

Third, institute a “Common Sense Committee”, or CSC.  The NFL refuses to fix the catch rule, which makes sense because it’s not like whether a catch is a catch should be the simplest question to answer in the NFL.  So because we’re not going to fix the rule, we’re going to institute a committee that asks for a common sense ruling when such a ruling is required.  So who’s on the CSC?  Simple.  Four drunk fans from every team (and yes, it’s football, they must be drunk).  When there’s a call that goes to replay (whether that’s by a coach’s challenge or on a turnover or touchdown), the CSC – excluding the representatives of the two teams involved – is called to review the play.  If the CSC disagrees with the outcome of the replay, the CSC’s decision wins out.  Utilizing the CSC, there’d be no such thing as the “Calvin Johnson Rule”.

Fix Officiating

The League will tell you that officiating is fine, that the percentage of incorrect calls was no different this year than it was in previous years.  This may be correct, but this year the mistakes were in particularly high-profile situations.  The NFL is a $12 billion enterprise that uses part-time officials.  I’m not the only one who finds this ridiculous.  The officials are crucial, and one needs only look back to the Fail Mary – a call so bad that it quite literally ended a strike by the officials’ union – to see how important they are.  So make them full-time paid employees and I guarantee it gets better.

(Although we may lose the greatness that is Ed Hochuli, because he’s a well-paid attorney in his “spare” time.)

We’re also allowing the League to correct the outcomes of games.  In two circumstances this season – a missed false start that would’ve led to a 10-second runoff and the end of the game prior to a game-winning field goal; and an incorrect face mask on the final play of the game that led to an untimed completed Hail Mary – bad calls resulted in outcomes different than what should have actually happened.  In these cases, the NFL is to be allowed to step in and change the outcome of the game.  It’s an extreme example and would not happen often, but it is a possibility.

Draft Pick Compensation for Incorrect Calls

This idea is so absurd that I’m completely separating it from the notion of fixing the officiating.  Will it ever happen?  No.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about it.

Take the Week 4 game between the Seahawks and Lions.  With 1:45 left in the game, Calvin Johnson caught a pass, gained the first down at the Seattle 1, then fumbled the ball into the end zone, where Kam Chancellor illegally batted it out of bounds.  The referees incorrectly ruled it a touchback – the illegal bat should’ve given the ball back to the Lions at the spot of the fumble – and the Seahawks were able to run out the clock and win the game.  Because we don’t KNOW that this game would’ve turned out differently – and thus the NFL wouldn’t change the outcome of the game retroactively – we send the game to a committee for draft pick compensation.  After the season, teams would send egregious calls such as this to the committee for review to determine how much the bad call impacted the outcome of the game and how much that game impacted the remainder of the season.  If the committee determines that the game would have ended differently, they determine the round of draft pick compensation.  The actual winning team loses their draft pick in exchange for the next “natural” (i.e., not impacted by trades) draft pick of the actual losing team.

(In this situation, the Lions would’ve had the Packers Hail Mary game overturned on account of the incorrect face mask call, making the Lions 8-8 and the Packers 9-7.  The draft pick compensation committee would’ve then determined that with the ball on the Seahawks 1 with first down and under 2 minutes to play, the Lions likely would’ve won that game, which would’ve made them 9-7 and in a tie with – and more importantly holding the tiebreakers over – the Seahawks and Packers, which would’ve given them a playoff berth.  Loss of a playoff berth or a playoff game is an automatic first round draft pick, with the Seahawks receiving the Lions’ next draft pick, in this case their second rounder.)

(On a completely unrelated note, I’m now horribly depressed.)

Give the Lions and Browns 2 Additional Wins to Start the Season

Look, they need it.  Either they’ll screw it up themselves or the refs will do it for them.

These 2 wins will not be used for playoff seeding.

Depressing stat: Since the Browns returned to the NFL in the 1999 seasons, the Browns and Lions have made the playoffs a combined total of 4 times (out of 34 total team seasons).  If you spotted them each 2 wins to start the season, that number goes up to a total of 7 trips to the playoffs.

But seriously, fire Roger Goodell.

The Final Four of Coaching Hatred

A few weeks back I posted on Facebook something that is somewhat typical for me during NCAA tournament time: I asked who looked more like a rat, Bo Ryan or Mike Krzyzewski (or, as the post said, Mike Krzyzezwzszkzi).  Coming a few weeks after I expressed my happiness with the NCAA coming down hard on Syracuse and Jim Boeheim, while calling Boeheim a dick, my dad asked me why I hated so many coaches.  It’s a fair question.  And so today I provide you with that breakdown.

It should be noted that I rank college coaches on par with pro sports owners.  I don’t particularly think they’re great people, no matter who they are.  They’re making a ridiculous amount of money largely on the backs of poor minority kids who don’t get paid for their services and have almost no choice as to where to ply their trade.  I’m not going to get too deep into my philosophical issues with the college sports system, but I don’t think any of the coaches are particularly stellar individuals.

I also think most teams cheat.  The good ones are either not stupid enough to get caught, or don’t piss off any former players to the extent that he’s willing to rat out the team.

Now that that’s out of the way, if anyone reads this post and doesn’t know me (ha!), it must be stated that I’m a die-hard Michigan State Spartan, so while others would undoubtedly have the great Tom Izzo on this list, it should come as no surprise that you won’t see him here.  In the interest of fairness – which is stupid since it’s my blog – I asked if a friend wanted to write something up on why he hates Izzo.  A fairly rabid Michigan fan, he said he didn’t hate Izzo, but that he was generally annoyed with all his whining, comparing Izzo to his 3-year-old.  So while I’m sure plenty of Michigan fans loathe Izzo (jealousy is so unattractive), generally speaking Izzo’s just like everyone’s 3-year-old kid.

Honorable Mention:

Bob Knight, Indiana/Texas Tech

Look, you can’t have a list detailing all the college basketball coaches you hate and not include Bob Knight.  The guy’s an arrogant asshole who had complete contempt for everyone in the media, and then he became a member of the media (sorry guys, if you get paid to talk about sports and you’re not employed by one of the teams/schools/leagues, you’re a part of the media).  While a part of the media, he was the same arrogant asshole he always was.

The thing is, as I got older, I started to realize that Knight wasn’t really all that bad.  He ran a clean program, he graduated his players and he won.  He had a hard-nosed style that didn’t jibe with today’s standards and probably wasn’t the way John Wooden coached UCLA, but the fact is that few of his players had an issue with him.  He was ousted from Indiana because he got caught on film putting his hands on a player’s throat and then reacting like, well, an arrogant asshole when a student said, “Hey Coach!” to him on campus.

Fuck Bobby Knight, but not as much as I used to think.

Bobby Hurley, Buffalo

I know almost nothing about Bobby Hurley as a coach, aside from the fact that he coached Buffalo to the NCAA tournament this year.  Still, he’s a Krzyzewski protegé and one of the most hated players in college basketball history.

Fuck Bobby Hurley on principle alone.

Bob Huggins, Cincinnati/Kansas State/West Virginia

If Mitch Albom’s book “Fab Five” is to be believed (and there’s plenty of reason it’s not), during warm ups before the 1992 NCAA semifinal between Michigan and Huggins’s Cincinnati team, during some back-and-forth trash talking between Cincinnati’s players and Michigan’s Fab Five freshman, one of the Fab Five told a couple of Cincinnati’s players that he wanted them to go write a paper about how bad they suck.  It was a classic exchange, one that had me laughing out loud when reading it.  Damn Mitch Albom could write.  Too bad he became such an embarrassing hack.

The irony is that there’s a pretty good chance the Cincinnati players wouldn’t be able to write a paper if they weren’t allowed to use crayon.

Huggins was the first guy I remember that operated a team on a culture of lawlessness and academic inferiority.  There have been many before and since, but none that were actually fired because his teams were academically inferior.  Seriously.  Cincinnati had won 10 regular season championships, gone to two Elite 8’s and a Final Four, and all of this came after the school had not been to the NCAA tournament in the 12 years prior to Huggins’s arrival.  And still Cincinnati’s president said, “I’m tired of having players getting arrested and graduating at a 30% rate, so you’re fired.”  Good for her.

Not that Michigan State is on par with the Harvards and Stanfords – or even the Michigans and North Carolinas – of the educational world, but Huggins has chosen to coach at schools where he can get away with recruiting players who will never succeed in the classroom in the hopes of winning a few more games.  Seriously, my cat could get into West Virginia, and he can barely read.

Fuck Bob Huggins, although I’d probably have to use Hooked on Phonics for his players to understand those 3 words.

Elite 8:

John Calipari, Massachusetts/Memphis/Kentucky

I should hate Calipari as much as everyone else does.  He’s taken 2 schools – Massachusetts and Memphis – to the Final Four, only to see those accomplishments wiped out of the record books because Marcus Camby took money and Derrick Rose had someone else take his SAT’s for him.  Calipari wasn’t implicated in either situation, but this falls under the classic case of where there’s smoke there’s fire.  If Kentucky were to have to vacate some or all of their accomplishments under Calipari it would surprise exactly no one.

And today everyone hates him because he’s won one title and is likely about to win another on the backs of players who have no intention of ever graduating from school.

On that last point – a point that likely extends to the Derrick Rose case – Calipari is taking advantage of a stupid rule the NBA implemented that said no one can enter the league until they’re at least 19 and have been out of high school for at least one year (we can go into the stupidity of that at another point).  Those kids are going to go to school somewhere, Calipari just decided to round up as many of them as possible.  And he’s honest about it.  He’s winning with guys who should be in the NBA if the league weren’t borderline racist trying to keep minority kids in their place.  If it comes out that he’s been cheating with these guys at Kentucky I’ll change my tune, but I’m generally ok with what he’s doing.

Don’t fuck Calipari, fuck the stupid NBA rule that he exploits.

Rick Pitino, Kentucky/Louisville

Pitino’s a lot like Calipari.  He’s smarmy, he dresses like a gangster, he brings up 9/11 almost as much as Rudy Giuliani does (his brother-in-law was killed in the attacks) and he says things that would likely get others in more trouble.  True story: earlier this season Pitino’s Louisville team blew out an inferior opponent early in the season.  In Pitino’s post-game presser, he said that he didn’t want the game to be such a blow out, proclaiming that he had four white guys and an Egyptian in the game at the end.  If that thing is flipped on its head, Pitino’s fired in a day.

Also, including Pitino on this list allows me to tell this hysterical story.  A few years back, Pitino was involved in a nasty little affair that saw him impregnating a woman during a restaurant tryst (he’s married, so I guess that serves as a decent reason not to like the guy), paying for her abortion and then watching as his assistant coach married her.  She eventually tried to extort him and was brought up on charges.  During the trial, Pitino was asked how long he and the woman had had sex.  His response?  15 seconds.  It was the first time I could imagine a judge would’ve been ok with perjury.

Fuck Rick Pitino.  It won’t take you that long.

Bill Self, Kansas

Kansas always destroys my brackets.  If I pick them in the Final Four, they lose in the first round.  If I pick them to lose in the first round, they go to the Final Four (ironically, Michigan State is in the process of assuming that “mantle”).  I hate Kansas for that reason alone.

But lately Kansas is a team that goes out fairly routinely in the first weekend, yet they’re still treated as basketball royalty.  They’ve won 2 titles since the Wilt Chamberlain era, one of them on the backs of Danny Manning and the other because John Calipari’s Memphis team couldn’t hit free throws.  The entire program is a fraud.

Fuck Bill Self for his association with an overrated program.

Tom Crean, Marquette/Indiana

Tom Crean is the very picture of what terrifies Michigan State grads.  Unlike Dean Smith at North Carolina, who has a pretty impressive coaching tree behind him, Tom Izzo’s assistants haven’t gone on to much success as head coaches themselves.  There’s a general concern about what will happen to the program should Izzo take a better gig or retire.  Crean was seen as a worthy heir.  He took Marquette to the Final Four, making Dwyane Wade a star in the process.  He moved on to Indiana, where he was expected to bring a once-proud program back to national prominence.  Short of a buzzer-beater against a Kentucky team that would go on to win the national championship, he’s done nothing.

Plus, he looks like a serial killer.

Fuck Tom Crean.  Just try to make sure he doesn’t take your skin afterwards.

Final Four:

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

I’ll make it clear: I don’t hate Bo Ryan (well, aside from the fact that he looks like a rodent in the mafia).  Tom Izzo’s the best coach in the Big 10 – as I said I’m biased, but if you even try to argue that you’re probably an idiot – but Ryan’s clearly the second best.  It’s not really that close.  Thad Matta at Ohio State and John Beilein at Michigan are great coaches in their own right, but Ryan’s clearly one of the best coaches in the nation.  He’s done at Wisconsin what Izzo has done at Michigan State.

No, what I hate about Bo Ryan is the myriad of Wisconsin fans who will have you believe that Bo Ryan IS the best coach in the Big 10.  They’ll trumpet his Big 10 titles – no insignificant achievement, admittedly – and his 4 national titles in Division III.  And this happened before he went to the last 2 Final Fours!  Sorry, I don’t care about conference titles and I REALLY don’t care about what anyone does in Division III.  Talk to me about national championships and Final Fours.  Ryan has no titles to Izzo’s one and 2 Final Fours to Izzo’s 7.  Sorry Wisconsin, he’s got a long way to go to be in the discussion.

Fuck Bo Ryan.  I’m sure there are plenty of people in Wisconsin who will volunteer.

Roy Williams, Kansas/North Carolina

Exhibit 1: see Bill Self

Exhibit 2: Roy Williams is riding on the coattails of Dean Smith’s legacy.  Smith built UNC into a power program whose name says it all.  Being recruited by North Carolina in basketball is like being recruited by Alabama in football.  Unlike Nick Saban though, North Carolina has never been in the shitter (no matter what you think about the Matt Doherty era) and never had to build themselves up from probation and postseason bans.  Although they should.

It’s recently come out that North Carolina engaged in one of the biggest cases of academic fraud in the history of college sports.  Academic advisers wrote papers and players were steered to no-show classes.  It’s so bad that players are suing North Carolina and the NCAA for providing an inadequate education.  When asked about the academic situation, Roy Williams said, “It’s not my job to see that my players are getting an education.  My job is to coach the basketball team.”  To be fair, the NCAA agrees; in their response to the lawsuit, they’ve indicated the NCAA has no responsibility to provide their athletes an education.  Think of that next time you year the term “student-athlete”.

But back to Williams.  We’re supposed to believe that the academic advisers to the athletic department committed massive institutional academic fraud to keep its players eligible and that the basketball coach had nothing to do with it?

Fuck Roy Williams on the bridge in Brooklyn he’s got to sell you.

Championship Game:

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

Jim Boeheim’s a dick.  There’s not even a joke there.  He’s an epic, world-class asshole.  If he were a cop he’d be the prick who went on a tirade against an Indian Uber driver in New York this week.  Add in his college basketball dictatorship and it’s there for all to see.

In 2014 Tyler Ennis decided he was going pro after his freshman year.  Boeheim wanted Ennis to continue playing for free at Syracuse, so he said Ennis shouldn’t go pro while proclaiming that half of the first-round draft picks in the NBA are out of the league in 3 years, a blatant falsehood.  He’s already declared, he’s not coming back no matter how much shit you talk about him, so why not talk up your guy and see if he can get drafted higher?  Nope, Boeheim talked shit about how hard it would be for a point guard to transition to the NBA and negatively compared him to another Syracuse player who’d left early a few years early.

Then Syracuse gets nailed for academic misconduct, improper booster activity and failure to adhere to its own drug testing policy, and Boeheim himself was called out for a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.  This was after Syracuse had already voluntarily declared themselves ineligible for this year’s NCAA tournament.  Syracuse was placed on probation, lost scholarships, and Boeheim was suspended for 9 games in the 2015-16 season.  And how does this prick respond?  He holds a press conference on the morning the NCAA tournament started, acted defiant and announced he would appeal the sanctions.  Nice way to bring the attention to yourself.

Fuck Jim Boeheim.  Fuck him like a prison bitch.  That’s not even a joke.  Fuck him hard.

This was a tight championship fight.  Think of Boeheim’s press conference as Gordan Hayward’s half-court shot in the 2010 title game that would’ve upset the eventual champion.  The same champion we see here.  There’s simply no topping…

National Champion:

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

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I hate Mike Krzyzewski.  If I were to create my Mount Rushmore of sporting hatred, it would probably consist of Roger Goodell, Krzyzewski, Matt Millen, and Patrick Roy.  God I hate Krzyzewski.

Calipari gets all the crap for his one-and-done approach.  But let me throw out a few names.  Corey Maggette.  Kyrie Irving.  Luol Deng.  Austin Rivers.  Jabari Parker.  Jahlil Okafor (trust me, he’s not staying beyond this year).  This doesn’t include William Avery (more on him in a minute), Elton Brand or Jason Williams, who didn’t go after one year, but did leave early.  And yet assistant coach Jeff Capel came out and said, “Well, we’re not recruiting an entire class of one-and-dones.”  Arrogant fucks.

Back to William Avery.  Duke had one of its best teams in the 1998-99 season, entering the tournament with one loss.  But they lost in the championship game to Connecticut.  Everyone knew Elton Brand was gone.  Maggette and Avery were more of a surprise.  How did Krzyzewski respond?  He called Avery’s mother and exclaimed that her son was ruining his team.

This wasn’t even the biggest asshole move of his career.  Early in his career, a writer for the Duke student paper wrote a column discussing how the team wasn’t living up to expectations.  Krzyzewski brought the student writer into the locker room and loudly and angrily berated him in front of the team.  Even the players thought it was over the top.

Earlier this year, Duke kicked a player off its team for the first time in history.  Rasheed Sulaimon was dismissed for unknown reasons, but more than a year prior he had been accused of sexually assaulting 2 female students.  Think that’s a problem?  It gets worse.  Duke’s athletic department was made aware of the allegations in March 2014, and they violated federal law by not reporting them.  Think that happens without Krzyzewski’s knowledge?  You probably also believe there’s nothing Joe Paterno could’ve done to help those kids.

Krzyzewski is probably the best coach in college basketball history.  You can talk about John Wooden and his 10 national titles, but the game was easier that day and I could’ve won 7 titles in a row if I had Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton on my college teams.  It doesn’t make him the saint that Dick Vitale would have you believe.  He’s also coaching for a fan base who thinks the only black people who should be on campus are the ones on the basketball team.

Fuck Mike Krzyzewski.  You and your entire racist school.

There you have it folks.  Think my reasoning is irrational?  Got any other suggestions?  That’s fine, feel free to comment below.

Why Sports?

As a lot of you (translation: my dad) have noticed, I haven’t written in a while.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  Work doesn’t like it when I spend time writing for my personal blog, I like to drink, TV has some really cool stuff going on, I like to drink and I’m also pretty damn lazy.  Also, I like to drink.  But in reality, it might come down to one damning thing.

Sports just aren’t as fun anymore.

Let’s do a little history lesson.  First off, I didn’t get “big” into sports until my dad had moved away to Illinois.  This isn’t any criticism, but there really wasn’t any history of me sitting on the couch watching my dad get pumped up about the Bears, so a lot of my loyalties have varied and the start of my histories with certain sports tie in to when local teams were good.

Now that you know that…

I got off to a good start.  My first sports memory was the 1984 Tigers winning the World Series.  I didn’t have much of a memory of that team, but I do remember the end of that final game.  From there it was on to the ’85 Bears, whom I picked up with my dad and will still argue are the best team of all time.  In ’87 Michigan State’s football team went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in over 20 years.  In ’88 the Pistons should’ve beaten the Lakers in the NBA Finals, and in ’89 they did.  That same year Michigan fired their basketball coach then won the NCAA basketball title (at that age you could switch collegiate loyalties as often as you changed underwear, so at least once a week).  In 1989 the Lions drafted the greatest running back not named Jim Brown; in 1991 they were a win away from the Super Bowl.

And those were just the local teams.  For some reason I liked Jose Canseco, so I watched the A’s win the Earthquake World Series in ’89.  That same year – as with all summers from the time I was 10 until I was 16 – I spent the summer at my dad’s place in Illinois and watched the Cubs on WGN every afternoon.  They went to the playoffs that year and I’ve been a fair weather Cubs fan ever since.  I loved Joe Montana, and I watched the 49ers win Super Bowls 23 and 24 as Montana cemented his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  My brother picked up hockey and the New York Rangers in 1994, so I learned the sport along with him (while wondering why Chris Osgood left the net).  And perhaps the biggest “betrayal” for any Michigan sports fan: in 1993 I discovered my dad was a Bulls fan and picked them up when the Pistons were down.  I stuck with them through the 72-win season in ’96, although the Dennis Rodman pickup helped me justify that one.

By 1997, the Red Wings had gotten off the schneid, beaten the shit out of the Colorado Avalanche, and would win 4 Cups in just over a decade.  The Pistons got over the teal era, and won one of the more unexpected titles in NBA history while going to 6 Eastern Conference Finals in a row.  The Tigers got over 13 consecutive losing seasons – including the worst year in American League history – by going to the World Series on a walkoff home run by Magglio Ordonez.  Michigan State’s basketball team capitalized on sanctions at Michigan and went to 4 straight Final Fours and won the national title in 2000 (my collegiate loyalties were locked in when I decided to go to East Lansing to study journalism for 6 weeks before I found out what journalists make).  The Spartan football team became a power and we’ve won 10+ games 4 times in 5 years, won a Rose Bowl, don’t measure our success on whether or not we beat Michigan, and talk about national titles without being called delusional.

I even gave up on the 49ers and shed my fair weather reputation when they fired Steve Mariucci and became a full-time Lions fan.  Then the Lions hired him and I completely understood what the 49ers were doing.  But while the Lions went through a stretch that would rival or even exceed the stretch the Tigers put us through, they weren’t contracted or moved, they didn’t have the Thanksgiving game taken away from them and they’ve even made the playoffs.

Things were good.

But dig deeper and it’s not hard to poke holes in the facade.  For a sporting society that lives on the idea of “Second place is the first loser”, a 4-team city (not counting the 2 Big 10 schools in the area) that hasn’t won a title since 2008 – with no teams that scream out that they’re favorites to win anytime soon – doesn’t leave a fan happy.  The average title drought for the teams in this city is over 26 years (the Lions surely don’t help that average), and within those droughts are some painful sporting legacies:

  • Tigers: David Ortiz’s grand slam in the 2013 ALCS, six total runs scored in 2012 World Series, pitchers forget how to field in 2006 World Series
  • Lions: only team to go 0-16
  • Pistons: team wide mutiny after starting 37-5 in 2006 Eastern Conference finals, destroyed by LeBron games in 2007 ECF, utter disaster of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon deals
  • Red Wings: blew 3-2 lead to lose 2009 Stanley Cup Final

But that’s not it.

Should the Tigers have won a World Series by now?  Probably.  Should the Wings have repeated in ’09?  Possibly.  Could the Pistons have won more than 1 title in their 6-year run?  Definitely.  Should the Lions…hmm…um…

Every city’s got one of those teams.

And yes, these things start to wear on fans.  This isn’t the World Cup where a tiny country can be thrilled that not only did they qualify, but they also played a powerhouse to a scoreless draw.  Or the Olympics, where we watch a guy almost drown while simultaneously celebrate his ability to complete.  This is America.  We don’t just go to enjoy the games, we pull for our teams to win championships and we know exactly when the last time it happened for all of our states (1957, 1984, 2004, 2009).

But no, it’s not the woulda-coulda-shoulda that takes the fun sports.  In fact, to a large extent that’s exactly what makes it fun.

But it’s not that either.

Everyone in America watched the Great Home Run Chase of 1998.  We watched as this man who seemed destined for years to break the most hallowed record in American sports fought off a personable upstart, and then hit the magical mark of 70, a mark that seemed almost as unbreakable as the 60 that Babe Ruth hit in 1927.

Then 3 years later someone else hit 73.

I, like everyone else, was blinded to the fact that Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were chemically enhanced when they broke the record.  And as the years went on I didn’t much care, because it turned out that everyone in the game was juiced.  I care that it was clear that those chemical enhancements cheapened that magical summer, that 73 isn’t anywhere near as romantic as 60 or 61*, that there are many who still believe that 755 is the home run record.

But no, that’s not quite it either.

It’s who I’m giving my money to.

As I’ve said before, I believe sports owners to be among the most despicable people on earth.  The history of professional sports is littered with stories of owners doing whatever they could to pay the players – the people the fans are coming to see – as little as possible, to treat them as chattel, to restrict their rights, to control what they wear.  It continues to this day, with the NFL fining players $10,000 for wearing Beats headphones to mandatory post-game press conferences.  “Guys, we know Beats is the big thing now, but we’ve got a contract with Motorola which, believe it or not, is still in business.”  And yet somehow the fans paint the players as greedy whenever there’s a work stoppage.

But no, we’re still not quite there.

No, it’s the fact that these people I give so much money to – and I’ve given a ridiculous sum of money to professional sports owners over the years – not only don’t give a fuck about anyone to whom they’re responsible (fans, players, employers, families, etc.), but they think we’re stupid enough to buy their shit.

That’s it.

I started thinking about this post as I boatgated before the first game of the Lions’ season.  It was that day that the infamous video of Ray Rice knocking out his now wife went public.  The Ravens acted quickly, cutting Rice.  The NFL was in a bit of spot, because they’d already determined that watching a guy dragging his unconscious fiance out of an Atlantic City elevator was only worth a 2-game suspension.  Nevertheless, the League suspended him again, a suspension that has been reversed because it turns out that you can’t suspend a guy for the same action when the only thing that changed was that the whole world saw what you’ve already clearly known.

Over the next few weeks I watched intently as Roger Goodell insisted they hadn’t seen the tape when they clearly had.  As Vikings ownership suspended Adrian Peterson for beating the shit out of his 4-year-old son, then activated him, then suspended him again when advertisers yanked their support.  As the NFL somehow made people who had beaten their wives and children into sympathetic figures.

Sports just didn’t really feel great anymore.

That was over 3 months ago.  I sat there watching that video thinking to myself, “Do I really want to support this company anymore?”  When does the NFL become Wal-Mart, or Apple, or GM?

Including that Monday Night game, I’ve been to 4 NFL games since then.  I am the problem.

The NFL handed out painkillers and steroids like they were tic-tacs until Lyle Alzado died of a brain tumor and went public believing that the two were related.  They fought the disability claims of players who were living in their cars with dementia caused by constant helmet-to-helmet collisions.  They ignored the somewhat obvious fact that concussions could have long lasting impact (you know, beyond the 3 plays that the NFL thought they had), despite the fact that concussion issues were a plot point in Varsity Blues, which came out in 19-freaking-99 (thanks Bill Simmons…asshole).  And now they’re trying to convince us they’re concerned about domestic violence while giving a 2-game suspension to a guy who knocked out his wife and then dragged her out of an elevator.

Hell, we can’t even escape politics on the field.  When players throughout the country have expressed their Constitutionally-protected right to express their opinions (whether the venue for those opinions were appropriate is for everyone to decide on their own) about high-profile police killings they’ve gotten shot down by fans and police spokespeople.  Never mind that it was members of those police departments that led to the demonstrations in the first place.  No, it’s the young black man – and it’s always a black man – expressing his opinion who’s the problem.

And yet through this entire mess, the NFL has lost not one single viewer.  Not even me.  The only Lions games I’ve missed this year were because there were more important Tigers games taking place at the same time.  And until they start losing viewers (and, more importantly, money), what the NFL does about these public relations disasters won’t matter.

Sports have just gotten less enjoyable.  I’ll get enraged by people at the bar who have differing opinions about trades the Tigers have made.  I’ve had the text message equation of a knock-down, drag-out brawl with a friend of mine who suggested I had gone off the deep end because of how I felt about Brad Ausmus’s bullpen usage.  I was genuinely afraid he was going to have a stroke, which leads me to believe he’s got a mindset about sports not far off from mine.

Which brings me back to the whole point of this post.  Why sports?

And then I think of this picture.

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That’s what sports is.  That’s a picture taken after the Lions had beaten the Falcons in London on a last-second field goal in October.  My friend and I hadn’t been getting along all that great, mostly because I’ve got thin skin and take things personally.  But after that game, we just celebrated and chatted with foreign (wait, I guess we were the foreigners) football fans in a magnificent stadium.

It’s an excuse to travel to see  faraway friends, like the friend who moved to Germany for business.  That’s why we were in London in the first place.  Without the Lions, I don’t know if we’d make that trip.  You’d like to think that friendships survive thousands of miles, but you don’t know.  Having your teams to talk about makes it easier.

It’s complaining with your dad over text about our football teams.  It’s a bit hard to be sympathetic to his plight.  As bad as the Bears have been, they still have 1985.  While I haven’t been a full-time Lions fan since birth, geography has required me to follow them since I’ve been watching football.  We don’t talk on the phone much anymore – why bother when texting and email is so much easier – but every Sunday we text about our teams.

Talking to strangers has always been an issue for me.  I can’t talk to women.  It’s a crippling issue that has kept me single far longer than I’d like.  But I can inject myself into a random conversation about the 2002 Fiesta Bowl or whether Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame like it’s nobody’s business.  I spent a long chunk of my life feeling weird about myself, and being involved in a sports conversation makes me feel normal.

So I guess that’s why sports.

Adam Silver Is a Fucking Pimp

Donald Sterling was allowed to run his team in embarrassing fashion for all 30 years of the David Stern era.  And today, after less than 3 months on the job, Adam Silver swept away the festering boil and showed more spine than Stern ever did.

So much for the plantation mentality of the NBA.

Let’s do a quick rundown of Sterling’s despicable acts:

  • In the 1980’s, while interviewing Rollie Massimino while tanked and with a blonde on his arm, he asked Massimino why he thought he could coach those n—–s.
  • He once told his general manager, NBA legend Elgin Baylor, that he wanted a team of “poor black boys from the South…playing for a white coach.”
  • Several players complained that Sterling brought women into the locker room after games and said, “Look at those beautiful black bodies.”
  • He settled a housing discrimination lawsuit for $2.75 million saying that African-Americans were not clean and they smelled and that Hispanics laid around all day smoking and drinking.
  • He celebrated Black History Month…in March.  I guess it’s the thought that counts.

Technically speaking he did nothing wrong…well, except for the housing discrimination thing, but when you’re worth $2 billion, $2.75 million is a drop in the bucket.  Still, when you own a team in a league that is predominantly black, you might think the commissioner might want to lay down some discipline.  Instead he decided to get tougher on technical fouls, inflict a dress code and “suggest” that Allen Iverson might not want to release a rap album.

Priorities.

But today, 3 days after audio surfaced that revealed Sterling saying that he didn’t want his mistress to bring black people to his games, Silver brought down the hammer.  Sterling was banned for life, he was fined $2.5 million (the maximum allowable under the NBA Constitution), and Silver announced that he would seek a vote from the NBA’s owners to force Sterling to sell the team (he needs the vote of 22 of the remaining 29 owners).

After Sterling’s comments broke, players were unanimous in their condemnation, and even Michael Jordan said that Sterling didn’t belong in the league anymore.  Considering Jordan once supposedly said, “Republicans buy shoes too,” when asked to campaign against Jesse Helms in his home state, getting such a statement out of Jordan was monumental.

Had Stern been in charge every player that spoke out would’ve been fined or suspended.  Probably (cue Homer Simpson voice).

Today was a watershed moment in the NBA and in sports in general, and Adam Silver was introduced to the world as a commissioner the sports world can admire.  Considering he just assumed the mantel of “Best Commissioner in Sports” from Bud Selig, this isn’t saying much, but at least he’s not implementing borderline racist policies like his predecessor; or trying to short change brain damaged or dead football players like Roger Goodell; or telling the world that no one wants replay and pretending he wasn’t complicit in the steroid era like Bud Selig; or being Gary Bettman like Gary Bettman.

Unfortunately, while we stand and applaud Silver and the NBA in general, the events of the last few days reveal some unfortunate truths about the entire situation.

For starters, one of the suggestions was that the NBA could force Sterling into selling the team by making each player on the Clippers roster a free agent, which would decimate the team.  What no one really wants to say is that only 2 players currently on the roster are on the team without any choice.  One player was drafted, one was acquired by trade.  The rest either signed as free agents, arrived via sign and trades, or signed extensions (as did superstars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan).  Their coach – Doc Rivers – orchestrated a trade that sent him from Boston to the Clippers.  Donald Sterling has been a well-known racist and scumbag for years, at least as long as these guys have been in the league, and a quick Google search would’ve told these guys that Sterling is not a guy you want to play for.  They took more money to play for him.  At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, well, I struggle supporting these guys or their protest.

Then there’s the matter of a vote by the owners being required to force Sterling to sell the team.  My personal opinion is that most professional sports owners are among the worst people on earth, ranking right up there with corporate executives, stockbrokers, politicians and the French.  They’ll take money from bankrupt cities to pay for their stadiums; proclaim that they’re not making any money while refusing to open their books; negotiating on the pretense that the players are overpaid, even though no one pays to watch the crusty old white dude in the owner’s box; and most importantly, charge me $8 for a beer.  So while the owners were unanimous in their praise for Silver’s announcement today, is it really that difficult to imagine that 8 owners would read the tea leaves and fear for the precedent that a league forcing an owner to sell his team would set?  Saying you’re going to vote for something isn’t hard.  Actually voting to declare that the league may one day decide that you have to sell your team because you said something they didn’t like is another thing entirely.  Mark Cuban wasn’t wrong when he said that such a move was a slippery slope.

And then there’s perhaps the most uncomfortable aspect to Silver’s announcement today.  Donald Sterling, before he became an NBA owner and before he became a slumlord (although probably not before he became a racist), was a divorce and personal injury attorney.  As part of his settlement with the Justice Department, he paid almost $5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, with the judge noting “Sterling’s’ scorched earth’ litigation tactics, some of which are described by the Plaintiffs’ counsel and some of which were observed by the Court. The Court has no difficulty accepting Plaintiffs’ counsel’s representations that the time required to be spent on this case was increased by defendant’s counsel’s often unacceptable, and sometimes outrageous conduct.”  Simply put, if you think Sterling is going to sell his team without a judge telling him to do so, I’ve got a basketball team in Los Angeles to sell you.

Finally, the Clippers will not come at a discount.  They’re a team with promise in one of the two biggest markets in the country.  According to Forbes, as of January 2014 they were valued at $575 million.  Sterling bought the team for $12 million.  The old despicable scumbag will be walking away with a lot of money.

So while we can watch today’s press conference and see a commissioner we can stand behind and breathe a sign of relief that the plague that is Donald Sterling may finally be going away, the reality is that this saga is far from over.  Today reminds you of the great things that sports can do, and the horrible things that sports allow.

Fixing Team Names

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The NBA regular season is over, and since I’m somewhat (completely) fair weathered when it comes to pro hoops and the Pistons don’t just suck but are a complete and total embarrassment to the city, there’s only one thing I care about…and it ain’t LeBron or the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets are no more!

It’s always bothered me when teams move to a new city – and have to rebrand anyway – and they don’t go through the trouble of changing the team name.  So we get ridiculous names like the Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma SuperSonics…oh, wait.  Theoretically team names are supposed to reflect the culture of the cities they play in, but the closest Grizzly Bear to Memphis is either in a zoo or 1300 miles away, and let’s not even talk about a style of music that is predominantly black providing the nickname for a team in the whitest state in the country.

So I’m fixing that.

Here’s the rules:

  • We’re only changing the nicknames of teams that have changed during the respective sport’s current “eras”.  For baseball, that’s the expansion era (1969-present).  For the NFL (1970), NBA (1976-77) and NHL (1979-80), this refers to the time since their mergers.  So teams like the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Lakers lucked out, even if their names make no sense.
  • Team names stick with the city (a la Cleveland Browns, Seattle SuperSonics, etc.).  If a second team comes to that city, they are eligible to adopt that moniker.
  • They haven’t moved, but we’re going to address Native American names, which means that the Redskins will be getting dealt with.
  • I don’t have a problem using a nickname that is currently in use in another sport.

That’s it, it’s that simple.  It should be noted that while I tried to research some of the cities’ histories in their respective sports to come up with names, but in the end, I’m an accountant with no creativity, and my buddy Jeff came up with a bunch of these names.  I think you’ll like them.

MLB

There’s literally no corrections to be made.  Only three baseball teams have moved during the expansion era: the Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970, the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers in 1972, and the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005.

Good on you baseball!

NFL

Not a ton of movement, but enough that teams require some adjustment.  In fact, only one team that’s moved recently has done it right and rebranded themselves, and even that was after the Titans spent 2 years as the Tennessee Oilers (interesting fact: the Oilers nickname has since been retired by the NFL…I have no idea what that means, but I find it interesting).

Also, I’m not addressing the Raiders, since they were originally the Oakland Raiders.  And since the San Diego Chargers were originally the Los Angeles Chargers, they can keep their name when they move in 2 years.

  • Arizona: There are a lot of opportunities here.  Vipers, Cobras, Wolves, Rattlers and Pythons all work, but they’d seem to be redundant with the Coyotes and Diamondbacks.  The Roadrunners would be an utterly fantastic tie-in with the Coyotes, but I can’t imagine it would ever fly with the stodgy NFL.  To me, there are two options: Firebirds (it continues the bird theme from the Cardinals) and Apache/Apaches.  And since Arizona is the Apache State, we’re getting permission from the tribe and calling them the Arizona Apache.
  • Baltimore: Theoretically they’d get to revert back to the Baltimore Colts when they stole the Browns from Cleveland.  But in a way, that would be a reward for doing the exact same thing to Cleveland that they spent years bitching to Indianapolis about.  Plus, Ravens is a better name and tie in better with the city.  They’re staying the Baltimore Ravens and will be the only team in this exercise to keep their nickname.
  • Indianapolis: There are two options here.  One, stick with the horse theme (Mustangs, Stallions, Thoroughbreds, etc.).  Two, you go with the racing theme, which is really the only thing Indianapolis is known for (Racers, Fuel, Turbo, Wings, Spoilers, Aeros, etc.).  But again, the Pacers already cover that, and I don’t feel like those nicknames really fit with the boring standards of the NFL.  So we’re going with the Indianapolis Stallions.
  • St. Louis: this one’s simple.  The Los Angeles Rams are the second (third?) incarnation of the St. Louis Cardinals. ‘Nuff said.
  • Washington: They moved from Boston in 1936, but that’s not why we’re addressing the elephant in the room.  Let’s face it, you can’t do a post about changing sports team nicknames and leave the Redskins out.  If the Redskins’ history weren’t so sordid, maybe they’d get a pass on the most blatantly racist team name in sports.  But they had to be forced to integrate by the federal government, they proudly played as “the South’s team” for years (back when the South was opening fire hoses on blacks marching for civil rights), and they intentionally changed their team song to reference Dixie instead of D.C. (thank God that’s been changed back).  This team’s history sickens me.  Let’s just do this quick and easy, change the team name to the Washington Pigskins and be done with it.  Tradition is no excuse for bigotry.  I’m glad this team is run by an unlikeable prick like Dan Snyder.

NBA

The NBA is just a disaster.  The only reason Oklahoma City became the Thunder is because of the public relations disaster that happened in Seattle (again: Oklahoma City…Seattle…Sacramento…do unto others what has been done to you).  Let’s just start, because there, I think some pretty good ones.

  • Brooklyn: theoretically the Nets are just in keeping the nickname, because they were the New York Nets when they came over from the ABA.  But that’s no fun.  What sucks is that Brooklyn Kings would be a really cool nickname, especially because Brooklyn is in Kings County.  But the Kings nickname belongs to Kansas City where the current Kings played before they moved to Sacramento, and we’re not changing the rules.  Besides, with the “cool” factor that is Brooklyn and the fact that a rapper helped move them there from New Jersey, we’re calling them the Brooklyn Ballers.
  • Charlotte: Wait a second!  The Bobcats have broken none of the rules.  They entered the league as the Bobcats.  Why change the name?  First, because Bobcats is boring, and it’s rumored that the team was named after the original owner, Robert Johnson.  Plus, now that the Hornets nickname has been abandoned, and the Hornets name dates back to the Revolutionary War in Charlotte, we’re giving the name back.  We’ve got the second iteration of the Charlotte Hornets.
  • L.A. Clippers: There are tons of problems with the Clippers, starting with their racist owner who would never spend a penny to go through a massive rebranding effort.  But let’s ignore that for now.  The first problem with the Clippers nickname is that it’s a great nickname for when they were in San Diego, where there’s a massive sailing community.  In L.A. it makes no sense.  But the other problem is that by just changing the city name, they’re going up against the Lakers, and you’re never going to top the Lakers in L.A.  So we’re taking the Los Angeles out of the Clippers and coming up with a name so awesome that there’s no way I could’ve possibly come up with it myself (and I didn’t).  Can you imagine how many units a Blake Griffin Hollywood Stars jersey would move?
  • Memphis: Memphis Soul and Memphis Blues would be cool nicknames…way cooler than having a name that made more sense in Vancouver.  However, we’re sticking it to David Stern with this one.  Back when the Grizzlies were planning on moving, they explored the option of selling the naming rights to the team (not just the stadium, the entire team).  One of the options was for the team to move to Louisville and be called the Kentucky Colonels (sponsored by KFC).  The other would’ve had them moving to Memphis and being sponsored by FedEx.  Stern put the kibosh on that, to which I say fuck that.  The Memphis Express will be the first team to sell the naming rights to the team (most assuredly not the last).
  • Sacramento: Theoretically we should ignore the current Kings since they’re likely to move to Seattle next year and become the new Seattle SuperSonics.  But that’s no fun, is it?  Plus, I think Sacramento has one of the coolest names my buddy came up with.  Sacramento, much like San Francisco, was a boom town during the California Gold Rush, so we’re going to call them the Sacramento Prospectors.
  • Utah: Changing the team’s name is a no-brainer, because if you ask any sports fan in the country what team name needs to be changed the most, Utah Jazz is going to be second (see: Redskins).  The tricky part is figuring out what to go with.  Saints would be a good shout out to the importance of the Mormon faith in the state, while Miners would be a good marker of an important piece of the state’s economy.  I said we would use nicknames that were in use by other teams, but I didn’t say it was required.  And the fact that there’s already a Saints team out there means we’re calling them the Utah Miners.

NHL

The NHL generally does things right.  The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, the Atlanta Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets, etc.  There’s one small exception.

  • Calgary: The Calgary Flames started out as the Atlanta Flames and kept the nickname when they moved north.  I wonder why a team named after the city burning down didn’t work out in Atlanta. How well do you think a team named the Detroit Riots would do financially?  If Calgary hadn’t been relatively successful, I’d say the team name was cursed…then again, they did lose the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Freaking Lightning and then the sport did shut down for a year.  So maybe.  Sorry…digression.  There’s only one thing of note in Calgary, and that’s the annual Stampede, which is one of the world’s biggest rodeos.  I know there’s already a CFL team named the Stampeders, but (a) that’s the CFL, and no one cares, and (b) the CFL once had teams named the Roughriders and the Rough Riders playing at the same time.  They can deal with having a hockey team called the Calgary Stampede.

Wasn’t that fun?  Tell me you wouldn’t prefer those names over at least some of the ones we’ve got now.