What is With All the Wife Rumours in the NHL?

Those who follow hockey know that there has been a long tradition of starting rumours about players sleeping with other players’ wives. It seems like every time a star player got traded there were whispers that the cause was either the player had slept with a teammates wife, a teammate had slept with the traded player’s wife, or some combination of the two. If you had a friend who lived in that city he would swear that everyone knew that the rumour was true, but of course there would always be at least three degrees of separation between him and the actual source. The rumours have just been limited to players. When a highly successful coach was suddenly fired in one NHL city, rumours circulated that the real reason was an affair with one of the star player’s wives.

What was once merely confined to sports bar gossip has suddenly become mainstream news. First, Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks felt the need to go public to denounce the local rumours he had torn the locker room apart by sleeping with a teammate’s wife. Then just a couple days later TSN, the Canadian version of ESPN, inexplicably aired a tweet suggesting that Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupol had slept with teammate Dion Phaneuf’s wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert. TSN later issued a formal apology for somehow letting such an inappropriate tweet air during their trade deadline coverage.

The question is, why is this happening? One explanation would be that hockey players are all a bunch of amoral, conscienceless cavemen who would sleep with any woman who batted an eye at them. That may be true, but I doubt that they would be any more so than professional athletes in the other major sports leagues. The other explanation could be that both hockey players, and perhaps more importantly, hockey fans, are far more gossipy than in other sports. I suspect both may be true, but it is the gossipy nature of hockey fans that is the primary cause.

Hockey, unlike the other big three sports, remains much more regional in nature and much more dominated by regional coverage, particularly in the United States. If you are a hockey fan most US cities, you are listening to much more hockey discussion at your local sports bar than you are on television. Hockey gets the most prominent coverage of any sport in Canada, but outside of Toronto and Montreal, most teams play in relatively small cities where half the population is probably only a couple degrees of separation from someone connect to the hockey team. Montreal and Toronto are very large cities, but the passion for hockey there creates a form of mania that is fertile ground for all forms of gossip and rumours. All this has combined with social media to make the NHL the most gossipy of all the professional sports leagues.

Blue Dress/White Dress Phenomenon Exposes Widespread Colour Blindness

Before the picture of the blue and brown dress became the biggest Internet sensation since the day before when two llamas were filmed running from police, most people assumed that colour blindness was a fairly rare condition. It appears that is not the case. Rather than being a merely entertaining diversion like the llama video, the blue dress picture has actually served a great public service in uncovering what is actually an epidemic of colour blindness in society. Thanks to the dress, we now know that well over half of the population may suffer from some form of colour blindness.

It turns out about half of the population look at the blue and brown dress and see a white and gold dress, while others see a black and blue dress. The disagreement about the colour of the dress’ trim isn’t really that big a disagreement at all. The actual trim is black, but because of the contrast in the photo it is lightened, so reasonable people can disagree on whether it is gold, brown, or a faded black colour. The most interesting and enlightening disagreement pertains to the base colour, which is blue.

Shades of brown and gold can easily be confused and are often a matter of subjective judgement, as all colours are on a spectrum. Few blues are totally blue; there are a million slightly different shades of the colour and there is a shade that is exactly half way between purple and blue. White, however, is not on a spectrum with other colours; it is essentially the absence of colour. There is no such thing as a light white, a dark white, or a teal white; there is just white.

It isn’t just that colour blindness may be far more widespread than previously thought, it is that it may be taking on different forms than previously recognized, which may explain why this epidemic has gone unnoticed for so long. Generally colour blind people have trouble differentiating between colours like green and red when they are mixed together. What has been revealed is that there is a sizeable chunk of the population that cannot detect the presence of a particular colour at all. This seemingly superfluous viral picture may have unlocked an important medical issue.

I Love Michael Jordan

I am a sports fan in my late thirties who loves Michael Jordan. While there are millions of men in their late thirties who are crazy about Jordan, I am perhaps unique in that I only became a huge fan of his last week, when I learned that he was considering building himself his own golf course so he could be assured of being able to play a round of golf in three hours. I am thrilled that such a famous person has taken a stand against 3+ hour rounds of golf.

I love golf playing golf, but unless I get the first tee off time in the morning I find most of my time on the course is spent standing around watching someone take practice swings or size up their 4 foot putt. I am far from the only person who has complained about pace of play in golf, but I find that most of the people complaining seem to be upset about rounds taking longer than four hours and fifteen minutes. Four hours and fifteen minutes is a ridiculous length of time for a round of golf.

The posted times for all golf courses, not just Michael Jordan’s future course, should be 3 hours. If you are elderly or have some leg problems, then you should use a cart. How can anyone be expected to regularly play a sport that takes longer than watching a major league baseball game? The sport is being destroyed by people who have absolutely nothing else to do besides play golf, and those who play as if the entire nation is hanging on the outcome of their every shot.

If golf wants to halt its steady decline over the last decade it needs to be a sport where people don’t feel like they need to build their own private course in order to have an enjoyable, fast paced round. In order to grow the game golf needs to start focusing more on people who have other things to do in their lives who just want to have a fast based, enjoyable round of golf.

Sports Leagues Should Ban Hereditary Team Ownership

There is a growing problem in professional sports leagues that has gone largely unreported, even as it has begun to cripple some of the most important franchises in MLB, the NBA, and the NFL. That problem is the growing number owners of major market teams who inherited the team from their parents or grandparents instead of purchasing them with their own money. In some of the biggest sports markets like Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, hereditary owners are in the process of driving some of the most prestigious and most valuable teams in the league straight into the ground.

34 year old Jed York was appointed as president of the 49ers by his parents when he was 28 years old. York’s uncle, a real estate mogul originally bought the team and oversaw all of its Super Bowl victories before being forced cede control to his sister after some legal troubles. Mr. York made headlines this year by effectively running the team’s best coach in years out of town, then badly mishandling a coaching search the ended up selecting their little known defensive line coach for the head job. Jim Harbaugh had led the team to three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance, but York still wanted him out. Someone who had built a successful organization from the ground up would have always put performance ahead of any personality clashes. Not so for someone who had a formerly successful organization dropped in his lap.

In the NBA, two of the three most important teams in the league are currently being slowly poisoned from hereditary ownership. Jerry Buss bought the Lakers and turned them into the most exciting and successful teams in all of sports for over 30 years. During his tenure, the team not only developed young stars like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, but also attracted big names like Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson. Since his son Jim assumed control of the team, the Lakers have been in steady decline, changing coaches every year or so, failing to attract big name free agents, and even being unable to retain a big name player like Dwight Howard.

The New York Knicks, though they have nowhere near the pedigree of the Lakers or 49ers, have traditionally been perennial playoff and occasional championship contenders for much of their history, but in recent years under the control of James Dolan, who was put in charge by his father, the team has been known mainly for its losing seasons, scandals, and terrible contracts. The management of the team has been so bad that even David Stern at one point publicly questioned the intelligence of management decisions and new commissioner Adam Silver even made some jokes at the Knicks’ expense.

In the business world, the presidency of billion dollar companies are rarely handed down to a son or daughter. They quite often own shares and benefit financially, but since the business world is so competitive, most company founders understand that the best way to provide for their children and grandchildren is to ensure that the best managers are hired to run the business. They know that inserting an unqualified son or daughter at the top would risk killing the business altogether.

The problem with professional sports teams, particularly those who play in big markets, are essentially monopolies that will fill seats and enjoy millions in television revenue no matter how terribly the team is run. The Knicks and Lakers are among the worst teams in the league but yet have among the highest ticket prices and best attendance. But while even the worst managers could not possibly bankrupt teams like the 49ers, Knicks, and Lakers, the league as a whole suffers when these premier teams are so poorly run.  Though owners would be unlikely to agree to it, the best policy for the league would be for the team to be sold to the highest bidder whenever an owner passes away or chooses to cede control of the team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Aren’t Any Good Because They Don’t Need to Be

In any discussion of the worst teams in North America, you often hear the usual suspects like the Knicks, Raiders, and any team based in Cleveland. None of these teams remotely compare to the open sewer that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Because they are based in Canada, and because hockey gets much less coverage than basketball, football, and baseball, the truly remarkable underperformance of the Leafs over the past 30+ years has not gotten anywhere near the attention it deserves.

Even those who have no interest in hockey should be interested in the Maple Leafs, not so much as a sports story but more from the perspective of organizational mismanagement. Toronto is easily the biggest market in the National Hockey League, it’s stadium has been sold out for generations, it has more endorsement opportunities than any other hockey city, and more players in the NHL grew up as fans of the Leafs than any other team, not because of past greatness but because so many players were born within a 3 hour drive downtown Toronto. Yet despite all of that, the Toronto Maple Leafs have never signed a star free agent in his prime. The Minnesota, a relative hinterland that has already lost one NHL franchise, seem to have no trouble attracting top talent.

It isn’t just that the richest, largest market team cannot sign top free agent stars; they can’t draft them either. The Maple Leafs have by far the worst scouting and drafting system in all of professional sports. Their futility in the draft stretches back almost three decades. To put in in perspective, if you took all of the 1st round picks made by the Leafs in the 28 years, Luke Schenn would be in 4th place in total career goals scored in a Leafs uniform. He scored 14 goals in a Leaf uniform. Scoring 14 goals in your career with a team would be like a receiver racking up 250 career receiving yards. Not a single 1st round pick scored 30 goals in a season for the team. That would be like a basketball team having 28 years of first round picks and never finding a player who could average 15 points a game.

The reason why the Leafs have been so bad for long, and the reason why even non-hockey fans should pay attention, is that the team has operated as a monopoly for much of its existence. Toronto is the biggest city in the most hockey mad country in the world and there is just one NHL team in the city. The nearest other NHL team, Buffalo, is in a different country. It isn’t just that there are so many hockey fans in the city, it is that the city has, proportionally speaking, far more corporate head offices than any other city in the league. There are 7 million people that live within a few hours of downtown Toronto, and 95% of them are hockey fans. There is a single NHL team in the city and their stadium has just under 20,000 seats, and all of the corporations based in Toronto buy large numbers of season tickets to entertain clients, so there is an incredible supply/demand imbalance in the market for hockey tickets in the city. It doesn’t matter how the team plays, people will continue to show up.

The monopoly situation that the team finds itself was actually aided by the rise of the Quebec separatist movement in the early 1980s. During the peak of the separatist movement between the early 80s and the mid-nineties, when there were two referendums and breaking up the country, huge numbers of corporations moved their head offices from Montreal to Toronto. With more head offices came more companies buying more season tickets. With a huge waiting lists for individuals hoping to buy tickets, even the most disgruntled fan will hold onto his seats as he knows he will likely never get season tickets again if he were to give them up.

The reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs have not been any good for the past three decades is that they don’t need to be any good. Most other sports franchises at least need to give their fan bases some hope for the future. The Leafs could literally buy a bunch of size 18 skates and put the Raptors out on the ice and they would still sell out. As long as people line up to pay scalpers twice the face value of tickets to watch one of the worst teams in all of sports, there is little hope that the Leafs will become a competently run organization any time in the foreseeable future.

If Seahawks Lose They Will Have John Madden to Blame

The Seattle vs New England is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated and evenly matched Super Bowl contests in recent history. Las Vegas odds makers have essentially declared the game a tossup and both the general public and the sports media are evenly divided on who will win the game.

Those picking the Seahawks think their defense will be able to rattle Brady just as they rattled Manning in last year’s Super Bowl and Russell Wilson will continue pulling rabbits out of hats. Those picking the Patriots believe that the Seahawks were lucky to get past the Packers and the Patriots are due for another Super Bowl victory. The people picking the Patriots are most likely right, but it is not for any of the reasons they have cited. The reason why the Patriots should be favoured is the John Madden Curse.

It has been well documented that virtually everyone who appears on the cover of Madden video game goes on to experience terrible misfortune and a drop off in performance. Michael Vick is the most famous example, as he actually was sent to jail shortly after appearing on the cover. Peyton Hillis’ career as a starting running back ended almost immediately after appearing on the cover. The 25th anniversary edition of the Madden game, which came out before this season, featured none other than Adrian Peterson on the cover. Who is going to be on the cover of the next edition of the Madden franchise? Richard Sherman.

As great a player as Sherman is, fate has almost certainly conspired to make him have a terrible game in the Super Bowl. There have already been several ominous omens that suggest the Madden curse may be setting in. He is nursing an arm injury that may severely impact his ability to tackle and to pick off the football. His pregnant girlfriend just happens to have a due date right around the date of the Super Bowl, which if it doesn’t cause him to miss the game at least has the potentially to distract him. A couple of days ago, Sherman actually played the Madden video game against Shawn Vereen of the Patriots and lost 14-0. And as if that weren’t enough, EA Sports official Super Bowl simulation had the Patriots beating the Seahawks 28-24. As great as the Seahawks are, it is tough to imagine them beating both the Patriots and the Madden Curse at the same time.

A Scorching Hot Take on DeflateGate

When the news broke last week that the NFL was investigating whether the New England Patriots had somehow illegally deflated their footballs in their game against the Indianapolis Colts, the sports world reacted with shock and disgust. The outrage is understandable given that the deflating of footballs could be one of the most shameful things to happen in the history of sports, up there with the 1919 Black Sox. The scandal has long since spilled out of the sports world and has caused nationwide anxiety at the desecration of such a hallowed organization as the NFL.

The Internet, cable TV, and talk radio have all been spouting all manner of scorching hot takes on the issue. There have been calls for fines, loss of draft picks, potentially keeping both Brady and Belichick out of the Hall of Fame, and even kicking the Patriots out of the Super Bowl in favour of the Colts, who got demolished in the AFC Championship game due to the deflated balls. The one thing that all of the commentators seem to agree on is that whatever the potential punishment, it would never quite be enough to truly see justice served against the evil empire that is the New England Patriots. That is about to change, as I have a punishment that any fair minded Patriots hater will agree is both sufficiently severe and poetic.

The NFL has wanted a team in Los Angeles ever since the Rams moved to St. Louis in the 1990s. The perfect solution would be for the league to move the Patriots to Los Angeles. When I say move them, I mean just that; not a sale. Bob Craft would be forced to take Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the team to California where they would become the Los Angeles Patriots. The league would then immediately offer an expansion team to the New England area. This could happen almost right away as there are no shortage of east coast businessmen and aging rock stars who would jump at the chance to own an NFL team, and there would be an empty stadium in Foxborough all ready to use.

But that’s not all; the league would then make then have the LA Patriots play the expansion team in Foxborough on the opening game of the season. That would then put the Patriots fans, who have benefited for so many years from all of the Patriots misdeeds, in a position where they would experience what it is like to have the Patriots running up the score on you in the 4th quarter. This, coupled with resentment over all the stories that would no doubt emerge about how Brady and Giselle enjoy southern California so much more than the Northeast, could then cause New England fans to boo the Patriots. The boldest and most shocking crime in the history of sports deserves no less than an equally shocking and bold punishment.

Tiger Woods Deeply Grateful for Deflategate

Earlier this week, the sports world exploded with the shocking story that the New England Patriots were caught using footballs that were deflated below the league mandated minimum PSI. Based on the media coverage, this is the biggest sports story in years, and has become perhaps the most captivating whodunit since “Who Shot J.R.?” And for all the millions of Patriots haters out there delighting in the so-called Deflategate/Ballghazi/Ballgate scandal, the person most thankful for New England’s troubles is not a hater at all; it is a golfer by the name of Tiger Woods.

For a long time, everything that Tiger Woods did was a major sports story, be it slightly altering his swing, hiring someone new to carry his golf clubs for him, or going out on a date with a skier. But this past week, one of the most famous athletes on the planet showed up at a downhill skiing race missing a tooth. Tiger’s agent provided the least believable explanation imaginable for the missing tooth when he claimed that a media member accidentally knocked out the tooth with a video camera.

I should point out that I am not saying that explanation provided by the agent is untrue; I am just saying that it is impossible for most objective observers to believe. How in the name of God could such a famous athlete get his tooth knocked out by a media member’s video camera at a highly public event and there not be any video or pictures of the incident. Keep in mind that this was a media member, who is making a living by reporting newsworthy moments in sports. What would be more newsworthy than a close up video of Tiger’s tooth getting knocked out? Why have no fans tweeted or posted pictures of Tiger and his entourage searching for the tooth in the snow? Why have we not seen any video of Tiger yelling at the offending cameraman?

If this had happened any other time the sports media would be transfixed on Toothgate, but as luck would have it, nobody is all that curious about what happened to the tooth. Tiger could come out and say that Lindsey Vonn knocked it out with her ski pole and it still wouldn’t knock Tom Brady’s deflated balls off the front pages.

49ers Fans Suddenly Find Themselves Rooting Against Their Own Team

It is exceedingly rare to find true fans that are actively rooting against their own team. Sometime when a team is awful some fans start hoping that the team will play poorly enough to get a number one overall pick so they can select a franchise player that will help turn the team around, but that is not truly rooting against their team. Generally when a fan base turns on a team it is when the ownership of the team is perceived as either not attempting to win or has blackmailed a local government for funding. These cases usually involve teams without deep roots in a community or without a proud tradition of winning.

The San Francisco 49ers are among the most celebrated teams in all of sports. They have had arguably the best quarterback of all time and the best receiver of all time play for them. They have 5 Super Bowl wins, one behind Pittsburgh for the all-time lead. For over 30 years, that team has been synonymous with excellence in the NFL, and has been to the NFC championship game three times in the past four years. Yet despite all that, they may well have the angriest fan base in all of professional sports.

The owner of the San Francisco 49ers, Jed York, fired one of the most respected and sought after coaches in the NFL and replaced him with the team’s defensive line coach. Jim Harbaugh turned around a moribund team and led it to three straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. Every single NFL team looking for a new head coach would have happily traded a draft pick and given Harbaugh a blank check to coach their team. For 49ers fans, it was bad enough that York fired such a universally respected coach, but then he poured jet fuel on the fire by hiring as his replacement someone that not a single other NFL team would have considered hiring as a head coach.

In firing Harbaugh and hiring someone named Jim Tomsula to replace him, Jed York has quickly gone to being a pariah among 49ers fans. It is to the point where many 49ers fans are actually hoping the team has an awful year next year, not to get good draft pick, but to make Jed York get his comeuppance for firing the coach who turned the team around. In some ways it is rather easy for 49ers fans to root for a disaster season. Few people would expect Jim Tomsula to improve much on Harbaugh’s 8-8 record this year, so if your best case scenario is missing the playoffs by a little bit, you might as well just hope for the worst case scenario. In for a penny, in for a pound.

All of the outrage on the part of 49er fans is fueled by the knowledge that the 34 year old Jed York did not buy the team with his own money; he was handed control of the team by his parents when he was 28. The idea that some young rich guy who has never had any great success on his own on either a football field or in the business world getting rid of such a great coach as Jim Harbaugh almost unspeakably galling. If the 49ers start next season 4-0, all will be forgiven, but if the team gets off to a rough start Jed York will find himself in the middle of a fan rebellion.

The NFL Needs a Minor League to Solve its Quarterback Problem

The NFL has a problem with quarterbacks, and it isn’t concussions or other injuries, it is that there simply aren’t enough quality quarterbacks being developed compared to other position players. More than ever, the quarterback is by far the most important position in football, yet there are fewer young men playing the positon of quarterback on a weekly basis than any other position. Ryan Lindley and Cardale Jones, who have both been in the news recently, albeit for vastly different reasons, perfectly illustrate the problem with the development of quarterbacks.

Ryan Lindley is an NFL quarterback who had the opportunity to not only play for a division winning team, but also start a playoff game. In his career during the regular season, he has 2 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In his first year in the league, he had 0 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. In his second year in the league, he didn’t throw a single pass. When I say he didn’t throw a single pass, I don’t just mean the NFL. He didn’t throw a single pass in any actual game that year. The following year, he was asked to start a playoff game.

After selecting Ryan Lindley with a late round pick, and realizing after a couple of starts in his first year that he wasn’t quite ready to lead an offense in the NFL, the logical thing would have been to send him down to the NFL’s minor league to give him the chance to develop for a few years to see if he could at least become a credible backup quarterback. Unfortunately, the NFL has doesn’t have a minor league. If you aren’t good enough to start in the NFL, you sit on the bench and pray that the starting quarterback suffers a terrible injury after the trading deadline. If the NFL had the kind of robust minor league system as Major League Baseball, Ryan Lindley might have just completed a promising season at the AA affiliate and could have been looking forward to a starting for the AAA team next year. Unfortunately for him, he is unlikely to ever throw another pass in the NFL again.

Some might point out that NCAA football is the de facto minor leagues, but the case of Cardale Jones shows how hollow that argument is. Cardale Jones is as big, as strong, and can throw the ball as far as any quarterback in the NFL. He lead Ohio State to a 59-0 blowout over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game, he lead his team to a come from behind victory over top ranked Alabama in the first every NCAA playoff, and then he helped his team beat Oregon in the National Championship game, outplaying the potential number one pick in the draft, Marcus Mariota. Clearly, Cardale Jones has the kind of raw talent that gives him a chance to be solid quarterback in the NFL. Yet in three years at Ohio State he has only played three games. As of the end of the past November, he had not played a single game in his college football career.

How is it that someone gifted with such immense talent could spend almost three years without playing in a single competitive game of football? As good as he appears to be, imagine how good he could be if he had been playing every week for the last three seasons. It also raises the question of how many other college backups are out there that have the talent but will never get the chance to show it. Were it not for injuries to both the first and second string quarterbacks, nobody outside of Ohio would ever have heard of Cardale Jones right now.

It is inconceivable to think that that at pitcher who could throw a 103 mile per hour fastball would spend his first three years out of high school sitting on a bench. He would be pitching and developing in the minors. Even if the guy were to play in the NCAA, there are at least 9 pitchers on every team so he would still be playing on a regular basis.

In the NFL, since there is no developmental league, and plenty of talented college quarterbacks either sit on the bench at big time schools or play in second rate divisions, teams are drafting quarterbacks from a needlessly small pool. Football is the most popular sport in the country, but teams frequently burn first round picks, and even first overall picks, on quarterbacks who are thoroughly unable to identify and/or accurately throw the ball to an open receiver. Teams who take a quarterback in the first round often set their teams back several years because they feel they have no choice but to start the guy for a few years. In baseball there are still plenty of first round busts, but you generally find that out when the guy is starting in the minors. If baseball were like football, Todd Van Poppel would have been Oakland’s number one starter for 4 years.

It is to the point where it isn’t just that there aren’t decent backups in the league; there aren’t even enough starting quarterbacks to go around. Every Sunday, starting quarterbacks who were taken in the first round repeatedly miss wide open receivers by about 10 feet. I recall watching Sam Bradford, a former number one overall pick, playing on either a Sunday or Monday night a few years ago and there were multiple occasions when he had a receiver wide open and just need to throw a straight line pass with no linebackers anywhere between him and his receivers, and he somehow managed to throw completely uncatchable balls. Both of those examples probably involved a throw of between 25 and 30 yards. As a comparison, short stops and third basemen in baseball routinely have to run to their left or right, catch a ball, grip it in a split second and make a full velocity 45 yard throw to first base. Think about how rare it is for a baseball player to miss the first baseman by 10 feet. It is so rare that it makes the highlights whenever someone throws the ball into a dugout or in the stands.

Even in the minor leagues, the baseball players all resemble major leaguers to the untrained eye. You don’t many more terrible throws or fielding errors than you do in the majors; you just don’t see as many fantastic plays. In the NFL, on any given Sunday there are a handful of quarterbacks that look like they’ve never played the game before. The reason this is happening is that so many quarterbacks simply have not spent enough time playing the game of football since they left high school. With football offenses becoming increasingly pass oriented, the NFL may need to seriously consider coming up with some type of minor league system to maintain the quality of its product.