Monthly Archives: November 2014

Jim Harbaugh to Coach RG3 in St. Louis in 2015

My well-placed sources in the Rams organization have confirmed that they are currently putting together a plan to bring together both Jim Harbaugh and Robert Griffin III in St. Louis next year. Both RG3 and Jim Harbaugh appear to be in rocky relationships with their current teams and the Rams feel they can offer an attractive landing spot, not just with their roster filled with young talent, but with the opportunity to exact some revenge on their former teams.

You may recall that it was St. Louis that traded the opportunity to select RG3 to the Redskins for three first round picks and one second round pick. The Rams feel they will be able to pick up Griffin for a 6th round pick, but may go as high as a 5th rounder to get the deal done. The Rams feel that Griffin still has the potential to turn into an elite quarterback given the right environment, but the main reason for their fixation with landing Griffin is pure ego.

Right now the Griffin trade is quietly becoming one of the most lopsided trades in the history of the NFL. If the Rams are able to land Griffin with a late round draft pick, sign him to a modest contract extension, and then turn him into the quarterback he was supposed to be, the original Griffin trade would instantly be looked at as the greatest trade in the history of pro spots, making the Hershel Walker trade look like a win-win in comparison. The Rams would somehow managed to get Griffin and the bounty of top picks.

As for Harbaugh, the 49ers seem intent on running one of the best coaches in league out of town, either because they find him so personally irritating or they simply don’t want to pay market value for him. Given the job Harbaugh did in resurrecting Alex Smith’s career and maximizing the talents of Colin Kaepernick, he would seem like the ideal coach for RG3.

It is obvious why the Rams would want Harbaugh, but there is reason to believe that Harbaugh would be equally interested in the Rams, particularly if they were to land Griffin. He is as intense a competitor as there is in the NFL, and he would relish the opportunity to have two games each a year against the 49ers and his old nemesis Pete Carroll.

This scenario would have once looked merely like a delusional fantasy dreamed up by some blogger, but with RG3 benched for the second straight year by a second coach, and the 49ers hanging onto their post season hopes by a thread, the Rams now have reason to believe this could be a realistic possibility. You can bet that everyone in the Rams organization will be rooting for the Seahawks on Thanksgiving.

Editors’ Note: This website does not have any sources in the Rams organization. That part was made up.

 

Mike Smith Still Can’t Figure Out How to Manage the Clock

It never ceases to amaze me that so many talented and successful coaches in the NFL seem to have such horrid clock management skills. Andy Reid is the most famous example, having consistently coached winning teams over the past 15 years despite regularly making stunningly awful clock management decisions in key situations. As bad as Andy Reid has been in the regard, he has nothing on Mike Smith.

In today’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the Atlanta Falcons were inside kicker Matt Bryant’s field goal range and were looking at a 3rd and 2 with less than a minute to play. That is a situation where you would think the Cleveland Browns would burn a time out to stop the clock, but no, Mike Smith decided to stop the clock to give some thought to what play to run on third down. First of all, an NFL coach who is properly prepared for the game would not need a couple of minutes to think about what to do next. And secondly, since they have one of the best power backs of all time in Steven Jackson and you should be trying to run down the clock at that point, there is only one play to call; a run up the middle. But after thinking it over, Smith calls a pass play, again thereby stopping the clock on two consecutive plays. Matt Bryant makes the field goal but Cleveland has all three time outs left and they march down the field and kick a game winning field goal. Mike Smith is justifiably getting crushed for his decision making for his loss to the Browns, but I believe one of his worst, and most revealing, mistakes, actually came in the greatest win of his career.

In January 2013, the Falcons blew and big early lead to the up and coming Seattle Seahawks and found themselves down 28-27 with 31 seconds to play. Matt Ryan then completed a 22 yard pass, after which Smith rightfully used up his second time out. Ryan then completed another pass to Tony Gonzalez that put them well within clutch kicker Matt Bryant’s field goal range. After that completion, Smith jumped up and down and immediately ran out on the field wildly gesturing for a time out. A poised big game coach like Bill Belichick would have let the clock run down or at least let the Seahawks burn one of their two remaining time outs.

As it turned out, Matt Bryant made the go-ahead field goal after Pete Carrol burned one of his two time outs in a failed attempt at icing him. On the ensuing kickoff, the Falcons made a poor squib kick which gave the Seahawks the ball close to mid-field. After a short completion, they had an opportunity for a Hail Mary, and Russell Wilson was actually able to throw the ball into the end zone where it was picked off by a Falcons defender.

One might argue that if Smith did not call the time out, Pete Carroll would have called one a split second later, but that is unlikely. The fact the Pete Carroll burned one of his two time outs to ice the kicker indicated that his mindset was focused on trying to get Bryan to miss the kick, not on a potential last second comeback in the event of a successful kick. In retrospect, it was actually a poor decision by Carroll to try to ice one of league’s most clutch kickers, as if he had two time outs at the end of game, Russell Wilson would have had the option of competing a pass down the middle to get into field goal range rather than being forced the throw the Hail Mary.

Had the Seahawks pulled off the Hail Mary, that Mike Smith timeout may have gone down as one of the most infamous coaching decisions in history, but since they won the tame, it never received any attention. Though that decision did not cost him, it clearly showed how Mike Smith does not maintain his composure in pressure situations. That lack of composure is what will likely cost him his job.

How are the 2014 76ers Any Different than the 1919 White Sox?

After the 1919 World Series, when it was revealed that some members of the Chicago White Sox had taken bribes in exchange for throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, several of their players, including one of the biggest stars of the era, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were banned from baseball for life. Almost a century later, the effects of that scandal are still being felt in major league baseball.

Baseball has been criticized, rightly or wrongly, for taking too soft a stance on the use of performance enhancing drugs. In fact, baseball has always been soft on people trying to gain an edge to win, be it spit balls, corked bats, or stealing signs. More than one baseball player has said over the years that “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying”. What MLB has absolutely no tolerance for is the opposite of cheating; intentionally losing games.

Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits, a three time World Series winner, MVP, 17 time all-star, and three time batting champion, yet he was banned from baseball for life for betting on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds. He had never been formally accused of not trying to win, but the thought of a baseball manager gambling on baseball games was still considered so damaging to the integrity of the game that the league was willing to ban one of its biggest stars for life.

This stands in stark contrast to the approach of the NBA. For years, many people, including prominent sports writers, have openly questioned the integrity of the league and its officiating. It has been openly suggested that the referees will favour a big market team like the Lakers or the Celtics over a low profile teams like the Sacramento Kings. The most oft-cited example of this was game 6 of the Western Conference Championship between the LA Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. In that game, the Lakers were granted 27 foul shots in the 4th quarter alone, while some blatant fouls committed in plain view of the referees were ignored.

In 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was charged with betting on games that he was refereeing after an FBI investigation. Mr. Donaghy, who would plead guilty to several charges and spend time in prison, claimed that he was told several referees in the game, because it was in the interest of the NBA to have a seventh game, intentionally favoured the Lakers.

In many ways this was a bigger scandal than the 1919 World Series, as there has actually been an official convicted of influencing games. None of the baseball players in 1919 were ever charged and nobody was ever convicted of anything. The NBA then did a rigorous investigation of itself which apparently proved that Donaghy acted entirely alone, all of his accusations against the NBA were false, and there was absolutely nothing for anyone to worry about. The league continued on with absolutely zero fallout, even after two Washington Wizards players pulled guns on each other in the locker room in a disagreement over a gambling debt.

All this brings us to the 2014 Philadelphia 76ers, who by all indications are doing everything in their power to not only lose games, but to lose every single game this year. The 76ers are a good bet to break the record for the worst record in NBA history this year, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that they will actually go 0-82. To be clear, the players on the roster are working hard and are trying to win; it is the team’s management is trying to lose by purposely assembling the least talented team in the NBA.

Their plan started a couple of years ago when they decided to rebuild and traded away their best player, Andrew Iguodala. Trading away veterans to focus on drafting young players is nothing new, but what the 76ers did truly broke new ground. While they continued to shed their veterans, they repeatedly drafted talented players recovering from serious injuries or who were planning to spend the next year or two playing in Europe. This allowed them to acquire good young players, but because those players could not play for them right away, they could continue to finish near the bottom of the league and acquire more lottery picks. To ensure that they continued to be outmatched in the short term, they have filled up their roster with 9 (nine!) undrafted players.

The team is making a mockery of the spirit of competition. To those who say that the team is trying to win at some point in the near future, just not right now, I would counter that the 1919 White Sox were only accused of trying to lose a handful of games. What the Philadelphia 76ers are doing is every bit as damaging to the integrity of the game as the 1919 White Sox. If the NBA cared about the integrity of its game it would do something about it. But it won’t.

Roger Goodell’s Troubles Are Only Just Beginning

Yesterday we received news that the DEA raided several NFL locker rooms as part of an investigation into potentially improper or illegal use of prescription drugs by NFL teams. This is very bad news for Commissioner Roger Goodell.  One of the most mystifying things in all of sports in recent years has been how Major League Baseball has received mountains of bad press and was even  subject to United States Senate hearings about the use of performance enhancing drugs by their players, yet the NFL, whose players look like Soviet era science projects, has largely escaped any negative publicity whatsoever. That is all about to change.

The contract in the leagues is downright mystifying. Bud Selig is widely condemned for turning a blind eye to PEDs after the 1994 strike as the surge in home runs and the pursuit by various players of the single season home run record sent ratings soaring. While that may well have been true, Selig and MLB would eventually make a serious effort to get drugs out of baseball. They instituted aggressive testing and punishment for the use of both steroids and HGH, and even launched their own investigations into the suppliers of drugs, which resulted in major suspensions to some of its biggest stars, such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

By contrast, the NFL is only now getting around to implementing an HGH testing program, and when players do test positive for steroids or other PEDs, they only get a 4 game suspension and are welcomed back with open arms as if nothing had ever happened. To put things in perspective, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for an entire year without ever failing a single drug test. He was suspended when MLB investigators, acting proactively, uncovered that he was a client of a PED supplier.

If you are wondering if baseball’s anti-drug efforts are working, consider that Giancarlo Stanton, who was just rewarded with a 13 year, $325 million dollar contract, led the National League in home runs this year with 37. In 1998 and 1999, Sammy Sosa hit 66 and 63 home runs respectively, but didn’t lead the league in home runs either year. As for the NFL, Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, ran a 4.7 40 yard dash as his combine in the mid-1980s. In the 2014 combine, 4 defensive ends ran a faster 40 time.

Roger Goodell has been hammered for turning a blind eye to domestic violence in the NFL. Just as it was looking like he had weathered that storm and was going to save his job, the federal investigators suddenly raided NFL locker rooms. If he thought he had it rough when media types like Bill Simmons were calling him names, just wait until he gets dragged before a Senate Committee in 2015.

The Lesson Boardwalk Empire Should Have Learned from the Simpsons

The Boardwalk Empire series finale aired a couple of weeks ago, and though I already miss it and consider it one of my favourite shows of all time, I can’t help but feel disappointed by it. As great as the show was, I believe the writers missed out on an opportunity to make it one of the truly greatest shows of all time. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I believe the problem was that the writers failed to learn a valuable lesson from The Simpsons.

When The Simpsons first debuted over a quarter century ago, the star of the show was a 10 year old boy named Bart Simpson. As the first network cartoon aimed at an adult audience, the wise-cracking character became a nationwide sensation, complete with his own hit single. Once the initial infatuation with Bart subsided, the writers rather quickly and decisively shifted the focus of the show to Bart’s father Homer. Despite the notoriety and attention that Bart was able to bring to the show, his character was inherently shallower than Homer’s. Homer, who was working on raising children, maintaining a happy marriage, and keeping a job he was woefully unqualified for, offered far more possibilities for the writers. Had the show continued to focus on Bart, the show may well have died off once the Bart fad faded. By focusing on Homer, the show was able to become the most successful in the history of television.

When Boardwalk Empire debuted in September 2010, the star of the show was unquestionably Nucky Thompson, who was played by Steve Buscemi, the only widely known cast member. It appears that the writers of the show had a formula that involved following along with the historical developments relating to prohibition and organized crime, but also introducing a fictional rival to Nucky every season or two. The first such character was Jimmy Darmody, played by the talented by largely unknown actor Michael Pitt.

Much like the Simpsons, it became clear that Jimmy’s character had more depth and gave the writers more options than Nucky. Nucky was a corrupt political figure and gangster at the beginning of the show, and he was much the same at the end of the show. Throughout the course of the series he gradually became more of a gangster, and we learned a little more about him, but looking back on it, his character remained more or less static throughout.

Jimmy’s character offered much better opportunities for character and plot development. Nucky was a mentor/father figure to him, but was also his rival. This dynamic allowed the writers to develop a complex relationship where Jimmy both admired and perhaps loved Nucky, but due to his ambition and Machiavellian mother also plotted to depose him. The battle between Nucky and Jimmy allowed the writers to explore the nature in which power is attained, held, and ultimately, lost. Jimmy was the child of both an abused and abusive mother, a war hero, a devoted husband and father, and an aspiring mob boss. The writers could have easily pivoted and made the battle between Nucky and Jimmy an integral part of the entire series. Instead, they killed Jimmy off at the end of season two.

When Jimmy was killed I asked myself “What is this show about now?” In season three I found out the answer to that question was – not much. Unlike Jimmy’s character, who literally grew up around Nucky, the rival in season three was simply a cartoonish villain that was clearly destined to provide for some exciting and entertaining scenes but then get killed off at the end. In season 4 we are introduced to another villain who causes trouble but is predictably vanquished at the end of the season. By season 5, HBO had given up on the show and gave the writers a mere 8 episodes to clue things up. This abbreviated final season spent half the time with unenlightening flashbacks and the rest of the time killing off characters.

The truth is the show never recovered from killing off Jimmy. If the writers had realized early on that the show was really about Jimmy rather than Nucky, it would likely still be on the air and be receiving serious consideration as the best show that HBO has ever produced.

The Luckiest Day of Stephen Harper’s Life

Stephen Harper has been called a lot of things during his time in politics, but not even his biggest enemies have ever called him lucky. If you support him, his success has been due to his steady leadership and impressive economic stewardship. If you dislike him, his success has been due to scheming, rule bending, and shameless attack ads against his opponents. If anything, luck has been against him for much of his time in politics. He came to power when the right was still divided, his first election was against Paul Martin, who was at the time considered the most unbeatable candidate in the history of Canadian politics, there was a global financial crisis, and to top it off his son has a party at 24 Sussex and a teen gets taken to hospital after getting too drunk. But today, after 12 years as leader of his party and 8 as Prime Minister, Lady Luck has finally smiled on Stephen Harper.

On the very day when his former parliamentary secretary stood up in the House of Commons and resigned after being convicted of election fraud, something that would have dominated headlines for a solid week, a shocking sexual harassment scandal broke almost simultaneously. According to reports, there are 2 MPs who have both complained about separate instances of harassment from 2 other MPs, none of whom are Conservatives. Not even Jian Ghomeshi himself will be able to knock this story off the front pages in the foreseeable future, and the Prime Minister can head off to China without having to worry about answering any awkward questions about sexual harassment.

The magnitude of the Prime Minister’s luck is staggering. Not only are both of the accused MPs members of the Liberal Party, but Justin Trudeau, his biggest rival, seems to be making a mess with his handling of the situation. The NDP, the party both accusers belong to, are already complaining that Trudeau did not inform the accusers before making his announcement. There are also reports that he has not even informed the two Liberal MPs what exactly they are being accused of. The accuracy of these reports have not been confirmed, but it seems clear that Trudeau could have easily waited a day or so before making his announcement, which almost makes it look like he was going out of his way to bury the Del Mastro story.

They say that you can make your own luck, but this appears to be a case where the Liberals and Justin Trudeau are making Stephen Harper’s luck for him. If his MPs end up cleared of any wrong doing, the media and some of his own MPs will question if he acted too hastily. If they are in fact guilty, it will cast a pall on the Liberals.

The (Un)True Reason Why the Toronto Star Waited to Publish its Jian Ghomeshi Story

The biggest story in Canada this past week was the shocking news that Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q, the high profile CBC radio show loved by a small subset of the population, was suddenly fired by the CBC for allegations of assault and sexual harassment. Shortly after the story broke, the Toronto Star published a story outlining the results of their investigation into Ghomeshi, which included a number of anonymous women who have claimed to have been assaulted by the famous CBC radio host. Officially, the Star claimed that the reason for releasing their story was that Ghomeshi had referenced their investigation in his ill-fated Facebook post. My sources at the Star, however, have informed me of the real reason that the newspaper held off on publishing the story.

The Toronto Star, despite being a newspaper focused on a single city, is actually more widely read than the two nationally focused newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post. The primary reason for this success has been their ongoing, in-depth coverage of the Rob Ford saga. Virtually all of the Rob Ford scandals have been broken first by the Toronto Star. It has been said that in the zenith of the Rob Ford controversy, a quarter of all Star employees were dedicated to writing about, or uncovering news about the larger than life mayor. Rob Ford became more famous than Prime Minister Harper and newspapers were flying off the stands and traffic to the website increased exponentially, with hits coming from all over the world.

Happy as the managers at the newspaper were, they knew it was too good to last. At some point either the police or the electorate was bound to remove the mayor from office, and in so doing, inflict grievous harm to the paper. So the senior management at the Star embarked on a mission to identify the next famous Torontonian with a scandalous personal life. A team was assembled, and they quickly picked up on pervasive rumours about Jian Ghomeshi and his sex life. Once the investigative reporters got a scent of blood, they were soon able to put together a troubling picture of the famous radio personality.

Rather than break the story right away, the paper decided to hold off as the Rob Ford story was still running hot, with stories to be written about the mayor checking into rehab, being diagnosed with cancer, pulling out of the race and putting his brother in his place, and seeking a seat on the city council. The Star was planning to break the Ghomeshi story as soon as the blander than tofu John Tory was elected. In an almost eerie coincidence, the CBC fired Ghomeshi a day before the Toronto mayoral election and in so doing provided a perfect segue for the Star’s newest content generator.

Though few would have thought it possible, the erstwhile King of Canadian hipsters turned out to have an even more shocking personal life than Rob Ford. With all the new lawsuits, allegations, and investigations popping up daily, the Star is assured of having a steady stream of attention grabbing stories and headlines for at least the next year.

Despite all of their good fortune, the Star’s management remain hard at work looking for the next source of scandalous headlines. There are already reports that the Star is already working to form a Super-Pac to help fund Doug Ford’s run the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

Editor’s Note: Everything in this story is entirely made up, except for the part about the Toronto Star having the highest circulation of any newspaper in Canada. That part is true.