The Post

Losing Blinked First

What Jordan Spieth did on Sunday at Royal Birkdale is now the stuff, of instant legend. Move over Seve, with your “birdie from the car park” at the Open. Jordan’s bogey from the equipment trailers, will be talked about for years. This wasn’t just a case of getting out of jail from one bad swing. Spieth had been leaking oil all day long, and right from the start. Crooked drives. Chunked iron shots. Yanked putts. Anyone who has ever played golf knows the feeling of when “the wheels come off.” When that happens, it takes an incomprehensible level of focus and mental toughness to hold it together and not collapse. Only the rarest of elite players can do what Spieth did: stare down humiliation, then mount it, and ride to victory.

I will let you readers slot Spieth’s amazing comeback from the brink amongst my top-9 list of “Most Mentally Tough Victories in Championship Golf History.” Not every one of these moments involved a player recovering a car that was skidding over the cliff. But all of them required a sort of “dig down deep” and see what’s in there, kind of effort. Something tells, me, yesterday’s amazing finish is no lower than 4th.

1- 2008 – US Open – Torrey Pines – Tiger Woods playing with a torn ligament in his knee and a hairline fracture, beats Rocco Mediate in an 18 hole Monday playoff that still had to go to sudden death. Woods makes numerous incredible shots, despite buckling at times in pain, chipping in from off the green, and then ultimately curling in a birdie putt on 18 in regulation punctuated by Dan Hicks’ famous call: “Expect anything different?”

2 – 2016 – US Open – Oakmont – Dustin Johnson, already victim to one dodgy rules violation at a major, is informed he “may” have committed a penalty when his ball moves slightly while on the putting green on the front nine. Not even knowing what score he might need to win the golf tournament, Johnson calmly plays the final 6 holes as if nothing mattered. He dominates the brutish 18th hole with a massive drive and a 7-iron from 191 yards to 4 feet, making the birdie. He’s later assessed a penalty, but it doesn’t matter.

3 – 1999 – Ryder Cup – Brookline – Justin Leonard is getting buried by Jose Maria Olazabal in Sunday singles, as Johnny Miller cackles on TV that he should have stayed home in bed. Down four holes with just 7 to play, Leonard starts making bombs after Davis Love III arrives to cheer him on, culminating with the historic cross-country snake on #17 to clinch the Cup.

4a-b-c – Tiger Woods Wins U.S. Amateur: 1994, 1995, 1996
a -1994 at Sawgrass, he was down 5 to Trip Kuehne with 12 to play before mounting a furious rally. It culminated with hitting a wedge right of the pin on the narrow ledge on the 17th green. In a straw hat, shorts, and a broad-striped peach and white shirt, Tiger delivered a nuclear fist pump after draining the 15 footer for birdie from the fringe. The world now knows about Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

b -1995 at Newport CC: Down 2 to Pennsylvania luxury car deal Buddy Marruci after 19 holes, Tiger closes him out on 18 with a knockdown 8-iron to a foot. That night, Earl Woods boasts to the media over champagne: “Before it’s all over, my son will win 14 Majors.” It’s maybe the most prophetic boast in sports history.

c- 1996 at Pumpkin Ridge: Woods falls down 5 through 9 holes in the final to 19 year old Florida Gator Steve Scott. Down 5 with 16 holes to play Woods mounts a furious rally to prevail on 2nd hole of sudden death. He turns pro immediately, dunks an ace at his first pro tournament in Milwaukee, then wins in Las Vegas before the year is out to secure his status on Tour.

5 – 1984 – US Open – Winged Foot – Fuzzy Zoeller watches Greg Norman drain a snake on the 18th green – presumably for birdie to clinch the Open. Zoeller, waiting in the fairway waves his white towel, in mock surrender. However, the putt was only for par, and after Zoeller makes a par of his own to force a playoff, he dusts Norman easily in a Monday playoff, shooting 67.

6 – 2015 – US Open – Chambers Bay – Jordan Spieth double-bogeys the par-3 17th hole with a 3-putt on the worst putting surfaces in major championship history. All week players had complained about the rock hard, lumpy, mostly-dead poa-annua greens, both privately, and in public. Spieth, however, figured out a way to play them, and bounced back with a birdie on 18 and then watched Dustin Johnson three-putt from 12 feet to hand him the trophy.

7 – 1986 – Masters – Jack Nicklaus – Considered washed up at 46, the Golden Bear moves into contention late on Sunday afternoon. With his son Jackie on the bag, Nicklaus is nearly overwhelmed with emotion as the galleries cheer him every step of the way. Realizing he could win, Nicklaus digs deep and hits the 4-iron of his career into #15 for eagle, a lazer-like 6-iron to 4 feet at 17 for birdie, and then makes the most iconic putt in modern golf history at #17.

8 – 2007 – British Open – Carnoustie – Padraig Harrington squanders a one-shot lead on the treacherous 18th hole by hitting not one, but two shots into the “Barry Burn”. He later admitted he wished at that moment the ground would “open up, and swallow him whole” he was so devastated. He manages to get up and down for a double bogey, however, and then watches Sergio Garcia make bogey to force a playoff. Harrington prevails in the 3 hole playoff.

9 – 2002 – PGA Championship – Rich Beem – A tour nobody makes an eagle on #11 and a 35 foot bomb for birdie on #16 to keep a charging Tiger Woods in his dominant prime. Woods would finish with 4-birdies-in-a-row, but it was not enough. Beem never flinched from the roars that were exploding just behind him. He would also, never win again on the PGA Tour.

Made Guys

Thirty years ago, I was 19 years old. I had a (mostly) full head of moppy brown hair, a 32 inch waist, and dreams.

Of what, I can’t really remember. It was, after all, 30 damn years ago.

That was the year these clowns began their morning show on WLZR FM-102.9 in Milwaukee, WI. Bob and Brian. This past weekend, I was flown up there from Washington D.C. to help throw them a surprise party at a local bar.

It was amazing. And if you are not one of my listeners/readers from Wisconsin, here’s a little 15 minute video of what their run at “Lazer/The Hog” has been all about.

Just about every person involved in their run at the station was there to hoist a glass. Except one poser PD who famously said that hosting a charity golf tournament was pointless because: “Our listeners don’t golf. They go to rock concerts, and get drunk.”

Boy, was he wrong. These guys have run the biggest single day golf outing in the state of Wisconsin for 25 years running now. Well, let me restate that. It started as a much smaller hard-scrabble affair at a local run down municipal course. NOW…. well… it’s a double-shotgun at the premiere resort in southeast Wisconsin, Grand Geneva Resort and Spa.

It sells out in a little over 25 minutes each year. It raises a shitload of money for kids with cancer. Boom. Winning. Fuck that PD. Moron.

I have been a part of this show for coming up on 23 years now. I was a young and hungry 26 year old working at One-on-One Sports in Northbrook, Illinois. A sales executive at our place – Greg Noack, who I had gotten to know through us both being avid golfers – knew the then GM of Lazer, one Tom Joerres. Their existing “sports guy” was Mark Patrick (his real name, “Storen” and yeah, his kid is the former Nats reliever, Drew) and he abruptly left Bob and Brian’s show to take a more lucrative offer from another station “across the street” in town.

It lasted about 8 months. Meanwhile, I got a tryout. And somehow, got the gig. And it’s been a helluva a 23 year ride for me.

But let’s get back to Bob and Brian. These guys are nothing short of amazing. How do you stay relevant, fresh, and likable for that many years? How do you not MURDER your co-host at some point, just being sick and tired of looking at them across the console?

More importantly, how do you not end up sideways with somebody in management along the way, and get shown the door?

As I told these guys at their party last weekend: “I’ve just been in the sidecar, throwing beer bottles and yelling at other motorists along the way.” When anybody says that my segment of the show is their favorite, I understand fully that it’s really just me getting to play a sports guitar solo in front of an amazing backing band.

Bob is the show’s muscle and the big laugh. It’s genuine. Never forced. He knows funny. He is funny, and he never tires of it. Brian is like the rational force that cannot be defeated. His brain works 3-moves faster than yours. He’s amazingly well read for anybody his age… much less… for a stupid FM dee-jay! I feel like they are my big brothers. Both about 10 years older than me.

What doing their show all these years has done for my ability and style as a sports talk show host, cannot be understated. I believe it helped mold me into a sports radio host who isn’t obsessed with suffocating the listener with angry arguments, or mind numbing stats all the time. I learned that it’s okay to be a little stupid. To sometimes not care. To remember that most “sports fans” really don’t follow all of this shit as closely as we think they do.

And they sure as hell don’t care about the “issues” that many in my biz want to climb onto a soapbox and rant about. They wasn’t to be entertained. Nothing more, nothing less.

Whenever I look for topics for Bob and Brian, I always try to figure out what is the most widely relatable sports stories of the day. They have a massive audience – not just #1 in all key demos, but almost DOUBLE that of the 2nd place show in town on any given ratings book – and it’s an audience full of women. Women who KNOW their sports!

You’ll never fully understand how sports obsessed the upper midwest is, until you spend a little time there. It’s amazing. And that has made my job with these guys, an easy lift most mornings – like playing in a band, really loud, and really fast.

The most common question I get from listeners, is whether or not we “plan” or “script” some of the things we do. The answer is no. Not because it’s in any way “cheating” or an admission of a lack of talent. Nah. It’s because we’d just fuck it up if we tried. In fact, the most common thing heard as we are chatting before the On Air light goes red, is the following phrase: “Hey, hey hey… Shut the hell up! WHY aren’t we talking about this on the air???”

At most, it’s a way to tap an oil vein of a topic, before quickly capping it off in case we can turn it into a gusher.

By now, after 23 years, we know each other’s “moves” and pet peeves so well, that it can be like a good 3-way wrestling match where we take turns body slamming each other, en route to a logical pinfall somewhere along the way.

I don’t know how much longer these clowns have in them, but I wouldn’t bet the “under” that’s for sure. And I plan to hold on to the seat of this sidecar until somebody throws me out of it. Boys, it has been, and continues to be, a helluva ride. I know I’m almost 50, but I still feel 26 in my head.

Here’s to 30 more.

 

 

Thrones Nerd

I never thought I would like Game of Thrones.

Oh sure, I played Dungeons and Dragons with next-door bestie Allen Abbassi for a time back in the late 70’s. He had all of the funky dice, the books explaining the “rules” and I remember drawing on graph paper the shape and dimensions of a dungeon hallway in which we encountered a ravaging band of Orcs – or some other stupid mythical creature.

Fucking nerds.

It didn’t last long for us, and as such my taste of medieval fantasy went dormant for a long, long time. I briefly rekindled it when my father in law – of all people! – made me take him out to see the first of the new series of Lord of the Rings movies.

I kinda liked the first. The second was a long, loud clanging of swords and riding of horses every where. By the third, I told my dad: “Sorry, pop. I’m out.”

So when it came to Game of Thrones, I sat on the sidelines for the first SIX seasons! This despite the fact that a good overlap of sportstalk radio listeners were ARDENT Thrones nerds and I heard/read many other sports radio hosts talk about the show, as if it were another team or league – like the Lakers, or the NBA.

Fucking nerds, I thought.

But like I did with Breaking Bad (I didn’t START watching it, until the series had ENDED!) I finally decided last summer to dig in and give it a try. At first, I was rather “meh.” But it didn’t take long. I think when The Mountain lost that jousting match, and beheaded his own horse in a fit of rage – that’s when I was hooked.

Violent. Intense. Unpredictable. Borderline insane. And it just got better and better and better from there.

I remember last summer as I started to talk about my newfound fandom of the show on the air, that a listener wrote me a lengthy and genuine email about how utterly jealous of me he was. Why? Because, he said, I had dozens of hours of awesome, virgin Thrones episodes just waiting for me. And that he wished that it was him!

Sure enough, I gobbled through the seasons – at first with some, ahem, gently pirated copies on a thumb drive – then I went out to the store and bought all the Blu-Ray discs because I plan to go through all the extra materials and commentary at some point.

Plus, I figured I owed it to the show’s creators, actors, writers and producers – and to a lesser extent, HBO – to financially support a creative effort so awesome. I have done the same in purchasing in total, the entire Deadwood series (tragically cut short at just 3 seasons) as well as The Sopranos.

What was it, I wondered, that resonated with me about Game of Thrones?

I came to conclude that, yes, it WAS the violence and the brutality, and the sex that made this show DIFFERENT than comic book style medieval fantasy shows, and movies. It gave the experience an authenticity that was utterly necessary to draw you in.

Splitting a man’s head open like a cantaloupe with a broad sword, ain’t pretty folks. But they had to show it to you, so that you were constantly reminded that this wasn’t Frodo Baggins running around in a buckskin vest using “magic” to “slay” bad guys.

Then, of course, you had all of the uncomfortable scenes involving violence against women. Apparently, the usual forces of feminism and political correctness tried to make a run at this issue when the show was just a few years old. Thankfully, they were repelled like a wildling army at the gates of the wall.

I remember reading somewhere – you’ll have to google it, sorry – about how the show’s creators made a decision early on that they were going to do Game of Thrones BALLS TO THE WALL on all of this stuff – the language, the violence, the sex, and the brutality – or it wasn’t worth doing at all.

Thank god they prevailed.

Because the handful of female principals left standing at this point in the show, would not be nearly as authentic had they not been forced to navigate a mythical world in which there are no “safe spaces” or HR departments making sure nobody grabbed their asses running around the castle.

To buy into Danerys Targaryan or Aria Stark or Cersei Lanister as female badasses, requires their journey through some fairly awful and bloody lowpoints along the way.

I guess what I appreciate most about the show was how densely packed with detail it is, and also how expansive and open ended the 7 Kingdoms are in terms of peoples, cities, and traditions. The fact that every few episodes or so, you’d end up somewhere new thinking… “Now who in the fuck are THESE guys!” was always a kick.

And like all great shows, it moved slowly. I think I appreciated that most about Breaking Bad. It wasn’t rushing to push you through a story line.

So anyhow, I just watched the first episode of  Season Seven just like all of you humps out there who have been Thrones Nerds for years. I liked it. But I wonder if I’ll like the series as much, having to wait like a dog for his next bowl of Alpo every week.

I also worry that there are so many plot threads which are ramped up to full speed now, that the show will start taking short cuts to keep things moving along. (Case in point: The fat kid who just happens to find a key piece of information to help Jon Snow fight the White Walkers in the first little handful of books he plucks from a Wal-Mart sized library.)

All that said, thank god for Game of Thrones’ return during the dead of sports summer. For us nerds it’ll help get us home to Lord Football come September, without too much further impatient suffering.

 

Somebody’s Bright Idea

To somebody, this looked like a winner. I’m sure.

Mostly likely, this show sounded great to likes of Andy Roddick, Donovan McNabb, Gary Payton… and legendary o-lineman Ephraim Salaam. “A sports show? About nothing but our opinions! I’m in!”

I’m guessing their agents rolled in and pulled out guns to some dopey Fox TV execs at gunpoint who thought they were assembling the 1927 Yankees of sports television. Nothing smells like fresh TV talent money, all wrapped in hope at toppling the mighty 4-red-letter cable monster in the Connecticut woods.

I mean, shocker that the magical chemistry of a one-time grand slam winning tennis player chatting up sports, life, and general bro-life with a random ex-NFL lineman had very little appeal, or staying power. Shocker. Makes me wonder which athletes just missed the cut in the audition room.

Shoulda just sat the lovely and sharp Charissa Thompson (bias alert: fellow USCB alum!) on a couch and had her take calls and read scores. I woulda watched.

Then of course, there was Regis with “Crowd Goes Wild.”

And these were just the start of a long line of bad ideas and half-baked concepts over the next 4 years of FS1’s existence. Ken Fang of Awful Announcing has an excellent timeline of all of this here.

The latest incarnation of Jamie Horowitz’s “Embrace Debate” strategy is also doomed to fail. Mostly because it’s not going to be sustainable. In a few years, the public will tire of forced debate, microwaved opinions, and the constant mashing of whatever is deemed “hot” at the time. (Tebow, Cowboys, LeBron, Lavar Ball.. and so on…)

Oh, and Jamie doesn’t work here anymore.

Of all the current FS1 “stars” only Whitlock comes across to me as being remotely “real.” And yet he polarizes, because some think he takes intentionally counter-intuitive stances as part of his “schtick.” I don’t see that. He supports his stances intellectually with some meaty arguments, especially the more controversial ones. I feel like if I sat next to Whitlock in first class on a cross country flight, we’d have a great conversation full of both disagreements and laughs.

If I sat next to Cowherd, I’d put on my headphones and fall asleep. Bayless, I’d ask to move back to coach.

Of course, nothing may matter anyway if your sports network doesn’t have THE GAMES. Or if cable-cutting continues at its current pace. Still, I’d like to think there’s an audience to be found when you present game highlights in a way that stimulates the rabid sports fan.

I seem to recall that the ORIGINAL Fox Sports national highlight show delivered much meatier highlight packages at night, with some coaches-level analysis of what was going on. Or maybe I’m dreaming. Good sports TV shouldn’t be a mystery to produce.

Get smart people who are independent thinkers and can communicate. Have those people love sports, not themselves. Then let these people splash around in the sports pool as their creative instincts move them. If they want to mercilessly mock Russell Westbrook’s pre-game clothing, let ’em do it. If Westbrook or his agent calls to complain, say “fuck you” and hang up.

Be beholden to nobody. Sports leagues take cable TV money, then turn around and act like THEY are the client and can push around producers and hosts into being non-controversial pussies. “Hey, we just wrote you a check for $1 billion to carry your games. Piss off.”

If a talent is a no-name now, but creative as hell, hire him anyway. If he’s good, he’ll be famous soon enough. Think Jimmy Kimmel. Ever heard of him?

The Teflon Beard

Thank god I don’t have to root for James Harden. I honestly don’t know how people do it. Oh, let me rephrase that. I don’t know how ROCKETS fans do it.

I’m going to bet that a sizeable percentage of self-described NBA “fans” are basically just fans of a handful of individual players. If they do have a team, I’d bet it’s a changeable one, depending upon who might play for it in any given year.

But let’s assume there are bonafide, die-hard, “Rockets Fan To The Death!” fans out there. I wonder what they think of the new mountain of money owner Leslie Alexander just shoved at James Harden?

As expected, the NBA nerderati loves the move. Because, hey why not? Right? Harden’s a “star” because he shoots and scores a jillion points per game, with great EFFICIENCY numbers (the nerds positively melt over this, in particular) and he’s in his prime, and it “signals” to other potential free agents that Houston is “open for business” baby!

Come get that cheddar, and let’s build a SUPER TEAM! In fact, that’s exactly what Chris Paul tweeted. Not much about winning. But the bag of cash emoji. Gotta have that.

Still, I’m confident in saying that nobody’s winning shit with James Harden. Because WINNING when it matters – the playoffs – is entirely different than racking up easy mid-February points when some chump opponent rolls into town bleary-eyed off a back-to-backer.

James Harden’s borderline criminal Game 6 (non)effort against a crippled Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard will be etched in my mind forever. Even if “The Beard” fanatics want to waive it off with the excuse that “hey, everybody has bad games.”

Harden this spring was either tanking the game to pay off gamblers, or he was high as a kite. I don’t care which option you like better (or worse) but I’m not buying “Option C: “Bad Game.”

Just look at the brutal SportsCenter re-cap of the game’s lowlights.

Standing around motionless as an offensive set stagnates. Passing up wide open jumpers he normally takes by the bucketload. Absurd, don’t give-a-shit passes over his head across the middle of the court. Nah, this wasn’t just a “bad game.”

And this comes on the heels of Harden’s Game 6 disappearance in the 2015 playoff series against the Clippers. Harden was flat BENCHED in that game, and watched stiffs like Corey Brewer and Josh Smith lead the Rockets to a soul-crushing comeback win against the Clippers with a withering 40-15 4th quarter.

With the same guy you just paid another $226 million to……. on the bench.

But hey, whatever. The money is flowing right now in The Association, and I don’t deny that Harden’s a “star” with great numbers. So sure, pay him. “Pays heems ALL DEES MONEYSSSS!”

I just couldn’t stomach rooting for a TEAM that has a “star” who can sound so disconnected, passive, and utterly blase after crapping the bed at HOME in an elimination game vs. a wounded rival. This is a guy who arrived out of shape to start the 2015-16 season, helped get Kevin McHale fired after a slow start, and finally admitted that dating a Kardashian wasn’t helpful to his basketball career.

And since Harden had already signed one extension that had him locked up for two more seasons (until the end of 2018-19), why not just ride that one for a while? Where was he going to go?

Remember, this cat ended up at not one, but TWO clubs in town that night after getting embarrassed. Or, maybe I should re-phrase that: ….after he SHOULD have been embarrassed. I often wonder if some NBA “stars” have a hidden superpower which makes them entirely immune to any embarrassment whatsoever.

Hell, Harden was wearing a hooded sweatshirt by Gucci after that clown show. It costs…. $1200. I shit you not. Even if you have the mountain of NBA money to afford such nonsense, how can you sit there with it on your back and not think: “Christ… I really am a fucking tool for paying 120-times what even the softest most incredible hooded sweatshirt should cost.”

James Harden is an amazingly cat-quick scorer. His jumper is lethal, and he has now perfected the art of tricking defenders (and the refs) into awarding him free-throws on 3-point-attempts way, way, WAY too often. He’s got a funny weirdo beard that makes him visually interesting and easy to market. (Gummy worms? Really?) His defense – once mocked as being just one click away from an orange traffic cone in effectiveness – has been “upgraded” to “not an abomination.” Progress.

But nah, you don’t pay him to play defense. Just shoot, baby.

You can have James Harden all day long. I don’t see him making anybody around him better. I don’t see him being a leader or a tone setter. I don’t ever see him playing in the NBA Finals, much less winning one. I mean it’s great that Chris Paul decided to come to Houston. But I don’t see that pushing the Rockets ahead of San Antonio or Golden State. Maybe not even Oklahoma City. Hell, who knows how good the T’Wolves will be now with Jimmy Butler.

Many would make the same case about the reigning MVP, volume shooting Russell Westbrook. But at least Westbrook plays like the devil on fire, at 100 mph, every damn night. If he’s ever going to have an “off-game” in a “go-home” spot like Harden did, I can assure you he won’t take until 6 minutes are left in the 2nd quarter to lift up a single shot.

Go back and watch that SportsCenter highlight reel again. Notice anything? Harden FOULS out of the worst game of his life. And his teammates HIGH FIVE HIM. Of course.

And now he’s been paid again. Of course. He’s all yours, Houston. Enjoy.

Otto, To The Max

Mar 25, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

As a capitalist, and an American, I’m at peace with at the recent run of NBA contract news. Even though, the numbers, are crazy. In every direction. The talent is getting paid. Even the mediocre talent. I’m always, pro-talent!

Starting with Steph Curry, who set a new high water mark as the first ever $200M player in NBA history. He is also – unless I’m forgetting somebody – the first team sport athlete in American TEAM sports to clock more than $40M in a single season.

Curry is the co-face of the league right now (LeBron’s on the “heads” side of that coin) and the defacto franchise for Golden State. But he’s not the best player. Durant is, and he took a pay CUT. This makes me sick, thinking about it. But hey, Durant is fine with it. He’ll have to scrape by on about $25M per year, plus that much and more in endorsements.

Like I said, I’m an American. I’m happy for him, sick to myself. Because even though the Declaration of Independence states “Life, liberty… and the pursuit of happiness” – and Durant is both pursuing and achieving basketball happiness – I still think he should make more than Curry.

Last we saw of a Curry led-team in the Finals against a full-strength LeBron led team, Curry was throwing behind the back passes out of bounds and shooting bricks when the game was in the balance. This year, Durant sank daggers. Curry needed Durant, not the other way around. Furthermore, Durant would make ANY team he went to instant contenders, Curry… eh. You’d need to re-assemble a good cast of shooters around him all over again.

This is not me knocking Durant for taking less. This is me simply stating a formal objection to (minor) economic injustice.

Blake Griffin’s deal is absurd. He’s an increasingly injured, dunking show-pony. A guy who has not yet – and likely never will – develop an all-around game. But with Chris Paul busting out for Houston, what choice did the Clippers have? Say “no” and just, well… not have a season? Or a team?

The J.J. Redick one-year deal for $23 million by the Sixers is the definition of stupid contracts. The fact that a simple Google search turns up the following headlines, should be more than enough proof.

“For Sixers, Redick is Worth Every Cent of that $23M Contract” (Sporting News)
“Too Much Is Made Of J.J. Redick’s $23 Million Contract” (Forbes)

The nerds doth protest too much. Of course it’s a dumb deal. But a deal that can be rationalized into “smart” in the current NBA climate of “SuperMax” deals and salary floors. A grossly inflated salary is lauded because it’s “only for one year” and provides cap flexibility going forward.

Redick will give the Sixers a reliably non-embarassing 28 minutes a night, about 15 points mostly by way of threes… and virtually nothing else.

For one year. Then… what?

The Sixers were a full 13 games out of the 8th spot in the god-forsaken-Eastern conference last year. But, in theory, with a healthy Embid, healthy Simmons, a good Fultz… and JJ’s threes and “veteran” leadership….. then.. what?

Now my Wizards are ready to push their own palette of cash out into the sky, Point Break style. They plan to match a max offer sheet for Otto Porter that even THEY know, he does not deserve, and they would RATHER NOT have to pay. How do I know the Wiz and Ernie Grunfeld think this? Because they didn’t run out and give him this max deal themselves. Yet at the same time, send very overt signals that they would match “any” offer for him he might get.

And you still want to do this, why? Oh, right. Because he’s a nice player. Pretty good. Getting better. Sorta young. Works hard. And… (waaaaaait for it….) “you have to pay somebody!” John Wall was reportedly offered a 4/$173 million SuperMax extension, but was reportedly not jumping to sign it because he wants to keep the heat on Ted to keep building a contender around him. Porter would be a very bad signal in the wrong direction.

And yet… Wall could still leave anyway in two years! If it was my team, I’d go to Wall and say: “Hey, YOU are the man. We need you IN, before we go out and make the 3rd option on this team a $26M a year player. You first. Then Porter.”

But that’s not how the modern NBA works these days. It’s all leverage and superteams. Which is good for the players but bad for franchises who are throwing good money after bad trying to stay relevant. When the Wizards push the plunger on the Porter deal, look for a flood of pieces explaining that it was a move the team “simply HAD to make.”

I’m always skeptical of ANY time a team is dubbed by the media as “having” to do something. You never HAVE to do anything.

Otto Porter this spring had 0 points in 36 minutes of play in a critical Game 6 at home against the Celtics. His team won, 92-91 to stay alive. Thanks to a John Wall game-winning jumper. Zero. The NBA Nerds will tell you with an eye roll how dated and irrelevant the “old” stats are like “points” and “rebounds” and “assists.”

Okay. But for $26M a year, I’d kinda want a guy who couldn’t run around an NBA court for that long, and effectively become invisible.

Delicious Sports Kitsch

ABC has rebooted the iconic “Battle of the Network Stars” with current ESPN hosts Mike Greenberg and Cari Champion. I applaud this effort. But everybody knows it’ll never recreate the stupid magic of the original series.

The dictionary defines “kitsch” as the following: “Art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.”

Yes, yes indeed. To all of that! Poor taste to have Adrienne Barbeau pulling her arms out of her sockets in the tug-of-war? Yes. Garish? Sentimental. Yes, and yes. But in the eyes of us in our late 40’s and early 50’s… it was ART!

The above Top 10 by the SportsCenter editors is an excellent representative sample of the wonderously silly endeavor. More longform stuff exists on YouTube, of course.

The new show can’t measure up, and will never measure up for several reasons. No Howard Cosell. Networks are no longer dominant TV entities. And there are precious few TV “stars” anymore.

Unless you got Chip and Joanna Gaines to team up against Teresa Giudice.

I mistakenly said on the radio the other day, that I could have swore that Gabe Kaplan (ooh, Mistah Kottah!) beat some African American actor in a 100 yard dash challenge – a major upset (as judging by the celebration!) Yet, upon further review, it was merely a VERY TAN Robert Conrad, who had been running his mouth and challenged Mr. Kotter to the race! Bah!

Most notable to me, was the final clip of Cosell, utterly selling out his call of the Tug of War. Epic, classic, Howard. What a showman. “These are not ath-a-letes… none of ’em… but that’s not what sport is all about!”

Bodybuilder and actor Lou Ferrigno holds actor and comedian Billy Crystal over his head on the set of the television special, ‘Battle of the Network Stars,’ c. 1978. (Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)

Of Gods and Frauds

With the firing of Phil Jackson this week – oops, “mutual parting of ways” – I declared that his utterly disastrous tenure as GM of the Knicks had finally cemented him – in my book, at least – as one of the biggest coaching “frauds” in sports history.

Naturally, I was accused of “hot-takery” and for that, I understand.

But is it a “hot take” if I truly believe it? No, I’m serious. I think Phil Jackson was a merely average NBA coach, who rode an incredible wave of two maniacal basketball geniuses – Michael Jeffrey Jordan and Kobe Bean Bryant – to 11 rings.

I know, it’s sounds absurd, right? ELEVEN rings, and a “fraud.” C’mon, Czabe. Really?

No, really. I’ll explain why.

First of all, the dictionary defines fraud as: “a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.”

When it comes to sports, we never can truly know how much a great coach is helped by great players. Where do you draw the “line of credit”? Is it 70-30 coach/player? The other way around? 50-50? Surely, sports fans acknowledge that some mediocre coaches end up with a single championship that does very little to reflect their skill in guiding the men they coach to a title.

Barry Switzer and George Seifert come to mind.

Switzer is self-explanatory. But Seifert? Yes. While he has two rings as a head coach (89 after taking over for Bill Walsh, and the 94 team that was comically overloaded with free agents like Deion Sanders) he also lost 3 NFC Championship games – including two at home!

Seifert was fired in 1996 after another playoff disappointment, then was out of football for two years before Carolina hired him. He stunk there. Landing with a thud at 1-15 in 2001.

The only saving grace to Seifert, is that he never pawned himself off as anything more than just a quiet coach trying to grind away. In other words, he wasn’t so much a fraud, because he didn’t sell himself as anything special.

Not so with Big Chief Triangle. Phil Jackson was never shy about pushing the narrative of his higher coaching powers through smoke in the lockeroom, passing out books to players on the team bus, and on and on.

And because the rings piled up, most of the media lauded him as the greatest.

Not me.

Michael Jordan was a straight motherfucker on the basketball court, and off of it. That guy was driven to win at all costs, and his maniacal drive lifted everybody along with him. Sure Phil’s “triangle offense” was given lots of credit, but again… you have Jordan bro.

Kobe was cut from a similar cloth of sporting psychosis, albeit dripped in a little bit more narcissism. Plus, he had Shaq. Any of the Real Housewives of Orange County could have rode those guys to multiple rings. And I’m not buying any of the Phil-as-Lockeroom-Peacemaker narrative about how he got Kobe and Shaq to buy into each other. Ballers aren’t stupid. At the end of the day, petty shit gets put aside for winning.

While one can argue that Phil only failed as a GM, and not as coach, I don’t really wall the two career jobs as easily as some people do. Plus, it was the relentless ineptitude of Phil’s reign with the Knicks that makes me declare the emperor never had any real clothes.

His judgement for talent was suspect (Porzingis not withstanding). His ability to get something out of flawed modern players like Carmelo Anthony, was limited, at best. His understanding of where the modern NBA game was now, and where it was going (like 3-point shooting and analytics) was haughtily wrong and nostalgic. His willingness to make a rebuilding plan and stick with it, proved to have zero patience.

And snits like the Porzingis exit interview feud were the stuff of every bad manager who ever worked at a Pizza Hut.

Now, compare this record as player-turned-executive to say Pat Riley (who also coached) or Jerry West. Both of those men have proven themselves to be more than adept at navigating the modern NBA and the whims of dunking millennials, despite the fact both should be categorized as being in “No Country for Old Men.”

Most importantly, both Riley and West take their jobs seriously, and can’t stand losing even NOW when it comes to building good NBA teams. They don’t phone in their gigs from far away places, and rarely walk around getting stupid hats made to pimp their rings.

 

Phil treated this Knicks gig like a $60 million daylight bank robbery. And while a fool like James Dolan deserves every bit of that shakedown, no self respecting executive and competitor would feel good about taking so much money for delivering such a putrid basketball product.

But, I’m sure Phil has his eyes on just how much more of Montana he can buy with that last $24 million he’ll get to go away. Fuck him. I never thought he was that good, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Who Reads Anymore?

It was a perfect coincidence that Fox Sports announced yesterday it was pretty much gutting it’s entire writing and editing staff at their -dot.com portal, and will instead focus on video editing and production. Or, to put it more bluntly: to mash the button even harder on promoting their FS1 hot-take outrage muppets and troll-bots.

Super.

That said… I don’t necessarily disagree with logic of the move. Once upon a time on the internet, major media players like Fox were expected to have a wide variety of forms of sports “product” so to speak. Not just articles and “blogs” but also audio snippets, and of course now, video. But since it had become apparent to me a long time ago that Fox Sports was not even trying when it came to presenting a decent written product out there, there’s no real shame in surrender.

Of course, there’s no need for me to watch what Fox Sports will NOW put out there, but I’m sure somebody will.

Back to writing, and reading for a minute. As I am sure you know, dear loyal reader of Czabe.com, I have been very IN-frequent in my writing on this site. I am aiming to do better, and you may be able to see, there’s been a slight uptick in the rate of my posts. My goal, is to write something in the range of 500-1000 words every day. Perhaps even weekends. But let’s see how I do first on a Monday-Friday schedule.

I have always struggled with exactly WHAT I should write about here, and HOW I should deliver it. For a while I was writing this like a typical “sports blog” where the big sports news o’ the day was given my “take” in written form. But then I thought: “But I do this on my radio show(s). Why replicate it here?” At times I have posted meaty entries with a large volume of outside links to stories and references, along with embedded videos to further my point, or add to the experience of stopping over to see what I was up to.

But I think I am going to start treating this as my daily journal. More personal. More “behind the music” -ish. Sometimes venturing off of sports, but trying desperately to steer away from politics. All politics are personal, and they always generate an argument. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just I would need to sit down with somebody I disagree with over a beer, and go back and forth for quite a while to full explain the nuances of where I stood on any variety of issues in today’s world.

Besides, my goal is to be EVERYBODY’s favorite sports donkey!

Back to the “coincidence” I spoke of at the top. I went to the Nationals baseball game on Sunday, and had every intention of making a little 1-minute “mini-movie” of the experience. Because, you know, “video on the web is the future!” Well, I quickly realized something: I just didn’t FEEL like hamming it up while going to the game. And that’s precisely what making any kind of interesting video requires: a little bit of acting and certainly a dose of nonsense.

Not only that, but for it to look and sound good, you have to be very conscientious about what you are doing. How is the light? Is it noisy? Who is going to hold the camera? And on and on. Plus, what if I have a good “line” I want to deliver, and I keep messing it up? How many takes in front of the ballpark am I willing to make my guests endure?

Furthermore, to get the “key moment” in a sporting event on video, you have to vigilantly be rolling on hours of action. Who has the time or patience for that? Lastly, I still don’t quite have the public persona ego that is coated in enough embarrassment repellant to feel good about doing these things. For example, former Jags QB and DC native Byron Leftwich was sitting down in our section Sunday. I am pretty sure, that he would have been fine if I had asked him “Hey, can I shoot a quick selfie video and post it” he would have agreed.

But what in the fuck am I going to say with Byron? “How’s life after a mediocre football career?” I mean, making good video content with guys you don’t know, is not easy, and it often comes out of nowhere. Plus, I would have felt like a total KNOB when others sitting around him looked over at me and wondered: “Who the fuck is that, and what is he doing?”

So I think I am pretty much going to abandon any thoughts of producing regular video content here on Czabe.com. The only exceptions would be to someday produce a video version of my radio program(s), or the occasional montage video of an event or trip.

And guess what? People still like to read. I know I do. If I am sitting down eating lunch with my phone, I am going to definitely READ something, and not watch any kind of video. It’s just more quiet, peaceful, and personal. Plus, I have found that like pretty much everybody else these days, I have NO patience at all for watching a video that doesn’t get RIGHT INTO it on whatever the subject matter is.

I suppose this is the residue living in a “quick scan” society. I can scan through an article much faster than wait for a tedious video to unfold and get cooking.

(Side note: Who in the bloody hell ever invented “unboxing” videos on YouTube? And for fuck’s sake… WHY? Why do I need to WATCH you… OPEN the damn package! Holy shit this floors me to no end, and I have never had a good explanation. Also, here’s something YouTubers who review electronics. Don’t fucking bore me with the model number of the camera or gizmo you are reviewing in your script… because…. HELLO! I already SEARCHED for it! And it’s in the TITLE of your damn video! Basically, I think every YouTube review should have a preliminary opinion about the product within the first 20 seconds. But maybe that’s just me…)

And… we’re back.

The last thing I’ll add about READING something on the web, vs. WATCHING something, is that when you choose to read something, you are essentially “opting in” to the content itself. You are making a choice. I WANT to read this. With video, it just seems like the content sorta NAGS you. “Hey, hey! Watch this! Watch! Wait… it’s gonna get good!”

And sometimes, it is good. Many more times, it’s not. And that’s because just about any video clip on the internet which isn’t on the Darwin Awards Twitter account, just isn’t worth your time. Now THOSE videos are amazing! Vicious face plants! Rampant stupidity! And they rarely take more than :40 to deliver!

How in the hell, would my videos every compete with that?

So thanks for reading this post all the way to the end! I promise to be more compelling and topical, tomorrow!

Free Kirk

If you have ever had to hoist a heavy, tall pole of any kind in an upright position, you’ll get this analogy. I had to do this with when putting on the uprights to my semi-home-made steel kicking goalposts in my backyard. Because the posts are long (15-feet) and heavy, and because I can only grab the bottom 3-4 feet of it to lift it into place (along with the help of a strong neighbor), it’s crucial that you keep the post straight vertical as long as possible – and at all costs.

When you start to feel the post tipping, then with every inch it starts to lean, the force exerted against you to keep it upright becomes exponentially more impossible to fight.

At a certain point, the post just falls to the ground, and you have to start all over.

The Redskins are now at this point with Kirk Cousins.

They lost the precious window in which the guaranteed weight of the franchise tag salary was not going to start work against them. In the winter of ’16, when Kirk’s franchise number was $20M, the team came in weak and somewhat insulting with a $16M/per year offer that set in (slow) motion the last 18 months of non-action Kirk contract “cha-cha-cha” as Galdi would say.

So no, I don’t think the Derek Carr signing does anything really to help or hurt the chances Kirk signs a new long term deal by July 17. I thought those chances were only about 5% before this new QB salary “data point” and it was a “courtesy” 5% anyway, filed under: “Well… you never know.”

What I do find interesting, is that most people – almost reflexively – say that Carr is the “better” player. Point blank. No blinking. Hmmm. Okay. How, exactly? If you stack up the numbers, Kirk has the better of Carr in almost every category, over a similar span of starts (although the years in the league are quite different).

They both have played on flawed non-playoff/barely playoff teams. Both have had some good weapons, and less-than-dependable defenses.

So why is there an assumption that Carr is better? The stigma on Kirk Cousins as somebody who “just-can’t-be-that-good” is proving to be amazingly hard to shake.

I’ll admit, that Carr seems to be more of a “baller” type QB. A scramble and make miracles happen kind of guy, that the more methodical Kirk, is not. But look at Cousins’ gaudy rushing TD numbers over the last two years. So what if few of them were Mike Vick ankle-breakers? If running the ball into the endzone as a QB in this league was so easy…. trust me… more of them would do it!

I heard Charlie Casserly say Carr is the better player. And he made reference to him being a better deep ball attacker, and that Kirk – while exceptional at reading and getting the ball out on time with accuracy – isn’t as good as when he has to hold the ball and make a play against a well disguised zone.

Okay, fair point. If true. I don’t pretend from the couch to be an expert of that level. All I know is that you can win with Cousins. A big bucket of games, with Kirk Cousins. He’s a starter. A guy who you say: “Here’s the job” and he treats it with the full professional diligence and care any team would want to have in their starting QB.

And starters cost $25M++ right now. They cost a little LESS about 2 years ago (like say $20M++) but the price is going up, and it’s never coming down. So if you like having a starter, and don’t like having 16 weeks of live game auditions that count in the standings (I’m looking at YOU, Cleveland!) then you better get the guy locked up.

But here we still are. Kirk is not locked up. So at this point, I propose a radical approach for the Skins brass that is our only hope for a long and wonderful marriage.

Tell Kirk you will not use the franchise tag again this winter. Not even the “transition” tag. Apologize for letting it come to this point. Say to him publicly, and honestly: “Look, we love you. You are the best thing to happen to us at QB in over 20 years. We want you here for 10 more years of great football. But we screwed up just a bit. We thought the first franchise tag was just a placeholder, and we never got our numbers right. And we did it again this winter.”

“So after this season, Kirk will be a free agent, and he can leave if he wants. But we not only think he can best thrive in our offense, with our coaching staff, and the team we are building around him… we also know that we will not lose a bidding war for his services. As anyone who has been here under owner Daniel M. Snyder, one thing he does not lose are battles for high profile free agents.”

It’s the “if you love something, set it free” approach. Crazy? Maybe. Humbling? Sure. But I think it has the best chance for success.

It removes the Redskins from looking like contractual hostage-takers. It puts subtle pressure on Kirk to contemplate having to be the “bad guy” by leaving. And best of all, it allows the Redskins to avoid looking like dopes for signing Kirk now to a deal that is for way too much money, for somebody who many insist is not as good as his numbers say he is.

If the Skins sign Kirk in an open bidding war this winter, and end up setting a record for new QB money, but they do it only because the Niners, and Rams, and Broncos all had offers in the same range, then you can legitimately say: “Hey, I know it’s crazy, but we’re not the only ones who understand starting QB value vs. cost.”

Lastly, if you still think I’m nuts, let me just remind you of reality. Remember, the heavy pole they were trying to lift into place got out of leverage, and has crashed to the ground.

Kirk and his agent know that his client has ALREADY SIGNED a 3-year guaranteed contract with the Washington Redskins for $72 million. They virtually “signed” their own deal, the minute the Redskins locked them in the franchise tag basement. Kirk and his agent understood two things 1) Franchise tag values for QB’s are fantastic! 2) No team has ever franchised a QB, and then NOT franchised him the following year if a deal didn’t get done.

Kirk lucked into a team that hit “start” on a doomsday clock that now can’t be stopped. In fact, I’d be shocked if any team ever uses the franchise tag on a good QB ever again. Even for a minute. It’s too risky for the team!

Since 2007, only 3 other QB’s besides Kirk have ever been hit with the franchise tag. In fact, each year there should be – in theory – 32 franchise players (i.e. good free agents to be, that you can prevent from hitting the market) but instead the annual average is only 8 players for the entire league.

That should be your first big warning! Using it on a QB, was viewed by almost everyone as needlessly risky, expensive and ultimately antagonistic.

In 2012 Drew Brees wore the tag briefly in the off-season before the Saints gave him a massive new deal. In 2011 Mike Vick wore it until the very end of August before getting a new $100M deal from the Eagles. And in 2009 the Patriots put the “non-exclusive” tag on Matt Cassell, with the full intention of flipping him in a trade – which they did, for a seemingly un-impressive single 2nd rounder from the Chiefs. (They still ripped Kansas City blind!)

In the cases of Brees and Vick, the Saints and Eagles enjoyed a certain degree of leverage. Brees had won a Super Bowl in New Orleans, had deep ties to the community, and loves Sean Payton. Leaving for slightly more money woulda been really hard. And Vick was easy for the Eagles. The guy had a mountain of bankruptcy debt staring him in the face! Who wouldn’t take a long term deal over a single season at $16M?

The Skins have zero leverage on Kirk. In fact, I think they’ve kinda pissed him off.

I repeat: using the tag on Kirk was a mistake from the jump. So let’s admit it, be honest about our appreciation of him as our starter, and commit to winning his trust both on the field and off, and also at the negotiating table this winter.

The door is open. You will be free to leave. But we plan on convincing you that you’d be crazy to do so.

They say that’s how love works. No matter what, Kirk will win in the end. He’s got $44M in the bank from the Redskins, he will get a multi-year contract from somebody next season even if he stinks like a rotten carp in 2017 and the Skins let him walk.

Oh, and here’s a video of his wedding day. Does this look like a man who worried about breaking a leg and “not getting paid” as a free agent this winter?

Julie + Kirk : Wedding Highlight Film from Taylor Zorzi on Vimeo.

Tanks For Nothing

The NBA Draft is tonight, and it’s already promising to be one of the most fascinating nights of what will be a getcha-popcorn-ready off-season of free agency and trades.

Because NBA success is no longer predicated on getting lucky with a lumbering 7-foot mastodon with the first overall pick – a creature that usually appeared around once every 10 years, at best – there’s never been a stronger argument in favor of abolishing the draft lottery.

Oh, I’m not saying the NBA should go back to giving the top pick to the worst team. I would like the NBA to pioneer the new millennium concept of every team in the league taking turns picking first overall.

I know, radical, right? Stupid, you say? Hold on. You do know that once upon a time, there was something called a “Territorial Pick” in the NBA, right? The Sixers used it to take a guy who turned out pretty good. Wilt Chamberlain was his name.

The Sixers still couldn’t win the NBA championship with him averaging 50 ppg in his 3rd season! (They’d eventually win ONE title with Wilt, before he left for Los Angeles and the land of 10,000 women!)

My point is that “Territorial Picks” made sense at the time – feed popular college players to “local” pro teams to help attendance. Then, eventually, it didn’t make as much sense. So they scrapped it.

Let’s do that with all of our sports, but let’s start with the NBA, which is ripe for the change.

The concept has already been floated – and shot down, by those who just can’t stand change – as a sort of “Draft Wheel.” Every team, picks in every slot 1-30 on a rotating basis over a 30-year cycle.

The nuanced merits and demerits of such a plan, are well articulated here in this piece by Zach Lowe in the (now-defunct) Grantland.

As we know from the Golden State Warriors success, really good players can be found anywhere from 1-30. So why are we obsessed with constantly helping the awful teams get better with prime picks? Worse yet, the NBA’s weighted draft lottery is only encouraging teams to really, really suck.

Ah yes, welcome to The Tank. Where pro sports teams take your money (no discounts!) while actively trying to be as bad as possible for the benefit of a player who doesn’t even exist yet.

There’s no doubt the 76ers were “tanking” under now-departed GM Sam Hinkie. They have averaged a 14th place finish in the NBA’s weak-sister Eastern Conference for the last 4 years. Maybe it’ll payoff. Maybe not.

Joel Embiid finally made it onto the court. He was a sensation. Then promptly got hurt again. Ben Simmons is still a huge “maybe” as a player, and he didn’t play at all because of injury. Now the Sixers have traded up to #1/#1 to take (we presume) Markell Fultz.

It’s gonna work, right? THIS is the start of something BIG for the 76ers, right?

Meh. I wouldn’t count on it.

The NFL is now grappling with tanking – something that had previously been unthinkable. The presumed purity of NFL teams always striving to be good, better, best at all times is starting to crumble.

Thanks alot, Jets.

I would be perfectly happy with the NFL adopting a “draft wheel” as well. Giving the Browns high draft picks has obviously done nothing to lift them out of perennial loserdom. The Browns have finished an almost impossible-to-do dead last in their own Division for 8 of the last 9 years.

As Steve Spurrier once breezily quipped: “Sure we expect to win our division. Heck, you only have to beat 3 other teams!”

Giving the Browns more high picks is like throwing peals before swine. Worse yet, it encourages inept management to use the high draft picks as false hope for the future. “Yes, we really sucked this year. One win! Not good, not good at all. BUT…. we DO have the #1 pick in the draft! So there’s HOPE for the future!”

“But Czabe, you are saying we should strip what little hope exists for perennially bad teams, by a cold and indifferent “wheel of draft picks” system that moves slower than tectonic plates.”

Not exactly. What I am doing, is delivering these fans from the scourge of management malfeasance. I am imposing a rigid accountability on these teams to try to be good – no matter what! Because help isn’t coming by way of the draft!

And in the NBA, the draft lottery remains one of the most suspicious endeavors in sports. If that 1985 lottery wasn’t rigged, I’ll eat every envelope in the hopper! Now, the NBA uses such a complex lottery, that it isn’t even televisable.

Scrap it all. Our pro sports draft process needs an overhaul like this.

Colin Kaepernick’s Bad Read

Colin Kaepernick has effectively ended his NFL career.

By tweeting out a simplistic – and mostly off-target – reaction to the jury acquittal of a police officer who shot a motorist to death while sitting in behind the wheel with his girlfriend and 4-year old daughter in the backseat, Kaepernick proved he reads the landscape of possible NFL owners about as well as he does mixed coverage defenses.

Poorly.

I think the conventional wisdom that any new NFL employer would be wary of having to “defend” or handle the “distraction” of social media posts like this, misses the point. I think NFL teams, GMs, and owners are convinced that this young man is working with corrupted software right now.

To my eyes – and most, I believe – the incident was a horrifying example of sketchy and poorly trained police work. A simple misunderstanding, led to a brutally fatal act of panic. The amount that race played into it, or an ongoing and systematic oppression of black motorists, is a debate that requires much more time and understanding on all sides.

That said, Kaepernick’s tweet about the police forces in the early days of our nation emerging from a force of slave catchers, is not incorrect. However his claim that the “system” is not only beyond reform, but needs to be “dismantled”, is nothing more than brainwashed milennial jibberish.

One can argue that the “system” did all it possibly could to bring justice to the incident. The officer was charged, and stood trial by a jury of his peers. That jury – which included 2 African American jurors – decided to acquit the officer after nearly 2 weeks of deliberation.

Is this something we’d like to “dismantle?”

If so, what would replace it? I have not heard any concrete ideas from the former 49ers quarterback.

Furthermore, to draw a simple straight line from slave catchers to modern police forces is like throwing a late ball across the middle into triple-coverage. Current policing in America, is buffeted by many cultural forces, making it an incredibly complicated subject.

For example, many police departments are aware that their force doesn’t adequately reflect the minorities who live in their community. Therefore, they recruit minorities to join the force as actively as possible. However, the more sensationalized police shootings of minorities becomes, the HARDER it is to attract those same minorities to wear the badge, since the job is seen more and more as being an agent of oppression, rather than a protector of law abiding citizens.

The former Niners quarterback, is not helping.

The larger issue of Kaepernick’s current unemployment is that he hasn’t spoken since the season has ended. Not a single televised interview. Not a hand-picked sit down with a writer he trusts. Not even a few on-the-fly questions and answers about football from him at a community event.

Kaepernick has either been unable, or unwilling to display some depth-of-thought about his activism in regard to football. A SportsCenter “Sunday Conversation” could go a long way to change minds, or at least end his deafening standoffish silence. If only Kaepernick could have said this off-season that he understands the issue is more complex than a tweet or a meme. And that while he’ll continue his passionate advocacy for reform on his own time, that he understands why some NFL fans may not have been comfortable with the nature or platform of last year’s protests. If only….

The NFL once had an ugly un-written race-barrier at quarterback. Top black college QBs were shifted quietly to other positions, rather than be allowed to be the face of the franchise. Thankfully, that’s long gone. (Irony alert! RG3 was deemed by some to not be “black enough!”) And fans will even accept a lot of unpleasant things about their QB, as long as they win. They accept douchebag QBs (Cutler), pill-popping and dong-texting QBs (Favre), possible rapist quarterbacks (Roethlisberger), perhaps cheating quarterbacks (Brady), even convicted dog-fighting felon quarterbacks (Vick) as their man in charge of brining home that big Sunday “W”.

But if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. It’s pretty obvious Kaepernick either can’t read this defense he’s staring at, or he has chosen to go out as a political martyr.

In many ways, Jay Cutler was in the same boat this year. Talented enough to get you close. Often injured, but with surely another two years left in him. In the end, he proved to be a guy who just didn’t seem to care that much about football. And when the moment came in his career where he needed to do some public selling of how much he wanted to still play football, he just faded away in silence into retirement. (And now, we’ll see if he’s as “meh” in the TV booth, as he seemed on the sidelines.)

The only question left now, is just how long will Kaepernick’s sympathetic core of social justice seeking NFL writers keep banging the drum for him?

Winning Off The Field

As far as victories go, this one never felt sweeter.

About 3 years ago, the politically correct media wolfpack was howling at the door of my football team’s very identity, history, and right to exist. The name “Redskins” had become so toxic, that high profile network announcers were stating publicly that they would no longer even utter the name while doing games.

The Washington Post itself, wrote enough column inches about it to wrap a battleship in old newspapers. And – suprise! – almost 99% of it was in favor of scrapping the name.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court delivered the final kill shot to all of that nonsense. Ruling in a resounding 8-0 decision against the notion that the government should be in the sensitivity business in regard to legal trademarks, the battle of “Redskins Hill” is now officially over.

And yes, every Redskin fan should thank Dan Snyder for saving the name.

Changing it, would have been easy enough to do. Convenient. Cheaper than litigation and hiriing PR firms. He would have even been given some attaboys at high level cocktail parties, I’m sure.

My guess is that the team would have been re-named the “Warriors.” The iconic Indian-head helmet logo and all other native-American imagery purged (bye bye, Sonny-era “Florida State” spear!) and replaced with a generic “W” (just what we need here in the DMV, another “W” team like the Nats!)

I’d assume we’d get to keep the burgundy and gold color scheme, but what a hollow victory that would have been?

Then the retroactive scrubbing of the team’s history would have begun.

Just because you have NOW changed the team’s awful, no-good, racist, hurtful name they’ve enjoyed for 75-plus years, doesn’t mean you get to keep showing OLD images and references of that name. Ohhhh… no, no no.

I’m not kidding when I say that had the anti-name forces prevailed, then there would be calls to never ever print a picture of Joe Theismann in a media guide, team poster, billboard, or promotional flyer without first BLURRING OUT THE OLD LOGO.

I’m dead serious. This WOULD have happened. Because when it comes to others who think they are “doin’ good” in the world…. it ain’t got no end.

Predictably, the usual suspects who have led this dead-end crusade against the name, will keep on not using it, even though they won’t actually harm their own livelihoods by refusing to cover the team.

They cared deeply about this issue. Just not deeply enough for it to reach the lint in their pockets.

The whole argument against the name flunked the test of basic logic. No team that ever adopts an entity as their name and helmet image, and then writes fight songs about how badass they were in battle, is at the same time trying to slur and dehumanize the same entity.

“Ha ha, we got ’em good! We just named our football team after them, and made them our logo! Oohhh BURN!”

Coupled with the Washington Post survey of two years ago that found an overwhelming majority (90%!) of surviving generations of Native Americans either didn’t care about the name – or even LIKED IT! – this Supreme Court ruling is indeed the point-spread covering touchdown, followed by a massive spike of the football.

As a famous SI cover once blared: “Wham, Bam, It’s The Redskins!”

Yes it is. Now… and forever.

Brooks Was Here

Turns out, Brooks Koepka is the perfect US Open winner for Erin Hills.

I can’t figure either one of them out.

So let’s start with the man. This guy has been on the official “Golf Nerd Radar” for a while now. An athletic looking dude who played at Florida State, had a decorated amateur career, and hits missiles like that…. oh yeah. We’ve known about Brooks for a while.

But we’ve also waited for Brooks, for a while. Which is not unusual. Golf is hard. Not sure you’ve heard that one before. The guy went all around the world to figure out how to WIN, not just play “hit the ball pretty.” It’s starting to pay off, big time.

The temptation is to say Koepka is now going to explode into being a major, consistent, golf superstar. Well, maybe. We’re still waiting for Rickie. Jordan has started to drift sideways. Justin Thomas had a major flame-out, and Dustin Johnson still has just one major.

More fascinating to me, is that I have no idea who this guy really is. He seems like the most handsome golf dullard who has ever put a peg into the ground. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve heard him say more than 4 sentences in a row, since he’s turned pro.

Furthermore, I was intrigued by Joe Buck saying on the broadcast that Koepka told him that he’s NOT a “golf fanatic” – whatever the hell that means? Buck mentioned his athletic lineage, and how he tried playing baseball but – irony alert – washed out because he couldn’t hit!

Still, you don’t get good enough in golf to win the US Open, if you don’t LOVE it at some level. So good for Brooks! Freaking… stud. Helluva display. Congrats. Now, let’s see if you have any personality since you will be billed at every tournament you enter as a “major winning” draw to sell tickets.

Now, to Erin Hills.

She did fine, okay? Let’s not get wrapped up in the scores. They were low. Downwind, you couldn’t make the 18th hole long enough. The greens were perfect, which had as much to do with it as anything. These guys putt like demons. Give ’em pool tables – especially ones that aren’t the actual size of pool tables – they will run ’em in.

Was the course strategic? Was it interesting? Did it make the cream rise to the top? Was it fair? Too easy? Did it pop on TV as memorable and spectacular? Let me answer in order: a) Somewhat b) Not especially c) Mostly d) Very much e) A little… f) No.

Like Koepka, I am not sure what to make of Erin Hills. Is it truly “great” or just “unique”? It’s a basic fescue lined farmland course, splashed over a massive canvas. It has some links-ish properties, but they are still essentially ersatz.

What I have said ever since I was lucky enough to play it (once when it opened, again after the fixes and changes) is that “HOLY SHIT WE ARE WAY WAY OUT HERE IN THE WILD PLAYING GOLF!” But do long walks from green-to-next-tee make the actual holes any better?

I’m not sure.

I’ll still take Whistling Straits head-to-head, and that’s even if you filled in Lake Michigan with dirt. I just think it’s a better golf course.

Of course the golf fans of the Cheese State turned out in force, as I knew they would. You people are a big event state, and put on a great show. It’s why the PGA of America has signed up for multiple trips to Whistling for not just the PGA Championship, but an upcoming Ryder Cup in 2020. (Which, oh by the way, is going to melt peoples brains it’ll be so good!)

It probably seemed like there wasn’t as many fans in attendance, but that was due to the massive acreage and the fact the USGA set-back the rope lines and grandstands an absurd distance from the greens and fairways. Few organizations have a “let the masses eat cake” attitude for the average fan, quite like the USGA.

If they cared about average fan experience, they would allow closer rope lines and greenside standing/sitting (like Augusta does) and worry less about only taking this event to places that can accommodate 200+ corporate tents, media villages, and merchandise pavilions.

They don’t. They care about money. The USGA is a “non-profit” that has about $300 million in the bank.

I personally don’t think the US Open should go back to Erin Hills, but it’s just one man’s opinion. I also don’t think the USGA should give two figs about taking this event anywhere in the country just because they “haven’t been there in a while.”

To me, the US Open is a cool-summer, northern-tiered (and California) event with tree-lined, blue-blood courses that leave tour pros cussing at their shoes in the lockeroom. We don’t “need” to be taking it anywhere the weather is shit in mid-June (Congressional), or a blazing hot dust-bowl (Pinehurst), or to new fangled public courses that look like treeless British Open venues (Chambers Bay).

We already have one British Open. We don’t need TWO. Erin Hills was basically a warm-weather British Open, with cows.

The USGA would do well to just embrace what their event is, from an aesthetic standpoint. Did you know that in the UK, only about 2% of the total golf courses are actual proper seaside “links” courses? And yet, the R&A has figured out a basic “rota” of their best links courses, and THAT is where the Open happens. Year after year. Loop after loop through the rota.

Do you think the R&A ever thought to bring the Open to Gleneagles, or the K-Club, or The Belfry?

Fuck no! Yet all of those wonderful venues happily have hosted the Ryder Cup.

The Open’s SOUL is that of a links event. It’s where the game originated, and it’s the Open’s defacto “brand.”

The US Open once had a “brand.” And it was northeast private clubs, with thick green rough deep enough to lose your keys. I think that’s where this event belongs.

Matt Ginella Sits Down With Bob Lang On The Saga of Erin Hills

This is a wonderfully shot piece, with some excellent original photos of the land and the course in it’s infant stages. It is also nice to see Bob Lang talk about the project, admit his inarguably reckless obsession about it, but at the same time not hold any outward bitterness about the outcome.

No matter what happens this week at the US Open, Erin Hills’ ongoing success is now cast in bronze. The changes and improvements to the course made to host the Open, have already elevated their ability to get $200+ for a round. After the Open is through, that rack rate will climb north of $300.

The spectacular visuals of the property Fox will surely deliver this weekend to a worldwide audience of golf fanatics, will be irresistible golf cheese. And if the players say nice things, even better. The prospects of the Open returning in 10 years or more, are still too uncertain. There cannot be a golf-course related rules disaster.

My fear would be something like this: Erin Hills has what the architects call “erosion” bunkers. That means, they are rough, and unkempt around the edges. This is problematic because balls can lodge, or roll into tiny crevices, ruts, and gullies.

Conceptually, in modern golf a player who finds his ball, no matter where it ended up, should have some kind of shot at it. (the Scots who founded the game, would obviously disagree). But there are nooks in these bunkers at Erin Hills, where you literally have to take an unplayable lie.

This would be highly controversial.

Imagine one of the leaders on Sunday, hitting a good shot that just rolls off the back of a green into a HOLE in the erosion bunker. He has to take a penalty and a drop, and ends up making triple. This, would not be good.

I’m gonna guess there will be a significant lost ball event in the deep fescue involving somebody on the first page of the leaderboard on Saturday or Sunday. We’ll just have to see about how players react to it. Pros aren’t used to actually “losing” a golf ball that was hit in play on the PGA Tour. They tend to be pretty big babies about it.

All that said, I’ll cross my fingers for a great week for Erin Hills. I don’t worry about the golf fans or the crowds, because Wisconsin turns out for any big party. And while many in that state don’t golf particularly WELL… by gum, they DO golf. Even if it’s while getting hammered on Leiney’s and wearing cargo shorts!