Category Archives: Sports

1971: baseball nirvana

I wish I could put myself in a time machine and go back to the summer of 1971.

Sure, I would not be blogging if it were August 1971. Sure, I would not be playing Buzztime trivia if it were August 1971. The American economy wasn’t in great shape in August 1971, and Nixon made a foolish mistake by taking the United States off the gold standard.

There were good things about 1971, though. The Brady Bunch was on the air. Gas was 30 cents per gallon; even with inflation, that’s $1.90, 45 cents less than what I paid last night when I filled up in Salina.

Major League Baseball was certainly better in 1971.

Hank Aaron hit a career high 47 home runs as he drew closer and closer to Babe Ruth’s record of 714, once thought to be unbreakable. In his final season with the Giants, Willie Mays led San Francisco to the National League West championship in yet another epic battle with the Dodgers. San Francisco lost the National League Championship Series to the Pirates in four games in their last postseason appearance until 1987. The Orioles won their third consecutive American League pennant by sweeping the Athletics in the American League Championship Series. It was the Athletics’ first trip to the postseason since 1931, when they were in Philadelphia and led by legendary Connie Mack.

The 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit was one of the most memorable. Aaron and Johnny Bench staked the National League to an early 3-0 lead with home runs, but Reggie Jackson began the American League comeback by launching a monstrous home run off of a transformer on roof above right center. The pitcher who served it up was Dock Ellis, the same Dock Ellis who threw a no-hitter while allegedly under the influence of LSD (his claim) the previous season.

Ellis, the volatile right-hander from Pittsburgh, was the Naitonal League’s starter. The American League countered with Oakland lefty Vida Blue, who went on to win the AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. More importantly, it was the first time there were two black starting pitchers in an All-Star Game.

One of the umpires in the 1971 All-Star Game was Jake O’Donnell, who from 1968-71 officiated both in the American League and NBA. O’Donnell resigned from the AL at the end of 1971 to concentrate on basketball. It was a wise move, for Jake worked the NBA Finals every year from 1972 through 1994. O’Donnell is the only man to officiate All-Star games in two major sports.

Also on the umpiring crew that evening in Detroit were future Hall of Famer Doug Harvey, and Don Denkinger, whose moment of infamy in Kansas City was still a long way off.

Nearly every team still wore flannel uniforms in 1971. Sure, they were hot, but they were beautiful for the most part.

The Athletics had a lovely sleeveless vest which came in white, gray and gold, and those could be worn with gold or green undershirts. The Dodgers debuted a new road top with thin blue and white piping along the shoulders. The Padres had a tan road uniform. The White Sox and Phillies both debuted new uniforms, and both would keep them when they switched to polyester the next season. I thought both sets were downgrades; the White Sox’ royal blue and white set of 1969-70 was downright gorgeous, and the Phillies ditched the classic set they debuted in 1950, when the “Whiz Kids” won the franchise’s only pennant between 1915 and 1980.

Three teams wore polyester that season. The Pirates debuted them in July 1970 when they moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium; the Cardinals began 1971 wearing them; and the Orioles gradually switched from flannel to polyester throughout that season, finally ditching flannel for good in the ALCS. Ironically, the 1971 World Series was all polyester, as the Pirates took down the heavily favored Orioles in seven games.

In 1971, the Senators were still in Washington. The Brewers were in the American League West, building healthy rivalries with the Twins and White Sox.

That changed in 1972.

Cheapskate Senators owner Bob Short lied to the American League, claiming he was going broke in the nation’s capital, giving owners a supposed reason to allow the second incarnation of the Senators (the first became the Twins in 1961) to move to Dallas/Fort Worth and become the Texas Rangers. RFK Stadium was not a great facility by any means, but Short traded it for Arlington Stadium, a minor league facility which had no business hosting Major League Baseball. Yet it was the home of the Rangers through 1993.

Dallas/Fort Worth is too big an area for any major sports league to ignore. However, Short was, well, (extremely) short-sighted for deserting the nation’s capital for a dump like Arlington Stadium. Had DFW waited until the American League expanded for 1977, it would have had a stadium which might still be standing, or would have served a team much better than Arlington.

I visited Arlington Stadium a handful of times in my teenage years. I hated the park. Hated it. Those metal bleachers in the outfield were hot enough to fry eggs. Of course, the idiots who expanded the park built bleachers instead of building more decks from foul line to foul line, which would have been better for fans watching the game and the team, since those tickets would have commanded a higher price than bleachers.

The Senators’ shift to DFW prompted AL owners to move the Brewers to the American League East, pissing off the White Sox and Twins, each of whom who lost six games per year against Milwaukee. The Great Lakes trio would not be reunited until 1994 when the American League Central, but that lasted only four seasons, because the Brewers gleefully moved to the National League for 1998.

Speaking of the leagues, another great thing about baseball in 1971: NO DESIGNATED HITTER.

The designated hitter is a pox on baseball. Charlie Finley, you can rot in hell. It is the single worst rule in all of sports. There are many other terrible ones, like the shootout in the NHL and high school football overtime, but the I despise the designated hitter more than any other rule in sports.

Basketball players are not allowed to play only one end of the floor–at least if they want to stay on the court. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored loads of points during their playing days, but if they didn’t rebound and block shots, they would never have sniffed the Hall of Fame.

Other than the goaltender, hockey players must be good offensively and defensively if they hope to stick in the NHL. Gordie Howe, the NHL’s greatest goal scorer until Wayne Gretzky came along, prided himself as much for his defense as his offense. No opposing winger dared cross Mr. Hockey, or else he would find himself in a world of hurt.

Association football? Same as hockey. Defenders don’t score many goals and forwards don’t play beyond the center line, but a player who is a defensive liability will be on the bench unless he scores goals as frequently as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

Players went both ways in the early days of the NFL, and in college until 1964. Many players at small high schools go both ways, and even at some large ones, because coaches would rather have an excellent athlete who may be fatigued rather than a mediocre one who is fresh.

When Mr. Doubleday invented baseball in the 19th century, he intended for the nine players on the field to specialize in a defensive skill AND be able to swing the bat. Some swing the bat better than others. That’s professional sports.

Major League Baseball is the best of the best of the best. The 750 men who populate the 30 MLB rosters are supposed to be the best in the world. Not all of them have to hit .350 with 50 home runs. Heck, Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith, among many others, were mediocre hitters, but so great with their glove they have plaques in Cooperstown.

I can tolerate–not accept–the DH in Little League and high school. However, at those levels, pitchers are often the best hitters, too, so it’s not necessary in those cases. Little League has a much larger problem than the DH. You’ve probably read my rants about this in earlier posts.

In college baseball, the DH should be abolished, especially in Division I. If a young man is good enough to be pitching at the highest level of college baseball, he should be able to stand in the batter’s box up to four times every week if he’s a starting pitcher.

The National League is going to adopt the designated hitter soon. I am deathly afraid of it. When it happens, I will be back on this blog using language not safe for work. You’ve been warned.

When you went to the ballpark in 1971, there were no silly promotional handouts, no dizzy bat races, no scantily clad 20-something women shooting t-shirts out of air-propelled mini-cannons, and no mascots. Umpires still wore their blazers many days. American League umpires wore the balloon chest protector, leading to the Junior Circuit becoming known as a high-strike lead, contrasting to the National League, where the low strike ruled. Games usually lasted two hours, give or take a few minutes. There a few real doubleheaders, where one ticket got you two games, although there were fewer by 1971 than there had been in 1961, and fewer in 1961 than in 1951.

In my opinion, the best thing about baseball in 1971–and the 34 years prior to that–NO FACIAL HAIR!!!!

In 1971, only the Reds had a rule banning facial hair, but the other franchises unofficially followed suit. Many players had mutton chops and other forms of long sideburns which were in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but not one player in professional baseball sported a mustache and/or beard.

Unfortunately, this came to an end in 1972. The culprit? Charles O. Finley. I hope you are seriously rotting in hell, Mr. Finley. You were a bastard in so many ways.

Cheapskate Charlie, who refused to pay his A’s (from 1972-86, the Oakland franchise was officially known as the A’s) a living wage, somehow came up with an idea to give each player a $300 bonus if he grew a mustache by Father’s Day. Sure enough, every goddamn A’s player grew one.

The A’s, wearing their new polyester uniforms of “kelly green”, “Fort Knox gold” and “wedding gown white”, ended up in the World Series against the clean-shaven Reds in a series termed by the medias as the “hairs” vs. the “squares”. Oakland won in seven games.

I’m glad I wasn’t alive in 1972. I would not have known who to root for. I despise the Reds for Pete Rose, a gambling pedophile who played dirty. I disliked the A’s for the facial hair, not to mention the strong hate I have for Finley, who pulled the Athletics out of Kansas City after the 1967 season because of his avarice.

The plague known as the DH came into being in 1973. That’s one of two reasons why 1973 was a horrid year for the grand old game. The second was the introduction of one George Michael Steinbrenner, who bought the Yankees from CBS for a paltry $10 million. That season was also the last for the original Yankee Stadium and the first for the facility now known as Kauffman Stadium.

In 2019, finding a clean-shaven MLB player is as hard as finding a four-leaf clover. I don’t get it.

Beards in hockey are ubiquitous in the playoffs. I don’t like them. Wayne Gretzky never grew a playoff beard. He was okay, wasn’t he? At least most hockey players shave them. Baseball players aren’t shaving them, and it’s gross.

I’m surprised there isn’t a huge Detroit Lions fan club in western Kansas because of coach Matt Patricia’s disgusting facial hair. People out here could root for the Lions without feeling guilty, since Detroit plays the Broncos and Chiefs only once every four years. The Lions happen to play both this season, and for some reason, Kansas City has to go back to Ford Field. Under the current schedule rotation, Detroit will go 20 years without visiting Arrowhead. Good work, NFL.

1971 also happened to be a wonderful year in other sports.

  • The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship in their third season, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in four games. Of course, having Lew Alcindor, who had already changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but not yet adopted it on the court, and Oscar Robertson didn’t hurt.
  • The NFL in 1971 was fabulous. Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page was the league’s Most Valuable Player. Dallas legend Bob Lilly and the Doomsday Defense powered the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship. The Dolphins, who lost Super Bowl VI, won the NFL’s longest game, defeating the Chiefs after seven minutes, 40 seconds of a second overtime period in what was the final NFL game in Kansas City Municipal Stadium.
  • College football came down to Big Eight superpowers Nebraska and Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day in Norman. The Cornhuskers survived 35-31, then steamrolled undefeated Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl to finish the first 13-0 season. That Crimson Tide team switched to the Wishbone offense and also fielded its first black players, John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson.
  • After the previous three Stanley Cup finals series ended in four-game sweeps (sorry Blues), the Canadiens and Black Hawks played a series for the ages. The home team won each of the first six games, with the series returning to Chicago for game seven. In what turned out to be the final game for Montreal legend Jean Beliveau, Montreal silenced Chicago Stadium by winning 3-2 for the first of its six Stanley Cups in the 1970s.
  • UCLA won its fifth consecutive college basketball championship, overcoming determined Villanova 68-62 in the final at the Astrodome. Kansas reached the Final Four for the first time since 1957.
  • There were 48 NASCAR Grand National races in 1971, many on short tracks. The next year, the schedule was shortened to 31 races, and Winston cigarettes (🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤢🤢🤢🤢🤢🤢🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮) became the sponsor of the top series.

Also in 1971, cigarette advertising on TV and radio was banned following the completion of the Orange Bowl (Nebraska 17, LSU 12) on New Year’s Night.

Too bad H.G. Wells’ vision will never come to light. I’m stuck in this era of beards, tattoos and other things I can’t stand.

I’m not going to apologize for this novella of a post. I needed to say these things.

Maybe Buzztime knew I was blogging about 1971 in baseball. The first question of sports trivia tonight: What award did Ferguson Jenkins win that year? Of course any baseball fan worth his salt knows it was the National League Cy Young.

Trivia and tacos

Today’s trivia adventure comes from the Taco Bell at 1730 Vine Street in Hays, Kansas USA.

That’s right. I am a little under 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from The Golden Q, where I normally play trivia in Hays. If you read my blog post from last Wednesday, you know The Q is undergoing a massive renovation which has closed its kitchen until next Tuesday, and the air conditioning and televisions are not functioning.

Buzztime updated its app last week. The questions now appear on the screen with the answers. The only drawback is clues are not given for Lunchtime and Countdown, meaning it’s all or nothing, unless lightning strikes and you figure it out in the middle of the question. For Late Shift, the game which runs from 2200 to closing, and others like it, the wrong answers wipe out. The app still cannot handle the hour-long games Tuesday through Saturday meaning if I want to play SIX Wednesday and Thursday at 1930, I have to be somewhere, which means Salina this week.

I had to come to Hays today to get my eyeglasses adjusted. Dr. Jones did it herself. I also had to get the correct case, which wasn’t a big deal.

Nickole Byers in Ellis called me while I was driving to Hays. I called her back and she wanted information on tournaments for the upcoming school year in case we wanted to print programs for them. Therefore, I stopped at Taco Bell to work.

I decided I would see how far away Buzztime could pick up the signal from The Q so I could play.

It worked. I’m about ready to leave to go home because I am dead tired. I didn’t get a lick of sleep last night, and it wasn’t because anything was wrong; for some reason, I couldn’t fall asleep even after taking Seroquel. I think I’ll be in bed very early tonight, because I would like to wake up early tomorrow, go to Wichita to get my car cleaned, then come back to Salina for trivia and a haircut with Amber.

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I understand why Wimbledon instituted a tiebreak in the deciding set of matches when the score reaches 12-12. The All-England Lawn Tennis Club does not want marathon matches such as 2010, when John Isner and Nicholas Mahut needed 138 games to decide the fifth set, with Isner prevailing 70-68.

That’s right. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY EIGHT games. It took 11 plus hours over three days to complete.

Back to yesterday, when Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer battled for the gentelmen’s singles championship.

Federer choked away two match points in the fifth set. Lo and behold, it got to 12-12.

Djokovic won seven of the 10 points in the tiebreak and won his fifth Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam.

Djokovic also won the first and third sets by tiebreak after it was tied 6-6.

The 12-point tiebreak was introduced to Wimbledon in 1972. From 1972-78, the tiebreak was played in all sets EXCEPT the decisive set (third for ladies, fifth for gentlemen) when the score reached 8-8. It was pared down to 6-6 in 1979 and remained that way through 2018.

Through 1970, all sets had to be played out until one player had a two-game advantage. In 1971, an ill-conceived tiebreak was used; it was a maximum of nine points, period, meaning if it were 4-4, it was a sudden death set point.

I’m not a tennis fan. I haven’t followed the sport much since the heyday of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and later, Steffi Graf and Boris Becker.

If it were up to me, I would say no way to tiebreaks in all Grand Slam tournaments, at least in the decisive set. And for the championship match, it would be no tiebreaks, period.

This is akin to the four major golf tournaments eliminating the 18-hole playoff when two or more players were tied after 72 holes.

  • The U.S. Open was the last to eliminate the fifth round, going to a two-hole playoff starting in 2017; the last 18-hole playoff was at Torrey Pines in 2008, when Eldrick Woods defeated Roccco Mediate in 19 holes.
  • The last 18-hole playoff at The Masters was 1970 when Billy Casper defeated Gene Littler; Augusta National adopted sudden death in 1976, and it was first used in 1979. The Masters uses sudden death for one reason and one reason only: to make sure 60 Minutes is not delayed too long on CBS should the tournament run past 1900 ET (1800 CT). It’s the same reason why NFL games which kick off at 1505 or 1525 CT on CBS have fewer commercials than the 1200 CT kickoffs on CBS or all games on Fox and NBC.
  • The Open Championship last held an 18-hole playoff in 1975, when Tom Watson bested Jack Nicklaus at Carnoustie. The 18-hole playoff remained the tiebreak format for the Royal & Ancient through 1985; in 1986, it changed to a three-hole playoff, and later, four holes.
  • The PGA Championship eliminated the 18-hole playoff in the 1970s, first using sudden death, then changing to a three-hole playoff in the late 1990s.

Winning a major tournament in tennis and golf is supposed to be among the most difficult tasks in sports. Not to to detract from Djokovic’s thrilling victory on Centre Court, but if there weren’t tiebreaks, would the Serb win? Who knows?

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That said, I am on the other side of the fence as far as overtime in gridiron football and hockey.

There should be no overtime, period, in the regular season in those sports. If a team cannot get the job done in 60 minutes, it doesn’t deserve another chance. Better to have ties factor into a record than some convoluted tiebreaker based upon net points in conference games (NFL) or “regulation and overtime wins” (NHL).

Football and hockey are physically draining sports. Bruises, sprains and other injuries are a way of life. Why expose the players to more risk when it’s not necessary?

College and high school football should do away with their stupid version of overtime, which was foisted upon us in 1971 by Brice Durbin, then the Executive Director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, and later Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The “Kansas playoff” is ridiculous. Starting from the 10-yard line slants the playing field so heavily in favor of the offense. Any team which can’t make three yards per play for four plays doesn’t deserve to win. Not allowing the defense to score on an interception or fumble is just as asinine. Why should the team which turned the ball over deserve a chance to stop the team forcing the turnover? If the defender runs 95 yards the other way, then that team deserves to win.

The NCAA version of overtime, also adopted by Missouri, Texas and other states, is little better. The 25 is still too close.

In 1972, my future high school, Brother Martin, played Monroe Neville to a scoreless tie in a state semifinal in New Orleans. At that time, the team which advanced was determined by first downs, and if that was tied, penetrations inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

That didn’t work for the Crusaders and Tigers, who each had nine first downs and one penetration. Louisiana High School Athletic Association director Frank Spruiell suggested the Kansas overtime to break the tie.

The coaches, Martin’s Bobby Conlin and Neville’s Charlie Brown, told Spruiell to jump in the Mississippi River. The Crusaders and Tigers got together four days later in Alexandria and played it over again. Neville won 8-0 and went on to defeat Bossier Airline three days later for the title at Monroe.

To be honest, first downs, penetrations and other statistics such as yardage, third down conversions and time of possessions are more appropriate ways to determine a victor than the Kansas playoff. The Kansas playoff is a crapshoot if there ever was one.

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The last time I was in Kansas City, I watched nine innings of a Rays-Twins game in Minneapolis.

I missed the first nine innings driving from Hays to Kansas City.

Eighteen innings? Are you kidding me?

Major League Baseball should do what the Japanese Leagues do and limit games tied after nine to a maximum of three extra innings. If the game is still tied after 12, the statistics count, but the game is thrown out and doesn’t count.

Teams play 162 games a season. What would a few ties hurt? Not a darn thing.

What is the American aversion to draws in sports? There does not have to be a winner in everything.

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I’m still at Taco Bell. That’s all for now…at least on the blog.

Post of 10 July 2019, 19:37

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but nothing good to post about.

Friday was the worst. The absolute worst. Found out I’m so far in over my head I’ll never recover, then I got into a few shouting matches at Golden Q because some couple thought I was taking pictures of them. Bull.

I went to Salina yesterday just to clear my head a little. I didn’t leave the basement Saturday and Sunday, then only went to Hays Monday long enough to drop a FedEx in the box for Crista.

This morning, I discovered I was so stupid I threw away one of the discs from my Brady Bunch collection. Season 3, Disc 2 is gone. How dumb can I be? Fortunately, season 3 by itself only cost $9 on Amazon, so I’ll have it back Friday afternoon. But man, what am I thinking? I’m not.

I would have spent the afternoon wallowing in my stupidity, but I had an appointment with Dr. Custer. I decided to go back to Golden Q even though I knew the kitchen was close and there would be heavy renovations going on.

The air conditioning has been turned off as part of that renovation, but I’ve experienced much worse. Lucky I had a portable fan in my car. It feels pretty good right now. I’ll get my six and a half hours of Wednesday trivia before going back to Russell.

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The televisions at Golden Q have been disconnected. Thank God.

I don’t have to watch the most nauseating event on the sporting calendar.

The ESPYs.

Other than Jim Valvano’s courageous speech at the first ESPYs in 1993, the one where the beloved North Carolina State basketball coach stood tall in the face of terminal cancer and told the audience in attendance and those watching at home to never give up, I can’t think of one thing the ESPYs have contributed to better the sports world and society in general.

Naming an award after Arthur Ashe, who passed away from AIDS one month before the first ESPYs, is a good idea. However, in 2015, it was awarded to Bruce, I mean Caitlyn Jenner, simply because Bruce decided he wanted to become a woman.

I don’t have anything against anyone who wants to change their gender. There have been many times I wish I were female.

However, Jenner had no good reason to receive that award. Besides, we saw enough of Jenner and his/her family since he married Robert Kardashian’s widow (Kim, Kourntey and Khloe’s mother). I think Bruce made a huge downgrade by dumping his former wife, Linda Thompson, one of the women who caused Priscilla Presley to leave Elvis.

Worse than the ESPYs being nothing more than athletes to get together and congratulate each other on how great they are, FANS decide many of the awards.

I haven’t voted for the MLB All-Star Game since 1991, and I won’t resume anytime soon. I don’t vote in online polls for anything anymore. I don’t believe fans have the right to determine anything. They know very little to nothing.

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The Women’s World Cup is over. THANK GOD.

I have had it up to here with the far left’s favorite athlete, Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan, who doesn’t look as good in a bikini as many think. The media would have you believe they are the only players in the tournament who mattered.

We’ll have to hear non-stop about these two next year at the Summer Olympics. Hopefully, they will exit the international stage and go off to make babies or do whatever with their lives.

Between those two, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, I’ve had it up to hear with the U.S. women’s national association football team.

Time to leave the stage, girls. Let the men take over. Nobody outside the U.S. cares anymore about you. It’s time for the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A to take their rightful places in the football spotlight.

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The fake league won the MLB All-Star Game last night. At least it doesn’t count for anything.

Bud Selig, thank you for bringing baseball back to Milwaukee. But your idea to make the All-Star Game count for home field advantage in the World Series was so asinine there isn’t a word for it. At least the Royals choked in 2014 when they had home field advantage vs. the Giants.

At least Selig has revealed he didn’t want Barry Bonds to break Hank Aaron’s career home run record. Anyone who wanted Bonds to do it thinks cheating is just fine and needs psychiatric help.

Fuck you Barry Bonds. You are cheating asshole.

And that unrepentant asshole Pete Rose can go fuck himself. You broke the rules. You lied your ass off for 15 years. And even though you’ve admitted to gambling, you still do it. Fuck you.

Sorry for the coarse language. But I hate Bonds and Rose as much as any athlete. Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are in my top 25 for sure, along with LeBron, Brady, Kawhi, Tyreek Hill and (S)Cam Newton

Red Sox wins; Cardinals seeing red

The Red Sox did what I thought they would last night. They closed out the Astros in Houston and clinched their fourth American League pennant this millennium. Boston now awaits the Dodgers or Brewers in the World Series.

MLB executives, especially commissioner Rob Manfred, have to be having multiple orgasms over the probable Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. They were loathing a potential Brewers-Indians or Brewers-Athletics World Series when the postseason began. Now, they have one of their three most desirable matchups (Dodgers-Yankees and Cubs-Yankees were the others).

The Red Sox and Dodgers have played only once in the World Series–way, way, WAY back in 1916. That’s before the Curse of the Babe. Ruth was a 21-year old hotshot left-handed pitcher for that year’s Red Sox, and Boston easily won the series in five games.

Two interesting things about the 1916 World Series.

First, the first two games were in Boston, the next two in Brooklyn, then it was back to Boston for the clincher, not the 2-3-2 we are used to seeing. The format was presumably 2-2-1-1-1, the same as the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals.

Second, the Red Sox opted to play their home games at Braves Field, home of the future artists known as the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The Sox moved their games out of Fenway to shoehorn more fans into Braves Field, which opened in 1915. In 1914, when the Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, the National League team played their home games at Fenway due to the decrepit condition of their rickety old stadium, the South End Grounds.

I am very pessimistic about the Brewers tonight. Hopefully there’s a game tomorrow. But I have my doubts.

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Speaking of decrepit, that would accurately describe the Arizona Cardinals. They were demolished 45-10 by the Broncos last night in Glendale, and frankly, it should have been worse.

Denver led 35-3 at halftime, and State Farm (nee University of Phoenix) Stadium sounded more like Mile High or whatever it’s called these days. It was a throwback to the days the Cardinals played in front of tons of aluminum and a few fans (mostly visiting team, especially when the Cowboys were there) at Sun Devil Stadium on the other side of the Phoenix metro.

I knew the Cardinals were seriously screwed when they hired Steve Wilks. Wilks has no business being a head football coach at any level, especially the highest level of football.

This buffoon was a head coach just once before moving to Arizona, and that was in 1998 at mighty Savannah State, a perennial punching bag for Power Five teams willing to exchange a few hundred thousand dollars for the right to win by 70 to 80 points. When Wilks coached there, Savannah State was Division II. And the team went 5-6 under Wilks’ leadership.

Wilks’ professional playing experience consisted of one year in Arena Football with the Charlotte Rage. Are you kidding me?

Ron Rivera, who was Wilks’ boss in Carolina before the latter was hired by the Cardinals, conned Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim good. Then again, Steve Keim is a known drunk, so it wasn’t hard to pull the wool over his eyes.

If the Cardinals wanted an African-American coach, why not hire Herm Edwards? He got a job in the Phoenix area not long after Wilks when Arizona State hired him to succeed turd Todd Graham. Edwards’ failure with the Chiefs was not all his own doing; he had a lot of help from terrible drafting, free agent signings and trading by Carl Peterson, who clearly was awful without a strong personality as a head coach like Jim Mora with the USFL’s Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars and Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

Josh Rosen threw not one, but TWO pick-sixes in the first quarter. Geez, the Cardinals could have brought back Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb or Stan Gelbaugh to do that instead of wasting the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Then again, Rosen has zero protection. The Cardinals have had a woeful offensive line for their entire stay in the desert. In my opinion, it has been really, really bad since the glory days of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Tom Banks and Tom Brahaney in the 1970s, when Don Coryell led St. Louis to NFC East titles in 1974 and ’75.

Arizona’s defense is Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and a whole lot of crap. Peterson and Jones deserve better than this. They are true professionals and would be All-Pros if they played on a halfway decent defense.

Larry Fitzgerald, WHY did you come back for this? Your professionalism and dedication to the Cardinals is admirable. But you could have easily rode off in to the sunset. All you’re doing is pushing back your Hall of Fame induction.

Wilks is by far the worst Cardinals coach I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. And I can remember all the way back to Jim Hanifan (1980-85). Dave McGinnis was mocked and went 17-44 in three and a half seasons, but his teams never looked as absolutely awful as the Cardinals have under Wilks. Buddy Ryan was pretty bad, but at least the defense was fierce in 1994. Too bad he hated offensive players and had no clue what to do at quarterback.

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Starting next year, Wimbledon is implementing the tiebreak in the final set when the score reaches 6-6.

I will only watch tennis if someone pays me a ton of cash, and that hasn’t happened. And I will NEVER watch Serena Williams. But I think this is dead wrong.

I understand why the All-England Club is doing this. They want to avoid marathon last sets like the one between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut in 2010 in a match that took 11 hours and three different days to complete, with Isner winning the fifth set 70-68.

I totally disagree with doing this in what is supposed to be tennis’ signature event. This is a grand slam event, the most prestigious championship on earth. It should be EARNED. And if it takes 138 games in the final set to do so, so be it.

If Wimbledon wants to implement the tiebreak in the final set, it should not be at 6-6. It should be at minimum after 8-8, maybe 10-10 or 12-12. And that rule should be in all five sets for men or three for women.

The Australian and French Opens, the other grand slams, have not announced they will. implement a tiebreak in the final set. However, I’m certain they will be under enormous pressure to do so now that the U.S. Open and Wimbledon have them.

Using a tiebreak in the final set at Wimbledon is the same as The Masters using a sudden death playoff if there is a tie for the low score after 72 holes.

The Masters bills itself as the premier event in golf, although I will always believe it is The Open Championship. If The Masters is so high and mighty, why not make those tied play a fifth round? If it’s television they’re worried about, there are enough cable channels which would salivate at the chance to televise a round from Augusta for 18 holes. Besides, The Masters rarely allows full 18-hole coverage anyway, so how hard would it be to cut in for the last nine? Also, I’m sure CBS could pre-empt The Price Is Right, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful for one day.

The U.S. Open was the last golf major to require a full 18-hole playoff if there was a tie after 72 holes. Last year, that ended and it became a two-hole playoff, which wasn’t necessary when Brooks Koepka won it outright. That’s even worse than The Open (four holes) and PGA Championship (three holes). All majors should be the full 18-hole playoff. Sudden death is just fine for a regular tournament in late October, mid-January or early August. But not for the majors.

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I’m guessing ESPN is going to try to force the officials to speed up the Mississippi State-LSU game in Baton Rouge tomorrow night. That’s because the network is scheduled to show the Rockets-Lakers game from Los Angeles at 2130 CT (1930 PT), which will be LeBron’s first regular season game at Staples Center. It would probably anger the suits in Bristol, as well as two of America’s four largest metropolitan areas, if a trivial football game in the Southeastern Conference goes overtime.

LSU and Mississippi State are not teams which throw the ball on every down. I hope 3 1/2 hours is enough time to get the game in, because college football games drag on and on and on! I remember non-televised games when I was attending LSU could last as short as 2 1/2 hours. But every game in the SEC is now televised, so that’s not happening. Not unless the NCAA wants to return to the terrible idea of starting the clock after the ball is spotted on a change of possession, an experiment which failed miserably in 2006. Not stopping the clock after a first down would be a good start. Maybe that rule could be limited to the final two minutes of the first half and final five of the second, much the way the out-of-bounds timing rules change in the NFL in those periods.

CBS is notorious for forcing the games in the late window (1525 CT on doubleheader days; 1505 on non-doubleheader games) to speed up in order that 60 Minutes starts on time, either 1800 or 1830 CT. Fox doesn’t care, because it never airs new episodes of The Simpsons (JUST END IT ALREADY!) on Sunday nights before 1900 CT.  Actually, Fox prefers longer games in the late window when it has the doubleheader, so it can switch to bonus coverage, then Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy can drone on and on until 1900.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have a runny nose this morning. Using lots of tissues. Need to stop by the store before I leave Kansas City.

Just saw I was close to 1700 words. Time to end it.

Tiger won! Not really, but some would have you believe otherwise

Did Brooks Koepka win the PGA Championship? I couldn’t tell. By the homepage of ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, and many newspapers, Tiger Woods won, even though the scoreboard I checked showed Woods two shots behind Koepka.

The drooling love affair with Eldrick Woods has gone on since the weekend of April 10-13, 1997, when he won The Masters, the first of his 14 major championships. When Tiger was forced off the course by injury following the 2008 U.S. Open, and again by various injuries earlier this decade, fans on message boards bitched and moaned and said they would not watch golf until Tiger was playing again.

It’s not as if golf is going to die without Eldrick Woods. Koepka has won three of the last six majors. Jordan Spieth is only a PGA away from the career grand slam, and Rory McIlroy will wrap it up if he wins The Masters. Dustin Johnson is the top ranked player in the world, with Justin Thomas a close second. Phil Mickelson is still chasing the career slam, needing the U.S. Open.

There are a lot more marketable players out there today than there were 50 years ago, when it was Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and a whole lot of good but not great players who really didn’t move the needle. Lee Trevino took Palmer’s place among the big names in the late 1960s, and once Player and Nicklaus passed their prime, it was wide open, even though nobody had the star power that the Golden Bear and Arnie had.

People were scalping tickets for as much as $2,000 in St. Louis for Sunday’s final round at the PGA. That’s enough to buy season tickets for the Cardinals or Blues. Kopeka and Adam Scott were the final pairing, and both played with far smaller galleries than what Woods and Gary Woodland did.

Eldrick is part of a cadre of athletes American media drools over. The others are Serena Williams, LeBron and Tom Brady. Baseball doesn’t have a specific athlete, but the Red Sox and Yankees get all the headlines, with the Cubs getting them to a lesser extent. The NHL has not had that problem as much, although the national media couldn’t stop peeing in their pants about the Vega$ Golden Knight$.

I don’t watch very much golf, simply because I’ve had enough of Mr. Woods. I don’t watch any tennis. Haven’t since the late 1980s. I’m sick of the Williams sisters on the women’s side, and the men’s side is the same people over and over and over: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. The NFL holds little appeal these days, at least the AFC does. And don’t get me started on the NBA.

In sports I actually watch, Liverpool flexed its muscles Sunday by thrashing West Ham 4-0 at Anfield. The Reds appear to be well-positioned to be Manchester City’s chief challenger for the Premier League championship. City opened with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal, ruining Unai Emery’s first match as manager of the Gunners. I didn’t watch the Liverpool match, simply because I knew West Ham had zero chance. I instead streamed Southampton-Burnley, which ended 0-0 at St. Mary’s.

Now there are no Premier League matches until Saturday morning. I’m stuck between bad MLB and NFL exhibitions until then if I want to watch live sports. Of course, there’s the Little League World Series, which I absolutely refuse to watch because of the “mandatory play” rule.

I’m now on to season three of The O.C. UGH. I hated season three, simply because there were so many characters whom I despised: Dean Hess, Charlotte Morgan, Taylor Townsend (the evil version; she makes a 180 in season four), Veronica Townsend (god I love Paula Trickey, but Veronica was downright mean, which shows Trickey is a tremendous actress), the scuzzy loan sharks who beat up Jimmy Cooper, Johnny Harper, Casey, Seung-Ho (the sexually obsessive boyfriend of the equally sexually obsessive Taylor) , the “Harbor  Heckler” (an unnamed character who is so cruel to Seth and Taylor that I want to climb through the screen and squeeze his testicles until they pop, then go Lorena Bobbitt on his penis) and of course, Kevin Volchok and all of the lowlife scum associated with him, particularly Heather, the evil bitch who does all she can to make Marissa’s life a living hell at Newport Union.

Then again, I wish Volchok would have found the heckler and beat the living crap out of him. If it were possible to hate a character more than Volchok and Oliver Trask, the heckler was that character. He and Felix Tagarro from One Tree Hill always make me extremely nauseous.

The only bright spot I could think of that season was Dawn Atwood (Daphne Ashbrook) putting her life back together. Josh Schwartz and the rest of The O.C.‘s production staff should have brought Dawn back in season four so she could rescue Ryan from his deep depression caused by Marissa’s murder.

Not to say season three was 100 percent bad. Just saw the scene where Seth scratches his face with his middle finger, flipping off Taylor. Priceless.

Crying foul over long games

The Phillipsburg-Norton girls sub-state game Tuesday took a little longer than I would have liked. I left Norton’s gym 20 minutes later than I had expected, although I made good time on the drive back to Russell and was home before 10:45.

There an awful lot of fouls called between the Panthers and Bluejays Tuesday, and it so happened most of them resulted in foul shots. Norton ended up winning 45-34, and the Bluejays now head to Colby tomorrow to play Cimarron. The other sub-state semifinal is Scott City vs. colby, and the winners play Saturday for the right to advance to the 3A state tournament in Hutchinson starting next Thursday.

In high school basketball, teams enter the bonus when their opponent commits the seventh foul of a half. On fouls seven, eight and nine, the team which is fouled attempts a “one-and-one”, where the shooter only gets a second attempt if they make the first. The exceptions are on a foul committed on a shot, which is two or three shots if the field goal attempt is not successful, and one shot if the field goal is successful; and on an offensive foul, there are no foul shots.

The double bonus (or super bonus, as the legendary LSU public address announcer Dan Borne coined it) comes into play starting with the 10th team foul of the half. The offended team gets two free throws regardless of the situation, except if the foul came on a field goal attempt, or was on an offensive foul.

The same procedure is in place for college men’s basketball, but in college women’s basketball, the procedures are different since the NCAA adopted four 10-minute quarters for the ladies instead of two 20-minute halves like the men play.

In women’s basketball, there is no “one-and-one”; with the fifth team foul committed in a quarter, the offended team receives two free throws. The difference is the fouls reset each quarter.

The NBA system is somewhat similar, but has many differences. One is offensive fouls do not count towards a team’s limit; and second, within the final two minutes of a half, a team has one “foul to give” regardless of whether they were in the “penalty” (opponent in the bonus) prior to the two-minute mark of the period.

I would like to see the rules changed, at least in high school, to reduce the number of free throws. I propose:

  • Adopt the women’s college/NBA rules on the bonus. Fifth foul puts opponent in the bonus, no one-and-one. No two-minute change like the NBA. Fouls reset at the end of the period.
  • On the seventh foul of the quarter, the offended team does not have to attempt free throws. They may instead opt to inbound the ball at the point of the foul. If the foul occured in the backcourt, the team which was fouled may inbound the ball at mid-court opposite the scorer’s table if they chose to forgo the free throws.
  • When a team reaches the bonus, the team which was fouled may choose its free throw shooter from any player on the court. This would be similar to association football (soccer) when a team is awarded a penalty kick. In association football, the player who is fouled inside the box does not have to attempt the penalty kick. That would make fouling less advantageous.
  • I don’t know if I would advocate bringing back a rule which was in the NBA prior to the 1981-82 season which gave a team in the bonus three attempts to make two free throws. That might hold the game up too much. On the other hand, it might make a team think twice about fouling.

I doubt the rules makers are going to do anything drastic anytime soon. We’ll muddle along with the status quo.

Steinle on sports, 2018/02/01

Gary Bettman has now been the commissioner of the National Hockey League for 25 years. I cannot say I hate the man because I have never met him. However, I can hate the decisions he has made, which have included:

  • Robbing fans in Quebec City and Hartford of hockey and putting teams in places hockey has no business, like Tampa-St. Petersburg, South Florida, Raleigh-Durham, Arizona, Nashville and Las Vegas. He also deprived Winnipeg of the NHL for 15 years and Minnesota for seven.
  • Screwing Canada, the birthplace of ice hockey. The NHL could support 12 teams in Canada, and there should be one in every mainland province, plus at least one in Atlantic Canada. And why not expand to Anchorage? Air travel makes it possible.
  • Over-emphasizing inter-dvisional play and robbing fans of more frequent matchups of teams from opposite conferences. The worst is not allowing the Blackhawks to play any of the other Original Six teams–Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers and Canadiens–more than twice per season. That’s because the NHL needs Boston, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto to play Florida and Tampa Bay eight times per season. Really?
  • Presiding over three lockouts, the second of which wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
  • Making a mockery of the All-Star game, first with a draft of players to make it a glorified pick-up game, then a 3-on-3 tournament.
  • The shootout. There really is no need for overtime in the regular season, but the shootout makes it a million times worse. It’s just as bad as overtime used in college and high school football.

Three great Super Bowls have been contested on February 1.

Two were won by the Patriots: XXXVIII over the Panthers, and XLIX over the Seahawks. The games were decided by a combined seven points, typical for the Patriots, keeping things close to pique fan interest, then pissing off the other 31 NFL fan bases by taking it late. The Pats beat the Panthers on an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the closing seconds, and the Seahawks choked when Russell Wilson passed from the 1-yard line and was intercepted by Malcolm Butler.

Super Bowl XXXVIII is remembered by more for the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson controversy. You know what it is. If you don’t. Google it. Timberlake fans are eagerly awaiting Sunday’s halftime show, where he is the headline performer. He was the NFL’s Plan B, simply because Plan A, Prince, kicked the bucket in April 2016.

The other Super Bowl played on February 1 hits home for your intrepid blogger.

Your blogger’s favorite NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals, made the Super Bowl for the first time following the 2008 season, one which saw them go 9-7, the worst record for any conference champion. The others were the 1979 Rams and the 2011 Giants. The Cardinals were embarrassed 47-7 by the Matt Cassel-led Patriots in the next to last regular season game, but somehow defeated the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles to reach their first championship game since 1948.

Arizona’s opponent was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were aiming for their sixth Super Bowl championship and first under Mike Tomlin, who was in his second season.

The Steelers were ahead 10-7 late in the first half when Arizona drove deep into Pittsburgh territory. But instead of going for the game-tying field goal, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt opted to pass.

James Harrison intecepted Kurt Warner’s ill-advised throw, then began to rumble down the west sideline of Raymond James Stadium. Warner and wide receiver Steve Breaston, among others, had several chances to haul down the Steelers linebacker, but they didn’t. Harrison’s 100-yard return gave Pittsburgh a 10-point halftime lead, and it expanded to 13 in the third quarter.

Somehow, Arizona rallied and took a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter on a long touchdown from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald.

Problem was, there was too much time left for Ben Roethlisberger.

I had a horrible feeling the Steelers would pull it out, and sure enough, they did, with Roethlisberger hitting Santonio Holmes in the end zone despite tight coverage from Arizona’s Ralph Brown and Aaron Francisco.

Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23. Warner’s dream of becoming the first man to lead two different teams to Super Bowl glory was dashed. Peyton Manning would become that man seven years later with the Broncos.

I’ve thought about a few things regarding Super Bowl halftime shows:

  • For Super Bowl I, the NFL should have attempted to lasso The Beatles. That would have ensured a sellout and probably would have cemented the Super Bowl right away as a major spectacle. The Beatles probably would have declined, but Pete Rozelle should have at least tried.
  • Why did Neil Diamond never get to headline a Super Bowl halftime? Too bad it’s too late.
  • The NFL needs to go hard after Elton John next year in Atlanta. Sir Elton will be in the United States on tour (he’s in Kansas City ten days after Super Bowl LIII) and he’s retiring from touring in 2021. I don’t care if he doesn’t fit the young demographic the NFL is looking for. The man set the standard for performance theatrics in the 1970s, and he could teach the young punks a thing or two.
  • How about a field goal contest between some of the best players of association football? Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and other international superstars trying to kick the oblong ball would be fascinating. Every Super Bowl halftime doesn’t have to be music!

LeBron is now saying he would “listen” to a free agent offer from the Warriors. If he signs with Golden State, we might as well hand the Warriors the Larry O’Brien Trophy and let the other 29 teams play for second place. Not that I care about the NBA.

Bournemouth 3, Chelsea 0. At Stamford Bridge no less. The biggest win in the history of AFC Bournemouth football? Considering the Cherries did not play in the top flight of English football until 2015-16, then it probably is.

Manchester Untied lost 2-0 at Tottenham yesterday, and it could have been worse. United gave up a goal 11 seconds into the match, and an own goal later. Sir Alex Ferguson would not have stood for such buffoonery.

It doesn’t matter, though. Manchester City has all but clinched the Premier League title. The others–United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal–are playing for the spots in the UEFA Champions League for 2018-19. The rest are trying to finish seventh. Burnley has that spot right now, but Bournemouth may be playing better than any of the “other 14” teams in the league.

Swansea has beaten Arsenal and Liverpool at home recently. Could there be two Premier League teams in Wales in 2018-19? Cardiff City is trying its best to get back to the top flight. It was there for one season, 2013-14, then went back down to the Championship, the second tier.

Right now, it looks like the Premier League will be returning to Molineux. Wovlerhampton has a sizable lead, and there seems to be little danger of the Wolves falling out of the top two. Cardiff City, Derby County and Aston Villa are in hot pursuit of second place, which also earns automatic promotion to the top flight. The third through sixth teams enter a playoff, with the playoff champion also going up.

The bottom three of the Premier League will be relegated. Swansea still sits in the relegation zone, but the wins over Liverpool and Arsenal give the Swans real hope of avoiding the drop. Southampton, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion are all in trouble, as re the three who were promoted last season: Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Huddersfield Town.

Who’s #1 in college basketball? Never mind.

Resurrecting the XFL

Yesterday, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon announced the XFL was returning in 2020.

The XFL was originally founded by McMahon and then-NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol in 2000, mostly because NBC was desperate for any type of football on its airwaves (other than Notre Dame home games, which NBC has owned the rights to since 1991) since the rights to the NFL at the time were owned by the other Big Four broadcast networks, CBS (AFC), Fox (NFC) and ABC (Monday Night Football).

The original XFL, which began on February 3, 2001, only six days after Super Bowl XXXV, was branded by McMahon as something totally contrary to the NFL. McMahon and his vice president of operations, Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, bragged the game would be more akin to that when Butkus played for the Bears (1965-73), and even more “smashmouth” than the NFL of Butkus’ era.

The XFL hyped there would be no fair catches, no touchbacks on kickoffs which went into the end zone, and any punt which traveled 25 yards from the line of scrimmage was live and could be recovered by the kicking team. The problem with that was there was a FIVE-YARD halo (not two as was once the case in college) which the kicking team could not violate or face a 15-yard penalty.

On the other hand, the kicking game was diminished by the ban on extra points. Teams could only score one point on a run or pass from the 3-yard line. This was tried in the short-lived World Football League in 1974 and ’75, although in that league, touchdowns were worth seven points, with the conversion termed the “action point”.

Bump and run coverage would be permissible all the way down the field, as long as it was from the front or side and occurred before the pass was thrown. The NFL rule in place since 1978 allows bump and run only within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Players were permitted to wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys instead of their surnames, although Gerry DiNardo, the former LSU coach who led the Birmingham Bolts, forbid his players from wearing nicknames. DiNardo’s reputation as something of a martinet was reinforced by this move. I’m not saying it was the reason Birmingham was the XFL’s worst team at 2-8, but his players probably would have appreciated the chance to express their individuality.

No doubt the most lasting image of the XFL was that of Rod “HE HATE ME” Smart, a player for the Las Vegas Outlaws who went on to play for the Carolina Panthers and appeared in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Then again, the nickname thing also opened the door to some highly inappropriate names. The XFL drew the line when Brandon Maumalaunga, a defensive tackle for the New York/New Jersey Hitmen who played collegiately for the Kansas Jayhawks, tried to have “Teabagger” placed on his jersey. I will not explain what teabagger or teabagging means. It’s beyond disgusting.

The team nicknames were also revolting, too.

By nicknaming themselves the Hitmen, New York/New Jersey was paying homage to John Gotti and other Big Apple mafiosos, all of whom were worshipped and glorified in The Sopranos. The Chicago wanted in on the action, too, nicknaming themselves the Enforcers, an obvious nod to Al Capone.

The Birmingham team was originally going to be nicknamed the Blast, but that went too far for the XFL, as it evoked memories of the 1963 16th Street Church Bombing by the Ku Klux Klan which killed four black girls at Sunday school, and notorious criminal Eric Rudolph, who was convicted of bombing buildings in Birmingham and was also responsible for the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Instead, Birmingham nicknamed its team the Thunderbolts, shortened to Bolts.

The other team names were all ridiculous, too: Orlando Rage, Memphis Maniax, Los Angeles Xtreme and San Francisco Demons.

In other regards, the XFL was geared more towards hormonally charged males who otherwise didn’t care about football.

The league promised cheerleaders with very little clothing, and continuously hyped the possibility of going into the cheerleader locker rooms.

The worst, however, was yet to come.

Prior to the league’s first game in Las Vegas, Vince McMahon stood at midfield of Sam Boyd Stadium and screamed “THIS IS THE XFL!”. Then came Dick Butkus with the most horrifying element of the XFL.

Instead of players meeting at midfield for the coin toss, two players stood at the 20-yard line on the south side of the stadium. Between them was referee Randy Christal, one of the most respected college football officials of all-time. Christal was the referee for the 1995 Rose Bowl (USC-Northwestern), the 1996 Sugar Bowl (Florida-Florida State), and would be the referee for the 2002 national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Miami.

If I were Randy Christal that evening, I would have said over the microphone, “What the f**k have I gotten myself into?”.

Christal was forced to explain to the players the rules for “The Scramble”, which would determine which team would receive the opening kickoff.

Two players started from the 20 and sprinted 30 yards, where the ball was laid in the center of the field. The player to possess it first would have the option for his team, and if the game went to overtime, the option for that, too.

At the XFL’s other game on opening night, Chicago at Orlando, the Rage’s Shashmid Haseen-Deen separated his shoulder during the scramble and did not play a down in the league.

Nice going.

The gimmicks were bad enough.

The play on the field was much, much worse.

The teams of the XFL would have had a very difficult time beating a CFL team. All of them would have been beaten by at least 40 points by every NFL team, and that includes some very, very, very bad teams in 2000, like the Chargers, Browns and Cardinals.

Scoring was so paltry in the XFL that in week four, the league went to the NFL rule on bump-and-run coverage. Later in the season, the league instituted new rules for conversions after touchdowns, allowing teams to score more points if they played from farther back (one point from the 3, two points from the 5, and three points from the 10).

The Xtreme won the championship in the “Million Dollar Game”.

Three weeks after that, the XFL folded. I thought it was dead, but apparently, money talks, and 19 years after the disaster that was XFL 2001, XFL 2020 is coming back.

Supposedly, people with criminal records will not be allowed in the league. Kneeling during the national anthem? Forget it. And McMahon wants to shorten games to two hours, which I don’t know how he’s going to achieve unless he either (a) eliminates halftime, (b) lets the clock run after incomplete passes, or (c) adopt a timing system similar to association football, where the clock runs continuously and time is added on at the end to make up for stoppages.

They’ve got two years to figure it out. Not that I’ll be watching.

Not-so-sweet 16 for the XFL

Three Super Bowls have been played previously February 3. Three teams I do not care much for won those three Super Bowls played: Patriots (vs. Rams, XXXVI), Giants (vs. Patriots, XLII, the game which denied New England its 19-0 season) and Ravens (vs. 49ers, XLVII).

Yet February 3 will also be remembered by some for the launch of one of the worst ideas in the history of sport.

The XFL.

I didn’t say it was the worst idea in the history of sport. The designated hitter and giving the league which wins Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series are and were far more ruinous. At least the latter of the above is no more.

But the XFL ranks right up there. Or should I say down there.

Yes, 16 years ago tonight, the XFL kicked off, with games in Las Vegas and Orlando.

The XFL was the brainchild of Dick Ebersol, Director of NBC Sports, and Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which was then known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

Ebersol, who created Saturday Night Live in 1975, was deseprate to show professional football on the Peacock after it lost the rights to the AFC to CBS following the 1997 season.

Ebersol did himself in on losing the NFL. He spent ridiculous amounts of money to acquire the Olympics, Summer and Winter, for what seems like forever, although somehow the NBC rights deal currently expires after the 2032 Summer games. If he would have been smart enough to realize ABC and CBS had no desire whatsoever to televise the Olympics at any price, and thus NBC could have had them for far cheaper, the Peacock would never have lost the NFL.

Yet Ebersol wasn’t smart enough to see this, thus overpaid grossly for the Olympics, as well as handing over a handsome sum for the NBA, which was horrendous due to the number of very, very bad teams, as well as the dominance of the Bulls and Michael Jordan. Why watch when you know what’s going to happen?

Vince McMahon badly wanted football. He tried to buy the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, but failed. He had planned to re-expand the CFL into the United States, an experiment which failed miserably in 1994 and 1995. When McMahon’s bid to buy the Argos failed, he opted to form a new league.

He found a more than willing partner in Ebersol, who felt putting the XFL on NBC would be his network’s ticket to total dominance. Even with Seinfeld off the air (THANK GOD) by this time, NBC still had The West Wing, Friends, E.R. and Frasier as the bulwarks of its primetime lineup. Yet NBC was losing ground steadily to CBS, which of course had the NFL once again, plus ABC still had the biggest prize in sports, Monday Night Football.

The league’s launch was announced February 3, 2000. The first games would kick off EXACTLY one year later, February 3, 2001.

The XFL promoted itself as “real” football where “pansies” were not going to make it. It touted new tough-guy rules, such as no fair catches and allowing bump-and-run pass coverage all over the field, which was the rule in the NFL until 1978, and is still allowed in college football, just as long as all hits come from the front.

The other part the XFL liked to promote was wholly inappropriate for family viewing.

It promoted sex appeal.

The cheerleaders wore next to nothing. They were ENCOURAGED to date the players and other team personnel, a strict no-no in the NFL. And there was talk of putting cameras in the cheerleader locker rooms.

What was this, football or the Playboy Channel? I don’t know if Hugh Hefner could have come up with something so brazen.

The nicknames were stupid.

Two of them glorified the mob and organized crime: the Chicago Enforcers (a nod to Al Capone) and the New York-New Jersey Hitmen (ostensibly honoring John Gotti and the numerous mafia members in those states). PUKE.

The Memphis Maniax had a man with cyclone eyes, something akin to the Mr. Pibb logo with the crazy man head.

The Birmingham team was originally going to be called the “Blast”, but some felt that name was too graphic, given the 1963 church bombing which killed four black girls. The name became the Thunderbolts, shortened to Bolts.

Players were encouraged to wear nicknames.

And that created the league’s iconic player, Rod “He Hate Me” Smart of the Las Vegas Outlaws. Smart went on to play for the Panthers, including their Super Bowl XXXVIII team which lost to the Patriots.

Gerry DiNardo, the former LSU coach who coached the Bolts, forbid his players from wearing nicknames. DiNardo would go on to coach three (terrible) seasons at Indiana before he was fired there, too. He has not coached since. Today, he’s an analyst for the Big Ten Network, where DiNardo is simply fantastic.

I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of the XFL.

The football itself.

To say it was terrible would be understating the case just a wee bit.

It was beyond awful.

These were supposedly “professional” football players, being paid (not much, admittedly) to play the game. The winning teams would receive a bonus to be split amongst team members.

Yet the worst part of the football itself was not the games.

It happened before the game.

The scramble, the XFL’s version of the coin toss.

One player from each team would line up at the 20-yard line and sprint towards midfield on the referee’s whistle. The player which gained possession of the ball would have the option to kick or receive to begin the game, and would have the option to play offense or defense first if the game went to overtime (the XFL used a modified version of the college overtime, which I’ll explain below).

One of the first participants in the scramble, Hamad Shasmid-Deen of the Orlando Rage, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. More than half the players who participated in the scramble were injured at some point, and many of those injuries were serious.

The referee in the first game at Las Vegas, Randy Christal, has officiated many high profile college games, including the 1996 and 2002 national championship games, and the Rose Bowl between USC and Northwestern following the ’95 season. Why Christal, who also was an umpire at many a College World Series during the 1980s and 1990s, would lower himself to the XFL is beyond me.

When Christal explained the scramble over the microphone in Las Vegas on opening night, I had a feeling he would have rather been in a dentist chair getting a root canal without anesthesia, even if it was 5 p.m.on a Saturday evening.

Teams could not kick an extra point in the XFL.  It was a play from the 2-yard line, worth one point only. Later in the season, the XFL allowed teams to score two points if it was successful from the 5-yard line, and three points for a successful conversion from the 10-yard line.

Overtime was also very dumb.

It was the NCAA version, which I dislike, although not as much as the high school version (in most states; Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and a few others excepted).

In the XFL, a team had four downs from the 25-yard line to score. However, if a team scored a touchdown in fewer than four downs, the other team had only that many downs to match the touchdown. A field goal could not be attempted until fourth down. And again, no kicking extra points.

Good idea, but of course, the whole concept of overtime in college and high school is very dumb to begin with, so no way.

I happened to watch part of the first XFL game on NBC, New York-New Jersey and Las Vegas. I only watched it because I was at Ivar’s when the game kicked off, and it was the only thing on. When I left Ivar’s, I wasn’t about to turn the game on at my apartment.

Not once did I tune in to an XFL game from my apartment (or hotel room in one case).

During the second week of the XFL, the game NBC was televising from Los Angeles was interrupted due to a power failure. Worse, NBC’s television trucks were totally shut down since there was no gas in the generators fueling the trucks. Not only that, the game went to double overtime, forcing a very late start to Saturday Night Live, which was hosted that night by Jennifer Lopez. Lorne Michaels, SNL’s Executive Producer, was all over Dick Ebersol worse than ugly on an ape. Most of that conversation is not printable.

After that fiasco, NBC forced the XFL to adopt speed-up rules to ensure no game would cut into SNL’s

When the XFL announced on May 10, 2001 that it was shutting down forever, I hardly shed a tear. Good riddance.

Last night, ESPN premiered a new 30 for 30 documentary on the XFL. It reminded me of just how bad it was.

I have an acronym for the XFL. eXtremely (expletive) up League.

I admit I watched McMahon’s wrestling in the 1980s. My brother and I were huge fans. We went with my dad to a few shows in New Orleans.

But McMahon’s football venture? I’m glad there wasn’t a team in New Orleans. It would have been tempting. I’m glad I watched (or didn’t) from a very safe distance.

What’s wrong with a draw? NOTHING!

Following the Seattle-Arizona tie, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suggested if overtime ends still tied, that a field goal be attempted. If the kicker for his team makes it, they win. If he misses, the other team wins.

STUPID. REALLY STUPID.

That would be the equivalent of a free throw contest in basketball or a home run derby in baseball to break a tie. It’s already stupid enough in hockey and association football (soccer in America) with the penalty shootout.

Personally, I do not see the problem with a draw. I believe the American obsession with winning and having to have a winner and loser in every single facet of society, whether it be sports or something else, is the reason why people disdain ties so much.

The most popular sports league on earth, the English Premier League, has witnessed 24 of 90 league matches to date end in draws. That’s almost two out of every seven matches. Nobody in Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Southampton, Bournemouth, London or any other Premier League outpost is griping about it. Neither are German fans of the Bundesliga. Or La Liga in Spain. Or Serie A in Italy.

Even though Major League Soccer is seriously flawed, thanks to having conferences instead of a single table and playoffs to determine its champion instead of using only the regular season, at least it ditched the shootout in 2000.

The shootout in MLS used from 1996-99 was beyond asinine. A player had to start 35 yards from the goal, dribble ahead, and shoot from the penalty area. He had to do it all within five seconds. Matches which ended level did not even feature extra time; it was straight to the stupid shootout.

My God. That’s not association football. That’s stupidity. That’s a video game.

If a draw was so toxic, the Premier League and other association football leagues would not award a point for a draw. It would disregard a draw, as the NFL did through 1971.

What is the outcome of many chess matches? A DRAW. STALEMATE. INSUFFICIENT MATERIAL. Has the good possibility of a draw stopped boys and girls from across the globe from learning the game? HECK NO.

Wars have been stalemates, so why are Americans so obsessed with determining the winner of a sporting event? If America would have accepted a stalemate in Vietnam, it would have looked a heck of a lot better than fighting on and accepting disadvantageous peace terms as Nixon and Kissinger did.

Before 1982, there was no provision whatsoever for a penalty shootout in the FIFA World Cup, the most watched sporting event on the planet. If a knockout round game ended drawn prior to ’82, it was replayed in its entirety. Many competitions continue to use the replay rather than a shootout if a match remains level after 120 minutes (90 regulation, 30 extra time).

The NHL got rid of overtime in the regular season in 1943. It didn’t return until 1983. In 1982-83, the last season before overtime returned to the regular season, 127 of 840 games (15.1 percent) ended drawn. That’s slightly more than one in six. What’s the big deal? So what if one of every six ends in a draw?

Hockey is a brutal enough game for 60 minutes of regulation. If a game is even after 60 minutes, that’s enough, at least for the regular season. I understand the need for having a winner in a playoff game. But playoff overtime is real hockey: 5-on-5, 20-minute periods, not this crazy 3-on-3, 5-minute crap for overtime, then the stupid shootout.

The NHL should award a team three points for a regulation win. NO OVERTIME. Draws earn each team one point. That’s it.

The same applies to American football.

Players expend far, far, far too much energy over 60 minutes, more than the average human can only dream of expending. Why make them go any farther during the regular season? If it’s even, the game should end right then and there. In the playoffs, yes, there needs to be overtime. And none of this crap about both teams need to possess the ball. Straight sudden death. If your defense is not good enough to prevent the other team from driving to score a field goal, you don’t deserve to advance.

Don’t get me started on how ridiculous college and high school overtime is. College is bad enough starting from the 25-yard line. High school is much, much worse, going from the 10. If an offense can’t gain 2 1/2 yards per play for four plays, then that team needs to give up the game.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association has done some really dumb things. The tiebreaker its former Executive Director, Brice Durbin, came up with in 1971 is totally ludicrous. It’s not real football. You’re asking a defense to hold a finger in the dike having to keep the offense out of the end zone from 10 yards out, and that team is already within range of a field goal.

The college and high school football format is not football. It takes the kickoff and the punt out of the game. Special teams have made the difference in thousands of football games over time. Why take part of it out of the game? Also, where is the strategy for a high school defensive coordinator, when you’re defending 10 yards every time?

High school and college football games in the regular season should end drawn if the score is level after 60 minutes (48 in high school). Overtime should be sudden death in the playoffs. If high school associations want to return to the old method of using first downs and penetrations inside the 20-yard line to break a deadlock, then go right ahead.

Baseball isn’t nearly as physically taxing as American football or hockey, but there are limits, too.

In Japan, regular season games are declared a draw if the score is still even after 12 innings (three extra). That’s not a bad idea for the United States. Once a game gets to 15, 16, 17 innings, teams are out of pitching, and it affects them for days after.

Major League Baseball would balk at any idea to declare a game drawn, but many managers would breathe a sigh of relief when they didn’t have to throw four relievers three innings each. The vast majority of games are resolved in nine innings, or those which do go extra can be resolved in 10, 11 or 12, so why worry about a draw? Not going to happen very much.

Basketball? Everyone has overtime, so I don’t see too much of a problem. Non-varsity high school games should be considered draws after regulation, simply to keep things moving. .

Some states use the “international tiebreaker” for softball. In that situation, the last batter of the previous inning starts the new frame on second base, and then the batting order proceeds as normal.

Hate it. HATE IT. Play real softball.

There are many, many more pressing issues than if a sporting events ends in a draw. America, as it is on many issues (using red for Republicans and blue for Democrats, not using the metric system, using paper money instead of coins or plastic), is DEAD WRONG.