WORLD SERIES TANKS AGAIN

As long as people stop dying, the World Series will do just fine.

The average age of the this year’s World Series viewer was 54. Five years ago the average age was 49. See where this is going?
At this rate, in 25 years, the average age of a World Series viewer will be right around 80.

That’s not good for Major League Baseball.

Back in 1980, the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies was watched by an average of about 50 million people.

Game 7 Wednesday night between the Royals and the San Francisco Giants drew 23.5 million viewers. The first six games averaged about 12.5 million and, if there had been no Game 7 to pump up the final numbers, it would have been the lowest rated World Series ever.

Apologists for Major League Baseball will tell you that it’s unfair to compare TV ratings when people have 150 channels from which to choose to ratings from a time when their were less than 10 choices for most people.

That argument might be valid if not for the NBA’s ratings.

Back in 1980, the Los Angeles Lakers of Jabbar and Magic played the Philadelphia 76ers of Dr. J and Julius Dawkins. The games were televised by CBS. You know how many people saw it on live TV.
None.
It was on taped delay.

The 2014 NBA Finals on NBC averaged 15.5 million viewers, including 22.4 million for Game 5, when the Spurs clinched the series.

There was a time when the World Series was the most anticipated, most watched, most talked about sports event of the year. And that was when it was played in the afternoon.

Now MLB and Fox Network have to avoid scheduling games on Monday and Thursday nights to avoid getting smoked in the ratings by an NFL regular season game.

The Sunday Night Football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos had two times the audience of Games 1 and 2 of this year’s World Series.

And, as the New York Times pointed out, “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The Big Bang Theory” had more viewers, So did “The Walking Dead,” a cable show about zombies.

When baseball was king, kids used to get in trouble for listening to the World Series on their transistor radios during school and they would hustle home in hopes of catching an inning or two on TV.

How many kids do you think were watching Game 7 Wednesday night? How many kids even knew it was on?

Kids 6-16 made up less than four percent of the World Series audience this year and that number is inflated by the huge number of kids in Kansas City who got special permission from their parents to stay up late.
The 54-year old average viewer who tuned into this year’s World Series is old enough to remember when people watched or listened to the games at work and the local drug stores and barber shops knew it was good business to have a TV turned on for their customers who considered it can’t miss TV.

Nobody should be feeling sorry for anybody associated with Major League Baseball. The local TV ratings during the regular season are huge and the ball parks are filled. The owners and players are making more money than they’ve ever made before.

And they’ll continue to make obscene amounts of money in the future. How far into the future is a different story.

Thirty years from now, those 54 year-olds will be 84 and telling their grandkids about the good ol’ days when the World Series really mattered.

IF UNC DOESN’T DESERVE DEATH PENALTY, WHO DOES?

Congratulations to Roy Williams.

He has been able to keep a straight face while saying that he had no idea that many of his basketball players at North Carolina were taking sham courses in the Afro-American studies program.

This is the institution of higher learning that, according to a whistle blower in the UNC Athletic Department,has, for decades, been giving scholarships to athletes who read at somewhere between the fourth and eighth grade level.

The results of an independent investigation by former federal prosecutor Kenneth L Wainstein were released on Wednesday and if the NCAA doesn’t issue the death penalty to UNC’s athletic program, then it is even more useless than anyone could have imagined.

The scam was first brought to light by Mary Willingham, who worked as an academic counselor for UNC athletes. She spoke of “students” who couldn’t read beyond the fourth grade level and a few who couldn’t read at all.

That led to Wainstein’s investigation.

In simple terms, the scam involved steering black athletes toward courses in Afro-American studies. Whatever grade they needed to remain eligible was the grade they received without the inconvenience of, you know, going to class or taking tests.

But, really, why should anybody be surprised that kids, who are reading at an elementary school level, would have to cheat to stay eligible?

One of those players was Rashad McCants. He told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in June that Williams helped him manipulate his transcript from the fall of 2004. He replaced failing grades that semester with passing grades from summer school courses to keep him eligible.

Williams appeared on the show with 11 of his former players and said – with a straight face – that he didn’t know what McCants was talking about.

According to the investigation, five of the players on UNC’s 2005 national championship team were enrolled in a total of 39 bogus classes.

So, when does that 2005 championship banner come down?
Williams should have been fired by now.

Maybe you believe that he didn’t know what was going on, even though UNC football coaches have admitted to being aware of the scam, but I’m not buying it for a minute.

How many kitchens did Williams sit in over the years and promise the parents of a potential recruit that he could be trusted to make sure that their son would get a good education?

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt has already fired four people and put five others under disciplinary review. Personnel laws prevent her from making their names public.

I’m betting that Williams still has his job.

Folt has some plausible deniability since she’s only been on the job since 2013, but, based on the pervasiveness and long history of the corruption, it’s hard to believe that someone didn’t at least mention it to her at a cocktail party.

Folt could do the right thing – fire multiple coaches and impose the death penalty on her own football and basketball programs instead of waiting for the NCAA to come up with reasons not to do it- but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

The NCAA will get around to ruling on the UNC case after it conducts a study on the effectiveness of allowing athletes to spread cream cheese on their bagels.

Don’t bet on the national media putting much pressure on the NCAA. The reaction, based on what I’ve seen since the results of the investigation were released on Wednesday, has been a long, collective yawn.

And this story is not one that should only interest the sports media. It’s not just about basketball and football. It’s about lousy high schools that graduate kids (mostly black) who have trouble reading The Cat in the Hat.

Where’s the outrage over kids who read at the fourth grade level being able to get a high school diploma?

And who thinks that the University of North Carolina is the only institution of higher learning that allows this to go on in the interest of justifying billion dollar TV contracts?

I once watched a college football player at a major university put the free books he had just picked up on the first day of the semester under his desk. Three months later, I saw that the books hadn’t been touched. I also know that he didn’t go to one class that semester.

He was given the answers to tests before he took them.
He made the Dean’s List.
That was in 1970.

NFL AND POLITICIANS THICK AS THIEVES

Don’t you just love those venerable, old stadiums and ball parks? Wrigley Field. Fenway Park. Dodger Stadium. Lambeau Field. The Rose Bowl. Edward Jones Dome.

In case that last one kind of caught you off guard, it’s the dump where the St. Louis Rams play.

The Rams want a new stadium and they, with the help of the NFL, are using a not so veiled threat to move to Los Angeles in order to get it.

The Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995. Yep, 19 years ago.

Remember when teams used to play in the same building for 50 or 60 years? That was when team owners paid for their own buildings.

As of 2012, 125 of the 140 teams in the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer, were playing in stadiums built or refurbished since 1990. Most, if not all of them, were paid for mostly with tax payer dollars at a cost of more than $30 billion.

You’ve heard all the arguments about what a great idea it is for local and state governments to subsidize pro franchises.

They’re usually made by consultants paid for by team owners, or stupid and/or corrupt politicians. Economists who study the effect of the new stadiums after the fact tend to blow that theory out of the water.

Greg Mankiw, who’s chairman of the economics department at Harvard, did a survey of economists and 85% of them said that local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises.

What do you suppose the local “leaders” were telling the fine citizens of St. Louis in the early nineties when they were trying to sell them on the idea of spending a quarter of a billion dollars on a stadium for the team that was going to be re-locating from Los Angeles?

Georgia Fronteire, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, was tired of sharing a stadium with the California Angels and decided to move when she found out that the local politicians weren’t dumb or corrupt enough to give her one of her own.

So, here we are 19 years later and the usual promises and threats are being made.

There will be even more economic benefits with the new stadium than they got from the old dome and the Rams are threatening to move again.

To L.A., of course.

They would like a new $700 million stadium and would like the local taxpayers to pay for it.

As usual, there is plenty of media cheerleading being done on the part of the local thieves…er, team. In his St. Louis Post-Dispatch column on Tuesday, Bryan Burwell showed lots of impatience with the team and local politicians for not coming up with a deal that would keep the Rams in St. Louis.

Nowhere in his column did he question whether giving the Rams one dime of other people’s money to replace a 19 year old stadium was a good idea.

Nothing new in St. Louis.
It has happened and will continue to happen in cities all over North America.
The Rams will get their new stadium.

The NFL will let everyone know that it is willing to pay for half the cost of a new stadium in Los Angeles. More teams will threaten to move there and one eventually will.
That will open up another jilted city for an expansion team.

Remember Cleveland?

The jilted fans will be easily convinced that a new stadium will bring jobs, improve the quality of life in their neighborhood and help them overcome the embarrassment of losing a team.

Owners will get richer and politicians will be re-elected.

They all should be arrested.

GO PRO, YOUNG MAN. GO PRO

The next thing Todd Gurley should sign is an FXFL contract.

In case you hadn’t heard, the FXFL is a new professional football league and it’s tailor-made for a guy like Gurley, who appears to have been a little anxious to start making money for running with a football.

Gurley is almost universally considered the best running back in the country. He’s 6’1”, 220 pounds and he’s averaging – are you ready?- 8.2 yards a carry in college football’s best conference, the SEC.

Apparently Todd was studying too hard last year to notice that Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M got in a lot of trouble with the NCAA for creating the suspicion that he was getting money for his autograph.

Manziel’s “suspension” was for only half a game because the NCAA couldn’t prove that he ever received direct payment for signings.

Georgia has suspended Gurley indefinitely until the investigation into his alleged violation is completed.

So, here we have a 20 year-old football player who’s averaging more than eight yards a carry and may not be able to carry the ball again this season because of a stupid violation of an even more stupid rule.

Seems like a perfect time to turn pro.

Unfortunately for Gurley, the NFL has a really stupid rule of its own that prevents guys like him from playing until they are a full three years beyond high school graduation.

In a sane world – one in which there is no pro football monopoly – Gurley would be able to say, “Whoops, I violated a stupid rule. I don’t want to play college football anymore. I’d prefer to be paid for playing and I think I’m just as ready now as I’m going to be next August.”

The NFL would have you believe that this stupid, un-American rule is in the best interest of college student-athletes. You would only believe that if you were as stupid as the rule.

But, watch how the media will focus on Gurley’s stupidity and even more on the stupidity of the rule he violated and watch how they will ignore the stupidity, not to mention the immorality of the NFL rule.

Here’s where the FXFL comes in.

At least this is where it should come in.

The league consists of four teams made up of players who have had tryouts with NFL teams in the last three years. ESPN3 has agreed to televise its games, which began last week.

Todd Gurley should be able to tell the NCAA and the University of Georgia to take a hike and he should call the FXFL and say he’s available to play next week.

The FXFL, of course, would benefit from the publicity and sell lots of tickets to Gurley’s first game.

This is unlikely to happen because the FXFL is in the process of kissing the NFL’s behind in hopes of developing a working agreement similar to Major League Baseball’s affiliation with minor league baseball.

It would be nice if Gurley could sue the NFL for the right to play based on anti-trust violations but a kid from Ohio State, Maurice Clarett, tried that in 2004. He won his case in court, but the decision was overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge who rendered the decision was Sonia Sotomayor, who’s now on the Supreme Court and may or may not be an NFL season ticket holder.

Remember the outrage from the national sports media last year when Manziel was being persecuted for allegedly making a few bucks with his autograph?

Remember how the NCAA was ridiculed?

The NCAA has since agreed to tweak its rules to give more power to teams in the five big conferences, which could eventually lead to players being paid.

But the NFL’s ridiculous and stupid rule that prevents perfectly qualified players from playing in the only major pro football league in America will get no tweaking.

And watch the lapdog media give the NFL a pass and focus instead on the stupidity of a 20 year-old college kid.

FINDING RELIGION IN THE END ZONE

Scoring a touchdown in the NFL can be a religious experience.

There was quite a bit of justifiable outrage when Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for falling to his knees in prayer after returning an interception for a touchdown Monday night. The league issued an apology and said there should not be a flag for a “Player who goes to the ground as part of a religious expression.”

Sounds like a sensible approach.

Unless you want to get technical about religious expression.
Why couldn’t a player say that his end zone dance was a form of religious expression? Does the NFL have a list of acceptable religions, or could players make them up as they go along?

Ridiculous? Of course it is, but the official who threw the flag Monday night was going by the letter of the law.

This zero tolerance insanity is obviously a result of touchdown celebrations that had gotten out of hand for too long.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was penalized 15 yards for doing a belly flop after scoring a touchdown in the Steelers’ embarrassing, penalty-infested loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs Sunday.

His was one of many amazingly stupid penalties taken by the Steelers and, at his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Brown had scored enough NFL touchdowns that it should be routine for him.

And he said it would be nice if Brown just flipped the ball to the official.

Brown was asked about it on his local radio show and he said, “I just like to have fun. There’s a lot of work and energy that goes into scoring a touchdown.”

Brown, of course, needs to grow up. He’s obviously unaware that the No Fun League’s zero tolerance policy on touchdown celebrations is in place.

Another guy named Brown, first name Jim, has been trying to convince black players, who are almost expected to dance – an obvious example of the soft bigotry of low expectations if there ever was one – that they are feeding a negative stereotype with every performance.

Jim Brown is almost universally considered the best NFL player ever and despite playing only nine seasons, when the seasons were 12 and 14 games long, is 10th on the all time touchdown list.

So, he knows all about arriving in the end zone.
And he cringes when he sees current players “having fun” when they get there.

“(It’s) the buffoonery, The things we fought to get away: the stereotypical gestures. The rolling of the eyes, the dancing, and all the Walt Disney stereotypical racial disgraces.”

“You wonder how these individuals can be so stupid not to understand how the general public is looking at them…If you study history, you don’t want to emulate the things that were degrading and humiliating.”

“The humiliation was real. Now, guys are playing the yes-a-boss slave. That’s embarrassing to me. To think in this day and age, these young men would be out there shaking their butts and not knowing much of anything else. Not understanding the dignity of man and how to play a game and play it hard and let that speak for itself.”

I wonder how many current NFL players have ever heard Jim Brown speak on the subject.

For that matter, I wonder how many know who Jim Brown is.

The solution is simple. When you score a touchdown, spike the ball or , better yet, give it to the referee. Say your prayers on the sideline.

God and/or Allah will find you.

DEREK JETER AND JUST WATCHING THE GAME

In case you missed it, Derek Jeter is retiring.

You would have to have been in Yemen for the last six months to not be aware of the six-month retirement party that Major League Baseball threw for Jeter, who is finishing up his 20th year with the New York Yankees.

Why is there so much love for Jeter?

He’s a Yankee and for millions of people in North America, that is reason enough to hate him.
He had a great career but he’s not going to be any Top 25 Players of All Time lists.

Maybe he’s beloved by fans and the media because he’s a throwback. Twenty years in the number one media market in the world and the worst you can say about him is that he dated some really, really good looking women.

No ugly divorces.(He was never married.)
No sexual assaults.
No steroids.

He’s humble and polite, which sets him apart from way too many stars in too many sports. Remember Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks using his live, on-the-field Super Bowl post game interview to pound his chest, look into the camera and declare himself the best cornerback in the world?

That got him on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

In 2014, over the top is the way to go.

I wrote a book called “Just Watch The Game” a good portion of which is dedicated to pointing out how, in sports today, the game seems to get lost in the surrounding hype and stupidity.

Most fans seem to have become fans of being fans.

Tailgaters show up at 6 a.m. for games that start at 1 p.m.

You’re no longer a Steelers fan or a Packers fan. You’re a member of Steelers or Packers “Nation.”

Grown men dress like boys, wearing the authentic game jersey of their heroes, who are often young enough to be their sons.

That, of course, leads to fights, in which grown men wearing opposing jerseys, beat themselves within an inch of their lives.

There was a lovely scene at last Sunday’s Cardinals-49ers game in Phoenix, when two guys wearing 49ers jerseys were set upon by decked out Cardinals fans. Maybe you’ve seen the video of them tumbling down the blood-stained, concrete stairs.

Jeter’s predecessors on the great Yankees teams of the ‘50s and ‘60s were hated by people in every city they visited. But fans back then seemed to have some perspective, not to mention a dash of maturity.

They were there, first and foremost, to just watch the game.

They came dressed as regular human beings and didn’t feel obligated to get liquored up for five hours before the first pitch and go looking for someone wearing a Yankees cap to beat up.
Of course, the farewell party for Jeter was over the top, but you can’t blame him for that. It’s just the world we live in.

That’s why the Pirates pack goggles to wear during the champagne spraying celebration for clinching a wild card spot.

Jeter’s a throwback to the time when a team had to, you know, win something before having a champagne party.

But why not break out the bubbly and cheapen every pennant- winning celebration that preceded you when the team can sell the bottles for $50?

That’s what the empty bottles will be selling for next week. And they will be authenticated by Major League Baseball.

If that’s a little too pricey for you, how about a cork for 15 bucks?

This is nothing new. Amazon has an empty champagne bottle left over from the Yankees’ 2010 ALDS celebration available for only $160. If you want the cork, you’re on your own.

But don’t let anybody tell you that fans are taking this stuff too seriously.

Just watch the game, indeed.