The old ballgame

Last week my 20-year-old hit me up to go to a Phillies game this year since they’re finally great again. (Trump!) It turns out that tonight was the night. We drove up to St. Louis earlier today and it was a great evening for baseball. We had not been to a game together since 2015. We last saw the Phillies in 2013. We last came to St. Louis in 2012. I love St. Louis (the city) and have seen more MLB games here than in any other city, even though we are Phillies’ fans. But I have hated the Cardinals for decades and have managed to keep my hatred stoked all these years. So I love beating St. Louis, and tonight we beat them 6-2.

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We tease him a lot

Gabe Kapler is the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, a former player himself with no previous managerial experience who took over after last season. Because his name bears such close resemblance to Gabe Kaplan, the actor who played Gabe Kotter in the 1970’s sitcom “Welcome Back Kotter,” I have taken to referring to the Phillies manager as “Welcome Back Kotter.” This makes the Phillies the Sweat Hogs, which isn’t a bad name for a baseball team when you think about it. (I mean, the Phillies’ triple-A minor league team is the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.)

Given Kapler’s faux pas in Atlanta last week, where he went to the mound to change pitchers without having anyone warmed up, it’s safe to say that we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot.

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One crazy tournament

We are down to the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA tournament. The first weekend was as unpredictable and tumultuous and chaotic as I’ve ever seen it, which is the primary allure of the tournament in the first place. The NCAA must be ecstatic with all the storylines. Consider the following:

  • For the first time ever, a 16-seed took down a 1-seed. In this case, it was UMBC blowing out the no. 1 overall seed, the Virginia Cavaliers, by 20 points.
  • With Florida State’s upset of Xavier last evening, two of the four top seeds did not survive the first weekend.
  • In a tournament with no upsets, the Sweet 16 would consist of teams all seeded 1-4. This year, 9 of the 16 are seeded 5 or lower. This includes two 11 seeds.
  • One of the 11’s is Syracuse, the very last team chosen for the original field of 68. They defeated Michigan State yesterday despite making just 15 field goals the entire game and being out-rebounded by 21.
  • Seventh-seeded Nevada knocked of second-seeded Cincinnati yesterday despite trailing by 22 points with 11 minutes to go. They closed the game on a 32-8 run.
  • Last year’s national champion, North Carolina, was blown out by Texas A&M in another 7-over-2 upset.
  • The south region semi-finals consist of the 5, 7, 9 and 11 seeds. That’s three teams with prime-numbered seeds. Has this ever happened before?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the first full day of the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s 32 games in 2 days and 48 games in 4. By Sunday’s end, the 68-team field will pared down to the Sweet 16. It’s exciting and maddening and altogether unpredictable. That’s why I laugh when the know-it-all pundits get all analytical and make their erudite predictions, and even offer their “insight” to help us do our brackets. They don’t know any better than the rest of us who is going to win. There are going to be upsets — several of them, in fact. So the key to any successful bracket is correctly choosing the eventual national champion and identifying as many of those upsets as possible. A kid has as much chance of picking these as any paid pundit. It’s chaos and mayhem. So it’s just like the #fakenews media, except the tournament is actually fun to watch and, just like the #fakenews media, you cannot apply logic to your tournament picks.

Maybe Memphis will make the field next year with our new coach — Mr. Anfernee Hardaway.

Young money

My interest in the NFL remains at a nadir, but I am at least aware that three University of Memphis Tigers are at the NFL combine, and that the draft is next month. At least one of our former Tigers has already signed with Nike. I honestly wish them success.

There are very few athletes who can perform at that level, and the window of opportunity is agonizingly brief. The average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years. A man has just a tiny sliver of his life to earn that kind of money. The base salary for a rookie is $465,000, and it increases every year thereafter. So a young man who plays for 3.3 years and earns the league minimum will still earn close to $2 million total. Of course, after his agent and the federal and various state governments get their cut, that figure probably drops to under $1 million, but that’s still a lot of money to shower on a young man just out of college.

Assuming these former Tigers all get drafted and make an NFL roster, aside from wishing them success, I hope they manage their money well. I’m sure most professional athletes who earn in the millions have some sort of financial planner to help them make good decisions, but then there are also the Mike Tysons and Vince Youngs of the world, professional athletes who earned many millions of dollars, and then squandered it all like prodigal sons.

Perhaps you won’t play long enough to ensure you never have to work after your playing days are over — although I’m sure they all find something to do — but at least have the good sense to, say, pay cash for a house and maybe some land. Imagine being in your 20’s and never having to make a house payment for the rest of your life. Maybe even invest in some sort of business to ensure a steady stream of income — even a modest income is better than no income at all.

Whatever they choose to do is, of course, none of my business. I just hate to see young athletes throw money around like there’s an endless supply of it. Because at some point, that well of opportunity will dry up.

Three for Thursday

This is so typical of the left. They trot out a victim of a tragedy willing to spout left-wing talking points, then tell the rest of us that we can’t criticize the victim because he/she has been traumatized; and in this case, he’s just a high school student. I’m talking about the 17-year-old kid CNN is using to advocate for gun control (not going to use his name here). I know he witnessed something terrible that no one should have to witness, but when you turn political, you lose your supposed immunity from criticism. Actually, I’m criticizing the #fakenews media more than the kid. He’s just a kid, and I’m convinced he’s being fed his talking points by the media. You can tell me I can’t criticize if you want, but when you advocate that I should lose my Second Amendment rights because of a crime committed by someone else, I’m going to say something about it. Yesterday, I joined the NRA for the first time in my life for this very reason.

My next half-marathon is the annual Rock-and-Roll marathon in Nashville the last Saturday in April (now officially next month). This will be my fifth year in a row running that race. I always begin my training March 1, but owing to my work schedule and the trusty weather forecast, I began two days early this time, on Tuesday, with a 10K run. It was my longest run since the half-marathon in Memphis on December 2, and my first of six planned long runs (in addition to a bunch of 5K’s) during the next 8+ weeks. The training is difficult, and some parts of it aren’t much fun, but I won’t regret any of it come race day.

When the college basketball season opened and I got to watch the new-look Memphis Tigers in action, I thought, my gosh, we could finish with a losing record this season. We haven’t had a losing season since 1999-2000. We won a series of razor-thin games against low-RPI teams, all played at home, and I figured we’d get killed as soon as conference play began. This roster features exactly two players with previous Division I experience, including Jeremiah Martin, the AAC’s leading scorer, whose season ended two games ago when he broke his foot. As it turns out, we aren’t going to have a losing season. In fact, there is a good chance this will be our first 20-win season since 2013-2014. Memphis is 18-11, including 9-7 in the AAC, which is good enough for 5th place in the 12-team league. This is our 5th year in the AAC, and before this season, we had never won 4 straight conference games. We’ve done that twice this year. Last week, the Tigers won their first game against a ranked opponent in 4 years (Houston), which was the same game in which Martin broke his foot. He went out in the first half with the Tigers losing, and we came back and won that game without him. We finish the season at home with back-to-back games against the league’s two worst teams (USF & ECU), but you can’t take these games for granted, for sure. So even though the Tigers aren’t where I’d like them to be quite yet, the last few weeks have certainly provided some encouraging signs.

Weird thought for the day

The Olympics are truly behind the times. They still insist on two distinct genders. There are men’s competitions and women’s competitions. They make no room for the alternate genders. So what if you’re a man who identifies as a woman on the day of your competition? Isn’t is discriminatory to insist that a man compete with other men if he identifies as a woman (or something else)? What’s to stop a man from competing with women in, say, speed skating or ski jumping? He would most assuredly win the gold. What if three men identified as women and finished 1, 2 and 3? The women would be completely shut out of their own medal ceremony. Indeed, liberals and SJW’s will sooner or later have to think these things through and come up with a solution that ensures equality and makes sure no one’s feelings get hurt.

No moral victories, but these young Tigers are starting to get the hang of this

Yesterday, the Memphis Tigers lost to the Louisville Cardinals 81-72 at Madison Square Garden. Honestly, I had been bracing for a more lopsided loss. But these young Tigers played competitive basketball against a team with far superior talent. Granted, it’s a loss, but I’ve been encouraged by their last 3 efforts.

Memphis is 7-3 so far, but it’s a soft 7-3. They have no signature wins. Several of their wins came at home to low-RPI teams by razor-thin margins. I’m not upset with them, nor am I upset with second-year coach Tubby Smith. A lot of last year’s talent transferred out of the program, leaving a mass of vacancies. So this year’s team is an amalgam of two players from last year, freshmen and junior-college transfers. Of the 13 players on this year’s roster, eleven had never played Division I. So that left us with an inexperienced team and large learning curve, but also the potential for improvement. I’m starting to enjoy this team. They may not accomplish a great deal in the end, but you have to admire their determination.

I have to get to a game sometime after the new year. I owe it to them. Crowds at the FedEx Forum have been sparse. Granted, attendance should pick up once conference play commences and the quality of our opponents improves. Last year’s team played well until about the final month, then more or less quit (primarily the Lawsons, who left the program on sour terms). So that sort of left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I don’t expect this year’s team to quit. I’m not expecting to qualify for the NCAA tournament or anything, but these young men have heard the talk and seen the empty seats, and perhaps they have something to prove.

Memphis Tigers’ 2017 home football schedule by the numbers

Number of season tickets purchased: 1
Total dollars spent on season ticket: 110
Section/row/seat: 127/14/25
Home games scheduled: 7
Home games attended: 7
Home games won: 7
Home games lost: 0
Total minutes played: 420
Number of times left early: 0
Number of games played in rain: 3
Number of games played in sweltering heat: 2
Number of games played on a muggy evening: 1
Number of lightning delays: 1
Number of games played in perfect weather: 1
Number of mornings I got up at 5 a.m. for an 11 a.m. kickoff: 3
Number of nights I spent at my mother’s in Jackson after a late game: 3
Number of top 25 teams played: 2
Number of top 25 teams defeated: 2
Number of times that had ever happened before: 0
Number of times I wish I hadn’t gone: 0
Number of times I visited Gibson’s Donuts before or after a game: 6
Number of times I saw DeAngelo Williams at Gibson’s Donuts after a game: 1
Number of times I enjoyed an omelet & hash browns at the Stone Soup Cafe prior to a game: 2
Number of seasons the Memphis Tigers have played at the Liberty Bowl: 53
Number of times the Memphis Tigers have gone undefeated at the Liberty Bowl (including 2017): 1
Value of attending every minute of the Memphis Tigers home football schedule in 2017: priceless

NFL word replacement

The NFL thinks it finally has a handle on the abuse of its continued ratings decline, and, predictably, it has nothing to do with the actual reason for its ratings decline. The NFL believes that too much football is the reason for the ratings decline. Seriously.

To put an end to the sliding ratings, the executives are proposing that fewer games may be the ticket to stop that over-saturation, with one idea being to cut Thursday Night Football by a whopping ten games. The idea to trim Thursday Night Football from 18 games a season to only eight was first reported by Sports Business Journal and was part of a plan to reverse the ratings crash …

Those two moves would return 14 games to Sunday afternoons, strengthen the core product and potentially keep fans from suffering from football fatigue by Sunday and Monday night.

I’m going to help the NFL out here and replace the words “game(s)” and “football” with “National Anthem protest(s)” for a more accurate read:

To put an end to the sliding ratings, the executives are proposing that fewer National Anthem protests may be the ticket to stop that over-saturation, with one idea being to cut Thursday Night Football by a whopping ten National Anthem protests. The idea to trim Thursday Night Football from 18 National Anthem protests a season to only eight was first reported by Sports Business Journal and was part of a plan to reverse the ratings crash …

Those two moves would return 14 National Anthem protests to Sunday afternoons, strengthen the core product and potentially keep fans from suffering from National Anthem protest fatigue by Sunday and Monday night.

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