Punishing by Playing Antonio Callaway and Hue Jackson

Antonio CallawayThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about a Cleveland Browns player named Antonio Callaway and his coach, Hue Jackson. Callaway was stopped for a traffic violation and marijuana was found in his car. Jackson decided that Callaway’s punishment should be to play almost every offensive snap in the preseason game against the New York Giants. Many people are questioning this method of punishment.

I won’t keep you in suspense as to my opinion on the subject, it’s Jackson’s team to run as he sees fit. If he thinks it’s an appropriate punishment then it’s his call to make. That won’t stop me from suggesting it seems like a very bad idea from a misguided coach.

Callaway ended up playing 57 of the 63 offensive plays Cleveland ran in the game and was exhausted and asking to be removed at several points. He was refused. This seems to me to put Callaway in physical danger. A player who is tired is not running plays properly which is clearly demonstrated in this age of specialization. Players are rotated in and out at a far greater rate than in previous decades.

It also seems very unusual to punish a rookie player by giving him more repetition at his position. There are certainly other wideouts on the Browns hoping to make the team and each of them was denied chances to impress because Callaway stayed in the game.

All this is certainly true but my original assessment stands. It’s Jackson’s team to run as he sees fit. What’s important to consider is if his methods are working. His record as head coach of the Browns is an astonishing 1-29 over the course of two seasons. He accumulated an 8-8 record in one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders before he was fired there.

Perhaps his methods are wise and will be part of a turnaround for the Browns and they will become a playoff team. Perhaps this punishment is indicative of a coach flailing away for solutions, a coach who doesn’t know what he is doing or why and his abysmal record will continue.

We just don’t know but we’ll certainly find out. I think Jackson was wrong in his methods and so do some other people. It’s quite possible I’ll be incorrect in this judgment, because that’s all it is, an opinion based on the evidence.

I won’t be personally insulted if the Browns start winning games and Jackson turns out to be an excellent head coach. I won’t defend my position to the death. I’ll shrug my shoulders and say I judged the evidence that was available to me and came to a conclusion which turned out to be wrong. Best of luck.

Tom Liberman

Are Super Nerds Ruining Baseball?

Jayson Werth Super NerdsFormer Major League Baseball Jayson Werth claims baseball is being ruined by hard-core statisticians he calls Super Nerds. The basic idea behind Werth’s claim is that advanced statistical analysis, Sabermetrics, have changed the way the game is played with home runs becoming more valuable and thus increasing strike outs. Certainly, it’s more complicated than this quick explanation but what I’d like to examine is the general idea that statistical analysis is causing harm to the game of baseball.

Sabermetrics came to the forefront of baseball decision making when Billy Beane incorporated the ideas of Paul DePodesta into the day to day operations of the Oakland Athletics. The movie Moneyball was based on these events. The Athletics were very successful with these techniques and soon the Boston Red Sox incorporated them and won the World Series. Not long after this most teams embraced the ideas of the so-called Super Nerds.

The idea is that men and women with advanced understanding of statistics make better baseball decisions than the people who have played the game for their entire lives. It’s no wonder people like Werth and Goose Gossage have come out with scathing comments about the change in baseball and the generation of largely Ivy League educated men who brought about those new methods.

The proof is in the pudding. The methods employed by the Super Nerds work. Sport is a result orientated business and if ideas are failing they are generally discarded. That doesn’t really address the claims Werth is making. He isn’t saying the Super Nerds are making bad decisions that hurt teams, he’s saying they are making the game boring, something no one wants to watch.

I suspect he’s making that claim because attendance is down this year by about 6% although major weather factors early in the season account for much of this. Over the last twenty years attendance statistics are relatively flat with about as many people, 72-73 million, attending games each season. It’s neither up or down. This seems to put Werth’s statements to question.

I strongly suspect great athletes like Werth feel their territory is being usurped by statistically minded men and women with advanced degrees and no experience with the game of baseball. I can understand that attitude. It seems fairly normal to resent newcomers telling you how to do your job.

The evidence suggests the new methods are superior in producing winning teams and have not had any effect on attendance as a whole.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that nothing stays the same. If baseball has changed to focus more on home runs, that will alter the underlying statistical base and a new metric will eventually be adopted to counter the trend.

The lesson, if there is one, is that change is inevitable, like it or not.

Tom Liberman

Terrell Owens and the Football Hall of Fame

Terrell OwensTerrell Owens was recently elected into the National Football League Hall of Fame and, in an unprecedented move, has decided to skip the induction ceremony where he would normally give a speech. He is the first living NFL player to do so. The best thing about this story is the reaction of Hall of Fame President, David Baker. That’s what I’d like to discuss.

First a little background information. Owens is clearly worthy of selection with statistics that stand up with the best wide receivers in the history of the game. He had a cantankerous relationship with the press during his career, some undoubtedly his own fault, and it is those writers who vote on candidates to the hall. They did not choose Owens in his first or second year of eligibility and that is what rankles him. He is of the opinion they did not respect him during his career and then used their position and their dislike to delay what was certainly a deserved honor.

People can, and certainly are, taking Owens to task for his pettiness in refusing to attend the ceremony. Many people don’t like Owens and are not shy about making nasty comments. Others support him and his decision and they do not hesitate to make their opinion of the various writers involved known.

But it is what Mr. Baker is saying and doing that tickles this Libertarian’s fancy: He’s got a mind of his own, he’s a grown man and we need to respect his right to make that decision. Baker goes on to say: If he doesn’t come to the enshrinement, he’s welcome here every day for the rest of his life. Our job is to honor the heroes of the game.

Mr. Baker, if you are not already a Libertarian I hereby formally extend an invitation to our little group. His attitude is, to some degree, the embodiment of what I think it means to be a Libertarian. Every person has a right to make their own decisions, even if these are childish, petty, and ultimately self-destructive. This stands in stark contrast to what I see everywhere in the United States these days. In almost every article I read it seems people from the President of the United States on down think they know best what others should do and that laws, rules, social pressure, and who knows what else should be brought to bear to make everyone else stand in line.

This is wrong. When it is choice between personal liberty and an action that does not directly harm others, we should almost universally choose freedom. No one is being harmed by the fact Owens will not be attending the Hall of Fame ceremony. We should respect his decision even if we disagree with it. Certainly, we can suggest another course, we can ask why he is doing so, we can point out the potential problems, but in the end, it is his life to lead, not yours.

Mr. Baker might have sought to punish Owens by refusing to put his banner up at the ceremony, not having images of Owens at the stadium, cutting video of him in television promotions, and who knows what other method of coercion. A lesser person might well have done all those things. Mr. Baker chose otherwise.

Well done, Mr. Baker. Well done, indeed.

Tom Liberman

Is it Wrong to Point out Mike Matheny is a Handsome Man?

Mike MathenyI noticed an interesting trend on the Facebook posts of some of my women friends in the aftermath of the firing of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Many of the women commented on what a good-looking fellow is Matheny and that they’d miss him for that aspect at least. Male friends immediately responded that if men made such a comment about an attractive woman coach or manager they’d be subject to attack from Social Justice Warriors.

It’s an interesting point because it’s true. Men who make such comments about attractive female athletes are often attacked as misogynistic. The conclusion that men seem to be drawing from this truth is, on the other hand, completely incorrect. They should be able to make such observations and so should women.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the attractiveness of another person and women have every right to make such observations, as do men about good-looking women. Our looks are simply a trait, like any other.

Certainly, Matheny’s record as a manager and ability to lead the team is a far more important factor in his being fired than his relative attractiveness. The issue is we can’t get angry at someone for pointing out what they perceive to be the truth. We can certainly suggest his appearance shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not he keeps his job although the women posting made no such claims. What we should not do is pretend he isn’t viewed as attractive by women.

I wrote an article about a golfer named Paige Spiranac and how she used her looks to get an invitation to a golf tournament for which she would otherwise not be qualified. That’s all well and good. A person should use all their assets in an attempt to succeed in their chosen profession and life as a whole. There is nothing wrong with noting such things.

It’s important to make decisions based on pertinent factors. For Matheny, his looks have little impact on his managerial abilities. For a model, her or his strategic baseball knowledge is of little consequence to success. The person doing the hiring and firing is the one who makes these decisions and if they decide poorly, they too will suffer the consequences.

If one of my female friends were in charge of the Cardinals and hired Matheny because of his appearance rather than his skills as a manager, she would eventually lose her job as well. That being said, what’s wrong with pointing out a physical feature that doesn’t necessarily correlate to job performance? To my way of thinking, nothing.

A final point as to Matheny himself. He suffered numerous concussions during his career as a catcher and his mannerisms have always struck me as somewhat dulled. I hope he is consulting medical professionals and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Tom Liberman

Del Potro and the not so Bad Life of being Not the Best

Juan Martin del PotroI was watching the Rafael Nadal versus Juan Martin del Potro tennis match in the Wimbledon Quarterfinals when it occurred to be just how good is del Potro, this despite the fact he is not the best. I started to consider the life of the people who are exceptionally good at their chosen profession but are not the best. It’s not so bad.

Del Potro has never been ranked higher than fourth in the world of professional tennis. He won the 2009 U.S. Open but that is his only victory in what are considered the Major events of tennis. He has defeated all the best players in the world from time to time but has a losing record against the three men considered the finest of his generation: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal (listed in alphabetic order to avoid anyone chastising me).

Del Potro is better at tennis than I will be at anything in my life. He is better at tennis than the vast majority of people will be at anything they attempt. He works harder at his craft than I have ever worked at anything in my life. He works harder than most people. For all his efforts he is not even a consideration when ranking the best tennis players of all-time or even of this generation.

Despite not being able to attain the pinnacle of his profession he has managed to earn over $21 million in prize money and certainly a substantial amount in endorsements.

What separates del Potro from those who are considered the greatest? It’s impossible to say. His mental toughness, not quite enough accuracy, his physical conditioning, his strength? There are no answers here. The difference between del Potro and those considered the greatest is so small as to be undetectable, but it is there nonetheless. This means he will never be spoken of in the same terms as those others. This is reality.

Throughout the history of sport people like del Potro have always existed. Players of such tremendous skill and ability that bench warmers like myself can never truly understand exactly how good they are at their chosen profession. Even if they are not the best.

This is where I delve into philosophy. Is that so bad for del Potro? Maybe not being under the same microscope the greatest must face is in some sense its own reward. He has achieved great and wonderful things for which he should be immensely proud.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best. I want to be the best writer in the world. It’s virtually certain I will never be so. That’s ok, I’m of the opinion the attempt is of vital importance to happiness. Success is wonderful. Failure is painful. Happiness is the goal.

I’m willing to guess in many, if not all, ways del Potro is just as happy as the other, better, tennis players. Good for him. In the end no one keeps score. You’re dead. How much did you enjoy yourself whilst alive?

Tom Liberman

Landon Donovan should Root for Anyone and So Should You

Landon Donovan MexicoThere’s an interesting story in the world of sports involving Landon Donovan starring in a commercial that urges United States soccer fans to root for Mexico in the 2018 World Cup. There are fairly many people angry at the former star of the United States Men’s National Team and about an equal amount supporting him. I think this story has implications for all of us beyond sport that speaks directly to my Libertarian sensibilities.

The gist of this situation is relatively simple. The soccer, I’m going use soccer throughout this article rather than futbol, team from Mexico is the traditional rival of the U.S. team. The fans of El Tri include a number of hooligans and they have engaged in disgusting and distasteful displays against the U.S. team in the past. There is a great deal of animosity between the two teams. Because of these facts those who dislike or even hate the Mexican team feel betrayed by Donovan and his support for them.

On the other side is the simple reality that the U.S. team didn’t qualify for the World Cup this year leaving fans without a team to support. Mexico is our neighbor and many people who live in the U.S. can trace their heritage back to Mexico. These are reasons enough for many to embrace Mexico and wish them well in the World Cup.

For me, it’s not a difficult question to answer. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and as such my feelings toward the Chicago Cubs is quite similar to many fan’s thoughts for the Mexican team. In the 2016 World Series I was most decidedly not rooting for the Cubs, darn it all.

Those who are lambasting Donovan might think this means I’m on their side in this debate, they’d be wrong. The most important factor in all of this are the concepts of liberty and freedom. I should root for and against the teams I want, and so should you. I have no say in your decisions. Whether or not you root for Mexico hurts me in no fashion and is none of my concern. Just as it was when my sister was rooting for the Cubs to break their long drought.

This simple understanding of freedom goes far beyond sports. If a PGA Tour player or a NASCAR driver doesn’t want to visit the White House when President Obama is there or if an NBA or NFL player likewise chooses not to go when President Trump is in residence, that’s their choice. It’s not my decision and I absolutely should do nothing to coerce anyone into adopting my position.

It is the same for whom you should cast your ballot. It is the same for how you choose to listen to the National Anthem before the game. It is the same for who you decide to marry, what gender your decide to be, which bathroom you use, or what chemicals you put in your body. Our lives would all be better if we stopped worrying so much about what other people are doing.

I respect your freedom to decide matters as you desire. I’d certainly appreciate it if you’d do me the same courtesy.

Tom Liberman

Sports Gambling is Now Legal in Every State

Sports GamblingThe Supreme Court, in a 6 – 3 decision, struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 and made legal all gambling on sporting events in the United States. This is good news for the states who want to reap the profits therein. It is more of a mixed bag for those who wish to gamble because it is certain with this broadening of gambling there will be lives destroyed. I’d like to discuss that dual nature associated with gambling and what role the government has to play in it.

First, let’s examine how the bill got passed so we can dispense with blaming a particular political party. It’s an interesting case from a legal standpoint and the federal government used, as it often does, the Commerce Clause to provide legal justification for refusing to allow states to establish their own gambling guidelines.

The original bill passed through the Senate and the House of Representatives with little opposition from either party and the major professional sports leagues largely supported it. The Supreme Court has now ruled this was a violation of the Tenth Amendment power given to each state.

The Constitution is silent on gambling despite it being widespread at the time the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution. They knew about gambling and the harmful effects therein, just as they knew about alcoholism and its damaging potential. I cannot in good conscience simply claim gambling is a victimless crime. People destroy their own lives and those of their families by leaving their estate bankrupt. People blow their children’s college funds which can and does have a major impact on their future earning, their entire lives.

Problem Betting is a terrible impulse control disorder, I’ve seen it in action on the few occasions I’ve visited casinos. The casinos here in the St. Louis area are largely not filled with happy people spending a night out with friends but with elderly and disabled people spending their disability and social security money. It is horrific to see and that’s why I largely don’t patronize casinos.

This is why politicians of both main political parties felt justified in passing the legislation that prohibited states from sports gambling. Well, they prohibited most states and most sports. Horse Racing, Dog Racing, and Jai-alai were exempted as was the state of Nevada.

Did this actually prevent people from gambling on sports? Of course not. People continue to gamble although not legally. They place wagers with bookies who are not bound by laws and regulations. Lives are destroyed despite the law. Will more lives be destroyed when gambling is made legal? It’s certainly possible.

The underlying question you must answer if you want to know if government has the right to prevent gambling is if you think people need to be protected from themselves. For a Libertarian like myself, the answer is an obvious no but the problem is more complex. People make horrible decisions and do tremendous damage to their own lives and those who care about them. Is there an obligation to help them, even if means others are prevented from doing something they enjoy?

Is my freedom to gamble worth the destruction of so many other lives? Is my freedom to drive a car at whatever speed I want if I’m very careful worth the lives that will be lost if others, less careful, do the same?

These are not easy questions to answer. I think gambling is a personal decision the government should not be involved in restricting. What do you think?

Does the government have the right to ban gambling to protect people?

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Tom Liberman

The Subtleties of Racism as Demonstrated by Yadier Molina

molina and lovulloHere in baseball land St. Louis there was an ugly incident between beloved catcher Yadier Molina and Arizona Diamondback manager Torey Lovullo. I’d like to use the reaction to the situation to examine the idea that there is nuance to racism. I’m not talking about Lovullo or Molina but those who are commenting on the story.

Many people are calling Molina a thug and worse for his reaction. It’s my opinion the vast majority of those doing so would be defending, say, Roger Clemens if he reacted to the words in the same way. They’d be calling Clemens a stand-up guy who had every right to react to the ugly words in a physical way. Many are defending Molina and it seems likely some would be less vociferous of their defense of Clemens in similar circumstances. That’s the version of racism I’d like to talk about and why it’s such a difficult word to raise in these situations. There are levels of racism and we tend to incorrectly categorize them as all the same.

If my hypothesis is correct, that the race of the player is a significant factor in the perception of events, then that is racism but a very subtle version of it. It’s not someone out in the streets chanting all people of a certain race are criminal thugs who should die. I think the people who are calling out Yadi and would not call out Clemens are not racists in the classical sense, but they are exhibiting an opinion on which race bears a factor. They are guilty of a subtle and relatively common form of racism.

There is no question we all have particular biases. I think it’s possible because I’m a Cardinals fan I’m more likely to justify Molina’s reaction in this situation than Javier Baez of the hated Cubs. I like to think that I’d support Baez should an equivalent bruhaha occur between him and the manager of some other team. Perhaps I wouldn’t. That’s my point. It’s easy to throw around the word racist in situation like this when it’s not truly applicable.

It’s not easy to come up with a word to describe those lambasting Molina who would not do so should it have been Clemens. As I said, I would not call them racists, but I absolutely think that race is a factor in their opinion. For others its not race but team based, they hate the Cardinals and are eager to find fault in the behavior of the team or its players.

The reason I’m writing this blog post is because I don’t think these reactions rise to the level of racism but I’m struggling to name it anything else. I don’t think it’s fair, given the current understanding of the word, to use it.

We are all guilty of racism on one level or another. Most people know it’s wrong to think this way and imagine they don’t.

I’d love for people to examine their own opinion of this incident and see if they think they are being influenced by race. Does me pointing it out make them think twice? Reconsider? What if someone was posting hate about Molina and read this, examined their heart, and said, yeah, that Tom’s got a point. I’ll have to change my mind on this one. That would be great.

Tom Liberman

Bob McNair was the Apology a Lie?

Bob McNairThe owner of the Houston Texans, Bob McNair, recently made a comment for which he later apologized. A National Football League player named Richard Sherman thinks the original statement was a true indication of the feelings McNair has and that the apology is merely pretend. What I’m going to discuss is not the nature of the comment itself but the reality of Sherman’s analysis.

To get you up to speed, there is an ongoing issue in the NFL in which players are kneeling or otherwise protesting during the playing of the national anthem. The owners largely do not like this. McNair was quoted as saying something along the lines of: We cannot let the prisoners run the asylum. This equates the players in the NFL to incarcerated people. McNair was apparently confronted shortly after making the statement and he apologized.

Sherman believes McNair truly meant the statement, that he associates the players with inmates. People who should have no say as to how the team is managed. Sherman believes the apology a lie motivated by politically correctness.

Sherman believes McNair is not alone in his opinion. Sherman thinks other NFL owners feel the same way, players are to be used as best as possible and discarded when their productive years are behind them. Sherman also believes not all owners think like this. He thinks the owner of his team, Paul Allen, does not think this way about his players.

We cannot know for certain if McNair’s original statement is his true opinion or not but I think it’s an interesting question. Did McNair mean it when he compared NFL players to prisoners in an institution? Is he bowing to business expediency and political correctness by pretending to apologize?

I think Sherman’s opinion is legitimate. I think there is quite a good chance McNair truly believed what he said and, upon reflection, realized it was a terrible thing to say. Or perhaps McNair is simply pretending to apologize. That he, in his heart, believes what he original said. Again, we have no way of knowing the answer to this question, only McNair can tell us.

Sherman goes on to make an incredibly interesting point. He says he would rather McNair tell the truth, even if it is antithetical to Sherman’s own beliefs. Sherman would rather know the honest opinion of McNair and thereafter avoid him.

Let’s imagine I know someone whose opinions on a subject are deeply offensive to me. Would I rather they pretend not to have those opinions when around me, or would I prefer if they told me exactly what they were thinking? I find myself in complete agreement with Sherman. If you have an opinion, state it. If I don’t like it, well, it’s up to me to decide if I want to be around you in the future. Sure, when you make a statement I don’t like, I can speak up. Trust me, I do. If you refuse to back down then we are at an impasse. The ball is in my court. I can choose to associate with you in the future or I can choose to avoid events at which we might meet. If we do meet, I can choose to circumvent topics of conversation where I know we conflict and focus on areas where we might agree.

I do not disagree with anyone about all things nor do I agree completely with anyone on all subjects. I, like Sherman, would prefer to know you true opinions. Then I can make judgments and take actions that I deem appropriate.

My opinions are in my blogs and my novels for all to see. I’m an Atheist. I’m a Libertarian. I don’t suffer fools lightly. If that offends you, and there are many who are offended, then the ball is in your court. You can choose to engage me or avoid me. You can choose not to be friends with me on Facebook so you don’t have to see my thoughts on various topics. That’s cool. I respect that.

I think that’s Sherman’s point here. He wants McNair to be honest. If they disagree, so be it. What he doesn’t like is saying one thing while behind the scenes doing something else entirely. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t apologize if you say something and upon further examination realize it was truly awful. You are allowed to change your opinion. I certainly hope McNair is truly sorry for what he said, that he realizes the condescending nature of his statement. Then the apology is warranted and should be accepted.

I’m sure Sherman, and others, will be watching McNair more closely in the future. Will his actions down the road support his original statement or the apology? That’s the true test. We can say anything we want. It’s our actions that prove the integrity of our words.

Tom Liberman

Josh Rosen Disses Alabama Misleading Headline

josh-rosenThe Headline Screams: UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen: Raise the SAT Requirement at Alabama and See what kind of team they have.

It seems like if you use a direct quote from someone it can’t possibly be a misleading headline but that’s exactly what happened in this case. What Rosen was talking about is the terrible incongruity between being a college football player and being a student. In the majority if the article he talks about how spending last season injured was a hugely eye opening experience. He was able to spend more time taking classes than he would normally be allowed to do. He learned that many of the requirements of his economic major are not even available at the times his normally limited schedule allow.

He used the Alabama quote not to deride Alabama but to simply illustrate that it’s impossible for many of the best young football players in the nation to also excel at academics. What he said, and I think he said it effectively, is that no Division I college football team is made up of athletes who are stellar students. That if we want to limit college athletes to the best students, the quality of football will suffer.

He was saying that the job of being a college athlete largely precludes being a strong student. Both are jobs and you can’t work hard at one without the second suffering. The primary job of young college football players is to play, not to study. Their schedules are designed to make it extremely difficult to accomplish both.

Perhaps he should have used UCLA as an example rather than Alabama but I have no problem with his basic point and I hate to see him getting trashed because of a Misleading Headline.

Tom Liberman

Donald De La Haye cannot Monetize YouTube and Play College Football

donald de la hayeI’m a Libertarian and my hate for the National Collegiate Athletic Association is as great as my dislike for any government agency. The case of Donald De La Haye reinforces that opinion. De La Haye has a YouTube channel which earns him money. The NCAA told him he is not allowed to do that unless none of his videos involves his athletic endeavors, which are essentially a significant part of everything he does.

De La Haye’s channel had over fifty-thousand followers before the controversy and more now. YouTube has a legal agreement with members that pays them money depending upon a number of factors including how many people watch the videos.

It’s important to understand that in addition to being good at YouTube, De La Haye is also good enough at football to have received an athletic scholarship from the University of Central Florida. This means he doesn’t have to pay tuition, room, and board while attending the University in exchange for playing football for the Knights.

In essence, De La Haye was told to either give up your YouTube channel or your scholarship. He chose the scholarship. I think it’s a wonderful decision but I’m saddened he was forced to make it.

Now, some of you will be confused as to why the NCAA does not allow its student athletes to have jobs. The idea is that in the past, star athletes were given essentially fake jobs and paid a good salary as an incentive to attend a particular school. Rather than spend the time and effort required to ferret out those doing wrong, the NCAA decided to punish every student-athlete by preventing them from getting a job. This rule predominantly hurt athletes from economically disadvantaged families because they need extra money for things like purchasing dinner for a romantic interest or having a night out with friends.

Basically, throwing the baby out with the bathwater as the expression goes. The NCAA recently agreed to allow exceptions to the rule which is why De La Haye was permitted to appeal and was given the supposed choice to continue his YouTube channel as long as he didn’t talk about his athletic endeavors. This was, of course, no choice at all. His entire life is largely wrapped around his athletic prowess. What the NCAA was asking was essentially impossible. How could he make any honest video about his life without mentioning football? But even that’s not the problem. Why shouldn’t he make money talking about football? What right does the NCAA have to prevent anyone from making a living?

The NCAA prevents athletes from selling their own signature to willing buyers but sells them itself in the form of silent auctions. The NCAA doesn’t put the names of the players on the backs of the jersey so the organization doesn’t have to give any money they get from sales to the athletes. I find the entire thing disgusting.

If a young man builds a career for himself we should be encouraging him. Sure, part of the reason he is popular on YouTube is because he is a good football player, but why shouldn’t he be able to profit off of that? Such profit is directly in line with the capitalistic ideals of our country.

Let the kid play. Let the kid make some money.

Tom Liberman

LPGA the Dress Code versus Sex Sells

dress code lpgaThere was an interesting turn of events when the Ladies Professional Golf Association passed new dress code rules for players on the tour. The codes basically attempt to eliminate clothes that are a bit too sexy.

It largely prohibits the display of too much leg, too much bosom, or too much shoulder. Let me first say the LPGA has every right set their own dress code. If they want to ban short skirts, plunging necklines, racerback shirts, joggers, and leggings; that’s their business.

That being said, the hypocrisy is rather rank. The LPGA has long promoted attractive players going as far as extending invitations into tournaments to particularly good-looking golfers who were not eligible by their playing ability alone. The modern version of this strategy is Paige Spiranac but it dates back as far as Jan Stephenson and probably beyond.

It’s also clear that women wear far skimpier outfits while running in track meets, playing beach volleyball, and we see plenty of panty-clad bums on some of the finest women’s tennis players in the world as they race around the court.

I’ll be up front, I’m a man who admires the fit form of female athletes. I’ve always been attracted to women with athletic figures. I don’t mind seeing a fine pair of shoulders, the sinews of a pair of strong legs in motion, or the firm upper arms of a woman who has seen the inside of a weight room. The fact that tight fitting clothes go along with better athletic performance is a happy coincidence as far as this fan is concerned. Boobs, I’m in the pro column.

The point here is that the majority of people enjoy looking at a fit athlete with a strong body. Sports Illustrated devotes an entire issue to naked athletes and another to women in, or partially in, swimsuits. That’s marketing. If more people watch LPGA events that will lure in more advertisers, which in turn means larger prizes for the participants.

That’s what bothers me about this new dress code. The LPGA has long attempted to market the better-looking golfers on their tour. Now they are upset some of the players are apparently doing the marketing themselves. Hey, it’s fine if you look sexy the way we like to make you look sexy, but don’t look hot the way you want. Not on our watch.

Again, it’s the LPGA’s decision to make. Rules are rules. But at least this observer finds them to be hypocritical in the extreme.

Tom Liberman

Erin Hills and Low Scores

erin hillsI’m watching the Livestream of the 2017 U.S. Open Golf Championship at Erin Hills and Tommy Fleetwood is leading the way at twelve under par. The USGA is not going to be happy. The bigger problem, what I think is going to cause a lot of consternation, is that nearing the end of the third round, forty-two players are under par. The U.S. Open is traditionally considered one of the most difficult tournaments of the year and usually only a handful of players finish better than even.

The United States Golf Association generally tries create a very difficult golf course. There seems to be a sense of pride in making the best players in the world struggle. Two years ago, the course at Chambers Bay was set up by the USGA to be all but comically difficult. Well, frankly, it was comical.

This year’s course is at Erin Hills which has wide fairways, large greens, and it is a par 72 as opposed to 71 or 70. There hasn’t been much wind and the best players in the world are having their way with the course. It’s beginning to look like this year’s winner will get close to the record, sixteen under, set by Rory McIlroy in 2011. The difference is that McIlroy won by eight strokes. That’s not the case this year. A fairly large number of players are in the hunt at ten to twelve under.

What I fear is the USGA will be embarrassed by this showing and set up Shinnecock Hills, the site of the event in 2018, to be extremely difficult.

There is something almost sadistic about the USGA and the way they try to make the courses difficult. The problem is that players are extremely good. I’m not saying anyone is better than Jack Nicklaus, but I think it can be said without fear of error, the average player on the PGA Tour is better now than at any time in history. There are a huge number of amazingly good golfers who can shoot fantastic scores. With this many good players, the chances multiple golfers will have fantastic weeks goes up dramatically.

This means the USGA must trick the course up in order to keep scores low. They tried this at Erin Hills by having very penal rough, but it didn’t work because the fairways are so wide. They also have rolled the greens to make them fast but damp weather and lack of wind is in the favor of the golfers this year. I don’t think there is anything wrong with good golfers having great rounds. I enjoy fantastic shots far more than circus greens like we had at Chambers Bay.

I don’t enjoy greens so fast that a player nails a shot a foot past the hole and then watches in horror as it runs all the way to a collection area. I don’t like viewing the best players in the world strike their shots with abject fear. I’m not saying make the course easy, I’m just saying don’t be offended if the best players in the world, in perfect conditions, light it up a little bit.

I guess we’ll find out next year, but I suspect my fears will be realized.

Anyway, I’m enjoying this year’s tournament immensely and love the beauty of Erin Hills. Great course meets fantastic players, sometimes the players win. No shame in that.

Tom Liberman

Tim Donaghy Claims the NBA Rigs Games

tim-donaghyA former referee by the name of Tim Donaghy is claiming NBA executives will instruct league officials to affect the outcome of the fifth game of the NBA Championship series between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The reason this topic is getting so much attention is the fourth game of the NBA playoffs saw an inordinate number of fouls called against the Warriors. This triggered a lot of outcry because the Warriors were ahead three games to none against the Cavaliers and many people saw these events as the league ensuring the lucrative series continued past four games.

I find myself quite ambivalent about this subject. While Donaghy was an official in the NBA he wagered on games in which he refereed and cheated in order to win the bets. I played sports all through my youth, and my heart has no room in it for cheating refs. Donaghy is a failed person. I don’t like him and I hate what he did. He betrayed the fans, the league, the players, and the other officials. If he says something I’m inclined to dismiss it out of hand.

On the other hand, I think the NBA has a strong and vested interest in the outcome of every series. There is a huge amount of money at stake. This NBA postseason in particular has not been as lucrative as it could be because the Warriors and Cavaliers won every game they played except one. Each series went only four games except one which went five. Each game generates millions of dollars in revenue. That is a lot of lost cash.

The money the networks pay to the league is recouped with advertising. There is every reason to believe the league itself, the venues, the parking garages around the stadiums, the vendors who sell product to fans, the networks, and countless others hope for a longer series.
It’s impossible to ignore these realities. The officials are well-aware the league would like the series to go on. I think Donaghy is full of himself when he claims the league will order the officials to tilt the game for the Cavaliers, but the reality is the league doesn’t have to give overt instructions. Everyone knows the outcome the league wants. And that everyone includes officials.

The league gives out assignments for the playoffs and the officials chosen for the finals make more money than those who are not. The league can easily make their desires known but they don’t have to do so overtly with specific instructions.

I’m certain Donaghy is a self-promoting jerk and his statement is opportunism at its worst. His declaration impugns the reputation of all the other officials and the league itself. However, I’m convinced the referees understand the league desires a Cavalier victory in game five. I don’t think the officials will overtly cheat but there are plenty of 50/50 calls in every game. This being the case, it’s quite possible for them to tilt the outcome slightly, although unintentionally.

The human eye sees what it wants to see, not what is really there. This is a problem in these situations. There will be calls that are incorrect and each one that goes the Cavaliers’ way invites suspicion.

What is my conclusion? Donaghy is a complete and total jerk. He is factually wrong about league executives giving explicit instructions to referees. But his overall point has merit.

What can be done about it? Nothing. It is what it is.

Tom Liberman

Kathy Griffin, Margaret Court, and the Freedom to Hate

kathy griffin margaret courtThere is one thing Kathy Griffin and Margaret Court have in common, the Freedom to Hate. I think both women and their supporters will vehemently deny this fact. They will argue the two are merely stating a firmly held opinion and not backing down. Their opinions are not based on hate but passionate belief.

I’m here to tell you; Court and Griffin are filled with self-righteous hatred and it completely clouds their ability to think about their words and artistic expressions. As vile as I think both of these ladies are; it’s their right to be filled with as much hate as they want. They can express that hatred in whatever way they want as long as it is not physically hurting other people. If they want to post vile pictures and make completely unsupported claims about homosexuals, whatever. Go right ahead. That is the Freedom to Hate.

Almost everyone else has the right to say whatever they want about either of the women. You can despise one and revere the other. You can hate them both. You can like them both, although that has to be an awfully short list of people.

Advertisers have the right to stop purchasing commercials for things in which they are involved. People have the right to not buy items they are selling or attend events at which they are appearing. The only entity that doesn’t have the right to do as it pleases is the government. Griffin and Court, vile as they might be, cannot be arrested for their words. They cannot be fined for their words. That’s what Freedom of Speech, or in this case, Freedom of Hate is all about.

The world has many people like Court and Griffin. People completely overwhelmed, for whatever reason, by hatred of other people. The good news is the vast majority of us aren’t filled with such hate. The problem is we get drawn in by all that rage. The need to tell other people how awful and wrong is their behavior.

One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is when to disengage. You’ve all encountered someone so filled with rage they are unwilling to listen to reasonable arguments. People so locked into a position talking with them is an exercise in frustration. My advice, disengage. Forget about it. Their lives are filled with anger. They spend it trying to find more people to hate, more people to harangue in a vain attempt to feel better about themselves. The problem is, of course, the hate they so feel is internally generated. Someone filled with self love just can’t be bursting with that sort of rage. It’s not possible.

The bottom line is Griffin and Court are allowed to engage in lives filled with hate. They can create as much art as they want that embodies this hate. They can say as many hateful things about others as they want. Naturally, they must face the consequences of this hate. Freedom to hate doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of hate. It just means they can’t be imprisoned or fined.

That is an important distinction. There are nations in this world where people are not free to express themselves so. There are states where anyone who dares speak out is imprisoned, tortured, murdered, and even their families punished. What happens in these states is not the eradication of unwanted thoughts but the multiplying of them.

The people in nations in which government has the ability to act in this fashion become violent. Instead of expressing their hatred with words and art, they act out as terrorists. They kill people.

You most likely don’t like what Court or Griffin is saying, but their right to do so is important.

Feel free to hate, it’s a right.

Tom Liberman

Bill Snyder and Corey Sutton

Bill-SnyderI wrote this blog post and it was accepted by Sport Digest but then Bill Snyder and Kansas State reversed their course and allowed Sutton to leave the school. I still think the article has some merit so I’m posting it here on my own blog anyway. Keep in mind it was written before the announcement to release Sutton from his Athletic Scholarship. Let me know what you think.

** END EDIT**

A college football player named Corey Sutton wants to leave Kansas State University but Head Coach Bill Snyder is so far not allowing it to happen. Snyder does this by refusing to release Sutton from his athletic scholarship. While Sutton is under scholarship to Kansas State, no other school can offer him financial aid. Sutton cannot afford, or claims not to be able to afford, the price of an education at another university.

Complicating this situation greatly is that Sutton tweeted some pretty nasty things about Snyder, a man who is considered by all who know him to be an outstanding human being. I don’t know much about Sutton but judging by the tweets he seems like a pretty immature young man. Reading the comments on the story it seems Snyder has a great deal of support on this, likely because of his long history of gentlemanly behavior.

I, like many commenting, would tend to give Snyder some benefit of the doubt but I’m afraid I have to side with Sutton, character flaws and all. Particularly after Snyder gave his reasons for refusing to release Sutton. Snyder basically said Sutton is a backup and Snyder can’t let all his backups leave or he won’t have any number twos. He also did something pretty despicable, he tried to justify his decision by telling everyone that Sutton failed two drug tests.

Note, Snyder didn’t tell everyone about the failed tests while Sutton was still playing for and helping the team. He only released the information after Sutton said some pretty awful things about Snyder. I get that, I understand the frustration being called horrible things can do, you want to lash out at the person so doing. But, as the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Snyder was way out of line to reveal the failed drug tests.

Snyder also made noise about not wanting to keep Sutton on the team based on the failed tests but being forced to do so by athletic department rules. If that was the case, I’d think he’d jump at the opportunity to get rid of Sutton.

In my opinion, Snyder is wrong, but within his rights, to refuse to release the scholarship. Sutton is not blameless in all of this. He should have announced his intention to depart earlier, leaving Snyder time to bestow the scholarship on a new player, a junior college transfer most likely.

Sutton seems like an immature jerk. I’m not sure why Snyder wants him on the team. Keeping him there can only be a distraction. Perhaps he merely wants to be cruel to Sutton, although this is not in keeping with Snyder’s well-known character.

Honestly, I’m really not sure what is going on. I can say with certainty that it’s a mess.

Tom Liberman

Gary Player is a Jerk and Rules Sticklers are No Fun

gary playerGary Player is one of the greatest golfers in history. He’s also pretty well known as a jerk. Golf is a sport known for being incredibly strict about rules interpretations. All of these things were on display when Player ranted against a record Bernhard Langer set, or didn’t set, this weekend.

Player is upset that Langer is being credited with winning the most Majors on the Senior PGA Tour. Langer won his ninth at the Senior PGA Championship which eclipsed the eight won by Jack Nicklaus. Except, The Senior Open, the British Senior Open to most people, was not always included as a Major. Player won The Senior Open when it was not considered a Major three times. This technically brings his total of Senior Majors to nine.

The reason The Senior Open wasn’t considered a Major on the Senior Tour like it is on the PGA Tour is because it wasn’t well established in those first few years. It has since become a Major Championship.

Thus, we arrive at the situation in which we find ourselves. Player is upset he is not recognized as the all-time leader in Senior Majors. For a man with a massive ego like Player, this is intolerable. He must speak out angrily and has done so.

I think there’s an interesting reality in all of this. Player is an egomaniacal jerk which he has displayed on any number of occasions. However, in this case he has a point. The Open has been considered one of the premier tournaments in all of golf for over a hundred years. The fact that the Senior Open wasn’t considered a Major Championship during the years Player won three times seems like a rather petty distinction.

But petty distinctions are what the rules of golf are based upon. Those who interpret such rules are notorious for enforcing them to the letter. In this case Player comes out on the wrong end of that understanding. The Senior Open was not a Major Championship when he won and therefore his total wins do not take those into account. A more generous interpretation of the Senior Open wins would give Player nine wins. The fact that the Senior Open was later designated a major indicates its importance.

The end result of this little contretemps proves at least two things. Player is, as advertised, a jerk. Those who enforce the rules of golf are, as history proves, ridiculous sticklers for the letter of the law even when it subverts its intent.

I suppose it’s nice you can count on some things.

Tom Liberman

Why is Terry Frei Very Uncomfortable?

terry freiA former sportswriter for the Denver Post, Terry Frei, wrote that he was “very uncomfortable” with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indianapolis 500. The Denver Post fired Frei after a second tweet in which he seemed to associate Sato winning the race with the death of his father’s friend in the Battle of Okinawa.

There is the predictable political divide with one side hailing Frei for speaking his mind and calling critics snowflakes while the other insists it is Frei who is the snowflake and clearly a supporter of President Trump. I’ll leave the political nonsense to the jungle gym crowd where they can scream and yell at one another and accomplish nothing. I’d like to examine why Frei is uncomfortable. Because in this feeling he is not alone.

What’s important to state is there is no doubt the win made Frei uncomfortable. He felt that way and no apology can change his feelings. He was so uncomfortable he felt compelled to tweet about it. But from where does that feeling of discomfort arrive? Frei did not know his father’s friend at all, he did not serve in World War II, he has suffered no injustice from anyone Japanese. Certainly, Sato himself has done nothing to Frei. There is no personal animosity between Frei and Sato. And yet the victory makes Frei uncomfortable.

Maybe I’m wrong but I think the heart of Frei’s uncomfortableness is the notion people from Japan represents something he does not like. His dislike becomes more palpable when the race in question comes on Memorial Day. A day to honor fallen soldiers.

Frei learned to dislike or even hate Japanese people reading about the death his father’s friend. He carries mementoes that once belonged to the man. He has, bear with my amateur psychological diagnosis, almost taken on the role of that man. He seems to believe, in some sense, that he is carrying on the legacy of his father’s dead friend. He has written about him. He has learned to hate Japanese from his story.

I’m not trying to criticize Frie, although I’m sure it looks as if I am. I’m trying to understand how someone who has never had anything done to him by someone from Japan can clearly feel so deeply about an issue. His feelings are terribly wrong and he admits as much in an apology. He became emotionally overwrought. I get all that.

This pathology is important. I hated people of Arabic descent in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack. When I read about a white nationalist stabbing two innocents to death on a train in Portland I want to kill him and all those who espouse his views. The same hate Frie clearly feels, although he rationalizes it by merely saying he is uncomfortable, is within us all.

This hate fuels much of the sentiment we read each and every day in diatribe filled comments. This hate is what fuels the enemies of the United States. They hate us for what we have done. We hate them for what they have done. Frie hates the Japanese even though they did nothing to him, it is second-hand hate but it is real. He understands and controls that hate. He’s not spouting off nonsense or advocating killing anyone. He controls his feelings and understands their origins.

I think it’s important to understand from where we generate this hate. Those who cannot, or choose not to, understand the hate fall victim to it. Their own lives are consumed and destroyed by these feelings. They project their feelings onto anyone who is perceived to be associated with the same group as the one so hated.

They convince themselves everyone around them feels the same way and they must take extreme action. This is how a terrorist is born.
Frei is nowhere near this terrible fate. He is merely a peripheral victim. He lost his job and that’s pretty serious. But he didn’t do anything physical. He is not in prison. He is still alive.

What Frei did is within each of us, much worse lies below the surface of our civility.
I think that is the lesson for us all. Understand from where the hate comes. Understand it, control it, and be a better person. Don’t let it control you. Nothing good can come from this hate and rage.

Try to be a decent human being. Frei failed but his failing is not as egregious as it might have been. I’m more than willing to give him another chance. I hope others feel the same way.

Tom Liberman

NBA Draft Lottery and the Appearance of Impropriety

draft lotteryThe NBA Draft Lottery is an annual event in which the fourteen teams that failed to make the playoffs in the National Basketball Association determine in which order they will draft players. In every other sports league there is no lottery, the team with the worst record drafts first and it proceeds in reverse order from there. Why does the NBA do this? Particularly with the potential for accusations of impropriety all but inevitable.

In the lottery system, the team with the worst record has a greater chance of drafting first, but an element of randomization makes it entirely likely this does not come to fruition. In fact, the team with the worst record has drafted first only seven out of thirty-three times. The team with the second worst record has drafted first four times while the team with the fifth worst record has drafted first five times.

In this year’s draft the Los Angeles Lakers ended up with the second pick, which is in line with their record for the season. Even with this statistically probable outcome, people are outraged. It is considered extremely likely the team will select a young player named Lonzo Ball. Ball is from the Los Angeles area and it was widely speculated the lottery would be rigged to have the Lakers draft second.

This is not the first time such accusations have plagued the league. The very first draft lottery was in 1985 and the New York Knicks were awarded the first choice despite finishing the previous season with the third worst record. They selected Patrick Ewing. This was widely considered to be what the NBA desired and the league has been beleaguered by insinuations of foul play in the lottery ever since.

Certainly, the days up to the lottery are filled with speculation about which team will draft where and on the day of the draft there is a special television show. This is no different than it is for the NFL and, to a lesser extent, the other professional sports leagues.

So why does the league persist with the lottery? In essence it unfairly both penalizes and rewards teams for their actual finish in the league standings. It gives rise to conspiracy theories of all kinds which the league must battle. I’m honestly not sure what is the answer.

In reality I think the entire draft is a shady process. Should not every young athlete have a chance to negotiate with any team that desires her or his service? I suppose that’s an argument for another day.

Does anyone else have a theory why the NBA uses the lottery system? It’s beyond me.

Tom Liberman

The Decline of Golf

decline of golfThe year was 2006 and Tiger Woods won The Open Championship, the PGA Championship, and six other events. The game of golf had 30 million regular players. Courses both public and private were being opened and designed all over the country. The world was bullish on golf and apparently rightly so.

Since then the total number of players has dropped by more than five million despite the population rising. More golf courses are closing than opening and only a small number of highly exclusive courses are even in the planning stages anymore.

What happened? It’s a complex question and there are many factors involved; including lack of star power, economics, and the time and difficulty required to play. What I’d like to focus on is the nature of economics. If golf was banking or car manufacturing there would be panic in Washington D.C. and in statehouses across the country. How can we save golf? It employs so many people. It provides an entertainment outlet for many more. We can’t let it fail.

A once thriving industry is struggling badly. People just don’t want to play anymore, for whatever reason. That’s the nature of economics and capitalism. The fact courses are closing all over and the government isn’t intervening is exactly how it should work. If a golf course cannot generate enough revenue to stay open, it should close. This means economic hardship for the employees. It means I have fewer options when I want to play a round.

What will be the result? The golf industry is coming up with innovate ways to solve the problem. There is talk of six hole courses. Courses with bigger holes to make playing a round easier. There are many ideas being discussed and implemented. Perhaps some of them will work and a new generation of golfers will once again fill courses, or perhaps it will go the way of the horse and buggy. I don’t know. I can’t know. No one knows. That’s the nature of this world.

What government often tries to do is alleviate this uncertainty. It is not merely economics. It is lives. When the golf industry falters, any number of people are affected in a negative way. Government tries to assure people it will be fine. They will prop up the golf industry so no one loses their job. So there is always a place to play. It’s a reassuring thought. Gosh, it’ll be great. We’ll never have to worry about the course closing. I’ll always have a job and be able to pay for the food on my children’s table. Thanks, government.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. When the government attempts to prop up a failing business or industry they are merely delaying the inevitable. When a business fails through natural capitalistic forces, it does so in a way that allows for it to be replaced. If people are not playing golf, they are doing something else. In this other thing there are jobs, there is security.

I think it’s important to consider where we would be today if the government hadn’t intervened in the Global Financial Crisis of 2015. Many of the car dealerships and the ancillary suppliers would have had a hard time, but now we’d have vigorous young companies established in their place. The industry would have been reborn, people need cars, that is not going away. Perhaps in the innovative storm that followed the demise of the industry we’d have fully automatic cars by now.

It is clear to me if those banks that made foolish loans had simply been allowed to go bankrupt, others would have risen in their place. And the new ones would probably not have charged me nearly as much to simply withdraw my money from my own accounts.

It is important to remember one vital fact. While failure is a disaster for one person, it is opportunity for a dozen more. It eliminates the bad and allows for new ideas to enter the market. These new companies are agile, vigorous, and provide a service wanted by the people. This is why capitalism, largely unfettered, is such a good thing for all of us.

The decline of golf is an important lesson in economics.

Tom Liberman