Pam Oliver had a Bad Day

Pam Oliver

There’s a bit of an uproar in the sporting world because veteran sideline reporter Pam Oliver had a tough go of it at the Packers and Rams football game the other day. I did not see it live as I’ve pretty much quit on football, but during the game there were any number of reports about her troubles.

Pam Oliver has been a fixture of sideline reporting since she joined Fox Sports back in 1995. Her performance at the most recent game included stumbling to get out sentences and a general appearance of incoherence. Many people expressed concern, and because it’s the Internet, some poked fun at her.

Then I saw an article about the entire thing written by Donovan Dooley of Deadspin and I felt the irresistible compulsion to enter the fray. Dooley is angry that people would dare question Pam Oliver after her many years of excellent performance. My problem isn’t with Pam Oliver, who clearly was out of sorts, but with Dooley and his inane article.

Pam Oliver is a legend who doesn’t need anyone to defend her. Is the opening line of the article which then goes on to both defend her in every paragraph and attack both those who expressed concern and those who made light of the situation. If your opening sentence is a direct contradiction of the entire tone of your article, it’s a hint there is a problem.

Even Dooley admits she had an off day. After watching some of the links, it is clear her inability to properly express her thoughts was more than a little alarming. The idea she had some sort of medical condition, or perhaps a bad reaction to medication, or something else was entirely reasonable and those who expressed this seem to me to be far more concerned with her well-being than Dooley. Dooley presumably would stand idly by, pushing away emergency crews, while she collapsed onto the turf and began convulsing, claiming she just needed a moment.

I don’t care how great you’ve been historically, if you’re clearly struggling in the manner Pam Oliver was, expressing concern is the normal and appropriate reaction. Sure, some people were making fun of the situation and if Dooley wants to take those people to task, so be it. He makes no distinction between those expressing concern and those poking fun.

Frankly, if you’re going to be a public figure, you better be ready for some ridicule. Believe me, I blog plenty and write novels so I’ve heard plenty of criticism, particularly when I make mistake, rare as that might be.

One thing Dooley gets right is that Pam Oliver doesn’t need anyone to defend her. She’s a capable, professional, and talented sports reporter. She doesn’t need anyone to defend her, especially a wannabe savior like Dooley. I’m sure she can defend herself quite nicely.

Were I Pam Oliver, I’d be more pissed at Dooley than any of those who expressed concern over her performance.

Tom Liberman

Johnny Manziel Misleading Headline

Johnny Manziel

I admit it, I clicked on the Johnny Manziel Misleading Headline. It’s one of those Misleading Headlines that isn’t overtly deceitful but is designed to lure the unsuspecting news junky. The Football World reacts to the Johnny Manziel News is the wording and, if you know anything about the mercurial life of Manziel, you might make the assumption I did.

The news about Manziel is rather pedestrian if you read the article. He’s signed to play in a potentially new football league but he’s been bouncing around from one league to another for a while now so it’s not really worthy of a major story. However, because of Manziel’s history of mental difficulties it’s entirely possible a foolish fellow clicked on the link based on the thought that perhaps Manziel had finally managed to kill himself.

Now, I hope this new football opportunity works out for Manziel although I’m skeptical, as is I’m sure everyone else. I hardly think the football world, whatever that might be, is spending much time reacting to anything Manziel does.

So, the Misleading Headline of the Week award is given to The Spun. Well earned!

Tom Liberman

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity

President Trump just signed into law something called the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act which passed through Congress without so much as a whimper of disapproval. The law allows our government to arrest any athlete, for up to ten years, who uses a prohibited substance or method in any competition in which a U.S. athlete takes part.

The bill passed the house by a voice vote and senate with unanimous consent. That means no one particularly objected to the idea of the United States government arresting and imprisoning athletes from other countries, participating in events in other countries, for such violations. To paraphrase the Sopranos; Where do we get the balls?

For those of you who think this is perfectly acceptable; would you agree to another country passing such a law and arresting U.S. athletes, imprisoning them for up to ten years, seizing their property and forfeiting it to that country? No? I thought not.

Any athletic organization can make any rule it wants as far as I’m concerned but why is the government of the United States getting involved? If some Somali runner tests positive for a steroid while running in a race in France, law enforcement from the United States can swoop in and arrest her or him? Imagine if the United States now had Femke Van den Driessche in prison for her actions in cycling.

The idea we can police the citizens of other countries in this manner is insane. When a U.S. citizen is murdered by a foreign national in a foreign country, it is up to that country to prosecute the criminal, not the United States. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act overtly gives law-enforcement from foreign nations the right to operate in the United States.

In Afghanistan the limit for blood alcohol in a driving accident is a big 0.00%. Can law enforcement in that country come to the United States and arrest anyone who had an accident involving an Afghani? Would you support that? No! Obviously.

By passing the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act we give every law, in every foreign nation, the right to be enforced in the United States regarding the citizens of the original country. No one in Congress managed to think about this? None of our esteemed Representatives and Senators?

Where do we get the balls? Where?

Tom Liberman

A Fall Football Game to Remember

Fall Football Game

Many years back I was invited to play in a fall football game by a couple of friends. Two hand touch. Hard touch. I was a stranger to all the participants except the brothers Burlis who invited me. There was a quite a crowd, perhaps sixteen of us, enough for a little eight on eight.

We played on a big grassy field and the endzones were marked by nebulously noted shrubbery and trees. Sides were chosen not by a captain but a sort of mutual moving to one side of the field or the other until all was arranged. It turned out we had an even number, a harbinger of things to come. A good omen for a fall football game.

In the first series it quickly became apparent my side was not quite as athletic as the other team but perhaps our average player was better than theirs. The leaders of my team were somewhat sports savvy and we arranged a zone style defense to combat their better stars, something even our worst players understood and could carry out with some skill.

Play in that fall football game proceeded apace. The going was tough. Our zone proved nettlesome for their stars and even I managed a juggling pick six to tie the game at one point. The game went on but every time one side managed to push the ball past the aforementioned tree line, the other team would respond in kind.

No more than a single score separated the two sides and the hard touches sent me, and a few others tumbling to the ground in grassy delight more than once. Spirits were high, the competition was equal and while not fierce, friendly and unforgiving.

The hours passed quickly and people began to glance at their watches, this was before smart phones. A next touchdown rule was implemented and both sides failed several times before the ball was pushed across the line in a hard-fought finale.

Nobody on the losing side, mine, was particularly upset and the winners were not overly celebrative, it was a moment of joyous fall football for all, it was all winners and no losers. As we walked off the field one of the brothers who invited me, mentioned that it was a good game. He was not a particularly sport savvy fellow but still recognized the moment for what it was.

I smiled and shook my head. “You have no idea how rare that is,” I told him.

Here’s to wishing everyone a fall football game like that, even if it’s not football.

Tom Liberman

Troy Aikman and the Flyover

Flyover

The fact Troy Aikman and Joe Buck have their patriotism put in doubt when they question the need for a flyover during an NFL game with low attendance starkly tells us about something called Ego Defense. It’s not about disagreeing; it’s about feeling devalued. It’s not about Aikman, Buck, and the flyover, it’s about your own fragile ego.

I wrote about taxpayer money going to sports teams for various military tributes and a flyover is essentially the same thing, the money being paid for advertisements comes out of taxpayer money. With the country in suffocating debt, exacerbated by the failed Covid-19 response to the tune of $3.1 trillion this year alone, it’s more than a legitimate criticism from Aikman and Buck, it’s a simple fact. Why is the military spending tens of thousands of dollars to perform a flyover for a largely empty stadium?

Why is your self-worth wrapped up in criticizing Aikman and Buck? How is it that you somehow fool yourself into thinking you’re patriotic when you accuse others of not being so? It’s simply an Ego Defense.

In the words of a Psychology Today Article: … criticism is an easy form of ego defense. We don’t criticize because we disagree with a behavior or an attitude. We criticize because we somehow feel devalued by the behavior or attitude. Critical people tend to be easily insulted and especially in need of ego defense.

The article goes on to explain those who feel the need to criticize do so out of feelings of unworthiness. My own anecdotal experience confirms this quite thoroughly. Those who feel the need to criticize others are doing so out of their own feelings of self-loathing. They must convince themselves they are better than others and that’s exactly what is happening with Aikman, Buck, and the flyover.

Taking a knee during the National Anthem, wearing a BLM shirt, an Antifa shirt, waving a Confederate Flag, waving a Rainbow Flag, none of these things hurts you in any way, it’s all about you and your own problems. Your ego is fragile and needs defense. The more fragile your ego, the more you need to criticize everyone who does thing differently than you, the stronger your ego, the less you need to do so.

Aikman did nothing wrong, it’s pretty clear his opinion has merit, something we can discuss at length but is not the point I’m making today. If you think Aikman is less of a patriot because he chose to criticize the flyover, then it’s you with the problem, not him. Get over it.

Tom Liberman

Who Decides if there will be College Football?

College Football

Will there be college football is a question on the minds of many people these days but I have a different query. Who gets to decide if there will be college football? Coaches? Players? Politicians? The NCAA? Television networks? College administrations?

My question is not an easy one to answer because how far the tendrils of money spread from the game. If there is no college football it will affect a lot of people in a negative fashion and a lot of money won’t be made. In addition, my hatred of the NCAA as a whole undoubtedly clouds my vision. Nevertheless, I will attempt to come up with an answer.

First, I will dismiss the single party that absolutely should have no say whatsoever, despite their bleating to the contrary, politicians. There is no reason for politicians to get involved in this difficult decision in any shape, manner, or form. I tell all lawmakers, whether wanting a college football season to take place or against such, shut your miserable pie holes. Shut them now, stay out. Out!

The moneyed interests are significant. The NCAA makes a huge amount of money from the college football games. The colleges themselves, at least in the Power Five conferences, make enormous sums. The clothing manufacturers who give hundred million-dollar contracts to the schools to showcase their jerseys have a gargantuan financial interest. The television networks and all their employees have a stake. The coaches are paid to coach, not sit on the sidelines and their luxurious lifestyle is in jeopardy if there are no games. The star athletes get exposure and potentially lucrative professional contracts if they play.

The NCAA would certainly like there to be games but if the players intermingle with the regular student body they risk infection and transmission of Covid. The NCAA doesn’t have the luxury of creating a “bubble” like professional athletics. If the so-called student-athletes aren’t allowed to attend school; the entire façade of not paying the players falls apart. It becomes legally clear they are employees of the school, how this reality has evaded the courts for so long baffles me. I shall wax no further on that subject.

So, who decides? Everyone is tainted by financial gain or the potential of such. A clear decision in regards to the health of the players, coaches, and staff of the teams cannot easily be determined by people compromised so. It’s a mess, I readily admit as much, but I have an answer to my question at least.

Each university or college must be the final arbiters of the season as a whole. If a college is unwilling to open the doors to live, in-session classes, then it cannot expect athletes to perform. It is a decision for the boards and presidents of the schools in question. If one Big Ten school says no and another says yes, that’s fine. Schedule accordingly.

Likewise, participation is a choice for each player, coach, and staff member. There are consequences certainly, a player who refuses to play might be removed from the team or have their scholarship revoked. A player who participates, catches Covid, and suffers serious medical consequences has every right to sue for damages.

It’s a messy solution, I agree. It’s a solution that will result in some schools playing and other schools not doing so, I admit. It is, to my mind, the only solution that makes any sense.

Freedom is free, it just isn’t safe.

Tom Liberman

Capitalism Changed the Name of the Washington Football Team

Capitalism Changed the Name

Make no mistake about it, capitalism changed the name of the Washington football team; not outraged Native Americans, not laws passed by politicians, not do-gooders. It was capitalism, pure and simple and that’s a good thing.

By now most sports fans, and plenty of those who are not, are aware Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington football team capitulated to capitalistic pressure from big money sponsors of the team and finally agreed to change the name. It’s about time. The thing to remember is that Native Americans, do-gooders, and politicians have been calling for the name change for decades. Snyder vowed he would never change the name. Never is now.

Everyone knows that capitalism changed the name when nothing else could convince Snyder. Money, pure and simple. The executives at FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and other sponsors told Daniel the money was ending. Nike did more than talk, the company pulled all Washington football gear from sale. That’s what it took. Not, mealy-mouthed things like: I’m going to stop selling your gear. Listen here, Snyder, your stuff is off sale. Go look at the website. It’s gone. Big round of applause for Nike.

That’s capitalism in action. Why did enterprise companies like FedEx suddenly choose now to make it clear the time had come? Because they feared people would stop purchasing their products and using their service. It’s likely the executives at those companies probably think the old nickname is offensive but they didn’t get an epiphany last week, they got a message from consumers. They passed that message along. The name changed. Follow the money.

This is the message of Economic Liberalism, the mantra of the Libertarian. You can pass as many laws as you want but people will find a way around them. People can scream and yell all they want but only when the purchasing patterns change do we see action. And action we see.

What can we learn from the fact capitalism changed the name? That capitalism works to ensure social justice if people want social justice. We rely on politicians but forget that most politicians are elected by a tiny fraction of the population. You want justice? Convince enough people to demand it with their money and you’ll get it. No politicians can do that for you. The power is yours.

Tom Liberman

Aston Villa and the Goals that did not Happen

Aston Villa

The Aston Villa futbol team is embroiled in an interesting situation that gives me the opportunity to speak about the ideas of Enlightened Self-Interest. Aston Villa was involved in two incidents, one last year and one recently and the way those situations played out brings interesting questions to mind in regards to what is best for the team. I’ve written about this before.

The incident a year ago involved Aston Villa and Leeds United. In that game Leeds United was fighting for promotion to the Premier League in English Futbol. I won’t go into details but each year the best finishers in the lower division move up to the Premier League while the worst finishers in that league move down. There are enormous financial interests at stake because being in the Premier League is far more lucrative than being in the lower level.

In any case, Leeds scored a goal while an Aston Villa player lay injured on the pitch. The Aston Villa team largely stopped playing after the injury assuming that game would be stopped. It was not and Leeds, as I’ve stated scored. There was a huge kerfuffle and the manager of the Leeds team, Marcelo Biesla, instructed his players to allow Aston Villa to score uncontested to make up for the situation.

This year Aston Villa is at the bottom of the Premier League and facing relegation. In their game against Sheffield United their goalkeeper fell back into the net while holding the ball. This is a goal. The Video Review team somehow managed not to see this despite it being readily visible to other cameras and almost every fan and player at the game. Play went on. The head coach of the Aston Villa team, Dean Smith, did not allow Sheffield to score a goal at the next stoppage in play.

This leads us to the idea of enlightened self-interest. It is easy to argue Leeds acted against their own interests by allowing Aston Villa to score while it’s equally easy to assume The Villa acted in their behalf by not conceding a goal. But, is this the case?

Leeds generated an enormous amount of goodwill by their gesture of sportsmanship. Their manager and the team as a whole are viewed upon as honorable and decent. Meanwhile, as you can well imagine, Dean Smith and his team are largely being vilified in the press and public forums.

Is the short-term gain of possibly getting to or staying in the Premier League worth the long-term loss of prestige and personal integrity? It’s not a question that has easy answer and different people will put forward reasonable conclusions on both sides. This is often the case when dealing with life, there are no simple answers, despite what pundits might tell you.

Now, of course, I’m no wall-flower. I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and not have an opinion here. I’m not that sort of fellow. If you read my blogs and my novels, you’ll know that I share my thoughts all too freely.

A pat on the back to Marcelo Biesla and Leeds United. You’ve got my support. A job well done. Dean Smith? Aston Villa? I won’t be cheering you on, ever. Not that you care.

Tom Liberman

Amplifying the Bad on Holey Moley

Holey Moley

Producers of the miniature golf show Holey Moley decided that amplifying the bad segments from season one for the second year was a good idea. Sigh. I actually semi-enjoyed the first season which pairs miniature golf with obstacles. I hoped they would fix the issues and remove the problems for the second season. Wrong again, Tom. Wrong again.

I recently ranted about how Lego Masters was nearly unwatchable because of the format; at least it was the first season and, hopefully, they will make changes for next year. Holey Moley had that very opportunity and decided amplifying the bad segments of the show was the best way forward. If you enjoy my rant blogs then gear up. If not, well, move along, nothing to see here.

The show pits twelve, eight for season two, golfers against each other in head to head competitions on holes which run a wide gamut of challenges. This is a problem. One hole consisted of a straightforward four-foot putt. Whomever took more strokes to finish was dumped from the platform into a pond. Another hole had competitors making long putts through a windmill which they then navigated themselves, risking being pushed into the pond. In other words, the challenges were completely different.

This leads to three problems. Sometimes a competitor in the first round ended up playing the same hole in her or his second or third round while their competitor had never played the hole before. This is obviously unfair. The second problem is some of the holes were so complex it took the players long minutes to navigate them. This meant not all the first-round matches could be shown completely. Finally, some of the holes were so difficult they required more physical ability than golfing skill giving an advantage to coordinated and fit competitors.

The same problem of too much time spent on skits and jokes seen on Lego Masters was present in Holey Moley, although not nearly as bad. Overly long introductions, explanations, and long periods spent where the hosts set up complicated and, largely, unfunny jokes took away from gameplay. So much so that some of the competitions were not shown at all.

What did they do for season two? The made the complicated and difficult holes longer and more physical so that is now almost an American Gladiator like contest. They spend even more time on promotion, skits, and nonsense. The essentially decided amplifying the bad was what people wanted. They might be right.

Maybe people want more hype, more dunking in water, more smashing into things, more stupid jokes, and less miniature golf. I am not one of those. It’s what I despise about most movie sequels. They spend time amplifying the bad things in the first movie, or even amplifying the good features until they are badly overused and boring.

I couldn’t even make it to the end of the first episode of season two of Holey Moley. Oh well.

Tom Liberman

Destroying Some People by Paying College Athletes

Destroying Some People

Reggie Bush says paying college athletes will result in destroying some people screams the rather misleading headline. The idea that athletes will soon be paid for their name, image, and likeness (NIL) is the basis for the article. While Bush’s statement is accurate, the gist of his point is about how young athletes coming into large amounts of money will attract those who hope to steal it.

The point here is the headline is completely misrepresenting what Bush is saying. The inference from the headline is Bush is against paying young college athletes based on the idea it will be destroying some people. In reality he is simply stating a fact. If young athletes, or any person, comes into a fairly large amount of money and they don’t have a solid financial background, unsavory people will attempt to steal that money and it has the potential to be damaging.

Now, I’d like to get a little deeper into an analysis of this simple fact. Many people, not Bush to be clear, will use this premise to argue against young athletes receiving money for their NIL. We are protecting this poor, helpless athlete from the terrible dangers of having her or his money stolen and life destroyed. Who is the we? That is the important question for me. The answer is simple enough, we isn’t the one being paid, it’s someone else on their self-righteous pedestal. That is really all you need to know.

The person to be paid needs to be protected by not paying them. We’ll take care of you because there is danger in being wealthy. You’re just not old enough, wise enough, careful enough, wary enough so we’ll watch out for you. This is the paternalistic nonsense that both politicians and those who want to control our lives spout almost continuously. We know what is better for you than you do yourself.

The danger lies in the fact they are sometimes quite correct. This destroying some people by the sudden accumulation of wealth is no idle fantasy. It happens. There are several options here and if you read Bush’s comments in full, he goes into them with great clarity.

His main suggestion is that young athletes be given a solid financial foundation from which they will be able to properly manage their newfound wealth. This is, without question, the best course of action. Another option is to simply give them the money and some percentage will fall victim to rogues. The final option is to tell them they just are not capable of managing the money and therefore you are doing them a favor by prohibiting them from having it.

When you examine these three options with a clear mind, it is obvious the third choice, withholding the money, is far and away the must unethical and disgusting. The terrible part is this is exactly what we’ve been doing for the last who knows how many years. Even worse, I’m sure you can find any number of people who will still argue it right now and they’ll think Bush was doing the same. He wasn’t.

Let people make their own mistakes while giving them as many tools as you can to make good decisions. This is the only correct answer.

Tom Liberman

Kris Bryant and the Cubs test Libertarian Ideals

Kris Bryant

There’s been an interesting story in the sports world involving Chicago Cub slugger Kris Bryant that has been simmering for five years. Bryant was a highly-touted young rookie for the Cubs that season but they kept him in the minor leagues for two weeks starting the season. This denial means Bryant must wait until 2021 to be a free agent and sign an enormous contract, rather than doing so this year.

Bryant lost an arbitration case in which he argued the Cubs made their move solely to deny him a year of service while the Cubs argue the two weeks were necessary seasoning for Bryant before being called to the major league club. As is my way, let us dispense with all nonsense. The Cubs kept him in the minor leagues back in 2015 for the sole-purpose of getting an extra year out of him without paying free agent prices. The argument the Cubs put forward is a lie. This is not the subject of my blog today.

What I want to examine is the Libertarian ideology that people, or organizations, generally do what is in their best interest. It can be argued the Cubs did what was in their best interest by holding back Bryant for two weeks. They basically got his services for almost the entire season and gained an extra year by doing so. However, Bryant is angry about it and has refused all long-term contracts the Cubs offered him. He wants out because he feels they cheated him. That is clearly not in the interest of the Cubs.

My beloved St. Louis Cardinals have a history of not resorting to this particular methodology as a way to keep players under contract. Often times, but not always, the player eventually signs a long-term contract under reasonable terms with the Cardinals. It can be argued that the strategy employed by both the Cardinals and Cubs is in their best interest. This is a problem with Libertarian Ideology in regards to enlightened self-interest.

We don’t always know what is in our best interest in the long run. It is also clear what is in the best interest of one side is not always in the best interest of the other, in this case Bryant and the Cubs are at odds over the subject.

Sometimes people and organizations behave in self-destructive ways that are not in their own interest. Where does this leave a Libertarian such as myself?

I understand that enlightened self-interest isn’t a line that can easily drawn and that sometimes it is impossible to do so. The question for me is if the arbitration committee gets to make that decision. Do they get to say the Cubs acted illegally and grant Bryant free agency immediately?

Major League baseball and the player’s union came up with a system. The Cubs manipulated that system. Bryant is the victim. It was a crappy thing for the Cubs to do to him but they followed the agreed upon system and that is really all we have to make any final determinations. Can a better system be implemented? Likely. Proceed to do so.

Tom Liberman

Was Golfer Ryan Palmer Wrong to Cause a Long Wait?

Ryan Palmer and the Long Wait

There’s an interesting story this week in the golfing world related to a long wait at the end of the 2020 Sony Open. Ryan Palmer hit a shot that looked like it went out of bounds; rather than playing a provisional ball, he chose to go look for his original and then, when it couldn’t be found, went back and played a second shot. This while the tournament leaders had a long wait of forty minutes on the final hole.

Normally when a player hits a shot like Palmer’s they will play a provisional ball so that, if the original can’t be found, they can immediately go to that one and continue play. Palmer chose not to do this which caused the long wait because he had to go back, setup and hit another shot, then finish the hole. The controversy is bigger because the two players waiting behind him were the leaders and such a long wait can, obviously, disrupt your round. In fact, one of the players hit a poor shot and wound up losing the tournament.

Palmer heard some angry opinions about his decision but remains, at the time I’m writing this article, unapologetic. He has stated that he’d do it the same way again in the future.

Let’s first get rid of the notion that I, or anyone else, knows better what Palmer should have done than he himself. It was his decision to make and he made it. Hitting a provisional ball in that situation is completely optional and he was not required to do so.

That being said, let’s talk about what a reasonable person might have done and if it’s permissible to criticize Palmer.

The entire purpose of hitting a provisional ball is to alleviate the wait of competitors behind you. It’s the polite thing to do. This was the final hole of a tournament and Palmer was well-aware the two players behind him were vying for the tournament lead. At the time he made his decision he was still in contention himself although the penalty he incurred from his wayward stroke dropped him down the leaderboard.

There is no doubt in my mind that a polite golfer would have taken the provisional ball. That even in the heat of the moment a golfer who neglected to do so would offer up a mea culpa and apologize to the golfers affected by the decision.

Palmer is choosing to be impolite. He chose to ignore the possibility of the lost ball and potentially inconvenience the players behind him. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people saying exactly that. Just as it is Palmer’s right to be unapologetic.

People are allowed to be rude and they don’t have to apologize but you get to, going forward, treat them appropriately based on that knowledge, that’s your decision. The other competitors on the PGA tour can deal with Palmer in any way they want, Patrick Reed is learning that lesson, or not learning it, even as we speak.

Tom Liberman

Congress Tries to Save Minor League Baseball

Minor League Baseball

A bi-partisan group of legislators from the United States Congress is angry that Major League Baseball is losing money on their Minor League System and wants to eliminate 42 teams. The reason members of Congress are mad is because the teams headed for oblivion are in their districts. So what? You might say if you have Libertarian leanings. What can Congress do? Plenty, and that’s the problem.

Congress has the ability to make or break a business by passing legislation and that is not what the Founding Fathers wanted and it is not a power Congress should have. What can they do? They might refuse to grant visas to international players, they might change broadcasting rights to not allow teams to have exclusive home territorial rights, they could even repeal Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption. This is the power that Congress wields when we grant its members far more authority than they should have.

First off, I’ve railed against the antitrust exemption before, but it’s important to understand by allowing Congress to “help” baseball in the past, major league executives are de facto telling Congress they can hurt them in the future.

When Congress establishes a system which fast tracks talented athletes through the system while gifted computer analysists are held up, we are agreeing that Congress members can help one industry and hurt another. We then don’t get to be angry when Congress members changes their minds.

This is the root problem with granting government too much power in the first place. We generally give them such authority to right a wrong and often have the best intentions in mind. However, eventually someone comes into office who doesn’t agree with prior legislation but now they have been given the power to use that cudgel in any way they see fit. We cheered when they used it to help us but, oops, now they are going to hold it over our heads unless we do as they want. This is legislative tyranny, this is not freedom.

Baseball should be allowed to run their minor league baseball teams, largely, in any way they desire. If those minor league baseball teams are unprofitable, then so be it. It’s their call whether to keep them, it cannot be the job of government. And yet it apparently is. That’s how far we’ve slipped in this country. Our elected officials believe they should have the authority to tell Major League Baseball executives how to run their farm system.

It boggles the mind.

Tom Liberman

Evander Kane Gambling Debt Illustrative

Evander Kane Gambling

A news story just broke about a hockey played named Evander Kane and the fact he apparently owes the Cosmopolitan casino in Las Vegas half a million dollars in unpaid markers. He reportedly ran up the debt when his team, the San Jose Sharks, were playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the NHL playoffs in April.

I’m sure there will be many people lamenting the fact that Las Vegas, a center for gambling, now has professional sports teams when for many years the various leagues actively prevented such from happening. They will talk about the situation Kane finds himself in as a dire warning as to why athletes should not be traveling to Las Vegas on a regular basis. We will soon have a Las Vegas NFL team and it’s likely an NBA team and MLB team will eventually join them.

The idea being that athletes who end up owing large amounts of money to gambling houses are potentially corruptible. Kane might be tempted to pay off the Cosmopolitan by playing a bad game on a night when the casino had a lot of money bet on his team to win.

To me, the situation quite starkly illustrates exactly the opposite. The difference is the Cosmopolitan has a legal recourse to get Kane to repay the money. That’s the entire point of the lawsuit they’ve filed. Illegal gambling operations have no such leverage and must look for other ways to get the money back. That’s essentially the entire argument against making things like gambling illegal in the first place.

Kane would have found an outlet to place his wagers even without being in Las Vegas. I readily admit being in the location makes it easier, but athletes have been going into gambling debt long before there was an NHL team based in Las Vegas. You can’t prevent someone from gambling, so the best way to stop an athlete from becoming beholden to criminal gambling enterprises is to allow them to gamble legally. Then the casino can sue her or him for the money rather than extort it some other way.

People certainly seem to think making immoral activities illegal is a good idea but generally such laws create a far worse situation than the actual unethical actions. People are going to gamble anyway, that’s reality. The fact Kane can legally be pursued for the money the casino claims he owes makes sports safer.

Tom Liberman

The Difficulty of Opioid Testing in Professional Sports

Opioid Testing

The recent death of Los Angeles Angles pitcher Tyler Skaggs from an overdose has led many people to call for Opioid Testing in Major League Baseball and professional sports in general. Most people seem to think Opioid Testing is a great idea. It’s my opinion those of such an opinion neglect to acknowledge the reality of professional sports and that’s what I’d like to discuss today.

The reason we sports fans get to marvel in the astounding performances of professional athletes across the athletic spectrum is because of pain management techniques including a large amount of opioid use. I well understand we’d like to believe athletes are able to put on these amazing shows night after night without the aid of pain management techniques but such is self-delusion. Top-level athletes push their bodies to the limit day after day and started doing so at a young age. They are beat up.

The way trainers get the athletes back on the field is through pain management and opioids are a big part of it. This is not something limited to professional athletes. I played baseball as a ten-year-old and I wasn’t given opioids but I got injured even then. By the time an athlete reaches high school their bodies have already been subject to enormous stresses. Team doctors give them opioids so they can get on the field and entertain us, me, the sports fan. That’s reality.

This being true, how exactly is a plan to implement opioid testing in professional sports ever going to work? If many, potentially the majority, of players are taking opioids then it becomes impossible to implement a program to test for them. There is no test that can tell the difference between heroin purchased illegally from Oxycodone prescribed by a team doctor.

It is entirely possible Skaggs got addicted to opioids because trainers started giving them to him when he first suffered significant pain from pitching and that might have been at a very young age. I have no knowledge of such a thing but it’s not difficult to imagine quite a number of professional athletes have been taking prescription opioids for a long time.

This is the price they pay to entertain us, me. So, before I get on my high horse and start calling for Opioid Testing, perhaps I should examine my role in all of this, my responsibility in their pain, addiction, and even death. Pain that will follow them throughout their lives.

I understand it is their choice to play sports, it is their choice to follow the advice of team physicians and take opioids to begin with, to potentially become addicted. I do not absolve them from responsibility but I refuse to shriek from a pretentious moral high ground.

Let’s be adults and face the reality of the situation.

Tom Liberman

The Wealth Gap between Poor and Rich in Athletics

Wealth Gap High School Football

The wealth gap in our nation is something that a lot of people are interested in and a new dynamic, in the form of athletics, brings an interesting perspective to the debate. Essentially, wealthy schools are absolutely crushing poor schools in high school football across the country. I just read an interesting article illustrating how the various states are trying to handle the situation.

There are a number of factors driving the phenomenon including better coaching, better nutrition, better practice facilities, better weight rooms, and the fact sometimes the best athletes from poor districts have to hold down jobs rather than play sports. What cannot be argued is the math behind the wealth gap problem. Teams from poor districts lose consistently to teams from rich districts, so much so that Minnesota, Oregon, and Colorado have change the rules for scheduling matchups. More states are contemplating doing the same.

In the past it was relatively simple. The level of football was determined by the number of students in the high school. Schools with large student populations played against other schools with a similar number of students.

Here in my home town of St. Louis that plan was thoroughly upended by desegregation and private schools. The best athletes from poor districts were transferred to financially stable districts or given scholarships by private schools; destroying the balance that once existed. That’s not what’s going on here.

What’s happening is something that we should take note of as an overall trend. Kids from wealthy districts or kids with wealthy parents are gaining an advantage so steep it is becoming almost impossible to overcome. We’ve seen simple bribery in the College Admission Scandal which I wrote about before but this is something else again.

The reality of the problem is demonstrated in the final score of high school football game. It becomes impossible to deny this wealth gap issue when rich high schools absolutely crush poor high schools in a consistent and statistically irrefutable way. Count the wins. Look at the scores.

Solutions are difficult to say the least but it’s important to be willing to acknowledge the wealth gap in this country exists and is problematic. Just allowing the poor high schools to drop down in division, which is largely the various states’ solution, is not addressing the real problem. High school football is telling us something. Are we listening?

Tom Liberman

How to Stop the Miami Dolphins from Playing to Lose

Playing to Lose

The Miami Dolphins are playing to lose and a lot of people don’t like it. The Dolphins have all but tacitly admitted they can’t make the playoffs this season and traded away their best players hoping to finish in last place and get good draft choices. This is not the first time we’ve observed such behavior and its been at least somewhat successful in the past.

The Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia 76ers have all employed the playing to lose strategy with varying degrees of success over the last decade. Many argue there is little that can be done to stop such behavior despite the obvious negatives associated with it. Mainly the players lose years out of very short careers and the fans have to sit through seasons of inept play with the hopes of victory at some undefined future point which sometimes never comes.

The way to change this behavior is simply to understand why it is being implemented in the first place. Teams try to lose because they will get better draft choices. The way sports leagues work in Canada and United States, but nowhere else in the world, is through drafts in which players are enslaved, that is say drafted, by a single employer and cannot negotiate with any other team. The worst teams draft first and the best teams draft last. I wrote about why the system is a Libertarian Hell already, please take a look at that article to understand the immorality of the system. Today I’m going to talk about how abolishing it also eliminates playing to lose.

Well, honestly, I don’t really have to do much explaining. If all players joining the professional ranks for the first time are allowed to shop their services to whatever team is willing to meet their price, there is no playing to lose. With a salary cap imposed by the various leagues it is up to each team to give the best contract to the player who will help her or his team the most. It’s done this way in college and across the world, so don’t fill my comments with suggestions on how it won’t work.

The best running back would certainly be incentivized to sign with a team that is in need of a running back and vice versa. This is the way it works for every other person first entering the work force and for all other businesses in the world.

Don’t like teams playing to lose? The solution is simple and ethically right. Win and win.

Tom Liberman

Fair Pay to Play Exposes NCAA Hypocrisy

Fair Pay to Play

There is a fairly big news story involving the Fair Pay to Play bill just passed by the California Legislature. I think there’s a great deal of confusion about the bill which the NCAA and Tim Tebow so virulently oppose. Let me explain it in simple terms. The Fair Pay to Play bill does not force colleges to pay athletes, it simply allows said athletes to sell their autographs, images, and likenesses. That’s it. All the hubbub Tebow and the NCAA are wailing about is simply athletes being allowed to sell their autographs and images.

Let me be even more clear. Right now, those athletes are forbidden from selling their own autograph! They cannot sell a picture of themselves but the NCAA does it all the time. Autographed memorabilia are auctioned off by the schools and the NCAA all the time. The school administrators, coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, and everyone else associated with the games profit off the name, images, and likeness of the players. Everyone except the players themselves.

The NCAA disgusts me and long has done so. I’ve written about this before. Now I’ll add Tebow to the list of people who profit off college football while insisting the players get nothing. I’m not sure how much more hypocritical it can get. How people can justify not allowing anyone to sell their autograph and image is beyond my comprehension. Nothing is more personal. Nothing is a greater natural right. My image is mine to do with as I wish as is yours.

You don’t have to be a die-hard Libertarian like myself to respect the individual’s right to sell her or his own autograph. No one else is prohibited from doing so except so-called amateur athletes. Not only is the bill not unconstitutional, as the NCAA and Tebow claim, it is the rules that prohibit it that are unconstitutional. How the NCAA has gotten away with this for so long is an indictment of our judicial branch and an assault on freedom. How is it that a law needs to be passed to allow people to sell their own autograph? That’s the real question.

Unconstitutional? Unconstitutional? You’re unconstitutional! You’re unconstitutional. The whole trial is unconstitutional. That sick, crazy, and depraved NCAA is stealing from those athletes and they’d like to keep doing it!

Tom Liberman

Did the Cleveland Browns Ban the Wrong Fan?

Browns Ban

In the first weekend of the NFL season the Cleveland Browns were demolished by the Tennessee Titans by a score of 43-13 and a fan dumped beer on one of the Titans players during the blowout. They looked into the incident and the Browns ban was announced. Now it appears they may have identified the wrong person and are backtracking on the Browns ban. I find their most recent reply to be lacking in an interesting way. I’ll get into that in a moment but first the incident in question.

There are videos and images of the beer pour and the offending fan is being universally panned. From these pieces of evidence, the Browns thought they had identified the culprit. They called him and informed him that he was banned from the stadium. The fan who was called, Eric Smith, told a Browns executive that he was not at the game but was DJing a public event. The executive insisted they had matched a tattoo although in images of the incident the offending fan appears not to have a tattoo. Both men are bearded to the Brown’s credit.

Here’s where it gets fairly interesting for me. It’s quite possible that Smith owned a ticket in the vicinity of the alleged beer dumping and his beard and general appearance led the team to think they had the right person and implement the Browns ban. That’s all well and good although perhaps they should have been more careful before making the call to Smith. Mistakes do happen. It’s the latest reply from the Browns public relations staff that bothers me. I’ll include it here.

Our investigation of the fan incident on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium remains ongoing. While we are continuing to gather information and have been in contact with multiple people as part of that process, we have not explicitly identified the individual involved or taken any formal action of punishment at this time. We will have no further comment until the investigation is complete.

This is the sort of mealy-mouthed half-truth I abhor. Perhaps the Browns didn’t official name the fan nor officially implement the ban but the pragmatic reality is the fan has been identified and was told of the banning. Why couldn’t the Browns issue a simple explanation? We thought we had the right person but, in our haste, may have made a mistake. We are continuing the investigation. How difficult is that?

We all make mistakes but it is our reluctance to admit them that leads to far more problems than anything else. We need look no further than the current political climate where a simple mistake in regards to what state would be hit by a hurricane has led us down a path of lies, denials, half-truths, and partisan insanity.

Tom Liberman

Antonio Brown and the NFL Helmet Kerfuffle

NFL Helmet Antonio Brown

There’s in an interesting situation in the NFL involving wide receiver Antonio Brown’s desire to wear the NFL Helmet of his choice rather than that mandated by the league. Until this season the players were allowed to wear whatever helmet they wanted but new rules only allow certified NFL helmets to be used. Brown wants to wear the same helmet he’s worn for his entire career but the league prohibits doing so and therefore he is filing legal injunctions against the league.

Certainly, the league has the prerogative to dictate uniform requirements. Their new rules affected a number of players in the league including Tom Brady who has expressed displeasure with the situation but so far complied. To fully understand the situation, we have to delve more deeply into the history of the league and the nature of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the role concussions play in it.

CTE is a terrible disease which seems to occur largely in athletes who play contact sports like boxing, football, ice hockey, and others. Players suffering from the symptoms of the disease and other difficulties sued the league and have won more than a billion dollars in various settlements to date. The league long denied any connection between brain injury and repeated concussions despite strong evidence suggesting otherwise.

The motivation for the change is clear. The league wants to do everything in their power to defend themselves from future lawsuit but also to protect players by using NFL helmets believed to be best for preventing head injuries.

It seems clear Brown should want to use a better helmet for his own self-interest but it must be remembered hockey players long fought against having to wear helmets and facemasks including even goalies. They didn’t feel comfortable in the new equipment and thought it impaired their ability to perform. People often do things that are largely self-destructive and what is the role of an employer in preventing such behavior? That’s essentially the question with which we are dealing.

I think the NFL helmet rule is perfectly reasonable. They are a private entity making uniform rules for their employees. If the same thing was being forced on the NFL by a government agency, I might well have a different opinion on the subject. In addition, the right to wear whatever NFL helmet you want is not protected by the Constitution of the United States so the league does not fall afoul of that important document.

As a Libertarian I sympathize with Brown. I think it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to wear the helmet of his choice but the reasons his employer are enforcing new rules are more than compelling, even if the new helmets prove ineffective in preventing brain injury.

Tom Liberman