Nick Saban and the NIL Kerfuffle

NIL

NIL is making news in the NCAA in a dust-up between Nick Saban, Deion Sanders, and Jimbo Fisher. NIL is an acronym for Name, Image, and Likeness. The state of California passed a law back in 2019 that allowed college athletes, so-called student-athletes, to profit from their NIL. From there a Supreme Court case followed and now the practice is legal and thriving.

Saban accused Jackson State and Texas A&M, coached by Sanders and Fisher respectively, of essentially paying players through NIL manipulation. Sanders and Fisher don’t like the accusation much and counterclaim that Saban is the one who used such methods in the past to get the best recruits.

The NIL Accusation is True

Saban claims coaches like Fisher and Sanders are going to local business leaders and getting them to offer prized recruits NIL deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. This in an attempt to win the recruiting battles which decide winners and losers in the NCAA. The teams that get the best high-school players win more. Full stop, end of story.

Saban is now losing out on some of the best players to Jackson State and Texas A&M. It’s important to understand Saban’s accusation is absolutely correct. Fisher and Sanders, and other coaches including Saban himself, are creating a pool of money contributed by interested business owners and offering it to the most highly sought-after recruits.

What Saban wants with NIL

Saban’s point is giving highly lucrative NIL deals to high-school recruits who have yet to play is a perversion of the system. The NIL is designed to reward the players on the team who become recognizable for their athletic performance.

Saban himself says he has no problems with players like Bryce Young making as much as they can from NIL deals. He believes they earned it with play on the field. Saban wants the NIL deals to be commiserate with the athletic ability of the players.

Saban suggests the current NCAA situation is like a professional sports league without free-agency rules and no salary cap. The team that wants the best players, gets them.

The Reality of the NIL Situation

Nicky-boy, I appreciate what you’re saying, I truly do. I think your intentions are honorable. It’s a lost cause. It’s not only the coaches engineering the payments to boost recruiting. Fit and attractive young women athletes in the NCAA are getting NIL deals at an astounding rate. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to anyone.

One wonders when the next Paige Spiranac will arise on the women’s college golf scene. Whoever she might be, she’s going to make a lot of money playing golf and good for her.

The underlying reality is if someone wants to pay someone, for whatever reason, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so? If an athlete can make a ton of money, make it. They are one play away from a career ending injury. Sure, the coaches of the world might offer the crippled player a job as an assistant water-boy for a couple of years, gee thanks.

Conclusion

It’s a free market economy in college athletics, finally! With a free market comes some bad with the good. As I said, Saban is right. Fisher and Sanders are absolutely engineering NIL deals for recruits in an all-out bidding war.

The teams that pay the most are going to get the best players. But, honestly, how is that different than its been for the last fifty years in the NCAA? The power teams get the best players and win the most games. Saban should understand that better than anyone.

Now, at least, the players get something out of it as well.

Tom Liberman

Greg Norman is the US Congress

Greg Norman

A lot of people are angry that golfer Greg Norman is in bed with Saudi Arabia in regard to a new golf league called LIV. He glossed over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi saying that “We all make mistakes”.

LIV is basically a league funded by money from Saudi Arabia where the biggest names in golf get paid extremely well no matter how they perform. Greg Norman is willing to ignore evil in order to make some money and people don’t like the blatant greed and amorality of this.

Well, readers, I’ve got news for you. Hold on to your hat. Take a seat. Greg Norman is doing nothing worse than our Congress has done for the last fifty plus years. If he’s guilty, so to is our system of government, to its rotten core.

Past Rants

I’ve ranted in the past, sometimes virulently, about how Saudi Arabia is not our friend and yet everyone in Congress gets down on their knees and shoves her or his nose where the sun don’t shine. Did we fly Saudi Arabian royals out of the country after 911 when the rest of our nation was locked down from flying? Yep.

Are we in bed with selling them weapons when they are murdering men, women, children, both born and unborn, in a wholesale slaughter in Yemen? Check.

Were fifteen of the men who attacked the country on 911 from Saudi Arabia? Yep. Is Saudi Arabia in actuality a far bigger cash cow for terrorists than Iran? You betcha.

Do they loan the son-in-law of the former president billions of dollars? No doubt about it.

Money

It’s a sick, disgusting lack of moral and ethical conviction driven by lust for money. Our congress is corrupt to its foundation when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Sure a few members of make noise about cutting them off but it’s the whistling of a parakeet against a hurricane. The Saudi Arabians own your politicians. Own. Don’t give me any partisan nonsense you Democrats and Republicans. You claim the ends justify the means and support murderous, terrorists, whose goal is to destroy the United States of America. You vote for the miserable politicians who justify their behavior with sick logic.

Greg Norman is the Bad Guy?

Yet, despite decades of absolute corruption from your politicians, who wave the American Flag around like they just won World War II, you vote for them time and time again. Greg Norman is the bad guy here? You’re the bad person here! Your representative in Congress is the bad guy here and you voted for her or him. Judges and Justices on the Supreme Court bench are the bad guys here. Our entire system is corrupted in part by money from Saudi Arabia.

You save your outrage for Greg Norman and a golf league while holding it back for your chosen politicians, presidents.

Conclusion

Greg Norman is scum but at least he’s not destroying my country. He’s in bed with murderers and you are too. Save your outrage for the people who deserve it, the people who are making decisions about the future of this country, if it has one.

Tom Liberman

A Mess of a Winning Time Episode

Winning Time

Any carry over from last week’s excellent episode of Winning Time quickly dissipated with this mess of an episode. No focus, no central theme, back to unnecessary salacious content, lots of fourth wall breaking, and just a general hodgepodge of an episode.

I honestly find it difficult to believe the people who put together Pieces of a Man also released Momento Mori. Same director, largely the same writers, and yet a completely different result. I find it unfathomable.

What went wrong with this episode of Winning Time? Let’s discuss.

Lack of Central Theme

I’ve discussed before how a central theme holds an episode together and allows other, smaller stories to swirl around it with an anchor to bring them home. The theme was readily available, the catastrophic injury to Coach McKinney. The necessity for assistant coach Westhead to grab the team and take over.

The episode certainly showed us the blood covered McKinney often enough but the other story line of Magic Johnson and his endorsement deals shared the spotlight. Frankly, both made good thematic elements but by splitting the episode back and forth between them with a cursory look at dementia inflicted Momma Buss only diluted the impact of everything.

The added theme of the financial troubles for Dr. Buss took up another big section of the episode. Each vied for supremacy and nothing really emerged. We just jumped from one scene to the next along all three plot lines. It ended up being largely confusing and unimpactful.

Too Fast

The various story lines just went too quickly. Magic’s relationship with his girlfriend and father came out of the nowhere. It seemed like a vehicle for the fourth wall breaking punch line of the Nike rep at the end. I’m not a big fan of an entire storyline dedicated to setting up a zinger at the end, even if the zinger is a good one.

Coach McKinney’s injuries and the team responding to them all happened so fast. It was just a whole bunch of scenes tenuously strung together. The emergence of Michael Cooper as a premier defender is an interesting story but you’d only get what was happening if you already knew the outcome. It wasn’t cohesive storytelling.

The loan situation was really interesting as well but it came in short snippets interspersed with the other stories. Everything just raced along toward zinger conclusions. The episode completely lacked the deliberate and intense pacing of Pieces of a Man.

Fourth Wall in Winning Time

Not surprisingly, this episode of Winning Time broke the fourth wall almost continuously from beginning to end. The previous episode resorted to this tactic only once or twice and briefly at that. This time we found ourselves listening to long monologs as characters explained their motivations and plans. I found it irritating, pointless and detracted from the interesting stories.

Conclusion

It’s a real shame of an episode following the brilliance of its predecessor. The show is still largely entertaining and worth watching but I hope we get more of the good stuff and less of the mess.

Tom Liberman

Pieces of a Man Winning Time’s Statement Episode

Pieces of a Man

Pieces of a Man is the fifth episode of Winning Time and what an episode! Booya. If you’re wondering how to craft a story properly, watch Pieces of a Man. It showcased fantastic acting, an intense and compelling story, and passion. An episode like this is why I love entertainment; this is why people filled stadiums to watch Greek Tragedies two thousand years ago.

I know I’m waxing overly poetic here, but it’s been a while since I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed a television episode. I’d probably have to go back to the heyday of the Sopranos to remember a time when I found myself so engrossed.

Last week I mentioned what a solid understanding of character Solomon Hughes brings with his portrayal of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If only I knew what awaited. Anyway, on with my review.

The Central Theme of Pieces of a Man

It is generally a good idea to have a central theme to focus an episode and the characters therein. In this case we leave Dr. Buss and Magic Johnson and focus on Abdul-Jabbar. We start with him as a young witness to terrible racial injustice. His father, a police officer and a devout Christian, does not see eye-to-eye with his son, Lew Alcindor.

Being a superb athlete and champion is not enough for Alcindor. This young man is a piece of what he will become but he wants more, he wants to be more. He comes to Islam and takes a new name much to his father’s chagrin but that is just another piece in the man that Abdul-Jabbar is becoming. It’s a fantastic start to the episode.

This isn’t about the Lakers, it’s about Abdul-Jabbar, but it subtly becomes about the Lakers. It becomes about Magic Johnson, Jack McKinney, and Dr. Buss. It’s a story about all of them and all the pieces of them. It’s a profound episode.

Salaciousness

I’ve complained about the unnecessary salaciousness in Winning Time. We get it here but it is part of the story. It’s part of the locker room. I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms. I played sports. The locker room scenes in movies with men in towels everywhere and overly condescending locker room talk always strikes me as fake. Not here.

Here the players talk about cut cocks with Wood Harris, in all his glory, playing the role of Spencer Haywood. He brings it to life with a monolog that sounds like the locker room. I believe! Whether it’s a true story or not hardly matters. I believe these are real athletes in a real locker room and that’s no easy trick. Most sports movies fail miserably in this regard because it’s difficult for an actor to portray a professional athlete.

The Other Characters as Pieces of a Man

Dr. Buss plays a small role in this episode which was an incredibly brave move and it works. While Abdul-Jabbar is struggling to reconcile what he has become as compared to the youthful energy and enthusiasm of Johnson, we also see Dr. Buss struggling to put together his pieces as well. Can he step back from the edge of the cliff and admire the view?

Will Abdul-Jabbar add another piece in his journey? Can Magic Johnson become more than a fragment, a single piece of a man? Can Jack McKinney put together the final piece that he’s been striving for all his life?

The Importance of Dialog

This episode functions on many levels. The conversation between Heywood and Abdul-Jabbar in regards to young Magic is thoughtful and moves the story forward.

The disagreement between McKinney and Abdul-Jabbar where the later exactly predicts the result of his performance is profoundly interesting. McKinney realizes that Abdul-Jabbar knows what he’s talking about. It brings their relationship to a new level.

The locker room fight between Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar trying to put together their own pieces and find their place in all of this is raw and powerful.

The conversation between the financial advisor and Dr. Buss brings us a deeper understanding of his struggles to put together his own pieces. Even Jeanie finding Paula Abdul to lead the cheer squad is interesting.

Abdul-Jabbar at the mosque talking with the Imam moves the story toward its inevitable conclusion. We know what’s going to happen but it’s the journey that compels us to keep watching.

The dialog pulls the entire episode together. There is no telling in this episode, just showing. No exposition. Just actors performing, owning their characters and their lines, pulling us into their world.

Conclusion

You’ve probably figured out I liked this episode. Go watch it. Well done. Well done, indeed.

Tom Liberman

The Fourth Wall in Winning Time

Winning Time and the Fourth Wall

Winning Time is an HBO series telling the story of the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s. The actors in the show break the Fourth Wall with great frequency and that is the focus of my blog today.

The show is about Dr. Jerry Buss who purchased the Lakers in 1979 and his attempt to build a championship team around young Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Jr. I’ll break any suspense by telling you I think it’s a pretty good show … at times. Then the actors break the fourth wall and it’s not so good.

What is the Fourth Wall?

The Fourth Wall is line between the stage and the audience. The actors are actors and the audience is the audience. An actor generally pretends she or he does not know the audience is out there watching. He or she performs. This means pretending to be the character in question rather than an actor portraying that character.

The purpose of the Fourth Wall is to immerse the audience in the performance. It is generally important for us to believe the person on the screen is Dr. Jerry Buss, not John C. Reilly an actor pretending to be Buss.

Why Ignore the Fourth Wall?

There are reasons to ignore the Fourth Wall and the character Deadpool from comic and movie fame is a perfect illustration. Deadpool understands he is a character and we are watching him. His jokes revolve around the idea of this self-awareness.

There is, in my opinion, no reason to do this in Winning Time.

Why Breaking the Fourth Wall hurts the Show

The show, when the actors are acting instead of mugging for the audience is quite good. The only time Reilly isn’t excellent in the role of Buss is when he’s talking to us. Rob Morgan is absolutely slaying it as Earvin Johnson, Sr. I believe every second of his performance as a caring, loving father and, not surprisingly, none of his scenes break the wall.

DeVaugn Nixon is excellent as Norm Nixon, worried about the young Johnson coming in and taking his job. Michael O’Keefe is superb as Jack Kent Cooke. Jason Clarke’s rage as Jerry West, whether accurate or not, comes across with red-hot intensity.

Largely, the only time the show doesn’t work is when the actors break the Fourth Wall. Doing this has two negative effects. First it immediately takes me away from immersion. I realize I’m watching actors and not actual events and people.

Second it is being used as exposition, to tell us something rather than showing it. A glaring example is when actor Gaby Hoffman turns to the camera and tells us she needs this job and then lets down her hair right before meeting with Buss. Why not just let down her hair? That tells us everything we need to know. I don’t want to watch Gaby Hoffman, I want to see Claire Rothman, a woman in a sea of misogyny, doing her job.

Black Culture

Getting away from the fourth wall for a moment I want to praise what appears me as a fair portrayal of black, urban culture. The family scenes with the Johnsons and the pedicure scene with Nixon rang very true to my eyes. The writers didn’t overplay these interactions to the point of parody nor did they hide the cultural norms of the community. They seemed true.

Now, I’m a white boy from the suburbs so I’m certainly not particularly well-qualified to make that judgement. I can say with utter honesty, the scenes convinced me, I was immersed.

Conclusion

It’s a good show but I wish they’d decided against going with a Fourth Wall breaking formula. The story of Buss, Johnson, and the others is fascinating on its own. That, of course, was not my decision to make and it’s not going to change.

I’ll be tuned in next week.

Tom Liberman

The Rooney Rule and Brian Flores

Rooney Rule

Brian Flores is the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins and former assistant coach of the New England Patriots. He is now suing the National Football League because of a sham interview he endured. There’s a lot of talk of racism and discrimination on one side of the conversation and a lot of, frankly, racism and white privilege on the other side.

What I’d like to talk about today is the Rooney Rule that engendered this entire controversy. The rule originated in 2003 after a statistical analysis of head coaches in the NFL proved that black coaches won a higher percentage of their games and yet were fired more frequently. That’s numbers talking, not anyone’s opinion.

What is the Rooney Rule?

The Rooney rule makes it mandatory for an NFL team to interview minority candidates for the head coach position. It doesn’t require a minority be hired for the job, just interviewed. There are a few exceptions but basically it just means minority coaches must be at least interviewed before a hiring decision can be made.

The object of the rule is to force teams to, at a minimum, listen to minority coaches and their plans. It’s an interesting plan with a valid idea behind it. I’ve often heard people who are generally racist, homophobic, antisemitic, or otherwise inclined defend their position with the idea they have friends in the category they despise.

The point being that if you meet someone as an individual, it becomes much more likely you will become friends with that person. Whereas, if you avoid ever meeting someone of the discriminated against class, you never get to know any of them. Not to say a person is not a racist because they know a black guy, it’s just more likely she or he become less racist.

Did the Rooney Rule Work?

From a statistical point of view, the Rooney Rule appears to work fairly well. The number of minority coaches in the league jumped dramatically after implementation and generally remains higher than numbers before.

That being said, what didn’t happen is impossible to prove. Perhaps more minority candidates might have been hired if the rule didn’t exist. Perhaps less. It’s impossible to say. Still, statistics bear out the idea that it works.

The Flores Situation

A situation regarding the New York Giant’s quest for a new head coach brought question to the implementation of the rule. Team officials interviewed Brian Daboll for the job and scheduled an interview with Brian Flores the next week. Apparently, they decided, after the interview with Daboll, to hire him. The rule means they cannot do so immediately, they must interview a minority candidate like Flores first.

Someone in the Giant’s organization told a mutual friend of Daboll and Flores, Bill Belichick, of their plans to hire Daboll. Belichick then sent a congratulatory message to who he thought was Daboll but was actually Flores. Flores is now suing the league for failure to implement the Rooney rule and is also personally and publicly humiliated.

My Take on the Situation

Having spent all this time explaining the Rooney Rule and the Flores situation, now I finally get to my point. The Rooney rule is written in such a way as to exempt NFL decision makers from actually having to consider a minority candidate. All they have to do is pretend to do so. And they can’t even manage that!

Just out of courtesy alone, human decency even, the Giant’s management team should not tell anyone their decision until after all interviews are completed. You never know when the next candidate is going be superior. It’s rude, it’s cruel, and I can completely understand why Flores is furious. I’d be angry also and, don’t even try to deny it, so would you.

I don’t see racism here so much as stupidity and cruelty. I’m not sure the lawsuit is going to go anywhere but hopefully NFL executives will learn to keep their yaps shut in the future.

As to the Rooney Rule itself. I actually think it’s about as well-written and implemented a minority hiring a rule as possible. There is no doubt racism in hiring exists. The problem with quotas is that they create enormous resentment, companies find a million ways to get around them, and the courts tend to narrow their implementation.

Conclusion

The Rooney Rule is fine. The NFL actually did a pretty decent job of creating an impactful rule without tying anyone’s hands, breaking any laws, or being discriminatory itself. As for the Giants? Morons.

Tom Liberman

Jon Gruden would have a Job if he was not an Average Coach

Jon Gruden

Overview

The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden, resigned after the release of a number of emails in which he makes distasteful comments. There’s a lot of bleating about Cancel Culture but the reality comes down to the fact that Jon Gruden hasn’t been anything better than an average coach throughout his career.

If Jon Gruden had a coaching record significantly better than 122 wins against 116 losses we’d hear all sorts of excuses from his bosses, talk about sensitivity training, how he is a good man who made a mistake, and he’d still have a job.

What Jon Gruden Wrote

I confess that I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Jon Gruden particularly when I hear him lying in order to excuse his behavior. He insulted his ultimate boss, Roger Goodell, calling him a “clueless anti-football pussy”. He and Bruce Allen exchanged pictures of topless Washington Football Team cheerleaders, a scandal we’re not here to talk about today.

Jon Gruden described DeMaurice Smith as having lips the size of Michelin tires and then lies and claims he just meant Smith had rubber lips, which apparently, Gruden wants us to believe is a euphemism for someone who lies. It’s clearly a reference to the large lipped stereotype of black men. You know it, I know it, and Gruden knows it.

I’d have more sympathy for Gruden if he admitted that he used a stereotype. Gruden is also lying when he claims he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. That’s a lie born of Cognitive Dissonance. Of course, he has racist thoughts, misogynistic thoughts, homophobic thoughts, murderous thoughts. We all have such thoughts from time to time. It doesn’t make us racist or murderers, it makes us human.

This constant bleating that no one is more whatever than me, I don’t have a bad bone in my body is utter nonsense. You can still be a good person even if you have bad thoughts, if you make mistakes, if you do bad things, if you say wrong things. If Gruden stood up and owned up, I’d be more sympathetic to his arguments.

That being said, the bottom line is he isn’t a consistently winning football coach and that is why he was forced to resign.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of hand-wringing and complaining about Cancel Culture from one side and condemnation as racist and homophobic from the other. As usual, it’s somewhere in between but that doesn’t play well with those who only see the world as a one-way street.

Jon Gruden doesn’t have a job this morning because he’s an average coach who made some mistakes. When you’re really good at your job you’re allowed a lot of mistakes, that isn’t Jon Gruden.

Magnus Carlsen Leads by Example

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen Shows Up for Consolation Match

Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Champion, was defeated by Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a hotly contested semi-final match in the Chess World Cup that came down to tie-breaks. Because of this Carlsen found himself in the position of playing a third-place consolation match against Vladimir Fedoseev.

Not only did Carlsen show up for this match but he opened it with what some are already calling one of the most brilliant games of Carlsen’s career. I think this sort of thing speaks highly of Carlsen but also sets an important example for champions to come.

Magnus Carlsen is following the example set by the previous champion, Vishy Anand. That’s a testament to both of them.

The Contrast

For some champions this sort of loss can lead to petulant behavior. Novak Djokovic, considered the best tennis player in the world at the moment, recently lost in his bid to win an Olympic gold medal and behaved with less elan.

Djokovic threw his tennis racquet into the stands in a fit of rage. He refused to play in a scheduled doubles match with his partner, thus depriving them both of an opportunity for a gold medal. This sort of behavior is something that young players see and emulate.

Poor Behavior is Contagious

When top level golfers like Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau feud publicly, hurling nasty insults at one another, they somehow convince themselves it’s good for ratings, that people love watching such spats and unprofessional behavior.

It’s true videos of Djokovic and the two golfers make headlines and people are interested in such things. It’s also true that poor behavior of this nature is contagious. Future top-level golfers, tennis players, and others will emulate these champions. That’s not good for sports and it’s really not great for society.

What I find interesting is that while most people rightly criticize the tantrum thrown by Djokovic, and others like him, people clearly want to see more of it. That’s a shame.

It’s more than just a championship match, it’s about how to behave in your own life. We are all going to lose at something in life and it’s always going to be painful. If we fight against our despair and go back out, even for a consolation match, it makes our society a better place.

Imagine if, in a rage, Carlsen decided not to play. The chess world never gets to see today’s brilliancy.

Conclusion

The ability to handle defeat with grace is an admirable character trait. I far prefer the example Magnus Carlsen sets than that of Djokovic.

The old adage that people enjoy watching a train wreck remains. As for me, I prefer a true champion, both on the playing field and in life.

Tom Liberman

Norway Beach Handball Team Insane Fine

Norway Beach Handball

Mandatory Bikini Uniform

As difficult to believe as you might find it, the Norway beach handball team paid a fine of almost $1,800 for wearing shorts to their match instead of bikini bottoms. I mean, seriously? The European Handball Federation (EHF) stipulates women beach handball players must wear a uniform including bikini bottoms and sports bras.

Do we even need to ask the reason for this rule? It’s not to ensure the safety of the competitors or the integrity of the game in case you thought as much. It’s because men made the rules, creepy men if you want my thought on the subject.

Years long Dispute

The Norway beach handball team, along with other teams, protested through the proper channel for years. All to no avail. I’m sure they got the normal mealy-mouthed answers about a fact-finding efforts by top people but nothing changed.

Finally, fed up one imagines, the Norway beach handball team showed up at the European Beach Handball Championship bronze medal game against Spain wearing shorts. The horror. I mean, gosh, shorts instead of bikini bottoms for an athletic competition?

The Patriarchy

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m hardly easily triggered or a member of the Social Justice Warrior crowd. That being said, I do consider myself Woke and enlightened, I’m just not militant about it. This rule is so vile, so useless, so clearly sexist, that when I read the headline, I thought it must be some sort of a joke. Some crazy Woke story about an imagined injustice.

Nope. Wrong again, Tommy Boy. When do, what I assume are the men who make the rules at EHF, think they are living? How can they receive a protest about having to wear bikini bottoms instead of shorts and ignore it?

I have this image in my head of a bunch of sixty plus year old men leering at pictures of the young athletes and giving each other uncoordinated high-fives while tossing the formal protests into the trash bin, then sexually harassing the women in their office, before going home to their trophy wives.

I just barfed in my mouth a little and I hope you did also.

Conclusion

I stand with the Norway Beach Handball team. It’s as simple as that.

Should the team have worn shorts or waited for the rule to change?

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Tom Liberman

Out-of-Control Fans are Everywhere

Out-of-Control Fans

Tour de France Out-of-control Fans

Today was the first day of the Tour de France and, once again, out-of-control fans are causing enormous problems at sporting events. A fan with a large sign basically stepped in front of the entire peloton while looking in completely another direction and caused an enormous crash.

The crash took out almost every rider in the event except a few in front. It caused Jasha Sütterlin to withdraw from the Tour de France because of injuries sustained in the incident. This sort of thing is becoming almost common-place.

It’s Everywhere

Bad behavior among out-of-control fans is something I started to notice not too many years ago while attending St. Louis Rams and St. Louis Cardinals home games. A fan, like everyone else in the world these days, thinks she or he can do anything he or she wants want. I paid for the ticket so I can yell abuse, disrupt the game, attempt to cause a player to make mistakes, or just about any other rude behavior.

I wrote about an incident in golf where fans attempted to heckle Sergio Garcia into making a mistake and the behavior at tournaments is just getting worse, egged on by competitors like Brooks Koepka who seem to think anything that generates interest is good for the game. Wrong.

We saw a woman openly arguing with Rafael Nadal, even going so far as to curse directly at him during the most recent Australian Open tennis tournament.

Out-of-control fans are not the exception anymore, they are the rule. For a long time, I loved going to sporting events. I used to find cheering on my team, reveling in victory, and accepting defeat to be among the best things in life. No more.

The constant whooing at baseball games makes it impossible to enjoy, even on television. It’s a horror show and there seems to be no way to rein it in.

Solutions

My solution to the problem of out-of-control fans? I don’t go to games anymore. I play board and role-playing games with my buddies at home instead. If you’ve got a better solution, let me know.

Tom Liberman

After Match Interview and Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka

The Post-Match Interview

Tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, a major tennis event, because she gets severe anxiety doing post-match interviews. There are a lot people writing about how poorly the event organizers treated her. Or how badly she treated the event organizers but that’s not going to be the focus of my thoughts today.

I want to discuss the importance, or lack thereof, of post-match interviews. How valuable do you think they are in generating interest for the sport in question?

I’ll get my own opinion out of the way early although I certainly recognize not everyone thinks the same way I do. I find them, to use a word, cringe. I actually turn off the event when they start. All right, let’s get into the meat of it.

The Mental Health of an Athlete

I don’t want to delve too deeply into why I empathize with Naomi Osaka in her situation. To put it simply, I am fairly introverted myself. That being said, I think Naomi Osaka is to be believed no matter her position. If she claims she loves doing media after matches or the opposite, we should listen to her.

In this era of social media dominance, it is particularly difficult to be a female athlete. I’ve wrote some time ago about tennis player Rebecca Marino who eventually quit the sport because of horrific bullying in social media and beyond. Any woman in sports can attest to the abuse she receives. Not to devalue the level of abuse many men also get.

I can well imagine any athlete’s fear in going before the media; knowing even a simple misspoken word might result in vicious attacks on her or his character. Making a statement for or against anything seems to give rise to an unreasoning hated from at least part of the audience who do not hesitate to lash out. We need look no further than Naomi Osaka who faced brutal and vicious attacks for her unwillingness to perform post-match interviews.

There are a huge number of angry and cruel people out there who do not pause and simply let fly hurtful words at the slightest provocation, or for no reason at all.

Do you Enjoy Post-Match Interviews?

I’ve long cringed during post-match interviews of athletes. I don’t think they are fair for the athlete, coming directly after a difficult loss or a physically and emotionally draining win. I don’t think they are all that interesting as most interviewers ask the same stupid questions. How do you feel? What were you thinking when …?

We largely get Bull Durham-like rehearsed answers. Occasionally the interviewer asks a good question but the athlete is no position to think about or give a coherent answer. I hate those stupid interviews and I completely understand why an athlete feels the same way.

I find such interviews even more idiotic in this modern era where social media is available to every athlete. The athlete can take their time, recover from their arduous efforts, examine the question, think about it, and then answer in their own way in their own time.

Now, I find it pointless to interview Naomi Osaka after a match but, perhaps, you enjoy such interviews. Let me know what you think.

Do you watch Post-Match Interviews?

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Tom Liberman

High School Basketball NIBC Cash Grab

NIBC

The Situation

A group of six of the best high school basketball teams in the country are forming their own league. The National Interscholastic Basketball Conference. They will play a regular season, special events, and a post-season tournament.

The organization will add two more teams before league play begins this year and there are certainly plans to expand further in the coming years.

Why is this being done? Let me quote Rashid Ghazi a partner at Paragon Marketing Group who will serve as commissioner of the NIBC. The NIBC represents a tremendous platform that combines elite-level basketball with excellent academics in a real campus setting. These six schools have outstanding histories and helped develop countless young men to achieve their dreams of excelling in both college and professional basketball.

Ha, I say. Ha, I repeat for emphasis. It’s a cash grab.

My Problem with the NIBC

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against a nice cash grab. The fact six powerhouse high school basketball programs are forming the NIBC to make money doesn’t bother me at all. Good for them. I recently wrote how elite teams in all leagues win virtually every championship. Largely because of enormous financial advantages over their less well-off counterparts.

What bothers me in this situation is the players and their families will make nothing. Not only will they make nothing but the laws of the United States of America make it essentially illegal for them to make money from their efforts.

These are the kids performing on the court and yet it is the leagues, the league offices, the venues, the officials, certainly commissioner Ghazi. Almost everyone but the kids will take all the money. It’s actually against the law to pay the athletes and let them continue to play in the league. Once any athlete accepts payment, she or he is a professional and barred from amateur sport thanks to insane rules upheld by judges in this supposedly free country.

It’s no far-fetched leap to see an eventual television contract for the league, shady associations with college recruiters tied to college coaches, and any other corruption that comes when this much money is involved.

Conclusion

The NIBC is nothing more than extension of the amoral NCAA which exploits its workforce while making billions of dollars. It’s not right for the NCAA and it’s not right for the NIBC.

How long before we see Crack Baby Athletic Association? My disgust is immeasurable.

Tom Liberman

The Super League might be a Harbinger for all Sport

Super League

What is the Super League?

A group of futbol clubs in Europe hope to form a new association called the Super League. Hopefully comprised of the highest revenue teams in England, Spain, and Italy. The plan is to have twenty teams divided into two groups with a playoff scenario at the end of the season.

The Super League founders hope to lure the top revenue teams from Germany and France. Those teams have so far resisted such attempts.

Why are they Doing it?

This league is similar to the Power Five football conferences in the NCAA and money is the driving force in both cases. In European futbol and the NCAA there is an enormous gulf between the high revenue teams and the low revenue teams.

The teams making huge amounts of money must share the wealth with the teams who don’t make nearly as much. This seeming unfairness rankles the owners of the wealthy teams and drives them into creating their own leagues, the Power Five conferences in the NCAA and now the Super League in European futbol.

This revenue gap creates an almost unbridgeable divide in the quality of the top teams as compared to the lower tier teams.

Over the last twenty years one of the proposed Super League teams won the English Premier League championship nineteen times. In the Spanish La Liga, it is eighteen out of twenty and in the Italian Serie A, it is nineteen out of twenty.

European soccer is almost no longer a competition at all. It is simply a long line of the wealthiest teams playing amongst themselves for a championship. In essence, it is already a Super League with all the other teams essentially being doormats for the top teams to crush week after week while getting a share of the revenue as payment for the shellacking.

Is it any wonder the top teams and individuals don’t want to share the wealth they generate?

Why are People Angry?

The Super League clubs are receiving general outrage from most fans as it is considered an enormous cash grab. That’s the absolute truth. Teams like Manchester United, Barcelona, and Juventus have fan bases around the world. The television contracts the league shares are almost universally driven by the most popular teams.

The fans of secondary teams in all the other leagues enjoy rivalries with the top teams. Games against Super Teams, in their enormous stadiums filled with rabid fans, generate most of the revenue for smaller franchises. The Super League teams plan on continuing playing their regular leagues but people see the writing on the wall.

Outraged by this blatant cash grab, the fans want to see the big teams punished for their behavior. Punishment such as banishment, championships rescinded, and fines.

What can be Done?

Is there a way to stop such new leagues? Is stopping them possible? There is already a strong movement to prevent the Super League. If things don’t change as far as revenue is concerned, I’m not sure how the current sports structure can hold together.

Teams from larger markets will generate more fans, more revenue, and more championships. Even in U.S. sports, where salary caps keep the competition relatively even, the vast majority of revenue comes from a few of the big city teams and everyone else is fighting for scraps.

The world is becoming more global and the idea of a Super League across countries and even continents is not going away. I get why people are angry, but I don’t see a viable way to stop the revenue generators from creating their own competitions. They just want to stop sharing their wealth with the smaller market teams.

I’m sure that’s not a conclusion most people will like.

Tom Liberman

Qualifying Mayhem in the Bullet Chess Championship

Bullet Chess Championship

What is a Qualifier?

What does the word qualify mean to you? That’s a question of great importance in regards to the 2021 Bullet Chess Championship. In the tournament a number of players compete to play for $25,000 in prize money. This group of competitors is broken into two parts.

One group, made up of those who are considered the best bullet chess players in the world, are prequalified into the Bullet Chess Championship finals.

The rest of the players are required to enter four qualifier events. In each of these, the top four players of a 20 round Swiss tournament advance to a knockout stage with the eventual winner gaining qualification for the Bullet Chess Championship.

That all makes a lot of sense. You don’t want the best players in the world knocked out before the final which is streamed on various outlets including Twitch. They are the personalities who draw the viewers.

So, that leads us to our question. What does it mean to qualify for a tournament? You’re probably wondering why I’m even asking this apparently simple question. I ask because the Bullet Chess Championship organizers apparently don’t know the answer. Read on.

Prequalified Players Enter the Qualifier

Here’s where the tournament organizers made what I consider to be an egregious error. The first group, those already with a place in the final tournament, played in the qualifying tournaments.

What? You rightly exclaim. That makes no sense. What if they win? Good question. During the first two qualifiers none of the exempted players made it into the top four of the Swiss so it was a moot point. However, in the third qualifier a fellow named Hikaru Nakamura, who is widely considered the best or near best bullet chess player in the world, won. As might be expected.

I assumed if a prequalified player made it into the top four, the next best player moves forward. Nope, the prequalified Nakamura went into the knockout and defeated both his opponents. The final was pointless. Whoever played Nakamura qualified because Nakamura is already qualified. If that sentence makes sense.

Why I think it is Horribly Wrong

In my opinion there is no way the prequalified players should play in a qualifier. It’s right there, in the word. Such players have an enormous advantage in that they don’t have any pressure on them. In addition, every game such a player wins or loses in the Swiss affects who makes it to the final four.

In the knockout stage it’s the same thing. No pressure, if they win in the semi-final then another player, desperately trying to qualify, is knocked out and the player who wins the other semi-final is automatically qualified for the finals even if they lose.

Conclusion

What moron thought this was a good idea, let alone a fair one? I’m a chess fan and I’m triggered!

Should Prequalified Players play in the Qualifier?

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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