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

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

Candidates Chess Tournament Suspension is a Big Can of Worms

Candidates Chess Tournament

The 2020 Candidates Chess Tournament being held in Russia was suspended on March 26th upon reaching the halfway point and this is a big old giant mess. As my few loyal fans know, I’m a chess nerd, so this is big news for me. The Candidates Chess Tournament is held every two years with the winner going on to play the current World Chess Champion for the title.

As most people are aware, there is a pandemic spreading across the globe at the moment and this caused Russian officials to suspend all air flights. This means the players in the tournament will have no way to leave Russia at the conclusion of the tournament. This being the case, it was decided to suspend the Candidates Chess Tournament and resume after the crisis ends.

This series of events is a nightmare. First of all, the tournament is an eight-player round-robin event. One of the eight, Teimour Radjabov, had strong concerns about going on with the event in the first place and asked the FIDE, the governing body, to postpone the event. They said they could not do so and he decided to withdraw. In his place a fellow named Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was allowed to participate. MVL, as he is affectionally called, is currently tied for first place.

So, where does that leave us? A mess, that’s where. Radjabov has a legitimate complaint that he should be allowed into the tournament because it was suspended as he asked for it to be, essentially, he was right and the FIDE was wrong. Meanwhile, MVL shouldn’t have been there in the first place and if he wins then all the other players have complaints. Even if MVL loses, he defeated other players that perhaps Radjabov would not have beaten and the entire standings are essentially compromised.

The winner of the tournament will be tainted, through no fault of their own but that of circumstance. If the winner of the tournament is tainted then what happens if that person defeats reigning champion Magnus Carlsen and become the new world chess champion? As we of the tribe are prone to say, Oy Vey.

Preparation is thrown into flux as well. Carlsen has a much shorter time to prepare for his opponent whereas his foe can use this delay to work on a game plan against Carlsen. Does the can of worms ever end?

I can’t even lay all the blame on the FIDE, yes, they should have postponed the tournament from the start but there were legitimate reasons to continue. Postponing would have been a difficult decision that brought its own problems as far as scheduling and preparation work as mentioned above. There weren’t any good answers.

Honestly, at this point, I say forget it. Let Carlsen keep the trophy for two more years.

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