Monthly Archives: December, 2015

Chip Kelly Fired, What Next?

Since he entered the NFL coaching ranks, Chip Kelly has been compared to Bill Belichick in many instances.  Recently, the talk has been that Kelly’s stint in Philadelphia has been akin to Belichick’s in Cleveland.  Today, that narrative gained some steam, as Kelly was fired after a disappointing season on the heels of double digit wins in the previous one.

While Kelly’s stint in Philly was only 3 years as opposed to Belichick’s 5 seasons in LeBronland, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Kelly’s time with the Eagles will be a bump in the road en route to a much more successful career that Belichick has had.

And you know what would be the best move that Kelly could make to resemble Belichick?  Working for Belichick in New England.  Chip can probably land a job in Tennessee with Marcus Mariota or somewhere else, but when BB was fired in 1995, he served on Bill Parcells’ staff for a few years and learned ways to better his coaching.  He didn’t go right to another team.  Kelly is clearly a very smart football mind, but it’s also evident that he has to learn more about building a team.  Chip Kelly the coach is smarter than Chip Kelly the GM now, and what better way to improve your abilities as a GM then spending time in the best front office of the salary cap era?

That being said, don’t get your hopes up.  Kelly and Belichick are fond of each other, so I’m sure that BB would make the move, and I’m sure that Kelly would respect Bill’s authority if he was in the organization.  Kelly’s time in Philadelphia has been marked with about as much spotlight and controversy as possible for a team with a pair of 10 win seasons and a disappointing 6 or 7 wins in the final year.  And as you can tell from his sometimes condescending press conferences and radio interviews, Chip is a proud and cocky guy.  He’ll be chomping at the bit to get right back to an NFL coaching sideline and shove it in the face of the Eagles and their fans.

The logical spot is Tennessee, and that’s my bet for where he goes.  If you’re the owners of the Tennessee Titans who have inspired columns like this one in the past few months, wouldn’t you do whatever you can to bring in a head coach that’ll at least bring some relevance to your franchise and, if everything works out well, could change the narrative about your incredibly boring franchise entirely?  Furthermore, even if Chip isn’t the answer for the long haul, if he can get the most possible growth out of Mariota, then he’s the right call for the Titans.  Turning a potential franchise quarterback into an actual franchise quarterback is the only surefire way to make your team a perennial contender.  Let Chip get the most out of Mariota, then let him go if he crashes and burns like in Philly.

Chip could also try to coach up Johnny Manziel, whom he tried to recruit to Oregon a few years back, wherever Manziel winds up in 2016, or he could get lucky and land the #1 coaching job on the market in Indianapolis when Chuck Pagano gets fired on Black Monday.  But the smart money is on Tennessee, because Chip can coach the exact quarterback that he wants, and get away from the tough East Coast media in a place like Philly, who did Kelly no favors during his time with the Eagles.  If Chip Kelly wants to be Bill Belichick as much as everyone says he does, though, he’d become a consultant in Bill Belichick’s thinktank of a front office, learn some more about building an NFL team, and come back with a vengeance like his buddy did in 2000 when he stomped on the Jets’ heart with a napkin.

 

Bruins Should Trade (Very Little) for Sam Gagner

The Philadelphia Flyers surprisingly placed Sam Gagner on waivers — instead of maybe R.J. Umberger or Scott Laughton — to make room for Mark Streit and his return from LTIR.  The Bruins, meanwhile, have learned that David Krejci is out week-to-week with an upper body injury.   In other related news, the Bruins’ bottom 3 centers are now probably Ryan Spooner, Landon Ferraro, and Max Talbot.  See where I’m going with this?

Gagner is a center whose best year saw him accrue 38 points in the lockout-shortened 48 game season of 2013.  Since then, he’s consistently been slightly above half a point per game… except for this year.  Gagner’s career has generally been a story of “Good CorsiRel, bad/mediocre CorsiOn,” which us totally reasonable for a guy who’s played several years with the Edmonton Oilers in his early 20s.  This year, though, both his CorsiRel and CorsiOn numbers are both definitively in the negatives, and he has a whopping 5 points in 18 games.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why the hell do we want a center with 5 points in 18 games?  We already went through that with Gregory Campbell last year!”  That’s fair, and if your Campbell PTSD makes you automatically disagree with me here, I understand.  But do the Bruins really have anything to lose here?  Krejci is out for the next few weeks, and it looks like it’ll be 24 days at the very least since the Bruins were quick to put him on IR, the LTIR threshold is 24 days, and getting some LTIR relief from Krejci’s $7.25 million contract would be very useful at the trade deadline.  Why not bring in Gagner, take a few weeks to see if a new environment will do him any good, and move on from there?

Gagner has a $3.2 million cap hit on a contract that expires after this season.  The title of my post is “Trade for” Gagner and not “Pick up Gagner on waivers” because i highly doubt that the B’s will absorb all of his remaining contract money right now, and I don’t blame them for balking at that.  They’d be especially smart to let Gagner pass through waivers considering that Philly might trade Gagner for absolutely nothing.  The Flyers only receive $950,000 of salary relief by placing Gagner on their AHL team.  Gagner has about $1.7-1.8 million of that contract left for this season because the team has already played 36 of 82 games.  So here’s an idea:  Why not have the Bruins trade basically nothing (maybe some Jordan Caron-type dude who was a once though of as a “prospect” but now doesn’t have a high ceiling) and agree to pay $1 million of Gagner’s salary?  Then the Flyers are only on the hook for $700-800k, so they save some coin and get rid of the Gagner headache in one fell swoop?

The B’s get a center that they can take a flier on, and if he sucks, they can bury him in the AHL and get $950,000 in relief.  By that point, the money on Gagner’s contract would probably be less than $950,000 anyway, depending on how much of the salary the Flyers eat.  For the next few weeks until #46 returns, the Bruins would take a shot at a potentially valuable center (maybe even trade him at the deadline if his market value becomes inflated and they have too many forwards to keep them all), and they can shift Ryan Spooner out of his center position, which should prevent about 12 or 13 heart attacks in the Boston area.

Update: He Cleared Waivers.  So now it’s official that the Bruins could and should trade for him. 

Report: Peyton Manning Linked to HGH

A few hours ago, the Huffington Post reported that Peyton Manning was linked to HGH shipments by Al-Jazeera America in a documentary that will air tomorrow night.  (In other news, anyone know what the hell channel Al Jazeera America is for ((obviously unsatisfied)) customers of Comcast in the Boston area?  Anyone who tries to make plans with me at 9 pm tomorrow night will be shunned.)

You’re better off reading the details of the report on HuffPo itself, and the story is getting weirder by the minute.  As Deadspin pointed out, at 10:02, the supposed whistleblower posted a YouTube video declaring that he never tattled on Manning or was a part of Manning’s supposed usage of HGH because he was apparently recorded without his knowledge for the documentary.  Less than an hour later, Manning responded by vehemently denying the allegations.

Charlie Sly’s response seems strange, because even if he was recorded without his knowledge, why was he calling out Manning anyway?  I’ve said some dumb things in my life, but I usually don’t talk to someone off the record and say, “By the way dude, I’ve been a part of a group that shipped HGH to Peyton Manning’s wife.  Keep that one on the DL though.”  But his and Manning’s prompt response, as well as the seemingly genuine nature of Manning’s statement, definitely throws some shade on Al Jazeera’s report.  I’m not saying that Peyton is either innocent or guilty.  I’m saying that I have no frickin clue about it.

In Boston’s Twittersphere tonight, you’ll see approximately 482 billion people pointing out that ESPN was far quicker to report that Tom Brady was possibly guilty of a ball violation than they were in this case, as they waited for Manning’s statement to post about the allegation.  That’s a fair thing to point out, and yes, the media and especially ESPN does get much crazier when it’s the Patriots.  That being said, this is an issue of 2 or 3 hours in an incredibly weird story, folks.  I’m no fan of ESPN, especially after they botched the Deflategate story worse than Peyton Manning botched all 4 of his throws that wound up as interceptions in the 2003 AFC Championship Game in Foxboro.  But let’s not automatically say that ESPN screwed up this story before the documentary itself drops, because that would mean that we’re jumping to the types of conclusions that other did, much to our loathing, during Deflategate.

Stay tuned for further details on this story, because we’ve probably heard somewhere between 10-20% of everything that’s gonna come out.

Can We Finally Admit We’re Scared of Giants

The Washington Redskins officially locked up their spot atop the NFC East this season, which means only one thing for Patriots fans:

Now that the Giants are out, can we all finally admit that the Giants scared the living daylights out of us?  It’s time to be honest and admit that they’re the Pats’ kryptonite and we are all thrilled that the “Meh” Redskins took their spot as the 4th seed in the NFC.

The G-Men somehow play to their competition no matter who’s on the opposing sideline, whether it’s the mighty Patriots or your family friend’s daughter’s flag football team.  They almost knocked off the Pats this season in what may have been the game of the year, and I’d bet that a 3rd Super Bowl between the Pats and Giants would have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Here in New England, we’ve been conditioned to think that the Patriots will roll through any and every opponent.  Why?  Because they do.  Watching 12 straight seasons of double digit wins kinda has that effect, ya know?  But now that the New York Football Giants are making tee time reservations for early January, let’s drop the charade and admit that we’re glad that the Brady Bunch gets to avoid them this year.

ODB Suspension Shows What’s Missing in Pro Sports Discipline

Yes, under the current rules and options of discipline in the NFL, Odell Beckham Jr. should be suspended.  ODB accumulated too many strikes against him to not get punished, and I’ve been surprised that I didn’t see more people arguing against the suspension.  That being said, it was still not a slam dunk that he’d have to watch the game from his couch.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why professional sports don’t allow for a suspension of part of a game and not the whole thing.  Especially in football, the difference between a heavy fine/no suspension and 1 game suspension is HUGE in a sport in which at least 1 division and 1 wild card spot is decided by tiebreakers every season.  Sometimes the suspension should be right in the middle.  In the NFL, you could call it football’s version of the penalty box if a guy has to sit out a quarter or a half, especially if he commits the cheap shot during the game.

The ability to take a player out of the same game would account for a cheap shot that injures a player.  In the 2013 Divisional Round, I remember watching the Saints-Seahawks game in which a Saints DB almost took Percy Harvin’s head off.  You have to recall that there was a huge allure around Harvin that game, because he had missed the whole season but was coming back for the playoffs, and he was supposed to make the Seahawks offense 10 times more dynamic.  When that play happened, I remember my friend turned to me and said, “Those 15 yards on the penalty are absolutely worth it for the Saints if Harvin is out.”  He was dead right.  The play didn’t look bad enough to warrant an ejection, but if that DB was suspended for a quarter or a half, that would negate the benefit that would come from a dirty play.

In hockey, all I have to bring up in order to get you to agree with me is the Scott Stevens – Paul Kariya hit in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.  Stevens instantly turned Kariya to mashed potatoes, and if that happened today, hockey Twitter would explode like Tom Coughlin’s red face when watching ODB act like an idiot all day.  It happened in Game 6, and so the question today would be, “Can you really suspend Scott Stevens for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals???”  I’d argue that such a hit today should earn a Game 7 suspension, but wouldn’t it be nice if the NHL at least had the option to suspend Stevens for either 1 or 2 periods?  And how awesome of a storyline would that be heading into the season’s ultimate game?

The idea of the part-game suspension would benefit the NBA with those annoying “Never Leave the Bench” rules.  Amar’e Stoudamire and Boris Diaw missed a game vs. the Spurs in the 2007 playoffs because they left the bench after Robert Horry decked Steve Nash for no reason whatsoever.  Yes, players shouldn’t be allowed to leave the bench because it’s a terrible look for a league to have behemoth human beings brawling like the fight scene in The Anchorman with thousands of cameras around them.  But it sucks for the league to lose some of its best selling points of its product, and it’d be a much better compromise to have those guys sit out a half.

For baseball… no.  You either get suspended for a game or you don’t (or 5 games for starting pitchers).  There’s 162 of them that are divided into 9 innings, let’s not get ridiculous and say that a guy should sit out 3 innings or something.

Wouldn’t it be so cool if ODB was entering the game in the 3rd quarter against the Vikings with the Giants down 10 on Sunday Night Football?  Yeah, I thought so.

Ranking Hatred of Victims of 21st Century Boston Sports

Nine championships in a decade bring a lot to a city.  They bring jubilation and an irrational sense of happiness and self-worth that inevitably makes you realize that sports mean a little too much to you, and they also bring millions of annoying bandwagon fans, unfortunately.  But they also bring a sense of hatred for whichever team that our guys face in their sport’s championship game or series.  There have been eight different franchises that have lost to Boston sports teams in the 21st century (I’m combining the 2004 and 2013 Cardinals, because I’m referring to franchises and not specific teams here), and for some, that hatred is temporary.  it lasts only as long as the lead up and the duration of the championship itself.  For others, that hatred will last until the day we die.

Before ranking the ones that we hate the most, we need to analyze what makes such hatred permanent.  There’s no clear objective formula with regards to measuring either your own personal feelings or the city’s general feelings, but some characteristics consistently stick out like Tharold Simon stuck out in Tom Brady’s mind in the Super Bowl.  In no particular order, they are: How whiny the team is, how much the team’s fans are sanctimonious about them, how hateable specific players are for the other team, how much of a worthy opponent the team actually was, and how much the championship meant to us Bostonians.  Ok, now let’s get on with it.  And here we go.

8.  Carolina Panthers

You know how I know that the Panthers are last on the list?  Because when people in Boston talk about the Panthers this season, they actually talk about Cam Newton, The Dab, Josh Norman, how awesome of a kick returner Ted Ginn is, how horrendous of a receiver Ted Ginn is, and finally, the one time every conversation when the Boston College alum knocks over 17 people to enter the conversation to ask, “Did you know Luke Kuechly went to BC?????!!!!!!”  We don’t bring up the Super Bowl against the Panthers unless we’re talking about the Pats’ dynasty as a whole, which Super Bowl performance of Brady’s was the best, or Janet Jackson’s nipple.

Why are they ranked 8th?  First of all, the Panthers weren’t in the same class as the Patriots, and we all knew it.  They knew how to play well against contenders that year, which is how they manhandled the Eagles on defense in the NFC Championship game, but it just felt like the Pats were supposed to beat them.  Hard to breed real contempt there.

7. Colorado Rockies

I recently went to Colorado for the Pats-Broncos game where I also saw the Winnipeg Jets play the Avalanche the night before, and I have to say that I’m glad that Boston sports fans and Colorado sports fans didn’t develop any real hatred from the 2007 World Series.  Denver’s fans were very gracious to outside fans like me, if not soft in many respects.  It’s a city that’s low on diversity, which is an underrated attribute of a city, but at least Denver is full of chill white people who mind their business and don’t bother anyone but are still very polite.  That’s probably just the weed, but still, Denver sports fans don’t deserve our full hatred.  That could change if the Pats face the Broncos in the playoffs this year for the final Brady-Manning matchup ever, but not after 2007.  Add in zero abjectly hatable players on the Rockies and a team who was clearly inferior to the Red Sox, and they clock in just ahead of the Panthers.

6. St. Louis Rams

These rankings just took a step up.  The Panthers and Rockies comprise of the 1st tier of hatred, and now we’ve entered the 2nd.  The Rams probably wouldn’t be a level up if I did these rankings a year ago, but Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk got awfully holier-than-thou about Deflategate.  Seemed kinda like sore losers, and neither they nor the NFL eager to kill the (COMPLETELY FALSE) report that the Pats taped the Rams’ walkthrough before the Super Bowl.  Makes me happy that they’re gonna have to remember that they lost to a 14-point underdog with a backup Quarterback for the rest of their lives.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

There was nothing really hateable about that Eagles team other than Terrell Owens, but he balled out in Super Bowl 39 in a losing effort, and you have to respect that.  The reason that they’re in the same tier as the Rams is simple: It’s Philly.  The city of dirty, scummy fans.  Yes, that’s a stereotype and definitely an unfair one, but I really don’t care.  I feel about Philly sports fans the same way I think that most people do: Realize that it’s a huge generalization of a fan base, but stick with it because it’s at least close enough to true.

4. Seattle Seahawks

Now onto the 3rd tier. There’s just something about the Seahawks.  Rationally, I don’t think we should hate the Seahawks and their fans, but I can’t avoid it, either.  You know how a teacher deals with a troublesome kid or a referee deal with a rat in hockey who isn’t quite breaking the rules, but absolutely deserves a penalty just for being a punk?  The little rat keeps pushing boundaries and doing stuff that the authority figure shouldn’t hate rationally, but after enough time of being a prick in tons of minor ways, the teacher or ref finally decides, “Ok, you’re gone.”  That’s how I feel about the Seahawks.  Pete Carroll is a legitimate hatred because he tried to bury the Patriots so far that Belichick couldn’t rescue them from down under. (Just kidding, Bill Belichick could have rescued the Patriots from the earth’s core.)  But i respect Richard Sherman and find him to be a really valuable asset to the NFL and the sports community.  But there’s something about Sherman and his gesture about Darrelle Revis that makes this gif a never-ending source of happiness for me:

richard sherman gif

Also, Seattle finished tied for 17th in Nielsen Ratings for the Super Bowl for major U.S. markets, while Boston came in 1st.  Seattle was tied with Atlanta, which is a sorry sports town if there ever was one.  I was also lucky enough to attend Super Bowl 49, and I noticed that the game wasn’t a borderline religious experience for Seahawks fans like it was for Pats fans.  I think that Seattle fans are more in love with being part of the “12th Man” than they love the team itself, and you could say that I sorta kinda don’t like those types of fanbases.  Throw in the importance of Super Bowl 49 to Pats fans and the arrogance of the Seahawks, and you have yourself the #4 team on this list.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cards are another tier up from the Seahawks.  I’m not a big fan of Tony La Russa, but other than him, there is no on-field reason to hate the Cardinals.  Why are they number 3, then?  Well, my friend, that’s a very simple answer.  Follow this Twitter account mocking the sanctimonious nature of “Baseball’s Best Fans” in St. Louis, and be sure to check in with the account’s tweets during the MLB playoffs and whenever the Cardinals sign someone in free agency, miss out narrowly on someone like David Price, or have one of their players leave for another team.  Every city’s fans are too sanctimonious to some level, and Boston’s fans might be near the top of the list right now, but there’s a special level of that patheticness (Yep, I made that word up, deal with it.) that is reserved for St. Louis Cardinals fans and few other people on this planet.

2. Vancouver Canucks

Alex Burrows biting the one dude on the Bruins that you objectively have less than zero reason to hate.  Maxim Lapierre mocking Bergy for that bite.  Roberto Luongo being a bitch in so many ways that I can’t give you just one link for it.  The Sedin twins for being such big pussies that every time you hear the debate in the Boston area over whether or not “pussy” is an acceptable or slightly sexist word to use for someone, the first reference will be to the Sedins and the accompanying mantra of “The Sedin Sisters.”  Ryan Kesler for making everyone in America immediately forget how much we loved him in the 2010 Olympics where he was spectacular while playing on his NHL team’s home ice.   Their fans for rioting.

That series got personal between both the players and fan bases by the end of Game 1, and it won’t stop feeling personal until one of the franchises is disbanded.  After the Canadiens, the Canucks are my most hated hockey team by far, and it’s all because of 7 games.  i hope that we remember to look back years later on how impressive that lone series was to cause that much hatred between the cities and teams.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

So here’s the thing.  I’m already over 1500 words, and soon I’m going to publish a column about why I hate the Lakers and Kobe more than I hate the Yankees, which is rare around here. That Finals win in 2008 was a huge deal for the Celtics, and even if 2010 never happened, it would have still been the perfect continuation for the hatred that Celtics fans had fostered for the Lakers and their fans back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. For the full details of why I hate the Lakers so much and why you should feel the same, you’ll have to wait for that column.  But they’re in their own 5th and final tier, and there’s no one whom a Boston sports team has beaten to earn a championship since 2001 that you should hate more than the Lakers.  Not even a question about it.

What do you think of the list?  Please let me know your feelings either on Twitter or in the comments of the post itself.

Broncos-Steelers Game Benefits Pats No Matter Who Wins

In Pittsburgh today, the Pats will receive a nice Christmas gift no matter who wins.  We should obviously root for the Steelers so that the Pats have a game and a half on the Broncos for the 1 seed in the AFC, but there’s a very real benefit to a Broncos win today.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are a damn good team, clocking in at 7th overall in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings behind a 3rd ranked offense and a shocking ranking of 12th on defense.  Given that the Jets won last night, which was huge, and the Chiefs cleaned up on the Ravens today, the Steelers could be on the playoff ropes heading into Week 16.  Of course, the Pats might have to lose to the Jets next week for the Jets to stay ahead of the Steelers, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

For today, though, the Pats gain something important no matter who wins.  Enjoy the game, because it’s a Sunday before a short holiday week and there’s a great game on TV, and you don’t have to stress over who wins.  You should root for the Steelers, but don’t worry too much.  Then again, if the game heads to overtime, you should be chewing your nails hoping for the overtime period to go scoreless, because a tie would be best.

Analyzing Football Outsiders’ Week 15 Rankings

With both the Patriots and a few other teams (Seattle with Marshawn Lynch, Cincinnati with Andy Dalton, Denver with whoever the hell their QB is gonna be) that health is far more important to a team’s success than the exact slot that they fall into with these rankings.  The analysis for many teams could be either 100% right or 100% wrong depending on whether or not a few guys come back for the playoffs, so this post will be shorter than past analysis of FO’s rankings.  Here are their Week 15 rankings.

  • As always, we start with the Patriots.  They improved form 5th overall in the league last week to 3rd — and 6th in weighted DVOA to 5th — with their masterful performance in Houston.  The offense actually slipped from 19.8% above the mean to 19.4%, but the defense improved from -2.8% to -5.9%, which is a huge jump when there are already 12 previous games to influence the stats.  While it was the lowly Houston Texans whom the Pats held to 6 points, it’s encouraging for Pats fans that the FO recognized New England’s defensive performance as being that dominant without Dont’a Hightower and a few others who got injured during the game.
  • Cincinnati is ranked 1st overall, which shows how devastating the Andy Dalton injury could be if he can’t return.  In 2011, the Texans lost out on their one realistic chance of winning it all because Matt Schaub got hurt when they had the look of a Super Bowl winner.  The Bengals might have suffered the exact same fate.  After years of being a Wild Card round punching bag, the Bengals have what it takes to win it all, and their season might die with A.J. McCarron.  The Bengals have to pray that they somehow beat the Broncos in Denver in Week 16 en route to a 1st round bye and an extra week for Dalton to recover.  The AFC 6th seed will be a pretty darn good 6th seed this year, and the Bengals might lose yet again as the 3 seed in the Wild Card game.
  • Seattle is a great team, coming in at 2nd.  They finally righted the ship like they did last year, only their recovery hasn’t gotten the same media attention that it did last year.  They’re neck and neck with the Panthers and Cardinals in a 3 team race for the class of the NFC, and we should all be grateful that the Pats will only have to face a single team out of that trio in the playoffs.
  • Kansas City is also a great team.  They’re ranked 3rd overall without Jamaal Charles, which sounds like a joke.  If they’re the 5th seed, which seems likely given their schedule the rest of the way that includes the local Girl Scouts and Perkins School for the Blind, then they’ll be clear favorites in Indianapolis or Houston in the Wild Card round.  Half of people will say that “They’re just a better team, pick them,” and the other half will say “Inferior home teams often win in the Wild Card round when everyone and their mother is against them.”  Usually, the latter is right, as evidenced by the Tebow Broncos, the 2010 Seahawks with the Beast Mode Earthquake run, and last year’s Panthers.  This year, with these Chiefs and the particularly horrendous AFC South, the former will probably be correct.
  • Denver’s offense has not improved much since Peyton Manning got “injured.”  They were 32nd, now they’re 28th.  Their defense is still menacing, but Brock Osweiler isn’t exactly an offensive savior.  In Foxboro, I think the Pats would handle the Broncos easily, but they should always scare you at Mile High.
  • Pittsburgh should also scare you a ton, regardless of where the game is.  Their defense somehow clocks in at 12th overall, which I can’t understand for the life of me.  The rest of the AFC has already dodged a huge bullet with Le’Veon Bell’s absence for the rest of the year.
  • The Giants are the best team in the NFC East, if you didn’t already know that from them having the lead in just about every game this year with 75-90 seconds left in the game.  I’m gonna write something soon about the NFC East, but let’s hope that the Giants don’t make the playoffs, which would be an upset at this point.
  • Finally, the Indianpolis Colts are ranked 28th overall, by far the lowest of any team who isn’t already eliminated from January football.  Andrew Luck might be injured, but that doesn’t explain twenty-freaking-eighth.  Let’s hope and pray that the 3rd seeded Bengals beat the 6th seeded Steelers and the 4th seeded Colts somehow knock out the 5th seeded Jets or Chiefs, meaning that hte Broncos and Bengals knock each other out in the Divisional round while the Pats stomp on the Colts yet again.  That way, the Pats would only have to play the Bengals, Broncos, OR Steelers en route to the Super Bowl.  And you know what?  That could very well happen.

Facts Can’t Be Overlooked in Sports Gender Pay Gap Debate

Tuesday night, Bill Simmons released a new podcast with Abby Wambach in honor of her final game of her illustrious career for US Women’s Soccer.  One of the subjects that Wambach and Simmons touched on was the gender pay gap that exists in women’s sports, particularly in women’s soccer.  While nobody can deny that there is a ridiculous discrepancy between what men and women are paid in sports – let alone society in general – it’s important to note that people very rarely tell the whole side of the story in this discussion.  Even if your opinion stems from the perspective of “Women shouldn’t be treated as the inferior gender anymore,” which should be the starting point of your opinion if you’re anything close to a respectable human being, we can’t gloss over important facts that provide context to the issue, no matter how screwed up our world is or how much we want it to be different.

Wambach is not the first person whose commentary on the gender pay gap in sports that I’ve taken an issue with, either.  She’s just the most recent.  Wambach’s prime example of the pay gap was the fact that the women’s national team received a total of $2 million to split among all of the women on the team, while the German men’s team who won received a total of $35 million.  (Simmons misspoke by stating that the winning women’s and men’s teams earned $15 million and $576 million respectively, but those numbers represent the total amount that was dished out to all of the teams in each respective tournament.)  That seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?  The difference between the two numbers is staggering, and I have no problem with anyone who says that it’s way too much.  What I do have an issue with, however, is that Wambach – who stated many times that she plans to spend a lot of time trying to stamp out this social failing during her retirement – failed to mention a key piece of context: The winning women’s national team received 11% of sponsor revenue that the tournament earned, while the men’s winning team earned a total of 6.6% of sponsor revenue that their own World Cup earned.  (I have also seen a column stating that the women’s winning team earned 3.9% of total revenue to just .9% of the men’s, but that source is less credible than that of Business Insider and I haven’t been able to verify the women’s world cup total revenue statistic that he uses.) The percentage of any type of revenue that the players receive seems like it’s kinda important, no?

If there’s one thing that aggravates me more than anything about our dialogue as we close the book on 2015, it’s the persistent and supposedly end-all-be-all idea of “We need to start a conversation about ____.”  Do I want the gender pay gap in almost all industries in the world, sports included, to be talked about extensively?  Yes, obviously.  Do I think that tackling these issues collectively will help improve the deep-rooted negative aspects of our society?  Of course I do.  But I’ve often noticed that those who say something like “It’s important to have a healthy conversation about this issue” (as opposed to an unhealthy conversation, whatever that would mean) often overlook inherent and important facts – the kinds of facts that are 100% necessary for the “conversation” that we’re supposed to have to actually be beneficial.  “We need to have a serious conversation about this” usually means “My perspective is completely right, and anyone who disagrees doesn’t know anything, regardless of how much I checked my facts.”

That’s basically what we’re dealing with as it relates to the gender pay gap in sports.  People don’t care about taking a step back, getting all the facts in the discussion, and then moving forward to reach a conclusion.  The reason this issue really irks me is not because I care what the majority of sports fans think.  Frankly, sports fans are often kinda dumb when they try to form an opinion on a topic that combines sports and a societal issue.  But it’s when the media or someone like Wambach leaves out important details that I find infuriating.  More importantly, it makes me lose hope that we’ll soon be able to make a real improvement in this field.

Google “Men’s women’s compensation FIFA World Cup.”  Go ahead, do it.  In fact, just click this link, because I’ve already done it for you.  You’ll notice that the first 4 hits from Newsweek, Thinkprogress, NBC News, and CNN all have very leading titles and exactly zero points in the writing itself about the percentage of revenue that the players earned from their respective tournament.  Again, these websites might believe that there should be no gender pay gap at all despite the differences in tournament revenues, but they didn’t even include the most basic fact to explain why the other side of the argument. You call that journalism?

I can’t stress enough that my level of aggravation in this case doesn’t stem from those who disagree with me.  I think it’s possible to make a principled case that men and women should get paid the same number of dollars in the World Cup.  One reason that Wambach suggested, which I can see the logic behind, is that sports organizations have a societal duty to make up for the sexism that clearly causes at least a good portion of the discrepancy in interest between men’s and women’s soccer.  While I find idea that men’s and women’s World Cup teams should get paid the exact same to be irrational and narrow-minded because, ultimately, sports are a business and employees that bring back more revenue get paid more, such an argument is not incomprehensible.  But you know what is incomprehensible and abjectly inexcusable?  The fact that those who report or publicly analyze these societal debates don’t check the most basic and necessary facts.  We all agree that “an open and honest” conversation is the key to moving forward as a society with difficult topics, but Wambach’s talking points or the national media’s coverage of this story last July are nowhere near “open and honest.”  No matter how much you want this world to fix a terrible problem that it’s had since the beginning of time, you can’t lose sight of the crucial facts and important context in a situation as you form your opinion.  Society will never significantly move forward in that kind of environment.

Dwight Howard Would Be A Horrible Acquisition for the Celtics

Ever since the summer of 2007, Danny Ainge’s strategy has been to accumulate enough assets in order to cash in for a superstar) and then put at least a pair of other All-Stars around the Top 50 or 75 player of all time.  It’s how they built a championship team with the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen trades, and it’s how Ainge is trying to utilize the 587 draft picks and quality young role players currently on the roster.

On Tuesday night, Chris Sheridan reported that Dwight Howard is unhappy in Houston and wants to be traded.  Sheridan predicted that Miami would trade for Howard by this February for a package centered around Hassan Whiteside.  Since Tuesday, new reports have surfaced that Howard is fine with Houston and wants to stay, but I’ve still seen Celtics fans on the internet suggest that Howard is an option that the Celtics should consider.

The title of this post seems like the opposite of what the Celtics are trying to do, right?  Get Dwight Howard, a proven superstar, and go from there.  Seems pretty basic.  Especially with the Celtics’ spectacular perimeter defense, as Steph Curry and the Warriors round out on Friday, the acquisition of Howard and his defensive chops around the rim would be exactly what the Celtics need… right?

Nope.  Dwight Howard is nowhere near the level of superstar that the Celtics need.  His points per game has dipped from ~18 in the 2014 season to ~12 this year.  He just turned 30 years old, which isn’t ancient and is 2 years younger than Ray Allen when the Celtics got him, but Dwight has a ton of miles on his legs because he came into the league out of high school, and his body is clearly much more limited than it was a few years back.  Anytime the words “back surgery” appear on a big man’s resume, it’s one of the most obvious red flags that exists.

Here’s the other thing: Even if the Celtics got Dwight Howard this year, they still wouldn’t contend for the 2016 title.  As diehard Celtics fans who have given our full trust to Danny Ainge and his masterful rebuilding effort, we want the C’s to speed up the process and contend sooner rather than later.  But it doesn’t work like that.  Dwight can’t singlehandedly carry a team to a title anymore (which is one of many reasons why he’s an idiot for apparently being upset that he’s 2nd fiddle to James Harden), and the C’s wouldn’t have enough talent around him to get any farther than a 5 or mayyybe 6 game series vs. Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.

If the C’s got Howard this season, he’d have a player option for next year to stick in Boston.  As we saw during his disastrous time in Los Angeles, a trade does not make Howard any more likely to pick up his player option in that city.  Even if he did pick up his option, the Celtics would pay him $22 million next season to hopefully contend with him as one of their best players, and he’d be about 31 and a half years old by Spring 2017.  If the Celtics’ young nucleus of Smart, Bradley, and co. isn’t quite ready for primetime in 2017 and if Danny hasn’t signed a marquee free agent or made a huge trade by the trade deadline of 2017, then the Celtics won’t compete that year, either.  Then, in the Spring of 2018, Dwight would be 32 and a half… and that’s IF he re-signed with the Celtics in the previous summer.  Trading for Howard would give the Celtics a championship window that would be neither immediate nor long lasting.  Danny Ainge loves flexibility more than he loves chocolate milk, and there’s no flexibility with Howard on the Celtics.

That doesn’t even mention that Dwight Howard’s mentality isn’t even in the same zip code as the mentality that you want your superstar to have.  Mix Dwight Howard’s attitude with the ferociously competitive mentality of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Brad Stevens?  No thanks.  I’ll pass on this falling star.

I’ll go one step further.  Not only do I not want the Celtics to trade for Dwight Howard (unless the Celtics practically stole him from the Rockets and didn’t give up any of their best assets, which is highly unlikely because Daryl Morey is not a moron and Kevin McHale doesn’t work there anymore), but I truly want the Miami Heat to trade for Howard, as Chris Sheridan believes will happen by February.  If the Heat trade Justise Winslow AND Hassan Whiteside for Winslow, or even just one of them and a high draft pick and some other asset, then their championship window shrinks drastically to just 2016 and 2017.  With the long term contracts of Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic, and with the money that Howard would command through 2017 as well as whatever D-Wade would get if he stays after 2016, the Heat would have no room to do anything else.  They might have a title window in June 2016 and 2017, but the Cavs will still be at the peak of their powers, the Celtics won’t hit their own peak until after that, anyway.  If I’m the Celtics, then I’m FAR more concerned with Winslow and Whiteside becoming a great young core for the Heat with Bosh, Dragic, and Wade as valuable complimentary pieces as they get old and grey.  If the Heat throw away that young core for a season and a half of a title run with Dwight, all the better.  The Celtics will gladly watch them thrive and then fall suddenly while the Celtics pass them by, which will coincide perfectly with the Cavs finally taking a step backwards as LeBron and Kevin Love age.  Let’s hope Pat Riley makes the mistake that Danny Ainge definitely won’t.  Next round of Yoo-Hoo is on me.