The NFL in London could work with a little compromise

This coming Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars will play the third and final game of this NFL season’s International Series at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

The series began as an experiment in 2007 by the National Football League to gauge interest of the sport in the European marketplace.

And although the second largest media market in this country – Los Angeles – is on the verge of landing not one but possibly two NFL teams as soon as maybe next season after being without a team for 20 years, the League is still hell-bent on putting a team across the pond in London by 2022.

Commissioned by the NFL and a London marketing agency, the accounting firm DeLoitte released its findings last week from their study that said an NFL franchise based in London could generate more than $255 million for Britain annually.

In British pounds, we’re talking 165 million.

Pounds. Dollars. No matter what currency you reference, that’s a whole lot of coin the 32 team owners can’t ignore.

So, what about the fans both in the States and the British Isles?

A majority of NFL fans here don’t like the idea of putting a team in London because of travel logistics and the idea that it would be similar to out-sourcing American jobs to foreign countries.

Tom Bateman, president of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to London in 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams play the New England Patriots. courtesy: Tom Bateman
Tom Bateman, director of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to London in 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams play the New England Patriots.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

As for the Brits, L.A. native Tom Bateman, the director of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to merry old England for a week in October of 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams take on the New England Patriots.

While there, Bateman spoke with British fans he discovered enjoy American football immensely but think the idea of putting a team in London permanently is a silly one.

I agree with the Brits. If a team is moved or an expansion team is awarded to London, would the league’s name be changed to the International Football League?

“Part of the appeal to the Brits is that each (International Series) game showcases different teams” said Bateman who added, “The NFL in the UK is a spectacle as much as it is a sport. Probably more so.”

British tailgaters at the 2012 NFL International Series Game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium in London. courtesy: Tom Bateman
British tailgaters “dressed to kilt” at the 2012 NFL International Series Game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium in London.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

He also discovered an NFL game represents everything the British love about America.

According to Bateman the Brits love the fact that we’re a show off nation.

Really, no sport or league shows off more than the NFL.

“It’s flashy, spectacular, the uniforms, the helmets, the cheerleaders, the endzone celebrations, the sack dances, all of that.” Said Bateman continuing, “But as a sport, to the Brits it can’t hold a candle to soccer or as they refer to it, real football.”

Also on the NFL’s agenda, sooner rather than later, is reducing the pre-season schedule from four games to two while expanding the regular season from its current 16-game schedule to 18.

An 18-game schedule is something the Players’ Union isn’t too keen on for player safety and the extra two games don’t increase the players’ salaries.

What about a little compromise for all parties involved so the 32 team owners, the players and Britain’s annual economy can capitalize on the projected $255 million the NFL stands to generate should it have a permanent presence in London.

Since the Brits enjoy seeing different teams play each International Series game and the logistics of having a permanent team call London home seem a bit difficult to iron out, let’s give the Brits what they want.

America's Game - NFL Football - celebrated at Wembley Stadium in London. courtesy: Tom Bateman
America’s Game – NFL Football – celebrated at Wembley Stadium in London.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

At the same time, let’s expand the regular season from 16 to 17 regular season games with the extra game for each team played each week at Wembley Stadium in London.

So what if it’s an odd number schedule. Only thing affected is a team finishing .500 which isn’t a huge deal in the grand playoff scheme of things.

This way, only teams with winning records would qualify for the postseason.

Make the 17th game match ups interconference games – AFC vs. NFC – with the match ups chosen with ping pong ball machines much like the ones used to choose the World Cup soccer groups or the NBA Draft Lottery and do it during Super Bowl Week for games in the upcoming regular season. Cut the pre-season to just two games.

You’ve added a game while having an entire regular season schedule – 16 weeks – in London with the Brits seeing all 32 NFL teams in different match ups each game and year.

It becomes a “pseudo Super Bowl” each week in London because the logistics time wise of having the Super Bowl in London – which has been discussed – just won’t work for NFL fans in the States who want to see the biggest game and spectacle on U.S. soil and rightfully so.

After all, it is America’s Game. Somewhere all 32 teams need to always call home.

No Disrespect. L.A. is the pLAce for the NFL

Downtown Los Angeles skyline at dusk.

Let me immediately debunk a serious cliché, untruth and down-right lie in regards to WE Angelenos.

It states, “WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team in Los Angeles because there are just too many other things to do here on a Sunday afternoon.”

Well, the part about plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon is spot-on. But, that’s what makes the City of Angels one of the greatest cities in the world.

The part about WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team is the biggest bunch of absolute garbage I’ve ever heard or read.

This clichéd rhetoric is old, tired, ignorant and completely false.

It’s a complete insult to all of US Angelenos.

Seriously!

Looking at L.A. from atop the Hollywood Sign.

Los Angeles, the second largest market in the country, home to Hollywood, a pair of MLB teams (Dodgers & Angels), a pair of NBA teams (Lakers & Clippers…and maybe the Anaheim Royals soon.), a pair of NHL teams (Kings & Ducks) a pair of major division one universities (USC & UCLA) and a pair of  MLS teams (Galaxy & Chivas USA) isn’t called the entertainment capital of the world for nothing. And although a sport, football, which includes the NFL variety, is one of the greatest forms of entertainment known to man, woman and child.

All I have to do is cite the Los Angeles Rams, the gold-standard among many pro football teams that have called L.A. home, as my example of WE Angelenos SUPPORTING an NFL team.

The L.A. Coliseum opened on May 1st 1923.

Beginning in 1946, after their move from Cleveland because they couldn’t compete with the Browns, the Los Angeles Rams called Southern California home for 49 years. The first 34 at the 100,000 seat L.A. Memorial Coliseum and the last 15 at Anaheim Stadium before moving to the Midwest in 1995.

49 YEARS!

Had the Rams not been supported by WE Angelenos throughout that half-century, you figure they would have left after year five.

The Rams called the Coliseum home from 1946 to '79.

During a 13 year period in the modern Super Bowl era from 1967 to 1979, the Rams won nine division titles, seven of those in consecutive seasons, played in seven conference championship games and one Super Bowl all the while attracting crowds at the Coliseum in excess of 65,000 to over 70,000 every Sunday afternoon.

In my interview with Hall-of-Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and tight end Bob Klein, stars for the Rams during those years, both told me they fed off the energy of those Coliseum crowds. Fans that are still devoted to them today.

The Rams averaged just under 60,000 fans per regular season game in the 34 years they played at the Coliseum including three of the top-ten all-time league attendance single-game records exceeding 100,000 fans in the stands.

Rams called Anaheim Stadium home from 1980-'94.

The  first 12 seasons in Anaheim, they averaged about 57,000 fans. The years 1992-94 saw a significant drop-off due to rumors of a potential move first to Baltimore and, later, St. Louis. The Rams averaged about 45,000 fans those final three seasons.

Most team owners in any professional sport relocate because they can’t get the city they call home to ante up, via public funding, for a brand new arena with all the modern amenities to maximize revenue for them and their team.

Ex-Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom with a model of the Football-enclosed Anaheim Stadium.

Former L.A. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom left L.A. for Anaheim in ’79 because the Coliseum Commission and L.A. politicians wouldn’t fork over taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Coliseum. Anaheim DID enclosing the Big “A” without its then-primary tenant, the California Angels, reaping any benefits whatsoever, so it could gain elite status as a city that an NFL team called home.

That changed in the early 90s when Georgia Frontiere wanted upgrades to the Big A via public funding. Anaheim said not this time. Off the Rams went to St. Louis.

St. Louis city officials and the state of Missouri gave the Rams everything they wanted and more including a new stadium in 1995 to return the Gateway City to elite NFL status after the Cardinals bolted a few years earlier for Arizona.

The 17 year old Edward Jones Dome is already obsolete by NFL standards.

The tables have now turned for the Gateway City. The Edwards Jones Dome needs upgrades the Rams negotiated in their original contract. St. Louis wants the Rams to pay more than half with taxpayers footing the rest of the bill.

Currently the Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are the NFL franchises looking to upgrade their stadium situations and join the 21st Century NFL.

It’s why Al Davis moved the Raiders to L.A. from Oakland in 1982 and then back to Oakland in ‘95. ‘84 when Bob Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore for Indianapolis. ‘87 when Bill Bidwell moved the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix. ’95 when Frontiere moved the Rams to St. Louis from Anaheim. ‘96 when Art Modell moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. ’97 when Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Tennessee from Houston.

These owners didn’t pack up their teams and leave their former cities because of the lack of fan support. It always has been and will be about stadium upgrade issues.

PERIOD.

San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium is one of the 3 most outdated stadiums in the NFL.

Not coincidentally, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are on the possible relocation list because they play in two of the three most outdated stadiums in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers were on the list playing in the third.

The 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara is scheduled to open in 2014.

The 49ers will be playing in a brand new $1.2 billion facility within the next couple of years in Santa Clara. A building privately funded with the 49ers borrowing $400 million. The Santa Clara Stadium Authority borrowing $450 million. $150 million from the league’s stadium fund. $40 million from the Santa Clara City Redevelopment Agency with the final $35 million coming from a hotel tax paid by tourists and visitors to the city.

I bring these three teams up because, if you include the L.A. Coliseum and Pasadena Rose Bowl, California has the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums. Anaheim Stadium’s out of play because it’s now a baseball-only stadium if you don’t count a high school gridiron clash or two.

California’s citizens and its government entities won’t consider stadium plans of any sort to be publicly-funded using taxpayer dollars. Especially in these tough economic times. We’re absolutely right not to.

That’s why the state is home to the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums in the country.

This is the ONLY reason why Los Angeles hasn’t been a part of the NFL for 17 seasons and counting.

AEG is targeting a 2017 grand opening of Farmers Field in Los Angeles.

This “extended road-trip” Los Angeles has endured could be coming to an end soon with not just one, but possibly two teams, from the list relocating here.

"Tailgating L.A. Style." An artist's rendition of Chick Hearn Court on Game-Day Sunday. Nokia Theatre and restaurants on the right. Staples Center in the left foreground. Farmers Field in left background.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) privately funded the Downtown Los Angeles Corridor Revitalization building the Staple Center and L.A. Live, and now is committed to privately fund, without taxpayer/public dollars, the entire construction of the $1.4 billion L.A. Convention Center and Farmers Field.

AEG’s already invested over $40 million, $27 million of those for an environmental impact report and the balance going to designs for the new convention center and football stadium.

Upon releasing the 10,000 page EIR earlier this month on the steps of L.A.‘s City Hall, point-man Tim Leiweke addressed AEG’s vision for the return of the NFL to the City of Angels.

A team could be calling L.A. home in September of 2013 playing its home games at the Coliseum until Farmers Field is completed by 2017.

As for which team it will be. Take a look at the aforementioned list. The Rams (if any team should call L.A. home, it should be the Rams.) and the Vikings are the top two candidates for various reasons. Who will it be?

It’s going to happen. L.A. will be back in the NFL and the NFL will be back in Los Angeles. From any angle, it’s quite overdue.

Yes. There are plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon in the City of Angels, one of the greatest cities in the world, and the NFL should and will be one of them.

Photo courtesy: Eric Geller, AEG, Farmers Field, Los Angeles Times, stadiumsofprofootball.com, USA Today.

Video courtesy: Eric Geller, NFL Films

Are the Rams Returning to the City of Angels?

I don’t want to get too excited about the Rams returning to Los Angeles because I really don’t like to count my proverbial chickens before they hatch and find myself with bitter disappointment.

But………Can it be? Are the Moons aligning? In the names of Merlin, Youngblood, Deacon, Crazy Legs and Roman, are the Rams beginning the process of moving back to Los Angeles?

At the moment, all signs seem to be pointing in that very direction.

Published reports from St. Louis and Los Angeles are abuzz with stories regarding the sale of the Rams and two possible sites in the greater Los Angeles area for a state-of-the-art NFL stadium.

In the “Gateway City”, writers from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believe St. Louis losing an NFL franchise for the second time seems inevitable while Bernie Miklasz of stltoday.com and ESPN Radio refuses to suggest such a notion even though he clearly sees the writing on the wall.

Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke wants full control of the franchise and is looking to purchase it from Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.  At issue, Kroenke owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. The NFL has rules against cross-ownership of teams in other major U.S. sports leagues. Kroenke seems to be able to clear such hurdles by signing over controlling interests of his other major sports teams to other family members.

Kroenke, also, seems to be working with L.A. sports & entertainment big-wigs to get them back where they belong, LOS ANGELES.

Earlier this week, St. Louis Globe-Democrat columnist Howard Balzer wrote:

It turns out Kroenke is a member of the league’s Los Angeles Stadium Working Group committee. Roll that one around in your mind a few minutes. Everyone I mentioned that to Thursday was silent for a few seconds, and then said, “Oh, my God.”

It means Kroenke is privy to every detail, every plan, simply everything that is related to those trying to get a stadium built there.

Then on Thursday, Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer wrote that businessmen Casey Wasserman, who owned the L.A. Avengers of the defunct Arena Football League, and AEG’s Tim Leiweke are considering a plan to build a privately funded stadium behind the Staples Center where the West Hall of the Convention Center currently sits. They tried this about eight years ago, but they backed out when the Coliseum Commission tried to make its own bid that, also, failed.

In a follow-up article from Saturday’s L.A. Times, Farmer added Wasserman and Leiweke want the proposed $1 billion stadium to have a retractable roof for use year round for a number of other events.

The Coliseum Commission isn’t a factor any longer because it’s locked in with USC which has rights of first refusal because the Trojans football team is the Coliseum’s major tenant.

The stadium would complete the L.A. Live entertainment corridor that was envisioned by AEG when the Staples Center was first built. Of course, the stadium proposal would need to be approved by the City of Los Angeles because the convention center is owned by the city.

In the article, Farmer added:

What’s more, the downtown bid would put Wasserman and Leiweke in direct competition with developer Ed Roski, who already has an entitled and shovel-ready piece of land in City of Industry to build a football stadium. There is only room for one such project in the L.A. area, and the Industry group is at least a year ahead of any other because it has clearance to build.

Another problem exists with the NFL. The current collective bargaining agreement ends after next season. The league is trying to avoid a labor dispute and subsequent work-stoppage in 2011.

The sticking point, team owners want the players to help in paying off the huge stadium costs.

The new CBA will take at least a year to negotiate which means no stadium will be built or team will re-locate while the NFL takes care of its CBA. That’ll give Wasserman and Lewieke a year to catch up with Roski.

When the time comes, I think these two competing stadium teams might want to join forces and work together on one site to benefit the greater Los Angeles Area, the NFL, maybe the Rams, and, first and foremost, the long suffering Los Angeles Rams fans.

The Rams called Los Angeles home for 49 years before (gulp) Georgia Frontiere moved them to St. Louis in 1994 claiming Los Angeles wouldn’t support them because there was too much to do in Southern California other than watch football.

I said it then and I’ll say it now. HELLO! 49 YEARS! Needless to say, Georgia pulled a “Major League” getting a sweet money deal in St. Louis while still residing in Bel-Air.

The City of Angels could soon be celebrating the Rams 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles (16 years, and counting, in the making) with St. Louis losing its second NFL franchise. That doesn’t have to happen.

Here’s a thought. When the Rams move back to Los Angeles, how about moving the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars to St. Louis and re-naming them the Stallions. Wasn’t that the idea when the league expanded 16 years ago anyway?

As far as a second team in the new Los Angeles Stadium.  Do you really think Chargers owner Alex Spanos will sit put in San Diego and play in an aging Qualcomm Stadium when he can move his team into a state-of-the-art play-pen back in its original home just up Interstate 5?

Too Much March Madness is Madness!

Did you even think this year’s winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament “Play-In” Game had a chance against eventual champion Duke?  Come on! Arkansas-Pine Bluff or *Winthrop? Was there any hope at all that team number 64 would make it to the round of 32. No. Arkansas P-B was quickly dispatched in the first round by the eventual champion Blue Devils, 72-44.

If that’s what happens to team number 64, why would the NCAA expand the tournament from 65 to 96 teams? Teams 65 through 96 certainly have no shot what-so-ever if 64 was no match for Duke in this year’s first round.

Hmmmmmm. I know! CHA-CHING! $$$$$$$$$! An extra two days worth for the TV Network and the NCAA.

Whether you like it or not, the inevitability of expanding the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams could become a reality as soon as next season. That’s fine because the number of division one schools has increased to 300+. So, post-season expansion in the tournament makes sense.

This will virtually end the “other” post-season men’s college basketball tournament, the NIT. The National Invitational Tournament was once thee post-season tournament. That changed in the 1960’s when the NCAA put the hammer down. Since then, the NIT attracts those NCAA Tournament “Bubble Teams” who just miss out on making the NCAA’s field of 65.

This year’s field of 32 NIT participants included Arizona State, Connecticut and tournament finalists North Carolina and eventual champion Dayton. So, it’s safe to say, this years NIT field of 32 would have been in this year’s NCAA’s had the tournament been made up of the proposed field of 96.

The NCAA’s plan is to keep March Madness a three week event. The top 32 teams will get a bye in the first round. That means the remaining 64 will begin play on Tuesday and Wednesday with Tuesday’s winners advancing to play that week’s Thursday regional games while the Wednesday winners advance to play in Friday’s regional games. So, you just add two days of games. Instead of one “Play-In” game, it’s a round of 32 “Play-In” games. Sure, it’s a diluted field. But, that’s the nature of the beast that is modern sports and television revenue from said sports. More = More.

I have a suggestion to keep the NIT afloat. How about the 32 losing teams from the Tuesday/Wednesday first round games advancing to the “Consolation NIT”.

Now, as far as the NCAA’s. If you’re going to give 32 teams a bye in that first round, give the bye’s to the Regular Season Conference and Conference Tournament Winners regardless of National Rankings. Those Champs earned a bye for winning their respective conference titles. If the regular season and conference tournament winner happens to be the same team, then you give that bye spot to an “at-large team” based on national rankings that didn’t win its regular season or conference tournament title.

But, aren’t those post-season Conference Tournaments already the expansion of the NCAA Tournament? It’s a process of elimination to get to the two best teams to fight it out for the National Championship. Don’t the Conference Tournaments begin that process of weeding out the posers to get to the two elite teams?

Anyway, by expanding the field to 96 teams, the NCAA’s essentially working a “do over” to change the results of those Conference Tournaments. It ends up being a third or fourth chance for some teams. Enough is enough.

Logistically speaking, with this expanded field, the NCAA should consider adding two regions. How about a North and North West Region and seeding every region with teams actually from those respective regions.  No more Syracuse University (Upstate New York) being the top-seed in the West Region. Makes no sense except to send teams in different directions so the best possible match-ups occur later rather than too early in the tournament for the television perspective.

If you seed each region with teams from their specific region, you’ll weed out those teams that are in the tournament thanks to the 32-team expansion in the opening round and assure yourself of some great later round match-ups barring early round upsets of course. Even if some of the top teams are upset early, that’ll generate even more viewer curiosity to see if one of these “Cinderella’s” can continue to advance.

March Madness expansion’s going to happen folks. If I were one of those NCAA suits, I’d talk about putting together a 16-team football playoff before expanding March Madness. But, that’s just me folks. If you can make student athletes play an extra round of college basketball, you can certainly work out some sort of football playoff incorporating bowl games.

Honestly, the “BCS” is just plain “BS” isn’t it? Enjoy the extra hoops folks!

*Every time I type in Winthrop played Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the “Play-In” game, all I can picture is my childhood friend Anne Winthrop being guarded by five guys over 6’10” while she dribbles a ball amongst the trees. Is that wrong of me?

NCAA Men’s Hoops Final: A Celebration of “Hoosiers”

Truly a classic men’s college championship basketball game in Indianapolis Monday night with top-seed Duke hanging on to beat five-seed Butler, 61-59. Came down to the final second as Butler’s Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave for the win bounced off the rim. Oh, so close!

Ratings for this Final Four, and the entire tournament in general, were the highest in five years easily topping last year’s Final Four which saw North Carolina beat Michigan State in Detroit for the championship. Why? Plenty of upsets by underdogs over favorites like Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse making the tournament wide open.

According to the blog Sports Media Watch, Monday’s game was up 31% in ratings and 36% in viewership (24 million to last year’s 18 million)from last year. SMW goes on to say Butler/Duke drew a higher rating than every Major League Baseball game since ‘04 and every NBA game since ‘02. Excluding the NFL and the Olympics mind you, the game ranks as the third-most viewed sports telecast of 2010, behind only the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Texas and the Rose Bowl game between Ohio State and Oregon.

The game interest obviously had plenty to do with Mid-Major Butler. Certainly not a Cinderella when you consider entering the title game, the Horizon League Champion Bulldogs were riding a 25-game winning streak and had resided in the national top 25 for most of the year. Butler was certainly the underdog against mighty ACC Champion Duke and justifiably so considering the tradition of Blue Devils Basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

What the ratings and viewership numbers for this game tell me is, to be cliché, America always roots for the underdog. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It helps that Butler’s campus is less than eight miles away from this year’s Final Four site, Lucas Oil Stadium. You can’t script this but, also, the Bulldogs home-gym is Hinkle Fieldhouse, the gym where the state high school championship game in the move “Hoosiers” was filmed. OH, COME ON! How fun is that!

So, for the life of me, I don’t understand why some sports radio hosts believed if Butler were to win the national championship, it would set the game back 50 years and that having a mid-major like Butler just playing in the title game would sound the death knell for CBS and its ratings.

I take it back. I know why these guys would publicize this. For exactly that. Publicity. So, here you go guys.

ESPN radio’s Colin Cowherd, host of the show The Herd, and, also, co-host of ESPN TV’s Sports Nation, said Butler winning the national title was bad for men’s college basketball and would set it back 50 years.

Meanwhile, FOX Sports Radio host and FOX Sports Nets Rumors Reporter, Ben Maller, said if Butler made it to the title game, ratings would be at an all time low for CBS. Now, I’m not bashing Big Ben because he’s my boy. We both have worked together on radio and TV and we’re pals. But, COME ON, BEN! Turns out my buddy was, obviously, wrong.

For Cowherd, it’s inconceivable to believe Butler winning the national title would be bad for college basketball. Of course, the Bulldogs came up just short in their quest. But, they proved they belonged with the big boys extending Duke to the final second.

For Cowherd to say Butler winning the national title would be bad for college basketball is similar to saying Texas-Western beating Kentucky for the 1966 national Championship with TW coach Don Haskins starting five African-American players, for the first time in the history of the game, against Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats was bad for the game. Haskins’ starting those five African-American players was exactly what the game needed at that particular time in our history.

Butler’s performance the other night against Duke is exactly what the game needed at this particular time in the sports history. It says those mid-major programs belong with the so-called “Big Six” programs. That alone peaks the interest of the vast majority of American Society who want to see the underdog have his day against the big boy.

Hence the big television numbers, Big Ben!

Congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs for showing the mid-majors belong and playing a terrific game. Much congratulations to Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils for another national title and playing a terrific game. Thanks to both schools for putting on a tremendous show for us to enjoy.

NFL Playoff Games Are Sudden Death No Longer.

FINALLY!! The NFL was the only league of any kind that had an overtime rule where it was not only possible, but probable, one of the two teams battling for the win in sudden death might not even see the ball on offense. The stat was true 60%  of the time since 1994.  Six out of 10 teams that won the overtime coin-toss, either, returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to end the game, marched down the field to score a touchdown to end the game, or marched about 40 yards down the field to kick the game-winning field goal.

THAT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN………at least during the playoffs.

The sudden death rule was ridiculous, especially when you consider both teams battled hard to the stale-mate and one team would be denied to match, or beat, the coin-toss winning teams score.

Here’s the new overtime playoff rule agreed to by 28 of the 32 owners Tuesday:

  1. Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case it is the winner.
  2. If the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession, the other team shall have the opportunity to possess the ball. If [that team] scores a touchdown on its possession, it is the winner. If the score is tied after [both teams have a] possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.
  3. If the score is tied at the end of a 15-minute overtime period, or if [the overtime period’s] initial possession has not ended, another overtime period will begin, and play will continue until a score is made, regardless of how many 15-minute periods are necessary.

That works for me. Consider last year’s NFC Championship Game. Tied at 28 after regulation, the eventual Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints won the coin toss and marched about 40 yards. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley sent New Orleans to the Super Bowl connecting on a 44 yard field goal dropping the Minnesota Vikings, 31-28. Brett Favre and the Vikings offense, who had double the yardage of the Saints in regulation, never saw the ball again. Had this new rule been in effect, Favre would’ve had the opportunity to tie or win the game. A shot the Vikings earned.

I’ve got to agree with ESPN NFL analyst Mike Golic. He says this is quite an improvement over the old sudden death rule. But, according to Golic, not good enough. Golic suggested  a complete 15 minute quarter should be played until the final gun. The score at the end of the overtime period is the final…..unless both teams are still tied. In which case, you continue playing overtime periods removing three minutes for each extra quarter played until a winner is decided. In other words, after the initial 15 minute overtime is still dead-locked at its conclusion, the following O.T. quarter is cut to 12 minutes….and so on until a winner is clearly decided. If after five O.T. periods both are still dead-locked, then you go to sudden death. I like it.

Talk about “edge of your seat playoff excitement”. That sounds like the ultimate. Maybe, down the line that’ll be the O.T. rule. Now, at least both teams will have a shot.

Only thing I don’t like about the rule change is that it isn’t part of the regular season. Games tied after regulation will still be decided by the old “sudden death” format. That’s going to be a huge flaw if a teams playoff chances hinge on the one game decided in “sudden death”. That is, essentially, a playoff game.

Modify the new rule for the regular season. Have a complete, 15 minute overtime period. If both teams remain tied after the O.T. quarter, then go to the “sudden death” format with the first team scoring, be it a field goal or touchdown, winning the game. Maybe, down the line. We’ll see.

By the way, one of the four teams to vote against the new playoff overtime rule, the Minnesota Vikings. Go figure.

It’s Madness!!

During this first day of MARCH MADNESS, upsets galore!! Midwest three-seed Georgetown out of Washington D.C., playing a Midwest first round game in Providence Rhode Island (what?) lost to 14-seed Ohio.

Meanwhile, West four-seed Vanderbilt out of Tennessee, playing in San Jose, California (makes sense) was upset at the buzzer by 13-seed Murray State.

After that game in the same gym, an East Regional game (huh?) pairing 11-seed and Pac-10 tournament champion Washington upsetting the East six-seed Marquette Golden Eagles.

Georgetown should’ve been in the East Regional playing in Providence, Rhode Island.

Vanderbilt should’ve have been in New Orleans instead of San Jose playing in the South Regional.

Washington, already playing in San Jose, but in the East Regional, should’ve been in the West Regional playing in San Jose.

But let’s get back to the Marquette University Golden Eagles out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Back before being “politically correct” became the norm, her athletic teams were known as the Warriors.

Marquette was the Warriors in the early 1970s when Al McGuire led Bo Ellis and Butch Lee to a National Basketball Title beating Dean Smith and North Carolina.

I bring this up because of an episode of “That 70’s Show,” which takes place in Milwaukee, I recently happened to catch on FX. The episode was about the teens in the cast going to visit the University of Wisconsin and Marquette. The guys went to visit the WU in Madison, while the girls went to visit MU in Milwaukee.

In the Marquette scenes of the show, athletic posters adorned some of the walls. They read “Marquette Golden Eagles”. WRONG! In the 70s, Marquette was referred to as the “Marquette Warriors.”

Typically on shows revolving around a certain period of time back in our history, like “That 70’s Show,” have behind the scenes staff that’s required to make sure all posters, names, mascots anything that is used on camera coincides with what they were in the time period the show re-creates.

“That 70’s Show” staff either didn’t do their homework. Or, they felt, to remain politically correct, and not offend anyone, they let the “Marquette Golden Eagle” slide for this instance thinking no one would catch the mistake.

Sorry “That 70’s Show”. But, I’m the one who pays attention to details like that especially since it’s a sports name issue.

My thought is being a “Warrior” isn’t something offensive or politically incorrect. It describes a proud defender. Considering that is sometimes how we refer to our own Men and Women in uniform, I think “That 70’s Show” blew it.

With that said, I’ll still watch “That 70’s Show”.  I love that show!!

Syracuse: Top Seed in the West Region. What?

Take out your brackets and work with me on this one. I, absolutely, love March Madness, especially the first two weeks when, Thursday thru Sunday, you have wall-to-wall college basketball from, depending on what region you’re in, early morning to the wee hours of the late night………… morning.

The regions, and seeding in those regions, are the issue. Having the West, Midwest, South and East Regions makes no sense anymore considering teams from every one of those regions sometimes don’t even play in their respective regions anymore. They add up the frequent-flyer mileage crossing the country, to and from all different regions, if they should happen to be fortunate enough to get to the Final Four, which happens to be in the North (Indianapolis), a region that’s not even represented in the March Madness scheme of things, at least on a “bracketology” map.

However, teams from the North are represented in March Madness. See what I mean!!

For instance, the top-seeded team in the West Region this year is Syracuse. That’s in the Northwest corner of New York state……on the east coast. The Orange plays its first West Region game Friday…………in Buffalo………in the northern part of New York State. Meanwhile, Gonzaga out of Spokane, Washington is seeded eighth in the West. The Bulldogs’ first West Region game is also Friday……………in Buffalo, New York! I KNOW! If you’re not a college hoops fan, your only thought is…………WHAT THE……!!!

Here’s another one for you non-college hoops geeks. Buffalo’s also hosting first and second round games in the East Region. The East Regional Semi’s and Finals are in Syracuse, New York. So, how is it that the Syracuse Orange aren’t the top-seed in the East. Kentucky is. By the way, Spokane Washington is hosting Midwest and South Regional first and second round games. But the “Zags” are nowhere to be found. Well, you can find ‘em. They’ll be in Buffalo.  You get the picture.

Who’s on First. What’s on Second. I Don’t Know’s on third. Tomorrow’s your Pitcher and he’s throwing to Today (catcher).”

What?

Used to be the top teams from each region WERE from each region and you had to win YOUR region to get to where ever the Final Four happened to be. That was “back in the day” when the tournament was only 16 and 32 teams. UCLA won 10 National Championships under college hoops coaching god, John Wooden. The Bruins came out of the West region every time.

Of course, NOW, it’s all about TV and money…………yada, yada. Get the best teams in, regardless of region. That’s fine with me. So, NOW, you can be from the University of California……………the regular-season Pacific 10 Champion, on the West Coast……………and you’re seeded eighth in the South Region and have to play your first round game in Jacksonville, Florida. At least they have Jacksonville’s region right.

Wait! Now, the NCAA College Basketball Suits are discussing the possibility of expanding March Madness from the current 65 teams to 96! DON’T DO IT!!! March Madness is already expanded. The extra teams/games are called CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS!! ESPN calls it CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK!

If you’re going to expand March Madness Games for another week, there’s no excuse to NOT HAVE A PLAYOFF in the College Football Bowl Sub-Division (1A). I’ll stay away from that one for now.

There are 16 seeds in each of the four regions. Top four seeds in each are the favorites to advance to the national “Sweet 16.”

But, when you look at the top four seeds in the West Region, not one school is from out West. The top four West seeds are:

1. Syracuse (New York) – Big East regular-season champion
2. Kansas State (Kansas) – Big 12 regular-season runner-up
3. Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) – Big East regular-season runner-up
4. Vanderbilt (Tennessee) – Lost in SEC Tourney quarter-final

Both the Pac-10 regular-season and conference tournament champions aren’t in the West Region. We discussed West Coast Conference regular season champion Gonzaga playing in the West Region where they belong. But not in Buffalo! WCC tourney champion St. Mary’s isn’t in the West region.

There are a total of 14 teams out of the West region of the country in March Madness this year. Yet not one is seeded in the top four of the West Region. The primary men’s college basketball conferences in the West:

1. The Pacific-10 – Washington, California

2. The Mountain West – BYU, UNLV, San Diego St., New Mexico

3. Conference USA – UTEP, Houston

4. Western Athletic – Utah St., New Mexico St.

5. West Coast – St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

6. Big West – UC Santa Barbara

7. Big Sky – Montana

Based on seedings in other regions, New Mexico is the highest at three in the East. They should be the top four seed in the West. Also based on the top 25 where New Mexico and St. Mary’ reside, all should be in the West region. Even though the Pac-10 had an “off year”, seems to me Washington and/or Cal should be in the West region.

All I’m suggesting is all regions should have a team/teams from that region in the top-four seeds.

With all that said and suggested, it should be another great March Madness………………that ends the first weekend in April. Huh?

Oh. Here’s my FINAL FOUR:

West Region – Kansas State
Midwest Region – Kansas
East Region – Kentucky
South Region – Duke

Final Game: Kansas and Kentucky

National Champion: KANSAS

Of course I’ve probably put an unintended curse on all four teams and I’ll be completely shut-out in the Final Four. But, that’s why it’s called March Madness……………………that ends the first weekend in April.

What?

Well. Anyway……………ENJOY THE GAMES.

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