ESPN GOES HEIDI ON THE GREY CUP

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I am a self-admitted Canadian Football League junkie.

I love all of it. The three downs, the one-point rouge, the 110 by 65 yard field and 20-yard end zones, the red penalty flags (and yellow challenge flags), the one-yard neutral zone, the three minute warning and many other subtle differences that gives the Canadian game a unique flavor compared to the U.S. version.

Dieter Brock, Warren Moon, Angelo Mosca, Levi Bo Mitchell, Darian Durant, Pinball Clemons, Tom Clements, Rocket Ismail, Ron Lancaster, Dave Cutler, Vic Washington, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Cameron Wake. These are among the players past and present who have shaped the CFL game. And could someone resurrect Don Chevier and Don Wittman and have them call NFL games to show Joe Buck how it’s done. Or just give Jim Nantz’s job to Chris Cuthbert.

Sunday night’s game between the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa REDBLACKS in Toronto became an instant classic – from OneRepublic’s halftime concert (superior to most Super Bowl halftimes) to the heavily favored Stamps furious rally from a 20-point deficit.

Leave it to ESPN to screw it up for viewers outside of Canada. The Stampeders had just scored, then recovered an onside kick and quickly moved into field goal range and touchdown range. Then the screen went teal.

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ESPN ran ads with a scroll running on the bottom acknowledging  technical difficulties. The game returned briefly on standard definition, then with the direct TSN feed just in time to see that Calgary had moved inside the 10-yard line after a pass interference call.

Word from Bristol was that the network had set for the feed to end at 10:00 p.m ET, three and a half hours after opening kickoff. Considering pregame festivities, halftime performance and possibility for overtime – ESPN should had realized the possibility of four hours or even more.

That was not ESPN’s first blank screen of the weekend, a late-night Utah State/BYU game also went dark on Saturday. That hiccup was blamed on-air by high winds in Provo. The Worldwide Leader who has recently lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers per month should feel fortunate that a dropped feed did not occur in the Michigan/Ohio State telecast.

Calgary kicked the game-tying field goal and Ottawa elected to take two kneel downs to end regulation time. TSN’s cameraman went onto the field and next to the line of scrimmage to record the interactions, only for numerous F-bombs from Calgary lineman Micah Johnson to be clearly heard.

TSN features enhanced audio features during games and presents occasional ‘live mic’ games throughout the regular season. It gives insight not seen on traditional football telecasts, but also with occasional language that is part of any pro sports league. My guess is Canadian broadcasters tend to be more lax  than the Federal Communications Commission in the States.

The REDBLACKS won the game on the first possession of overtime on a spectacular grab reminiscent of Tony Gabriel’s catch in the same end zone of what was known as Exhibition Stadium 40 years earlier that gave the Ottawa Rough Riders a title.

Meanwhile fans on ESPN2 were just glad the picture returned in the nick of time.

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MICHIGAN REMAINS IN CFP CONVERSATION

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For those of you who believe the current College Football Playoff system is a travesty.

At the height of the rivalry’s 10-Year War, Ohio and Michigan played to a 10-10 tie in 1973. The Big Ten commissioner and athletic directors met the next day via a conference call and declared the Buckeyes as the conferences Rose Bowl representative. A mitigating factors supposedly was a season-ending injury to Michigan’s quarterback. In those days no one outside of the Big Ten champ went to ANY bowl game.

In 2016 Michigan and THE played double-overtime, and the Buckeyes prevailed in a controversial 30-27 decision that eliminates the Wolverines from College Football Playoff consideration.

Or did it?

The ESPN website known as fivethirtyeight.com has Michigan’s chances as slim and none, their metrics places UM at two percent, behind Wisconsin (34 percent), Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. According to the site, Wisconsin’s chances improve to 81 percent with a win over Penn State along with a Washington loss to Colorado.

This is the same outlet that actually gave Donald Trump a 28.6 percent chance on election night, which was much more than the Washington Post and other publications gave the now President-elect.

The just released AP rankings have Michigan’s chances as better than Wisconsin. The Wolverines received 1264 votes, just 34 votes behind Washington and 27 ahead of the Badgers.

This time Michigan’s fate will lie with 13 members who make up the College Football Playoff committee. As things stand now, their decision may prove as controversial as Ohio State’s fourth down measurement.

For purposes of this exercise, assume top-ranked Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and possible No. 4 Washington win their conference title games. No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State will meet in Indianapolis for the Big Ten trophy, but in reality is considered a third-place game. No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State also meet in the Big XII regular season finale.

Assume Alabama and Ohio State as in, along with Clemson. That leaves the remaining candidates for No. 4

  • 12-1 Washington, Pac-12 Champion.
  • 11-2 Wisconsin or Penn State, Big Ten Champion
  • 10-2 Oklahoma or Oklahoma State
  • 10-2 Michigan

The instant classic in Columbus allows Michigan to remain in contention. Ohio State won handily at Oklahoma early in the season, Michigan and Ohio State both beat Wisconsin and Michigan blew out a Penn State team that THE somehow lost to.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is part of the CPF committee, but just one of 13 members, he likely will not be able to help Wisconsin’s cause. Former Washington coach Tyrone Willingham also serves on the committee, he was fired after a 0-11 season in 2008.

That leaves possible 12-1 Washington as the fly in the ointment. If the committee did opt to bypass the Huskies, it will not be U-Dub’s first screwjob (see 1984). If the Huskies lose to Colorado in the Pac-12 championship, then Michigan’s inclusion becomes less controversial. Ditto if Clemson manages to lose to Virginia Tech.

If Washington made the CFP ranked No. 4, only to be annihilated by Alabama (very possible), the committee would be open to endless criticism.

Not only could Michigan make the playoff, the Wolverines could even be elevated to No. 3. That would lead to a rematch of Ohio State and Mich-AGAIN in one semifinal along with Alabama/Clemson in a rematch of last year’s thrilling national title game.

ESPN and most fans outside of Seattle, Madison or State College would not complain about those two pairings.

FORMER NFL QB DAVID CARR STILL ALIVE

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If you watched the Texans v. Raiders Monday Night Football from Mexico City, you heard the family lineage of Oakland  quarterback Derek Carr. Older brother David Carr was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2002 and had a nice decade-long NFL career but did not reach the lofty expectations expected of a number one draft pick.

Today, David Carr does work with the NFL Network and coaches high school ball in Bakersfield along with his middle brother and father.

At the end of the game I received a strange text from someone who (a) does not watch the NFL and (b) does not watch ESPN.

It said ‘David Carr died?’, along with a Bing screenshot.

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At this point I checked sources from that old globalist standby Google along with Wikipedia, who said the retired QB is still alive.

But I remained curious on where Bing dialed up the February 12, 2015 death date.

It turns out a public figure named David Carr did die that day. He was age 58 and said to be an acclaimed columnist for the New York Times.

So there you have it, quarterback David Carr alive – reported by me, confirmed by ESPN and why I stay away from Bing.

 

CHANGES NEEDED IN GREEN BAY

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For Green Bay fans who just tuned in…

No, you have not had a bad dream.

You have not done the ultimate mannequin challenge only to find yourself in the depths of Hell, or worse, Minneapolis.

This is the world you now live in, the Packers 2016 season has officially become a disaster, most recently outmatched by the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, teams not confused with the NFL’s elite.

Let us start at the top. Mike McCarthy defended himself this week, he referred to himself as ‘a highly successful coach‘. The resume shows support with a 108-60-1 record and one Super Bowl title in 10 1/2 seasons.

It should have been two Super Bowl appearances except for Brandon Bostick cementing his status of Green Bay’s version of Steve Bartman.

The fact that McCarthy has been the Packers coach since 2006 may be part of the current problem. Mike Holmgren is recognized as the coach who helped turn Green Bay fortunes around. By the time of his seventh season in 1998, Holmgren seeked his next challenge and soon headed for Seattle.

Even the legendary Vince Lombardi stayed in Green Bay just nine years. He resurfaced as a NFL coach in Washington in 1969 and would likely had stayed there long-term had he not died a year later.

Only one player has been in Green Bay for the entirety of McCarthy’s tenure, but friction between McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers has bubbled to the surface in recent weeks.

If the Rodgers/McCarthy relationship is indeed on shaky ground as reported by one media outlet, someone leaves and that person is unlikely to be number 12.

Rodgers has taken criticism as well, and the question on whether he has the staying power of Brett Favre or Tom Brady is legitimate. Rodgers also remains on pace to throw for 4,000 yards with 22 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, in line with previous years. But Rodgers’ quarterback rating of 93.9 ranks 16th in the league and his personal lowest since the 2008 season.

Much fault falls on general manager Ted Thompson. Injuries remain a fact of NFL life, but the offense has been forced to navigate the season with zero depth at the running back. Injuries have also ravaged the defense, the team survived an epidemic of injuries six years ago, but most years losing top-line talent such as Clay Matthews and Sam Shields proves fatal.

With a 4-5 record, the only positive news pertains to the Packers location in the NFC North. The Minnesota Vikings have played equally bad football over the last month and the Detroit Lions share the division lead at 5-4. With divisional opponents comprising the final three games of the schedule, the Packers could still claim the division title and then peak  come playoff time.

Barring that scenario, McCarthy and possibly Ted Thompson could see walking papers not long after Jan. 2. The 21-0 deficit the team dug this past Sunday represented the first such early deficit since the dark ages of Forrest Gregg in 1986.

As was the case with Mike Sherman 11 years ago, the time has come for changes in Green Bay so the rest of Aaron Rodgers career is not wasted.

DONALD TRUMP’S PREQUEL – THE USFL

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This week Donald Trump cemented a year-long transformation to claim the nomination of President of the United States, a scenario unlikely to many as recently as Election Day itself.

Those of a certain age first heard of Trump in the 1980s when he owned the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.

Like most endeavors that dared compete with the National Football League, the USFL did not last long. The league’s premise was for spring football as opposed to the fall. The plan involved signing some NFL-level talent, but also contain costs for long-term survival.

Many USFL owners could not contain themselves. As predicted on the cover of SPORT magazine months earlier, underclassman and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals rather than return to the University of Georgia The publication only hit on one of five other prognostications. Other USFL signees included Joe Cribbs, Steve Young, Reggie White, Mike Rozier and University of Oklahoma phenom Marcus Dupree.

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Steve Young signed a 43-year contract with the Los Angeles Express which would have escalated $3 million annually by 2027. Young elected to take a settlement up front when the Los Angeles owner went bankrupt.

In 1983 Donald Trump was an original owner with the Generals, sold the team prior to the season but returned as owner the following year.

Trump was never commissioner, but might as well been. His vision differed from the leagues initial plan. Trump would either go big or go home, his goal was to compete directly with the NFL and ultimately force a merger as the American Football League had done.

Although many teams hemorrhaged money by 1984 (six expansion teams added for quick cash), the league stayed in the headlines during baseball season thanks to Trump.

‘Master of the USFL’, one front page sports headline on USA Today read.

Trump nearly lured Don Shula as coach, a story that went viral in the 1983 NFL season. Reports had Shula holding out for a Trump Tower apartment and the coach backed away when the story became a distraction to his Miami Dolphins. The Generals did sign several NFL veterans and inked legendary Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie in 1985.

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By that time, the writing was on the wall, the league now contracted to 14 teams. Trump wanted a fall schedule for 1986 and to sue the NFL on anti-trust grounds.

Trump met resistance from owners who did like him controlling league dialogue. Tampa Bay Bandits owner John Bassett penned a letter to Trump (CC’d to Commissioner Chet Simmons), vowing to punch the Donald smack in the mouth if he got scorned again in an owners meeting.

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Trump vowed a ‘dream team’ when he merged the Generals with Jim Kelly’s Houston Gamblers for a 1986 fall season that never happened. A court victory over the NFL netted three dollars and Trump and the other seven remaining franchises folded their tents, vowing a 1987 return (a year the NFL went on strike).

Trump also sought to buy the Cleveland Indians in 1983, offering $13 million for the team, an offer later bumped up to $34 million. The belief was Trump would move the team to Tampa – at least Trump would likely had built a venue better than what the Tampa Bay Rays currently call home.

After the USFL Trump’s sports endeavors returned to golf courses, boxing events – along with real estate, beauty pageants, The Apprentice and everything else.

And finally throwing his hat into the 2016 GOP presidential ring, a bid most considered a pipe dream.

 

CLEVELAND NEEDS WORLD SERIES GAME 7 MORE

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The Karma.

Yes, the dinosaur media has already dubbed Cleveland’s next potential heartbreak, assuming the Chicago Cubs will win Game 7 of the World Series.

The ‘karma’ refers a summer of celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA championship. To lose a similar lead in baseball would provide just desserts to those who gloated on the demise of the Golden State Warriors the past four months.

‘The Karma’ would join Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Move, The Decision and Jose Mesa in Cleveland sports lore.

This is why the Indians need Game 7 more.

The Cubs own Chicago, and everywhere else. Millions have abandoned the DNA of loyalty towards local teams and Fly the W on social media.

Outspoken college football coach Mike Leach chimed in on the phenomena in a weekly presser. He suggested ‘every yuppie with a BMW or some special attachment to its computer or designer set of jeans is a Cubs fan. My Cubbies, if you say ‘my’ in front of your team, that’s dubious’

Leach continues to cement himself as a classic discussing baseball over potential game plans for his next Pac-12 opponent. And Washington State athletics is not unlike the Cleveland Indians, what they do does not often make a sound.

That is also the case of another American League Central baseball team. At the start of the series a TV outlet out of Connecticut presented a graphic comparing titles between Chicago and Cleveland over the past 50 years. Six Bulls logos, three Blackhawks trademarks and a Bears logo appeared on the Chicago ledger.

I guess the 2005 White Sox World Series sweep of the Houston Astros did not count, must have been too easy. The South Side team gets the respect of an independent league entry.

On the field, the Chicago Cubs future is outright scary and should be admired. Although MLB teams do not stay intact for long, the Cubs represent one of the youngest teams in baseball and will likely knock on the playoff and World Series door for the foreseeable.

In other words, forget about the past 108 years, this franchise has quickly become a juggernaut.

For Cleveland, forget the fact that they struggle to draw 10,000 on many weeknights during the season. Outside of the mid-1990s, title chances come along with the frequency of Halley’s Comet. Most so-called experts predicted a third or fourth place finish for the club who this month somehow rolled past the Red Sox and Blue Jays to reach the Fall Classic.

But with a meager payroll and limited revenue streams, Cleveland’s window for playoff success is about one shot every ten years. A loss in Game 7 will be compared to a similar 3-1 lead squandered in the 2007 American League Championship Series.

So it is Corey Kluber against Cubs Nation (a.k.a the world) in Game 7. If baseball gods have a heart, Indian Summer lasts one more night.