Your Colin Cowherd Moment of the Day – Rex Ryan vs. Tony Dungy: A Study In Leadership Styles

19 08 2010

The other day, a flap came about between former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and current New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan because Ryan “swears too much.” Today, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd asserted what he thinks the core of the issue is. Cowherd’s belief is that swearing when used “sparingly” has an impact; that volume works, and aggression wins. In other words, we are tapping on the old adage that “nice guys finish last.”

Lets’ compare and contrast. Dungy is a soft-spoken guy who has relied on his “nice guy” image for the majority of his career. Ryan is brash, vocal, and undeniably charismatic. Being a “nice guy” has provided cover for Dungy’s having become a self-appointed crusader who out of one side of his mouth is willing to be a bible-thumping self-moralizer while out of the other he is espousing the virtues of cretins like Michael Vick. In contrast, Ryan is a guy with no pretenses who has players e-mailing ESPN saying they wish they could play for him.

In fact, Jets linebacker Bart Scott offered an impassioned defense of Ryan, claiming Dungy should mind his own business and turn the channel if he takes exception to Ryan’s style.

“If you don’t want your kids to see Andrew Dice Clay or Bernie Mac, tell them to go see Bill Cosby,” Scott told ESPNNewYork.com. “You can’t suggest for somebody to tone it down or say, ‘He wouldn’t coach for me’ and ‘I wouldn’t hire him.’ Why are you farming someone else’s land? Farm your own land.”

This is the part where it is important to notice that Dungy doesn’t draw such visceral defense. Instead, supporters of Dungy talk of what admiration they have for his “Quiet Strength,” what respect they have for him.  Ryan get people who are willing to “throw down” for him.

What Cowherd misses is this really comes down to a difference in leadership styles. There are as many different styles as there are leaders, but they largely boil down to two types; those who lead from the rear, and those who lead from the front. “Lead from the rear” types spout a lot of platitudes about respect and loyalty; “lead from the front types” breed and instill those qualities rather than talk about them.

In my non-blogger life, I’ve been a manager or a consultant for nearly 15 years. True leaders aren’t born, they are made; but neither being soft-spoken or being a guy who drops F-bombs are indicators of who makes a good leader. Dungy is on record as saying he wouldn’t hire “a guy like that,” whereas Ryan says “just because somebody cusses doesn’t make him a bad person. Just because a guy doesn’t cuss doesn’t make him a good person. I’ll stand by my merits.”

It all begs the question “What are the characteristics of a good leader?” I’m a firm believer that personality matters little; “brash and vocal” can lead just as well as “quiet strength.” I’ve also never believed in success as a measure of a leader; teams have succeeded with weak leadership, and history is full of great leaders that had dysfunctional teams. Rather, I’ve always been a fan of a system for determining leadership qualities developed by FedEx. It is their belief that the best leaders share nine personal attributes – which they specifically define.

Just for fun, let’s settle the Ryan vs. Dungy debate with a hypothetical exercise supposing I am going to hire one of them, and that I am going to score them according to FedEx’s 9 Faces of Leadership.

1) Charisma – Instills faith, respect, and trust. Has a special gift of seeing what others need to consider. Conveys a strong sense of mission.

This one goes to Ryan hands down. Ryan, while expressing it in a manner some find coarse and brutish, has his team showing an undeniable singularity of purpose. Meanwhile, Dungy exudes an air of “knowing what’s right;” sanctimony breeds contempt, not leadership.

Advantage: Rex Ryan

2) Individual Consideration – Coaches, advises, and teaches people who need it. Actively listens and gives indications of listening. Gives newcomers a lot of help.

While I give credit to Tony Dungy for trying to help Michael Vick, it is only partial credit because he was nowhere to be found during Vick’s latest brush with the “dark side” stemming from the shooting incident at his 30th birthday party. True mentors switch to active mode when they see their mentee in trouble. The fact that the New York Jets are a fashionable pick to go deep in the playoffs with a roster predominantly populated with younger players speaks to Ryan’s ability to understand and teach.

Advantage: Rex Ryan

3) Intellectual stimulationGets others to use reasoning and evidence, rather than unsupported opinion. Enables others to think about old problems in new ways. Communicates in a way that forces others to rethink ideas that they had never questioned before.

Dungy wins this category, not because I think he has a more intellectual approach than Ryan, but because I believe getting football players even to consider things from a Christian-centric point of view embodies “communicates in a way that forces others to rethink ideas that they had never questioned before.”

Advantage: Tony Dungy

4) Courage – Willing to stand up for ideas even if they are unpopular. Does not give in to pressure or to others’ opinions in order to avoid confrontation. Will do what’s right for the company and for employees even if it causes personal hardship.

This is a tough category. One on hand, Dungy going to bat for Michael Vick in puppy-hugging liberal America took major-league guts, but I always got the whiff Dungy did it for his own gain, in much the same way that a defense lawyer would gain fame for defending Osama Bin Laden. On the other hand, Ryan is willing to show exactly who he really is in a country where strong leaders are out of fashion, even in the NFL.

Advantage: Tie

5) DependabilityFollows through and keeps commitments. Takes responsibility for actions and accepts responsibility for mistakes. Works well independently of the boss.

This could have been another “tie” category, except for one thing. I’ve never known a devoutly religious person who is willing to make a move without consulting God, the “boss,” or whomever else scares them.

Advantage: Rex Ryan

6) Flexibility – Functions effectively in changing environments. When a lot of issues hit at once, handles more than one problem at a time. Changes course when the situation warrants it.

This is another category in which a devoutly religious guy isn’t going to score well. Flexibility doesn’t factor for a guy who lives by ten inviolable commandments, which lead to a whole host of similarly inviolable “God told me I couldn’t” rules. As much as nobody wants to admit this, there are times in the heat of battle, one must be willing to kick a ball back on to the fairway.

Advantage: Rex Ryan

7) Integrity – Does what is morally and ethically right. Does not abuse management privileges. Is a consistent role model.

While it is hard to beat a devoutly religious person in this category, Ryan proves that a “guy who cusses” can make it viable. But Dungy is nothing if he is not consistent.

Advantage: Tony Dungy

8 ) JudgmentReaches sound and objective evaluations of alternative courses of action through logic, analysis, and comparison. Puts facts together rationally and realistically. Uses past experience and information to bring perspective to present decisions.

All I had to hear to know which way I would value this category came from Dungy when he said “I wouldn’t hire someone like that” based on a television appearance by Ryan that Dungy admits he didn’t even see. Going with second-hand information rates an instant “fail” here.

Advantage: Rex Ryan

9) Respect for othersHonors and does not belittle the opinions or work of other people, regardless of their status or position.

In all honesty, it is hard for me not to rule against Dungy in this category considering he wanted to the commissioner of the NFL to impose some sort of sanction against Rex Ryan simply because he used language Dungy doesn’t like.

Advantage: Rex Ryan

Winner: Rex Ryan 6-2-1

What does this all mean? To me, it means that Dungy is a man who can get respect, but Ryan is a man who gets loyalty. Respect gets people to give their all; loyalty gets people to give their all even when they think they can’t.





The Anger Management Classes Must Not Have Stuck

19 08 2010

If you remember LeGarrette Blount, you remember the punch; the moment that gave Blount his 15 minutes of fame and made him a 2009 Dubsy award winner.

Let's be honest, I will find any reason to use this graphic.

It seems Blount just goes with what he knows. The undrafted, free-agent rookie running back capped off a feisty night practice for the Tennessee Titans with yet another punch.

“Blount had just returned to the Titans on Wednesday night after being excused since Sunday for personal reasons. He was carrying the ball in a drill near the goal line when his helmet came off, and he kept his feet moving toward the end zone.”

“The play ended with some pushing and shoving, then Blount threw a right into Eric Bakhtiari’s facemask. Blount quickly talked to coach Jeff Fisher before leaving the field.”

Of course, since the Titans are in need of a second back behind Chris Johnson since they shipped another troubled back in LenDale White down the road. This is why head coach Jeff Fisher downplayed the incident, but the telling comment came from Blount himself.

“That was my past. It just came up again. I got into one of those situations where the defense pushed me too far. With training camp and everything going the way it is and being as intense as it is and me being a rookie, it was just something I shouldn’t have done. But I did it.”

Let me tell you something as a guy who has undergone more than one exercise for personality modification. It is easy to say you’ve changed something when faced with everyday situations. But there is no better force to bring out the truth than stress. While I must give credit to Blount for taking responsibility, I also have to notice that he clearly hasn’t dealt with the issue that cost him being drafted.





One Year Later, Brett Favre Is Still A Douche; Viking Fans Still Blind

18 08 2010

Some dates are forever burned into your memory. July 4th, 1776. December 7th, 1941. September 11th, 2001. In Minnesota, you can add August 18th, 2009 – the day King Brett I ascended to The Throne of the Court of the Purple. This is also the anniversary date of this very blog; it came to be as an outlet for the ridiculous sight that was Favre’s arrival in Minnesota.

Then, we were treated to weeks of speculation, followed by an OJ Simpson-esque following of an SUV driven by head coach (and primary enabler of all this dysfunctionality) Brad Childress carrying Favre from the airport to the Vikes’ training facility at Winter Park. We all had to stomach the incredible blindness of Viking fans, so slavishly devoted to the idea that Favre was the savior who could lead them to the Super Bowl championship they so desperately crave they simply cannot understand the “emperor is naked.”

So, what has changed in that time? This time, kicker Ryan Longwell drove the SUV.

Apparently, Childress finally learned how to delegate.

The 40-year-old should be ex-quarterback returned to Minnesota on Tuesday, again arriving in a private jet trimmed in the Vikings’ purple and gold, this time with three teammates who were sent to Hattiesburg, Miss., to bring him back for one more delusional attempt at a Super Bowl. This time around, Longwell got to play ride bitch for King Brett I. This time, the expectation of a Super Bowl is even higher. And this time, there is a complete denial of the truth, even though it happened right in front of the eyes of Viking fans.

Now, Viking fans are hanging their hats on the fact that Favre had statistically a great season last year. They will even bring up the 310 passing yards and the two touchdown passes in the NFC Championship loss to the Saints. But they never bring up the two interceptions, especially not the last one that cost the Vi-Queens the game. It’s just more proof that people who quote a lot of statistics are usually covering for the fact that they didn’t win. They also illustrate their complete lack of understanding of the difference between “good” and “great.” Good quarterbacks pile up statistics; great ones win big games. Combine that with the fact that the MVP-winning version of Favre was last seen 13 years ago, the Super Bowl winning version of Favre was last seen 15 years ago, but the big-game choking, stupid decision Favre has been on display for the last ten years, and what is going to happen in Minnesota this year becomes even easier to see than last year.

When Favre came to Minnesota last year, Vikings fans set the expectations at no less than a Lombardi trophy. As laughable as it was then, it is even more so now, yet that is what you will hear later today when the announcement is made the King Brett I is back for yet another season of being a petulant, self-centered douchebag to whom the concept of “team” means nothing, and who won’t deliver the Super Bowl Vikes fans foolishly believe he will.

My thoughts then:

“WHAT THE HELL!!! ALL THIS OVER A 40-YEAR OLD “HAS BEEN” WITH A THROWING ARM HELD TOGETHER WITH SCOTCH TAPE AND HAPPY THOUGHTS?!?! My cries mattered  little; the statewide Favre-gasm had already passed the point of no return.

My thoughts now:

“WHAT THE HELL!!! ALL THIS OVER A 40-YEAR OLD “HAS BEEN” WITH A THROWING ARM HELD TOGETHER WITH SCOTCH TAPE AND HAPPY THOUGHTS?!?! My cries mattered  little; the statewide Favre-gasm had already passed the point of no return.





The BCS Isn’t Perfect, But It’s What We’ve Got…For Now

16 08 2010

I will be honest, I’ve waffled more than IHOP when it comes to the subject of a playoff in Division I College Football. To be even more honest, the anti-BCS argument always tends to push me the other way, because the anti-BCS argument is almost always so flawed that I can’t help but see it can’t possibly hold any water.

As a blogger, I always make it a point to read as a much as I write. I’m not omniscient; the beauty of technology is that is has allowed the interaction of people who otherwise would have never crossed paths. Kevin C.L. Chung is one of those people, and he wrote the perfect anti-BCS argument for me to really explain, maybe even as much to myself as anybody, why while the BCS isn’t perfect, it is a more realistic solution than a playoff would be.

Dear BCS,

Another season of American college football is fast approaching.

Do you want to be taken seriously? Do you want to make as much money as the NFL, if not more? Do you want to be seen as fair and impartial, as all college sports organizations should?

The last thing the BCS conferences need to worry about is money. For example, the SEC is raking in $2 billion by itself on its TV deal with CBS. When you stop to consider that college teams don’t have the overhead of NFL teams, you really don’t need to delve deep into the books to see the overall profit margins are likely comparable.

As for “fair and impartial,” well, that is the adult world’s equivalent of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. It makes people feel better to believe in it, but it really doesn’t exist. Anybody who claims to be “fair,” “impartial,” and/or “balanced” never is – see Fox News.

If you said yes to any of the above questions, then you should remove automatically qualifying conferences and enable a tournament-style post season.

Now we start getting into the ugly realities of instituting a play-off. First of all, the “big” conferences are all about money. Today, they exist largely to ensure regional interest and television money; so much so that they’ve become brand names. If you doubt that, look at the Big Ten; look at how they made a deliberate effort to keep the name “Big Ten” despite the fact they have eleven members. Also, look up what the Big Ten Network generates in terms of total revenue.

Add to that the BCS is also largely a money exercise; teams got close to $20 million last year just for showing up. Since the conferences control college football, and since the bowl system is tied to the conferences, it is unrealistic to expect a change unless it is made financially rewarding.

* There is no way for a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play for the national championship, not even BCS busters. You are punishing schools for being unable to be a part of the right conference.

Tell that to Notre Dame. They know they can get to a championship game (if only they didn’t suck and would play anybody better that service academies and the bottom feeders of the Big Ten). The Irish have been to a BCS bowl in the last five years despite the fact they had three losses. Boise State has a legitimate shot at it this year as well. The formula is you have to be rated high in the pre-season and you can’t have a schedule full of cream puffs. Granted, it is easier to meet that criteria in a “big” conference, but is not impossible.

* Agents and benefactors pay more attention and infuse more money into BCS AQ schools. This ignores the players’ capabilities and hurts their professional careers, whether it’s sports related or not.

While this is a legitimate point, I’m not really sure what this has to do with a playoff. It only makes sense that agents and benefactors would spend more time at the “big” schools…if you want to catch fish, you go where the fish are; most of them are in the ocean known as the “big” schools.

* The current system is unfair to western schools. BCS pollsters are bunched in the east coast. By the time the western colleges play their games, most pollsters have gone to sleep and have already made their voting decisions. It’s very difficult to vote for a team, whose game is on at 2 AM. This is one reason why the SEC is so powerful.

Actually, the SEC is so powerful because it consistently puts the best teams on the field.  It also has a lot of influence in two of the best recruiting areas in the country, Florida and Texas. While “the east coast bias” does exist, it rarely hurts the truly talented teams. Nobody ignored USC just because they are in California, Texas never suffers from it; what kills western teams more often than not is they really aren’t very good.

* Evidence: Conference shake-ups. Recent school moves between conferences always shared one question on their minds: how would this affect the odds at BCS games?

Let’s be honest here. When we are talking about “BCS Busters,” we are historically only talking about four schools at the most: Brigham Young (who won a National Championship in the pre-BCS days), TCU, Boise State, and Utah (which will be a member of the Pac-10 in 2011). There is now no reason why a school that offers a reasonable athletic department can’t get into a “big” conference; BYU and TCU could both join the Big 12 tomorrow.

* Every other college sport does it. Practically every professional sport does it.

This is just the old “if everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” argument.

* The models already exist and have been proven. Look at the NCAA Basketball and Volleyball tourneys. They incorporate each conference champion and incorporate wildcards. Easy.

This is likely the easiest part of setting up a play-off, other than you have to get Notre Dame into a conference. They have no interest in doing so as long as NBC is paying them to broadcast ND home games. If you don’t get them into a conference, then they serve as the model for a team to go get its own TV deal and blow the whole construct.

* Yes, you can keep Bowl games. BCS Bowl games would appear in the semifinal round. Non BCS Bowl game can appear in the first round. Bowl committees would shift their focus away from selecting teams and onto their real job: marketing the game.

That is really going to be easier said than done. Don’t forget, the “old-school” bowl games, such as the Rose, Orange, and Cotton (just to name a few) are based on local events that involve more than just football games. They have parades and all sorts of other events designed to bring in visitors who then spend money boosting the local economies. This is why bowl games were (before the latest gross proliferation) in warm weather destinations and done after the Christmas holidays. They were made to draw tourists, and to get fans from crappy-weather locales to come to Florida, Texas, and California around New Year’s Day.

Then there’s a scheduling problem. When is this play-off going to happen? Logic would dictate your playoff is going to have to be in December, during that time between the conference championship games and the bowls that people bitch about too. Moving an event from the week after Christmas to the week before runs the risk of killing the numbers of fans willing to travel to a neutral-site playoff game 1,500 miles from home. This compounds the problem inasmuch as now you have to deal not only with the ties between the bowls and the conferences; you also have to deal with the local Chambers of Commerce whose bottom line you are impacting.

And finally, there’s the issue of home-field advantage. If a team now has to win two or three playoff games in order to get to a championship game, in order to get the “big” schools to go along with this, you are going to have to promise them the ability to earn more home games, which equal money. This goes away once you use “small” bowl games as playoff games. Another problem you introduce is the meaning of regular-season games. Without the concept of playing for home-field advantage, you will create situations for top-ranked teams who will know with two games to go they are securely in a however-many-teams-you-want playoff format. Then they can pull what the Indianapolis Colts did last year; essentially mailing in the last two games of the regular season and alienating fans in the process.

* The post-season would be much more exciting. And much more revenue for the schools would be generated.

The post-season would be the only thing that is exciting, because nobody would care anymore about the regular season. Look at what happened to the TV ratings for college basketball. Cable outlets like ESPN used to make a haul on college basketball until the tournament was expanded to 64 teams. Once that happened, the top five teams from each “big” conference got into the tournament, so that Purdue-Michigan State or Duke-NC State game in February meant nothing since those teams were all getting into the “big dance” anyway.

Sure, the basketball tournament has become arguably one of the great sporting events in this country, but it came it at the expense of making the regular season meaningless. That’s the part that screwed the teams that aren’t in the big tournament; the regular season was where they made their money. So, the play-off in basketball made the rich get richer. So when you say “the models have been built and proven,” you are absolutely correct.

* Anyone who believes in fairness and equality in NCAA sports believes in a tournament-style post-season. Ask the White House. Ask the Justice Department.

A) See the aforementioned comments about “fairness and equality.”

B) The last thing this situation needs is governmental involvement. Not only do they have better things about which to worry, involving a government that could find a way to screw up a grilled cheese sandwich is no answer.

Like I’ve said, while the BCS is far from a perfect solution, it is currently the only realistic one. As much as there is such a clamor for a play-off, such a move as currently envisioned would create more problems than it would solve, and ultimately would not create a system that is “fair.” In order to create a play-off, there are so many external factors that would need to be addressed, and so many stakeholders in the current system that would need to have their interests placated that the structure of Division I football itself would need to be revamped before a true play-off system would be feasible.





You Can Take the Quarterback Out Of Purdue, But You Can’t Take the Purdue Out Of The Quarterback

15 08 2010

With his tousled blond locks and his piercing blue eyes that matched the blue in the throwback Colts baseball cap he was wearing, Curtis Painter cut quite a GQ-type figure. The problem came when he traded the cap for the helmet.

Now, you may ask why would anybody give a damn about the second-string quarterback on a team that has Peyton Manning? Because Manning is 34 years old, and the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line looks weak…and that was before Jeff Saturday got hurt.The importance of the back-up quarterback grows with the same tick of the clock that makes Manning a step slower and a smidge more fragile.

Sunday’s game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers showcased two team on opposite sides of the quarterback fence. The 49ers seem to have almost no drop-off between first and second string; both Alex Smith and David Carr are arguably failed #1 draft picks who just as arguably have the same skill level. Meanwhile, there may not be a bigger gulf between 1 and 2 than in Indianapolis. Manning is another #1 draft pick who has spent the last dozen seasons re-defining greatness, whereas Curtis Painter was a sixth-rounder who can’t even seem to define Painter.

Let’s just cut to the chase here. Curtis Painter is not an NFL quarterback. He was barely a Big Ten quarterback. But to be fair to Painter, he was never intended to be the second-stringer in 2009; long-time back-up Jim Sorgi went down with an injured throwing shoulder, and next thing you know, the affable blond kid from Vincennes, IN, found himself in a game trying to protect a 14-0 record and a 15-10 lead against the playoff-bound New York Jets. The Colts’ faithful know what followed. A sack, a fumble, an interception, and the end of a perfect season. Painter got to spend the off-season reliving it via the endless replays that documented coach Jim Caldwell’s wildly unpopular decision to pull the starters. The boos cascaded throughout Lucas Oil Stadium, and Painter spent the summer waiting for a chance to redeem himself; or failing true redemption at least offering that he is capable of more than he showed in that seemingly impossible situation last December.

But there were only more boos.

In the first two series, the Colts’ first stringers rolled up a ten-point lead. But then Painter entered the game, and things went downhill quickly for the Colts. By quickly, I mean they looked like Wile E. Coyote falling off a 10,000 foot cliff. Painter’s three interceptions and a fumble lead to 20 unanswered points second-quarter points for the 49ers.

Painter and Wile E. Coyote: You just know is isn't going to end well for either of them.

After the third pick was when the boo-birds came out. The scene at Lucas Oil Stadium was reminiscent of week sixteen of last season. The boos were out in force that afternoon after watching a lead built by Manning and the starters dissolve in Painter’s hands.

Painter has spent his whole football career in Indiana; he played college ball at Purdue, where he was merely a mediocre quarterback at a mediocre program. But also to be fair, Painter has worked hard during the last full season and this off-season to learn the system. The Colts need him to become a more capable back-up, because the day that Painter may find himself again thrust into a real-game situation may be right around the corner.





Finally, Somebody Has Stopped The Insanity

15 08 2010

Since we are a month past the end of the World Cup, Americans and their notoriously short attention spans have likely forgotten the insanity that was the vuvuzela. Since I want to test that short American span, I want you to remember who was stopping the insanity close to twenty years ago.

If you are fortunate enough not to remember who this spiky-headed slice of craziness was, I’m about to share my memory misery with you. Her name is Susan Powter, and she was the “Stop The Insanity” infomercial queen in the early 1990′s.

Granted, while there is nobility in helping battleship-sized women regain their humanity, there is something to be said for introducing a level of nuttiness that obviates any good you might be accomplishing. This was the position of Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president who refused to ban the patently-annoying noisemakers during the World Cup. His argument was that the cheap, annoying plastic horns were “uniquely South African,” and therefore wouldn’t be banned.

Of course, that was a complete load of bullshit. This is also where the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has shown a wonderful bit of being proactive; playing the Powter role by stopping the insanity.

As far as the SEC is concerned, the vuvuzela is noisemaker non grata. After watching how that 2-dollar plastic horn contributed to the World Cup being a disaster, the league clarified its stance on the noisemaker and it’s incessant, brain-melting buzz. See, there was some confusion about which noisemaking devices are allowed at SEC games because of the conference’s decision to allow cowbells at Mississippi State games. This lead some people to believe the patently annoying cowbells paved the way for the uber-annoying vuvuzela. SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom would beg to differ.

“Our policy allows for ‘traditional’ artificial noisemakers to be allowed in stadiums and played during specific times. Other forms of artificial noisemakers are not allowed. I do not believe a vuvuzela is tied traditionally into one of our institutions.”

“Vuvuzelas cannot be brought into the game per policy. Cowbells, since it is traditionally tied into one of our schools, can be brought in at that school.”

See, Bloom gets what Blatter does not. A vuvuzela by definition can’t be in anybody’s tradition, because traditions are based on history. Anything that was made out of plastic 20 minutes ago has no history.

Which, oddly enough, is how most Americans feel about soccer.





Ask The Geico Guy: Will There Be an NFL Lockout in 2011?

14 08 2010

Was Abe Lincoln honest? Not including what happened this past week, there have been seven prior negotiating sessions between the NFL owners and the Players’ Association. Including what happened this week, they’ve made no progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  While the reasons for this may be numerous, a single vision of a labor stoppage in 2011 is becoming clearer every day.

By all accounts, it seems the Players’ Association (NFLPA) is under the belief the owners have a plan to lock out the players in 2011 in an effort to break the union; ultimately to score a owner-friendly CBA. First, there is the NFLPA’s view. The union’s requests for audited financial statements supporting the owner’s claims of economic distress have all been rejected. Not only does this lead the union to the lock-out conclusion, it caused them to retain a financial consultant to investigate the owners assertions.  After all, what this all boils down to is the owners’ contention that costs are too high, and they would like players to take a pay cut. But until the owner’s open up the books, that’s not likely to happen.

However, the player’s do have an end-run toward a snap-shot of the league’s finances. Enter the Green Bay Packers, which as a publicly held team are required by law to disclose their financial information. This past June, the Green Bay Packers released statements saying they booked a $20.1 million profit for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2009.

Based on that accounting, not only do the players doubt the owner’s claims of financial difficulty, but they point to the owner’s hiring of Bob Batterman. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Batterman is a sports attorney whose big claims to fame are engineering the lockout that cost the NHL an entire season, and negotiating the NFL’s TV deals that will pay off even if there are no games in 2011. Batterman’s own website states the following:

Long before “corporate campaigns” became the tactic of choice for unions seeking either representational rights without the risk of a secret ballot election or to force a collective bargaining settlement which they could not achieve either through bargaining or on the picket line, Bob was involved in creating counter-campaigns and the defensive strategizing necessary to neutralize this tactic. Today, after numerous campaigns, Bob’s strategic insights and organizational skills are often sought to assist clients and their teams of consultants and advisors navigate through the smokescreen generated by a union movement seeking to reformulate and reinvigorate itself.

That means “professional union buster,” and he’s got the track record to back it up. Just ask the hockey players. Not only has Batterman been in the owner’s camp since 2008, but there are some other points that have the union convinced a lock out is coming.

1) The owners let the deadline of March 2010 pass.

If there was no new CBA in place by March 2010, this upcoming season must be played with no salary cap. Normally, you would think this would mean a bunch of “win-now” owners would engage in a spend-gasm in an uncapped league, but the owners controlled spending knowing what it would mean long-term in favor of a desire to get the labor deal they want. On the other hand, having an uncapped season is just the first shot across the union’s bow; no salary cap means about 200 players who would otherwise be unrestricted free agents will instead be restricted free agents. Another sticking point for the union: no cap also means no floor, which in theory could pave the way for low-revenue teams paring to bare-bones budgets.

2) The owners have decided to abolish the $200 million supplemental revenue sharing fund for 2010.

Think of the supplemental revenue sharing fund as the NFL’s equivalent of baseball’s “luxury tax.” This fund was intended to be paid to the league’s bottom eight revenue generators for use toward their 2011 payrolls. But if their aren’t going to be games in 2011, there’s no need for payroll assistance. But $200 million split 32 ways does make a nice start for a “rainy-day” fund rather than piddling it away on eight teams that can’t make money. Before you start doing the math on how little that alone makes up for the lost revenue a work stoppage would bring, don’t forget the TV contracts pay in any event.

3) Nobody agrees on the accounting.

Not only does this bode badly, but it is a direct result of a failure on the part of the owners to open the books. The NFLPA claims the owner’s have asked the players to give back 18% of their portion of the overall revenue pot in the first year of the new CBA. The problem is nobody seems to know what the 18% comes off; the figures for the NFL’s total revenue range from $7.5 billion to $8.5 billion. The current CBA has the players getting 60 percent of the revenue, with the remainder going to the owner’s. Giving back 18% would drop the player’s take to 42% of the gross. They simply aren’t going to do that without some serious opening of the leagues’ books.

4) The coming public relations war.

The owners are savvy enough to know they have some wedge issues they can use against the players. Granted, public relations in a money war between millionaire players and billionaire owners seems a bit ludicrous, but we have a country full of self-righteous buttloafs who think they have some right to say what other people do with their money. The owner’s know they can claim some “moral high ground” by initiating a rookie wage scale; both the fans and veteran players agree that rookies should not make more than established players, but the union rejects that out of hand. After all, the union gets a cut of every dollar paid in salaries; they are not going to take any position reducing any salaries.

The owners also know they can win the favor of the retired players by promising to allocate a part of the savings they get from union concessions to establish a retiree’s fund. This wouldn’t be hard to accomplish as the retirees already don’t trust the union due to a belief that prior union administrations cared little about former players.

5) The owners opted out of the current CBA.

This almost could be item #4A rather than its own, as there is a lot public relations wrangling in this. The union and the players insist they will not go on strike. The union says it was in favor of the current CBA, which was supposed to run through 2012. The union says the owners won’t tell them why they opted out of the CBA. The union is bending over backwards to make sure the ticket-buying public believes any work stoppage would be owner-driven and not player-driven.

Of course, garnering public support is crucial; without it the NFLPA has almost zero chance of prevailing in this conflict without it. Without public support, the players have no leverage; while with or without public support, the owner’s will still have the guaranteed TV money.

The bottom line: if you are a fan of the NFL, enjoy the 2010 season, because you may not get one in 2011.





Whenever You Need To See Stupidity, Look No Further Than Minnesota

13 08 2010

Most people when they hear of Minnesota think brutally cold winters, snow drifts, polar bears, iceberg, the freshness of a York Peppermint patty or anything else that turns your nipples into pencil erasers and chatters your teeth right out of your head.

But having lived there, I can tell you that summers can be the polar opposite. Those 10,000 lakes which are frozen solid for six months out of the year also provide a wonderful respite from what is usually a sweltering August.

August is also the month when football teams engage in that sweat-orgy known as training camp. This is the time of year when coaches have to build stamina and endurance in their players; hydration and nutrition are keys to that. Players, knowing that roster spots are earned in August have an exceptional impetus to push themselves to the extremes of their physical capabilities.

So, in a time known to be disgustingly hot, and in an exercise designed for maximum sweat production, it would be a good idea to completely disrupt all semblances of normal nutrition and hydration, right? Wednesday marked the beginning of Ramadan, which is apparently a big deal to Muslims. It would also seem that during Ramadan, observing Muslims fast for 30 days; eating or drinking nothing during the daylight hours. Food and drink are only permitted after dark and before sunrise.

Abdullah: Still alive (as of this writing).

Enter Minnesota Vikings safety Husain Abdullah. Not only is he a second-string player you’ve likely never heard of, but he’s also a practicing Muslim. This means Abdullah is as we speak going through these practices in 90+ degree heat without the benefit of water. No food, no water, no nothing, period.

This also means he likely will be dead soon.

I mean really, didn’t the Vikings learn anything from Korey Stringer? Stringer dropped dead of a heat stroke during training camp in 2001, and he certainly wasn’t engaging in some strange ritual of self-deprivation. He died because people get dehydrated and die in hot weather. It happens all the time. The simple fact of the matter is by letting Abdullah do this, the Vikings are clearly willing to risk this guy’s life for no real reason.

But the team isn’t the only one being incredibly stupid here. Abdullah himself must bear the ultimate responsibility here, but you know that if Abdullah does suffer the same fate as Stringer there will be a similar outcome; namely the Vikings will face another wrongful death lawsuit. Worse yet, even after you see the following quote, some lawyer would convince a jury that personal responsibility can be trumped by money, desire, even religion. From the AP:

Even while sprinting in the heat and humidity during drills, sometimes in full pads, Abdullah is adamant about his faith. He will not allow himself so much as a cup of water until the sun sets and before it rises.

“I’m putting nothing before God, nothing before my religion,” Abdullah said. “This is something I choose to do, not something I have to do. So I’m always going to fast.”

While one could admire his commitment to his faith, I cannot sit back and watch somebody with much forethought deliberately risk permanent injury or death over temporary things like religion and a job. And while Abdullah may or may not be bent on self-destruction, he is clearly being enabled by the Vikings. The Vikings’ have had a team nutritionist devise a to keep Abdullah healthy through Ramadan, by eating big meals when it’s dark and taking a protein shake in the middle of the night. The problem is I’ve had three nutritionists tell me there is no way to do what Abdullah is doing without running some serious health risks.

What’s the bottom line to all of this? It’s time to think “outside the box” and devise a way to accomplish the goals of training camp without risking this guy’ s life. Let’s be honest, this is a team that has set the precedent that the quarterback doesn’t even have to show his face at training camp because his ankle hurts, or he’s having menstrual cramps, or he just flat doesn’t want to. Don’t tell me you can’t figure out how to not kill people.





Your Colin Cowherd Moment of the Day: I Will Take Hot Pocket Eaters Over Vapor Brains Any Day

13 08 2010

Well, to be honest, it’s actually yesterday’s moment, but the fact that I didn’t get a chance to write it until today shouldn’t diminish it’s importance.

To start this, I have to tell you a few things about myself. Although I am of a different ethnic background from Colin Cowherd, we are very similar in most other aspects. We are both educated, professional guys in our 40′s who have made a few bucks for ourselves.

However, while we have a lot of similar opinions, he gets paid by ESPN to share his three hours a day. I’m just one of those “bloggers” for which Cowherd doesn’t have a lot of respect. Don’t get me wrong, most blogs (likely including this one) do suck. Cowherd did point out a few that have elevated themselves out of the mire that is the blogosphere, but he categorized the rest as “guys eating Hot Pockets who think ESPN sucks.”

How can you not love a microwaveable heart attack?

As one of those Hot Pocket-eating bloggers, I have to say Cowherd has found a way to be both right and wrong at the same time. As I’ve already said, most blogs suck. But that’s the beauty of the blogosphere; its gives people who normally would have no outlet a reasonably harmless place to scribble their rants. Nobody is forced to read it, and generally nobody does.

Enjoying the blogosphere really is an exercise of separating the wheat from the chaff. Cowherd clearly gets that, but he misses a crucial point. Just because you have no respect for the messenger doesn’t mean the message is wrong. Let’s be honest here, there are a lot of things about ESPN that do suck.

Ironically, Cowherd is one of the things about the World Wide Leader that doesn’t suck. Cowherd’s propensity for telling the truth even if isn’t all “warm and fuzzy” is a refreshing change from a sports media that is either crippled by political correctness or populated by the intellectually lazy (the best example I could find was unearthed by the good people at Boiled Sports).

If one were to start an Inane Hall of Fame, Paige and Hill would have to be high on the list of potential inductees.

See, I can identify with telling the truth even if it hurts; in fact I’m going to do it right now. Remember when the people at ESPN had talent and knew something sports? There’s no more Kenny Maynes, Keith Olbermanns, or Dan Patricks. Now there’s far too many vapor brains like Hannah Storm, Sage Steele, or Jemele Hill and moronic blowhards like Dan LeBatard, Woody Paige, or Skip Bayless. I understand you can’t fill a broadcast schedule with just Colin Cowherd or “Mike and Mike,” but if you were to comb through the blogosphere, you could easily find scores of people with a far more interesting, knowledgeable, and provocative take on sports than the Jemele Hills of the world.

Now, where did I leave that Hot Pocket?





Is Chipper Jones a Hall Of Famer?

12 08 2010

As much as we don’t want to say it, we may have seen the last of Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones. The Atlanta Braves said on Thursday the 38-year-old third baseman tore his anterior cruciate ligament, and that the injury requires surgery.

Repairing a torn ACL usually requires a recovery period of six months, which in theory could have Jones ready for Opening Day 2011 — if Jones decides to return. Even before ending this season sooner than expected, Jones had already been hinting this season would be his last.  Torn ACLs are not an easy injury from which to make a recovery, let alone after 16 major-league seasons.

So the question is: If we have indeed seen the last of the Chipper Jones era in Atlanta, is the long-time Brave a Hall-of-Famer? Take a look at his resume for baseball immortality:

  • 1999 National League MVP
  • 1995 World Series Champion
  • 6-time All-Star
  • 37th all time home runs (436)
  • 52nd all time in RBI (1491)
  • 69th all time in runs scored (1505)
  • 94th all time in hits (2496)

You be the judge.








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