"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

THE NFL AND THE TIMING OF THE DEFLATEGATE REPORT

I've waited a few days to weigh in on the deflate-gate controversy. After all, we've had a riveting game seven of an NHL playoff series, four NBA playoff series that stand at 3 - 2, a thrilling comeback and playoff victory by Ricky Fowler in golf's premier non-major event and the upcoming Preakness Stakes, where American Pharoah will start as the only horse remaining with a chance at the elusive Triple Crown. So forgive me if I haven't been consumed, as has much of the sports talk radio world has been, with a scandal that is short on facts and long on conjecture. I'm not so sure the timing of the report and the controversial consequences to its top franchise wasn't intended to keep the league in the news during just about the only month where the NFL doesn't tend to create a lot of publicity.

The old saying is that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and in this case it might still be true. Just think about the timing of the release of the report and the sanctions against the Patriots. They didn't want this thing detracting from the Super Bowl or its aftermath, especially when the Patriots ended up winning. The NFL combine, which to me is about as important or exciting as watching paint dry, certainly had to go off without other distractions. And, well, the other paint drying event, the NFL Draft needed to be all about, well, picking players, most of whom will never play a down in the league. Oh, and let's not forget that there was a big fight, or more like a "Dancing with the Boxers" episode, that could have relegated the Wells Report to the third blog on SI.com or after the first commercial break on Sports Center, not to mention below the fold in the hundred or so newspapers that are still published in this country, but for the most part go unread.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'll give my views on deflate-gate. First, the Patriots are no strangers to stretching and even breaking the rules. They filmed other teams' practices in what later became known as spy-gate. They gave a lot of lame excuses and were given what amounted to a slap on the wrist. Now they've been accused of taking air out of game balls after they had been inspected by officials, and in the AFC Championship no less. How bad is the offense and what advantage did they gain? Well, since there is a rule dictating the range of inflation for the balls, then the league must have determined at some point that there was one to be gained by going outside the specified numbers. So if the balls were in fact under inflated, and the Patriots intentionally made them that way, then they broke the rule. End of story, right?

The problem is in determining what really happened and who was responsible. The league is convinced that QB Tom Brady conspired with a couple of equipment managers to perpetrate the act, thus the four game suspension for Brady. What's interesting is that despite maintaining their innocence, the team suspended the equipment guys indefinitely without pay, a pretty harsh penalty for a couple of low paid employees who were involved in something the team won't admit happened. My guess is it could have gone down something like this:

Tom Brady, in an attempt to find the right game ball setup for himself, asks for a variety of balls to choose from. He happens upon one that he likes and tells the equipment team to prepare them like that until further notice. Well, it could be that he wasn't aware that the balls he really liked were actually below league inflation standards, but that the employees preparing the balls probably did, since they would have to measure the inflation and make sure it was the same for every ball. This would explain how Brady, while technically guilty of instructing them to underinflate the balls, actually had a reasonable assumption that they were within league standards. Was the team guilty of breaking the rules? Absolutely. Do they deserve a $1 million fine and loss of draft choices? Probably not. Should Tom Brady get a four game suspension if they don't have hard evidence that he instructed the equipment managers to inflate the ball to a specific PSI that falls below the league's specified amount? No way.

My theory above is simply that, an unsubstantiated guess. But it helps explain the behavior of all involved, including the team's suspension of the people responsible for deflating the balls. It's likely that the sanctions will be reduced through the appeal process that will probably all end just in time for training camps to open. That isn't a guess, but about as rock solid a prediction as I can give. After all, it's all about protecting the shield and promoting the brand.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.







Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WEEKEND FRENZY AND NBA UPDATE

Wild Weekend: It was an incredible weekend of sports action. Friday night, the New York Rangers scored a tying goal against the Washington Capitals with less than two minutes left in the third period, then stayed alive in their second round series by winning in overtime. The same night, Derrick Rose hit a prayer of a three pointer at the buzzer to lift Chicago to a victory over Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, giving the Bulls 2 -1 edge their second round NBA series. But then on Sunday afternoon, James returned the favor, nailing a last second jumper from the corner to even the series and return home court advantage to the Cavaliers as they head back to Cleveland for game five. Not to be outdone, veteran Paul Pierce, after the Atlanta Hawks had taken the lead with eight seconds left in game three. hit a three pointer to send the Wizards to victory and a 2 -1 series lead.

In the Players, men's golf's unofficial fifth major championship, Ricky Fowler shot six under par in the last six holes of regulation, then held off Sergio Garcia and Glen Kisner to capture his biggest tournament title. Earlier in the week, his peers had voted him as the most overrated player. Indicative of his classy and professional  manner, Fowler didn't dwell on the issue in interviews. But as a competitor, the snub couldn't help but fuel his desire to legitimize his popularity with a similar level of results. However, I believe the so-called honor was totally undeserved. Last season, he finished in the top five in all four majors. Many of those who cast a vote probably haven't finished that high in even a single significant tournament. I'll admit that Fowler's notoriety isn't backed up by wins, but he's a terrific player and even better role model for young golfers.

NBA Update:


Bulls On the Brink: Despite an injured and unavailable Kevin Love, a two-game suspension of J.R. Smith, a hobbled Kyrie Irving and a tired LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers head back to Chicago with a 3 – 2 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series. Granted, the Bulls have been without Pau Gasol, but they’ve let a great opportunity to steal the series slip through their grasp. James and Irving were much sharper last night, combining for 63 points on 23 – 40 shooting, including 4 – 11 from three point range. In control for much of the game, the Cavs let the Bulls back in the game with less than five minutes remaining. But Chicago guard Derrick Rose missed his final eleven shots as the comeback fell short. My feeling is that the performance clearly demonstrates the value of LeBron James. He basically carried the team, scoring 38 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, doling out 6 assists while adding three assists and the same number of blocks. Is the series over? Not by a long shot, but it’s going to take a heroic effort from the Bulls to capture the last two games.

Warriors Looking to Gain Control: The Golden State Warriors, the league’s top team with 67 regular season wins, travels home to host a tough Memphis Grizzlies team. The Warriors looked much more like themselves Monday night, getting control early and never letting the Grizzlies back into the game. Behind Steph Curry’s 33 points, they cruised to an easy 101 – 84 victory. Does this mean they’re back in control, or did they just make adjustments that enabled them to even the series? It could be either one, and we’ll certainly learn a lot more tonight. Even though Curry got untracked from the field on Monday, Klay Thompson still struggled, but managed to hit 3 of 6 from three point range.  They’re still getting outscored in the paint, so it’s reasonable to see the Grizzlies rebound from the spanking and play better in game five. I like the Warriors to hold on at home and will probably have to do it again in a game seven to prevail.

Rockets Look Alive in Win: The Houston Rockets appeared more focused and energized last night after getting embarrassed in back to back games of their series with the Clippers. They still have their backs to the wall and will need to find a way to keep the momentum going in Los Angeles against a team that has wins by 16, 25 and 27 points so far. In an almost unwatchable free throw contest between the Rockets’ Dwight Howard and the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, where they combined to go 13 – 30 from the line. The rest of the players on the court went 28 – 39. Neither team really gained an advantage in the war of hack-a-(insert name here) that we’ve come to despise.  I don’t give the Rockets much of a chance in the series, despite the solid performance of last evening.

Wizards Need Wall: Even though the Washington Wizards have managed to stay even with the Atlanta Hawks, it might be difficult for them to win the series without their team leading guard. It's been reported today that Wall was dribbling with his injured left hand, so there is some hope from Wizards' fans that he can contribute tonight. If he can, Atlanta could be in the trouble many experts predicted before the series began. I guess we'll see about that.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.






Thursday, May 7, 2015

NFL: "NO FAIR LEAGUE" ?

Collins Gets Raw Deal: This entire piece is predicated on the supposition that former LSU and reportedly current Dallas Cowboy offensive tackle La'el Collins was not involved in the death of his former girlfriend, Brittney Mills. Mills was murdered on April 24 and the uncertainty around Collins' role in the episode caused him to drop from a likely first round pick to an undrafted free agent. Unfortunately, that drop probably cost him somewhere in the area of $5 million in guaranteed money (taking into consideration his contract with the Cowboys). I have some issues with the system, since this really wasn't caused by anything that Collins did. In addition, he tried to pursue other alternatives, but was not granted the opportunity by the NFL.

  • When it was apparent that his draft stock was dropping, Collins' agent told teams he wouldn't sign if taken after the third round. The plan was for him to enter the 2016 draft where he could return to a first round status. Not a bad plan, except that only players that are drafted but don't end up signing with a team can return to the following year's draft. Obviously, Collins' agent ended up giving his client poor advice due to a lack of understanding of the rules.
  • The supplemental draft might seem like an option, except that Collins can't participate in it because he was eligible for the regular draft. Under the circumstances, you would think perhaps the league would have considered making an exception, but they didn't.
So now the Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed the first round quality player to a max deal allowed for undrafted free agents, guaranteed for $1.7 million. That's not a bad deal, but pales in comparison to the guaranteed money he could have made had he been drafted in the first or even second round.

My point in all of this is that there's a seemingly arbitrary nature to the way the NFL makes and enforces their rules. But Collins also needs to take some blame, or at least his agent does, because it's unlikely he would have dropped far below the third round had he not refused to sign if drafted that low. If he pans out and performs as expected, perhaps he will make some of the money back with a big second contract. However, is still bothers me that the process seemed to work against an athlete that really didn't, as assumed, do anything wrong other than to be the ex-boyfriend of a murdered woman.

Long on Words, Short on Certainty: I have to confess that I have not read the Wells report on the new England Patriots "deflategate" issue, but there doesn't seem to be a clear and conclusive finding of who was actually responsible, and why, for the deflated footballs during the AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. The Pats drilled the Colts, but in the process it was discovered that the balls that New England was using were inflated below the minimum allowable under the rules. The NFL took three months to "investigate", and still there is not much clarity around the issue. If the only fact that is certain is that the Pats were responsible for deflating the balls, then fine them, tell them not to do it again and move on. It's not like they were secretly taping other teams practices or, oh wait, well, maybe that's a bad example.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

TIGER AVAILABLE, PACQUIAO HURT, NBA PLAYOFFS HEAT UP AND MORE

Tiger and Lindsey Part Ways: Maybe the best thing for the fallen golf superstar will be to focus on just golf and his kids for a while. Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn mutually announced, or as close as we come these days, with virtually simultaneous Twitter, Facebook and other social media releases that they had decided to go their separate ways. They cited the hectic schedules of top tier individual athletes as the primary reason for the split. That's certainly understandable, especially if they really did care about being there for each other. I know many people still haven't forgiven Tiger for his prior admitted indiscretions, but I've always maintained that was between him and his wife. What's more important for the former top golfer, perhaps the most dominant in history, is whether he can battle his way back to the upper echelon of the game. He finished seventeenth at the Masters Tournament after over completing just three rounds in 2015 prior to the season's first major. I happen to think it might help him refocus his efforts on what appears to be a busy summer schedule, beginning with this week's always challenging Players Championship. He's currently 125th in the world golf rankings and 196th in FedEx Cup points. That's quite a hill to climb, but as he showed in 2013, Tiger's capable of coming back from injury and personal turmoil to be a force in the game.

Boxing Manipulation: If fans felt cheated by the boring fight they paid between $90 and $100 to watch on pay-per-view Saturday night, just wait until injured loser Manny Pacquiao recovers from shoulder surgery to return for the rematch with undefeated Floyd Mayweather. Is the unified champion an opportunistic, capitalistic, woman- beating scumbag? Absolutely. Does he know how to maximize his pay days and make the most of money making opportunities? No question. Is he fully aware of how gullible the boxing public is? You bet. As I correctly predicted in this blog last week, Mayweather won the fight in boring fashion, which has pretty much been his style for, oh, just the last 15 years or so. Now that Manny has an excuse for his poor performance, both fighters can hype next spring's rematch as the "REAL Fight of the Century", suckering fans and the media alike into another combined $300 million payday. You gotta love it, don't you? Or not.

No Love in Cleveland: Just in case anyone is questioning Kevin Love's value to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they need to look no farther than their 99 - 92 loss at home to the resurgent Chicago Bulls Monday night. Of course, the absence of suspended J.R. Smith didn't help either, but for a team that appeared to be a shoe-in for a spot in the Finals, things looked a bit rough. The Cavs now face an almost must-win in game two, needing to find someone other than Mike Miller to start in Love's spot in the lineup. Most supposed experts believe that Lebron James can somehow put the team on his shoulders and head to Chicago with the series tied at a game apiece. But the Bulls lineup is full of great and solid role players, from former MVP Derrick Rose, former champion Pau Gasol, surprising Jimmy Butler and always dependable Joakim Noah.

Wizards of Washington: Did anyone give the Washington Wizards, behind John Wall, any chance to contend in the NBA East? The only person that mentioned them so far was Charles Barkley. Sir Charles, on ESPN's Dan Lebatard show, told us not to "sleep on the Wizards". They stole one from the Atlanta Hawks on the road and are in position to take a commanding 2 - 0 lead back to the nation's capital for game three. Me? I'm with Charles, awake all the way.

Spurs Done? After as good a game seven as you could ask for, but coming up just short against the Clippers, is it possible we've seen the last of this aging collection of Spurs? When Chris Paul banked in his floater from the lane with a second left in the game, it was inevitable that the questions would start. Center Tim Duncan will turn forty before the second round of the playoffs next year, Tony Parker is having trouble staying healthy and Manu Ginobili is looking like all of his 37 years have taken their toll. They still have other pieces to the puzzle, but at some point age becomes a factor.

Capitals Stayin' Alive: Here's a brief shout out to the other Washington team that is still alive in the playoffs. It's been a long time since the Caps and Wizards/Bullets have both been playing in April, so this Virginia guy is pretty pleased, not to mention busy!

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.