Tom Brady coming out of retirement and the Russell Wilson trade and the explosion of wide receiver salaries and Kansas City trading Tyreek Hill and one quarterback picked in the top 70 draft picks and the insane coverage of the release of the schedule. And new Drew Brees drama, just in the past few hours. Some offseason.
We’re forgetting something, the thing that will make NFL historians look back in a decade or two and say, “HOW’D THAT HAPPEN?”
The value of an NFL franchise has doubled in five years. The Denver Broncos are about to be sold for an estimated $4.5 billion, twice the number David Tepper paid for the Carolina Panthers in 2018.
Think of it this way: Denver’s price will be about 30 times what Jerry Jones paid for the Dallas Cowboys 33 years ago. In 1989, Jones paid $150 million for the Cowboys and for Texas Stadium, the team was losing $1 million per month, and cornerstone owner Lamar Hunt of Kansas City called it “the greatest risk I’ve ever seen an owner take.”
What a difference a generation makes. So, I asked the 79-year-old Jones on Friday: How surprised are you that a team not in New York or LA or not the Dallas Cowboys will sell for 30 times what you risked everything to buy 33 years ago?
“Every day, every week, it never ceases to amaze me how the NFL continues to evolve and continues to grow and continues to dominate the [sports] landscape,” Jones said. “Every time I think I totally understand it, it still blows me away.”
Drew Brees, the Chargers’ anime, Josh Allen is very smart, Amazon Prime strikes gold, why the Black Friday game died, how Tennessee-Green Bay became a gigantic schedule puzzle piece, 9:30 a.m. NFL fever, the Vikings’ bold draft strategy, an owner buys a Volodymyr Zelenskyy autographed baseball (there’s a sentence section I never thought I’d write), how Brady can win on TV, Russell Wilson says “Mike Rotch,” the 50-year Immaculate Anniversary almost to the day, and the Steelers will never leave the Eastern Time Zone again.
Fun column this week, and I’ll begin with my turn as a Wall Street Journal correspondent.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw reports that the Broncos could sell for at least $4 billion, with four prospective owners understanding the pricetag and yet staying in contention to buy the team. On Friday, I was told it will be closer to $4.5 billion, with a fifth owner candidate in the picture. And I looked up the recent history of team sales. Six teams have changed hands this century: Miami ($1.1 billion, 2008), the Rams ($750 million, 2010), Jacksonville ($770 million, 2012), Cleveland ($1 billion, 2012), Buffalo ($1.4 billion, 2014), Carolina ($2.275 billion, 2018).
Amazing, especially considering that when Forbes did its annual valuation of franchises this year, the Broncos were 10th. So if the Broncos are 10th and worth $4.5 billion, what are the rolling-in-dough Cowboys worth? Forbes says $6.5 billion. The smartest business consultant in NFL circles, Marc Ganis, told me he thinks Jones would get $8 billion or $8.5 billion if he tried to sell. Jones, when I asked him, said:
Asked to clarify, he said, “more than $10 billion.”
“But let me make this very clear,” Jones said. “I’ll say it definitively. I will never do it. I will never sell the Cowboys. Ever.”
I see three seminal events at the core of the astronomical rise in franchise values.
One: The NFL has made consecutive 10- and 11-year labor deals with its players union. The relationship between players and owners may not seem harmonious at times, but when there’s been 35 consecutive years of labor peace and nine more years on the current labor deal, there’s a certainty of play that other sports can’t match.
Two: The NFL owns the sports calendar, and the media is only too happy to cover the league with an unending year-round fervor. There are now five tentpole events in the league’s offseason (combine, free agency, draft, schedule release, camp opening) that didn’t exist in mega-coverage 25 years ago.
Three: The NFL just made media-rights deals for a decade totalling $113 billion. Within 10 years, the media money each team will get annually, guaranteed, will rise from $250 million to $380 million.
“The NFL has become the emperor of content, in season and out,” said Ganis, the president of Chicago-based SportsCorp, a sports business consulting firm. Ganis does business with about three-quarters of the NFL teams. “Technology is changing, and people’s habits are changing, and the NFL is at the forefront of those things. They’re at the forefront of streaming and gambling. If fans didn’t want more content, more events, they wouldn’t support what the NFL is doing. But they do. The NFL had a strategy of creating more events and they’ve all worked.”
For Jones, the Cowboys have come a long way from the days the franchise was leaking money. “Back then,” Jones said, “Donald Trump said he felt sorry for the guy who bought the Dallas Cowboys. He called it ‘reckless crazy.’ And we really were America’s Team, because the FDIC owned 5 percent of the franchise. Every day, my motivation was simply to survive. I danced with the devil, and it created an edge with me. I didn’t want Jimmy Johnson to f— with me because I just lost my tolerance after what I went through in my early days.
“So how does it feel to see some of these values now, and see the value of the Dallas Cowboys now? Just go back to the early days, and you can see how the game has improved and become such a part of American life. Did you know that 7 percent of fans have ever gone to an NFL stadium? The rest fell in love with it through the viewing of the games. The pageantry, the aura, the interest of a fan base, the fact that an Al Michaels can relay the excitement of the game to a fan base. You put that up beside anything in society today, and you’ll increase the value. That’s where these values are being appreciated.
“Add in the Amazon [streaming] deal, the potential with some of the new technology. The NFL, in my mind, the visibility, the volume, the overall passion, you frankly can’t get it anywhere else. That’s why all these people want a piece of it.”
Jones thinks there’s another part of the story that’s harder to quantify. He just knows it exists. That’s the fact that people want to have a favorite team, and they want to follow the roller coaster of that team, and they want to get to know the players and know their strength and weaknesses and triumphs and foibles.
To Jones, there’s no such thing as bad coverage of the Cowboys. Bad coverage makes the Cowboys human. And he is positive his fan base loves the human.
“Let me tell you a story,” Jones said, warming to this topic. “A few years after I bought the team, I’m out in Los Angeles having lunch with David Hill and Ed Goren of FOX. At that time, there were a lot of negative headlines about the Cowboys. Michael Irvin was in the headlines. People are saying, ‘The owner’s an outlaw!’ And so that day I told them, ‘I’m tightening the lid on this franchise. We’re gonna get control of this team.’
“And David Hill jumped up. He said, “NO! Do not touch my ‘Boys! They are television gold! Don’t even think about it!’
“The foibles, the soap opera, the issues. They create interest. Add in the Senior Bowl, the combine, free agency, the draft, training camp, we always got something going. People follow us year ‘round. The owner every now and then gets in the paper. It just adds to the interest, all of it. People love that.”
The next billionaire to love it, really love it, is going to pay in the range of $4.5 billion to own one of these 32 cash cows in Denver. The NFL’s a freight train, speeding down the tracks. Ten billion for a franchise? The day will come, and sooner than you think.
Per Andrew Marchand of the New York Post on Sunday, Drew Brees the broadcaster is out after one season at NBC. Marchand reports that Brees wants to do games, isn’t a fan of being in the studio, and there wasn’t much for him to do outside of the Notre Dame booth after Cris Collinsworth signed a contract extension recently.
Interesting timing by Brees with his next two tweets. In the first, he said the Saints’ signing Jarvis Landry and Tyrann Mathieu “makes me want to play again.” Nine minutes later, he tweeted he is “undecided” about his future.
Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided. I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I’ll let you know
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) May 15, 2022
That escalated quickly.
One friend of Brees told me Sunday he hasn’t mentioned playing to him this offseason, and his left shoulder surgery May 2, at age 43, after not playing football for 16 months, would seems to make a return to football problematic at best. Another person who knows Brees told me Sunday night, “He’s not playing football.”
The Saints seem set to play with Jameis Winston this fall, and I don’t know if they’d feel Brees could be Tom Brady II. Brady, at 43, led the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory. Brady, at 44, led the NFL in passing yards. That might be tempting to Brees, but there’s also the matter of the Saints trying to fix their salary cap after years of fighting to get it under control, in part because of the huge money paid to Brees. Even if they wanted Brees to return, and I have no indication they would, would they want to mortgage the future again to get him back?
As for other teams, the Seahawks might fit despite their talking-up of Drew Lock, and the Panthers could be just desperate enough to make a run at Brees. But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. Would any team want a 43-year-old Brees, who’d have to rehab after left shoulder surgery? And was Brees just throwing out a misdirection play with his tweets?
It’s still possible but unlikely that Brees could keep his Notre Dame analyst job. He did the Irish games on NBC last fall, and if he doesn’t find a home at another network doing games, he could choose to continue in the lesser Notre Dame role and not in the NBC Sunday night studio.
What’s telling to me is that Brees hasn’t found a new home—yet. In the TV world, it’s been known for a few weeks that Brees was unhappy with his role at NBC and wanted to be an NFL game analyst. Amazon Prime knew he was out there and available, yet chose Kirk Herbstreit to be Al Michaels’ partner. FOX has known he’s out there, too, in the wake of Troy Aikman jumping to ESPN. But as Marchand reported, FOX is more likely to promote Greg Olsen into the number one analyst role, succeeding Aikman.
There’s a chance FOX could throw Brees a lifeline and put him on one of its broadcast teams. As of Sunday night, that seemed the most likely outcome of this suddenly in-the-news story. But it’s notable that it’s mid-May and the musical chairs are very nearly filled, and Brees is out there. Brees was a hot property after he walked away from football 14 months ago, but got mixed reviews at best in his highest-profile assignment, the Raiders-Bengals wild-card game on NBC. The fact that he didn’t make much of a name for himself in his one season at NBC could be holding him back now.
TV’s a lucrative business, but it’s a tough business too. A big name gets you in the door. A big name, though, doesn’t guarantee success. The pressure will be on Brees in his second stop—I’m assuming there will be one, with the NFL such a huge television sport—to show he can be as good on TV as many people in the business thought he’d be.
But his tweets Sunday night turned a quiet story into interesting May fodder. Stay tuned.
I never dreamed in 2014, when I first reported from inside the NFL’s gamey (yes, the room did have a very lived-in aroma to it) scheduling room that the All-Blacks Rugby tour would cause the Bears schedule to be amended at the last minute, that the schedule would turn into a real story. I never dreamed the next year, reporting from inside the room again, that the schedule would be that big a deal … and then I learned that, on a personal appeal from the Archbishop of Philadelphia to the commissioner to NOT have the Eagles home on Sunday in Week 2 because of a Mass said by the Pope in Philly that day, the NFL would move the Eagles to a road game that weekend. The making of the schedule has become a pretty cool story, going back to the days when a schedule-nerd like me staked out the story every spring.
Those were the days.
It’s even a bigger deal now—a nationally televised, massively over-covered big deal. You know most of the stories involved with it because NFL Network and ESPN had wall-to-wall programming about it Thursday night. Here are the storylines that interest me the most in the wake of the 2022 sked:
The Tennessee-Green Bay game (Week 11, Thursday, Nov. 17) turned out to be a major statement game. How can a midseason Thursday game be such a big deal? The league wanted to help Amazon as much as possible with its Thursday night package. Amazon is going to treat much of its pre-game coverage the way ESPN does College Gameday. In other words, it’s going to be a very big deal. As the NFL goes through the scheduling process, it feeds all the must-have parameters into multiple computers and lets the software dictate so many things about the schedule. The NFL was going to give Amazon one Packers game. Amazon felt a Packers home game was a must, to show the pageantry of Green Bay tailgaiting, etc. The computers did what the league asked—Amazon would have a Thursday home game at some point of the season. Late in the process, 92 percent of the schedules spat out by the computers had Jets-Packers as the Green Bay home game.
Nice, but not great. Couldn’t the league, maybe, find a better foe for the Packers, one that might make this a hotly contested game for 60 minutes?
So Tennessee was put in the Week 11 Thursday slot, traveling to Green Bay. A gift. The two 2021 one seeds squaring off on the hallowed Lambeau grounds. That did create one problem the league dreaded. Tennessee would be one of two teams (Dallas the other) to play two short-week Thursday games; this year is the first time that has been required. So if the Jets had stayed in this slot at Green Bay, Tennessee would have had only one Thursday night game. Now the Titans will have two.
The league treated the first-ever streaming package on Thursday nights as semi-golden territory. One league mole told me: “There’s no way we’re taking the big Amazon money and throwing a bad schedule in there.” When I first saw the Amazon Prime 15-game Thursday slate, I thought: I know it’s streaming, and I know the ratings won’t compare to other prime-time windows. But this is a better package than some of the ones ESPN used to get on Monday nights. ESPN used to bitch about the quality of the MNF schedule while it paid the biggest rights fees for NFL programming. So I went back and looked. I chose 2016 at random. ESPN had a 15-game slate on Monday nights in 2016; Amazon Prime has a 15-game slate on Thursdays in 2022. In 2016, ESPN had four games on the schedule with winning 2015 records for both teams. In 2022 eight games—more than half the schedule—match teams with winning records from 2021. Look at the schedule. I count three bowsers: Washington-Chicago in Week 6, Atlanta-Carolina in Week 10, and the bizarrely placed Jags-Jets in Week 16 (Dec. 22).
But starting in Week 11, Amazon has three straight games worthy of Sunday night: Titans-Packers, Bills-Patriots, Raiders-Rams.
“If we want to make this successful,” said Mike North of the NFL’s scheduling team, “as we migrate to a streaming service for the first time … the way to do that is to make sure we put really good games there. I think we’re going to give fans reason to go find Amazon this year and find these football games and hopefully after maybe the first couple of weeks, it’ll just become another button on our remote.” Starting with Justin Herbert–Patrick Mahomes, ending with Cowboys at 2021 AFC top-seed Tennessee, helps.
Amazon Prime will be a different animal than the traditional game on TV. There will be an emphasis on analytics. There will be two different broadcast teams for every game, with Al Michaels-Kirk Herbstreit, obviously, the main and traditional one. “We think there’s an opportunity to innovate,” said Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president of global sports video. “We’ll have new and exciting alternative feeds … We think this will be a better experience for fans [than the traditional telecasts].”
One other interesting comment from Donoghue about the Amazon ‘cast. “There hasn’t been a new studio show in decades,” she said. Well, NFL Network’s show is a decade-plus old, and NBC’s is 16 years old. But point taken. She made it clear Amazon will innovate on the studio shows, which will be welcome.
Thanksgiving weekend, very possibly, will be the best weekend in FOX Sports history. Let us go day-by-day:
• THURSDAY. NFL: Giants at Dallas, late-afternoon window. A smart TV person told me: “If the Giants have a pulse by then, this will be a 30-million-viewer audience.”
• FRIDAY. World Cup soccer: USA-England, 2 p.m. An audience of 25- or 30-million on Black Friday.
• SATURDAY. College football: Michigan at Ohio State. Should be 20 million minimum unless one or both goes in the tank.
• SUNDAY. NFL: Rams at Kansas City, doubleheader window. And just think: FOX has Bucs at Browns in the 1 p.m. ET slot, which could be a big number in a diffused early window if it’s Tom Brady-Deshaun Watson. In any case, Rams-Chiefs is one of the 10 best games of the year, and it should draw at least 25 million viewers.
That’s a dream programming weekend.
The NFL is very happy Aaron Rodgers will be under center in Green Bay this year. Of the 17 games on Green Bay’s schedule, a league-high 12 of them will be in national windows—either in prime time on NBC, ESPN or Amazon Prime, on in the Sunday doubleheader window at 4:25 p.m. ET. Other teams with 10 or more: Dallas 11, Kansas City 10, Rams 10.
Issues? There are a few. Teams that might have a beef or two:
• Philadelphia. As schedulemeister Warren Sharp points out, while 21 teams play either zero or one short-week road game, the Eagles play four: Week 3 in Washington coming off of a Monday night home game; Week 9 in Houston on Thursday night off a Sunday home game; Week 11 in Indianapolis off a Monday night home game; and Week 16 in Dallas on a Saturday afternoon off a Sunday road game. (To be fair, most teams in Week 16 have a short-week game because 12 games are slated to be played Thursday/Saturday that week.)
• Kansas City. Couple of things. The Week 2 Thursday-nighter, home with the Chargers, comes off a Sunday road game in Arizona. The Week 8 bye means Kansas City will play its final 10 games without rest (not a huge deal), including a three-game road trip (a big deal; at Cincinnati, Denver and Houston) in December.
• Rams. This one hit me more than it hit others. The Rams play a Monday night December game at Lambeau Field, a Week-15 game that could have major bearing on home-field in the NFC playoffs (could being the operative word). Pretty big edge for Green Bay, because not only could that be a lousy-weather game for the team from southern California, but also it comes 15 days after the Packers’ previous game. Green Bay will be coming off its bye.
Black Friday details. I was wrong (and corrected by Mike Florio on Friday) about a crucial detail on the possibility of a Friday, Nov. 25 game the day after Thanksgiving. The NFL cannot have a game go past 6 p.m. that day because of broadcast rules in place since the sixties. To respect college and high school football, the NFL cannot play on Fridays after 6 p.m. from Labor Day through the second Saturday in December. With USA-England World Cup game slated for FOX at 2 p.m. that day, the NFL would have either had to play at 11 a.m. if it wanted to avoid a conflict with the game, or start a game during the second half of the World Cup match. And I don’t think FOX would have been very happy to have an NFL game and the second half of USA-England kick off simultaneously. Next year, however, there will be a Black Friday game. Amazon Prime is jonesing for one.
A change in crossflexing. Traditionally, FOX would do all games with an NFC road team, and CBS would do all games with an AFC road team. A few years ago, the league began crossflexing, or moving games from the top-heavy NFC schedule on FOX to CBS to equalize the chance for big games to land on a different network. Now, because of the rise of so many top quarterbacks in the AFC, there are some big games moving from CBS to FOX this year: Baltimore at New England becomes the dominant 1 p.m. ET game on FOX in Week 3, Kansas City at San Francisco becomes the FOX doubleheader game in Week 7, and Raiders at Denver becomes a late-window CBS game in Week 11. A Mahomes national game moving to the other network. Big win for FOX.
A new window for the NFL to work on. For most of the last decade, the London game at 9:30 a.m. ET hasn’t been very good. No more. This year, Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers into the Week 5 game in London, and Tom Brady will play the first game ever in Germany in Week 10. Both games are at 9:30 a.m. ET. Lots of West-Coasters don’t love a 6:30 Sunday morning game, understandably, but there are two benefits here: Good ratings on these games will prompt the NFL to consistently place at least one strong team in the European games going forward … and rarely would NFL games kick off at advantageous times to watch live games in Asia, a place the NFL wants to make progress in. The 9:30 a.m. game in New York is a 9:30 p.m. in Beijing. So Brady and Rodgers will be on live TV in China. What does that mean? Who knows. But it’s not bad to have live stars on TV in China.
So the Chargers’ 14-member video/social/wiseass team put together a work of art in what has become a highly competitive business for reasons totally beyond me—social videos trumpeting the release of a team’s schedule.
Of all the weird things NFL teams could trumpet, how the 17 games of a team’s slate are ordered might be the most preposterous one. But, such is life in the NFL, where non-events two weeks after the draft and 11 weeks before the start of training camps become primetime television shows, and teams spend tens of thousands on in-house videos (and video teams) to create fun memes and social content. I guess it’s a cool thing to have some fun in the No Fun League, and these videos, mostly, are a lot of fun.
This year, lots of teams used imaginative plotlines to promote their schedules—Russell Wilson as team intern in Denver; Eli Manning being his self-deprecating self with the Giants; Stephen A. Smith trolling and getting trolled by the Cowboys. But the best was the 2-minute, 7-second anime (the Japanese style of animation meant to appeal to adults probably more than children) done by the Chargers that was so full of subtle digs that it’s stunning they crammed all the action into 127 seconds:
Should we REALLY make our schedule release video an anime?
yes yes yesyes
yesyes yes yes yes
yes yes yes yes yes
yes yesyes yes yes
yes yesye yes yes
yes yes yesyes pic.twitter.com/A0TvmYJUOQ
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) May 13, 2022
The goal: to reach a sub-culture outside of football, to drive conversation and connect with an audience the Chargers wouldn’t normally relate, in hopes that the franchise would entertain Chargers fans and new fans. Anime fans are very internet-savvy people between maybe 10 and 35, and one of the biggest is a Chargers feature producer and editor, Andrew Cordova. He drew all the images, and he and the staff came up with all the fun subtleties in five weeks of meetings prior to the schedule release. In the video, there are 11 seven-second one-act plays (basically) and three very short two-act plays—with single bits on the teams the Chargers play once, and two references apiece to the three other AFC West teams.
The little digs are endless.
• Think of the images that got Urban Meyer in big trouble on the first day of a long weekend in Columbus last year, when Meyer was in a Columbus bar and had a couple of compromising photos taken. In the Chargers’ anime, there’s a snappily dressed figure at the bar in the approximate position Meyer was … and instead of Meyer’s face, there’s a Jaguar head atop Meyer’s body—with the Jaguar looking exceedingly forlorn. Perfect.
• Chargers versus Colts—there’s a “Quarterback Carousel” at the circus, and the man running it is cartoonish Pat McAfee with his “For The Brand” tank top. (That’s a slogan of his.)
• Chargers versus Seahawks—there’s a graveyard poking fun at the decline of the Seahawks, with catchy inscribed gravestones of Seattle-based things: “LEGION OF BOOM, 2011-2018,” “2001 SEATTLE MARINERS,” “MINA KIMES FOOTBALL HOPES AND DREAMS” (Kimes likes the ‘Hawks), “SUPER BOWL 49 GOAL LINE RUN PLAYS.”
• Chargers versus Raiders—There’s a treasure chest with old Raider junk, with a Chucky doll and a label of “AB’s discarded helmets.”
• Chargers versus Atlanta—A falcon flies into one of those omnipresent-in-the-south yellow-and-black Waffle House signs, advertising 28 percent off 3 waffles or more. (I have no hope for you if that image flies over your head.) The Falcon flies into the “W” on the sign, and it goes dark, and so of course you’re left with AFFLE HOUSE. Arthur Blank has to be getting tired of all the jokes made at his team’s expense, but this is a great one.
• Weirdly, apropos of nothing, is a drop-in of a dueling scene of cartoony Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter furiously texting or tweeting on their phones.
Okay, I’ve got the McAfee, Kimes, Rapoport and Schefter meaning. The Chargers have worked with all four of those media people and know them. In a nod to pop culture and social-media mania, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if those four people, some or all, would re-tweet the anime to their combined 16.1 million followers on Twitter, or talk about the video on TV. McAfee did, on his popular show, Friday, and Kimes spent a minute blasting it on “NFL Live” Friday.
Of all the images, the forlorn, slump-shouldered Jaguar was the most perfect. But the overall imagination—beginning with Cordova, the big anime fan on the Chargers’ staff, was simply superb.
The best single moment of all the other videos? Easy. Josh Allen riding what appears to be a toy sheepdog, entering a room with various Bills players doing normal tasks, holding hands with a Buffalo wings-chomping tight end Dawson Knox and saying: “What does this all mean? Let me break it down for you. Absolutely nothing. Here’s our schedule. Go Bills.”
Here’s our 2022 schedule.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) May 13, 2022
But hey … it’s a rare time in the NFL when fun can be poked. So have at it.
Shame on me for not writing about this in the last two columns, but I wanted to get to it while it still matters. I think one of the most interesting things that happened in the draft was a rookie GM—with a team that’s a sneaky threat to go deep into the playoffs—trading in the first round with a team in his own division, then trading in the second round with another team in his division. And both of those division rivals picked receivers who could haunt the Vikings.
So why do I think Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did the right thing for his franchise? It’s arguable that one day he’ll regret trading down from 12th overall to 32nd with Detroit, allowing the Lions to pick Alabama receiver Jameson Williams. It’s arguable, but probably to a lesser degree, that he’ll regret trading down with Green Bay at 34 and handing the Packers wideout Christian Watson.
It comes down to this: The Vikings started the draft with two picks in the top 70. By the time day two was over, they’d made four picks in the top 70. And they were able to, in Adofo-Mensah’s words, “do more about the basket of problems we were trying to solve” than if they’d sat at 12 and picked, for example, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Going down to 32, they got Georgia safety Lewis Cine, then picked Clemson corner Andrew Booth Jr., at 42, LSU guard Ed Ingram at 59 and Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah at 66.
But Adofo-Mensah knows his first draft, and his rep locally, will be attached in part to Jameson Williams and Christian Watson.
As Adofo-Mensah said Friday, “I don’t know you’re not supposed to trade within the division, but I think you need to be delicate about it. It’s an uncomfortable position. I don’t think I would trade Justin Jefferson in the division. But a draft pick is an uncertain thing. You’re getting something back that is also uncertain. With Detroit, all else being equal and I had similar value somewhere else, I’d deal somewhere else. But that was our best option, we pulled the trigger, and I’m happy with what we did.
“I’m not dumb. I know every touchdown catch [Williams] scores against us, TV will show me or show my name. That’s life. If my feelings are going to get in the way of us making decisions to improve the team, I shouldn’t be in this seat. I made the decision because I’m in charge, but it’s more fair to say WE made the decision as an organization. The [draft] room was behind what we were doing … Detroit had [picks] 32 and 34, and we were targeting those picks for specific reasons.”
So 32 was Cine, a highly regarded player at a need position. At 34, Adofo-Mensah said he probably would have taken Booth, the Clemson corner, but then the Packers called, offering 53 and 59 for the 34th pick.
Did Adofo-Mensah want to give Green Bay a fleet receiver with size? No. “You’re a little terrified that Aaron Rodgers is gonna get that player, but it was actually the easier decision of the two,” Adofo-Mensah said. “You knew specifically what Green Bay was doing. They’re trying to be good this year. There was a different calculus to that conversation. But what we knew was, if Green Bay called any team after us and offered that deal, they’d have fallen all over themselves to take it. So Green Bay would have gotten the same player, and we wouldn’t have gotten the assets for it. If I didn’t do it, it’d just have been about saving face with the media.”
The Vikings took the 53rd pick and moved back up 11 spots in a trade with Indianapolis to get Booth at 42. Then Adofo-Mensah filled two other holes, guard and linebacker, at 59 and 66.
The math says Minnesota started the day with 12 and 47 and, with other picks being involved, turned those into four need players at 32, 42, 59 and 66.
Adofo-Mensah is happy, even if some of his fans are not. He said after the draft, he went to a Twins game and at a bar afterward, a couple of fans said, “How’d you trade with Green Bay?!”
Maybe Adofo-Mensah should have just sat where he was and taken, say, Kyle Hamilton and Ed Ingram. This is just me, but knowing what I know and the alternatives the new GM had, I’d have been disappointed if he just sat and picked. Williams could turn out to be a great receiver and he could torment the Vikings, but if three of those four players become valued starters over the next four to five years, it’s a win for Minnesota.
Jim Irsay, unique and varied collector that he is, paid $50,103 for an autographed baseball last Wednesday. There’s a little more to the story.
“As a collector,” Irsay told me, “you look for unique items, and when you can, you look for items that can help you do some good in the world.”
Irsay has the shoes Muhammad Ali wore for one of his fights against Joe Frazier; a rocking chair used by President Kennedy; President Truman’s hat from the 1948 inaugural ball; an original Wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth after he murdered Abraham Lincoln 157 years ago; and too many guitars of famous musicians to count.
Now there’s a baseball autographed by the likely 2022 Time Man of the Year, Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The ball was autographed by Zelenskyy on a trip to the United Nations, gotten by a collector who got quite a few world leaders to sign baseballs at the U.N. in 2019. RR Auction, a Boston-based auction house, put the ball up for bid last week—with the agreement that a significant portion of the winning bid would be used for Ukrainian relief. Irsay had competition, but the 50K bid left him feeling good—not only because he can add the only baseball autographed by a heroic figure, but also he thinks the proceeds will do some good.
SOLD! Baseball signed by Volodymyr #Zelenskyy sold for 50k. RR Auction is proud to be donating more than $15,000, in addition to our consignor's generous donation to the #Ukraine relief effort, via @Americares.#Zelensky #volodymyrzelensky #auction pic.twitter.com/ZZs9mmC6KT
— RR Auction (@RRAuction) May 12, 2022
“He signed it as if to say, ‘I appreciate America, and the American pastime, and I appreciate what America has done for our country,’ “ Irsay told me. “This war in Ukraine is something of such great impact in the world. We’re blessed to be the kind of special country that can help Ukraine at the most important time in their history. Our history teaches us so much. I hope we do what we’ve done so often in our history—help to rebuild a war-torn country. Maybe this will raise awareness for people who can help Ukraine. If individual Americans can help, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Good advice. Here’s the United Nations umbrella organization to assist in Ukraine, if you’re of a mind to help the millions in Ukraine whose lives have been torn asunder by the war.
“Mr. Manning! Mr. Manning! I’ve got a Mike Rotch on the phone! He says he knows you.”
—Russell Wilson in the Broncos’ schedule-release video.
Some explanation: Manning played a Broncos’ intern in last year’s schedule-release video, and this year, he was back to train the 2022 intern, Wilson, who showed up with nerdy glasses and was a yes-sir, no-sir guy all the way. At one point, Wilson had to answer the phones at the Broncos offices, and, as Manning left, Wilson got a call from a “Mike Rotch.”
That right there was a gem.
“The Raiders kind of operate back in the Stone Age.”
—Nicole Adams, who worked in the Raiders’ Human Resources Department for almost five years before being dismissed in late 2020, to the New York Times in a story about front-office and ownership dysfunction with the team.
“Tub Thumping is the name of a song in the nineties from a band, Chumbawumba. ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.’ That constantly goes back to the same lyrics. ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.’ That would be my wish for this class. Congratulations.”
—Sean Payton, at the end of his Commencement Address at Loyola University in New Orleans on Saturday.
“Really fast, smooth in transition, good route-runner. Ultimately, he’s the type of character person we want to bring into the building, and that’s as important as anything.”
—Saints coach Dennis Allen with first impressions of New Orleans rookie wide receiver Chris Olave.
“This season was really exacerbated by really unprecedented player movement. The computers are going a thousand miles an hour in a million different directions, and then all of a sudden Tom Brady retires. Okay. Stop everything, rethink, redeploy, reassess, reevaluate. Tom unretired! Okay, stop everything, redeploy, reassess. Russell Wilson changes teams. Tyreek Hill changes teams. Matt Ryan changes teams. Big player, star player movement. Every one of those kind of requires us all to stop and take a breath and say, ‘All right, that which we thought was worthy of primetime—is it still?’”
—Mike North, NFL VP of Broadcast Planning and Scheduling, on one major issue with making the 2022 NFL schedule.
Dec. 23, 1972: Raiders at Steelers, AFC Playoffs, Immaculate Reception game.
Dec. 24, 2022: Raiders at Steelers.
This, schedule czar Howard Katz told me, was the first tentpole game the NFL planted in the 2022 schedule. In fact, Mike North called Katz at the end of the last game of last season, Raiders over the Chargers, to remind him (and Katz knew) of the significance of the Las Vegas victory: It means the Raiders would play at the Steelers, enabling the league put the game exactly 50 years and one day after the Immaculate Reception.
I’m just a bit of sentimentalist. But while they’re all still alive, how poetic would it be if that day in Pittsburgh, so close to the spot where the most mysterious throw in NFL history with the most dramatic ending to a big game in NFL history, we saw this scene: Terry Bradshaw, 74, joining Frenchy Fuqua, 75, and Franco Harris, 72, on the Heinz Field turf.
If you’re not up on football history from the NFL 53rd season, here’s Curt Gowdy on the mic for NBC for the last play of Raiders-Steelers a half-century ago.
DETROIT — I love cities that work hard to rebound. And Detroit is working like crazy to be the great American city it once was.
• I stayed in Detroit overnight last week while in town to do something with the Lions. (You’ll read about it soon.) I decided to stay downtown, at the cool new Shinola Hotel on Woodward, a few-blocks walk from the Detroit Tigers stadium. Lovely hotel, new and fun and extremely welcoming. I highly recommend it. One of the great lobbies in modern American hotels, too, with newspapers all over and good places to meet and answer email.
• Comerica. Just a great place. I wish the Tigers were better, but the stadium is lovely, well-broken-in, with many very good nods to Tigers history. As someone who got an autograph from Al Kaline once in Boston, and who tried to imitate the very weird batting stance of Dick Macauliffe, I appreciate the kudos this franchise gives to players of past eras. The Bell’s Oberon on tap all over the ballpark didn’t hurt either.
• Madcap Coffee. I’m a fan of new coffee shops. This one, in a trendy alley in downtown Detroit, is the third shop of a Grand Rapids-based coffee company I’d never heard of. Not only is the vibe great (and it was mobbed by the young downtown pre-work crowd one morning last week), but the espresso, roasted in Grand Rapids, was exquisite. I’ve been in a lot of coffee shops and tried lots of espresso, and this experience was up with the best places I’ve been.
Really rooting for Detroit.
A promise made, a promise kept. 28 years after leaving @NotreDame, I’ve completed my degree from the Mendoza School of Business. I hope my journey serves as reminder that education is the true equalizer in life and it is never too late to start. pic.twitter.com/J0Xn7Up47n
— Jerome Bettis (@JeromeBettis36) May 12, 2022
Bettis, the Hall of Fame running back, got his degree.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 1, 2022
The Eagles Twitter account with some cool video of rookie center Cam Jurgens on his farm, doing some center drills with a steer.
The @nfl schedule reveal is so overrated. Just tell us who we are playing.
— Taylor Lewan (@TaylorLewan77) May 12, 2022
Lewan plays left tackle for the Titans and also speaks the truth.
No student should leave school without knowing how to:
Apply for a job
Change a flat tire
Take care of their finances
— Pratik Patel (@PratikxPatel) May 10, 2022
Patel is a strength and conditioning coach.
An honor to sit down w the great @EricLeGrand52 to chat about the LeGrand opening of his namesake coffee house. And his very serious efforts to learn Espanol. If only we could bottle his positivity… https://t.co/pB2mp8HqlP
— Kirsten Fleming (@KirFlem) May 14, 2022
Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post, with a good piece on the opening of former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand’s new coffee shop in New Jersey.
I think bars will have the Thursday night games. From Williams Pendleton: “I’m a bartender and I’m currently very worried about the future of streaming in the NFL viewership landscape. Bar and restaurant owners I’ve talked to mostly are unaware or don’t understand that they may end up unable to show some NFL games this year. There are major issues with this streaming plan when it applies to commercial viewing. Most can’t imagine not having games possibly Sunday or Thursdays with this new model. After what I’ve seen with ESPN+ roll out, I can. I’d really love to see you discuss this more and get some answers from the brass.”
Hey William, thanks for the latest in what must be 50 emails I’ve gotten about streaming and the impact on viewership both at home and in sports bars. I asked that question directly—Will Thursday night games be shown in sports bars across the country this fall?—to an Amazon VP, Marie Donoghue, on Friday. “We don’t have an announcement on that yet,” she said. But she pointed out to me that with Amazon’s sports properties in Europe—Amazon Prime has purchased the rights to a series of Premier League games, something similar to the Thursday night NFL package—and made deals with pubs in Europe to be able to show the games there. I doubt she would have told me about the streamed Premier League games being shown in Europe if there wasn’t a very good chance the games would be available to sports bars and pubs in the United States (for a fee) this fall.
Now, as for how it will affect viewing habits, yes, of course it will. But the fact is, with soccer worldwide and now with football in the U.S., sports leagues will be moving toward experiments with streaming, and the angst in your email tells me it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
I got many more emails on this than I thought I would. From Taylor, of Dayton, Ohio: “You wrote that the Bengals might have taken the punter Baltimore took in the fourth round of the draft (Jordan Stout of Penn State) if he got past Baltimore. I don’t understand that. Are you sure? A punter in the fourth round? Were all these teams really interested in him?”
We’re two weeks past my draft column, but the amount of inquiries on this made me want to answer one of them. So here’s the story: The Ravens had the 130th pick in the draft, later in the fourth round. Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta had a couple of thoughts there: speedy 5-7 wide receiver Calvin Austin of Memphis, or punter Jordan Stout of Penn State. He thought because of chatter he heard in the GM community that Tampa Bay (at 133) and Cincinnati (at 136) could pick a punter, and because, as DeCosta told me, “We thought Stout was the best punter to come out in the draft in years,” Baltimore didn’t want to risk losing him. As you probably know, Stout was the pick at 130, and the Steelers nabbed Austin one pick before Baltimore would have drafted him late in the round. That led to a lot of second-guessing about whether Baltimore erred in prioritizing the punter. We’ll see.
But I can tell you DeCosta has no regrets. There was one punter Baltimore would have drafted, Stout. The last punter they drafted, Sam Koch, has booted for the Ravens for 16 seasons. The chance to fill a need (Koch is 39) for the next 12 to 14 years if he works out is why they picked Stout there. As for Austin, if he hits it big, the Ravens may regret passing on him and having him star for their rival. But in the last 10 drafts (before this year), 47 wideouts have been picked in the fourth round, and I’d say four have had significant impact: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Gabriel Davis, Travis Benjamin (that’s a bit of a stretch) and Jamison Crowder. So on draft weekend, the loss of Austin seems big. But it’s a long shot, based on history, that Austin will be a big factor.
Much appreciated, Alex. From Alex, of Castle Pines, Colo.: “There are two things that matter to me significantly about your column. The first is that I marvel at how well you handle all of the mail you get sent. I find it masterful how you have had to adjust to the changing reality of journalism as well as our society. Your career has spanned five decades, and yet you are not afraid to give people their voice, admit you are wrong, point out they are devoid of facts or sense, or just show gratitude for their perspective. I appreciate both the decency you show as well as the skill in navigating a media world that now seems like it is one giant unending minefield, all while writing a first-rate column every week. It is a masterclass in authenticity, excellence, and integrity.”
Alex, I am blushing. Thank you so much. I try to keep an open mind on things, I try to listen to people vent when they disagree, I try to approach the NFL with a neutral eye. It means a lot that you think of me this way.
1. I think the biggest question about Tom Brady as a future NFL game analyst on TV is the question every former player and coach who transitions to TV has to answer: Are you willing to cross the line and work for the people signing your very big check, or will you protect the players and coaches you know and like instead of calling things the way you see them? That’s the reported $375-million question for Fox.
2. I think the easy thing to say about Brady is he’s gotten used to being so vanilla in his public statements that there’s no way he’ll change and be the kind of analyst that once or twice a game will throw a zinger or a dagger. I actually think the opposite, or nearly the opposite. It’s like what his QB coach, Clyde Christensen, said the other day in Tampa: If Tom Brady chose to be a plumber post-football, he’d be great at it. He couldn’t stand being a crappy plumber, or crappy at anything. So I think he’ll work at it. He’ll know that, just like in football 21 years ago, the TV pros will be looking at him with skepticism. He’s not clever enough, he’s not honest enough. He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, “Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.” That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.
3. I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC. I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes. Remember the end of the Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl? Whatever you think of the play call that led to the Malcolm Butler interception, Collinsworth did not mince words: “I’m sorry. But I can’t believe the call. I cannot believe the call. You’ve got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, a guy that’s been borderline unstoppable in this part of the field … I can’t believe the call.” Sometimes, a strong opinion is required, and you can’t be afraid to give it.
One last piece of advice. If I were Brady, and I understand the busy-ness of his life, I would find time, 10 or 12 times this fall, to sit down and watch a football game from start to finish. Listen to the color guy. Think of what you like, what you don’t like. Think of the cadence of doing a game. Think of speaking in cogent eight-second bursts, because that’s the world you’ll be entering. Don’t start thinking about the gig a week after you retire, whenever that is. Think about the production meetings; you’ve been in a thousand of them. What line of questioning gets a smart coach or player to talk? You don’t have to do games now, or pretend to do them. But you can start to think about a style and the points you’d like to make that maybe are not made enough on TV.
4. I think you deserve all the plaudits, Jarrett Bell, for winning the Pro Football Writers of America’s Bill Nunn Award, emblematic of a liftetime of smart writing about pro football. Great work, and good to see you recognized forever in Canton.
5. I think the oddest, weirdest thing I saw in the past week was this tweet from former QB and current ESPN analyst Robert Griffin III:
Prayed to dear lord baby Jesus that the @NFL season opener would be Bills-Rams! The Defending Champs against the best roster in football. In order to be the champ you have to BEAT the champ. @JoshAllenQB , @stefondiggs and Bills Mafia get a statement game to start the season.
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) May 12, 2022
Man, I can think of a lot of reasons to pray to Jesus. The Rams opponent on Sept. 8 is not one of them. Perspective, man. And for those who say, He was just kidding, well, maybe he was. But if you’re a religious person, and Griffin seems to be one, is it good to kid, or to be sarcastic, about praying to Jesus for something? To me, that was one weird tweet.
6. I think the death of Gino Cappelletti at 89 deserves more than an RIP, Gino. Five reasons why:
• He was one of the last true versatile players in football history. In 1960, with the first-year Boston Patriots of the American Football League, he played defensive back and kicker. Then he switched to wide receiver in 1961. He returned kicks, played briefly in the backfield, caught 292 passes in his career, and led the AFL in scoring five times, more than any player.
• He scored the first points in AFL history—a 35-yard field goal against Denver on a September Friday night on the campus of Boston University—and he is one of three men (George Blanda and Jim Otto) to play every game for his team in the AFL’s 10-year history.
• Some of his games … wow. In 1960, as a DB, Cappelletti intercepted three passes in a game against Oakland at Kezar Stadium. In 1961, against Houston, in his second month as a receiver, he caught six passes for 131 yards and a go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter—and kicked four PATs and a field goal. In a 1964 game at Denver, Cappelletti kicked six field goals in six tries. In 1965, at Fenway Park, he caught five passes for 151 yards (including 26- and 57-yard TD passes) and was four-for-four in field goals against Houston.
• Cappelletti was the AFL MVP in 1964, beating out Charley Hennigan, who had the first 100-catch season in football history (101 catches, 1,546 yards).
• Christened “Mr. Patriot,” Cappelletti did color on the Patriots radio broadcasts for 28 years. If asked their all-time favorite Patriot, many of a certain age in the six-state New England region would say Cappelletti, even today.
7. I think of all the stats related to the schedule this season, this one is my favorite: Air miles flown by Seattle in Week 13: 10,566. Air miles flown by Pittsburgh in the four-month regular season: 6,046. The Steelers have eight road trips, and will never leave the Eastern Time Zone. The Seahawks travel through nine time zones to get to Munich to play the Bucs on Nov. 13.
8. I think a Steelers fan could easily drive to all but two (Atlanta, Miami) of the road games this year, and Atlanta’s a 9.5-hour trek. When three of the non-division games are to Philly, Buffalo and Indianapolis (all an hour or less by air), that’s a borderline perfect schedule for a coach.
9. I think Daniel Brown wrote a great piece the other day in The Athletic about athletes and mental health, and highlighted Steve Young’s struggle with it over the years. Brown wrote about a Bay Area fundraiser for athletes and mental health, and used remarks from Young in his speech there:
“I really do look at it simply as being lost in the woods when a park ranger comes by. Would you feel ashamed to ask him for directions? No, you’d be an idiot not to ask him for directions.
“I want the same kind of experience for everyone as we make this less shameful. It would be foolish not to seek help for mental health. We need to lose that fear about getting that help. If I break my leg, I don’t walk around without a cast. Come on! It’s just stupid.
“So let’s not be stupid. Let’s be smart. Let’s ask the park ranger for directions so we don’t keep bumping into the same stupid tree. Right?”
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. I guess I’m the only one annoyed by the misspelling of a pretty basic English word in the Planet Fitness slogan.
b. It’s one thing to spell “judgment” wrong. But to plaster JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE all over the facilities and the advertising … it’s like the company is saying, “We’ll spell this word however we damn well please, and we don’t care that it’s wrong.” The British spelling includes the extra “e,” but the American spelling omits it. This is an American company, so I don’t get the British spelling. But I suppose if you want to utilise the additional “e,” even though I think there is no defence for it, this chain of fitness centres can do what it sees fit.
c. I saw something I found cool in Detroit when watching A’s-Tigers at lovely Comerica Park.
d. Adrian Martinez of the woebegone A’s started his first big-league game Tuesday evening. Martinez came to Oakland in a trade when the A’s dealt southpaw Sean Manaea to the Padres. Martinez got assigned to Triple-A and got the callup for his big-league debut because the A’s had a twinbill Tuesday in Detroit. He started game two.
e. Things started well. Martinez got the Tigers 1-2-3 in the first, finishing with his first big-league strikeout—of Javy Baez, no less. He got Miguel Cabrera on a feeble grounder to short in a scoreless second. In the third, he ran into some wildness, giving up a single, a wild pitch and a hit-batsman to put runners on first and second. Here came Baez again. Martinez got Baez to chase outside sliders on the first two pitches. He tried two more, but both were way outside. Baez fouled off the fifth pitch, and then, on pitch six, Baez flailed at an outside breaking pitch, and it was in the dirt, and it skittered by catcher Sean Murphy. Baez took off for first, Murphy sprinted after the ball, and on a bang-bang play at first, Baez was out by a millisecond. Martinez, obviously feeling lucky at his catcher saving a second wild pitch and putting an end to a wild half-inning, got near the dugout and waited for Murphy and said something, and they both smiled. Like: Thanks for saving my life in my first big-league start. I’m a little nervous, you know.
f. Martinez: W, 1-0. Five-and-a-third innings, four hits, no runs, no walks, three K’s. I think I was the only one to clap (out of a crowd of family and friends, it looked to me) when Martinez was walking off after getting yanked in the sixth. What a feeling it must have been for him, in his first game with a new team.
g. Football Story of the Week with a Good Lesson: Seth Emerson of The Athletic, on Matt Luke, the Georgia Bulldogs assistant coach who walked away from the game and from a national championship contender, retiring at 45.
h. What really hit me was the time last year he was at an amusement park for his 10-year-old son’s birthday party, in line at a ride, and he had to be on the phone doing recruiting business. “Dad,” his son said, and you could just hear what Emerson was getting across from the kid: Ever have time for me, Dad? Wrote Emerson:
Twenty-three years in coaching, in the prime of his life at 45, working for the defending national champions, making just under a million a year, and Luke just walked away.
“I think most people that know me are like, ‘OK we understand this.’ But I think some people are like, ‘OK what really happened?’” Luke said, laughing. “All my coaching friends called and said congratulations, and everybody else called and asked: What happened, are you okay, are you dying?”
But on a late spring evening, you could see exactly why Luke did it: A Little League game at the Bogart, Ga., Sports Complex, and there was Luke, standing and watching, talking to another player’s parent, relaxed in his T-shirt and shorts, not looking at his phone. If he had it with him.
i. Luke is one of the lucky ones. Because he was Ole Miss’ head coach for three seasons, he has a few million in the bank. Most position coaches in college football are miles from being financially secure. And good for Luke for realizing the family stuff before it was too late.
j. Retirement of the Week: Quite a story from Brendan Kurie in the Boston Globe about a college baseball coach who retired after coaching the same team, Bentley University in the Boston suburbs, for 54 years.
k. Bob DeFelice coached his first game in 1969, two months into the Nixon presidency. He coached his final game nine days shy of turning 80.
l. He won 848 of his 1,868 ballgames, which means he also lost more than 1,000. But he taught hundreds of young men life lessons as well as baseball.
m. Kurie quotes a man who played for DeFelice in his 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd seasons coaching, and whose son played for DeFelice in seasons 52, 53 and 54. “He takes pride in mentoring boys to become men,” said Ron Bright, who played for DeFelice from 1987-90 and whose son, Cory, is now a junior infielder. “He taught me that character is what you do when no one is looking. Thirty-two years later and that’s still in my head.”
n. DeFelice went to mass every day of his adult life. He is in nine Halls of Fame. Wrote Kurie, on the end of his final game, a 4-1 loss to Stonehill:
Bob DeFelice slowly walked from that third-base box into the dugout following the 1,868th, and final, game of his career as the only baseball coach Bentley has ever known. For six years he’s been the longest-tenured college baseball coach in the country.
“You thought you knew a lot about baseball until you played for someone who really knew a lot about baseball,” said Joe Majkut, Bentley’s shortstop from 1970-73.
o. Important column of the Week: Tara Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on the recent suicides of female college athletes.
p. Tara Sullivan is good at this. At a time of such excitement in Boston sports, she writes an important column we should all be cognizant of: Sports can be a respite for some, but not enough of a tonic for all. Wrote Sullivan:
On April 25, it was James Madison softball player Lauren Bernett, age 20. On April 13, it was University of Wisconsin track athlete Sarah Schulze, 21. On March 1, it was 22-year-old Stanford soccer captain Katie Meyer. Just this past week, Southern University cheerleader Arlana Miller, 19, left an alarming note on her Instagram account and later died by suicide.
“I think that the losses coming in close succession has really been traumatic,” said Dr. Julie Amato, a clinical and sports psychologist who has worked across a range of NCAA schools and professional sports teams. “Not just for the people who go to [those schools], but for the athletic community at large.”
The finality of death by suicide shakes that community to its core. By any of our usual measures of athletic success, these were athletes at the top of their games who seemed destined for continued greatness. Bernett was coming off a conference player of the week nod and a leader of JMU’s unprecedented run to the College World Series a season ago. Schulze earned academic All-Big Ten honors in cross-country and track. Meyer had secured Stanford’s 2019 national championship with two penalty-shootout saves.
q. Talk. Talk. And talk some more.
r. Column of the Week: Kevin Blackistone, writing in the Washington Post about the insult of the Herschel Walker senatorial campaign in Georgia. Wrote Blackistone:
Walker hasn’t even voted more than once in the past two decades. He was a resident of Texas until tapped by the GOP to run against [incumbent senator Raphael] Warnock. The Associated Press reported Walker’s ex-wife secured a protective order against him in 2005 and cited “physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior” in her filing for divorce. In his 2008 memoir, “Breaking Free,” Walker admitted to violent episodes, including hunting for a man in Dallas who he said was reneging on a business deal, and playing Russian roulette.
But none of that history, new or old, has stopped Walker from leading most primary polls or from being given a toss-up chance to defeat Warnock.
Walker’s sole qualification for Georgia’s electorate … is his athletic achievement. He isn’t like Warnock, an ordained minister who pastors at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church made famous by a former pastor, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., or thrice graduated — first from Morehouse and then Union Theological Seminary, where Warnock was awarded a master’s and a PhD.
Indeed, Walker’s campaign managers late last year quietly scrubbed his biography of the claim he graduated from Georgia. He earned a Heisman Trophy there but not a degree.
Walker is embarrassingly unqualified to be an elected official at any level, let alone in the U.S. Senate.
s. Happy to see the Nets draw a bit of a hard line with Kyrie Irving. GM Sean Marks said last week, “We’re going to need availability from everyone here … When you’re looking at players making $30 or $40 million … what makes them tick? What drives them? Do they want to be part of this? Are they motivated by something that is maybe not good for the whole team?”
t. NBA Stat of the Week: The Nets have played 226 regular-season games in the last three years. Irving has played 103 of them. He did have some injuries, but he missed 44 games due to personal choices. He missed nine because of a personal leave in 2020-21, and 35 because he wouldn’t get vaccinated in violation of a New York ordinance last season. He’s due to make $36.5 million this year, the last year of his contract, but he can opt out if he chooses.
u. My question: Despite his enormous talent, do you want the constant sideshow? If I were the Nets, I’d hope he opts out.
We need to do more,
much more on gun violence
than thoughts and prayers.