Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Giants Schedule Breakdown

The NFL schedule is out.  The semi-national holiday that is NFL Schedule Release Day has now come and passed, and football fans across the country can now plan their road trips or map out their Sundays for the entire fall.  The schedule always provides some interesting analysis, and, after I've gotten a chance to examine it a little more closely, I'll give you my thoughts on the entire 2014 slate.  But, for today, we'll just take a look at the schedule the NFL has devised for the New York Football Giants.

Week 1: at Lions (Monday Night)
They get the first half of the season-opening Monday night doubleheader.  The Giants haven't opened on Monday night since 2001.  That game is significant because of what happened a few hours later.  They played the Broncos on Monday night, September 10, 2001.  As we all know, the world changed a few hours later, shortly after the Giants landed in New York.  Anyway, the Giants beat the Lions in Detroit in overtime in Week 16, then played their last game of the 2013 season at home, so they're actually playing back-to-back road games in Detroit.  It's a very interesting matchup between two teams that underachieved last season.  This is also the first time in three years the Giants aren't opening against Dallas.

Week 2: vs. Cardinals
Arizona in the home opener.  It's the first time the Cardinals will ever play in MetLife Stadium.  I like the fact that this is a 1:00 start.  Those traditionally give the West Coast teams trouble.

Week 3: vs. Texans
Getting Houston this early could be a very good thing.  Because I have a feeling the Texans are better than 2-14.  But I also think it'll take them a while to get going, especially if they take a quarterback with the No. 1 pick.  Either way, this will be Giants' fans chance to see that No. 1 pick in action.  It's also a chance to boost that record to 3-0 before starting division play.

Week 4: at Redskins (Thursday Night)
You knew when CBS bought the first half of the Thursday night package that they'd put some good Thursday night games earlier in the season.  And you also had to figure there'd probably be an NFC East game included in there somewhere.  Sure enough, it's Giants at Redskins in Week 4.  Week 4 is kind of late for the first division game, and the Redskins are probably going to be very tough on the road in a short week.  Tougher than usual.

Week 5: vs. Falcons
The early schedule is very kind.  This is another chance to bulk up that record before getting into the meat of the schedule.  This matchup is sandwiched between all three of the division road games, making it even more important.  I'm not going to say a Week 5 game is a must-win, but this is one that could end up costing the Giants later in the year if they don't take it.

Week 6: at Eagles (Sunday Night)
Flex scheduling starts ridiculously early this year, but I think it's safe to say Giants-Eagles isn't going anywhere.  The Giants won in Philly last year, but it was the Eagles that went on to win the division title.  This is the start of a brutal stretch that continues the next week in Dallas.  Getting one of the two has to be the hope.  Getting both would be a bonus.

Week 7: vs. Cowboys
After two straight years of meeting in the opener, the Giants and Cowboys don't play until Week 7 this season.  It's also weird that they're going to be done with their division road games in mid-October.  Anyway, for some reason, they always play well in Jerry's World.  Last year was the first time the Giants ever lost there.

Week 8: Bye
They deserve a break after playing all three of their division road games in a four-week period.  I, personally, think the Week 8-9-10 byes are the best ones.  Directly in the middle of the season.

Week 9: vs. Colts (Monday Night)
OK, this matchup isn't anywhere near as fun now that Peyton's on the Broncos.  Eli vs. Luck simply doesn't have the same cache.  This, in fact, is the first Giants-Colts game since 2002 that doesn't feature both of the Brothers Manning.  It should be an entertaining game nonetheless, as Eli doesn't have to worry about being in his brother's shadow anymore and can just worry about the Indianapolis defense.

Week 10: at Seahawks
The Seahawks have some fond memories of their trips to MetLife Stadium in 2013.  First, they beat the Giants 23-0 in Week 15, then returned two months later and clobbered Denver 40-8 in the Super Bowl.  So, they probably wish this game was in New York.  It's not like that matters too much, though.  The Seahawks are the defending champions and they never lose at home.  This one'll be tough.

Week 11: vs. 49ers
After flying to the West Coast to meet the Super Bowl champions, the Giants return home to face the team Seattle beat in the NFC title game.  It's their third straight game against a 2013 playoff team.  This is actually the first time they're meeting in New York in quite some time.  And once again, the 1:00 game against a West Coast team is a good thing.

Week 12: vs. Cowboys (Sunday Night)
The annual Giants-Cowboys Sunday night game, although I don't think it's right that Dallas has to play a Sunday night road game right before Thanksgiving.  The weird thing about this series is that the Giants always win in Dallas, but the Cowboys always win in New York.  Will the trend continue?

Week 13: at Jaguars
Four straight pressure cookers after the bye before the Giants finally catch a break.  Tom Coughlin returns to Jacksonville for the second time as Giants coach.  Assuming the Jaguars continue their recent tradition of barely resembling an NFL team, this looks like a win for the taking.

Week 14: at Titans
The second straight AFC South road game, which wraps up the Giants' interconference slate.  Believe it or not, the Giants have lost five straight to the Oilers/Titans and haven't beaten the franchise in 20 years.  That's entirely too long.  Time to change that.  If they don't do it this year, that streak will reach 24 years before they have a chance at snapping it.

Week 15: vs. Redskins
This is the third straight year in which Washington's visit doesn't come until December.  Last year it was Week 17, this year it's Week 15.  Assuming they're still in the division race this late in the season, the Giants will be in a great position to control their own fate.  Their final two home games are against Washington and Philadelphia.

Week 16: at Rams
The final road game of the season is in St. Louis.  I had this one happening earlier in the season, so I guess I didn't win the Rams' $1 billion prize.  This one has the danger of being a trap game.  The Rams aren't bad, and they've been known to give good teams a difficult time late in the season.  If St. Louis is still in the race, I'd expect that to once again be the case.  Even if they're out of it, the Rams will be a tough test.

Week 17: vs. Eagles
They played the Redskins in the finale last year and the Eagles the year before that, so following the rotation would've led you to think it'd be Dallas in Week 17.  But instead it's the Eagles, and I can easily see this one being flexed into the Sunday night spot that seems to be reserved for the NFC East (although, I think it's actually reserved for Dallas).  My early guess is that this one's for the division title.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Bills' Future

Ever since the death of Ralph Wilson last month, the future of the Buffalo Bills has been in question.  Mr. Wilson, who had owned the team since its inception in 1959, had always made it clear that he didn't intend to keep the team in the family after his death.  In keeping with his wishes, the Bills are in the process of being sold.

I have no idea who's going to buy the Bills.  Or what's going to happen when they're sold.  It's no secret the NFL wants a team in LA, and with expansion currently off the table, relocation seems to be the only option to get a team there.  And I'm sure there's got to be a potential buyer or two who sees the money that can be made in the country's second-largest media market, especially compared to Buffalo.  Well, I can speak for Bills fans everywhere when I say moving to LA (or anywhere else) would be a mistake. 

The Bills ARE Buffalo.  I know this from experience.  I lived in Buffalo for six years and have plenty of friends who still live there.  Even if they aren't football fans, they love their Bills.  The Bills are as much a part of Buffalo as chicken wings.  Moving the team would take away a big part of the Buffalonian identity.  Especially if you move them to LA, where the people flat out do not care. 

Buffalo might be a small market with a small stadium that they have trouble selling out, but there are no fans in the NFL that are more passionate than Buffalo Bills fans.  (And that stadium can get rockin', especially when there's lake-effect snow in October or that wind gets going.  Why do you think the Bills always want to play their home game against the Dolphins late in the season?)

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who understand the importance of the BUFFALO Bills.  Not least of which are the members of the Wilson family.  Mary Wilson (a lovely woman) inherited her husband's controlling interest, so she'll ultimately make the final decision on who to sell to.  And I'd be shocked if she decided to sell the team to someone who wasn't committed to keeping the team where it belongs.  In Western New York.

All the names that have already been mentioned as potential buyers have guaranteed that they won't move the team.  And that list has some star-studded names.  Bruins owner Jim Jacobs.  Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.  A group headlined by Jon Bon Jovi.  Donald Trump.

If it were up to me, The Donald would be the Bills' new owner.  He's committed to the market and has already reached out to both the NFL and the Wilson family.  And we all know he's got plenty of money, which he'd be more than willing to spend.  For the Bills to get back to relevance in the AFC East (they're the only team in the NFL that hasn't made the playoffs this century), Donald Trump might be exactly what they need.  He wouldn't be getting into this just for the prestige of being an NFL owner.  That would be part of it certainly, but The Donald would also do everything within his power to put a winning team on the field.  Including spending a butt-load of his own money to lure free agents.

Of course, there are plenty of potential pitfalls to his ownership, the biggest of which is the USFL lawsuit.  He was the owner of the USFL's New Jersey Generals 28 years ago when that league sued the NFL (and won that famous $3 settlement).  There are 17 NFL teams that are still owned by the same person or family.  Trump would need 24 votes for the sale to be approved, and NFL owners are like elephants.  They don't forget anything.  Would that block Trump's path to buying the Bills?

Trump's got plenty of friends in the NFL, too.  It's well-known that Trump and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are very good friends.  Kraft is very influential within NFL circles.  Would his advocacy work in Trump's favor?  There's also a possibility that the NFL owners respect Trump as a businessman.  After all, the lawsuit against the NFL proved his dedication to the USFL, which was not going to survive.

Whether it's Donald Trump or Bon Jovi or Jim Kelly, I don't really care.  What I do care about is the Buffalo Bills remaining in Buffalo.  Bills fans have already had to endure one devastating loss--the death of their beloved owner.  The only loss that could be any more devastating would be losing the team entirely.  This is a team that lost the Super Bowl four straight times, but for Bills fans, those losses would pale in comparison to the though of their not being the Bills at all.  Or, even worse, seeing their beloved Bills become the Los Angeles Bills.

For the sake of the Bills and their fans, please find a buyer who'll keep the team in Buffalo.  Because that loss would be impossible for anyone who loves or cares about this team to bear.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Separate Leagues, Separate Awards

A week or so ago, Sports Illustrated posted a question on social media, the responses to which were included in the letters section of this week's issue.  The question is fairly simple and straightforward, but it's a very dumb question all the same: Should MLB get rid of the separate awards for the AL and NL and instead only present one Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and MVP per season?

My answer to that question is a resounding "No!"  I know the question was posed solely as a topic for discussion/debate, but that debate should be a short one.  For starters, they're not going to change it.  There's going to remain separate awards for the American League and National League.  And there should be.

The argument that one guy made as to why there should only be one award is because they only have one MVP, etc., in each of the other sports.  Well, that may be true, but each of the other sports has always operated as one league with two separate conferences.  Major League Baseball has always been two completely separate leagues.  Interconference matchups have always been the norm in the NFL, NHL and NBA (in the latter two, you face every other team at least twice each season).  In Baseball, interleague play, like it or not, has become an accepted part of the schedule.  But it's also only existed since 1997.  That's not even 20 years.

Before the existence of interleague play, when teams from the AL and NL never faced each other except for the All*Star Game and World Series, having separate awards for the two leagues made complete sense.  It wouldn't have been fair to compare players from one league against the other when they were facing completely different opponents.  Some would argue that since there's now interleague play, that distinction no longer needs to be made.  Well, interleague play has been integrated into the schedule, but it's not a big enough part of the schedule to render AL vs. AL or NL vs. NL games insignificant.

Furthermore, the NFL, NBA and NHL maintain only one set of league statistics.  It's the NFL rushing leader, the NBA scoring leader, etc.  In Major League Baseball, they still keep separate league leaders for both the American and National Leagues.  Sure, it's easy enough to figure out the Major League leader in a given category, but they still deem how you do within your league more important.

Part of the reason for that is the sample size.  In the NFL, they play four interconference games.  That's 25 percent of the schedule.  In the NBA, it's 30, which amounts to 36.6 percent of the schedule.  In the NHL, there are more teams in the Eastern Conference, so the amount of crossover games varies.  It's either 28 or 32 depending on which conference you're in.  For the Eastern Conference teams, that's 34.1 percent of the schedule.  In the West, it's 39 percent. 

Major League Baseball, of course, has a season that's twice as long as the others.  They have that brutal grind of 162 games in 180 days.  Of those 162 games, only 20 are interleague.  Or, 12.3 percent of the season.  You can't discount the fact that for almost 90 percent of the season, the two leagues are completely independent of each other.  You play 142 games against only half of the available competition, yet you're going to be compared against that other half when it comes to awards season?  How's that fair?

Then there's the elephant in the room anytime there's any discussion about Major League Baseball and interleague play.  I'm, of course, talking about the DH.  Baseball's the only sport where they play by different rules.  And the DH makes it impossible to compare the American League with the National League statistically.  National League pitchers have to hit, but they also don't have to face a DH.  That's why offensive numbers are generally higher in the AL.  That's also one of the reasons interleague play is so much fun.

When they first started the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards, they did only have one for the two leagues combined.  That only lasted a couple years before they separated the awards, which they have been ever since.  And there's no rush on anyone's part to change it back. 

It seems silly to even think about having one award for the two leagues.  There's no difference between AFC football and NFC football, and a hockey game is a hockey game, regardless if it's Kings-Blackhawks or Rangers-Bruins.  That's why it makes sense to only have one set of awards in each of those sports.  The same can't be said about Major League Baseball.  A Yankee game and a Met game are very different.  And those differences are very abundant.  You know whether you're watching the American League or the National League.  Until that's not the case anymore, there's no reason not to have separate awards for the two leagues. 

Discussion over.  It ain't changin'.  If you want to make the case for a "Player of the Year" award, then I might be willing to listen.  But when it comes to whether or not there should be two different MVPs each year, that's not a debate.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

Starting Wednesday, we get to see the NHL's new playoff format in action.  For the first time since they moved away from the strict division-based playoff structure 20 years ago, they went back to a format that's mostly division-based this season.  As a result, there's a set bracket for the first time since 1993. 

But setting up the playoffs this way has plenty of flaws, and they've already been exposed.  For starters, Tampa Bay and Montreal were the third- and fourth-best teams in the East on points, yet they finished second and third in their own division, which means they're playing in the first round and one will get knocked out.  Meanwhile, the Rangers (fifth overall) have home ice for their series against the Flyers (sixth overall), and one of them will definitely advance.  It's also impossible to have the top two teams in the same division meet in the conference finals.  This is especially a problem out West, where Anaheim and San Jose are arguably the two best teams.

This is the system we've got for at least the next three seasons, though, so we might as well embrace it.  Making predictions, though, as usual, is a tough proposition.  It's a little easier in the East, where it'll be a surprise to see a team that doesn't wear black and gold in the Final, but there are any of six teams in the Western Conference capable of playing for the Cup, and four of those six could win the whole thing.

Bruins vs. Red Wings: They're making a big deal about the fact that these two haven't met in the playoffs since 1957, but seeing as Detroit was in the Western Conference for so long (and still should be), it's not really that surprising.  The Red Wings switch conferences, going to the easier one, and barely make the playoffs.  Detroit did keep its streak going, though, so I'll give them that.  But the Red Wings are a flawed team that will be exposed by the President's Cup-winning Bruins.  Boston's simply too good and too deep.  Bruins in five.

Lightning vs. Canadiens: I will give the new format this: the four 2 vs. 3 series all have the makings of being incredibly entertaining.  None more so than Tampa Bay-Montreal.  These two are very evenly matched, and it's a shame one of them has to go home in the first round.  The Lighting set themselves up nicely to make a run, just like they did three years ago.  And their having home ice for Game 7 could prove to be the key to the series.  It's also incredible to think that there are seven Canadian teams in the league, yet Montreal was the only one to take the playoffs.  This series is a coin flip, but I want to see a Bruins-Canadiens series in round two.  Canadiens in six.

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets: Columbus did an outstanding job to make the playoffs in its first year as an Eastern Conference team, and I have a feeling the Blue Jackets are only going to get better as the years go on.  The Penguins, meanwhile, want to make up for last year's embarrassing sweep in the Conference Final.  Pittsburgh's not as good as last year, but still ran away with the Metropolitan Division.  Last year, I made the mistake of underestimating the Islanders and assumed the Penguins would cruise right by them.  I'm not going to do the same with Columbus this year.  Pittsburgh will win, but it won't be easy.  Penguins in six.

Rangers vs. Flyers: These two rivals do not like each other, and it's the first time they're meeting in the playoffs since 1997 (it's also very weird to know the Rangers can't play their annual playoff series against Washington this season).  Every time they play, it's a battle, and I expect a best-of-seven playoff series to be no different.  The Rangers have a knack of making any series they play in go seven, so there's no reason to expect this series won't go the distance.  Where the Rangers' X-factor will once again prove to be the difference.  Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the NHL.  And at the end of playoff series, he shows everyone why.  Rangers in seven.

Avalanche vs. Wild: Patrick Roy probably sealed up the Adams Award once Colorado clinched the Central Division.  Especially since the Blues and Blackhawks are probably both better teams.  Anyway, playoff hockey returns to Denver for the first time in four years (this is a team that finished last last season, by the way).  Both of these teams are on the rise, and Minnesota's the most dangerous of the four wild card teams.  I can easily see the Wild winning this series.  Ultimately, though, I think Colorado will pull it out.  Avalanche in six.

Blues vs. Blackhawks: Prediction: the winner of this series beats the Avalanche in the second round.  St. Louis is in a tailspin.  After battling Anaheim for the top seed in the West for much of the season, they ended up not even winning the Central.  And their prize for a season-ending five-game losing streak is a matchup with the defending champion Blackhawks.  These are probably the two most evenly-matched teams meeting in the first round.  Chicago is playoff-tested.  That's obviously going to be a big factor in this series.  So, the question now becomes: Can the Blues rebound from their horrible finish and avoid a first-round playoff exit?  Well, that's what they got Ryan Miller for, isn't it?  If they lose, that trade becomes a waste.  St. Louis is the best team in the Central Division.  A first-round playoff loss would be an incredible disappointment.  Blues in seven.

Ducks vs. Stars: Dallas gets out of the Pacific Division and finally returns to the playoffs...only to face a Pacific Division team (then another if they win).  It was a great job by Lindy Ruff to get Dallas into the field, but they've got the toughest draw of anybody.  Anaheim is the most complete team and they're built to make a run at the Cup.  Unfortunately for the Stars, this is just the opening act for the Ducks.  Dallas is good, but also incredibly overmatched.  Ducks in four.

Sharks vs. Kings: For the first time, all three California teams are good in the same season.  Is this finally the year for the Sharks, or will they have their annual playoff letdown?  You know one of these years, San Jose is finally going to finish the job and get to the Final.  Meanwhile, the Kings were the 8-seed in the West two years ago and won the Cup, then went to the Conference Final last year as the 5-seed.  So, they clearly don't need home ice to make a run in the playoffs.  But you also have to wonder how long that can last.  I see a very competitive, highly entertaining series here.  It's a coin toss.  Watching all seven games on NBCSN will be fun.  Sharks in seven.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Upon Further Review

In my first game of the year, I got my first replay review.  I'm, of course, talking about last night's Yankees-Red Sox game at the Stadium.  In the fourth inning, Francisco Cervelli was called out at first on what would've been an inning-ending double play, but Joe Girardi challenged, the call was overturned, and the Yankees scored what ended up being the winning run in a 3-2 victory.

The reversal didn't set well with Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was immediately ejected for arguing the call, which is one of the replay rules that was established.  I'm not sure if Farrell's interpreting the rules incorrectly or simply still upset about the blown replay review on Saturday, but his argument that there wasn't "clear, undisputable evidence" is simply wrong.  (Although, if you ask the Red Sox fan who wrote this piece for Sports Illustrated, he wasn't wrong.)  He saw the same replay I did.  The ball's clearly not in Napoli's glove yet when Cervelli's foot hit the bag.  I'll tell you what, here's what we saw on the video board.  You make the call:

Farrell's comments were all the rage today, leading to a full-scale discussion about the pros and cons of the replay system, which has been in use for a grand total of two weeks.  Tony La Russa is in charge of replay for Major League Baseball and he's just shrugged off any criticism of the process so far.  As La Russa pointed out, it's "premature" to question the integrity of the system.  After all, Baseball has had instant replay for two weeks after going without it for 185 years.  With such a drastic change, there were bound to be some hiccups.

Going into Monday, there had been 185 games played in the Majors this season.  In those 185 games, 84 calls were reviewed.  Of those 84, only 28 were reversed.  That's a success rate of 33 percent, or slightly lower than the success rate of NFL coaches (and the NFL has had replay for years).  More than anything, the use of replay has proven that the umpires actually get the call right most of the time.  But sometimes they do get it wrong.  That's the point of using replay in the first place.

Unfortunately, that's not what you hear about.  You only hear about the controversial stuff.  You only hear about John Farrell getting ejected because he thought he got screwed (the fact that this happened in a nationally-televised Sunday night game probably didn't help).  Or the game on Saturday between the same two teams, where the umpires had replay at their disposal yet somehow managed to still get the call wrong even after using it.  MLB even acknowledged that the umpires screwed up that one.

Or the play at first base in the Washington-Atlanta game on Saturday night.  That was our second Nationals-Braves replay moment this season.  In Washington's home opener on April 4, Ian Desmond hit what was ruled an inside-the-park home run on the field, then changed to a ground rule double after the review.  Atlanta ended up winning the game 2-1, and Nationals manager Matt Williams wasn't happy afterwards.  Once again, though, the play was correctly overturned.  See for yourself:
Criticism is always going to be louder than support.  That's just the way things go in our society.  The funny thing is these critics are the same people that were yelling the loudest that MLB needed to adopt replay.  Well, you can't have it both ways!  Either you're a fan of replay or you aren't.  You can't change that opinion just because a call went against your team.
Replay has come to Baseball and it's here to stay.  The system isn't perfect.  Nobody expected it to be.  But it has achieved its purpose.  They're getting calls right, and by doing so, the right teams are winning games.  Isn't that what everyone wanted in the first place?

Friday, April 11, 2014

No Worry About Rio

All of the talk about the 2016 Olympics so far has been centered around the fact that the IOC is upset about construction delays.  So much so that they're "monitoring the situation."  There have also been some people that have suggested the IOC is considering moving the Games.  That suggestion isn't just premature.  It's stupid.  Rest assured, the 2016 Olympics will be in Rio de Janeiro as planned.

There are plenty of reasons why the idea of moving an Olympics only two years out doesn't make any sense.  For starters, where would you move them?  They choose Olympic host cities seven years in advance for a reason.  If they were to take the Games away from Rio, what city would possibly be able to organize and fund an Olympics on such short notice?  And I'm not just talking about having available facilities, which is enough of a problem.  I'm talking about all the logistics of scheduling, accommodations, security, etc.  It takes a lot more than two years to prepare for an Olympics.  That's why moving the Rio Games now would be virtually impossible.  Even London, which staged those incredible 2012 Games, probably wouldn't be able to do it...and that's the most likely option for a replacement.

Not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars that has already been spent.  There are already a number of Brazilians who are unhappy with the costs of both the Olympics and the World Cup.  Imagine if the Olympics were to be taken away and all that spending truly became wasteful?  Plus, you'd have all these unfinished venues in and around Rio that would just be sitting there.  No chance to repurpose them for their post-Games use if they're never used in the first place.

This same thing happened in advance of the 2004 Athens Games.  There were similar concerns about construction delays and organizational problems.  They even fired the head of the organizing committee.  Well you know what?  Everything worked out OK, and the Games did return home.  Athens has had some major problems since and is still paying for the 2004 Olympics a decade later, but that's a separate issue.

The thing the Brazilians really have to worry about is the World Cup.  It's there where we've hit crunch time, and the potential of unfinished stadiums in some of the 12 World Cup host cities are definitely much more of a concern.  And a more pressing one.  From what it seems, though, all of the World Cup construction now seems to be on or close to schedule, so there shouldn't be any incomplete stadiums once the World Cup begins.

Of course, the final of the World Cup will be held at Rio's world-famous Maracana.  Maracana had to be renovated for both events, and the World Cup is two years before the Olympics.  Which one do you think they're worried about first?  Maracana will host the Opening Ceremony.  But they can't begin to turn it into an Olympic venue until the World Cup is over.

And maybe that's the root of all these delays.  Maybe the Brazilians want to make sure the World Cup goes off without a hitch before they turn their focus to the Olympics.  Let's not forget, this might be the sixth-largest country in the world, but it's still hosting the two biggest sporting events on the planet little more than two years apart.  The second of which comes with the added pressure of being the first South American country ever to host the Olympics.  They're both huge undertakings.  Brazil has the resources to do both.  If they didn't think they could, they never would've applied to host the Olympics.

We're still more than two years away from Rio.  I'm sure the stadiums will be finished and whatever problems there are will get fixed with plenty of time to spare.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that by the time Pele lights the cauldron, we'll have forgot all about this.  And that Rio will deliver a truly glorious Games.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not Employees=No Union

Ever since that Chicago judge ruled last week that Northwestern football players were allowed to form a union, the reaction has been pretty universal.  There isn't a single person out there who thinks this is a good idea.  And it kind of makes me wonder why the judge let it move forward in the first place, especially since it's almost certainly going to get tossed on appeal.

Northwestern has already filed the appeal, and the players are set to vote by April 25.  One player who'll be voting "No" is starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.  That's pretty telling.  It's an obvious sign that the players are far from unanimous in their feelings.  Siemian's interview was pretty telling in a number of respects.  He acknowledged that college football players actually have it pretty good and that whatever concerns the players had should've been brought to the head coach and athletic director first.

Not surprisingly, the NCAA is vehemently opposed to this.  NCAA President Mark Emmert said during his Final Four press conference that this would "blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics."  He even called the idea "ridiculous" and "grossly inappropriate."  And, you know what, he isn't wrong.  The NCAA has problems.  Emmert is the first to admit that.  But this definitely isn't the answer.

There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea, and I've thought this ever since the players first announced their intention to unionize.  For starters, it would only apply to private universities like Northwestern.  So, football players at Ohio State and Texas and Florida State and all the other state-funded universities can't do the same.  If unions are supposed to look out for the rights of everyone, how is that fair?

Likewise, who's covering things like insurance, union dues, etc.?  I bet these players only saw the benefit of union backing without taking those costs into account.  And why would they?  That's a bigger picture item.  No one ever looks at the big picture when it comes to these things.  Once that reality hits, I'm sure the Northwestern players will be singing a different tune.

But here's the biggest reason why I think the Northwestern football team shouldn't be allowed to unionize.  And it's perhaps the most obvious reason out there.  They aren't employees!  I know what the ruling said.  I don't buy it.  Do they draw a salary from the university?  No.  And if you don't draw a salary, you're not an employee.  It's my understanding that labor unions represent employees.  Well, if you're not an employee, how can you be represented by a labor union?

The players, as well as the judge who ruled in their favor, would argue that the players are employees.  Well, I define being an employee as getting a salary.  A scholarship is not a salary.  And that scholarship, by the way, provides them with the opportunity to attend one of America's most prestigious academic institutions for free for four years.  In return, the football players agree to represent that university on the field, which also means putting in the required time that being on said team entails.  That's an agreement thousands of college athletes voluntarily make every year, without expecting anything else in return.  Yet it's not enough for the Northwestern football team.  Or, let me rephrase, certain members of the Northwestern football team.

I'm not anti-union.  Unions aren't a bad thing.  But they can be if they aren't used right.  And that's what we're seeing here.  This is an attempt to get attention.  Congratulations.  It worked.  Letting this vote go through and actually letting the players unionize, though.  That would be a tremendous mistake.