THE NETS GO BIG ON BIGGIE

(Prelude To A Fairytale)

By DINO COSTA
November 14, 2018
New York

Amazing when we stop and consider the people who are honored, memorialized, and lionized in these freaky and often confusing times we live in.

The world of sports seems immune from the world of reality in many instances, we see this all the time.

Here in New York, the Nets are set to lower the bar with the introduction of their new ‘City Edition’ uniforms this coming Saturday night at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn when they play host to the Los Angeles Clippers. The irony of introducing these uniforms against this opponent (the Clippers) isn’t lost on me.

When it comes to the NBA, this is a league that has introduced so many new uniform designs for every team in the league over the last few seasons that sometimes it can be difficult to immediately identify the teams that are playing at first blush.

But back to the Nets and their latest rollout of a new uniform design.

The Nets ‘City Edition’ uniform is in ‘honor’ and inspired by the memory of a deceased rapper by the name of Christopher Wallace, otherwise known by his stage name; The Notorious B.I.G.

Now I get the Nets wanting to identify and connect with the ‘Brooklyn Vibe’ and all, ‘Biggie’ as he was also known, hails from the borough, but in this case, the inspiration behind the uniform design, which features something known as ‘Coogi print’ adorning the sides of the jersey and shorts, is a little perplexing to me.

While ‘Biggie’ might be one of the best-known rappers ever to come out of Brooklyn, he’s also one of the most criminally-oriented individuals to come out of the area as well.

Most know that I’m a Nets fan and a person who goes back with this franchise to its days as a member of the ABA, so while I want to see this franchise reach new heights and get better on the court (and that’s happening) it pains me to also see this organization paying homage to an entertainer who I’ll bet good money would not get within 100 yards of the upper east side apartment of Nets CEO Brett Yormark if Mr. Wallace was still alive.

I also find it humorous to listen to various Nets television personnel talking about what their favorite Biggie song is during Nets telecasts on the YES Network. Most everyone on the Nets TV side of things points to the song ‘Juicy’, as their favorite Biggie melody.

This has me wondering if people like the very accomplished play-by-play voice of the Nets, Ian Eagle, rides to the Barclay’s Center while listening to and singing along to the lyrics of his favorite Biggie diddy? Could you see Ian Eagle rolling down the windows of his car riding up Atlantic Avenue and chiming along to the tune and singing; “Fuck all you hoes, get a grip motherfucker?”

Perhaps Nets color analyst Sarah Kustock or Nets sideline reporter Michael Grady (who is excellent by the way) walk into the Nets arena rapping along to Biggie’s 1994 hit; ‘Gimme The Loot’? How long do you think Kustock and Grady would have jobs if they were heard singing; “Yeah, mothafuckas better know, I’m a bad bad bad.” Or, in another verse of the same song they were caught singing;  “No need for that, just grab the fucking gat”, or; “Ni–a you ain’t got to explain shit?” Didn’t the entire NBA community react with shock and moral outrage when it was revealed that former Clippers owner Donald Sterling spoke in similar if not exact tones before taking away his team?

Look it now, I don’t like writing some of these lyrics that Biggie wrote never mind speaking them.

I guess that in the name of keeping it real at the Barclay’s Center these kinds of words are overlooked and explained away as the methods of a ‘lyrical genius’. But as we have moved into this new age of having the word police out there looking to dismember people for talking in such vulgar ways, Biggie’s words in the songs he used to sing are looked at in a completely different light. I gather that in the name of selective convenience what is held against one person in one situation is explained away for someone else in another.

Even if the Nets wanted to look beyond the words of Biggie Smalls (and they have obviously done so), can they reasonably explain away his criminal conduct exhibited consistently throughout his life?

The Nets newest uniform was inspired by an individual who:

-Was arrested in 1989 for carrying a loaded and unregistered firearm and was sentenced to 5-years probation.

-In 1990 he was arrested for violation of that probation.

-In 1991 he was arrested for dealing crack cocaine and spent 9-months in prison.

-In 1996 Biggies was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill 2 fans who were seeking an autograph. He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and was sentenced to perform 10-hours of community service.

-Also in 1996 Biggie was arrested at his home in New Jersey for drug and weapons possession.

-In 1997 Biggie was ordered to pay someone $41,000 following an incident involving a friend of a concert promoter who claimed that Wallace and a friend beat him up. He was also charged with robbery during the incident although the charges for this violation were later dropped.

Where have you gone to, Joe DiMaggio?

Take any other individual not named Biggie Smalls, assign the same exact rap sheet to that individual, and then tell me if the Brooklyn Nets would be inspired to do anything at all with such person with the exception of praying that such a person steer clear of their arena at all times.

Inconvenient truths abound throughout society these days as people and organizations are all too willing to look the other way depending on who that person is and what they did for a living.

While I begrudge nobody for their fandom of the late Mr. Wallace, the fact is that many people will celebrate the Nets decision to honor this fallen rapper and many will buy this new uniform while conveniently forgetting or not wishing to know who the real Biggie Smalls was beyond being a well-known rap star.

Juicy, anyone?

FORGET MANNY, BRYCE, BRING NOLAN ARENADO TO METS

By DINO COSTA
November 5, 2018
New York, New York

Okay, Brodie my friend.

Your administration is now officially on the clock.

The Mets are going to win now and the Mets are going to win in the future, your words, and music to any Mets fans ears, of course.

While the very talented New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman recently made a compelling argument as to why the Mets should be in pursuit of free-agent Manny Machado, I’m here to suggest that it isn’t Machado the Mets should be setting their sights on, nor is it talented outfielder Bryce Harper either.

In the next few weeks ahead, the Colorado Rockies should have a clearer indication of what their all-world third-baseman, Nolan Arenado, wants to do with the next few years of his professional baseball life.

Arenado will either be open to a long-term multi-million dollar deal with the Rockies or, for reasons that are his own, he’ll inform the Rockies that he wishes to play someplace else. If it’ someplace else then the Mets ought to jump right in and make the Rockies an offer they cannot refuse to land a player that can become the face of the franchise for the next 10-years ahead — and the fit is perfect on every level you may wish to consider.

Arenado is exactly the kind of player the Mets should be seeking to move heaven and earth to acquire.

He represents a crucial position of immediate need for the Mets, he’s just now entering the prime of his incredible career, he’s a tremendous leader with an infectious personality and a drive to win that rubs off on others, and continuing his hall of fame career in a city like New York should be something very appetizing to him.

Unlike Manny Machado, Arendo is driven to win, hustles constantly, takes losing personally, is willing to get in teammates face, and would be a significant tone-setter for a Mets franchise dying for someone who would immediately inject a professional aura and a legitimacy the club is currently lacking.

In the past, the Mets have been impacted by a few other significant acquisitions that have helped to re-direct the course of the franchise. We saw this when they made the in-season deal for Keith Hernandez back in 1983. We saw this when they traded for Mike Piazza and ended up signing him to a long-term deal after the 1998 season. Now an opportunity could be had if they’re able to offer the Rockies a package that lands the best third baseman I’ve seen since I’ve been watching the game over the last 5-decades.

Arenado affects the game on both sides of the ball. With the bat, Arenado has become a monster player, particularly over the last 4-years where he’s hammered 158 home runs since 2015, and if you’re worried that Arenado is a creature of having the luxury of playing 81 games in the thin air of Denver, of his 186 career home runs, 108 of those have been hit at Coors Field while 78 of them have come out on the road. Last season, Arenado slugged 23 home runs at home but also nailed 15 of them at visiting ballparks. The season before that (2017) Arenado clubbed 37 home runs, 19 of them at home and 18 of them on the road.

Defensively there may not be a better infielder in the game. Since Arenado came up to the big league’s in 2013 he’s made the gold glove his personal domain winning it every year – including this past year. Arenado’s glove work at third base has to be seen on an everyday basis to be truly appreciated. I cannot tell you how many times over the last few years I have had to pick my jaw up off the floor after yet another Arenado gem with the glove. Every time I think I’ve seen the best defensive play by a third baseman I can see, Arenado goes and shocks me one more time with a stunning defensive sequence. Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman I’ve ever witnessed, and Arenado is a better defender at third than Hernandez was for all those years at the other infield corner.

So, what would it take to land this generational talent who is on a fast track to Cooperstown? In two words: A LOT.

Colorado will always be looking for pitching, although to be fair, the Rockies have done an outstanding job the last few years of drafting and developing their own pitchers who have thrown very well at Coors Field. But as the saying goes, you can never have enough pitching.

I would offer Colorado a package something along these lines:

To the Mets: Noland Arenado.

To the Rockies: Zack Wheeler, David Peterson, Peter Alonso, Ali Sanchez, and Jay Bruce.

Colorado needs a first baseman in the worst way, and Alonso, particularly with his strong showing in the AZ Fall League, should be a player Colorado likes and can see blasting home run after home run, especially at Coors Field. Getting Alonso would allow the Rockies to shift Ryan MacMahon over to his natural position of third base replacing Arenado. Wheeler, finally coming into his own, gives the Rockies one of the best young right-handers in the game and he slots nicely into their current rotation. Peterson is actually a Colorado kid, he has a huge upside, he’s a left-hander, all things the Rockies should like. Carlos Gonzales won’t be back next season in Colorado and neither will Gerardo Parra. Jay Bruce takes over right field and provides the Rockies with better production in 2019 than Cargo did last year – or the Rockies could spin Bruce off to another team addressing another area of need for them. Ali Sanchez is a few years away, and Colorado doesn’t have any high-ceiling catchers in their system currently.

Look it, I hate the idea of including Wheeler in this trade because I truly feel he’s going to be an all-star caliber pitcher in the years to come, but if it meant getting Arenado, I’d pull the trigger. I like that the Mets have some depth with some other pitchers in their system nearly ready to ascend to the big league’s and I believe they can withstand the loss of Wheeler. Then again, if the Rockies want Steven Matz instead, I’ll substitute him for Wheeler in a nanosecond.

And my package isn’t the only one I’d consider or the Mets should consider either. The Mets have other players in their system, a combination in other ways that might entice the Rockies to bite on a potential swap for Arenado.

Nolan Arenado is a game-changer for the Mets or any team fortunate enough to acquire him. As I alluded to up the page, the potential acquisition of a player of Arenado’s stature for the Mets would change the entire feel of their organization in multiple ways.

So, Mr. Brodie, if the Rockies might be the recipient of some bad news, and if Arenado makes it clear he has no intention of signing a long-term deal in the Rocky Mountains, then it behooves you to get on the phone with Rockies GM Jeff Bridich, and bring Nolan Arenado to The Ballpark In Queens.

 

THOUGHTS & VIEWS ON A FRIDAY

By DINO COSTA
November 2, 2018
New York, New York

Local talk radio, or, in my case, local sports radio, can be a pleasant way to spend a few hours on the radio.

This is probably true when you’re on the air in any town or city.

Talking the local landscape can be invigorating and interesting depending on the skill level of the individual behind the microphone.

For sure, the overall scope of content is much more narrow and more repetitive than if you are talking issues and items on a national scale, but then again, there is something to be said for the ability to tap into a passionate base of listeners who are so singularly consumed with their individual teams and rooting interests on that local level.

Having fashioned shows on both the local and national level during my career I’m sometimes asked which of the two orientations I enjoy more, and in fact, I sometimes will ask myself this same question from time to time.

The answer for me is; it depends on the day and it depends on the news cycle.

Both formats can lend themselves to compelling on-air segments – and for a talk show host – I guess it can depend on where their own passions can be found.  Is the articulation of sports with issues almost exclusive to a local level enough to satisfy a host who is content to stay within the confining parameters of news, information, and commentary dispatched to a local listening audience not necessarily attuned to topics outside their own geographic area – will this allow that host enough opportunities to create thoughtful and engaging content on a regular and consistent basis?

Certainly, when doing talk radio on a national level it allows the host many advantages that a local host isn’t necessarily in possession of, namely, the opportunities to spread out and to opine on myriad topical points of interest to an audience not nearly as interested in local content as those who prefer to listen to locally geared shows.

I’m of the opinion that there are talk show hosts who are better suited to the areas of local talk content who should never even think about doing a national show – and on the flip side – hosts who are naturally inclined to deliver a better national sports radio vehicle while being limited in their ability to resonate on the local level.

Then, of course, there is the rarity. The individual who may seamlessly rotate between the two worlds with the capacity to deliver on both levels successfully.

For me, in the end, if I had to choose one over the other I guess I would go with…stay tuned.

Speaking of local news, if I may be permitted to add a few more thoughts to the Mets situation what with their most recent announcement of naming an ex-agent to the post of general manager.

I think some people may be confused with the story I posted here on the website a few days ago. It’s not that I’m not willing to give Brodie Van Wagenen a chance, I mean, as a Mets fan, what other choice do we have?

Along with the thoughts I have already written about the Van Wagenen hire, I guess another thought will be the following; did the Mets hire the best person available for the position?  In my opinion, if you answer yes to such a question you are one of two people:

1-A Mets fan who never sees or thinks any evil with your favorite ballclub.

2-Jeff Wilpon’s relative.

Was this hire one that brought in the person with the most credentials, the person most immediately equipped to run a baseball operations department in the biggest city in America, or, was this a hire that made Jeff Wilpon feel more comfortable than any other candidate who may have been under consideration?

So in the end, I implore any Mets fan to ask themselves this simple question: Did your ownership go out and hire the best and most capable baseball person possible to make the franchise a consistent winner, or did ownership settle on a person they feel most comfortable with who will allow ownership to keep their hands very close to the cookie jar?

I had lunch yesterday with a prominent individual very close to both New York baseball teams who told me point blank that Jeff Wilpon hired his golfing buddy to be the Mets next GM.

Perhaps this is true, but one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the Mets did not hire the most qualified and capable candidate available for the position.

I maintain that the press conference to introduce Van Wagenen was an utter mess. Both Jeff Wilpon and Van Wagenen were all over the place with their comments and there was never a clear vision articulated. The presentation reeked of amateur-hour, absent was any semblance of a professional presentation with specifics, with a plan, with direction.

But give Brodie Van Wagenen a chance? Sure, what other alternative is there now that he has the job?

Looking forward to heading over to West Point tomorrow afternoon for the Army-Air Force game at Michie Stadium.

With a victory, Army will retain the Commander In Chief trophy for a second consecutive year.

It is truly amazing the job that Army head coach Jeff Monken has done over the last few years in reinvigorating an Army program that had lost every ounce of life prior to his arrival back in 2014. Through dogged recruiting efforts by Monken and his staff, the Black Knights have once again become an exciting football product worthy of the attention they’ve been in receipt of the last few years.

Army has a chance to not only keep the CIC Trophy with a win tomorrow – but in addition – they have an opportunity to beat Navy in a few weeks for a second consecutive year, and they’ll most likely play in a bowl game for the third year in a row, something no other Army program has ever done previously.

Army came close last year to finishing in the Top-25, so don’t be surprised if they win out the rest of the way this season if they don’t find themselves in that lofty position at season’s close.

The Red Sox were baseball’s best team this season, however, lost in their ride to becoming 2018 world champions is that Boston was able to accomplish this with one of the most inconsistent bullpens in recent memory for a championship ballclub.

There have now been 19 world series played this century and the American League has a 10-9 advantage over the National League. Interestingly, the Red Sox have won 4 of those 10 titles for the AL while the Giants have won 3 of the 9 titles the National League has garnered. Of course, not a single team has repeated since the Yankees were able to do so while in the midst of winning three straight titles from 1998-2000.

It was sad to see mob rule win the day down in College Park, Maryland the other day. After two investigations that cleared him of any negligence or wrong-doing, Maryland fired their football coach, DJ Durkin, this after reinstating him following said investigations.

One of Durkin’s players, Jordan McNair, tragically died this past summer running wind sprints. As tragic and as unfortunate as this was it wasn’t something unprecedented, and placing the full blame of something like that at the feet of the head coach is just wrong in my opinion.

Once Durkin was cleared by two separate investigations he was given his job back, but unfortunately for him, the pitchfork-wielding crowd raised their voices and the university crumbled immediately. Such is life these days. No matter that Durkin was found not responsible for the player’s tragic death, for a long time now we have been living in a culture where people’s feelings matter more and so Durkin became more than expendable.

While ultimately any coach is responsible for their program from top to bottom, this appears to be a situation where a rare, albeit, not unprecedented situation occurred where a young man, unfortunately, lost his life while in the midst of training.

On August 1, 2001, the Minnesota Vikings lost offensive lineman Kory Stringer in a very similar way. The Vikings head coach at the time, Dennis Green, was not fired.

This past July 24, University of Maine football player Darius Minor, collapsed and died during training. These are horrible things that sometimes happen, but happen they do, and often times it is not specifically anyone’s fault that these things occur. At the time Minor passed away on the football field this past summer, his coach was Joe Harasymiak. Today, the head football coach at Maine is still, Joe Harasymiak.

Despite some reviews I’ve read that the movie is a train wreck, I’m still going out tonight to see the movie on the life and times of former Queen singer, Freddie Mercury. I’m hoping for the best, although if you have read anything about this movie, you’ve seen that it was afflicted with turmoil and constant changes almost from the outset.

Politics and sports, sports and politics, you know how this stuff works.

On Bill Simmons website (The Ringer) there is a current story by a writer named Bryan Curtis who wrote a story with the headline: Are NBA Players Political Enough? Just what the NBA and sports needs, right? Curtis mentions LeBron James and a few others in his story and the basic premise of the piece is if NBA players are doing enough politically or speaking out enough?

Of course, this piece, like the majority of pieces like this, is only interested in athletes being political if it fits within the narrative the writer themselves approves of.  Issues and items important within the social and political construct of the writer’s world that mirror a specific athlete’s views are more than kosher.

On the flip side, if there are athletes in the world of sports who have the audacity to express their views that run contrary to what is socially acceptable in the authors mind, then that author will of course, admonish and castigate said athlete for having the temerity to voice their thoughts within the sports ecosystem, thereby claiming that such an athlete is making the world of sports less than what it should be.

Bottom line?  If you espouse a liberal social and political view speak up. If you advance a conservative social and political view…kindly shut the fuck up.

THINKING BELICHICK CLEVELAND 2.0

By DINO COSTA
November 1, 2018
New York, New York

I’ll admit right off the top that the chances of his happening are probably less than good, however, it doesn’t prevent me from hoping it happens and listing a few reasons why it should happen.

Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach in modern NFL history, of this there can be no dispute.

His rise to the top of the food chain of NFL head coaches mirrors the remarkable rise of the New England Patriots becoming the signature franchise in the NFL during this century.

As we all know, Belichick was deemed a failure in his first head coaching role in Cleveland from 1991 through the 1995 season. Many felt that Belichick was beyond his depth as a head coach and that his ceiling was that of a very good defensive coordinator.

Then came the one day hire as the Jets head coach followed by a messy divorce that saw Belichick land in New England with a star-crossed franchise that for years couldn’t help but to always find the banana peel in the room to slip on.

Since then, and with an ever-changing cast of characters sans the quarterback position, the Patriots have become an NFL dynasty that has outdistanced all comers since winning their first Super Bowl in 2001 while also winning 4 more big games and appearing in a total of 6 title games since Belichick took up residence in Foxboro.

But times seem to be changing in New England, Tom Brady is close to winding down an illustrious career, and there have been hints that Brady and Belichick might be tiring of each other and that Brady wouldn’t shed any tears if Belichick were to leave soon.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, as you all know, the Browns just canned their head coach Hue Jackson, and once again Browns owner Jimmy Haslem is looking for his next head football coach.

If I’m Haslem, I’m on the phone already with Patriots owner Robert Kraft inquiring about the possibility of what it might take to make Bill Belichick the next head coach of the Browns following this season.

The Browns will be linked with an innumerable number of names for the position, and among them, Lincoln Riley, who of course was Baker Mayfield’s coach at Oklahoma, is certain to draw Cleveland’s attention – and he should.

But what if Riley isn’t ready to jump out of Norman yet, isn’t quite ready to do all he thinks he can do in the college game, and at the tender age of 35 wants to take his time before considering a jump up to the next level? To say nothing of the fact that the NFL is littered with examples of college head coaches who don’t make the same kind of impact in the pro ranks as they did coaching young amateurs.

Enter the possibility of Bill Belichick as the Browns head coach following this season.

Think of the juicy storylines that would accompany Belichick coming back to Cleveland in my scenario.

The one time failed Browns coach returning to the city where his reputation and credibility was damaged and now returning and viewed as a savior.

The opportunity to come back to Cleveland with a fresh start and with a quarterback already in place in Baker Mayfield that he can build around for the next several years.

The chance to do something that no other NFL head coach has ever done before, winning Super Bowl titles with two different NFL franchises.

The ability for Belichick to reinvigorate himself in a new environment in a football crazy city thirsting for a winner.

For the Browns, an organization in desperate need of credibility, is there another head coach who can immediately inject legitimacy into their operation the way that Belichick could?

However, as much as I’d love to see this happen, and maybe even for Browns fans themselves who would be keen on such an idea, there are some questions and hurdles to think about.

Namely, would the Browns want to explore this and how much would it cost them to bring such an idea to fruition, as well as whether or not Belichick would be interested in such a plan, pivoting to a new franchise and leaving New England for a fresh start, and  would he like to inherit a blank slate in Cleveland?

Could he work for an owner like Jimmy Haslem? All of these things would need answers.

In addition, to the best of my knowledge, Belichick and current Browns general manager John Dorsey have never worked with one another. Would they be able to mesh? Would Dorsey welcome an opportunity to work with Belichick, and would Belichick want to work with Dorsey?

Belichick is the singular kingpin of football operations in New England and has been ever since he walked in the door there, would Belichick want to partner with another football executive at this juncture, does he have the ability to co-exist with someone else on football matters, player acquisition issues, running the draft, coordinating an organizational philosophy?

On the flip side of the equation, perhaps at this point in his long coaching career, Belichick would welcome someone else working in tandem with him, taking some of the load off of his shoulders and being agreeable to finding the best route to success with some help from someone like John Dorsey.

The Patriots just might be ready to move on from Belichick when you think about it. It has been believed that Josh McDaniels has been given assurances that he will succeed Belichick as the Patriots coach when Belichick’s tenure has run its course, and perhaps depending on what happens as this current season plays out, New England and Belichick might be ready to look at different options.

What would it cost? Who knows. Certainly, you would have to think that the Patriots hold the upper hand in any talks involving a trade for their head coach if they were willing to consider a scenario where they would be willing to trade him for assets. But what kind of assets — and how many?

The Browns have their own number one pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and as a starting point, you would have to think that that pick would most assuredly need to be sacrificed in a situation where they traded for Belichick.

The Browns will finish this season with another losing record and depending on how many losses they wind up with, the Browns number one pick next year could be anywhere from the number 1 pick in the draft, to, perhaps at worst, the number 3 or 4 pick in the draft.

Let me ask you this –if you’re a Browns fan and the cost to snatch Belichick out of New England was your teams first pick in next year’s draft would you do it?

How about this trade proposal:

Cleveland sends their number one pick in the 2019 draft to the Patriots for Bill Belichick and the Patriots number 2 pick in the 2019 draft.

So, Cleveland gets Belichick, surrenders their first pick next year, but adds another second-round selection, while the Patriots trade their second round pick next year but wind up with two first round picks, sending Belichick to the Browns and installing Josh McDaniels as their new head coach which would probably bring a smile to the face of Tom Brady as he plays out the final years of his career with a new coach who he has a good rapport with.

Another thing to consider when it comes to Belichick is this; what else can he do with the Patriots that he hasn’t already done?

Belichick, next year at the age of 67, under my hypothetical, could begin the challenge of turning the Browns around, and could cap off his incredible career with an opportunity to have his name revered in two NFL outposts before all is said and done.

Phil Jackson did it in the NBA, as did Pat Riley, and, if you want to include Alex Hannum, who did it in the stone ages of NBA history, these are the coaches who have won world titles with two different franchises.

Tommy Gordon did it the NHL with two different clubs, and Scotty Bowman won the Stanley Cup with three different franchises.

Tony LaRussa and Sparky Anderson are the only two managers to turn the trick in baseball by winning World championships with two different clubs…but in the NFL it has never happened.

Let’s give it a chance, let’s bring Bill Belichick back to Cleveland, history just might be made.

THE BRO SHOW IS UNDERWAY

By DINO COSTA
October 31, 2018
New York, New York

So far as first impressions are concerned, yesterday’s introduction of Brodie Van Wagenen as the Mets new general manager was a complete disaster if you ask me.

Of course, I wrote a column last week that endorsed the hiring of Tampa Bay baseball executive Chaim Bloom, and my opinion that he should have gotten the job has not changed. However, I was open-minded heading into yesterday’s press conference and found myself fascinated at what Van Wagenen would say when he was introduced.

Beyond some slogans and platitudes, Van Wagenen didn’t really say that much at all, however, if you’re a Mets fan seeking someone who sounded more like Tony Robbins than a baseball executive with a plan then Van Wagenen might be your guy.

Van Wagenen was introduced by Jeff Wilpon, who once again showed that he should never be allowed near an open microphone because Wilpon is a cringe-inducing public speaker who inspires not confidence, but rather, confusion, and statements backed up by absolutely nothing in the way of details.

For instance, Wilpon noted that during the interview process Van Wagenen talked about so many ‘bright ideas’ that Van Wagenen would bring to the team. However, if there were so many of these ideas that Wilpon spoke about he never bothered to mention a single one of them. Wilpon also stated that the Mets considered about 40 candidates for the position, but that Van Wagenen was the front-runner from the start which makes me believe that he was a shoe-in all along — and that the overall process of selecting a new general manager was more of a farce than anything else.

For his part, Van Wagenen said a few things when he addressed reporters, but like Wilpon, there was nary a mention of any concrete plan of action, no specifics beyond his words about how the Mets were going to “win now and win in the future”, and nothing that could be considered credible to any objective individual who was watching or listening. Like Wilpon before him, Van Wagenen never once talked about so many of the great ideas that apparently won him the job.

Now, let me also add that while Van Wagenen has absolutely no credentials and was clearly the least equipped and most undeserving individual considered by the Mets to become their next GM, that this could work, although, it is likely that it won’t.  Then again, I come back to the question of; why make it harder than it has to be?

Here is an organization that most often finds itself rudderless as far as leadership and accountability is concerned, here is an organization that lacks credibility and has found itself distrusted by its fan base for years and years, and here is a franchise that refuses to let go of the steering wheel while insisting that they know best when clearly the results have shown the exact opposite.

Here is a COO in Jeff Wilpon, who should have gone into this process on finding new front office leadership for his club by insisting that the Mets locate the most accomplished high-ceiling executive possible.

The Mets should have been seeking a progressive general manager who had a demonstrated track record of success in assisting in the building of a franchise while also checking all the boxes in terms of being involved with things like drafting and evaluating talent, being involved in trade talks and other player procurement processes, and being plugged in and familiar not only with the Mets personnel, but with the personnel and the organizational depth of each and every franchise in baseball. Such a person is much more Chaim Boom than Brodie Van Wagenen.

Please don’t insult me by claiming that Van Wagenen knows a lot about baseball, or that Van Wagenen knows the Mets upside down and sideways, in addition to the other 29 clubs in the game like someone who is knee-deep in this stuff 365 days a year.

Van Wagenen, unlike someone like Chaim Bloom and many others, isn’t cramming his head with intimate franchise player information the way that a true baseball executive would, simply because, in his previous role as a player agent Van Wagenen would have no reason to do such a thing.

His central role and responsibility in his previous line of work was to ensure his clients got the best deals possible, not to know major and minor league baseball personnel on a sophisticated level. Thus, there is a significant learning curve that comes with this role for Van Wagenen which begs the question; is this something you want for a baseball general manager in a city like New York for a franchise like the Mets?

While I’m willing to concede that Van Wagenen has a cursory knowledge of the Mets and a few other clubs, so do many of you, and I’m willing to bet that my own knowledge of many major league player systems is better than Van Wagenen’s is right now.

Let me ask you something. How many other teams would have done what the Mets did yesterday? How high was Brodie Van Wagenen on the San Francisco Giants list of candidates to become their new general manager?

The Mets should have been seeking their own Brian Cashman, their own Theo Epstein, their own Jeff Luhnow, their own Dayton Moore, their own John Mozeliak, their own Erik Neander, their own Jeff Bridich. Instead, they rolled the dice on a player-agent apparently fascinated with the idea of switching roles and becoming a baseball general manager without an ounce of previous accomplishment and undeserving of such a role, be it with the Mets, or any other franchise.

The naming of Brodie Van Wagenen to the post should be the latest indication that Mets ownership, most specifically, Jeff Wilpon, have no plans to divorce themselves from the franchise in terms of allowing any baseball executive with the kind of autonomy that is needed to truly be effective and to put their imprint on a franchise.

If anything, I get the feeling that Jeff Wilpon felt like he was kept at an arm’s length distance under the previous GM, Sandy Alderson, and here was his opportunity to get closer to the steering wheel again by hiring what essentially amounts to a guy who has been Jeff Wilpon’s friend for a number of years now.

Jeff Wilpon indicated yesterday that his daddy, Fred, was elated with the Van Wagenen hiring, so much so that according to Jeff, his dad hadn’t been so happy with a hire in years…or probably not since daddy made the brilliant decision of replacing Bobby Valentine with Art Howe. Think about that. Fred Wilpon was happier than he’s been in years over the hiring of an individual who has never worked in a major league baseball front office at any time previous to yesterday’s announcement.

Perhaps sensing that their new GM wasn’t prepared for this moment like someone else might have been, I found it more than curious that the Mets PR staff shut down questions for Van Wagenen after only 5 of them were lobbed from the peanut gallery by those in the press in attendance yesterday.

If you thought, like I did, that Van Wagenen’s presser at The Ballpark In Queens was bereft of anything inspiring confidence, it actually got worse for BVW when later in the afternoon he appeared on Mike Francesa’s program on WFAN Radio.

On Francesa’s program, Van Wagenen sounded much less like a baseball executive with a plan and much more like a Mets fan who was calling into Francesa’s program from Far Rockaway who wanted to argue about the Mets current positioning.

Francesa asked Van Wagenen what kind of a team he envisions, what kind of a philosophy Van Wagenen might have that he’d like to see from the Mets. Van Wagenen responded by saying: “I like guys that can prevent runs and guys that can score runs, I want guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and guys that can run the bases, I want guys that can pick it up, I want a guy that isn’t afraid to throw a fastball by somebody, and I want guys that have the fortitude to go out and be accountable for it.” Let me just say that based on those words that this was a stunning and novel recipe for success and I now understand what Jeff Wilpon was talking about when he mentioned so many of the ideas that his new general manager had expressed during the interview process.

When pressed by Francesa on whether or not the Mets could win now, Van Wagenen said; “I think we can…we can talk in July and see how we’re doing.” What?

Francesa then correctly pointed out that the Mets as presently constructed have some holes on the roster that need fixing to which Van Wagenen responded by stating: “The beauty of it is that we can fill those holes and our competition has holes too.” Their competition has holes too? Okay, while there might be some truth in such a statement why in the hell is Brodie Van Wagenen talking about the holes on other clubs? Was this the newly minted general manager of the Mets — or a fan wanting to call into a sports radio program to argue silliness? This sounded like a GM to you?

Van Wagenen mentioned that he’s headed to the Arizona Fall League to talk to Mets minor league first-baseman Peter Alonso to; “see what his head (Alonso’s) is saying to me right now.” Huh?

Francesa asked Van Wagenen a simple question about how Van Wagenen sees the Mets right now as a ballclub.  Van Wagenen was confused by the complexity of such an inquiry and asked Francesa to repeat the question which Francesa did, and Van Wagenen said: “I think our club is good. I think it’s a good everyday lineup that I want to go and build off of.”

Francesa seemed incredulous at the suggestion that a Mets lineup this past season that struggled to generate consistent offense was being described as a ‘good lineup’ by the new GM. Van Wagenen then went on to say: “Mike, I think I got a team I can compete with and I can add to it. I have confidence in a lot of the guy’s names in that clubhouse.”

Then, Van Wagenen really took the opportunity to sound like a fan from Far Rockaway by asking Francesa; “who in the National League East is gonna beat us and why?” You can’t make this stuff up.

As I sat in my car and was listening to this I was trying to think of a more dubious first day for a previous front office executive who sounded so utterly foolish and unprepared as Van Wagenen did yesterday — and the only other name I could come up with was Mike Milbury, when he was introduced by the Islanders back in 1995.

Van Wagenen didn’t sound ‘confident’ to me, he sounded like an unprepared and ill-equipped person who was attempting to utilize bluster as a way to make him appear competent and ready which to anyone with a working brain is an insult.

Make no mistake, it is business as usual for the Mets and anyone who suggests anything else is clearly drinking nothing but orange and blue Kool-Aid each day while fooling nobody but themselves.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that the Mets were operating outside the box or outside their comfort zone with the selection of Van Wagenen as the new GM. On the contrary, this was exactly within the Mets comfort zone, a known commodity and a person who can be guided by the hands of Jeff Wilpon to do what Jeff Wilpon wants him to do. Period.

If I had known the Mets were going to hire Van Wagenen I would have suggested they keep the current front office model in place, or that they would have insisted that Omar Minaya take the job, or John Ricco, or Doug Melvin, or anyone other than Brodie Van Wagenen.

As I noted at the top, can this work? Look it, I guess that anything can work, lightning can strike, the winning lotto numbers can come in one day. But the chances are that this will not work and that despite Fred Wilpon’s rapturous state of mind with this hire, this, like many other Mets ideas will ultimately fail to materialize as they had hoped.

Why are the Mets all too often an irrelevant and second class citizen in their own town? A lot of reasons, actually. But in this case, the Mets hired a wet behind the ears and learn on the job neophyte as their next general manager while the Yankees would never do such a thing for obvious reasons.

Brian Cashman is the Yankees general manager.

The Cubs went out and got Theo Epstein to direct their front office.

The Astros took Jeff Luhnow away from the Cardinals to direct their affairs.

The Indians continue to win with Mike Chernoff as their GM.

Jeff Bridich is one of baseball’s most underrated front office executives with the Rockies.

The Red Sox just won a World Series under the very experienced hand of Dave Dombrowski.

The Mets?

They just hired an ex-agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, as their new general manager.

Jeff Wilpon got his man, got his ‘front-runner’, so to speak.

The Mets…continue to do Mets things.

 

 

THINKING DATA, ANALYTICS & SPORTS

By DINO COSTA
October 26, 2018
-New York, New York

What do you know about analytics?

What do you want to know about analytics or launch angles or CORSI statistics or plus and minus numbers?

Today’s sports world provides fans with the ability to break things down like never before as fans are able to track things daily, identify trends, talk in comprehensive detail with fanciful new terminology about the games we watch in more compartmentalized ways than ever before. I guess this is a good thing?

Or, is it?

Look it, I have no issues with many of the things that allow people to explore these games while being able to dissect so many things today that were never even thought about in years gone by, in fact, I’ll concede that sometimes I find myself taking part in these things as I try to obtain what is supposed to be a truer reflection of the things I’m watching on the field, on the court, or on the ice. I find much of the new statistical information about the world of sports to be interesting and even somewhat entertaining in its own right.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how important many of these things are to the average sports fan, or, why these things should so personally factor into the games we all watch. In fact, one could make the argument that as we pay so much attention to things like WAR in baseball (if you even understand it) or CORSI in hockey (ditto), can it be suggested that these things prevent us from simply enjoying the games through the eyes of a fan — and that it can possibly diminish the overall satisfaction we get as spectators of the games played if we think too much about it?

Asking in yet another way; is it possible for sports fans to have information overload while being spectators of the games we relish?

Speaking for myself, I know that I’ll sometimes be watching a game and find myself trying to remember and pay attention to so many of the statistical aspects which are now so prevalent and talked about — that I find myself missing many of the ‘pure sports’ moments, or, the entertainment features of the games, things that I would normally be content with, but now, some of these things are taking a backseat to the wide-ranging minutia cluttering my brain during a telecast. If I’m not careful and don’t pull back from the wide-assortment of statistical mumbo-jumbo inside my head, I sometimes feel like I’m studying for a test instead of simply watching the games and enjoying them on their own merit as I have done for years.

I’m not claiming that much of this ‘new’ information isn’t interesting, or even needed, on the contrary, as I mentioned in a paragraph above, I find much of it to be enlightening and there can be no question that it opens up entire new thought processes to how the games are played and won or lost as we look back at contests in retrospect.

But do I really need to be interested or pay attention to the ‘spin-rate’ of an individual pitcher as he’s making his way through the 4th inning to make up my mind as to whether or not he’s pitching a good game or not? No more so than I don’t need the exit velocity of a 450-foot home run to know that the hitter got all of the pitch, right?

While some people, average fans, are into this kind of stuff and can watch the games while still including these things in the forefront of their minds (and I have NO idea how they do this) while also finding the games entertaining, I, on the other hand, find that if I’m too cognizant of this statistical  baggage within the moment, that it then reduces my enjoyment of the games in a very big way.

The statistical revolution that sports have found itself in over the last decade-plus is something that I think front office executives throughout the sports world are mindful of and much more concerned about on a daily basis than the average ordinary fan, and with good reason. You may throw in player-agents as well, what with there need to dig in deep to show how their clients are contributing (or not) below the surface, down to levels where the average person never goes because rarely is there a reason to.

I guess what I’m saying is that I get the sense that more and more it is becoming increasingly difficult to simply turn to the games while enjoying them as fans with rooting interests absent any of the disparate and multi-tiered maze of statistics and underlying analytics that can distract and take away from pretty straight-forward reasons as to why we’re sports fans in the first place and why we savor and appreciate the world of sports to begin with.

So far as baseball is concerned, there is now a litany of things that we’re routinely programmed to think about as we watch the games. If we’re watching games on television, it’s impossible these days to not be bombarded with one element after another to the point of forgetting that we sat down to watch a game because of the game itself and for no other reason. The game, and only the game, the game we thought we knew.

I also get the feeling in some quarters, and geeky seam-heads are probably more responsible for this than anyone else, but I get the feeling that if we’re not watching the games on several different levels all having to do with the sabermetrics angle of the sport, then we’re to be discounted as fans who aren’t nearly as enlightened or as knowledgeable as today’s more sophisticated guardians of the games.

Whereas in the past we were satisfied with the back of a players baseball card that told us a players home run totals along with RBI’s and batting average, now, we’re over-indulged with a slew of other statistics that it’s almost hard to believe they can print all of the information on the back of a single baseball card. Wait a second. Who the hell collects baseball cards anymore…or even knows what a baseball card even is?

I digress.

I guess that some of my thoughts on this stuff have me showing my age in some respects. However, the last thing I want people to think is that I’m reluctant to embrace some new aspects of the sports world or that I’m unable to be pliable when it comes to new ways of thinking on some things – I certainly can be. But when pure sports starts to feel more like a video game and when the texture of sports begins to become too impersonal and cursory — this is where I start to recoil a bit.

I fell in love with sports because of the unscripted natural theater that took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I fell in love with sports because of the unbridled spontaneity it regularly possessed. I’m not saying that these features are no longer a part of the sports climate, they are, but what I am saying is that with the oceans and oceans of data being presented so consistently, I find myself wondering if sports is being stripped of its fundamental and organic aesthetics in exchange for an environment that sometimes feels like the games have been moved inside a laboratory and under the observation of people wearing white coats.

In terms of some specific sports, is what we’re seeing in regard to some sweeping changes in styles and strategies the direct result of the deep analytical culture that has taken root?

Baseball has become, in many ways, decidedly one-dimensional in the minds of many long-time fans who yearn for a time and place when the game was more well-rounded and diversified. Today’s game has at its core, two main ingredients. The home run and the strikeout. Along with defensive shifting, baseball, it may be argued, has become a more predictable game than ever before, and let’s not forget that its almost impossible to predict baseball!

The intricacies of baseball, the subtle yet crucial little things, have become so less common within in the sport, and, in this person’s opinion the game is less as the result of these changes.

The art of bunting, the hit and run, hitting the ball the other way, the stolen base, not to mention an abundance of players with a seeming abhorrence to master the basic fundamentals of the game, has made the game far less resonant with many people. Has the introduction, if not the overemphasis on stats and data been the cause of all of this?

I love the NBA and have been a fan of the league since the early 1970’s, but I’ll admit, today’s NBA is a game I’m trying to adjust to as best I can in the midst of a changing environment that is pretty unrecognizable from only 3-4 years ago.

I wouldn’t blame anyone if they told me that watching today’s NBA game too often resembles an NBA skills-shooting competition. Let me ask you, at what point does the NBA introduce the 4-point line?

Much like baseball is identified by two central themes these days, the home run, and the strikeout, similarly, the NBA game primarily features dual factors as well, the 3-point shot, and the layup.

If you watch a lot of today’s NBA, you will see very little of anything more than those two elements. Defense? Forget it. The mid-range jumper? All but eradicated from teams playbooks. But points scored over 4-quarters of play? I see more games now with teams scoring more points today than I did while watching an ABA Spirits Of St. Louis versus Kentucky Colonels game back in 1976. Is today’s NBA the result of the statistical revolution as well?

The NFL? How much time do you have? Quickly I’ll just mention that in the NFL playing defense is thisclose to becoming a felony crime these days. Balance on both sides of the ball? A rarity, I’m afraid. However, if you like scoring, if you enjoy lots and lots of points, one touchdown after another, passing touchdowns one after the other and more passing yards than you can shake a stick out, this new Arena League National Football League will be right up your alley. Running backs? An endangered species. The role of the safety? Let’s just say that position isn’t the one Ronnie Lott knew.

I think another thing to consider with all of this is today’s I want it now society.

People are different these days from 15 and 20-years ago and so too are the way people consume their sports…and the average sports fan, particularly the younger fan within the ages of 18-35 is a much different, and in my opinion, a less knowledgeable fan today than years ago.

The emphasis on Fantasy Sports and the growing popularity of gambling has given rise to the instant gratification generation of sports fans who have no appreciation for the intricate aspects of sports, be it the perfect executed stunt in football or a great backdoor pass under the basket that scores 2-points, or a terrific penalty kill, or even something as mundane as the ability for a right-handed batter being able to hit the ball the other way and allowing the runner on second to move up to third base.

While I can appreciate and get excited about a deep post pattern that goes for 6-points, I am equally appreciative of fullback who takes out a middle linebacker at the point of attack with precision, allowing a running back to squeeze his way into the end zone for a well-orchestrated touchdown run.

But these days it seems that all that many care about are long balls, 8-touchdowns scored per game (preferably all of them through the air), a final in the NBA of 142 to 139, and don’t bother to tell them the final of a game played between the Maple Leafs and the Devils unless a least 10 goals were scored between both teams.

Despite the defects in the games I’ve noted, we’ll still watch, we’ll still root, we’ll still exhaust ourselves emotionally feeling as though we care more about the games won or lost than the participants.

Sports has changed, sports will continue to change, and I guess that no matter what kind of a fan we consider ourselves to be, we’ll change along with things no matter what.

I think?

METS GM? THERE’S ONLY ONE CHOICE

By DINO COSTA
October 24, 2018
New York, New York

What are the Mets doing here?

Send in the clowns?

Wait, the Wilpons are already here, and so is Mr. Met.

A general manager?

What’s that? Listen, the definition of what a general manager is and what that person does varies from one organization to the next, especially when one considers the Mets organization.

So, we’re down to Dougie, Chaim, and Brodie.

Listen, not for nothing, but if you’re the Mets why not hire all three?  It’s not like the Mets don’t have a history with 3-man front offices. Bring in three new guys and combine them with the three guys that ran the show this past season (John, Omar, JP) and the Mets will have the most high-octane six-man front office in all of baseball.

Hey, not for nothing, but can someone please tell me why the Mets never asked the Yankees for an opportunity to speak with Damon Oppenheimer who currently serves that organization as their director of scouting and has long been thought of as a future general manager himself? Then again, he works for the Yankees, and why would the Mets seek to emulate that operation or pick the brain of one of their central front office figures?

I guess Mickey Callaway is coming back next season, eh? Even though Jeff Wilpon didn’t say so during his season-closing press conference, one gets the idea that a prerequisite for whoever gets the GM job will be to agree that Callaway returns in 2019…otherwise, thanks for applying, but no thanks.

Doug Melvin.

Doug Melvin stepped away from wanting to run a major league franchise in almost the same way that Mike Francesa walked away from WFAN radio. Much like Francesa, it appears that Melvin missed the action and now wants back into the game.

Reading between the lines it looks as though Melvin will be the choice as the next Mets GM, although, it also appears as though he’ll work under a set of parameters like previous Mets GM’s have worked under, that is, in a subservient role to the real Mets general managers, Fred and Jeff Wilpon.

Maybe this is a good thing, actually, Melvin being the choice. At this juncture of his life and career, Doug Melvin is obviously agreeable to working under the Mets dysfunctional chain of command. I mean, what does he have to lose? Melvin has already spent a lifetime in the game, he’s been at the helm of two franchises previously, he’s now 66-years old, and if he can snag a deal with the Mets, at the very least, he’s going to pad his retirement fund before he evacuates the game for good at some time in the near future.

At some time in the near future.

The future.

The Mets future.

The Mets have a future?

Well, perhaps, but why hire a 66-year old man to direct baseball operations when the shelf life of such a general manager will in all probability be pretty short?

So, best case scenario, Doug Melvin is hired by the Mets and serves a total of 4-years as their GM, if he makes it 4-years even. Then what? Back to the drawing board in 2022 and another search all over again? This would be so Metsian, right?

The oldest GM in baseball currently is the Red Sox Dave Dombrowski who is now 62. But Dombrowski is now into his 4th season as Boston’s GM and was hired when he was 58. The next oldest is the Tigers Al Avila who is 60-years old, but Avila has been on the job since 2015 and was hired when he was 57.

The majority of baseball GM’s are far younger than both Dombrowski and Avila, and if you’re the Mets, why would you not hire a baseball executive who is not only well younger than someone like Doug Melvin, but also, why would you not hire someone younger than Melvin who is more in tune with today’s baseball trends, and more important, someone who can be on the job for the next 10-years at minimum and who will introduce much needed continuity within the Mets front office?

With all due respect to Doug Melvin, he’s the wrong guy at the wrong time for a Mets franchise in desperate need of outside the box thinking and someone who can preside over a front office many years into the future, not someone who will in all likelihood be a short-term plug-in which will necessitate yet another GM search in only a few short years.

There are a number of issues over the years that have prevented the Mets from being a franchise able to sustain long-term success over a collective number of years, but maybe the biggest problem the Mets have had is that their ownership group lacks the ability to have the kind of vision that allows other franchises to succeed where the Mets otherwise all too often fail.

Of the three finalists under consideration, in my way of thinking, there is only one obvious choice, and his name is Chaim Bloom, the Tampa Bay VP of baseball operations.

Not only does Bloom possess an age (35) that allows him to grow with the franchise and be around for a considerable length of time, but in addition, Bloom is at the forefront of today’s current baseball trends, and most important, Bloom has been a central cog in one of baseball most efficient front offices for years, a front office that has been as resourceful as any other in the game.

Over the last 12 years, the Rays have routinely been able to draft and develop talent at a rate as high as any other franchise in the game. Their minor league system has consistently been one of the best in the game for years. Bloom has demonstrated an ability to not only scout and draft high-ceiling talent for Tampa Bay, but he’s also found value in players at the major league level, players undervalued or discarded by other organizations that have found success in Tampa Bay.

Bloom represents a bold and invigorating step into the future for the Mets and his selection would send a clear signal perhaps, that the Mets are serious about doing things differently, that the Wilpons might finally be willing to take their hands off the wheel of the franchise, that the micro-managing ways they’ve exhibited in the past are finally coming to an end, and that they are placing their trust in a dynamic individual who will be given the autonomy that any GM needs in order to truly place their imprint on a franchise.

Brodie Van Wagenen? Come on, the fact that this agent has actually made it to the final round should be a sign that this franchise is in many ways still too stupid to comprehend what is and what is not in their better interests.

Then again, maybe it should be Doug Melvin.  Well, why not?  Look it, I’ll say this: If the Mets plan is to continue to operate under the same old ways, then Chaim Bloom should be dismissed as a candidate immediately — because the hiring of someone like Bloom under the conditions that have come to define the defective nature of the Mets baseball operations department would be a huge waste of time, both for Bloom and the Mets.

So, if it remains the status quo out at The Ballpark In Queens, allow me to be the first one to welcome Doug Melvin to town as the latest general manager of the New York Mets.

For the time being anyway.

PEOPLE DON’T WANT ‘SAFE FOOTBALL’

By DINO COSTA

10-22-2018

New York, New York

Just about 10-years ago when I was doing a national sports radio show, I told my audience that the National Football League was on a path to ruination. Many people who were listening to my show back then chuckled and told me I was simply being a contrarian.

I said that the NFL was headed for big-time trouble. People smiled and told me to hold the hyperbole for another day.

I stated that it was my belief that the NFL had lost its meaning, lost its soul, and lost the very idea of what made the NFL the greatest sports league in the history of modern times.

I said that the NFL (and this was TEN YEARS AGO) was fast becoming a game that was becoming an unrecognizable entity, a game that was changing and morphing into an arena league product played on 100-yard outdoor playing fields. That balance was missing in the game, that defensive football was being castrated in the name of more offense, more and more points, and that the on-field product that was becoming a shell of its former self.

Fast forward to today and tell me where we’re at?

The NFL is an unmitigated disaster, a mess of titanic proportions, with a product on the field that looks nothing like the game I fell in love with so many years ago, in short, the game of football has become a pathetic spectacle.

To date, through the first seven weeks of play, the league has broken offensive records in regard to points scored and touchdowns. Thus far through this 2018 season, the NFL has seen a total of 577 touchdowns and a total of 372 passing touchdowns. These are video game numbers and that is exactly what the game has become. Consider the 2018 NFL season to be Madden Football come to life on NFL playing fields throughout the country.

Ten years ago I said that the continuing changes to the rules of the game was making the NFL product something very foreign, much less satisfying — and that I felt as though I was watching imitation football being played most every Sunday in far too many of the games. How prescient I turned out to be, eh?

The constant ‘fear factor’ that the NFL has capitulated to over the years has rendered the game impotent in so many ways. The overcorrection in lieu of the very physicality of the game has resulted in an embarrassing form of football that is as far away from the fundamental ways the game was always intended to be played that words alone truly cannot capture how bad it has become.

Let me state again what I stated all those years ago, or, just about the time Roger Goodell walked into the commissioner’s chair:

1-You cannot make the game of football ‘safer.’

2-People don’t want ‘safe’ football.

At this point, with as many revisions as the league has made and with as many things that have been taken away from the sport so far as the defensive side of the ball is concerned, they may as well junk the entire league and liquidate all of the franchises because the game is now a hollow representation of what it once was and will never be again.

Real football fans understand that the game is physical, that players will get hurt on occasion, that players have always gotten hurt throughout the history of the game, and that all of this is a by-product of playing the game the way the game was meant to be played.

With the complete and total emasculation of defensive football the game has become a joke, unwatchable all too often, and the disgust level across the country is rising, not only with fans of the sport but with players as well, guys who are now voicing legitimate concerns that the game they themselves once knew is no longer a game they are allowed to play any longer.

Quarterbacks, as far as I’m concerned, should not be allowed any more protections on the field than any other player regardless of their position.  Quarterbacks have always gotten hurt and injured throughout the history of the game, and nothing should change in this regard, its why they have something on NFL rosters known as backup quarterbacks.

This season we have been introduced to, of all things, ‘weight distribution’ on quarterbacks when being sacked or hit by defensive players. Not only is this something that can and has been interrupted differently by various officials, but its also something that takes away from the very instincts of defensive players seeking to make a play that helps their teams to win football games. What was once admired as a great play is now called a penalty and it is costing teams games.

Let’s get one thing straight, and this will alienate the do-gooders and the snowflakes who have bought into the propaganda that has made the rounds for a while now, real NFL fans want physical football, they thirst and crave it, they want slobber-knocking hits on the field – and there is nothing wrong with any of this! Let me ask you something, with all of the new rules that have been implemented with the primary objective being to make the game safer, are players still being concussed, are players still be injured, are players still being placed on injured reserve lists? Last season, with new rules in place, concussions actually increased from the year before!

This season has also seen this ridiculous lowering of the head rule, where the emphasis is to take the head out of the game, and you don’t even need to be a scientist to acknowledge and understand that this is an impossibility. Helmets are continuing to touch against each other on almost every single play for crying out loud, and the subjectivity of this new rule (like most every new rule introduced) is completely based on what officials are calling what games and what they happened to see, or, what they think they saw.

You can pull on my heartstrings all you want to and tell me about such and such player needing to retire because of the effects of football on their bodies — I get all of that. What I also get is that those players are in the extreme minority, including players who have suffered such debilitating effects from playing the game that it has altered their quality of life after they remove their shoulder pads and helmets for the final time. What is not in the minority are players who have had appreciable careers in the NFL who have gone on to live completely healthy and productive lives after their careers have ended. In these cases, those players are the majority.

Football will always come with inherent risks and dangers, its been that way since they started to play the sport, and nothing will change in that regard no matter how many rule changes they make and no matter how much more they continue to destroy a defensive players ability to play the game in a way that allows that player to help his team win. However, with the rule changes they have made, and with more yet to arrive, what they have managed to do is to pare the game down and make it something very different from what it was intended to be.

It is amazing to me, in fact, it is stunning to consider, that with the way the game has been shaken down over the last few years by players seeking cash payouts for one reason or another, that the league has not mandated that each and every player who enters the league must sign a waiver holding the league and its owners harmless in the way of future lawsuits. In fact, if this is not done sometime soon, what is to prevent the NFL from being sued time and again for however long the league continues to remain in business?

The entire 1985 Chicago Bears defense would be outlawed in today’s NFL climate, Mean Joe Greene would be suspended for half the season, Ronnie Lott would be completely ineffective in todays game, and virtually every great defensive player with a bust in Canton, Ohio, would be told that their style of play was too neanderthal for today’s watered down NFL.

I make no apologies. Today’s NFL is a wretched display of ‘football lite’, and it continues to get worse with each passing week. I want my football played hard, with big hits, with the elimination of this ridiculous ‘defenseless player’ garbage that we hear about so often. By the way, what is that exactly, can someone define for me what in the hell a defenseless player even is?

We don’t want this NFL, Mr. Goodell, we reject this NFL, and we’d like our football back, the game you took away from us, the game that used to provide so many great moments, so much fun, so many glorious battles on the field that once made the NFL must-see stuff.

This thing you give us today?  It’s unrecognizable…just as I said it would be about ten years ago.