On Los Angeles, St. Louis and How It All Shakes Out
I’m like everybody else with this Los Angeles thing. I’m on page 24 of a 300-page book, and it’s not all that interesting so far. But I hear the end is compelling, so I'd rather speed past the next 230 pages and go straight to the climax. Tell me what the end game is.
"What’s your gut feeling about the number of NFL teams playing football in Los Angeles in 2020—zero, one or two?" I asked Eric Grubman, an NFL senior vice president and the league’s point man on the L.A. market, on Friday.
"I don’t know the number," he said near the end of a 35-minute interview. “But the least probable of those numbers is zero. I would say we’ve gone above the 50 percent probability that we’ll have at least one team there."
The mystery brews. “You have to have some stomach to let the thing play out," Grubman said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now I don’t think anyone does. I do know this: Los Angeles has real momentum for the first time in 20 years."
* * *
It’s been two decades and two months since the Los Angeles area had NFL football. The Raiders and Rams left simultaneously after playing in L.A. and Anaheim, respectively, for the last time on Christmas Eve 1994. And now, Los Angeles is a game of musical chairs for three teams. The San Diego and Oakland franchises have announced their intention to bury the hatchet of a 54-year rivalry to initiate a joint $1.7-billion stadium project in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. And last Tuesday the Inglewood, Calif., city council unanimously approved plans to build a football stadium that would be anchored by the move of the Rams from St. Louis. That doesn’t mean the Rams are signed and sealed for Inglewood, former home of the Lakers and Kings, just that the locals are promising to build a palace if they come.
The Chargers are still trying to get a deal done to stay in San Diego. Ditto the Raiders in northern California. The Rams? No one quite knows what the Rams are doing. Owner Stan Kroenke is the invisible man; many hugely influential business and government people in St. Louis and the state of Missouri have never met the Howard Hughes of the NFL. For years the Rams tried to get a better stadium than the Edward Jones Dome, and the franchise was rebuffed because of the immense cost. But now, faced with losing the Rams, the state and city are working double-time to come up with a solution that—if nothing else—would make it difficult for 24 owners to vote in favor of the Rams returning to Los Angeles. (Franchise moves must be approved by a 75 percent majority of the 32 teams, though no one is sure if Kroenke will abide by that bylaw or just pull up stakes and force the league to stop him.)
The rendering atop this column, and the gallery below this paragraph, is a start. This is the first time anyone outside the league or the committee charged with keeping the Rams in St. Louis has seen the renderings of the proposed $1 billion, 64,000-seat open-air riverfront football stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River. Grubman has been to St. Louis on several occasions to meet with the group working to keep the Rams in town and working to clear 90 acres on the riverfront and get funding for the stadium, and he’s bullish on their prospects. But prospects for what? Keeping the Rams—even though Kroenke has not been part of the discussions at all, instead choosing to have Rams COO Kevin Demoff head the team’s delegation in dealing with the transition? Preparing for a rainy day, and taking one of the teams (San Diego or Oakland) that doesn’t get a stadium built and sees the prospect of a shiny middle-American palace in a top-25 market? No one knows. But the venue is currency in these stadium-driven times.
"It’s definitely a legitimate option," said Grubman. “I see no fatal defect to it.”
Grubman told The MMQB that the NFL will commission detailed market studies in all three cities—St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego—so the league will be able to control the process with the best knowledge of the markets over the next few months. He said the study has already been launched in St. Louis. Oakland's will begin in the next week or so, and the San Diego study will start later this month. That’s important because the NFL wants to know the appetite for tickets and at what price, as well as whether personal seat licenses are viable, and how many premium seats and boxes can be expected to be sold. By May, the NFL should have the answer to those questions.
The NFL told any team investigating Los Angeles to be sure to include in the stadium design the ability to add a second team. The St. Louis plan in Inglewood does that—obviously, so does the Carson site. No one expects two stadiums to be built in Los Angeles. But, increasingly, there is an expectation that one stadium will be built in greater Los Angeles, and it will house one or two teams. Kroenke’s plan is the most advanced.
Potential end game: Rams move to Los Angeles. Chargers can’t get a deal done in San Diego and join them in Inglewood. And by 2019, Derek Carr will be the quarterback of your St. Louis Raiders.
Which leads us to this unfortunate part of the story: Kroenke seems (and I say “seems," because of his actions, not because of his words—there have been none) to be the most determined owner to want to move to Los Angeles. The Chargers and Raiders want to stay put. But San Diego and Oakland have nothing stadiumwise in the works. St. Louis is by far the most aggressive with the best plan to keep the Rams, right down to an agreement to clear a 90-acre blighted plot downtown to make way for the stadium. And get this: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has an agreement with skilled construction workers in eastern Missouri to work round the clock (three eight-hour shifts a day, every day) so the stadium could be finished in 24 months … without workers taking overtime. That’s significant because if the first shovel goes in the ground by this August, the NFL could have a pristine new St. Louis stadium built in time for the 2017 season. (That’s likely too fast a timetable; it’s more probable that stadium construction would start later, and the venue would be ready in 2018 or in time for the NFL’s 100th season, in 2019.)
So St. Louis has an owner with one foot out the door but with a solid plan to keep the team in a beautiful stadium. The preferred goal of San Diego and Oakland is to stay in San Diego and Oakland. Or, as Grubman said: “St. Louis is being aggressive and specific. San Diego recently has shown potential to be aggressive, but has not yet been specific. Oakland has been neither aggressive nor specific.”
It’s a tough place to be for St. Louis. But you wouldn’t know that by talking to former Anheuser-Busch president David Peacock, who, along with local lawyer Robert Blitz, is heading up the effort to keep the Rams. Or, in an unspoken but obvious alternative, to make St. Louis so attractive that if the Rams leave some other stadium-needy team would have to strongly consider a potential turnkey operation in Missouri.
"We’re trying to move with speed and certainty, with no ambiguity," Peacock said over the weekend. “This is the right moment in time for a new stadium in St. Louis. We have a lot of young people moving to our urban core, which you couldn’t have said a few years ago.
"Stan has all kinds of options. We understand that. We can’t worry too much about that. I would be more concerned if we weren’t having regular dialogue with Kevin [Demoff] and Eric Grubman about all facets of the plan. We are relying on the integrity of the league’s bylaws. If you assemble all the important pieces—the control of the land, the stadium financing, the cost-certainty, the stadium plan—I don’t know … If we do everything we say we’re going to do, it’s hard to imagine 24 owners would vote against it. If we do our job, I can’t imagine 24 votes to approve the Rams moving.”
* * *
The St. Louis stadium project looks to be on solid ground. In terms of financing, there’s the standard $200 million league loan, which several teams have used, a $250 million commitment from the owner and an estimated $150 million from the sale of seat licenses (which may be optimistic is close to the level of the commitment at the new Minnesota stadium). The remainder would be raised through a combination of local, county and state taxes—including a proposal to funnel some state income tax revenue from Rams coaches and players to the stadium project. (An unusual revenue source, to be sure, but the thinking goes: If there's no team, then the state gets zero dollars from those high-earning individuals who'd now be located in another city.)
But is it enough? And if Kroenke leaves, will it be enough to attract another team? I’ve thought about this a lot, and several people connected to the story say I’m not the first one to suggest this is the end game: Rams move to Inglewood. Chargers can’t get a deal done in San Diego and join them in Inglewood. Raiders, left without a stadium option, take the St. Louis deal. And by 2019, Derek Carr will be the quarterback of your St. Louis Raiders.
That is a virtual sports-talk-show bit of guesswork by me. But it’s the most logical thing I see, putting all the puzzle pieces together. I have a feeling, though, that the puzzle is going to look different in six months. And it’ll look significantly different than that on March 2, 2016.
The reason it’s impossible now to predict how each domino will fall is this: Each team has an owner, a city, local officials, a state government and some emotion involved. Los Angeles has four possible venues—Inglewood, Carson, downtown L.A. and the City of Industry—with desperado leaders, all of which and all of whom are wild cards. Some people won’t make decisions until pressed to the wall. So it’s really impossible to know what the reaction of one owner will be if one city does something, or Los Angeles does something else. What Kroenke has done well for himself so far is to create options. Billionaires are usually good at that. Kroenke’s no exception.
So we let the process play out, knowing that by the time the NFL turns 100 the second-largest city in the country should finally have a team (or two) back. Whichever teams they may be.
“If you asked the 10 people closest to this issue to all write their predictions down on what will happen to these teams [and the Los Angeles market] and seal them in envelopes, you’d have 10 different answers written down," Grubman said. He’s right—but Kroenke’s in the best position of them all, here in the first quarter of the Los Angeles game.
* * *
Many Quotes of the Week included.
I screened NFL Films' annual Super Bowl champion video the other day (“Super Bowl XLIX Champions: New England Patriots,” by Cinedigm, on sale Tuesday nationwide). Highlights from the hour-plus video that caught my eye:
• Tom Brady screams like a banshee a lot. He gets excited often, and when he does, he yells at the top of his lungs, like a high school kid who just won a big football game.
• Brady to his offensive mates, before the final scoring drive in the 43-21 rout of Denver in November: “Hey, let’s go put the nail in the coffin.” The drive ended with a 1-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski.
• The clips from mic'ed up players are strong. Gronkowski, in disbelief, on the sideline in Indianapolis after a bumper-car/athletic long touchdown reception: “I don’t even know how I did that. I have no clue.”
• Bill Belichick to prodigal son LeGarrette Blount, when Blount came to the sideline after scoring his second touchdown in his first game back in New England, against Detroit: “Good to have you back, buddy.” Blount: “Yes sir. I’m enjoying it.”
• The stuff from the divisional playoff win over Baltimore is priceless. There’s an incredulous look from John Harbaugh when the Patriots did the unbalanced line trickeration … During a timeout, Julian Edelman—a big star in this mic'ing—said to ref Bill Vinovich, “You guys are getting your money’s worth with them formations.” Vinovich gave Edelman a wide-eyed look, as if to say, Where did THAT come from? … Before the Patriots called the option pass from Edelman to Danny Amendola in the second half, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went to Edelman and said: “I don’t need any lead time with the double pass, do I?’’ Edelman said to him, “What do you mean?” McDaniels: “I don’t have to tell you it’s coming.” Edelman: “Nah.” And soon it came, and Edelman executed his first NFL pass perfectly … On Baltimore’s last drive, with the Ravens trailing by four, Edelman was caught on mic saying, “Hey Flacco, throw us one.” And Joe Flacco did.
• On the winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady knew from the snap precisely what he was going to do, and where he was going with the ball. Superb camera work here. At the snap of the ball, Brady lasers his eyes on Edelman, to the quarterback’s left. He keeps his eyes there. He keeps his eyes there. And when Edelman separates from Tharold Simon, Brady throws Edelman a strike. That’s NFL Films at its best.
• Before the last Seattle drive of the Super Bowl, with the Seahawks trailing, a mic'ed Brady says: “D’s gotta make a play. Gotta intercept one.”
• Vital play of the Super Bowl, with Seattle on the Patriots' 1-yard line, clock running, no timeout taken. Frenetic for a couple of seconds. A couple of coaches flash the defensive signal. One yells: “Three corners! Three corners! Malcolm go!” Malcolm Butler in. Akeem Ayers out. The rest is New England sports lore.
* * *
What a good idea for a book.
As anyone who has tried to find real-world sports books for young readers can tell you, the pool is not very deep. That’s why I was pleased to see veteran sports writer Sean Jensen and former Bears great Brian Urlacher collaborate on a rare Young Adult Sports Biography (that’s the Amazon term for it, I think) called “The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher.” It’s about Urlacher’s formative years in New Mexico. Urlacher and I spoke about the book the other day.
Me: What motivated you to do the book?
Urlacher: I wanted to give young people a look at my real life. Growing up is hard for everybody at times, and it wasn’t easy for me. I wasn’t a good athlete. People are surprised about that, but in my eighth-grade year, the only time I got in basketball games is when we were up by 20 or down by 20. I wasn’t great at football then, either. We were not well off as a family. I didn’t have the best clothes. I didn’t have the best anything. So my life in middle school was okay, but it was a struggle—just like so many kids today.
Me: And your message to kids?
Urlacher: Most people probably think my life was like most athletes—which is wrong anyway. Everything came easy. I was spoon-fed. We’re all spoon-fed. That’s just wrong. I worked my tail off to get where I got in the NFL. After my seventh-grade year, I had a job all summer. I had to work. I worked every summer. And I also want kids to know I had issues. It’s normal to have issues. I have a 14-year-old daughter now, and I see it with her. It’s no different for her than for anyone else that age. The one thing I never had to put up much was bullying, though. We didn’t have much of that when I was growing up. Now it’s bullying, drugs, cell phones …
Me: Ever tempted by drugs around that age?
Urlacher: Nope. I never tried weed. Never wanted to. Later, people would say to me, "You ought to try weed." And I’d say: "Why break my streak now?"
Me: I like that you bring up the fact that you were a normal kid in middle school, because kids need to know you’re not fully molded in any way by the time you’re in seventh or eighth grade. It’s pretty rare for a kid in middle school to know exactly what he or she is going to do in life.
Urlacher: Exactly. There were guys I knew in eighth grade who I thought might be NBA players, and then, in high school, they’re not that good at basketball anymore. You get older, things change. It happens no matter what you’re interested in when you’re 13, 14 years old. You can say this about all kids: You never know what your future holds at that age. I hope people look at me and understand that a little better.
Quotes of the Week
"Yes, I was expecting the ball. But in life, these things happen. I had no problem with the decision of the play calling. I mean ... how do I say this? When you look at me, and you let me run that ball in, I am the face of the nation. You know, MVP of the Super Bowl ... I don’t know what went into that call ... I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl. But would I love to have had that ball there? Yeah, I would have. I would have. But the game is over, and I’m in Turkey."
—Marshawn Lynch, to Turkish sports network NTV Spor while on a trip to Turkey. He was referring to the Seahawks passing on their last offensive play of the Super Bowl from the Patriots' 1-yard line, rather than handing it to Lynch for a run.
“The challenge we have all the time is that it’s the one position where there’s only one of them in the game the entire time. The game ends, and how do you get those guys snaps, real-time snaps? Much like we develop pilots—they do a lot of simulator work—I think the opportunity exists.”
—New Orleans coach Sean Payton on quarterbacks, at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on Friday, as reported by Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. In other words, Payton thinks quarterbacks wearing simulator-goggles or sitting in simulator rooms can virtually “practice” against oncoming defenses. And I think he’s right.
“It also brings me one step closer to getting back on the football field and playing the sport I love. As I prepare for my return to football, I am still focused on my family and continue to work to become a better father every day.”
—A statement issued on behalf of Adrian Peterson, a day after U.S. District Judge David Doty struck down the NFL’s ruling that Peterson should be suspended until at least April 15 as a result of his excessive disciplining of his 4-year-old son last year. The NFL has appealed Doty’s ruling.
"You can’t have a Hall of Fame without me being in it. It’s just not legitimate.”
—Simeon Rice, to SB Nation. Nice career: 122 sacks in 174 career games. Not a career crying out for induction, in my opinion.
“People asked the same question of Tom Brady last year. Now what? I bet you want him to be your quarterback once again. All the trash people were talking about him, this and that, bro, I was listening to that in the Dominican. We barely watch football over there. But I watched the Super Bowl. I was like, ‘Man, they’re not going to learn in Boston.’ We are like wine. Remember that.”
—David Ortiz, the 39-year-old Red Sox slugger, asked in spring training camp how long he intends to keep playing.
Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me
I present this pronunciation guide as a public service, because I’ve heard the Oregon quarterback prospect’s name pronounced three different ways. If a guy’s going to be a very high draft choice, we should know how to say his name.
Correct: “Marcus Mar-ee-OH-da.”
Incorrect: “Mair-ee-OH-da’’ and “Mair-ee-adda.”
From Mike Reiss’ always-enlightening Sunday column at ESPNBoston:
The Patriots were the only team in the NFL without a former player on the coaching staff in 2014.
The Dolphins hired a new sports performance director from the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the English Premier League, appointing Wayne Diesel to oversee their performance efforts.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Why would American Airlines, making the gate announcement for the JFK-to-Boston flight at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, announce, “This flight is completely full," in an attempt to get excess bags checked? I chose my seat online Friday night—29D, in an otherwise open row—and there were plenty of seats all over the plane. So we boarded, and it was barren, maybe one-third full. The last six rows contained 36 seats (six rows, six seats per row, three on either side of the aisle) and had a total of five people in them. I mean, why lie?
Tweets of the Week
With the Bucs' OC situation last year, Josh McCown was practically a player-coach. He could be an enormous help for Manziel if JM embraces.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 27, 2015
The Fox Sports writer is absolutely right: McCown had to be much more than a quarterback last year in Tampa Bay because of the season-long illness to former Bucs coordinator Jeff Tedford. That’s just the way McCown is wired anyway—he’s a helper.
Patriots !! Don't ever count Brady out. LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) January 11, 2015
That's ardent Patriots fan and Boston native Leonard Nimoy, the “Star Trek” star who died on Friday at 83. He lived long and prospered. This was the last football tweet of Nimoy’s life. It came about an hour after Tom Brady and the Patriots twice overcame 14-point deficits and beat the Baltimore Ravens in a divisional playoff game on Jan. 10 in Foxboro.
(And thank you, Judy Battista, for digging it up. Never would have seen this without your foraging.)
Congrats to #NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians on well-deserved contract extension! #AZCardinals
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 23, 2015
The senator is an ardent Cardinals fan.
In sports, you risk always being remembered for your worst moment. Takes guts. I hope @Bostick11 catches winning TD in Super Bowl someday.
— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) February 26, 2015
The ESPN radio host on The MMQB column by Brandon Bostick, the Green Bay tight end who muffed an onside kick in the NFC Championship Game, a vital play in Seattle’s comeback.
It’s amazing how many people identified with a man who made a grievous sporting error, but there’s a lesson in it: Own up to your mistakes, learn from them, and people (most of them, anyway) will forgive and understand.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these transactions caught my eye in the past week:
a. Titans tackle Michael Roos retired. Some applause, please, for Roos, one of the underrated left tackles of his day. From 2011 to 2013 he started 47 of 48 games for the Titans and, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed seven sacks over those three seasons. Taylor Lewan was drafted to be a long-term tackle solution last year, obviously, but Roos deserves credit for being a rock for Tennessee.
b. Arizona cut Darnell Dockett. He’ll be 34 this year. He’s coming off knee surgery. If I were a team needing a motivated and versatile rusher/interior presence, I’d try to sway Dockett with a one-year deal that Arizona wouldn’t match.
c. Atlanta cut Steven Jackson and Harry Douglas. Jackson turns 32 in July; understood. I’d be interested in the 30-year-old Douglas (85 catches in 2013) if I were confident he’d stay healthy.
d. Green Bay cut linebacker A.J. Hawk, who is a pro’s pro. Could the Bengals try to get one last year out of him? Great influence.
e. Philadelphia cut guard Todd Herremans, and he’ll have good value for someone. Great locker-room guy too.
2. I think there are some teams that have a load of cap room entering free agency, but the one that struck me is Tennessee, with $47 million. This is a vital off-season for the Titans, who have averaged five wins a season in the past three years. If I’m GM Ruston Webster, I’m starting by re-signing free-agent pass-rusher Derrick Morgan, an underrated presence in the front seven.
3. I think I’m glad there wasn’t the kind of overreaction I’d expected to Michael Sam signing to appear on “Dancing With The Stars.” I don't think there should be any negative reaction, period. One: A man has to make some sort of living. If no team is going to sign Sam to play football, and he wants to continue to work out and chase his dream of being an NFL player, he’s got to find some way to support himself financially so the dream can continue to be chased. He’s living in Dallas, and paying to work out at a facility. Two: Training to dance on a TV show for three or four weeks doesn’t adversely affect a person’s ability to play football. Three: I expect if Sam doesn’t sign with an NFL team, he’ll strongly consider the Canadian Football League. “I’ll give up the game when my legs are both broken," he wrote in a column for The MMQB two weeks ago. Dancing is not a detour. It’s a very part-time job.
4. I think Peyton Manning and the Broncos are likely to agree to a restructured contract soon—a redone deal that will make neither side happy. Why? If I were Manning, I’d hardly think I deserve a pay adjustment, after throwing more touchdown passes than anyone else in football over the past three years. And the Broncos would want it to be less than it’ll end up being, most likely. But there’s little doubt it’s going to get done.
5. I think, as the competition committee convenes in Florida this week for its annual week of fact-finding and investigating rules adjustments, I forecast an uphill fight for the two issues of most public interest: defining what is a catch, and making every play replay-reviewable. As committee co-chair Jeff Fisher told me at the combine, the definition of a catch “will be difficult” to change because of the bang-bang nature of a player holding the ball with two feet on the ground—and the fact that a change in the rule would have the potential to lead to more concussions. Defenses know the definition of a catch would lead to more urgency to separate receivers from the ball, and could eliminate the “defenseless receiver” argument. As to making every play reviewable, remember Fisher’s words to me: “So if someone throws a touchdown pass against us to win the game, I’m going to throw the challenge flag. Somebody [committed a holding penalty] out there. Somebody did something. You start there and then go … I mean, I don’t know. Replay was designed to overturn obvious errors. It was never designed to include penalties.” Doesn’t sound like the committee is inclined to consider that very seriously.
6. I think many of you wanted to know in the wake of my mock(able) draft last week what the chances really are that the Eagles will trade up from the 20th pick to get in position to draft Marcus Mariota. The answer: I have no idea. I didn’t project that move because of inside information, and quite frankly, more than eight weeks before the first round is picked in Chicago, the teams are ill-suited to know much of anything—with finality. For instance, if Tampa Bay decides it likes Mariota over Jameis Winston and is bullish on him being its long-term quarterback, it’s doubtful the Bucs would listen to any offer for the first pick. When I met with GM Jason Licht of the Bucs nine days ago, he told me he wouldn’t “get too cute” when it came to trade offers if the Bucs were certain one quarterback or the other had the feel of a franchise quarterback. The larger issue here is this: I believe Mariota is going to get very attractive as the scouting process progresses in the next two months. If he’s not the number one pick, and if Tennessee is being honest in affirming often how much they like Zach Mettenberger and passes on Mariota, then the jockeying will begin for him. Right now, Philadelphia is the most logical team to move into position. The question: Is a package of, say, two first-round picks, a second and a fourth enough to get in position to do so? We’ll see.
7. I think, and it’s just a gut feeling, DeMarco Murray will find a team willing to pay him more than the Cowboys. Then he’ll have to decide if the pay difference is enough for him to leave Dallas. It’s smart for the team to let the market work here, because Murray wants to remain a Cowboy very much—but Dallas doesn’t want to jump out and voluntarily pay him so much more than he could get anywhere else. The downside, of course, is that Murray could get an offer and get bent out of shape that Dallas didn’t aggressively try to sign him before free agency, and take that offer. It’s going to be an interesting dance between the Cowboys and Murray. One other point that I heard at the combine: Jason Witten and Tony Romo have been working Murray hard to stay a Cowboy. They all went on a short vacation after the season with their significant others. There is no question that, if all things are close to being equal, Murray wants to stay in Dallas.
8. I think Josh McCown is certainly not the long-term answer at quarterback in Cleveland, but I think he provides a bridge that’s different than what Brian Hoyer would provide. If Hoyer had been re-signed, he’d have expected to play every game, and the Browns weren’t convinced that he’s an NFL starter. With McCown, he can fill almost any role. He can start for a while. He can back up Johnny Manziel. He can start while tutoring Manziel. He can back up while tutoring Manziel. He can be a third quarterback if the Browns draft their quarterback of the future. Basically, McCown allows the Browns to keep their options open on draft day, and he buys them time if they don’t draft a quarterback to see if Manziel is a legitimate option to start this year.
9. I think Brett Favre’s Packer Hall of Fame induction ceremony should be held in Lambeau Field, not jammed into the Lambeau atrium.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Sunday was March 1. I don’t recall a March 1 when spring felt farther away.
b. The closer we get to it, and no matter when it is contested, the World Cup in Qatar looks like an increasingly dumb idea.
c. Spring training is a week old, and I’m already A-Rodded out—for the season.
d. One of the most amazing obits I’ve read in a while was in Friday’s New York Times, on Irving Kahn, who was Wall Street’s oldest living investor. He died Tuesday at the age of 109. Kahn traded his first share in 1929, before the great stock market crash; he was still studying the market in the days before he died. But here’s the amazing part, according to the Times. His two sisters died at 101 and 109. His brother died at 103. All four children in one family, living past 100. Incredible. His son, Thomas, told the paper: “My father smoked till he was 50, and he didn’t watch what he ate. So the preponderance of his case was DNA and luck."
e. Story of the week, from Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times, on the personal toll that covering the Jameis Winston sexual-assault case took on him and his family. A powerful piece, and disturbing, to say the least.
f. Seems a little excessive for Florida to give the Devils second- and third-round picks for a seven-week rental on 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr.
g. Maybe Rajon Rondo is more trouble than he’s worth.
h. Rajon Rondo is more trouble than he’s worth.
i. Three questions.
j. Why is court-storming allowed?
k. Is Ronda Rousey paid by the second?
l. Why is this the first year since its inception that I cannot name one player in the Big East?
m. Interesting quote from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in the New York Times on his recent memo to staff saying, “We suck at dealing with abuse.” Said Costolo to Farhad Manjoo: “One of the reasons I was so blunt about it was that I wanted to really send a wakeup call to the company that we’re going to get a lot more aggressive about it, and it’s going to start right now.” Later in the interview, Costolo said, “One way of thinking about it is: I may have a right to say something, but I don’t have a right to stand in your living room and scream it into your ear five times in a row. Right?"
n. In other words, the burden shouldn’t be on the harrassee to press the mute button on 300 people some days. I support him, but I’m not sure how he can define exactly what is harassment and how to mute it automatically.
o. Coffeenerdness—This from Twitter the other day:
Damn you @SI_PeterKing for getting me into the @Starbucks Flat White after reading @theMMQB Have had three this week.
— Paul Tencher (@paultencher) February 27, 2015
Hey, I am just your friendly caffeinated public servant.
p. Beernerdness: It’d been a while since I had a Flower Power IPA (Ithaca Brewing Company), but I will not be such a stranger anymore. Had one the other night, and it’s one of the best IPAs in the country.
q. Julianne Moore wins the Oscar on Sunday night. Julianne Moore acts in Manhattan on Tuesday. There’s someone who likes her job.
r. Speaking of worker bees, Adnan Virk is ESPN’s Cesar Tovar. Virk is everywhere, and he’s good at everything.
s. You’ll have to look up Cesar Tovar, but let this be the start of your MMQB homework assignment.
t. This baseball game—A’s-Twins, Sept. 22, 1968—has stuck in my head forever. As an 11-year-old kid who devoured boxscores and all things baseball, I remember reading about this somewhat good baseball player, Cesar Tovar, playing all nine positions in a baseball game, and not only playing all nine in a game … but playing them in order. He pitched in the first inning at the old Met Stadium in Minneapolis, played catcher in the second inning, first base in the third, etc. It isn’t a memorable event to many, I don’t think (the Vikings were getting good in those days, and they played at Green Bay at the same time that day as the baseball game between American league also-rans). But I looked up the game over the weekend, and a few things stuck out: Tovar struck out Reggie Jackson and pitched a scoreless first in a 2-1 Twins win. The starting pitcher for Minnesota batted first and stole a base. And the game took 2 hours and 18 minutes, even with the incessant changing of positions. Baseball history is fun.
u. The hearts of so many in the journalism community (and in the feeling world at large) go out to the Ivan Maisel family, as a desperate search for college son Max, missing since last Sunday near Rochester, N.Y., continues. Certainly nothing anyone can say or do can be of much solace at this point. But Ivan (a former SI colleague who covers college football for ESPN), you should know how many people deeply feel for you and wish you and your family all the best in this awful time.
The Adieu Haiku