Sports Arena

Sports Arena

From Thank-Mas to Thanksgiving

By 11.25.14

Thanks-mas — as our new winter holiday deserves to become known, with pumpkins and red-and-green lights merging in anticipatory celebration — only partly occludes the opportunities for national and personal gratitude widespread in Novembers past.

Such opportunities as can be found might, if grasped, afford a few moments of useful reflection on America’s present challenges. Those challenges have many forms and shapes, but a certain political character seems to shove most others aside. This makes a certain kind of sense. The big news stories are about politics: The president proclaims how it’s going to be on immigration policy; the secretary of Defense jumps from a White House window, propelled by supposedly friendly hands; a new Congress prepares for confrontation; the Supreme Court prepares to tell us what we think about everything or what we’d think if we all wore black robes.

Sports Arena

Patawomeck Tribe: Snyder Could Rename the Redskins After Us

By 7.3.14

Hail to the Potomacs? If the owner of the Redskins wants to put the controversy over his team name to rest while keeping a Native American theme, he’ll likely have one local tribe’s blessing.

“I was just telling my wife the other day, ‘Why don’t we write to Dan Snyder and suggest changing the name to the Washington Potomacs?” said John Lightner, chief of the Patawomeck tribe of Virginia.

The Patawomecks (or Potomacs), native people of the region, gave their name to the river that flows through Washington, D.C. In the 1600s they belonged to the tribal confederation headed by the great chief Powhatan, from whose war club daughter Pocahontas, legend has it, saved John Smith. (Pocahontas’s mother was a Patawomeck.) Today the tribe counts some 1,500 members, most in Stafford County, Va.

If — and that’s if — the Redskins wanted to style themselves the Potomacs, after the local tribe and the great waterway that shares their name, the tribe likely would endorse the move, Lightner, said.

Sports Arena

Wildcats on Strike

By 2.12.14

Labor unions in this country are struggling. Union membership as a percentage of the overall workforce remains flat and the prospects for growth of their ranks remain bleak. Unions are sorely in need of new untapped markets from which to fatten their treasuries.

So, the recent announcement that the United Steelworkers are seeking to unionize Northwestern University football players shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are 66,000 Division I football players in Division I of the NCAA. That’s a great new market for organized labor to tap for new dues revenue. It’s an opportunity that has unions licking their chops.

NCAA basketball players may be another target of union organizing, but they are a much smaller target. There are approximately 900 NCAA basketball teams, each with only 12-13 players, so unions would be chasing only about 10,000 potential dues payers. But, given their stagnant membership it’s more than likely that union organizers will be moving from the gridiron to the hardwood shortly (if they haven’t already).

Sports Arena

A Closer Game in Tampa

By 2.4.14

Sunday’s less than suspenseful head-knocker in New Jersey was not the only shot at a competitive ball game in my weekend. Good thing.

Save for members of that raucous and coffee-stained chorus wearing #12, Sunday’s bowl game was considerably less than super. From the Keystone Kops opening snap to the not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper fourth quarter ending, the favored Broncos were never in the game — not in any quarter of the game, not in any phase of the game. The technical term for the XLVII result is butt-whuppin.’ Sunday the Broncos were the armadillo. The Seahawks were the steel-belted radial. It’s a good thing Bronco players brought their dental records with them. These were of great help in post-game identification of remains and notification of next of kin.

Sports Arena

David vs. Goliath at the Super Bowl

By 1.31.14

Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He has exceptional arm strength and passing accuracy, is one of the league’s most dynamic running quarterbacks and has the leadership skills and football IQ of a ten-year NFL veteran.

But the second-year starter, who will lead the Seattle Seahawks against the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s Super Bowl, has been down-graded his entire quarterbacking life because of a single physical characteristic: his height.

Generously listed at 5'11", Wilson is the shortest starting quarterback in the National Football League. Wilson’s height was the primary reason he dropped to the third round before being selected with the 75th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. But it also may be part of the reason he is flourishing now.

Wilson put together an impressive college career. He starred at both North Carolina State and the University of Wisconsin, where, as a senior, he led the Badgers to the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl just six months after arriving on campus.

Sports Arena

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

By 1.23.14

The news from Sunday’s NFC title game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francesco 49ers was not so much about the action on the field, but what transpired in a post-game interview between Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman, who saved the game by deflecting a pass meant for 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree into the hands of a Seahawk teammate, felt compelled to give his opinion on the relative talents of himself and his opponent; essentially launching into a wild-eyed rant that caught both Andrews and most of the country by surprise.

Sports Arena

Build, Renovate, Destroy

By 12.6.13

There have long been two absolutes about sports stadiums, at least when built in America’s big cities. The first is the willingness of public officials to subsidize them, using hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to build monoliths that will supposedly spur jobs and redevelopment. The other is the substantial economic literature claiming that such benefits never materialize enough to justify the handout. In the last dozen years these notions have collided, as cities like Cincinnati, Detroit, and Miami have continued with the status quo, and funded new stadiums, while others, rather than bowing to billionaire owners, have watched their sports teams flee. The way Atlanta addressed its own stadium issues this year strengthened the dichotomy.

Sports Arena

Canadian Football is Better

By 11.26.13

Like most residents of New England, I spent Sunday night watching football. However, unlike most residents of New England, most of my attention was not focused on the Patriots and the Broncos. Given how badly the Pats played in the first half, it was probably just as well that I missed that portion of the proceedings, as they were losing 24-0 at the half. (I did finally tune in early in the fourth quarter right before the Pats took the lead before winning 34-31 in OT on a field goal by Steve Gostkowski.)

Sports Arena

Security Theatre at the NFL

By 9.27.13

Banning bags seems the epitome of “security theatre” as it targets everyone regardless of risk.