The Sisyphean Effort to Make Spring Pro Football Sustainable

Since my childhood memories of the Michigan Panthers being the only occupant of the old Pontiac Silverdome to win a championship during that era, I hoped in vain to see the United States Football League become a mainstay for professional football in North America during the spring. Unfortunately, the USFL eventually collapsed under its weight of mismanagement, avarice, and unrealistic expectations after three seasons were completed.

            When the late Lamar Hunt was the central figure in the creation of the American Football with his colleagues known as the “Foolish Club” in 1959 due to an apparent aversion of the National Football League to expand too quickly (He was also precluded from purchasing the Chicago Cardinals), the subsequent quest of these loggerheads attempting to countervail each other resulting in a merger between the two leagues perforce has often been romanticized over the decades. Nabobs have continued to mimic Hunt’s efforts with a litany of failed professional football leagues that were shrouded for failure seemingly minutes following these organizations’ formation.

            For the USFL, league governance did have a decent product to market, but they were competing against the traditions of Major League Baseball as well as the established Titanolatry that the NFL (especially by the late Pete Rozelle) so carefully crafted that it was nearly impossible for the organization to be fiscally solvent. Also, the USFL had to over-compensate players just to remain relevant while MLB, NCAA Tournament, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Playoffs, and The Masters were underway.

            Once the USFL announced that their intention to compete directly with the NFL in the fall and attempted a Hail Mary lawsuit against them simultaneously, the prospects for the United States Football League’s existence was doomed, especially following the aftermath of the Pyrrhic victory of the antitrust lawsuit with a $1 verdict time three. The NFL absorbed all of the available talent to help fortify their rosters. Sadly, the USFL had franchises in markets that were performing better than some of their NFL counterparts; teams like the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Colts, and New Orleans Saints were not all-world at the time.)

            Recently, the announcement of a resurrected United States Football League hoping to commence play in 2022 provided a modicum of nostalgia for some of us. While I have generally believed that competition often fosters an overall better product and expanded compensation, I am, however, reluctant to completely embrace the prospects of another football league because of the cynical nature of football fans today.  As soon as anyone dons the habiliments of the gridiron, immediately obtuse ideologues try to measure a fledgling organization against the National Football League, which is completely unrealistic.

            Any football league (USFL part II, XFL part III, et cetera) will have to let the public know that whether they are going to be just an alternative, a potential competitor to the NFL, or become a minor league feeder system to the NFL immediately so that reasonable expectations can be established. Most pundits expect these organizations will develop into a minor league system for the NFL.

The problem is that the NFL attempted to create their version of this system with the formation of the World League of American Football fielding teams in North America and Europe in 1991 (later becoming NFL Europe), but the endeavor would cease operations by 2007. I guess it did not help when one broadcaster from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation once referred to the league as “We Laugh.”

Nevertheless, there is no credible evidence to support the notion that the American public has enough interest or the attention span to focus on professional football in the spring with all of the various distractions available to them in this era. If Major League Baseball is having difficulty keeping fans locked in, I do not imagine them having the commitment to watch another football league when they barely recognize the names of players/coaches on the rosters. It takes significant time to establish a fan base. Are we willing to change our attitudes regarding alternative football leagues enough for them to last longer than goldfish from the carnival?

Kwame Brown: The Pros and Cons of Stature

Over the past week or so, there has been a great deal of kvetching from Kwame Brown about his legacy as a former professional basketball player as told by the American media. Since his career concluded in 2013, memories of his career are fading precipitously with each year.

            Brown entered the National Basketball Association directly from high school in 2001 and was selected by the Washington Wizards under then-team president Michael Jordan. His four-season tenure with Wizards was generally considered underwhelming by pundits. Nevertheless, his 6’11” 290-pound frame was too irresistible for other NBA franchises to resist resulting in Brown being signed by the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers in that order averaging 6.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game.

            Perhaps, some of the derision Brown has received post-career centers on those professional basketball players of comparable size (albeit different positions) as follows: Bill Russell – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 15.1 ppg/22.5 rpg; Bill Walton – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 13.3 ppg/10.5 rpg; Moses Malone – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 20.6 ppg/12.2 rpg; Kevin McHale – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 17.9 ppg/7.3 rpg; Kevin Garnett – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 17.8 ppg/10 rpg; Tim Duncan – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 19 ppg/10.8 rpg; and Kevin Durant – 6’10”, 27 ppg/7.1 rpg.

            While it is general consensus that the sport of basketball is a big man’s/woman’s game, NBA general managers’ willingness to sign Brown continually is a testament to their naiveté and arrogance because his game was not transcendent enough regardless of coaching or teammates. Unfortunately, Brown’s size ultimately made him a victim of all of the great expectations that many people had as a result.

            Brown’s lack of dominance in conjunction with the marginal careers of Eddy Curry, Korleone Young, et cetera made NBA executives uneasy about drafting players directly from high school because they were too inexperienced and usually physically incapable of the rigors of the NBA; everyone cannot exceed expectations under those circumstances like LeBron James who was a wunderkind.  

            Over the past few decades, there appears to be a growing level of enmity between athletes and the media, especially those media personalities who were never professional athletes themselves. Some athletes are often frustrated knowing that most reporters they encounter are not cognizant of the rigors of what it takes to stay in shape annually and maintain their position in their chosen sport under demanding coaches who constantly have their jobs on the line as well. In fairness, most media members’ idea of physical activity is a nice leisurely two-mile jog and a couple of repetitions on a few weight machines three to five times a week.

            Nonetheless, these factors do not make Brown a sympathetic figure over the years because “when someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Since Brown was the first overall pick of the Round 1 of the 2001 NBA Draft, he was expected to produce. Brown cannot figuratively hypnotize the public into believing that his career was more than it was because those shadowy almost black and white images were too well chronicled for that disappointment to be erased.

Monday, May 31, 2021

An Open Letter to my Fellow Americans

In the past 48 hours, there has been much chatter about the NBA requiring its teams to play the national anthem response to the Dallas Mavericks opting not to so initially for home games, especially as limited numbers of fans gradually begin to enter arenas once again. It is quite interesting that the matter was mostly unnoticed this season until a reporter was keenly aware of it and inquired about the situation.

            Unfortunately, the latest developments in this story have reverted to the selfsame narrative that we have been discussing since 2016 as to the merits of the national anthem and what is generally expected from each American during the observance of the red, white, and blue iconography. It seems to be a myriad of interpretations as to what is deemed respectful depending upon whom you ask.

            Although there have been many facts relating to how The Star-Spangled Banner evolved from a British tavern tune to what eventually became attributed to Francis Scott Key even with his atrocious, infamous third stanza, the contention of many citizens centers on the malfeasances of the nation from the past until present.

            Nevertheless, all of these factors surrounding The Star-Spangled Banner and the visceral reactions to it may not necessarily be mitigated if it was removed in favor of God Bless America or Ray Charles’ stirring rendition of America the Beautiful. Some are not open to the concept of even playing a national anthem before sporting events until the United States is perfected into a utopian society.

            Regardless of how realistic this is or not, based upon whose standards are we to accept that the prerequisites of egalitarianism have been achieved and for how long of a duration? While we do not want our liberties to be curtailed in the manner in which Communist China would purportedly send people to “reeducation camps” for violating their dictates, it still should be our goal to find opportunities to unite as fellow Americans whether we choose to stand, sit, or kneel.

            The fact remains that any general, national observance of our national symbols does not mean that it is automatically a representation of jingoism, xenophobia, or even ignorance of the injustices of the past. We should acknowledge our foibles while endeavoring to strive for perfection in our union even though we understand that our imperfect condition may prevent us from completely achieving this goal.

            The beauty of the United States over totalitarian regimes is that the freedom of expression is optional already. We do not need to circumvent the national anthem to avoid some sort of consternation. It may not feasible to please everyone at every moment, but we certainly can be cognizant of diverse opinions while observing the common bond within our republic simultaneously.

The Janus-faced Nature of American Sports

While many in our society are in the process of preparing Bûche de Noël among other delicacies, contestations occurred moments following the announcement of this season’s College Football Playoff participants. The nature of these debates ranged from the legitimacy of Ohio State making it into the semifinals after only playing six games to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats not being granted ingress after finishing their undefeated season.

            Of course, the old familiar refrain of expanding the playoff field once the current contract ends began to dominate the discussion as being the panacea of all that ails the FBS. Naïve college football fans believe the ben trovato of additional teams added to the field will open the path for Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati, and others instead of the blue bloods that comprise programs from the Power Five conferences.

            The economic realities of the American system make ratings the essential component of the CFP. That being said, a matchup between Alabama and Cincinnati may lose its charm if the Crimson Tide scores 50 plus points against the Bearcats in a semifinal contest. In reality, Alabama just might score half of a hundred on any opponent regardless.

            When you have to depend upon sufficient advertisers to meet their financial obligations, it decreases the probability of non-traditional powers being selected for the playoffs if Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, or USC are in the mix. Teams nicknamed the Chanticleers, Bearcats, or Golden Hurricane do not have a certain je sais quoi like the typical heavyweights.

            In fairness, we cannot blame the CFP Committee solely for these inequities because of our duplicitous nature of talking inclusion until competition does not yield the kind of result that we desire. The Power Five conference teams will continue to vie for championship payouts that are necessary to help fund other sports that are struggling because of reduced budgets caused by the pandemic.

            Non-traditional football programs also have the deck stacked against them due to weaker schedules from the competition that they face in their conferences. Therefore, these types of programs will have to virtually be undefeated multiple seasons with the hope of defeating a Power Five team in their non-conference matchups during the regular season. Since rosters change annually and non-conference schedules are made years in advance, the odds are against the MAC, AAC, et cetera to sustain a level of excellence of this magnitude for this duration.

            Nonetheless, having a system that is equitable for most programs regardless of conference affiliation (or independent) is a plummy aspiration in American college football. It is just unfortunate that the financial structure is such that it makes inclusion a bit more challenging than some may want to admit.

Hoss Martin’s Autobiography

 

My parents discovered my obsession with sports and broadcasting when I “borrowed” their cassette tape recorder in a feeble endeavor to imitate Detroit Pistons’ venerated sports commentator George Blaha back in the late seventies. Of course, they opted to keep that amateur “podcast” for years instead of erasing it in a bribery attempt to be used against me when I got out-of-line. Henceforth, I spent most of my time in barbershops promulgating the merits of why my favorite teams should perform better, but I usually attempted to take notes of signature moments in sports for later usage consequently. Although I attended and received my Bachelor of Science in Mass Media Communications from Oral Roberts University in 1996, I never really had an appropriate outlet for these reflections of previous and current sporting events. I was finally able to unleash over 35 years of hidden frustration when I met DJ Mike (http://djmikeshow.com/), who was the impetus behind the establishment of Sports Round-Up With Hoss Martin on November 23, 2010, under the aegis of Chris Mar Studios. So, please enjoy these postings of blog entries, statistics, and links contained on the website; just do not inquire about my parents about that tape mentioned above. Contact: hossmartin@hossmartin.com

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