Curmudgeon’s list includes celebrations, analytics, money grabs

As the world of esports heads into another calendar year, it’s time for old curmudgeons to step up and take stock of recent trends. Freedom of speech isn’t just for millennials.

Sport is on its way down several rabbit holes. The people who control things, plus those in the media who make them possible, are greedy, cowardly, or brain dead. Lots of busy people know better but refuse to get up. Worse, many of them don’t know any better.

A new moment of shock triggered these thoughts. On November 26, in the USC-Notre Dame game, a player scored a touchdown and turned to hand the ball to the official. That’s all he did. It was breathtaking, overwhelming. There was no dancing, no group hugs that went on and on, no slam-dunking over the goalpost crossbar, no line dancing. Not even a bowling ball routine where the goalscorer rolls the soccer ball and half a dozen teammates turn skittles and fall off. (You have to admit you’re smart.)

In the same Irish Trojans game, USC quarterback Caleb Williams scored a touchdown and eventually landed in the Heisman Trophy pose. He said there was peer pressure to do it and he gets credit for wanting to resist. He’d certainly done enough against the Irish, and also during his injury-stricken night against Utah on Saturday, to impress Heisman voters. No posing necessary or wanted.

In 1967, after Travis Williams scored a touchdown for the Packers, he danced in the end zone. As he got to the sidelines, Vince Lombardi told him to “act like you’ve been there before.”

Now we have a generation of collegiate and pro who are pretending they’re never coming back.

#2 on the curmudgeon list:

It’s bowl season in college football. To be clear, this isn’t really bowl season. For everything but the last four, it’s the ESPN “Look At Us” season. After all, how could we live without the famous Idaho Potato Bowl? But ESPN’s bowl glut is no longer disgusting in its excess, just troubling — its gluttonous marketing has been criticized for years. ESPN won. Colleges saw dollar signs and collapsed. Common sense and moderation be damned. All the best ESPN.

But the new twist on this is that many players are now telling their college coaches that “they might not play” because they don’t want to get hurt for the NFL combine camps and their potential pro careers. Gone from the window is the old one-for-all, all-for-one team thing. Now it’s “everything for me” and “bye team”. If a player missed his team’s bowl game and then tore a knee ligament at the combine, the NFL would not award the player millions of dollars because of his great career. Be careful, college kids. Three or four years of loyalty to your school shouldn’t be simply tossed aside for expected — and likely non-existent — NFL goodwill.

Curmudgeon #3:

Baseball season is long over, but not forgotten. Roughly every other week for the past season, there have been stories of major league pitchers being pulled while throwing a no-hitter. Clayton Kershaw was within six outs of a perfect game and sat. The Houston Astros had the second World Series no-hitter in baseball history. Make that four Astro’s pitchers. Every time that happens, thoughts wander to the likely scene years ago when the Dodgers manager went out to the mound to ask Don Drysdale to hand him the ball with Drysdale in sight of a no-hitter. Chaos would have followed.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw hugs Justin Turner in the dugout.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw hugs Justin Turner in the dugout after hitting a perfect play in the eighth inning against the Angels on July 15, 2022.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The saber metricians in the glass offices are in charge now. Managers like Mike Scioscia and Dave Roberts and Joe Maddon have instincts built on years of experience and the life of the game. But in the end they are pushed and coaxed into thinking and doing based little on their experience and much on computer-generated numbers and trends. Now it’s all about pitch counts and saving guns for later in a career. Which translates to the almighty dollar. Now when a big league manager goes to the mound he is accompanied by computer displays and Scott Boras.

The game and the fans are suffering. Baseball is about heroics, records and stars. Who do you think will be best remembered as a World Series pitcher: Don Larsen in 1956 or the Astros foursome?

Curmudgeon #4:

Little needs to be said here. UCLA and USC join the Big Ten. Has everyone gone insane? If ever there was a blatant cash heist with little regard for the athletes’ welfare, this is it. Newspaper reports before the game can report point spreads, over-unders and sleep deprivation.

Curmudgeon #5:

Legal sports gambling has arrived on the national scene and will eventually be in California. Las Vegas must now open a betting line where the athlete is first charged with point shaving. Major League General Managers can help by creating projection arcs on their computers.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-12-05/curmudgeon-list-2023-celebrations-analytics-and-money-grabs Curmudgeon’s list includes celebrations, analytics, money grabs

Emma Bowman

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