There is a big holiday coming up this week, and Christmas is this week, too.
If you are a fan of Seinfeld—and if you aren’t we can’t be friends—you know that Festivus is coming on Wednesday. The late, great Jerry Stiller played Frank Costanza on the epic show. Frank created a holiday with no glitz and glam. Just a silver pole.
The holiday was known for the “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength”. Frank Costanza famously yelled, “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you are gonna hear about them.”
Well, it is now my yearly chance to air my grievances in the world of sports.
*I’ve got a problem with the Penguins trading Patrick Hornqvist. I don’t know if it will be a good, bad, or indifferent trade. I do know I will really miss watching him annoy the crap out of opposing teams in front of the net.
*I’ve got a problem with this guy.
Couldn't decide between a star or an angel, so I chose both. pic.twitter.com/noxtFh6vds
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) December 9, 2020
My problem is Gritty is the best mascot in sports, and he works for the, for the, for the Flyers. Oh well, he will probably never get to play with the Stanley Cup. That is a Flyers tradition.
*I’ve got a problem with Mike “Doc” Emrick retiring. How dare he enjoy life and deprive me of listening to the best voice in sports. Good for Doc, but bad for every hockey fan.
*I’ve got a problem with nobody playing defense, everybody shooting a zillion three pointers, and not having any traditional big men.
*I’ve got a problem with TNT’s studio show featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaq. They are the best studio show in sports, and it’s a sport I don’t care to watch. Too bad for me, I guess.
*I’ve got a problem with owners—particularly small market owners—not making more of an effort to institute a salary cap. The financial structure in baseball is broken, and has been for a long time. Sure the Pittsburgh Pirates suffer, but how about a team like Cleveland. The, um, what are we calling them these days? Well, the Clevelanders build a great team then watch those great players walk out the door when it’s time for a new contract. Cleveland can’t compete with big market teams. Baseball would be so much better if they had a level playing field. This next collective bargaining agreement might be the last best chance for a cap.
*I’ve got a problem with the universal DH. I am old enough to remember the two leagues having their own umpires. The AL umpires wore outside protectors which created a higher strike zone than the NL, whose umpires wore inside protectors. It was fun. Baseball has always had these quaint little differences between leagues, with the DH being the most obvious. The National League requires far more strategy because pitchers hit. I like it, so leave well enough alone.
*I’ve got a problem with Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting. He has managed to take a once proud franchise to depths even the worst Pirates teams never saw. Fans will be hard pressed to name three players on this year’s team. It took him awhile, but Nutting has directed his franchise to be unrecognizable and darn near unwatchable.
*I’ve got a problem with no 2020 March Madness. Oh, I know it had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but I didn’t have to like it. There probably isn’t a single sporting event throughout the calendar I look more forward to. I prefer a mad March to a sad March any day.
*Speaking of March Madness, I’ve got a problem with the selection committee. They change their criteria every year. One year it is strength of schedule, the next it is conference record, the next it is RPI. How difficult is it to get a set criteria to follow year in and year out?
*I’ve got a problem with Duke.
*Huh? Oh, no, that is all for the last one. Speaking of Duke, I’ve got a problem with Jay Bilas. My problem with Bilas is that he isn’t running the NCAA. A strong dose of Bilas intelligence and common sense would go a long way.
*I’ve got a problem with coaches who display no self control. Patrick Chambers and Greg Marshall, formerly of Penn State and Wichita State respectively, were sent packing in large part because they didn’t have any self control. The era of Bobby Knight grabbing, pushing, and humiliating players is over.
*I’ve got a problem with referees stopping the game a million times in the last two minutes to review each and every out of bounds call. There is nothing worse than two minutes taking twenty.
*Ive got a problem with this sports’ playoff selection committee, as well. Just like basketball there is no consistency to this process. In this strange year there was little rhyme or reason for anything they did. One thing is for sure. The little guys have no chance of making a four team playoff.
*I’ve got a problem with college football not listening to me about expanding the playoffs to 8 teams. With 8 teams every Power Five conference champ gets in, if there is a deserving non-Power Five team they get in, and there are still 2 at large teams that get in. The games would draw huge crowds, the bowls can still be tied in, and lots more money would be made.
*Speaking of money, I’ve got a problem with college football not just admitting they played this mish mash of a season to make up as much lost money as possible. All the money spent on COVID-19 testing, limited or no fans at games, and a shortened schedule makes me wonder how much they recouped. I wonder whether money is even an issue. Teams like Auburn, South Carolina, and Illinois managed to buyout old coaches and hire new ones.
*Speaking of hiring and firing, I’ve got a problem—a huge problem—with the USC athletic department. No coach in America warrants being fired more than Clay Helton. I’m sure he is a wonderful human. There are a lot of wonderful humans not suited for being the head football coach at USC. As a lifelong Trojans fan, the Oregon game last Friday night broke me.
Hahaha…look I hope #USC gets it together and wins, but Clay Helton coached teams are a complete joke. Lead league in penalties, least rushing yards in conference, an offense that is SUPPOSED to be high powered, and a coach who wastes timeouts like nobody ever has. #Disaster
— Tim Clark (@TrojanTim66) December 19, 2020
— Tim Clark (@TrojanTim66) December 19, 2020
#USC needs a coach that can return program to national prominence. Someone who will hire a real offensive coordinator. Someone who will recruit studs on offensive line. Someone who will require discipline. Forget the record and just use your eyes. This is an unmitigated disaster.
— Tim Clark (@TrojanTim66) December 19, 2020
Never going anywhere with this guy. It isn’t even close. One of most obvious things I’ve seen in all my years following sports. Guy has been, is, and always will be in way over his head. #USC
— Tim Clark (@TrojanTim66) December 19, 2020
The last 20 years has been mired by mismanagement of the football program by #USC administration. Luckily Pete Carroll fell into their laps. Clay has been & always will be in way over his head. #uscfootball is too important w/ too much rich history for this to continue. Step in!
— Tim Clark (@TrojanTim66) December 19, 2020
I love Twitter, but I don’t really tweet very much. This is a grievance three years running, and it finally drove me over the edge. My Penn State friends would issue the same grievance about James Franklin. With all due respect, you have no idea what a bad coach looks like.
*I’ve got a problem with David Pollock. Pollock is a bad fit on an otherwise still going strong ESPN College Gameday. Pollock has no personality, other than to think he is always right. Maybe it is because he is the new kid at the pregame table, but it just doesn’t work. No personality. No thank you.
*I’ve got a problem with every announcer on every game whining about no fans in the stands at games. We are all aware of what is going on. For the love of Dan Mullen, just tell me what is happening on the field. This goes double for you basketball announcers.
*Speaking of Mullen, I’ve got a problem with his incessant whining. Double that for Nebraska’s Scott Frost, who should just be happy anyone remembers they still have a team in Lincoln. And triple for Dabo Swinney, who I’ve concluded is an ass. He has built a great program at Clemson, but yearly plays one of the easiest schedules in the country. He has no gripes…about anything. Boys, stop whining.
*I’ve got a problem with the Steelers receivers dropping passes. I expect the equipment manager to have Ryan Griffin’s gloves ordered for all future games.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 17, 2019
*I’ve got a problem with Randy Fichtner. His play calling makes me long for the days of Todd Haley who made me long for the days of just about anyone else. An opportunity is being wasted in Pittsburgh.
*I’ve got a problem wit Ben Roethlisberger looking like Herman Munster on the field. Father Time waits for no one, and it has just about caught Roethlisberger. His arm looks old, too.
*I’ve got a problem with announcers like Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Jim Nantz making snide remarks about having to wear masks and being distanced in the booth. Welcome to all of our worlds. You come off sounding tone deaf and entitled. Deal with it, like we all have to.
*I’ve got a problem with the NFC East. C’mon fellas. Someone—anyone—step up to at least mediocre. Sure some teams in the division have signs that the future could be bright, but in the here and now it is ugly. Dallas has been a disaster, yet still could win the division.
*I’ve got a problem with instant replay. This goes for all of the above mentioned sports. Replay slows games down. Replay still doesn’t fix enough incorrect calls. Replay is administered incorrectly too often. Replay sucks. I’m almost to the point where I’m willing to live with the missed calls. Of course, officials could simply be better.
Two Cent Takes
~The playoffs are set, and yippee, it’s the same old same old. Alabama and Clemson were no brainers. Ohio State probably is one of the four best teams, but only played six games. Notre Dame was humiliated on a national stage Saturday, which has become their brand. Texas A&M was sitting there. Oklahoma won the Big 12, but had two losses. Then there is Cincinnati. Why not the Bearcats? Notre Dame got trounced by Clemson. Earlier this year A&M got trounced by Alabama. And as mentioned, Oklahoma had two losses. If you were ever going to invite the little guy to the party, this was the year to do it.
~Why are they having bowl games this year? Bring the kids to an empty stadium to play a meaningless game without all the fun activities that go with the bowl game experience. Silly. So many teams have opted out, and good for them. It shouldn’t have been the kids that made the decision to spend time with family over the holidays in this stressful year. It should have been the bowl directors who said we will pause our event for a year.
~Apparently there was a bowl game today. Did anyone know? I just happened to see it on the scroll at the bottom of my screen. Maybe this year will cause some of these idiotic bowl games to fold. There has to be some bright spot this year.
~What Mark Few has done at Gonzaga is amazing. The Zags are clearly the best team in the country. They handled Iowa rather easily on Saturday at the Pentagon in South Dakota.
Pretty cool court, and a really good showcase for Gonzaga. The Zags had a game with Baylor canceled and play Virginia this week. Anybody. Anywhere. Any time. That is Mark Few’s motto, and why not with the team he has.
~Iowa’s Luka Garza went for a cool 30 and 10, in case anyone thought he couldn’t play against good competition.
Great cause. Great look. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery sporting the coaches vs cancer kicks, and he didn’t even take one off and throw it at a ref. Good day all around.
~Despite the Iowa loss, the Big Ten is loaded. Wisconsin, and it’s five seniors, beat down Louisville by 37. Louisville was depleted, but still impressive.
~The ACC is very down this year. Virginia is probably the best team, with North Carolina, Duke, and Florida State lurking. None of them may be top ten quality. When is the last time the ACC had no top ten teams?
~When you are wrong…The Minnesota Vikings will not be making the playoffs this year as promised here about a month ago. They have the best running back in the league. They have a great tandem of receivers. However, we got a lot of bad Kirk Cousins. It didn’t help that his offensive line resembled a sieve for much of the season.
~When you are wrong…Part II…the Cleveland Browns appear to not be soft as stated here many times this year. Even Baker Mayfield is starting to resemble a top tier quarterback. Addition by subtraction with the season ending injury to prima donna wide receiver Odell Beckham. Dare I say, the Browns may just throttle Pittsburgh in the last week of the season.
~When you are wrong…Part III…the New York Giants will not be winning the NFC East. At this point it is hard to tell who will, but it won’t be the Giants.
~When you are wrong…Part IV…Vegas will not be making the playoffs. I thought it would come down to the Raiders and Dolphins, but now there is a great chance it will be neither. The Ravens, sparked by Lamar Jackson’s Willis Reed impersonation a week ago, have an easy road to 11-5. It is looking like an AFC North heavy playoff bracket.
~When you are wrong…Part V…Jalen Hurts appears to be an answer for Philadelphia. It is pretty clear the entire team chemistry improved 100% after Hurts took over. It also seems clear that Carson Wentz needs to find a new home.
~After typing the last five takes, I feel obliged to let you know this guy is going into the shop for a few tweaks.
#TCCCB will be good as new, well as good as a cracked crystal ball can be.
~The New York Jets won a game. They were 17 point underdogs on the road in LA, but they pulled it off. It is the most Jets thing ever. They had the top pick in next year’s draft on lockdown. They were already getting Trevor Lawrence jerseys made. Now they will have to settle for Justin Fields. Fields is good, but he is no Lawrence. Jacksonville says thank you, New York.
A Penny For My Final Thought…
As you can see with my airing of grievances, I’m kind of a glass half empty kind of guy. And I’m the optimistic one of my friends. Yea, it can be a rough crowd sometimes. I truly could have cut my grievances down to one: 2020. This past year surely has been miserable.
Enough with the complaining. Festivus isn’t complete until we have the feats of strength.
Patrick Mahomes became the biggest star in the NFL by winning the Super Bowl. He is the league MVP, and has revamped the quarterback position. Mahomes makes throws no other quarterback can.
Players in the NHL and NBA not only pulled off a “bubble”, but made important statements for social justice and equality. They used their platform properly and made it about the cause and not themselves. Surviving the bubble was a true feat of strength. It would have been easy for these guys to just stop and go home. Yes, they are ultra rich athletes. They are also human beings with families who they were away from for months, if your team made it to the end. These guys showed perseverance and integrity in making the “bubble” work.
Baseball managed a feat of strength in getting their season in with limited disruptions. The few bobbles they had were made up for. Again, players showed great responsibility, perseverance, and integrity in doing the right things to make sure a season was completed.
The NFL is nearly to the end of their feat of strength. Minus the Tennessee Titans early and the Baltimore Ravens, who blatantly flaunted the virus protocols, the league has managed as well as could be expected to get this season in. Minus little or no fans, the product has looked pretty much like any other year. Well, except for that week the Broncos had some wide receiver play quarterback. Otherwise it has been amazingly similar to past years.
In 2020, the year of COVID-19, the biggest feats of strength are easy to see, and they didn’t happen on any field or court.
Our frontline workers accomplished, and continue to accomplish, the biggest feats of strength. They stand strong in the face of insurmountable odds. They may tire. They may wobble a bit. But they never flinch. They have been there the entire time, helping our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends.
One day they see unspeakable things and are completely overwhelmed. The floors these doctors, nurses, aides, custodians, technicians, secretaries, and other staff members work on are overflowing. These folks go home, get a couple hours of sleep, and go back to work the next day.
A special shout out to the front liners in my community. They bust their tails despite a multitude of people not wearing masks because “they can’t make me do anything”, “masks don’t work”, “masks are stupid”, or “rights, constitution, and such”.
Our community first said, “The virus is a hoax.” Then they shifted to, “It will be over when the election is over.” Finally it went to, “They are lying about the numbers.”
Now they are busy brazenly trying to violate any mandates that were put in place. It has been insufferable, and our frontline workers just keep showing up. In some cases doing everything they can to help one of these deniers that caught the hoax. They learned early on that the virus doesn’t care what you think or what you believe.
So in a year with things most of us never thought we would ever deal with in our lifetimes, we were glad for the feats of strength the sports world showed us. As your resident head sports fanatic I can tell you I was glad for sports leagues to pull off these feats of strength.
Make no mistake, sports pale in comparison to the unbelievable feats of strength our frontline workers continue to accomplish as this pandemic rages on. They’ve managed to keep their backs off the mat, and will help us eventually defeat the virus.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and to the rest of us, Happy Festivus!