Two football takes open the column, but the other sports get in their lumps after.
One of the best parts of the sporting schedule is well under way, as the NFL gets into the final third of the season, and the NBA/NHL playoff pictures start to take some shape. The rumor mill has died down in MLB, and the dead time for college football leave me wanting more, but I’m still pissed off about random things, so here we are.
I focused on Chris Sale a lot last week, so you should catch up on that one first. Now let’s dive in.
1. Screw history, it’s time to revamp the college football bowl system
Brendan and I had a pretty passionate debate about this last week on the Podcast, but I’m expanding my original take. We broke down what we felt would be the best system for the College Football Playoff. I’m for 10 or 12 teams making it, Brendan prefers 6. That’s neither here nor there. I want a whole new college bowl system.
Have you marked your calendars for the St. Petersberg Bowl on Dec. 26 between Mississippi State (under .500) and Miami (Ohio)? No?
How about the Quick Lane Bowl, also on Dec. 26, between Maryland and Boston College? If you aren’t sitting in front of your TV on the Monday when everyone has the day off, what type of sports fan are you?
You’re like me: a sane person. This is getting out of hand. I don’t even care about the ridiculous sponsors that bowls have (the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl is the best), but there are WAY TOO MANY bowl games. Not enough .500 teams qualified for the numbers of bowls again, so we have some teams with losing records making it into the “postseason.”
You can argue that these games reward kids with the opportunity to receive cool shit that the NCAA would usually frown upon. Cool, neat, wonderful. But is it worth these school’s shipping their entire football program to some random city for a meaningless game? How about half empty stadiums watching mediocre college football around New Years? That’s a hard pass for me.
If you want to reward good teams – conference champions, teams with .600 or better win percentages, etc. – then fine. Don’t sell this to me as some bullshit experience that’s so rooted in history that it needs to continue. These meaningless games with shitty schools and major money paid off to bowl organizing committees have gone too far. Let’s have 10-12 games with good teams and call it a day.
Editor’s Note: That faint repeating knocking in the distance you keep hearing is me banging the six-team playoff drum. And bang on I will, until eveyrone realizes the simplicity, elegance and season long drama the six-team playoff provides. I don’t have a lot of college footall opinions, but this is the firmest one I have.
(Just kidding, I have lots of opinions about almost anything and everything. I’m the worst like that.)
2. The Los Angeles Rams (are dumb) did Jeff Fisher a solid
I was so irrationally made about this at first.Jeff Fisher had a chance to make history. With one more loss, he was going to break the all-time record for L’s in the National Football League as a head coach. In a league with no shortage of really terrible coaches, Fisher having a chance to sit alone atop (at the bottom?) of that list with just one more inevitable loss with the Rams this season was going to be fantastic to watch.
But instead, the Rams made their first good decision since relocating to Los Angeles by firing the poor son of a bitch. Granted they gave him a 2-year contract extension just days before (one step forward, two steps back), but the Rams firing of Fisher was the right call.
He mortgaged the future to get Jared Goff, who looks nothing more than just average, and then underachieved with a defense that’s not too bad. He wasn’t having any of that 7-9 bullshit anymore (he wasn’t getting there this year anyways), so the Rams let him go at 4-9.
If this guy is going to become the losingest coach in league history, why would you want it to happen wearing your colors? It’s embarrassing, and a testament to just how bad Fisher has been outside of a couple great seasons in Tennessee. By firing him, via Twitter nonetheless, the Rams can wipe the slate clean with a new coaching staff that isn’t chasing infamy. They’ll probably still suck for years to come, but at least the guy with the most losses in NFL won’t be the one steering the sinking ship.
Also, the fact that it happened on Dec. 12 (12-12) is too perfect. For a guy who has been around .500 for basically every season in his career, it made far too much sense.
Editor’s note: This is truly the darkest timeline. I hope to God someone does the reverse Al Arbour with him and has him come back and coach one more meaningless loss just to get the record and thank the fans.
3. I would like a word with the NHL schedule makers
I bet scheduling 82 games for 30 franchises a year is pretty damn hard. There’s a lot of math (hey Stat Tardiff) that needs to be done to make this work. And I’m sure that’s all it is. Taking a look at when dates are available and assuring that each team meets the requirements and blah, blah blah.
But who in their right mind makes the decision to put the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, the biggest rivalry in the goddamn league, on the same night as Monday Night Football and the US Presidential Election is out of their mind. Their first meeting was on a Saturday night in Boston during the second week of the regular season. It’s not a bad time, but the fact that the two biggest rivals in your game play 3 times (out of 4) before the New Year is a downright travesty.
Brendan and I couldn’t agree more on this fact: the NHL does an impeccable job of shooting itself in the foot. How you can have two of the marquee, Original Six, most popular and most hated teams playing on Election Night and in conjunction with a Patriots Monday Night Football game is just downright criminal.
The NFL announces the schedule for the upcoming season at the end of April. Monday Night games are locked in. The NHL announces their regular season schedule at the end of June. Nobody fucking saw these conflicts? Are you kidding me?
How about to grow the game you have these two rivals playing on national television in primetime? Maybe the Wednesday Night Rivalry package that’s forced down our throats every week? Or maybe the national game on Sunday afternoons that NBC does later in the year? Nope, let’s do a Monday night against the Patriots and a Tuesday night against the US Presidential Election. Jesus Christ, what are you thinking?
The last meeting between the teams will be on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Boston. Football will be done, and the teams should be battling for playoff position in front of a national audience. But to have that be their lone meeting after December and one of four that makes sense is baffling. Oh well, guess we’ll get Penguins-Islanders and Blackhawks-Wild instead.
Editor’s note: How about the fact that we got Penguins-Islanders on NBCSports for RIVALRY NIGHT but not Rangers-Islanders? Or that they don’t have any flex capabilities, so we got Islanders vs. Lightning over the inaugural McDavid vs. Matthews matchup? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (that seems to be a theme for this segment) but I can’t blame anyone for not embracing the NHL, because the league could not market itself out of a paper bag.
4. Nobody outside of the Toronto Raptors has a remote shot of challenging the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference
But Tim – it’s only December and the Raptors are only a game behind of Cleveland and the Knicks, Bulls and Hornets are all within 4.5 games. I’ve been beating this drum since before the year even started – nobody is going to sniff the Cavaliers this year.
When LeBron James and the starters are doing the water bottle challenge on the sideline DURING THE GAME, I think even he agrees that nobody is going to challenge them as they waltz back to the NBA Finals.
In these parts, the main rumbling was that Al Horford was going to do enough to get the Celtics into contention. Well, guess what? Boston is still without a go-to guy down the stretch, something that has killed them already this season, and teams like New York and Chicago sure as shit don’t have the firepower to match up with James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in a seven-game series.
One, if not two teams will make the playoffs with a record under .500 because teams flat out suck in the East. The league is far too unbalanced with most of the talent playing in the Western Conference. It’s appealing basketball when those teams come East, but otherwise watching teams like Charlotte, Detroit, and Indiana battle it out to be the sacrificial lamb to Cleveland just isn’t appealing.
Barring some major injury or series of trades, don’t expect anything exciting to come out of the Eastern Conference of the NBA anytime soon.
Editor’s note: Everyone rails about competitive balance in the NBA, especially our man Timbo Slice. But is this any different than how its ever been? There have been two or three power teams in the league while everyone else plays catchup for decades. You don’t get historic and title-contending rivalries involving teams like the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Jazz, Pistons and the like without having them be head and shoulders above their competition. It’s not perfect, but power/super teams are in the NBA’s DNA.
5. It’s about time MLB closers got the money they deserved
This is a new revelation for me, but I’m coming around to it. The $80-plus million given to Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen over the past couple days cemented it for me. Closers are more important in baseball than they ever have been before. And while these huge contracts for guys who usually don’t pitch over 60 innings a year may seem crazy, I think they are completely justified.
This postseason brought to a head just how important a shutdown bullpen and closer is to a winning team. The Royals turned baseball on its head two years ago with their revelation in their first trip to the World Series, and other teams are following suit and doing so in a big way.
Cleveland went balls out with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Chicago countered with Chapman. The Orioles had Zach Britton (whoops, Buck Showalter), the Dodgers had Jansen. There are plenty more good closers out there, but what Chapman and Jansen did in the postseason proved just how valuable these specialists are.
The last three outs of any game are always the toughest. When it comes down to the postseason, the last six, or hell, even nine outs are tough. So pay these guys the big bucks, and have them go out there and lock down a game or series for you and make it all worthwhile.
The money per pitch or inning may drive people crazy, but with big-name guys like these two, you can never be too careful.
Editor’s note: In a vacuum, if relievers could provide the value they sometimes do consistently, Timmy would be dead on here. I have been begging the Yankees to build around the bullpen since they discarded David Robertson. But for every Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman that has been able to sustain success, there are dozens and dozens of Eric Gagnes, K-Rods and Billy Wagners, who are here today and gone tomorrow. Chapman’s arm (and maybe his head for that matter) has an obvious timebomb attached to it. Jansen and Britton haven’t proved they can be Miller or Chapman yet. Even Miller has only done this once. Relievers by definition have a small sample size, or smaller than most of their peers, and it’s important to keep that in mind before handing over the keys to your franchise.
6. Camel of the Week: Roberto Luongo
I love @Strombone1, but I have to ask: did the Islanders break Bobby Lu?
Ever since the boys in blue and orange won their first playoff series in more than two decades on OT heroics from the likes of Thomas Hickey and Alan Quine and a hero’s performance from John Tavares, Luongo has looked…..not great.
He’s been all over the #HockeyTwitter-sphere lately, but not for good reasons. He took to Twitter to join in on the fun, mocking himself near the start of the season after he was put on a poster by Chicago hotshot Artemi Panarin. Then it was Tim’s beloved David PatranakTim’s beloved David Patranak, and now, it was the collective of the Minnesota Wild notching five goals on the Panthers’ netminder and chasing him from the net.
The latest incident caused him to show some displeasure with his equipment, almost removing a teammates head in the process:
I love Bobby Lu, he has a great sense of humor (hopefully he doesn’t hate me if he ever stumbles across this) and I always have a soft spot for a quirky goalie. But it ain’t been pretty for him, and nearly decapitating your ally earns you the Camel of the Week.
That’ll do it for me. I’ll be back next week with some more hot takes for your Wednesday reading enjoyment. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 for more, or to tell me I’m a moron. Oddly enough, Tim loves Christmas (hates the NBA on it) but isn’t a fan of winter. Unsurprisingly, Brendan (@MurraySportTalk) loves both winter, and the NBA on Christmas Day. Oh well.