- Count on it every year: Media commentary that criticizes the NFL for how it handles exhibition games. Do they really need four? Do they have to price them as if they were anything more than over-hyped scrimmages? But the bottom line is the bottom line. It’s all about the money, as has been pointed out. But it’s disingenuous criticism. So, here’s a suggestion for the media: Stop the enabling. Stop covering this stuff as if such exhibitions really mattered–at least to anyone not vying for a roster spot. Yes, it’s all about the money—but also the de facto free marketing that is saturation media coverage.
- You have to wonder how the brainstorming sessions went for Florida Hospital as it stepped up corporately for the seven-figure naming rights to the erstwhile One Buc Place. For marketing purposes, the AdventHealth Training Center makes branding sense. Still wonder, though, if anyone acknowledged that health care and football–where concussion protocols are as frequent as time outs–could have a down side image-wise.
- Two biggest team surprises in MLB have to be the winning seasons of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. Both are beset with small-market, modest-payroll, obsolete-facility and poor-attendance issues. And both Kevin Cash of the Rays and Bob Melvin of the A’s should be prime candidates for manager of the year honors.
- Chris Archer’s bad start with the Pittsburgh Pirates seems to confirm a reality that’s been apparent for a while. Archer, often the face and articulate voice of the Rays, was a better presence than pitcher.
- That Spanish-language memo of Miami Marlins part-owner Derek Jeter has been receiving a lot of attention. It should. In short, he wants all American-born coaches, players and, yes, vice presidents to take Spanish lessons.
This makes enlightened self-interest sense. For communications. For diversity celebration. For cultural rapport. For bringing the team closer to the city of Miami.
“Everybody expects the Latin players to make an effort to speak English,” points out Jeter. “Well, especially here in Miami, if you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t fit in. I think that’s important.”
One final question: ¿Cómo está tu español, Derek? ¿Vas a tomar lecciones con los entrenadores, los jugadores y los VPs?
- “As long as it’s done in a respectful way, that is what our country has been all about.” No, that certainly wasn’t President Trump or Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones weighing in on symbolic, pre-game protests by NFL players. This was New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, commenting on those players who opt to take a knee during the national anthem. It’s a welcome, reasonable reaction–one that also plays well in the locker room.
- They’re back: Those published point spreads for NFL pre-season games. Does anyone actually bet on these EXHIBITIONS whose outcomes are often determined by players who won’t even make either team? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. For what it’s worth, the Tennessee Titans were 3-point favorites over the Bucs last Saturday. Tampa Bay won by 16.
- MLB’s All-Star game will be in Cleveland next year. The official logo has already been revealed–and the demeaning caricature Chief Wahoo is nowhere in sight. Just Cleveland’s tradition of baseball and the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Moreover, next year the hometown Indians will no longer feature a Wahoo logo on their uniforms.
But, no, Indians’ ownership didn’t finally do the right thing for the right reason across the board when it comes to Chief Wahoo. They were following PR protocol. Chief Wahoo will remain, alas, on Indians’ merchandise indefinitely.
- Baseball–from Little League to Major League–gets a lot of our attention right now. But there’s also softball. The U.S. just won the world championship in Japan. Most notably, the head coach was USF’s Ken Ericksen.
- For the first time, the NFL will feature male cheerleaders this season. Thanks, LA Rams and New Orleans Saints. Just what the NFL shouldn’t need: Another reminder that the erstwhile “No Fun League” is now as much about show business as it is about football.
- So, the NCAA is officially easing up on agent contact with athletes. It was inevitable. Too bad basketball and football don’t have serious minor league systems like Major League Baseball. That’s where most blue-chip 13th graders–shy of LeBron James and Kobi Bryant talent–should go instead of becoming oxymoronic “student athletes.”
- Here’s an interesting—and ironic—perspective on the Rays unorthodox pitching “The Rays willingness to throw traditional baseball methodology out the window has made them one of the most compelling teams to watch.” That was Tyler Lauletta, speaking for the Business Insider. Obviously, he wasn’t speaking for the Rays hometown fans, who don’t find the Rays break with traditional starting pitching compelling enough to watch in person.
- The other night on “ESPN Classics” I saw the 1990 Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas fight. Tyson was still a 42-1 favorite and still got knocked out. Later, while channel-surfing, I came across something on ESPN that was more reflective of our times: UFC—or Ultimate Fighting Championship. It’s an American mixed martial arts organization based in Las Vegas. It has 12 divisions and minimal rules. About as many, seemingly, as a bar room brawl. Being confined to a cage seemed appropriate. It also made old school boxing–including Mike Tyson’s pummeling by Buster Mathis–look downright civilized and like an actual “sport.”
- I felt for those Bucs beat writers who had to withstand all of those “got your back, “stuff happens” camp comments from teammates of Jameis Winston and then Winston’s scripted, obligatory press From shame to sham.
Winston cannot be the face of the franchise. Not when he’s the disgrace of the franchise. But if Winston could live his life outside Tampa with the same discipline that keeps him in line with his scripted talking points, he wouldn’t have sleazy behavioral issues.
- Here’s hoping the Bucs get off to such a surprisingly good start that the starting quarterback in game four is Ryan Fitzpatrick.
- “We’re at that difficult, difficult point where the community in Tampa has to make a commitment to Major League Baseball.” That cautionary comment was from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who was, otherwise, very complimentary of the Rays Ybor City stadium plan during a recent SiriusXM Town Hall talk.
- Manfred also made news in answering a question about the challenges that MLB obviously faces in a sports world where it’s imperative to keep pace with the societal times. Manfred lamented that it was too bad that Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout, arguably the sport’s best player, is no media and marketing icon.
Trout’s not exactly the LeBron James of baseball. He’s not a charismatic media-magnet nor a self-promoter. He’s a great player who’s a nice guy–as friendly as he is humble. How refreshing. And how ironic that this is an issue.
- Two things Major League Baseball needs to change. First, it needs a uniform ruling on the “designated hitter.” It’s ridiculous to have the American League—and minor leagues—use it, but not the National League. Especially when teams from both leagues have to play each other. It’s as if the National Football League only allowed the two-point PAT in one conference.
- Second, get rid of the provision that enables MLB to market an “All Star” game that requires representation of all teams. Not every team has, in fact, an “All Star.” The annual upshot is that some deserving players—and the “All Star Game” itself—are shortchanged. The fact that Rays pitcher Blake Snell wasn’t initially named—and others, less qualified, were—was Exhibit A for an ill-advised, embarrassing selection process.
- Amid all the rhetoric surrounding the Rays Ybor stadium rendering, this—from Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg–was particularly notable. “It’s not so much about the value of the franchise,” said Sternberg, “because I don’t plan on selling it.” No, he didn’t put that in writing.
- Joe Namath and Meghan Markle. Now there’s two names you won’t be seeing again in the same sentence. But they fit in the context of those detecting a bit of an incipient British accent from the California-raised Duchess of Sussex. Linguistics professors have been weighing in. Social identity and all of that.
But I recall a much earlier, much more blatant example. Western Pennsylvania-raised Namath made a name for himself when he left Beaver Falls, Pa. for Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He loved Bear Bryant’s program and the welcoming Southern vibe. He fit in with his nationally prominent quarterbacking and with his adopted Southern accent. By his junior year, he sounded like Andy Griffith.
- “We all have things we’d like to take back in our lives. You don’t get to take them back when you’re in the public eye, so you have to be very careful.” Those are the words of Tony Dungy. And, yes, they were said with Jameis Winston in mind.
* Nice touch to light up Old City Hall, the bridges and Curtis Hixon fountains and palms with Rays-saluting colors of blue and yellow in support of the Rays official announcement about the proposed Ybor City stadium. City Hall is limited in its clout, but the optics help send a positive community message.
* It still surprises that there is a viable TV market for: poker, Cornhole and the NBA Summer League.
* Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest. Why? It’s gross.
* The Rays just won three out of four from the Houston Astros, the defending World Series champions. Prior to that, the Rays had swept the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees. It means the Rays began this week with a winning record and renewed respect for their resiliency and young talent. And all this despite roster trimming and blindsiding injuries. Don’t look for the Rays to make the post season this year–that’s still too steep a hill to climb–but do look for Kevin Cash to get some manager-of-the-year votes.
* Say what you will (and we will say a lot) about Tropicana Field, including its obsolescence upon debut, but it is temperature-and-humidity friendly inside. Not that we wouldn’t trade the Trop dome for a, say, Wrigley Field experience, but this just in: The heat index last Saturday at Chicago’s Wrigley was 107. Three visiting Minnesota Twins players left early with heat illness. The Cubs are good, Joe Maddon’s a great guy, and Wrigley Field is very cool–except when it’s very uncomfortable.