Thursday, December 24, 2009

15 comments Simmons and Gladwell Exchange Some (Bad) Ideas: The Sequel Part II

On Tuesday, we began the "conversation" between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell and so I thought an appropriate Christmas present would be to put up the second part of their conversation for everyone's enjoyment. The discussion they have here is about concussions and the future of the NFL and why the NBA has it all right by being a smart league compared to the NFL...even though I am not sure this is true.

Gladwell: In last week's New Yorker, my colleague James Surowiecki made the argument that celebrities can get away with something so long as it confirms -- rather than contradicts -- our pre-existing impression of them. Charles Barkley can get a DWI and a few months later still be taken seriously when he talks about going into politics. No problem. We believe he's a carouser. Clinton can recover from Monica Lewinsky because we knew, going in, that he had a wandering eye, and we'd already adjusted our perception of him accordingly.

This an interesting and true, if not pretty obvious to those that have thought this through, point. Our perceptions of athletes determines how we treat them in tough times. This goes for normal people as well. That's why I make it a habit to be an asshole, I can pretty much say or do whatever I want.

Simmons: Let's move to a more uplifting topic: concussions...These guys damage their bodies and brains to entertain us, and we ignore the collateral damage or look the other way. Your point was that as we learn more and more about the effects of concussions, it was becoming tougher to look the other way. At least for you. Do you still feel that way?

Gladwell: But in answer to your question: Yes, football has kind of been ruined for me, I'm afraid. Understand that I live for the game. But I'm increasingly of the opinion that it is screwed up -- on a moral level -- in a way that no other professional sport is.

Yeah, this is probably true. Though I did look all weekend at the NFL games on Sunday and couldn't find a gun held to the head of any of these players to play the game of football for a living. seems sort of like a personal choice to me.

Think about it. The league has a salary cap (which limits players' pay),

Limits the pay in the MILLIONS by the way. This is a small, yet incredibly important point that needs to be added. The pay is limited in the MILLIONS, which last time I checked, is a lot of money to be limited to making. Players can make more millions in endorsements or through business opportunities.

In other words, the owners reserve the right to limit the pool of money available to players, to walk away from contracts whenever they please and then hold no long-term responsibility for the health of the players whose contracts they have limited and declined to honor. Coal miners aren't treated this badly.

I can only make so much money, I live in "at-will employment" state (which means I can get fired for no reason at all or because I wore a blue shirt today), and no one pays my health insurance after I get fired. Coal miners may not be treated as badly as NFL players are treated, but there are millions of other individuals who are in their day-to-day jobs. Granted normal everyday workers aren't getting hit by people trying to tackle or block them, but many of the unemployed in America right now would lack sympathy for the contractual situation many NFL players are in.

I would also like to add that one of the other risks the players take is that they can make a good amount of money if they stick in the league for 5 years and potentially retire at an earlier age than most other Americans. This has to be factored in as well at some point. No one wants to hurt their body, but a player who sticks on an NFL roster for a couple of years has a pretty good nest egg that can be built up.

Logically, for a player to take a lot of wear and tear in the NFL he would have to play a lot and for a player to play a lot he probably gets paid a decent amount of money...either currently or could make even more money in the future. So a current player who gets beat up should be compensated fairly well for doing his job. I am not saying the NFL treats its players well, but the point that players make a lot of money now has to be made.

At some point, doesn't it become immoral to watch a sport that treats its players so badly? Most people don't go to boxing matches or dogfights on ethical grounds. So how is football different?

I agree that playing football is a dangerous sport, but I think it is different from boxing matches and dogfighting. I am pretty sure the dogs do not make the choice to fight or are at least coaxed into it in some fashion. Boxing is a sport that can be seen as fairly barbaric, but the entire point is to hit your opponent, so it's easy to boycott the sport on ethical grounds. I think football is different because the entire point of the sport isn't to injure your opponent, though of course some of that happens by accident/on purpose.

Football is a violent sport and the sport needs to take steps to ensure the safety of the athletes, but I think it's a bit much to protest the sport because it is immoral. The purpose of the game is not to fight, but to run with the ball while your opponent is either (a) trying to get the ball from you or (b) tackle you to the ground so you stop running. Football is not supposed to be a dangerous sport inherently, even though sometimes it can be seen that way.

Simmons: If you think football is bad, check out pro wrestling. It might not be a real "sport," but it combines every bad thing about every other sport. Steroids, painkillers and PEDs? Hell, yeah. Repeated concussions from chair shots? Absolutely. A union that doesn't look out for its members? There is no wrestling union, so I'm going to say yes. Fixed outcomes and shady referees? You betcha. Athletes getting paralyzed or dropping dead? And then some. (Google "dead wrestlers" sometime. Your eyes will pop out of their sockets.)

Great point by Bill. I hate "professional" wrestling personally. I know a lot of people like it, but I find it to be cheesy, fake and really, really pointless. That sport is full of pain-killing addicted guys who can barely move because the beating their body took. If there was ever a sport that needs its participants looked out for, this is it.

So I don't think this is unique to football. It's not like Americans care less about the long-term health of football players than other sports.

I may never say this again...I am glad Bill Simmons is here to speak some common sense.

But Muhammad Ali is punch-drunk. He should have retired in 1975 after the Frazier fight and ended up fighting another 150 rounds. Think about that. Boxing ruined this guy for life, and we enabled it.

If anyone saw the Ali v. Frasier "30 For 30" episode, I would ask you this question: After watching that documentary, who could have stopped Ali from fighting, outside of Ali himself? The answer is nobody. It was his choice and he wanted to do it. Maybe those who were alive at the time enabled it because they watched the fight, but Muhammad Ali is/was a big boy and he chose to get back in the ring. I really doubt he would have listened to anyone tell him he shouldn't get back in the ring.

Gladwell: I mean, if your son wants to play Pop Warner in a few years, can you really tell me you'd let him do it?

Simmons: Funny you should ask. My son is a wrecking ball and has one of those ripped little-kid bodies that makes him look like a 1780s blacksmith. (Important note: These genes came from my wife's side. I am built like Play-doh with bones.) He also has a hard head. And he's tough as nails.

Bill's son is the most ripped and toughest 2 year old child there has ever been. NO ONE DENIES THIS!!!! He is the smartest and toughest kid in the world, ask Bill's dad he will tell you.

Gladwell: I recently chatted with an ex-NFL player who argued that the league ought to consider weight limits, like saying no one can play above 275 pounds.That's a good start.

Because a hit on a receiver from a safety or linebacker isn't going to hurt as bad if the offensive linemen weight 275 pounds or less? Because it won't hurt a quarterback as bad when he gets blindsided by a 260 pound defensive end? The weight limit makes certain sense in some aspect of football, but for many of the concussion cases it wouldn't make a huge difference. Hollis Thomas isn't the one causing concussions, it's quick, strong guys like Rodney Harrison (220 pounds) who are knocking players out.

What if we made all tackles eligible receivers? What if we allowed all offensive players to move prior to the snap? What if we banned punt and kickoff returns, where a disproportionate number of head impacts happen?

What if we just changed the sport of football to where it was no longer recognizable as the sport it has become popular as? I would think a guy like Bill Simmons, who loves to compare players in different eras apparently, wouldn't like the idea of changing the rules and making it harder to compare players from different eras in football.

Simmons: Sports are always afraid to overreact and change their rules; they seem to think it's a sign of weakness or panic.

I guess I just don't see how tackles being eligible receivers is going to solve the concussion problem in the NFL. I am all for rules changes that make sense but if all offensive players can move prior to the snap, I think I miss how that is going to reduce concussions.

We need better concussion rules in place, stuff like "You're out for eight quarters if you get one concussion"

If a player gets a concussion in the 1st quarter of Game #5, he has to sit out until the 2nd quarter of Game #7? That extra quarter is crucial in his recovery time?

and "You're out for the year if you get two."

The first person to bitch when Wes Welker gets his 2nd concussion and has to sit out a year? Bill Simmons.

In fact, I could see Bill complaining that players are intentionally trying to cause concussions using late hits to knock players out of the game and for the year. Bill would be the absolute first to complain about the rule he advocates here.

But I don't think we need to overhaul the sport itself. Allowing all linemen to catch passes? Allowing everyone to move before the snap? Please. Go back to Canada.

America forever! Go back where you came from Canadian! Here's some beer, eh.

(Bengoodfella high fives himself for being jingoistic)

Gladwell: Don't get me started on Canadian football, which, for the record, is way more entertaining than its American counterpart.

"Holy shit is that Quincy Carter handing off to Rashaan Salaam? I am so entertained! I always wondered what happened to Henry Burris and Drew Tate. This is absolutely football at it's finest for sure."

Um, count me out of that discussion. I really, really want to respect the CFL but I am not sure I can do it with a straight face. I am sure it is exciting to watch, but I think I would prefer to stick to the NFL.

But here's the problem. Basketball feels to me like a smart sport. I would be quite happy if David Stern were the next president of the United States, and there are a number of owners -- like Cuban -- whom I feel have open and curious and intelligent minds.

I don't know how Bill Simmons can ever agree that basketball is a smart sport. He has openly lobbied for two General Manager positions on NBA teams because the owners are so stupid they don't know what to look for in someone to run the team. Bill has no experience running an NBA team but he thinks he can do just as well as some of the current NBA general managers. This is the league that gave us Isiah Thomas, James Dolan, and Donald Sterling. This is a league that, as Bill admits repeatedly in his book, completely ignored a drug problem in the NBA for almost a decade and lost many of it's great players to drugs, too much money too soon, and the NBA is a league that has teams which are in poor financial shape. I think Malcolm Gladwell is a little bit wrong here in thinking basketball is a smart sport.

I hate to say it, but while the NFL is behind the times on the concussion issue, they are ahead of the curve on competitive issues and how to create a league where from year-to-year there can be interest on the part of fans (except for franchises that are poorly run, but that's not the fault of the NFL model, but the individual owners and the GM's of those teams). I like the NBA, but I don't see how Malcolm Gladwell can consider it to be a "smart" league. Doesn't the NBA have a major integrity problem when it comes to officiating? This is the SMART sport that Gladwell uses as an example?

Or, to use a absurd example, this is a league that decides overtime possessions with a coin flip, in contravention of every rational principle of fairness.

As opposed to the NBA, which uses an arrow and a "held ball" to determine which team gets possession. That just seems so much more fair than a coin toss doesn't it? I hate the coin toss in the NFL also, but I just don't feel like the NBA is the forerunner in intelligence when it comes to sports in the United States. This is the same league that still lets Donald Sterling own a team and has let multiple owners rip a franchise right from under a city's nose for reasons that didn't quite seem fair in my mind.

Simmons: For me, the sport stuck most in the past is baseball. It took them 15 solid years and a forearm growing out of Barry Bonds' head to start handling the PED epidemic. They still don't have a salary cap or revenue sharing; nobody is going to give a crap until Joe Mauer signs with the Yankees for $270 million next winter and the entire state of Minnesota tries to light itself on fire.

This is a fairly good choice as well for a sport that isn't always smart. I do have to say I don't think anyone is going to give a shit when the Yankees sign Joe Mauer next winter, except for Red Sox fans of course, hence we get this concern from Bill. Though, if you recall, he is not as into baseball as he used to be because of (wink, wink) the PED situation and how he can't compare player's numbers from different he may not care where the hell Mauer goes.

The African-American talent pool is dwindling to 1960s-level numbers, and only Torii Hunter seems to be bothered by this.

In reality, what can be done about this? Are Major League Baseball executives supposed to round up African-Americans and force them to play basebal? Football and basketball are much easier sports to play with friends while growing up, you don't need a group of 12 people to play and you only need a ball and a court (or small field). It's not like MLB hasn't taken steps to ensure African-American kids get interested in baseball, it's just not the sport many kids grow up dreaming playing. I don't know how much can honestly be done about this.

We have the technology to create computer-generated strike zones and remove human error from pitch to pitch, only they would never dream of changing the game like that.

If done correctly, I would be in favor of this. The key words are "done correctly" and I don't know if this can be done by MLB. Though the way instant replay was integrated does give me hope for the technological future of MLB.

Same for outlawing pickoff throws (and making a rule that you can only lead 4-5 feet off every base) to speed up games,

Eliminating pickoff throws? Maybe there should be a limit of pickoff throws that can be made to each batter, (or politely asking Andy Pettitte to hurry the hell up) but eliminating them completely seems like a sort of bad idea to me. I am not against progress but what are the ramifications going to be if a runner leads 6 feet off the base? Is he out? If not, where is the incentive for a player to not lead off first more than the rules allow?

If a runner is called out for leading off too much, I can just see managers of MLB teams taking out measuring tapes and showing umpires his guy wasn't too far off first base. This just seems like a cluster of problems to me. The amount of time a pitcher takes between pitches is the problem, not necessarily pickoff throws to 1st base in general.

or preventing batters from stepping out of the box after every pitch, or giving pitchers a time limit to deliver every pitch.

These are two good ways to speed up a game in Major League Baseball. As I said previously, I would also be open to the idea of limiting the amount of pickoff throws to 1st base, but not outlawing them completely.

What about my idea that the NHL should cut back to 24 teams, then go a 12-team American conference and a 12-team Canadian conference?

Gladwell: I'm with you on the 24-team, Canadian-American conference idea, particularly since it turns the Stanley Cup finals into a border war every year. I was once in Brazil when Brazil was playing Argentina in soccer, and the entire country was in a state of advanced hysteria. I was at a conference and they stopped the proceedings, in the middle of the day, so everyone could go watch the game. Unbelievable. That's what happens when you combine sports and national loyalties. Can you imagine this happening every spring?

I have a feeling a championship between an American and Canadian hockey team in the Stanley Cup Finals would not have the same hysteria effect soccer in Brazil and Argentina has. It could be because 75% of the people in the United States are completely apathetic towards hockey in general. I think that might affect the hysteria rate during an international Stanley Cup Playoffs in America and Canada.

The league had 24 teams when Bettman took over, including eight in Canada. Now they have a whopping 30 teams, including more warm-weather American teams (L.A., Phoenix, Nashville, Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Atlanta, Anaheim) than Canadian teams (only six).

I haven't ever really gotten the idea that teams in "warm weather" climates shouldn't have hockey because it isn't cold in those cities. I am not saying these teams can support a team, though L.A., Carolina, Tampa, Florida, and Anaheim seem to do fairly well in being competitive (if I am not wrong, I know the Hurricanes are huge here in North Carolina...or at least near where I live), but what is inherently wrong with having "warm weather cities" have hockey teams? Other than the fact it's not traditional?

Hasn't Bill Simmons been railing on the NFL and MLB for hanging on to old fashioned traditions and not moving ahead with the times? Warm weather teams are progress and getting rid of old fashioned traditions, so Bill should like it. There needs to be more Canadian teams in hockey, I won't argue that point, but the NHL can pry the Carolina Hurricanes away from Raleigh out of Bill Cowher's cold, dead fingers.

Gladwell: It's incredible, isn't it? What I don't understand is how a country that is obsessed with hockey and supplies the lion's share of players and diehard fans to the NHL allows its national sport to be run by an American working out of New York City.

Those Americans are always ruining everything aren't they?

I think the Canadian teams should simply secede from the league and start over. And we'd take any northern American teams that wanted to come as well, particularly those in the upper Midwest and greater Ohio Valley which, if you'll remember your War of 1812 history correctly, is an area that really ought to belong to Canada anyway.

Malcolm Gladwell: Nerd until the very end.

I don't think too much of America would really care if the Canadian teams seceded from the NHL. I am sure Canada could run the NHL perfectly fine on their own, since the Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies, and the Montreal Expos are/were such well-run organizations. I wouldn't mind seeing more teams play in Canada, the NHL is trying to become a more mainstream and popular league. I can't help but think if they moved more teams to Canada it might hurt any potential United States television contracts they may want to increase the popularity of the league. I don't know much about hockey in a financial sense, so I am sort of talking out of my ass.

Simmons: "Live Free or Die Hard," "Lethal Weapon 4," "Rocky IV" … Gladwell-Simmons IV! You talked me into it. Until next time.

Please, no more of these. I never knew I disliked Malcolm Gladwell and I have always wanted to read one of his books, but I am re-considering my position on this right now.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, whichever works better for you) to everyone! Thanks for reading what we write here.


rich said...

Two things:

1. If you limit the number of pick off attempts (say 2 per batter), then once a pitcher hits that limit, what would prevent the runner from taking a massive lead and getting an easy stolen base? I feel like limiting catcher-pitcher meetings and the number of times a batter can walk 20 feet away from the batters box would be more effective.

2. I love hockey and while Betman made some pretty terrible decisions (two Florida teams? Phoenix?) a 12 team American conference and a 12 team Canadien conference wouldn't work... other than maybe a second Toronto team, Winnipeg and possibly Quebec where would you put these Canadien teams?

It's also funny that he lists the warm weather teams that have won 3 cups in the past decade (TB, Anaheim and Carolina) when the last Canadien team to win it was Montreal... back before another warm weather team (Dallas) won a championship.

So recap: The warm weather teams have 4 championships since the last time a Canadien team won.

There are places where hockey won't thrive (see: Phoenix), but hockey has become incredibly popular in Texas (where I went to HS and played hockey) and some of the other warm weather areas. Hockey has the support in Canada, but not the numbers (population wise) to justify an exodus to Canada.

It's typical Simmons that he'd toss out an idea say it's a great idea, but then not explain how he'd implement it. He needs six more Canadian teams and 12 less American teams. Which cities lose their team? Which cities gain them? What happens to the talent on the contracted teams?

He also doesn't talk about why hockey moved in the first place: money. If you have a smaller city, it doesn't matter if everyone is into the sport, b/c your revenue growth is capped. A bigger city, even if it doesn't have the same level of interest, has a much higher cap on possible revenue. For example, the old Winnipeg Jets (population 700K) to Phoenix (population 1.5M)... it doesn't matter that Winnipegians or whatever they're called loved their team, because there's less than half of the potential customers as the area they moved to.

There are a lot of things that can improve hockey and contraction is definitely one of them, but to throw out such a retarded idea and not explain any of the rational behind why the status quo is the status quo or what would happen to make your plan reality is simply idiotic.

Merry Xmas (or whatever your religious affiliation is) and Happy New Years to you all.

Jeremy Conlin said...

I'm busy with Christmas stuff right now, so expect a longer breakdown of my own opinions later.

I will offer one nit-pick. The NBA doesn't use a possession arrow like you wrote. That's only in college. NBA jumps every held ball.

Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa

KentAllard said...

So one of the problems with the NFL is the salary cap is unfair to the players, but one of the things that is needed to "fix" baseball is...a salary cap? Nice consistency there, brainiacs.

I always thought NBA players, man for man, seemed the dumbest of the pro sports.

Also, the wonderful NBA is seeing a decline in popularity in all measurable areas, while the maligned NHL has been on an upswing.

Criticizing Bettman is setting up a straw man, since he is probably the most generally hated commissioner in the history of professional sports.

The NHL probably needs a few more Canadian teams, with Hamilton, Q City, and Winnipeg being the most likely targets. There is also talk of putting a team in Toronto, the largest Canadian city without professional hockey. Phoenix, Atlanta and Nashville should probably lose their teams, even though that would involve the team in whose arena I see most of my games live. It is also unjust that Canadian teams are assessed a subsidy that goes to Sun Belt teams to keep them from being unprofitable.

Fred Trigger said...

correct me if I'm wrong, but doesnt Toronto have the Maple Leafs, one of the "original six" teams? Or were you being sarcastic, Kent?

ivn said...

well I think the joke is that the Maple Leafs have been a AAA team for the past few years.

Dylan Murphy said...


I agree with your assessment of the pick off attempts. But I agree with Simmons that the number of attempts are ridiculous. Therefore I think his idea to limit the lead a runner can take would counteract the improved jump.

Regarding the salary cap, I think there should be rookie contracts based on where players are drafted in the NFL draft. Its ridiculous that players become so well paid before playing a single down.

Ivy said...

Do you know who am I?
Here is a hot news
The Colts continue to surprise everyone and keep playing their stars. Players such as Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, and Reggie Wayne continue to suit up for the Colts. The Colts have accomplished everything set out so far but it still remains a question if going perfect is one of those items.More interesting NFL Draft.
This week will be interesting to see what happens with the Jets. The Jets are fighting for their playoff lives and also have the best defense in football. Is that something that Peyton Manning needs to see right now? It’s a hard question to answer but all I know is that this is still the #1 team in football.
Merry Christmas!And have a good time!

KentAllard said...

Yeah, Fred, that's just a little hockey humor. The Laffs haven't won the Cup since 68,and it's a popular pasttime to poke fun at them.

The Casey said...

FYI, the SEC is instituting a pitch clock during their baseball championship tournament this year. They're also limiting the amount of time a batter can be out of the box and how long it takes teams to change sides between innings. I'll be interested to see how, if at all, that affects play.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I can see the problem with limiting pick off throws. That would be a greater problem than preventing the runner from getting a certain lead from the base. I think limiting the meetings b/w pitcher/catcher and also limiting players getting in/out of the batter's box may make more sense.

It's not necessarily the warm weather teams that are the problem, it's teams in cities that can't support that team. Warm weather teams have had some success so I don't think that is the problem. You bring up a great point, the idea is thrown out there, but what cities go? Not just the teams Bill mentions b/c those teams have had financial success and competitive success. The Hurricanes are big here in NC, at least from what I see. I would like to see contraction, but I have no idea where to begin...besides Phoenix (kidding...sort of).

Good catch Jeremy, feel free to nitpick all you want if I make easy mistakes like that. I don't know what I was thinking.

Good catch on the semi-contradiction Kent. I didn't even think about how they blame the salary cap for limiting player's earning power but then suggest a salary cap for baseball. Interesting...

I did not know about that subsidy that goes to Sun Belt teams. I need to watch more hockey outside of the Hurricanes I think.

Dylan, I am not against the pick off limit, I just don't know how it would be implemented. As much as it goes against how I believe people have a right to earn what the market would bear, I believe I am becoming more amenable to a salary cap on what at least the Top 10 players in the draft can earn.

Casey, I think a pitch clock and limiting the time in the batter's box should do good things. I guess we will see. I like the idea though.

Jeremy Conlin said...

I'm going to give my thoughts on both parts of Simmons/Gladwell here, just to save time and space.

I like the part about the Denise Richards/James Bond casting misfire, but I tend to agree with Sofia Coppola, simply because of how amazing Godfather I and Godfather II are, and how unspeakably bad Godfather III is, simply because of her. She single-handedly lowers that movie's ceiling from like a B+/A- to a C-.

I think the "athletic profiling" is directed more towards casual fans and people like my mom and your mom, who at first glance are turned off by cornrows and tatoos. I was actually able to talk my dad (who is a really old-school sports fan) into reading a few glowing Allen Iverson stories and watching a few of his games, and now Iverson is one of his favorite players.

As for the Dara Torres part, I feel I can weigh in, as I swam for 9 years all the way through sophomore year of college before I hurt my shoulder. I partially agree with Gladwell on this. I don't believe she's the best athlete of our generation, but I believe a woman making the Olympics and medaling at 40 is a way bigger deal than we made of it at the time. Female swimmers peak between about 20-22, and male swimmers peak between about 23-26. It's not easy to make a comparison to another sport, but imagine if a player like Gary Payton (not the greatest ever, but still really damn good) got in shape, came back, and put up his best season of his career. Now imagine if that happened 4 or 5 years from now. I think that's the level Torres is on. But that's just my opinion. It is also my opinion that Gladwell is an idiot for not using Torres instead of Watson in his "Derek Jeter winning Sportsman of the Year in 2033" point.

Jason Campbell isn't better than Peyton Manning. I don't know what else to add here.

A nit-pick: You say Simmons book was a statistics-backed list, whereas I saw the most important sections as the ones that had little to nothing to do with stats, such as "The Secret." I saw the point of the book as making the argument that statistics can say "this guy was good, this guy was average, and this guy was bad," but ultimately, when comparing guys like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Kobe Bryant, stats are actually the LAST thing you want to look at (other than the obvious ones like Wins and Titles). I think a referee buttering-up system would have at least made for a few cool footnotes.

I'm just about out on baseball. The games are too boring, too slow, and the league doesn't seem to be making any real effort to fix it. The PED issue is not as important to me, but it does bother me that they just swept everything under the rug for 10 years then tried to lock the barn door after the horses ran out. Just seems like a poorly run league in my opinion.

I think the biggest issue in football isn't the salary cap, but the non-guaranteed contracts. I wouldn't be a big fan of those if I were playing. The concussion issue is obviously a huge deal, but I'm admittedly uninformed about the issue. I need to read up some more about theories and such before I formulate my own opinion.

Jeremy Conlin said...

Breaking into two-parts:

I may be a Simmons apologist and one of the last 28 Die-Hard NBA fans, but I agree 1000% that the NBA, on the whole, is the smartest American sports league. And I'm talking about the league offices, not the individual franchises (some of whom are admittedly really dumb). I think David Stern is without a doubt the smartest commissioner in all of professional sports. I think their Globalization work has been amazing, as well as the NBA Cares program. For those of you who have read Simmons book, the fact that the NBA finals ran on tape delay for about 5 years in the 70s and 80s, and has become a cash cow 30 years later is pretty astounding. Other than the officiating issues and a few character issues (read: Artest Melee), the league has been progressing forward almost non-stop for the last 30 years. I can't really say the same about any of the other major sports (although I can be talked into the NFL).

As for the NHL, I tend to agree that we need more teams in Canada/northern American cities. There just isn't that much evidence that warm-weather cities can support Hockey, mostly because of the fact that there isn't much history of hockey there. In places like Minnesota and New York and New England, kids grow up playing hockey outside in the winter. In Florida, kids go to the beach in January. I tend to believe that a place like Winnipeg makes more sense than Phoenix. I think contraction (or merging of teams) needs to happen, and I think we need to dump a few of the non-successful warm-weather teams.

Hope you all had a good holiday, and happy new year.

KentAllard said...

I agree with Jeremy, the non-guaranteed contracts would be what I was most concerned with if I was a player. And it also leads to large up-front bonuses for draft choices/free agents, which often means a player has received 70% of his compensation before he beings the first season of his six year contract. I remember when the Vikings were having a lot of disciplinary problems a few years ago, someone saying the team didn't have any options, since suspending them cost them relatively little.

Bengoodfella said...

Jeremy, you got me on the David Stern issue. He is a pretty smart commissioner. I don't think the NBA is stupid by any means, but I also don't think it is the smartest league no matter how much evidence (admittedly good) you give because I don't think the NBA has been able to bridge that gap between the casual fan and the NBA. As much as they do good in regards to globalization and all of that, I think a really smart league would have found a way to prevent the perception that has plagued the league in the late 90's.

Maybe that's asking too much of the NBA or looking at it the wrong way, but I think the NBA got lost after Jordan/Bird etc left the league and wasn't sure how to market the league because they were so used to relying on those guys. I still don't know if they know how to do it to appeal to the casual fan. Of course I could be biased since the NBA and George Shinn destroyed (obliterated is probably a better word) the NBA in Charlotte. The quality of the NBA is higher than it has ever been, but I don't think that's getting to the audience. I think a smart league would have found a way to do that.

The NFL almost had a perception problem but they instituted overly harsh rules that appeased the casual fan by basically saying no player is above the league and not allowing bad behavior. The reality is that NFL is actually a league that is incredibly violent and probably has more behavior issues but that's not the perception. I could go on and on, but I don't disagree the NBA is more progressive than MLB, but I am not sure they are more progressive than the NFL.

I am all for dumping the warm weather hockey teams, I just don't think it will happen and which teams do you take? I can think of some, but I know the fan base wouldn't like it and also I may not know what I am talking about since I don't follow hockey all that much.

The non-guaranteed contracts I believe cause a lot of the high signing bonuses that players are signed to, which I think can be ridiculous at times. I personally like the salary cap and the structure of the NFL, and I don't think rookie contracts are as big an issue past the Top 10 picks. I don't think there needs to be a cap on Top 10 picks in the NFL Draft though...and I also believe the NFL should give the Panthers an exemption so they don't have to pay Jake Delhomme any more money.

Jeremy Conlin said...

Instituting the Allan Houston Exception in the NFL. An interesting idea.

My personal favorite tid-bit about the Allan Houston Exception: The Knicks had so many bad contracts at the time that they didn't even use the Allan Houston Exception on Allan Houston. Every time I remember that part it cracks me up.