Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winners and losers

Winner: Tom Watson. Watson may not be the greatest golfer who ever lived but he's the greatest golfer ever when age is factored in. Watson won the Senior PGA Tournament this past weekend, becoming the oldest golfer ever on the Champions Tour to win a major title.

Loser: Jim Tressel. Everyone could see this coming--it was just a question of when Tressel would "retire" or be fired from his head coaching job at Ohio State.

Winner: Dan Wheldon. The winner of this year's Indianapolis 500 is proof that you "play to the whistle," or, in this case, drive until you see the checkered flag drop. Wheldon profited from J.R. Hildenbrand's rookie mistake and drove past the turn four crash to win the 100th running of the Indy 500.

Loser: Markieff Morris. One of Kansas' twin towers inserted his foot in his mouth recently when he claimed that Derrick Williams was not worthy of discussion as an NBA top pick. Just...be...quiet.

Winner: Dirk Nowitzki. The Dallas Mavericks star is finally getting his due now that the Mavs are in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

Loser: It would be easy to put Joakim Soria here but let's place a losers' tag on Ned Yost, shall we? The Kansas City Royals manager stuck with Soria as the club's closer for way too long. Last year's All Star performer has now more blown saves prior to the end of May than he had in all of 2010. It's hard to work through your issues--whether mechanics, confidence or all of the above--when you are brought into situations where you either retire the hitters or lose the game...all in the course of one inning.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bogies, penalty kicks and tradin' paint

It's the Great American Race day and those of us who love watching guys turn left will get our fill. The Indianapolis 500, trying to regain its statue as the great U.S. race, will begin at Noon E.T. followed by the Coca Cola 600, NASCAR's second most popular race (after the Daytona 500), at 6:00 p.m. E.T.

Let's throw it around a bit, shall we?

- Odyssey has a new D.A.R.T. putter, selling for a cool $179, which is advertised as a club which more easily provides a way for golfers to visualize the line from putt to hole. However, sports psychologist Gregg Steinberg said, "The person visually completes the line, not the putter." So, THAT's what's wrong with my putting!

- Danica Patrick starts 25th today in the Indy 500. Patrick has yet to fulfill the promise of her 2005 Rookie of the Year award at the Indy 500 or her third place finish in the 2009 race.

- In case you missed it, we now know what Kyle Busch can do behind the wheel of a passenger car. Busch was recently cited for going 128 MPH in a 45 MPH zone in a Lexus in North Carolina. Let's see if he left it all on the streets between Troutman and Mooresville or if he's got something left in the tank today at Charlotte.

- Speaking of Charlotte Speedway, don't bet against Jimmie Johnson today--Johnson has six victories at the track.

- Lionel Messi's brilliance was on display early in yesterday's UEFA Cup final against Manchester United. Messi deftly put the ball on the boot of a streaking teammate, resulting in a corner kick for Barcelona. The Catalan club beat Man U 3-1 yesterday in Wembley, England--their third Champions League title in six seasons. Messi had both a goal and an assist in the match.

- There's a lot not to like in the NBA Finals--LeBron, Mark Cuban, Miami's beautiful people crowd--but my hope is that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can finally bag a title for the Mavericks.

- What's the closest finish in the Indy 500? In 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. won by 0.635 of a second over Marco Andretti.

- A recent edition of ESPN The Magazine focused on "the most scandalous year in sports." One section was devoted to "The Guide to Not Getting Caught." Former local stars Aldon Smith (DE, Missouri) and Brandon Rush (SG, Kansas) were featured. Smith had this to say about breaking curfew, "If curfew is at 10, you might think 11 is a good time to head out. But, you should play it safe and wait until 12." Rush commented on the technique of stepping on toes to get a jump under the boards when rebounding. "I thought was an accident at first but the guy did it twice to me in one game, so I know he was doing it on purpose," Rush said. "It does work because most refs look for fouls from the waist up; they hardly ever check what's going on with the feet."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Winners and losers

Mike DeCourcy, writing for The Sporting News, cited the "winners" and "losers" given players who decided to leave early for the NBA Draft and those who stayed in school.

Here are his lists and the reasons why.


- Pitt: Ashton Gibbs returns.

- Kentucky: Terrence Jones decided to stay and brings a "strong variety of skills to the Wildcats."

- Miami: Frank Haith's former team shows up on the list given Reggie Johnson's return.

- Tennessee: The Vols "needed Scotty Hopson to leave."


- Texas: "For all the effort that went into recruiting Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Texas lasted two games in the NCAA Tournament. And now they're gone."

- Michigan: Darius Morris' departure cost the Wolverines a deep post-season run.

- UCLA: "How often do we see perimeter players who never averaged 14 points (Tyler Honeycutt, Malcom Lee) leave for the draft? UCLA has had five since 2008."

- Kansas: "The Jayhawks had no reason to expect Marcus Morris to return, but his twin brother, Markieff, had much more room to grow. And Josh Selby is dumping his talent on the market for pennies on the dollar."


Lost a bit amongst the storms and weather-related news yesterday around the Midwest was the death of Paul Splittorff, a former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals.

Splitt is being eulogized today as a good man, a proud man, and an intensely private man. It is the recent sharing of this information about Splitt's personality that has made his death particularly poignant for me.

During the 1970's, when baseball ruled the Kansas City sports scene and when George Brett was becoming George Brett, Splittorff was quietly amassing victories for the Royals. While pitchers like Dennis Leonard and Bret Saberhagen after him became identified as "the guys" for the Royals, Splitt used his mastery of pitching speed and location to amass more wins than any other hurler in franchise history.

Splittorff was one of those guys who just won--he didn't have heat on his fastball, he didn't have a killer curveball, and he didn't have a quirky delivery. Again, he just won. He did it by knowing the hitter, by seldom giving them anything squarely over the plate, by changing rhythm and speed, and by locating the ball where he knew the hitter didn't want it.

I never was a huge Splittorff fan. I appreciated his victories but never appreciated the way he achieved his wins or the way he carried himself in the clubhouse and, after his retirement, in his chosen field of broadcasting.

The loss of Splittorff is a reminder that there are athletes who achieve greatness not through their physical gifts but through a combination of talent, preparation and savvy. And, his passing is also a reminder that there are, thankfully, athletes who realize that once their playing career is over that there are other mountains to climb. Splitt did that by tackling the profession of sportscasting and working, just like he did in baseball, to be the best.

This community and this hometown franchise will miss Splitt. Much like the city in which he lived, he was unpretentious, hard-working, well-prepared, and thankful for what he had...R.I.P, Paul Splittorff.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

White-outs work

If you watched last night's Dallas-Oklahoma City NBA playoff game, you saw the color blue--a lot. It was another "color-out" game, the fan efforts which have become increasingly popular from franchise to franchise and school to school. You know the drill--a cheap t-shirt is given away at the door to those attending the game and it's usually in the color of the home team/school.

Some teams have chosen white as the shirt color of choice and, in case you were wondering, the "white out" does apparently have an effect on the opposition, although no factual evidence exists to back up the claim.

In today's Wall Street Journal, the following statistic was cited for color-out games:

- Since 2006, when the Miami Heat popularized "white outs," home teams have won 68.8% of post-season games. When fans wear shirts all of the same color, that percentage rises to 74.6%.

While there is no quantifiable evidence to back it up, white outs are thought to be the most effective. Rick Nairn, an executive with the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, says white is most effective because it best hides the stray fan who wears a different color. He feels that white creates a blinding effect when done correctly and everyone participates. The Miami Heat, in particular, seemed to have had good success with white-outs.

What's ironic is that the color phenomenon appears to have basketball-only impact. In the NHL since 2006, home teams have won 52.3% of playoff color-out games compared with 54.5% overall. Maybe it's the fact that the hockey goal is on the ice, not suspended 10 feet from the floor and thus in full visibility alongside the color, which makes a difference. Or, maybe the NHL guys would simply say "we're tougher" and the color-out approach only affects those sissies in short pants.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Daniels and Lacey?

The most nervous coach in America right now might be Bill Self. The University of Kansas head basketball coach is in an unusual place--sweating out late recruiting commitments from two blue-chip prospects. Both DeAndre Daniels, a top-ten small forward, and Trevor Lacey, a five-star prospect, are considering the Jayhawks but have yet to commit.

Self's assumed nervousness is several-fold:
- Kansas lost both Marcus and Markieff Morris to the NBA Draft as well as Josh Selby. The Morris twins started every game this past season and leave a huge void on the frontline. The heralded Selby, while performing under preseason expectations, would have been a major factor for KU's returning squad and would have had a big impact in the backcourt.

- Self has waited out recruits before but seldom has been in a spot where he's waited on and needed two recruits as badly as Daniels and Lacey.

- KU has four scholarships left to give. The Jayhawks are in very good shape with several highly rated prospects in the class of 2012 thus raising the question of whether to use all four now or hold one, or even two, for a robust class this fall/next spring.

In addition to Daniels and Lacey, Jamari Traylor is also considering Kansas. Traylor would provide depth for KU but is not considered the immediate impact player like Daniel or immediate contributor like Lacey.

Kansas, as usual, has a strong nucleus returning in the fall, including guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, plus big man Thomas Robinson. Throw in Travis Releford, injured for most of last season, and signees Naadir Tharpe (PG), Ben McLemore (SG) and Braeden Anderson (PF), and Self has much to look forward to once practice starts in mid-October. Yet, Daniels could be the missing piece--a player who could step into the three or four spot, vacated by Marcus Morris, and a nice complement to a possible starting lineup featuring Robinson, Taylor, Johnson and Releford.

My hunch is that the coach may have to sweat all summer. Daniels has reportedly crossed Duke off of his list, leaving KU and Texas, yet no rumors as to leans one way or the other are making their way to the recruiting boards. Daniels' recruitment has had twists and turns throughout and it's highly possible that he doesn't sign tomorrow--the last day of the spring signing period--and simply waits to enroll in the fall, then accepting his grant-in-aid. As for Lacey, it's apparently down to Kansas, Alabama and Kentucky. And, based upon his father's quote in today's news outlets, Lacey looks no closer to making a decision than does Daniel.

Stay tuned...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recommended reading: Rick Welts

Here is a touching story from today's New York Times on one of the true good guys in the sports marketing business:


Top sports advertisers

Telecommunications and auto manufacturers dominate the top ten of sports advertisers, as reported recently by the Sports Business Journal.

Here's the top ten list along with 2010 sports advertising spending:

1. AT&T Mobility - $366,313,812
2. Anheuser-Busch - $356,205,906
3. Verizon - $340,529,688
4. Ford - $304,976,281
5. Toyota - $240,029,368
6. Chevrolet - $238,965,192
7. Geico - $216,789,219
8. MillerCoors - $214,447,797
9. McDonald's - $202,887,766
10. Sprint - $179,083,297

Overall, auto made up 23.8% of the sports ad spending followed by telecom at 11.9%. The quick-service restaurant/pizza category was at 9.6%, beer at 7.5%, insurance at 6% and movies at 5%.

The brand which made the biggest jump in 2010 spending versus 2009 was Bank of America--a 192% increase to $89,874,195.

As for highest percentage of total ad spending dedicated to sports, the number one brand is not surprising--Nike had 92% of its ad spend dedicated to sports followed by Anheuser-Busch at 81% and MillerCoors, 75%.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dimes, dunks, errors and birdies

- Name a Royals player in recent memory who has caused the excitement of Eric Hosmer? That's right--you can't.

- Mike Anderson will benefit at Arkansas from the recruiting class assembled by fired coach John Pelphrey.

- This weekend's Players Championship has long been considered the "fifth major" for PGA Tour players. It's hard, though, to consider this tournament at that level given the DNF of Tiger Woods and the no-shows of Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

- DeAndre Daniels, the highest rated uncommitted hoops player in the 2011 class, is down to Duke, Kansas and Texas. Daniels reportedly will make a decision on May 18.

- I wonder what Roy Williams thought of Mark Turgeon taking the head basketball coaching job at Maryland? Roy has long made it publicly known that he doesn't like playing against ex-assistant coaches and/or ex-players.

- Paul Pierce's "rules to lead by," as reported in The Sporting News: "(1) The best leader I've ever played with is Kevin Garnett; (2) A leader's greatest asset is to stay focused and make sure you're out there executing; and (3), The key to a good players-only meeting is to not have them. Sometimes, you want to get together and say what you need to say. But, you shouldn't have to do that too much."

- Is anyone else concerned with the Chiefs number one draft pick, Jonathan Baldwin, and his well-documented attitude issues at Pitt? Dwayne Bowe proved last year that he finally has his head screwed on straight but we all remember the issues with "the Bowe Show" in years one and two.

- Wouldn't it be ironic if Texas A&M hired Doc Sadler from Nebraska? Sadler, who just left the Big 12 would then be coming back to the Big 12.

- I'm looking forward to the Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference finals in the NBA.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What if there's no Super Bowl?

What the heck happens if the NFL lockout doesn't get resolved and--gulp--there's no Super Bowl?

- It would be the first year since it's inception that the Super Bowl wouldn't be played.
- The nation's unofficial holiday of gluttony would not take place.
- Advertisers would lose the biggest showcase of the year.
- And, the economic impact would be farther reaching than just the 2012 host city of Indianapolis.

Here are some of the losses, courtesy of Advertising Age:

- $70 million in ticket revenue for the NFL
- $75 million in on-site hospitality.
- $104 million in pizza sales
- $180 million in television advertising revenue (based upon 60 30-second spots)
- $300 million in economic impact to Indianapolis (hotels, restaurants, car rental, livery, etc.)

And, the big one...
- $10.1 billion in retail purchases (i.e., apparel, groceries, electronics, etc.)

Not only is Super Bowl Sunday the second-biggest food consumption day of the year (behind Thanksgiving), it's also the week when retailers sell the most televisions annually.

A year without the Super Bowl? I shudder to think of the possibility.

Social media and pro sports

It's intersting to review the list of professional franchises, across the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL, in order to see how team popularity translates on outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Not surprisingly, the league leaders in areas like franchise value, attendance and licensing revenue are the ones who have the most followers online as well.

Here are a few notable facts, courtesy of the Sports Business Journal.


Surprise, surprise, the Dallas Cowboys have the most Facebook fans--2,573,707 compared to the next-in-line Pittsburgh Steelers with 2,209,866. In fact, those two teams are the only ones with two million plus fans. As for Twitter, the New York Jets lead the way with 134,346 followers, followed by New England with 87,209.

Locally, the Kansas City Chiefs have 408,098 Facebook fans and 30,109 Twitter followers, ranking them 20th overall.


The Lakers have the most Facebook fans, by a wide margin, with 7,633,612 following this storied NBA franchise. L.A. also leads the way with Twitter followers--1,944,384. Not surprisingly, Boston is second on Facebook with 3,949,904 fans. As for Twitter, Orlando has 1,061,001 followers--the next franchise, Boston, has 163,676.


New York's Yankees has 3,548,692 Facebook fans followed by Boston, 2,292,832; and Chicago Cubs, 1,143,409. On Twitter, Philadelphia has 618,503 followers; Yankees, 352,191; and San Francisco, 115,534.

The Kansas City Royals are 26th overall with 197,670 on Facebook and 18,661 on Twitter.


Montreal leads with 641,313 on Facebook and 124,808 on Twitter. After that, it's Chicago, Boston and Pittsburgh in order of total followers across both platforms.

How do the above franchises fare worldwide? Well, the first three are futbol clubs--FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United. Then comes the Lakers followed by Arsenal, Galatasaray, Liverpool and Chelsea--only Los Angeles (NBA), Boston Celtics (NBA) and New York Yankees (MLB) are non-soccer clubs in the top ten internationally.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Great athletic feats

The latest issue of The Sporting News has a list of what the editors feel are the greatest athletic feats ever over the past 125 years.

Not surprisingly, the first two are what you would expect--Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game.

To understand the enormity of DiMaggio's achievement, consider the following:
- The stretch of hits began on May 15 and ultimately ended on July 17 when DiMaggio was "robbed" of a couple of base hits by third baseman Ken Keltner of the Cleveland Indians.
- Not only did DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games but over that stretch he had 13 games with two hits, five with three hits and four with four hits.
- And, perhaps as proof that this was not a fluke, DiMaggio once had a streak in the minor leagues where he hit safely in 61 straight games!

As for Wilt the Stilt, the closest an NBA player has come to the century scoring mark was Kobe Bryant's 81 in 2006. Prior to that, it was David Thompson's 73 in 1978.

Like DiMaggio, Chamberlain's 100 wasn't a one-time prolific output. Only 22 times in NBA history has a player scored 65 or more points in a game and Chamberlain is responsible for 15 of those marks. The other players who have achieved that level are Bryant (twice), Thompson, Elgin Baylor, David Robinson, Michael Jordan and Pete Maravich.

While Joe D's and Wilt's records seem unattainable, so too does the achievement voted third--UCLA's seven consecutive national basketball titles. No school has won more than twice in a row since that streak, which stretched from 1967 to 1973.

Here are the other achievements noted by The Sporting News:

1. DiMaggio's streak
2. Wilt's 100
3. UCLA's seven straight
4. Cy Young's 511 wins
5. Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitters
6. Jerry Rice's 208 touchdowns
7. Wayne Gretzky's 215-point season
8. Pete Rose's 4,256 hits
9. Bill Russell's 11 championships
10. Pete Maravich's 44.2 career points per game

On this last mark, we need to take pause. Pistol Pete played in an era where there was no three-point line. This caused Sam King, who covered LSU for the Baton Rouge State-Times (now defunct), to go back and study play-by-play charts from Maravich's years at the school. King determined that the Pistol averaged 7.2 baskets per game from behind today's arc. That means, if nothing else changed, that Maravich's average would easily have been above 50 per game.

No player since has approached Maravich's output--the closest is Austin Carr, of Notre Dame, who averaged 34.6 points per game during his career.

What current day achievements deserve possible recognition? How about Jimmy Johnson's five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships given that only one other driver in NASCAR history (Cale Yarborough) has won as many as three straight titles? Or, Joe Paterno has won 401 games at Penn State--an impressive stretch which includes 21 season of double-digit victories.

My miss from the above list? It would have to be Cal Ripken's streak of 2,632 straight games played.

Fun debate, huh?