Football

Maybe I and many others are just biased because of how annoying he was on Monday Night Football on ESPN for so long. We can be a vindictive lot. Still, there really is only one organization that Jon Gruden could have gotten another job for, and that’s one as equally fraudulent as he is. Step up and be counted, Oakland/Vegas Raiders. It truly is a match made in heaven. But then, no one likes cashing in on nostalgia quite like the Raiders, who haven’t won a playoff game in 16 years.

It was that long ago when Gruden made a name for himself, mostly because he scowled on the sidelines, which he most certainly didn’t practice in a mirror in his office every day, that football commentators mistook for CARING SO DAMN MUCH. Sure, he got a label as a quarterback whisperer as he guided Rich Gannon to a 1st-team All-Pro season, which is a harrowing sentence to write. Somehow people forgot that Raiders team then completely screamed at its shoes in AFC Championship game at home to a Ravens team that didn’t have an offense.

Yeah, Gruden’s Raiders got screwed in the tuck-rule game the following season. It certainly broke the whole organization.

Oh right, Gruden won a Super Bowl. When he was hand-delivered to an already-made team with a Hall of Famer at every level on defense. Somehow, Al Davis’s kid didn’t seem to notice that the Buccaneers never won a playoff game with Gruden after that. And here are the QBs he “whispered” to “greatness”: Brad Johnson’s decline, Brian Griese, Chris Simms (whom he had to have, remember), Bruce Gradkowski, and Jeff Garcia. Real murderer’s row there.

But none of this matters to Mark Davis. All that matters is sizzle, even if it’s own feet into the pavement outside the Vegas Strip where his palace to excess and stupidity grows daily. He desperately wanted to move to LA to be a name. That didn’t work. So now it’ll be Vegas, where a lawsuit from a cocktail waitress at The Palms almost certainly awaits.

And that’s really all the Raiders have been, trading on a name made long ago that barely anyone can remember. Even the dude with skulls on his shoulder pads (who’s a grandfather now) is losing feeling in his limbs. They’re not rebelling against anything anymore, other than competence and success. They don’t stand apart from any other team. They don’t even pick fights with the NFL, as that seems to be the Patriots job, and they also win all the time. It must burn that the Pats stole the Raiders’ rep and they didn’t even bother to notice.

So here are the Raiders, squeaking along in a stadium no one wants them and they don’t want to be at with Gruden claiming he’s going to turn Derek Carr into something other than a background-filler. All he had to do was clear out perhaps the most gifted defensive player in the game, much to our delight. And it’ll be Khalil Mack who calmly lays the head of Carr at Gruden’s feet this Sunday to make his point.

But hey, Davis got his headlines, or headline. Gruden got to cash in and show everyone how smart he thinks he is while posturing for sideline cameras. In that sense, everyone wins. Except the Raiders very often.

 

Everything Else

There are a lot of annoying things about the Vegas Golden Knights. As our colleague Slak pointed out on a podcast, the only league that has expansion teams at the top of the standings is MLS and that league is a joke. So that’s top. The Twitter feed, the coverage, wherever you want to start.

But there can’t be a bigger indictment of hockey players than the fact that the Knights have the best home record in the league. Yes, they’ve been a surprise. They should not have been this surprise. And that’s because NHL players can’t be asked to act like a fucking professional for one goddamn night.

It’s like hockey players have never heard of Las Vegas before. They know they can go there in the offseason or on bye weeks or All Star breaks, right? Or do they not know that New York, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Miami are also great places to go out? There’s nothing in Vegas you can’t do in NYC. And don’t say gambling, because if you’ve never been in a back alley dice game in Queens then you haven’t been to New  York.

Like seriously, you have a game to play. Vegas has tons of great restaurants. Have a nice dinner, and then go out after the game. Scrap your travel until the next day. It’s not hard.

Maybe I don’t understand what it’s like to be young, rich, and good looking (I was never any of these). Maybe all of the temptations of Sin City, some of which are just out of reach for the plebes like us, are just too alluring. Maybe you just can’t say no. Maybe this will be a problem for any football teams that arrive there soon enough when the Raiders move. Then again, football coaches would never allow that shit and would probably keep their teams out in the desert until an hour before kickoff.

And the Hawks had done this before. It was always a stop on the Circus trip between legs, and yet they always seemed to have a good record on the Circus Trip. Because they didn’t have to play. I don’t think it’s asking much to treat it like a business trip. Anyone who’s done the convention thing in Vegas knows you save the good stuff until the end otherwise you end up blowing millions of the company’s money and you now have a business-hooker.

But getting hockey players to act over the age of 12 has always been a challenge.

 

Game #57 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Wanted to get to this for a couple days. One of the bigger items of news this week was that as soon as the city of Seattle reached a MOU about the redoing of Key Arena into something more modern–the second time they’ll have done this–the NHL couldn’t wait to jump in and basically say, “Draw me like one of your French girls.” This is hardly a surprise. The league has lusted after Seattle like a teenage boy with a Brazzers password for years, all the way back to when Darryl Katz and Wayne Gretzky used a Seahawks game to get Edmonton to cave on a new arena.

And in a vacuum, the NHL should obviously want Seattle. It’s a rabid sports market, and the biggest that the NHL is currently not in. It would even out the conferences, and there’s already a natural rival with the Canucks and probably another one with San Jose, as the Bay Area and Seattle continue to fight because they’re basically the same place just one has more rain.

And yet, I can’t but help and come back to this Deadspin article from a while back about the MLS. And I wonder if the NHL isn’t basically doing the same thing.

Beyond the above reasons, the real reason we know the NHL is hot on expansion is it’s free money. $650 million they don’t have to share with the players, or a cool $20.9 million per team. The players’ union doesn’t mind so much as it’s another 23 jobs that open up for it. And neither side really cares that they barely had the talent to cover another team this year, which might be a big reason scoring is up so far this season. They don’t care. I suppose the hope is that a big, shining market like Seattle will also fill the building for at least a while, juice the cap a bit, maybe even help with TV ratings in the locale… at least until the NBA shows up.

But you can’t help and contrast that with the feelings of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who I don’t think is exactly a genius but at least better than the last mope to hold the job, when asked about baseball expanding. He said they would love to, but until they stabilize places like Tampa Bay and Oakland, what would be the point?

The difference between the two leagues is obviously clear. MLB is awash in money (for now) and the NHL at least still claims that basically everyone bar the Leafs and Canadiens lose money. The NHL needs the expansion money badly, whereas MLB doesn’t have to take the risk, if there is any real risk.

And there must be some risk if baseball isn’t lusting after it like hockey. Which makes one wonder if the NHL isn’t really using the $500 million they already got from Vegas and $650 they will get from Seattle to paper over cracks (or larger) that they already have.

And the NHL has basketcase franchises. Florida is averaging 12K fans per game. The Yotes aren’t much better. The Islanders don’t have a home. And while the recent sale of Carolina is making everyone claim they’re not going anywhere, how long before a new owner isn’t exactly thrilled about the 11,000 per game they draw? Calgary is in a dumbass arena dispute, though they could easily just build their own. Don’t tell me these teams are making money or close to it, at least aside from the Flames.

Again, the NHL is still a league that drives most of its income from ticket sales. At some point all these teams drawing no one are going to simply bottom out, and they can’t all move to Quebec. And what happens when the NBA returns to Seattle, which it assuredly will? It will immediately dwarf interest in the NHL, because if you’ve ever met anyone from Seattle you know exactly what the Sonics meant to them and it’s basically all they want. Well, that and Felix Hernandez to be five years younger forever.

Of course, a profitable team isn’t always the end goal here. Franchise value is, and like every sport the NHL is fine there. The Hawks were just valued at $1 billion for example, and even the Canes are valued on either side of half that. Seeing as how Karmanos bought the Whalers for $47.5 million and sold just about half of them for $230 million or so 20 years later or so, that’s a pretty tidy ROI.

Still, one can’t help but wonder where this bubble bursts. For MLS, the hope has to be that their rabid expansion that papers over their losses can stop right about the time their popularity takes off, which seems ambitious to say the least but they have a lot more places they can go. I don’t know where the NHL’s would be.

Because you’d have to guess that with the way things are going, the NHL’s next TV deal isn’t going to be as profitable as this one, given cord-cutters and all that. When even the NFL can count on a smaller TV deal, everyone else should too. Funny how the Seattle team is plotted to come on line in the last year of this TV deal with NBC, no? And I wouldn’t count on the throbbing brains of the NH to come up with something creative to make up the difference. Perhaps this is why you’re seeing a return to international, regular season games. The NHL has to tap everything it can.

So where’s the influx of cash when you’ve expanded everywhere you can? Do franchise values keep rising when the TV deal shrinks and you have no other ways around it? What does it look like when the floor drops out from underneath?

I’m guessing the NHL doesn’t have answers to any of these questions, and thus you get already announcing expansion to Seattle.

Everything Else

By now you’ve seen the report from Tony Gallagher in The Province about NHL expansion to Vegas being “a done deal” and that by 2017 Seattle, Quebec, and a second Toronto team will have joined the league.

Let’s pull this rig over to the soft shoulder. As Wyshynski pointed out on Puck Daddy (and everything he writes from now on I’m calling “Mooney avoidance”), one of the reasons this is getting such play is it’s the end of August. We couldn’t be farther from the free agent signing extravaganza, and training camp is still a blip on the ever stretching horizon. We need something to talk about… or at least something that isn’t Baez or Soler-related (sorry Sox fans, I just can’t contain it).