Thanks Gronk!

Rob Gronkowski, the great Patriot tight end, has retired from football at age 29.  Over at NFL they are debating if he is the tight end GOAT.  We are convinced that he should be elected to football Hall of Fame on the first ballot and that is enough for us.

He might be the GOAT athlete for financial awareness.  He has invested all of his contract earnings while living off endorsements and such.  Here is what Money has to say comparing his financial acumen to others:

In other words, Rob Gronkowski is sitting on a fortune worth tens of millions of dollars, and his wealth is growing all the time. This is particularly exceptional for someone in the NFL, where careers tend to last only a few years — and bankruptcies are notoriously common among retired players.


A Perfect Ten

So it was the turn of the century, the last one, and we were reflecting that the Red Sox and the Patriots were zero for at least 120.  You can decide if the century turned on 12/31/99 or the next year.  We love our teams but they had only brought us heartbreak for 50 years in one case and 40 in the other as the Pats played their first game on September 9, 1960.

So, in case you were off-planet. the Patriots just won their sixth Super Bowl this century.  Just over three months ago the Red Sox won their fourth World Series this century (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018).  It was especially nice to beat a big market, LA, in both cases.  After 1918, neither team won any championships in the 20th century.  As a longtime fan it is amazing to go from, at best, once a decade heartbreak to domination with ten championships in the 21st century.  The children, their cousins, grandchildren and the grandnieces and grandnephews have a very odd view of the world from our perspective.  We just enjoy it because we know it will end sometime.  We hope it isn’t soon.

Bad Football

There were lots of good games over the weekend but we are drawn to bad outcomes.  A friend of a friend mention being subjected to the Dolphins-Jets game so we checked it out.  The summary of NFL drive summary goes like this:

  • 15 punts
  • Five field goal attempts (four made)
  • Four interceptions.

Thats it.  We suppose there were end of the half events but those weren’t listed.  The longest drive was 51 yards.  Total offense for both teams combined was 450 yards.  Each of the Rams and the Saints had more yard than that in their shootout. The only touchdown was scored by the Dolphins defense on an interception.  Our vote for Dolphins MVP would be Matt Haack, the punter, who had nine punts for a 44.7 yard average and put seven inside the twenty.

At least the Dolphins got to win ugly.  Jets and Jets fans weren’t that lucky.

Stress Test

Yesterday’s Patriot and Red Sox games were a real stress test.  We think we are still alive so we passed.  In one evening the Pats gave up 31 second half points and they able to win with a field goal on the last play of the game.  The Red Sox, in a close to must win game, gave up a run in the ninth and the last out was caught on the warning track.  Phew!  It was almost too much for one night.

For most of our lives the Red Sox and Patriots rarely played meaningful games and on those rare occasions usually managed to lose them, often in memorable ways.  For awhile the Pats had the worst loss in the AFL Championship and the Super Bowl.  Nope, we are not going to link to Bill Buckner.  It is better to have stress on a regular basis if you have championships in the bank.

Waiting For Joy Is Worth It

Michael Rand is a sports writer in Minneapolis.  He is also a life-long Minnesota Vikings fan.  As it happens, his team is just a year younger than our team but because Michael just passed forty he is in a similar situation to us a couple of decades ago.  He writes about the Viking loss to the Eagles:

After the sting of Sunday wears off and the Super Bowl has come and gone, maybe we can appreciate this 2017 Vikings season for what it was: a good team that overachieved and gave us one amazing playoff finish before ending with one huge disappointment.

Maybe sometime in this lifetime the story will end differently.

We could have written much the same thing in the nineties.  We even matched up with him on wife and two kids.  Then came Bill in January 2000.  Now all the folks that had faux pity for us then have real envy now.

Michael is ahead of where we were twenty years ago because the Twins won a couple of World Series early in his life.  We were zero for ninety combining baseball and football.  Stick with your teams Michael and it will make it much more sweet when the ultimate success comes.  If you are a fan then believing is the only choice.


Monday Evening Coaching

We thought at the time Bill O’Brien of the Texans made a really bad coaching decision Sunday afternoon.  It certainly turned out to be true.  The Texans were leading the favored Rams 7 -6 when a Rams interception gave then the ball on their own 25 with a minute and 35 seconds to play.  The Texans stuffed Todd Gurley for a yard loss and everybody was getting up slowly.  It looked like the half was over until Bill came running down the sideline to call his second time out.  We said no-no-no but he didn’t hear us.

This was a really bad choice for two reasons.  First, the good outcome, given that you have only two timeouts left, was that the Texans get the ball back on their own 40 with 30 seconds left.  Their offense had not been scintillating in the first half and was unlikely to be with Tom Savage as QB.   They ended with 283 yards for the game.  Second, the Rams are, in 2017, offensively potent.  Bill was playing with fire.  He got burnt as the Rams made a 50 yard field goal to take the lead and the momentum into halftime.  The Rams came out in the second half and blew away the Texans with 21 points in the third quarter.

It is entirely possible that the Texans were doomed in the second half in any case.  Bill was still wrong to call the time out.  If you had all three time outs, a less than elite offense with the ball, and an elite offense to give it to then you might try to justify the call.  The Texans were zero for three and paid the price.

Envy And Altruism

Kevin Williamson has a fun article on the joy of stardom and the joy many see when stars like Tiger Woods and Allen Iverson fall from grace.  As a Patriot fan we would add Aaron Hernandez as the one who fell the lowest because just couldn’t stop killing people.  Kevin concludes:

And that may be why we love the ritual public denunciation of fallen idols. If we convince ourselves that they are monsters and moral outliers, then we do not have to face the much more terrifying possibility that they are schmucks like us — and that we are schmucks like them.

We have a different take on it.  We do agree that stars are often schmucks like us.  Failure to prepare for retirement hits all classes of folks.  Any individual’s expertise is limited to a very small area.  Being a great retirement planner is unlikely to make you a great basketball player and vice versa.  On the positive side, the failure of retirement planning provides us with a steady stream of live classic rock.  Yet we think our joy in failure of these stars is more about envy.  And envy connects to politics as the left largely practices the politics of envy although the right is not envy free.  Anytime you hear about press bias from the right there is an element of envy in it.  Envy sells.  We admit to envy about our opponents ability to kill the ball in handball.  We hope they envy some part of our game.

Sidebar: The local lawn care company sells envy too.  The truck says, in big, bright, and bold letters: Kick your neighbor’s … grass.  We understand and expect it is well received.  End Sidebar

First, let’s talk about altruism.  Kevin writes about Allen:

Some guardian angel at Reebok saved him from the very worst of it, persuading him to take a modest $800,000-a-year stipend and leave $32 million in a trust fund that he cannot access until he is 55 years old. So he just has to eke out a living on the better part of a million bucks per annum until he gets paid for real.

Without being privy to the transaction we are pretty sure that Allen wanted the money up front.  We also highly doubt that Allen outfoxed the Reebok folks in determining the discount rate for the annuity.  In fact, it looks like he is getting an unimpressive 2.5% ($800,000/$32,000,000) on his investment.  We also think it is safe to say that Allen is way better off with an assured return and not being able touch the trust fund.  So some folks, like the guy at Reebok, do good.

But most of have a combined awe and envy of folks like Tiger, Allen, Aaron and many others.  We saw Jason Day hit a 260 yard, uphill, three wood absolutely on the pin when he won the PGA.  It was awe inspiring and he didn’t look like he swung hard.  We have a strange combination of envy and worship of these amazing beings that when they fail many of us feel good about ourselves.  As we said previously, (you can look it up) the only time Jordan Speith understood our golf game was when he hit the second shot (third including the penalty) at the 12th at The Masters and had the passing hope that he had hit so bad that it wouldn’t make it to the water.  We have had that joy he missed.

So we envy their talent as much as we love it.  When they fail somehow we succeed and that’s why the stories of abuse and failure are so popular.  We enjoy their epic accomplishment and we might enjoy their epic failures even more.  It works in politics, advertising, and the media.  It doesn’t mean that everyone is consumed with envy as Reebok guy showed but betting against envy is like betting against the market.  It doesn’t work very often.


Economic Illiteracy

Jonathan Tobin, at NRO, is reminding us of the economic facts:

Raiders owner Mark Davis and his fellow NFL franchise holders will make a fortune out of a stadium whose design will be geared toward generating increased income from luxury boxes, restaurants, and other bells and whistles that the team’s current home lacks. Taxpayers pay the bill for the stadiums, while almost all the benefits go to private interests. This is a Robin Hood in reverse system that amounts to nothing less than socialism for sports team owners.

Yup, common sense and research show that the prices that tax payers pay to attract professional sports franchises are not worth it.  The only way to get a significant benefit is to narrow the analysis down to tiny area.  Yes, on the block they built the stadium there was a positive economic impact.  Otherwise it is just tradeoffs like more football and less theatre or dinners next to the stadium rather than elsewhere.  We are more interested in why this continues to happen again and again when we know the outcome.

Sidebar: Social Security and Medicare.  End Sidebar.

Economic illiteracy is surely part of it but only part of it.  Jonathan says:

One can trace the political advantages of governments providing their people with bread and circuses back to ancient Rome. The appeal of team sports in our own day is also undeniable. No mayor or governor wants to be remembered as the person who “lost” a beloved team the way New York City let Major League Baseball’s Giants and Dodgers depart for the West Coast in 1957, leaving behind legions of disillusioned fans. By contrast, politicians who agree to even the most egregious deals in which teams are provided new stadiums virtually free of charge (as, for example, was the case in Pennsylvania when the state agreed to finance two new parks for baseball and football in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at the start of the new century) that will make them incomparably richer are lionized even if the net impact on taxpayers is overwhelmingly negative.

We agree in part but think it is a bit more subtle.  The folks paying the taxes in cities know they are getting taken for a ride any number of times and get very little in return.  Most big city services are high cost and low quality.  The folks paying the bill figure why not waste a billion $ on me rather than some other group.  It is hard to stop other problems but it is easier to add one.  With any luck it might be a single $billion rather than $billion a year.


Good Sporting Fortune

When you have been involved in sports as a player and fan as long as us you know about random shocks to the system.  Today Arsenal overcame a red card to Granit Xhaka in the 65th minute.

Sidebar: A red card means you play a player short for the rest of the match.  In this case Arsenal was a player sort for over 25 minutes.  End Sidebar.

Arsenal scored on a 98th minute penalty to escape Burnley at home 2-1.  An expected win became a miracle escape.  They now sit second in the table.

On this side of the pond, the Patriots benefitted from an injury to Le’Veon Bell and defeated the Steelers convincingly, 36-17.  As sports fans, we know that there is both skill and randomness involved in these outcomes.  It brings you joy when the outcomes favor your teams.  Now we try to catch Chelsea and beat the Falcons.  Neither is assured but the latter is more likely but we know from experience that anything can happen.


Relegation In The NFL

We know relegation isn’t feasible in the NFL because there are no replacement teams and no place to put the relegated teams.  Still it would increase fan interest for next week.

Sidebar: The three worst teams in the NFL all won today.  The Browns, 49ers, and Jaguars had won three of 42 games before today.  Today they won three of three.  End Sidebar

The first question is how many teams would be relegated.  Soccer leagues relegate three of 20.  The NFL has 32 teams so four or five is a reasonable number. The Gloves-in-law picked four so we will go with that. Picking some larger number would make different games crucial.  This year four works well.  Four for the current year would mean that the Browns and 49ers are already gone and the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, and Rams are on the bubble.  Now four ugly games next week: Jaguars v. Colts, Bears v. Vikings, Bills v. Jets, and Cardinals v. Rams become epic battles for survival.  The four games are particularly ugly without relegation because none of the eight teams can possibly go to the playoffs.  Relegation would make both ends of the NFL standings exciting at the end of the year.  It will take years but let’s start working on it.