All They Do Is Win

I’ve been remiss these past few months not mentioning how wonderful it’s been to watch the local hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, burn through the rest of the NHL so far. With ten games left in the regular season, they’ve already broken team records for wins and standings points, and may wind up with one of the best regular seasons in NHL history by the time it’s all over with.

The reason I really haven’t been paying attention is that I’m basically a football and baseball guy. I watch baseball season – then when that’s over with, I watch football. When the Super Bowl comes and goes, I watch NASCAR until it’s baseball season again.

I’ll be making an exception for Lightning games as they make their playoff run – because in the world of North American sports, one bad run of games and all that good work in the regular season can go up in smoke quickly. Go Bolts!

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The Knoxville Five

In the surreal world of pro wrestling, a tape has recently surfaced from some 40 years ago. If it had been released as planned – it would have altered the future of this particular form of entertainment, and changed the faces who rose to prominence thereafter.

Back in that era, wrestling had something called territories – which worked sort of like the franchises of the NBA, NFL, baseball, and so forth. It would have been highly unusual, for instance, to see a show involving wrestlers from the Florida circuit in Tampa holding a show in New Orleans, let’s say. And much like these organized sports – the individual players could move from team to team – or territory to territory. If you were a journeyman wrestler who knew how to draw (make money), you could make a decent living in 1979 working these various territories even if you were the 100th best at it. No such opportunities exist today such as these, because Vince McMahon Jr. would come along in 1984 or so and put the territory system out of business, along with the boom of cable television.

(EDIT, 3/14/2019: Oddly enough, a few hours after I typed about talent from one territory appearing in another circuit being a rare occurrence, there’s some proof that the Florida circuit sent talent to a card in the San Francisco circuit – complete with an extended commercial to promote the matches with interviews narrated by Gordon Solie.)

Two ownership groups were competing for the territory based out of Knoxville, Tennessee that ran basically in the Appalachian mountains and thereabouts. One group was headed by Ron Fuller (a family that had been in the business for a few generations) which was called Southeastern Championship Wrestling. The upstart group was called All-Star Championship Wrestling, and had some prominent names of the business at the time. Fuller’s group had the sanctioning of the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), which was the governing body that controlled most of the business in the era, using a centralized set of champions – who would go from territory to territory to defend their belts, only changing hands when NWA executives gave permission to do so.

I should note the five man shown in this clip, who are: Robert “Bob” Roop, Lawrence Simon (Boris Malenko), Ronald “Ron” Wright, Roger Barnes (Ronnie Garvin), and Bob Orton Jr.

It wound up being one of the rare occasions when an non-NWA entity wound up winning a territorial war – although it made wrestling unviable in that region of the country thereafter. I’d have to assume the tape was never released because it must have been an absolute last-ditch plan.

Harper’s Millions

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On Thursday past, former Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who had become a free agent in the offseason (a player who leaves his team and goes to the team the respective player chooses to join), signed with Philadelphia’s Phillies. He signed a $330,000,000 deal that covers the next 13 seasons.

That struck me as quite a gamble for a player who turns 27 in October who has a bit of an injury history with his knees. It also wasn’t surprising to me that another “big city” team wound up getting Harper’s services – with Philadelphia being the fourth largest media market in the United States. The move once again highlights the continuous inequity between the clubs in the larger markets as compared to their counterparts – with 14 of the 30 clubs residing in the top ten media markets in the country.

How do you fix the system? It’s been broken so long, I don’t know if it can be fixed. One of the things I have tried in my Out Of The Park Baseball simulations is a profit-sharing system. Instead of luxury taxes – have a system where all of the profits (or losses) of the 30 teams are pooled and equally divided. That would smooth things out eventually after a few seasons, I suppose – but the problem in that scenario is the short team, there will still be a lot of inequity that would exist between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, for example – and then, the inequity would totally reverse itself. The Rays, in my example, would have more equity than the Yankees for a few seasons after the switch.

So no, I don’t know how you “fix” baseball to make it fair for every team – but it is something the MLB “poobahs” should probably look at.

The Shiny New Toy

I remember sitting down to watch NBC on February 3, 2001, to watch this new thing called the XFL, Vince McMahon, who I had known for being the voice of WWF (later the WWE) wrestling, had some ideas on how to make professional football greater, teaming up with TV guru Dick Ebersol.

A little over eighteen years later, it’s another Saturday night of wonder and mysteries abound. This time, another new thing called the AAF is getting started – with seemingly boundless comparisons between this league and the 2001 XFL venture. By the way, a new XFL gets started next year – so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that two spring pro football leagues could wind up going head to head if the AAF survives the first year of its existence. Charlie Ebersol, Dick’s son, runs the league – and the NFL and CFL provide the players that need development.

Much like the 2001 XFL, there are innovative rules. Kicking will only be done via punts and field goals – extra points can only be two-point conversions, and there will be no kickoffs. In lieu of an onside kick, the kicking team scrimmages from their own 28-yard line and has one play to achieve 12 yards, a de facto 4th and 12 situation.

Overtime will be limited to one possession for each team in the original “Kansas tiebreaker” format some state high school governing bodies have, such as Florida. Each team gets the ball from ten yards out – and if the game remains tied, the game goes into the books as a tie game, though I imagine they’d play recurring overtimes in a playoff game where a winner was needed.

Eight teams play in the league in two four-team divisions over ten games, with four teams proceeding to the playoffs – exactly the format the 2001 XFL had.

I hope the league does well, though I wonder once baseball starts up again in late March if it will hold my interest. There’s a market for spring football – but I can’t envision both the AAF and the 2020 XFL going one simultaneously.

Super After Thoughts

Well, another Super Bowl game is in the can – and it was another unique albeit not all that artistic of an affair. The Patriots defeated the Rams 13-3 to claim a sixth NFL championship for Tom Brady to close out the 2010’s decade of Super Bowls.

It’s a shame that a lot of fans don’t appreciate Brady for what he’s done – and I wonder if there will ever be a quarterback who plays in the NFL to do what he has. I get why people hate him, for sure – but I was telling friends when the game ended that I thought the Patriots and what they’ve done the past two decades stands alone as one of the great achievements in American sports.

The Yankees won five straight titles from 1949 to 1953 – but back in a time before MLB had a draft that could equally distribute prospects out to every team, which they didn’t have until 1965. The Celtics won a string of NBA championships in the 1960’s – but there were only a few NBA teams most of that time. UCLA won the men’s college basketball title for a slew of years, back when only conference champions played in the NCAA tournament most of that stretch. Put any of those teams in the social media era of today, and yeah – I could get why they would hate on them.

Tom Brady deserves his due, and no matter what he does the rest of the way in his career, he’s the most renowned championship winning QB of all time. Maybe there’s someone out there right now who can win seven Super Bowls in the future, and maybe there isn’t. Until then, Brady deserves the mantle.

Rammed Patriots

We now know who’s playing in this year’s Superbowl – the New England Patriots, who we have seen a lot of these past two decades, and the Los Angeles Rams.

The last time these two teams met in the Big Game – the Rams emanated from St. Louis and were heavy favorites to knock off the upstart Patriots. That didn’t go so well for the Rams, as a considerably younger Tom Brady took the Pats down the field to set up a Super Bowl-winning field goal.

The Patriots are the third team to go to three straight (or more) Super Bowls in the history of the game – and could become the first team to win a Super Bowl, lose a Super Bowl, and then win it back in three successive years. I guess that would be pulling a Grover Cleveland, right?

I’m sure with two major media markets in play for the big game, interest in the Super Bowl in Atlanta will be rather high. With both semifinal games going to overtime, something that’s never occurred in NFL playoff history on the same day – they certainly left football fans across the world wanting more.

My early thinking is that the Rams would win a close game – hell, remember when Super Bowls were almost always blowouts?