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Mandel’s Musings: NFL Is In Big Trouble As Al Sharpton Enters the Fray. Billions of Dollars At Stake for the League and its Owners

by Scott Mandel

Al Sharpton is getting involved with Brian Flores’ NFL lawsuit. The NFL should be afraid, very afraid.

Especially the owners.

Al Sharpton - Personal Life, Age & Facts - Biography
Al Sharpton will be assisting Brian Flores in his case against the NFL

Sharpton and other top civil rights leaders have requested a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action suit against the league alleging racial discrimination.

“In light of the recent lawsuit filed by Brian Flores, it has brought this attention back to the forefront of our community, and it is important that you have an immediate open dialogue with Civil Rights leadership,” the letter read. “We are being asked to do everything within our power, including direct action at next week’s Super Bowl, as well as appealing to local municipalities that underwrite and give special considerations to stadiums to pressure the NFL and its owners to get more serious about enforcing the ruling law.”

Also, if it can be proven Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, indeed encouraged Flores, his head coach to “tank” the season to gain a higher draft pick for the Dolphins by offering Flores $100,000 in cold hard cash for each loss they suffer, Ross will be removed from the sport.

I’m just not sure how Brian Flores can prove all of these accusations or racism in the NFL’s hiring practices and tanking a season. Evidently, there’s nothing in writing.

The latest news today comes after Ross had more than 24 hours to think about it, Ross issued a fiery response to the claims made against him by Flores.

“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding,” Ross wrote. “I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory.

“We understand that there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”

Flores was fired in January after three seasons, the last two of which produced winning records. He claims that the team conducted a smear campaign in media and in league circles after his dismissal in an effort to paint him as “an angry Black man.”

The NFL. The “Not For Long” league, but, only if you get caught. Maybe the league should be re-named, DGCL. The Don’t Get Caught League.

Brady Belongs in a Different Hall of Fame, A New HOF For Only the Mount Olympus of Sports

By Scott Mandel

I posted this several hours ago, related to the subject of Halls of Fame:

If one truly believes in the importance of idolization of athletes by building permanent fixtures in big buildings in cities no one would otherwise visit, like Akron, Cooperstown, and Springfield, Massachusetts (unless your cousins live there), there should be a “real” HOF for the gods and goddesses of all sports, under one roof.

Visit the football floor, where only Tom Brady, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Deacon Jones, Jim Brown, and O.J. Simpson (morality has no role in this HOF) and a handful of others are honored. No statistical compilers allowed, because they aren’t gods.

Go upstairs to the basketball department, where Michael Jordan and LeBron James, along with Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robertson will lead a small group of gods of hoops.

Let’s continue our journey to the upper floor where Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, and Pete Rose (remember, we don’t care about a lack of moral terpitude) will lead a small group of baseball players. You won’t be able to find Bill Mazeroski, Ozzie Smith, or Barry Larkin in this wing. After all, we’re talking gods, not .260 hitters with good gloves.

The lower floors will include the gods and goddesses of golf, tennis, hockey, NCAA men’s and women’s sports, and, the WBL, as soon as that catches up as a real professional league. Boxing will get half a wing, as a dying sport. But only because some of its champions, like Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and even poor Max Schmeling did tons of social/political good outside of the barbaric nature of boxing. MMA will not have a wing, since it’s a terrible travesty of an event and does no discernible good.

The Museum of Natural History, under one edifice, can show us cromagnons, dinosaurs, and space exploration, under the aegis of science and societal development. The Louvre contains art from different genres and centuries. There’s no reason why there can’t be a one-stop shop of greatness in all things sports, which is an art form of its own.

Welcome to the International Sports Hall of Elites. The only question is, where do we get an american oligarch to pay for it and build it?

Mike White’s College Coach Speaks Out on his Former Western Kentucky Signal Caller

By SCOTT MANDEL

Mike White, in his last two years at Western Kentucky, threw 63 touchdown passes and only 15 interceptions. 8,540 yards passing, completing 67% of his 966 passes thrown.

In other words, this guy dominated in his level of competition in CUSA, where W. Kentucky plays.

His college head coach, Mike Sanford, Jr., who is now at the University of Minnesota, but also worked with Andrew Luck at Stanford and as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, said this about Mike White:

“It didn’t shock me one bit,” said Sanford. Though he had been a Stanford assistant during star QB Andrew Luck’s last season, Sanford said he told NFL scouts and coaches the following:

“Mike White is the best pure thrower of the football that I’ve ever been around.”

If you coached Andrew Luck, one of the greatest passers in college football history, the above statement is more than a mouthful. In Sanford’s opinion, Mike White is a better pure passer than Andrew Luck.

Hello???

This kid may turn out to be a flash in the pan, but, the people who coached him and played against him don’t think so. They think he’s the real deal.

His next opportunity is in three days, on the nationally-televised Thursday night football game. The phenomenon of Mike White will be on full display. It says here, this kid will go out, have a great time, and play very well. Then, his third star will happen while Jets #1 draft pick, Zach Wilson, stays on the sideline.

Mandel’s Musings: Kevin Durant Can Enter Elite Territory If He Leads Nets to Series Win Over Bucks

by Scott Mandel

The mountain of elites.

It’s exclusive real estate in the NBA. You cannot just buy land on it, you have to earn it.

Tomorrow night, when the Brooklyn Nets take the floor in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, this will either turn Kevin Durant into a landowner in the rarified air of the mountain or, his legacy will remain, just another case of a great player who couldn’t push his injured or undermanned team across the finish line, like LeBron or Jordan or Bill Russell did.

If Durant somehow wins this semi-final series by carrying the supporting players on the Nets on his back to the next round without the injured James Harden and Kyrie Irving, it will be nothing short of miraculous. But for elite performers in sports, miracles are supposed to happen.

A series win vs. the Bucks and Durant can begin to pour the foundation on his piece of real estate, next to LeBron and Jordan and Russell. An NBA championship and he can permanently move into his “place” on the mountain of elites.

Kevin Durant puts on historic performance to lead Nets past Bucks in Game  5, 114-108 - NetsDaily
Nets coach Steve Nash hugs Durant after KD’s historic night in Brooklyn

Mets’ Cespedes Opts Out from the Baseball Season

By Scott Mandel – sportsreporters.com

Cespedes decided to end his season with the Mets after nine games in 2020

Yoenis Cespedes has decided to opt out of the 2020 MLB season. The news comes hours after the Mets released a statement they were unable to get in contact with him after he failed to show up for the Sunday afternoon game in Atlanta.

“It’s disappointing,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “This is a disappointing end at least to his four-year agreement with the Mets.”

 Van Wagenen maintained the team had no knowledge of Cespedes’ plan to opt out before sending their statement out before game time on Sunday. The Mets G.M. also did not know whether the slugger was safe and healthy before releasing an initial statement. He explained his statement was made in an effort to be transparent and keep the public informed, “in real time,” the GM said later.

“As of game time, Yoenis Céspedes has not reported to the ballpark today,” Van Wagenen’s statement read. “He did not reach out to management with any explanation for his absence. Our attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.”

The announcement of the lineup was also delayed, but when Rojas was asked directly if the team was waiting on any players to arrive, the manager chalked it up to the quick turnaround of Saturday night’s game to Sunday afternoon’s early arrival.

”Nothing in particular,” Rojas said on the delay of the lineup announcement. “We’re just arriving from the night-day game.”

Cespedes is in the final year of his contract with the Mets, which was restructured in January following his 2019 accident with a wild boar. He rehabbed from multiple surgeries on his heels and ankle and returned to play Opening Day in his first-big league game since July 2018.

The slugger is batting .161 (5-for-31) with two home runs, four RBI, two walks, three runs scored and 15 strikeouts from the designated-hitter spot across the first nine games of the season.

One suspects there is more to this story than meets the immediate eye. Stay tuned.

NBA Fundamentals, Where Art Thou? Stat Lines Are Wacked

By Scott Mandel

Oy. The NBA. Where art thou gone? Yesteryear was so much more satisfying to us baby boomers.

Now, we are getting ridiculous stat lines in the wide open game the NBA has turned into.

Last night, Giannis Antetakoumpo compiled 40 points and 20 rebounds, from his forward position. I’m guessing not one of those rebounds were gathered through the physical act of boxing out or fundamental positioning because of the way the pro game has changed, with emphasis on the long jump shot from beyond the three-point line.

Today’s game is dominated by the three-point shot, in the way it spaces out players and opens up the lane for unobstructed drives for layups. The blocked shot or clogged lane is a thing of the past. This season, Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets average 55 three point attempts per game. The lowest per game attempts of threes in the league is 27, by the Indiana Pacers. That represents anywhere from 35 to 60% of all shots coming from beyond the three-point stripe.

As soon as offensive teams throw up those 3s, nobody is crashing the offensive boards, anymore. The three goes up and all five guys head down court to play “defense” in case of the inevitable long rebound a missed 25-footer often produces. They don’t want to give up easy fast break buckets on those long rebounds, which create 2 on 1 breaks.

So, the game has turned into a run and gun, playground-style in which it is not unusual to see an offensive player come down the court ahead of his teammates, shooting a three without anyone around him to rebound a miss. These guys are going 1 on 3 and still shooting it from 25 feet.

Coaches used to be able to reign-in undisciplined players with bench time or, allowing team veterans to pull the kids aside and tell them they are messing with their all-important playoff bonus money. Those days are over, as rookie #1 draft choices are making several million dollars per year, guaranteed for at least three years. Playoff money? That’s used for tips.

To this aging eye, there are too many 19 and 20 year olds who don’t have a fundamental basketball bone in their body. It’s become very difficult to watch if you remember the sport as an exercise in strategy, fundamentals, hard-nosed defense, and driven by great coaches.

Today’s NBA players are the most graceful and powerful athletes on the planet. It’s always been like watching the ballet, except the dancers wear short shorts and bounce a ball. Today, it is, in reality, just a ballet. Less contact, less strategy and structure to the “dance,” and, less defense.

The good news? The better teams in the league play the type of fundamental basketball most of us want to see when the playoffs begin. And the teams that go furthest in the post-season play the best fundamental style of the sport, while leaning on one or two superstars on their roster to rise above everybody else. That part has not changed.

Major League Baseball Pondering Changes in Postseason Format

By Scott Mandel

Major League Baseball is mulling significant changes to its postseason, including increasing the number of teams from 10 to 14 and adding a reality-TV-type format to determine which teams play each other in an expanded wild-card round, sources told ESPN.

MLB is considering a move in which each league would have three division winners and four wild-card teams make the postseason, sources said. The best team in the league would receive a bye into the division series, while the two remaining division winners and the wild-card team with the best record of the four would each host all games of a best-of-three series of the opening round.

The potential changes were first reported by the New York Post.

Once the teams clinch, and the regular season ends, the plan gets congested:

  • The division winner with the second-best record would select its wild-card opponent from the three wild-card winners with the worst records of the four.
  • The team with the worst record of the three division winners would pick its opponent from the remaining two wild-card teams.
  • The final matchup would pit the wild-card winner with the best record against the wild-card team not chosen.

All of the selections, sources said, would be unveiled live on television the Sunday night of the final regular-season games.

The winners of the wild-card series would advance to the divisional round. Currently, two teams from each league play a winner-take-all wild-card game, and the winner faces the team with the league’s best record.

The appeal of the changes, according to the Post, is twofold. It potentially would increase fan interest, and could benefit MLB via richer television rights package.

Deals with ESPN and Turner both expire after the 2021 season.

Bobby Knight, Hall of Fame Coach at Indiana, Returns to Campus First Time in 20 Years to Hero’s Welcome

By Associated Press

Bob Knight cherished the short stroll from the practice gym to Assembly Hall.

It ended his 20-year journey back to Hoosiers basketball.

Surrounded by dozens of former players and thousands of Indiana fans chanting “Bob-by, Bob-by,” the 79-year-old Knight finally returned to his home court Saturday to a rousing welcome.

“We love you, Bobby,” one fan shouted from the crowd.

Hoosiers fans spent years waiting and hoping they could give the once combustible coach the proper reward for everything he did in 29 seasons in Bloomington — three NCAA championships, a school-record 662 victories, 11 Big Ten titles and five Final Four appearances.

But the firing on Sept. 10, 2000 created a bitter split between Knight and the university. He declined opportunity after opportunity to reunite when his championship teams were honored. He even declined to come back for his induction into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 because he didn’t want to detract from the other class members.

And then, suddenly, it was all over.

For the first time in 20 years, Bob Knight returned to Assembly Hall where he was honored with his 1980 Big Ten championship team.

With the Hoosiers playing their biggest rival, Purdue, with longtime friend and rival Gene Keady in the arena and his 1980 Big Ten championship team being honored, Knight put aside his grudge and walked to midcourt with his son, Pat, and former players Quinn Buckner and Scott May.

“Thank you coach, thank you coach,” the fans chanted as Knight waved to the crowd and pretended to run practice drills.

He led the crowd in a chant of “de-fense” and when his former players gathered round, he hugged some of them. Among them was Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who led the Hoosiers to the 1981 national title. He even playfully messed around with television announcer Dick Vitale.

No, he wasn’t dressed in his trademark red sweater. Instead, he wore a red Indiana basketball warmup jacket.

And he wasn’t as loud or fiery as he was all those years ago. He needed help as he shuffled back to the court and he had to stop a couple of times on his way. He seemed to enjoy the moment every bit as much as those inside Assembly Hall.

It took years to mend the relationship.

Athletic director Fred Glass stayed in touch with Knight, hoping one day the icy relationship would thaw. Then last spring, Knight surprised everyone by showing up for an Indiana baseball game.

He also moved back to Bloomington last year and there was speculation for weeks he might soon return to Assembly Hall.

Knight made public appearances around the city and state, making speeches, signing autographs and attending games and practices.

Some thought he would come back to watch his alma mater, Ohio State, when the Buckeyes visited Assembly Hall on Jan. 11. Instead, he went to Marian, an NAIA school in Indianapolis, where one of his former players, Steve Downing, is the athletic director.

Knight hadn’t been back to Assembly Hall since he was fired after a student accused Knight of grabbing him in the hallway of Assembly Hall. The university had initiated a zero-tolerance policy for Knight earlier that year following an investigation that he choked a former player, the late Neil Reed.

Knight finished his career at Texas Tech, retiring in 2008 with a then-record 902 victories.

Hey Giants Fans, the Future of your 3-11 Team Isn’t as Bad as You Think

By Scott Mandel

NY Giants fans, you may yet have a happy future. Much sooner than you think.

Would you believe a 3-11 team, one with the potential to finish this inglorious 2019 season 3-13, hope to contend for a playoff slot in the near future? Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it?

But, the answer, in this view is, a resounding yes.

Image result for saquon barkley daniel jones dexter lawrence
Giants future isn’t as bad as you think. Young talent is getting better

The Giants roster doesn’t consist of household names, yet. No Lawrence Taylor’s or Phil Simms or Eli Manning’s in that locker room. Well, there is that old guy, #10 still hanging in there but the future core of this team will not include that Jersey number, which will be retired.

But, talent, young emerging talent, is taking shape for Big Blue. And, the more I watch these kids every week, the more improvement I am seeing in technique, confidence, and most importantly, production on the field.

DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Cory Ballantine, Julian Love, Markus Golden, Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Oshane Ximines, Lorenzo Carter, Dexter Lawrence, and injured rookie linebacker, Ryan Connelly are mostly in their first or second years on a defense which might add the best defensive football player in the country out of Ohio State, Chase Young, if the Giants hold onto the second pick in the NFL draft by losing their last two games. The addition of young veterans, Leonard Williams (from the Jets) and Markus Golden have been examples of addition by addition. The removal of Janoris “JackRabbit” Jenkins, the veteran cornerback, has been addition by subtraction, especially in that locker room of impressionable youngsters.

From this group on defense will emerge new leaders. Don’t be shocked if names like Connelly, Julian Love, and Dexter Lawrence step up to that mantle.

It says here, next season will offer an athletic, fast, and tough unit on the defensive side of the ball. How do I know that? Because I know it. Take it to the bank.

The question is, will they have the right coach to guide these kids next season? Is the current coaching staff going to be retained to continue the progress?

On offense, the O-Line needs a massive upgrade in talent, particularly at the tackle positions and at center. But, I loved the young guards, Hernandez and Nick Gates, yesterday. Both are big, tough, athletic youngsters who like the game of football. Unfortunately, the stopgap free agents signed in the off-season by the potentially stopgap general manager, Dave Gettleman for the sole purpose of protecting the quarterback from the left and right tackle positions didn’t pan out, making Gettleman’s job tenuous, at best.

The receivers are solid, with Sheppard, Golden Gate, and Darious Slayton while tight ends Evan Engram and the Stanford kid, Kaden Smith are potential pass-catching stars as receivers. But, the key to this unit’s success will always remain with the success of the kid QB, Daniel Jones, and the star running back, Saquan Barkley, who, along with game-breaker Engram need to stay on the field. Until the offensive line becomes solid, though, scoring points will be a challenge, particularly vs. better teams, for Jones and his mates.

After all, you can’t play the Miami Dolphins every week, you know? But the core of this team appears to be very close to being one that will impact on the NFL, as soon as next year.

Manning, In Possibly His Last Start for Giants, Beats Dolphins, 36-20

by Scott Mandel

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw two touchdowns in what might have been his final home start for the Giants and New York snapped a franchise record-tying nine-game losing streak with a 36-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Saquon Barkley ran for 112 yards and scored two walk-in touchdowns and New York’s much-maligned defense added a safety as the Giants (3-11) handed the Dolphins (3-11) their second loss in as many weeks at MetLife Stadium.

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The 38-year old Manning with game ball in post-game locker room

Watch Eli Manning run off the field to tremendous ovation from Giants fans: https://www.giants.com/video/eli-manning-receives-standing-ovation-as-he-celebrates-win-with-teammates-and-fa

Manning, who lost his starting job to Daniel Jones in Week 3 and got it back last week when the rookie sprained an ankle, threw a 51-yard scoring pass to Golden Tate in the second quarter and a go-ahead 5-yarder to Darius Slayton on the opening series of the second half. The 38-year-old also threw three interceptions, two of which set up by field goals by Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders.

With 1:50 left in the game, Manning (20 of 28 for 283 yards) was taken out by coach Pat Shurmur and replaced by Alex Tanney, drawing his second standing ovation from those left in the crowd. He walked to the sideline and was congratulated by teammates while the crowd chanted “Eli Manning.” He even smiled.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose game slipped after taking a big hit on a third-quarter scramble, threw two touchdowns to DaVante Parker, the second one with the game out of reach.

Buck Allen added a late 1-yard TD run in the Giants’ biggest offensive output of the season.

This was a game between teams with among the worst records in the league and Manning’s start gave it some meaning, especially for the locals who had seen him run the team since the middle of the 2004 season.

With his contract set to expire after this season, the Giants made sure his name was announced when the offense took the field for the second series of the game and he got a standing ovation. Some fans in the stands held up signs: “Thank You, Eli” one read.

Photos: Giants vs. Dolphins from the sidelines
Manning trots off the field with a minute remaining in the game to huge ovation

Manning stole the show in the second half, leading the Giants to three touchdowns on their first five possessions. His pass to Slayton wiped out a 10-7 deficit and Barkley, who had not run for 100 yards in the previous seven games, added TD runs of 1 and 10 yards.

The Dolphins took a 10-7 halftime lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Parker and a 24-yard field goal by Sanders.

Manning and Tate combined on a 51-yard catch and run to tie the game 7-all just 62 seconds after the Parker catch.