The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interesting Concept / Partial Redemption

Despite last week's rant, I'm still reading the Wall Street Journal's sports page (but only because it shows up -- gratis -- on my front lawn each day). Today, the WSJ partially redeemed itself with an interesting, yet highly incomplete, article about a new "trend" in sports stadium financing.

Here's a summarized version (although you're welcome to read the entire article here): to help finance new stadium projects (or wholesale refurbishments of existing stadiums), some teams (colleges) are selling "seat mortgages" to fans who are willing to make a long term committment. This is entirely different from a personal seat license (PSL), which has been common for at least a decade. PSL's give fans the right to buy tickets. They're simply a money grab.

These seat mortgages are very different. While they're still a money grab, they work very differently from PSLs. Fans who pay up front for their seat mortgage are guaranteed rights to their particular seat for a long term (30, 40, or 50 years). Cal-Berkeley has sold a few thousand such seats for $175,000 to $220,000 each.

While that obviously sounds like a lot (plus you're paying interest -- or as the school likes to call it, an "administrative fee"), it may not be such a bad investment. If you're a lifelong fan (or planning to be one), you can guarantee yourself tickets for a long time. By paying today, you protect yourself against future price increases (leaving you to assume that football tickets continue to increase in price as they have over the past 10-20 years -- which is a big assumption).

Should your team do well and should prices increase over the years, you could theoretically profit from reselling your seats (possibly even at the prevailing "face" value) for a tidy profit.

What's not clear is how this works for the school/team in the long run. They're guaranteeing a lot for money up front (details here). This is great in terms of the facility enhancements it permits. But what happens to alumni giving and ticket revenue in the long run?

Cal is selling their best / highest price seats (between the 30's on the home sideline) for the next few decades. Today those seats require a $1,200 annual donation per seat, plus the purchase of season tickets. In the future, that annual revenue stream is gone. So Cal has to be sure that their $200,000 price tag is worth it.

Should the school need money in 2035 from football revenue to help fund women's basketball or men's baseball, will they be able to raise that money? Today they likely can, from football related donations and ticket sales. That becomes tougher in the future when the prime donatable seats are pre-sold and no longer require an ongoing donation.

Granted, I haven't done all the math here. And surely the folks at a school as prestigous as Cal have. But Cal has clearly placed their bets on facility enhancement and has put future revenue streams at risk in order to do so. Is that the right risk to take? Time will tell.

Interestingly, the WSJ article doesn't explore this angle at all. They simple laud the concept and the creativity of financing projects. This is interesting. Again, not to blame the WSJ for the current financial situation in the USA / world. But as with numerous other dubious financial schemes that have developed over the past few decades, the WSJ lauds the short term upside and completely ignores the potential long term implications.

It's fine for the paper to be so short-sighted (being as such will likely cause them to not exist in a few more years). But the rest of us should keep our eyes open and think things through a little farther down the line.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Know Nothing

Going into the football weekend, my hopes were high. Both the Canes and Cardinals had "big" games against well respected opponents.

Despite that the Canes were on the road against Virginia Tech, I thought Jacory Harris, Mark Whipple, and the boys would find a way to win. To be honest, I thought the Canes would win big. It turned out to be pretty much the opposite of that. If there was a silver lining in Saturday's loss, it was how true sophomore QB Jacory Harris handled himself in the post-game press conference. It would have been easy for Harris to blame receivers (notably TE Jimmy Graham) for dropped passes, just as it would have been easy for Harris to blame his struggles on the weather. He did neither. Harris held himself accountable. Hopefully that mentality helps him to turn it around this coming weekend against Oklahoma.

Don't get me wrong though: not every cloud has a silver lining. Go stand outside the next time it's raining. Let me know if any silver drops in your yard.

The lack of a silver lining brings me to the Cardinals game. Which was just horrific. The Cardinals offense piled up some decent stats (300+ yards in the air). But much of that was meaningless. Not only did the Colts generate more yards of offense, they scored far more points too. Points are what count, obviously.

Now the Cardinals find themselves at 1-2. On a positive note, the Super Bowl champion Steelers are also 1-2 and the Cardinals are only 1 game out of the division lead. But in reality, the Cardinals have looked pretty awful through three games. In the opener, they were sluggish. Talk to a Jaguars fan about game two and you'll hear that the Cardinals caught a break with a missed pass interference call (which is probably true), soon after which came the blocked FG/TD return, and then the rout was on. Jags fans would say it was more of a momentum change and everything falling apart after that. Based on how the Jags played yesterday, maybe that's plausible. Time will tell... Then, last night, the Cardinals were simply out played. If the Cards and Colts faced off ten more times, I'm not convinced the Colts would win each meeting (better execution on the Cardinals part -- not fumbling, completing some open passes, etc -- could lead to beter results). But the Colts would win the majority of the rematches.

Now the Cardinals have a bye week. While it's exceedingly early, it comes at a good time. The Cardinals need to regroup. A lot needs to be fixed. Hopefully the Cardinals rediscover themselves in the coming two weeks. Otherwise the Football Outsiders pre-season prediction of doom and gloom is probably right.

Other thoughts from the weekend:
  1. TO deserves some credit for handling himself well in yesterday's post-game press conference. It was the first game in memory where TO didn't catch a pass. The media battered him with questions about his happiness with the playcalling and the like. TO didn't bite. He kept it professional.
  2. Possibly the only prediction (thought) that I had right about the weekend was picking the Bengals to beat the Steelers. The Bengals are better than people think and the Steelers are worse.
  3. I'm not sure what to make of the Jaguars (who looked awful against the Cardinals) or the Texans (who continue to confuse people). I'm out of my survival pool league after failing to understand either of these teams (I had the Texans).
  4. College football is wide open this season. Miami blew their chance at earning a national title birth with the loss against Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies blew a door open and are now officially in the hunt. If/when Florida or Texas slips up, my guess is that VT finds themselves in the BCS title game picture.
  5. Although he's a Gator, I'd never wish injury on anyone, not even Tim Tebow. While much has been said about the hit, I think it was clean. It's part of football. It's unfortunate, but these things happen. The impact from the both the hit of the defender and Tim's collission with his offensive linemen led to an ugly looking concussion. If there's blame to lay today about the play, it probably lies with Florida coach Urban Meyer, who must defend why his star QB is playing in a game that's already been decided. Not only does UF need to get their backup QB some experience, but more importantly, there's no reason to risk injury to your star players. Injury is the risk you run when you always look for an extra score even when the outcome of the game is no longer in doubt.
  6. Notre Dame struggled against an outmanned Purdue team. The Irish even benefitted from an inexplicable time out call by Purdue late in the game (a call which effectively game Notre Dame an extra down because they didn't have to spike the ball -- that down proved crucial, as ND scored the go ahead TD on 4th and goal). What gives with Charlie Weis? The only potential explanation for his struggles is that he and his coaches are failing to develop players. Notre Dame has a roster full of talent that matches nearly anyone in the country's. And between Weis and his assistants, they should be able to outscheme nearly anyone they face. So the gap must be development of talent. How long does Weis last?
  7. I saw Jupiter on three nights in a row through my little (sub-$50) telescope this weekend. Now I really can't wait to upgrade to a better scope (with tracking). I'm just not sure what to buy.

Lots of "I" today. Off to find the Royal We.

EDIT: updated the bullets to numbers. Man, the bullets suck in this format.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts Heading Into the Weekend

With the White Sox having tanked and the Marlins having fallen out of the race, my sporting attention has nearly fully turned to football at this point. Here are some thoughts heading into the weekend:

Hurricanes / College Football

I can't remember the last time the media was so high on the Canes. It likely was in 2002 or 2003 when the Canes were still dominant. But even then it felt like the media was more likely to find fault with the Canes than they are now. That makes me uneasy.

Yes, the Canes have done a lot well in their first two games. They've been impressive. But, as I've said before, Miami could have easily lost the opener to Florida State. And last week against Georgia Tech, the 'Canes didn't display a killer instinct late in the game. While Georgia Tech didn't do anything to put themselves back into the game, the Canes left the door open for the Yellow Jackets to do so. Can the Canes get away with that again this weekend? As a Miami fan, I hope we don't have to find out. Hopefully Mark Whipple and Jacory Harris have found some holes in Virginia Tech's offense to exploit.

Other thoughts:

  • Florida faces a pedestrian Kentucky team. The Gators need to dominate or doubts will start to surface about their alleged dominance. Yes, they are the defending national champions. But that was last season.
  • Notre Dame suffered a key injury to a star wide receiver last week and Jimmy Clausen is banged up heading into Saturday night's showdown with Purdue. But to re-insert themselves into the BCS discussion, ND needs to dominate Purdue. While Purdue is surely more talented than they displayed last week against Northern Illinois, this weekend's game is one that Notre Dame needs to dominate.
  • How will USC fare this weekend? They'll surely win. Washington State is simply inferior. But will the Trojans dominate? They're favored by 40+ points. Sure, the Trojans beat Wazoo by more than 40 last year. But that was last year. Mark Sanchez is gone. And 40 points is more than USC has scored in the past two games combined.

Cardinals / NFL

I'm uncharacteristically optimistic about the Cardinals chances this weekend in prime time against the Colts. It's odd to see the Cards listed as favorites in this game, even if it is a Cardinals home game. The Colts are the Colts. Even without Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, and (for the time being) Bob Sanders, the Colts are a quality football team that seemingly wins 12 games every year.

The Cardinals won 12 games once... sort of. Last season they won 9 games in the regular season and three in the playoffs. That's 12 in one season (over parts of two calendar years). They've never won 12 regular season games in a single season. Heck, there have been stretches of two and even three seasons when the Cardinals didn't win 12 games.

Yet I feel confident that the Cardinals will win on Sunday night. Yes, I know they're facing a defense that hardly ever gives up a passing touchdown, but that is susceptible to a rushing attack. And yes, I know that's nearly the opposite of what fits best for the Cardinals offense. This, my friends, is the life as a Cardinals fan. Delusion is the only way to get yourself through.

Other thoughts:

  • I'm excited about Mike Vick's debut for the Eagles this weekend. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Vick supporter (but I do believe he's entitled to have a job -- even a high paying one like he has). That the Eagles gave Vick a home gives me all the more reason to dislike the team. So that's great. And don't buy the talk that Andy Reid doesn't know what he's going to do with Vick this weekend. That's an outright lie. He knows. Vick will play. The real storyline here is how he's treated by the fans. By the end of the season I think we'll come to know that fans in Philly cheer Michael Vick, boo Santa Claus, boo Mike Schmidt, and jeered Michael Irvin as he was carted off the field on a stretcher. Stay classy, Philadelphia!
  • Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I hope the Falcons go into Foxborough and beat the Patriots. While I see the Falcons as having a legitimate shot to win the game, we all have to be mindful of my admission of delusion above.
  • I wouldn't put money on them (not that I bet anyway), but I like the Bengals chances against the Steelers this weekend. Maybe I watched too much of "Hard Knocks" and have grown somewhat attached to Marvin Lewis's team. But I like the Bengals. They're 1-1 and realistically could be 2-0 at this point. Their opponent, the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers, could easily be 0-2 at this point (fortunately for them, they are 1-1). Sunday's game is a big one for the Bengals. Win and have hope; lose and you're the Bengals.
  • Sticking with the Bengals - Steelers, I heard this week that Big Ben has a .750+ winning percentage in 1 PM and primetime games, but that he's barely above .500 in 4:15 kickoffs. Sunday's game has a 4:15 start time. Is there something to this disparity in winning percentage or is Big Ben a victim of a small sample size? I have no idea. But if the Steelers lose on Sunday, maybe there's something to Big Ben and the start time.
  • The Cowboys will be on Monday Night Football. Rather, the Cowboys' new stadium will be the star of MNF. Hopefully the guys on the booth can keep from drooling for three hours and can maintain focus on the game on the field. Monday night will officially be the first time that we all miss Kornheiser in the booth. He would surely have fun roasting Jerry Jones and the cost and flaws of the new stadium. Will every Cowboys game be featured in primetime this year?

Here's a quick baseball thought: there's really only (potentially) one playoff spot up for grabs and that's in the AL Central. The Twins are still close enough to be more than just mathematically in the race. Since there aren't other races, some folks are surely hoping for drama and a photo finish. If you're one of those people, read this article. Then you'll hope for the Tigers to pull away and lock up a playoff spot.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Worst Sports Page in the Universe

For some reason The Wall Street Journal has seen fit to add a sports page to their newspaper. They did this about a year ago. It's literally a page -- a single page. In many ways, it's fortunate that their sports coverage is simply a page and not a section. That's because their coverage is awful. Simply awful.

Last week they ran an article about how left-handed quarterbacks aren't very common in the NFL and when they play in the league they're infrequently successful. The point of this story was to talk about how it was unlikely that Tim Tebow would be successful in the NFL because he's lefthanded. While I agree that Tebow's collegiate success is unlikely to translate into NFL stardom, the hand that he uses to throw the ball is not the reason. Somewhat amazingly, this lengthy article failed to mention one of the most successful left-handed college quarterbacks of all-time: Matt Leinart. How they managed to talk about college stardom and a lack of NFL success or opportunity without even mentioning Leinart baffles me.

Fundamentally flawed analysis in other sections of the WSJ probably helped lead to the ongoing financial meltdown that the WSJ itself regularly reports on.

Today's feature story talked about instances of cheating in sports. Here's a direct quote from the print version of the article (most of which consisted of photo captions, which this quote comes from):

Spanish Switcheroo: In 2000, the Spanish basketball team, playing in the intellectually disabled category, took the gold in the Sydney Paralympic Games. Turns out, 10 of the 12 players weren't disabled at all. The players were reportedly instructed to act dumb and slow their scoring when they played too well. When reporters back in Spain and were encouraged to grow beards and wear hats after the games were over to disguise themselves back in Spain when reporters became suspicious.

There are no errors in my transciption of the text that ran in today's edition of the paper. The online version has seemingly been corrected.

It's time for the WSJ to end its foray into sports. Originally adding a sports page was probably a gimmick to increase readership. For the gimmick to work, they need to deliver quality. That's not what they're doing. They rarely, if ever, do. It's time to kill the sports page in the WSJ.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where did this come from?

Generally speaking, Miami fans tend to feel that they are disrespected by the media. As a small, private school with a controversial history (in football terms at least), fans of The U tend to think that the media is quick to speak ill of the program.

But since the Canes started out 2-0 this season, it's becoming difficult to make that argument. First case in point, one ESPN writer ranked the Canes #1 in his ballot this week. That comes on the heels of Miami ascending to 9th in one poll and 13th in another this week (both big gains likely mean that at least some voters have the Canes in top 5 territory).

Why all the love and why all the love this quickly?

What do we really know about the Canes?

Yes, they went on the road and beat what now looks to be a good Florida State team. But that same FSU team could have easily won the opener, had their last pass as time expired been only a little bit higher. Had that pass from Christian Ponder been completed, FSU would be this season's "it" team. But it wasn't, so they're not.

In their second game, Miami dismantled a Georgia Tech team that was a pre-season favorite to win the ACC. While the win was impressive, it needs to be put into context: Georgia Tech was playing its 3rd game (this one on the road) in twelve days; Miami was playing its first game in 10.

At this point, I'm not sure what to think. Normally I'd expect to be the first to be on the Canes bandwagon. But I don't think we know what this Canes team is yet. We'll know more in another week and a half (after the Virginia Tech and Oklahoma games). But even then we won't still really know. We'll need to see how this Canes team handles games against teams that they're supposed to beat. They haven't faced that yet.

What do I expect to see the Canes do this weekend? I don't know. But I think SI's Stewart Mandel summed up my perspective best:

Miami at Virginia Tech, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): I've given up trying to figure out the Hokies. They had been outgained by Nebraska 343-190 before producing a game-winning 88-yard drive. Either they'll intercept Harris three times, run back a punt and win 19-17, or they'll suffer a fate worse than Georgia Tech.

And that's what makes college football so fun. The season is short. Every game counts. The players are young and (for the most part) inexperienced. Small things can change a game, a season, and a career. It's stressful, unpleasant, and exhilirating all at the same time.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I had a recurring thought over the weekend: it's time to bring the blog back. Now, this isn't like reuniting The Blues Brothers. There's no need to track down Jake, Elwood, and the rest of the boys. It's just me. To bring the blog back I'd simply have to start writing once in awhile.

So let's start now.

I'm a bit torn about it... well, at least about where to start. Maybe I should start by looking for the Royal We, which is apparently already lost. Or maybe I should start with a recap of what's gone on in my life over the past few years since this blog was actually active. There's been a lot, obviously. But that's quite a bit to get into, so I'll leave the for later.

Instead I'll start where I spent much of the past focus of this blog: on sports.

First, the NFL and more specifically the Cardinals: Yesterday's win over (a probably not very good team in) the Jaguars was impressive. Yes, there was plenty of room for improvement (notably on punt returns, where Antrel Rolle was horrific and with Beanie Wells ability to hold onto the ball). But overall it was a dominating win. And not just that, but a dominating win on the East Coast (with an early start for a team that must have felt like it was an AM kickoff). Even if the Jaguars turn out to be a bad team, the Cardinals proved another point: they beat a bad team soundly. That's what good teams are supposed to do.

On the quarterback front, I will admit that I was one (of many) who was worried about Kurt Warner after the loss in the opening game. Kurt looked downright awful and that came on the heels of a pretty dreadful preseason. But he sure looked a lot better (that's an understatement) yesterday. Maybe the health of Steve Breaston (and Anquan Boldin) had something to do with that. Time will tell. Hopefully Warner found the fountain of youth (maybe he did, having been in Florida and so near St. Augustine).

In yesterday's game I found a new respect for Steve Breaston. The Cardinals offense operated completely differently with him in the lineup (and Boldin at or near 100% health). Without him last week the Cardinals offense looked slow and rusty. Yes, Breaston's the Cards number 3 receiver. But he probably wouldn't be on any other team in the league; on some teams Steve would probably be the #1 option.

Next week's game against the Colts looms large. After it, the Cards head into their bye week. A win will be very important to an up and down team. The Colts may not be what they once were (that's unknown at the moment and we'll probably have a better idea after tonight's tilt). But even if they're not, the game will be a nice measuring stick for the Cardinals.

The biggest positive for the Cardinals from yesterday's game was that they proved they're still capable of playing excellent, top level football. What remains to be seen is whether they can sustain it. Until they put together a stretch of solid games, the doubt about the team and the fear of the up-and-down rollercoaster ride (on defense, special teams and even on offense) the team can provide will remain. Playing well against the Colts -- actually, winning not just playing well -- will help to dispel some of those fears. This Cardinals team does not need to be 1-2 heading into the bye week. If they are, their season is likely done. I don't think the sea change in the locker room has taken hold enough to overcome that.

NFL Comments
  1. If you ever doubted the existence of an East Coast media bias, you only need to see the hype surrounding the Jets-Pats game from this weekend to prove that it exists. Some called this a "Super Bowl". Hopefully that was only said in jest for this week 2 game, especially since we're going on 5 years since the Pats last Super Bowl win (and 40 for the Jets). But I doubt it. Now that the Jets have won, many are annointing them as something special. Time will tell.
  2. The Bengals have to feel like they should be 2-0. Crazy.
  3. The Steelers could easily be 0-2 at this point. They're fortunate that the Titans didn't execute well in the opener.
  4. Speaking of, the Titans are now 0-2 and could easily be 0-3 after the upcoming week. At this point they have to be the best 0-2 team in the game.
  5. Imagine if Andre Johnson played for one of the "New York" (err... New Jersey) teams. Would we be able to handle the hype? Or would 'Dre not get the standard NYC hype because he's a relatively low-key guy?
  6. While I was happy to see the Cowboys lose in the "opener" of their new stadium, which has already hosted (at least) two preseason games, a college football game, and a Paul McCartney concert, it's not like I was cheering for the Giants (despite their pick-6 by Hurricane Bruce Johnson and almost pick-6 by another Hurricane -- Kenny Phillips).
  7. Are they Cowboys really making comparisons between their stadium and the Roman Collisseum? Wow.
  8. The 49ers officially make me nervous. I hope the Cardinals don't look back at the opening week game and think of it as a game that got away (as in a game that kept them from the post-season).

Hurricanes/College Football

  1. Seeing the Hurricanes vault up as far as they did in the polls was a pleasant surprise. Hopefully the Canes prove worthy of the lofty ranking -- especially over the next few weeks. The Canes won't look past Virginia Tech, who always gives Miami fits (or worse). And the Canes will definitely be geared up for Oklahoma the following week, as many of these Canes suffered a rough defeat in Norman two years ago.
  2. It's amazing that USC lost to Washington this weekend. Well, it is and it isn't. USC manages to win all of the big games (seemingly) but somehow finds a way to lose 1 game per year that they should win. That's the one blemish on the recent (decade long) run that USC has been on. My guess is that they rebound and go 11-1, putting them firmly back into the national title picture but find themselves (again) on the outside looking in for the BCS title game (even if they look like one of the best two teams in the country at the end of the regular season). That's the downside to losing to an unranked, not highly thought of school and of being in a conference without a title game.
  3. Florida, despite having Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer, looks beatable this year. Who will do it -- Alabama? Florida State? Someone like significant, non-rivalry underdog (like Washington over USC)?
  4. ESPN was lucky that the Texas - Texas Tech game was close and entertaining. It had all the makings of a blowout, with Texas Tech unranked and withou most of the talent that made it a top team last season.
  5. Florida State remains an enigma. They easily could have beaten Miami in the opener. Only a just-a-little-underthrown pass as time expired kept them from winning. Then they struggled against a Jacksonville State team that most folks don't even realize isn't from the state of Florida. And most recently, they dominated BYU (in Utah) over the weekend. This is a BYU team that knocked off Oklahoma in its opener (and was holding its own just fine even when reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford was in the game).
  6. Seeing FSU manhandle BYU has to encourage Canes fans (once they move past the Virginia Tech game). While on paper Oklahoma probably has a deeper, more talented, and more experienced team than the Canes, BYU beat Oklahoma, FSU beat BYU, and Miami beat FSU. Following that simple train of thought, Miami should be able to beat Oklahoma. But it won't be that simple. That should be a great game. Hopefully Miami is 3-0 when they get to it.
  7. And it wouldn't be football season without Fake Howard. Hoot, hoot!


  1. We (yes, not just me) saw "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" over the weekend. I really liked the movie. We saw it in IMAX 3-D. That was $4 more (each) than the regular 2-D version and $1 more than the "regular" 3-D version. Not sure if the extra dollar was worth it or not (having never seen a non-IMAX 3-D movie at the theater). But it was a cool experience. Sometimes it felt like the 3-D was too much of a gimmick. But overall it helped to immerse me in the experience.
  2. "The Miami Herald" is now printing all of the Sunday features (and comics and coupons) in the Saturday edition of the paper (at the regular Saturday price). This has pretty much stopped me from purchasing the more expensive Sunday edition. I doubt this was a good decision for the Herald. I'm no longer a subscriber to the paper. In large part that's because I can get all the news I want from them for free online. And it's also because their sports scores (and other late news) is often incomplete. It's annoying to have to wait until Saturday to see Thursday night's scores in the paper. But that's often what happens in The Herald. And not just for West Coast games. So now I get the Sunday paper features for $0.50 and read the sports and news online for free.
  3. Somewhat related to that newspaper/Herald rant, I think Twitter is here to stay. It's a great way to follow breaking news and sports. I thoroughly enjoyed following Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman's college football entries on Saturday, Adam Schefter on Sunday, and Smart Football all weekend. In regular news, the Herald gave good updates on the Coral Gables HS murder as news was developing last week. People will get hooked on Twitter.
  4. Speaking of Twitter, Dan LeBatard needs to break up the folks on his show into multiple Twitter accounts. There's no benefit to the followers to have Dan, Stugotz, Hoch, Mike Ryan and others (are there others?) posting on the same account. It's confusing and some folks (notably me) don't want to follow some of the flakes on the show. Dan and Hoch are great on Twitter. Stugotz needs to have his own space so some of the rest of us can ignore him.

That's all for now. Yes, that's a lot of words for someone who usually doesn't have much to say and didn't say much with many words here. Whatever. Come back soon. Hopefully there will be more to read.