#football

Bill Simmons, Weasels, and Jackals

A week later, I still find myself thinking about ESPN’s suspension of Bill Simmons. The fact that it’s based on what was said on a podcast. The fact that Simmons is now effectively muzzled and can’t say a word about the suspension (he can’t even use his own Twitter account, let alone podcast). The absolute insanity of the suspension being longer than Ray Rice’s original suspension. The whole thing.

Amy Davidson brings up a couple good points. First, on the situation itself:

Simmons’s anger is absolutely earned. Goodell’s denial is absurd; as I’ve written before, what did he think it looked like when a football player knocked a woman unconscious? (Note that Simmons is saying that he lied about knowing what was on the tape, not whether Goodell saw it himself.) There are a few levels of dishonesty here: when Goodell hears that a player—a man whom he watches on the field every week using the force of his body in violent collisions—has hit a woman, and says that he just can’t picture the mechanics of that action without a video, how many lies is he telling, to others and to himself? Perhaps in other cases, when players choked women, shot them, or dragged them by the hair, he needed a sort of animated diagram.

It’s pretty simple, really. Goodell, and by extension, the NFL, has taken what is a serious, sad, and bad situation and has obfuscated it in trying to save their own asses and hiding behind technicalities. Like weasels.

Second, specifically on Simmons part here:

Maybe Simmons was deliberately looking for ESPN’s limits; if so, he found them. What does it mean, anyway, for a journalist to be suspended? Simmons presumably won’t be able to write his columns, appear on television, or record his podcasts. But he still might be asking questions.

Whether he was doing it on purpose or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that ESPN was foolish to suspend Simmons for this. Whether they’re acting as the hand of Goodell here or not, it appears that they are. That’s all that matters. It has destroyed their credibility.

It’s interesting to think that Simmons was smart enough to know exactly how this would play out — that he would goad ESPN into suspending him and that it would elevate the firestorm even further as a result. Regardless, he comes out of this looking great, while Roger Goodell, the NFL, and ESPN all look like conspiratorial jackals.

But it also puts Simmons in a precarious situation when he returns from suspension. Does he continue on with business as usual? Can he? Won’t it look like ESPN (and again, by extension — rightly or wrongly — the NFL) ultimately “won”? That money continues to talk?

It would seem like the perfect reason for Simmons to break away and re-start Grantland (he’ll undoubtedly be blocked from using the name) on his own? Maybe he has a non-compete (I assume so). And there are probably a half dozen other reasons why it would be hard for Simmons to leave ESPN (aside from the large amount of money they pay him, of course). But doesn’t he have to now?

By forcing ESPN’s hand (for the right reason) did he force his own?

Meg James:

Overall, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and DirecTV are paying the NFL more than $5.5 billion for TV rights deals this year. That’s a 22% increase over last year, media analyst Michael Nathanson of the MoffettNathanson research firm wrote in a report Friday.

Still plenty of money (and life) left in television, apparently. I just wonder how long this lasts? I imagine live sports (and the NFL in particular) will end up as the last stronghold for traditional television. This may not happen anytime soon, but nothing lasts forever.

If television advertising ever starts to dwindle, even slightly, how fast does the NFL shift the focus to other means? Fast, I imagine.

And how long until we see one of the online players (Netflix, etc) strike one of these deals as well? I’d bet on sooner rather than later.

Benny Evangelista:

Each team will have 13 Surfaces on the sidelines and 12 in the coaches box. The league owns and operates the tablets, which run on a secure wireless network. The devices will be locked in a temperature-controlled cart between games to prevent any team from manipulating the information.

I can’t believe Microsoft would let the NFL release the total Surface sales data for the quarter already.

And:

The league’s competition committee placed restrictions on the Surface tablets: They can display only still images, not video, and they won’t have Internet access.

There’s an Internet Explorer joke in here somewhere as well.

James Vlahos:

By the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl, sports books in Nevada are expected to crack $100 million in wagers, the most that has ever been bet on a single game.

There is no greater unifier in American culture than professional football, which is followed by 68 percent of men and 42 percent of women — Republicans and Democrats in equal numbers. Game telecasts accounted for nine of the 10 most-watched programs in 2013, and the previous three Super Bowls were the most-viewed television programs of all time in the United States.

Crazy stats from a must-read on the state of sports gambling — which, I agree, is fueling the continued rise of the NFL at this point. I happened to be in Las Vegas during the AFC and NFC Championship Games last week, it was absolute mayhem. In every casino. Everywhere.

Peter Kafka:

The promotion is part of a new Facebook effort to get stars posting “public content” on the service — in the way that lots of people already do on services like Twitter and Instagram. As I’ve noted in the past, Facebook has been explicit about its pitch: Publish with us, and we’ll pay you back with eyeballs.

And now we can see exactly what Facebook is offering.

Facebook, your Twitter-envy is showing. So lame.

Nick Wagoner:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Friday that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke informed the league of a recent purchase of a 60-acre tract of land in Inglewood, Calif.

According to Goodell, that knowledge didn’t come with any discussion of building or developing a plan to make the location the future home of a football stadium.

The Rams’ lease with the Edward Jones Dome contains an escape clause that is set to kick in at the end of the 2014 season. If the stadium hasn’t been upgraded to one of the eight best venues in the NFL before that time, the Rams’ lease will then become a year-to-year proposition beginning in 2015.

Pure coincidence, I’m sure.

I’m betting we see the Rams back in Los Angeles by 2017.

Ray Ratto:

In sum, the 49ers are everything one should want in a team, but somehow are not yet all that. They are not in Buffalo Bills territory yet, losing four consecutive Super Bowls and being remembered as the quintessential team that couldn’t finish the deal. They aren’t even the Denver team that lost three Super Bowl in four years, or the Minnesota team that lost four in eight. You can’t even say they’re getting a reputation for not winning the big one.

But 2014 will be a hugely important year, and not because of the gaudy new digs. The 49ers are that very good team that has the wherewithal to be great but hasn’t proven it in the all-in hand yet. What they have accomplished is very difficult. What they have not yet done is more difficult still.

I was quite (and perhaps unfairly) upset following the 49ers loss to the Seahawks last week. But after taking the week off to calm down a bit, this whole piece seems like a reasonable assessment.

[thanks @steven_aquino for sending it my way]

Saturday Morning Quarterback

Usually, a variation of the term found in my title is reserved for pundits second-guessing the previous day’s NFL games (especially when all but the Monday Night game were still on Sundays) — but rather than focus on any NFL game, I wanted to focus on the college football game I watched on New Year’s Day: The Rose Bowl.

Looking at the box score, it looked like a good game, a close game, in which Michigan State grinded out a win against Stanford. But watching it, I had a different sense. Put simply: when Stanford had the ball, it was one of the poorest examples of play-calling I’ve ever seen.

I know, everyone says that when their team loses. But that’s the thing: Stanford isn’t my team. I enjoy watching them now for a few good reasons (girlfriend is an alum, proximity to where I live, and respect for what the program has been able to accomplish), but I don’t really care if they win or lose in the same way I care when Michigan wins or loses.1

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ESPN:

Fans of the 49ers have raised more than $9,000 to purchase a billboard in Seattle aimed at taunting residents with images of the five Super Bowl trophies the 49ers have won as a franchise. The group’s website said as of Wednesday afternoon that $9,358 has been raised.

With the project expected to cost $7,000, the remaining money will be contributed to Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, according to project manager Aasheesh Shravah.

Brilliant.

Ben Cohen:

The school accounted for $9.7 million in football ticket sales on its 2012 annual report. The four teams ranked above Stanford in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings averaged $27 million, with Ohio State topping the list at $41 million. In merchandise sales, Stanford ranked 42nd this year on the Collegiate Licensing Company’s list of top-selling schools, well behind not just Texas but also Texas Tech.

The normal revenues Stanford receives from football are so low, in fact, that its 36 varsity sports teams depend on something no other school has, or would dare rely so heavily on: an athletics-only endowment worth between $450 million and $500 million that pays out at 5.5% each year, people familiar with the matter said.

Against all odds, Stanford has become a great college football program. I went to my first game last night (the 26-20 shocking of Oregon); amazing atmosphere.

Bill Williamson spoke with Joe Montana about his unhappiness that San Francisco wasn’t able to keep the 49ers within the confines of the city. But:

Montana is also pleased that the team is leaving Candlestick Park. He said when he is asked what the worst venue he ever played it was, he sadly had to answer that it was his own home field. He said the field was always wet and referred to its old nickname, “The Quagmire.”

It is a pretty shitty stadium.