Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Friday, March 24, 2021

team danger
After last night’s eked-out 4-3 overtime win over the hapless Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella said his team would be a dangerous playoff opponent.

Dangerous? To whom? The biggest danger the Bolts pose is to themselves, by sliding out of the postseason race. They needed to comeback again and again just to force OT against Washington. In the game before that, they needed to rally from four goals down against Florida — another team they should be plucking an easy two points from (and didn’t, falling to the Panthers 6-5 in overtime). Tampa Bay is one short losing streak away from being bounced.

With that kind of track record, there’s not a single reason why the Eastern Conference’s top four teams wouldn’t salivate over getting the Lightning as their first-round opponent. Tampa Bay’s isn’t showing anything near the consistency needed to survive in the playoffs. Unless their goaltending improves quickly (perhaps with Gerald Coleman somehow igniting the net), I don’t see them winning more than one game in a series versus Ottawa, Carolina, the Rangers or Buffalo. The only hope is for Philadelphia taking the Atlantic crown, as the Lightning has inexplicably owned the Flyers all season.

I’m sure Torts intended his comment to be a team morale-booster more than anything else. But it’s laughable to think anyone else in the NHL thinks the defending champ is a dangerous team. It’s going to be a brief stay in the postseason — if they get there at all.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/24/2006 08:48:20 AM
Category: Hockey | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Monday, March 20, 2021

changing guards
The NFL has labor peace into the next decade, but it won’t have Paul Tagliabue as commissioner for much longer. Tags is retiring from the top spot as of July, citing in part the strain he endured during the recently-complete CBA negotiations.

The legacy of Pete Rozelle’s successor will be volleyed around for the next few months. In the early going, Len Pasquarelli pegs it well:

One has to wonder what might have transpired had the late Jim Finks, the man who was supposed to have succeeded Rozelle, been elected commissioner. A media darling, Finks might have returned every phone call from every newspaper reporter from Anaheim to Zanzibar. But what the NFL actually needed in moving forward from Rozelle, and in advancing beyond the mentality of a mom-and-pop operation, was someone to not only mind the store but also expand it.

In that regard, Tagliabue, it seems, was the right man at the right time. It’s part of any sport that people cling to the old ways and eschew progress because we prefer lore. Tagliabue brought progress while remaining a man who championed the history of the game. If he wasn’t always a lovable figure, there was never any doubting his love for or devotion to the game.

In my own background dealing with business-to-business transactions, I’ve seen that different players excel in different phases of organizational development. A lot of businesspeople are great at starting up companies — they get their energy from the process of fleshing out the business plan, lining up the financing, selecting the management team and personnel, etc. But once that’s been accomplished, and the show is running, they’re done — they have no interest in actually stewarding their creation from that point on. That often calls for a different personality type: One that can take over the reigns and grow the business from there.

These are the roles that Rozelle and Tagliabue, respectively, played for the NFL. While the league was already a going concern by the time Rozelle ascended to his commissionership, he effectively rebuilt what was a second-class sports circuit into the powerhouse it is today. Tagliabue picked up where Rozelle left off, and further cashed in on the promise of the NFL as the nation’s top sport. Pro football couldn’t have been luckier.

We’ll see if Tagliabue’s replacement can keep things going as smoothly. It’s a tough act to follow.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/20/2006 11:58:33 PM
Category: Football, Business | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, March 19, 2021

winging for goaltending
Every trading deadline leaves behind scores of unrealized blockbusters, with only rumors to mark them. Perhaps the biggest non-deal from two weeks ago was the Tampa Bay Lightning offering up right wing Marty St. Louis to Chicago in order to bring goalie Nikolai Khabibulin home.

No telling how realistic this pursuit was, or that it was the Blackhawks’ counter of getting Vincent Lecavalier instead that killed any deal. But Larry Brooks is usually pretty reliable in terms of reporting stuff that’s credible.

It’s no secret that Lightning GM Jay Feaster was burning up the phone lines on deadline eve. He even admitted that he had three deals in place before they all fell apart at the last minute. Given the shakiness of his team’s goaltending all year, it’s no surprise that he was targeting a backstopper. (Just guessing, but I’d bet Feaster was also targeting Phoenix goalie Curtis Joseph.)

What’s less clear is why Chicago would go for such a deal. True, earlier this season, Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon publicly expressed frustration with Khabibulin’s failure to play up to his All-Star calibre (which was probably just a relaying of notorously cheap owner Bill Wirtz’s gripes). Trade rumors concerning the goalie had been circulating ever since. But before the injury that sidelined him for a couple of months, Habby was starting to play back to form; and in any case, Chicago’s young team didn’t offer him much support. One year doesn’t seem like enough time to commit to this experiment.

As for getting St. Louis back: It’s looking like last year’s Art Ross performance was a fluke. Chicago’s got developing scoring talent, like Tuomo Ruutu, that will soon be more reliable than St. Louis. It doesn’t make much sense to take on his long-term deal. Lecavalier would obviously be more desirable, just because of his age; but the Lightning have always let it be known that they weren’t going to part with their franchise cornerstone.

The cap factor would seem to have been fairly even, although another player (Sean Burke or John Grahame?) would probably have been tossed in to even things out.

Anyway, that’s more than enough speculation on a deal that never happened, and never will. But should the Bolts miss the playoffs, they can always wonder.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/19/2006 08:23:45 PM
Category: Hockey | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, March 14, 2021

rose by any other name
During the OLN broadcast of tonight’s Buffalo-Washington game, the announcers focused briefly on Sabres right wing Mike Grier. They mentioned Grier’s family football heritage: His father, Bobby, is a pro scout for the Houston Texans, and his brother Chris is a college scout for the Miami Dolphins.

The first thing I thought of was, why didn’t they mention NFL great Rosey Grier, who I always thought was Mike Grier’s uncle?

But then, when I did a little digging tonight, I couldn’t find any confirmation for this. None of the Grier bios mention a connection to Rosey/Roosevelt; even if Mike didn’t want to highlight the relation, I’d think it would be standard backgrounder information for football guys Bobby and Chris.

So, I wonder if I’ve been under a false impression all this time. I thought I’d read that Mike was Rosey’s nephew around the time he broke into the NHL; either I’m remembering that wrong, or whatever I was reading was wrong.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 10:09:44 PM
Category: Hockey, Football | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, March 10, 2021

As an NFL fan, I’m glad that a new collective bargaining agreement was struck, averting turbulence over the next couple of years (even though I thought the panic over staying with the old CBA to be overblown).

As an NHL fan, I kinda wish the football world had imploded, just so another sporting realm could have gotten a taste of what hockey fans went through over the past couple of years.

In any case, for mostly my own reference, I’m going to record the key provisions of the new CBA:

DURATION: 2006-2011, six years in all, replacing the contract that would have expired in 2008.

SALARY CAP: $102 million for 2006; $109 million for 2007. To be determined in future years by revenue. Owners’ contribution to salary pool starts at just under 60%.

RATIFICATION: Union proposal approved by owners 30-2 (Bills and Bengals dissented). Must still be formally ratified by players and approved by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who still has jurisdiction over the antitrust suit filed by players following the 1987 strike.

REVENUE SHARING: Top 15 revenue-generating teams contribute, with the top five teams giving the most. The bottom 17 teams don’t contribute to the pool, expected to add $850 million-$900 million over the life of the contract.

ROOKIES: Players drafted in the first round of the draft can sign contracts longer than five years. Those drafted in rounds 2-7 can sign only four-year deals, to prevent teams from locking up players who prove to be worth more.

FRANCHISE PLAYERS: Discontinues the practice of some teams of protecting a player with the ‘’franchise'’ tag for more than two years. In the third year, ‘’franchise'’ player becomes ‘’transition'’ player, making it easier to leave.

OTHER: Player benefits will be substantially improved, including expanded post-career medical coverage. There will be continued support from the union for stadium construction, youth football, NFL Europe League and other initiatives.

As far as how this deal shakes out, I see a lot of wiggle room in the revenue-sharing component, which was the main sticking point. I’m not sure how the contributions are going to realistically keep track of total revenue generated by all team operations. But I guess that’s something to wrestle over again in 2011 or thereabouts.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 09:09:12 PM
Category: Football | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Thursday, March 09, 2021

Not that MetroStars was such a hot name, but if I were a soccer fan, I’d prefer that to New York Red Bulls. The manufacturer of the supercharged sugar water bought the MLS New York franchise today and shamelessly rebranded the organization “Red Bull New York”.

In light of this, I think we can drop the “Major” from Major League Soccer. If this isn’t the mark of minor-leaguedom, I don’t know what is.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/09/2021 10:23:08 PM
Category: Other Sports, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Wednesday, March 08, 2021

I think I’ve found the next primetime event for the X Games:


That would be kite-flying as practiced on the Indian subcontinent, where aerial duels involve “fighter kites” that are tethered by taut, razor-like strings coated with crushed glass or metal.

Death from the skies! Actually, often literally:

Every year, Pakistani media report dozens of deaths and injuries caused by kite flying, mainly of children and motorcyclists whose throats are sometimes cut by metal or glass-coated string.

“It is a matter of concern that a healthy sport is being turned into a game of death,” the official APP news agency quoted Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi as saying Tuesday.

Elahi said a crackdown had been launched against the sale of sharp kite string and threatened a permanent ban on kite-flying if deaths continued.

“Action under the Anti-Terrorism Act would be taken in case of deaths due to … dangerous kite-flying string,” he was quoted as saying.

This actually provides an explanation to a long-ago strange new item out of Afghanistan, when it was still under Taliban rule. The government banned all kite-flying, and that edict was reported in the West without what must have been this regional context.

Now, it makes sense. But at the time, it was presented as just another irrational action by an ultra-extreme, backward regime. It did lead to a funny quip by Jerry Seinfeld, when he heard about the kite-flying ban:

“What are they afraid of? That someone might discover electricity?”

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 02:20:00 PM
Category: Other Sports, Comedy | Permalink | Feedback (2)

this is the big one
If there’s any semblance of balance in the cosmos, the sound guy at St. Louis’ Savvis Center should be playing the instantly-recognizable theme music from “Sanford and Son” during home games when Blues starting goaltender Curtis Sanford is in net.

If you need more justification than the obvious, consider that Redd Foxx, and his character Fred Sanford, both called St. Louis their hometown. Plus, Foxx’s birth name really was Sanford. And there’s Foxx’s recurring joke from the show about the “G” in “Fred G. Sanford” standing for whatever he felt like at that moment — in this instance, it might as well be for “goalie”. On top of all that, it’d be just plain crowd-pleasing.

If none of those reasons are good enough, then perhaps this little Mark Evanier-related anecdote involving the show’s theme and Foxx’s infamous lounge act will convince:

This took place at the Hacienda Hotel on a rainy Sunday night. Vegas was sparsely-peopled that evening and Redd had a lot of empty seats at his early show. When the time came to start the 11:00 performance, there were only ten bodies in the audience.

Opening the show was Slappy White, another veteran performer who had made much the same, hard climb as Mr. Foxx, reaching a slightly lower rung. Slappy did his twenty minutes, then a voice intoned, “Ladies and gentlemen… the star of Sanford and Son, Mister Redd Foxx -!”

The small band on the stage struck up the Sanford and Son theme: “Yum ta da-da, yum ta da-da da-da-dum, yum ta da-da…” Redd Foxx, resplendent in a tuxedo, his Norelco-shaved head gleaming in the follow-spot, strutted out on stage. He reached the microphone and peered out in the house. Then, after a moment or two, he screamed out -


Then he turned and marched off the stage. The band struck up his theme again: “Yum ta da-da, yum ta da-da da-da-dum, yum ta da-da…”

The lights came up, the waiters passed through the place distributing refunds… and the show was over.

I don’t know why but I just love that… especially the image of the band playing him off with his theme song, just as if he’d finished a normal performance. I’d have gladly paid the full cover charge (plus two-drink minimum) to have been there that evening.

If that doesn’t sell you, St. Louis Blues fans, then nothing will.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 11:01:48 AM
Category: TV, Hockey | Permalink | Feedback

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