Monday, October 31, 2011

Baseball, Basketball and Hockey Need the Red Zone Channel

It was kind of funny, the trick I was playing on G yesterday afternoon.  We were watching the Giants and Dolphins game on the Red Zone Channel.  Then the game quickly changed to the Panthers and Vikings game.  G was zoning out for a bit - it took him a couple of minutes to know that the game had even changed.  And just like that, the game changed again to the Rams and Saints battle.  He asked me to turn the first game back on and I told him that I didn't have the remote.
"Dad, stop changing the game.  Give me the clicker."  G was exasperated.
"I don't have it."  I deadpanned.

"Wait what's going on?  I don't get it!"

The wonders of The Red Zone Channel.  One of the best media inventions since the invention of Fantasy Football.  It's appointment television every Sunday afternoon in the Fall.  The premise is simple, the NFL has television rights to all of these NFL games and simply whipsaws around the league showing all of the Red Zone action on one station.  It's ingenious in its simplicity.

But the NFL doesn't do things any differently than professional baseball, basketball or hockey.  Each of those leagues has its own networks and likely have the same rights to their own games.  My idea for these leagues is even more ingenious.  Each of these sports should have their own versions of the Red Zone channel.

Save Channel.  Baseball should focus on the late innings and the obvious save situations.  As the Texas Rangers recently reminded us in the World Series, saves can be one of the most exciting parts of the game.  While it will be difficult to have the channel work with various games starting at four different times at night, this channel would have the greatest potential for revenues, since the games are played practically every day from April 1 through October 1.  And with Fantasy Baseball right behind Fantasy Football in popularity, the games can pinwheel around popular players when they are batting.  Wouldn't you watch if you saw every at bat from Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer.

Hoop Vegas Channel.  This is a no brainer.  The games are normally exciting at the end anyway, but then add all of the star players like Kevin Durant, John Wall and Derrick Rose that we can watch every night plus the fact that basketball is the second most bet sport after football, Hoop Vegas Channel would have the greatest chance of succeeding.  We just need to think of a better name for the channel.

Blue Line Channel.  Hockey lends itself well to this kind of channel.  Power Plays, Overtime and Shootouts make hockey well suited to the kid of back and forth action that is the hallmark of a station like the Red Zone Channel.  Ever since the prolonged strike/lockout several years ago, hockey has been playing catch up as the other sports overtook the NHL and in fact zoomed away.  The Blue Line Channel is the way to recapture this audience. 

Baseball, basketball and hockey are starting to fall behind football in ratings and popularity.  Consequently, revenues are starting to fall behind.  These leagues should look at some of the things that make the NFL so successful and try those ideas on for size.  Thus the Red Zone Channel.  Having the games showcased in this manner will generate excitement and more importantly - ratings.  It certainly can't hurt.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's Wrong with the Cardinals-Rangers World Series?

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers are playing in the 2011 World Series, in case you didn't know.  I'm not sure who is actually watching this World Series though.  Last night, I was watching the Saints obliteration of the Colts and forgot all about Game 4 of the World Series.  Tonight, I asked the boys if they knew the score of the Series.  Mind you Game 5 is playing tonight.

"2-1" G yells out from behind his Wii remote.

"3-1" C follows.  "No wait, it's......oh I don't know, it's 2-1."
I remember when the World Series was the most important sporting event of the year.  I remember the 1982 World Series between the Brewers and the Cardinals.  I remember the Royals World Series in 1985 and the Don Denkinger blown call.  Game 7, if there was one, was tantamount to the Super Bowl and the Olympics rolled up into one.  These days, we can barely remember who plays in the World Series from year to year.  I had to look up who was in the 2008 World Series, even though it was the same Tampa Bay Rays who beat the Red Sox in the ALCS.   I then had a brilliant idea to further prove my point.  Do the boys know anyone on either the Cardinals or the Rangers?

I gave C the first chance with the Texas Rangers. "Josh Hamilton, and.....oh what's his name.  Oh Elvis Andrus and who is that second basemen?  Oh I can't remember his name!"  That's sad.

Then I broke G away from Madden 2010 long enough to ask about the Cardinals.  I was more optimistic, since Albert Pujols was his favorite player.  "Albert Pujols" He responds. "And...uh.....uh....uh Patrick Someone."  Who?  Even his brother couldn't name someone on the Cardinals.  The closest he got was an outfielder named "Matt."

So what's wrong?  Is baseball suffering from an identity crisis?  Perhaps.  Between football and soccer, our sporting time is in short supply during the Fall.  Not only that, we're more likely to be playing with our iPads, iPods, iTouchs and XBox360 than turning on the TV to watch some unrecognizable guys play baseball.  Frankly, if the Red Sox aren't in the playoffs these days, we just don't care about baseball once football starts in September.  This is similar to the problem that the NBA is facing these days.  The competition from the NFL is just too strong. 

And back to the players.  Player exposure is limited in baseball - affecting player popularity.  Josh Hamilton is the most recognizable Rangers player and he is recovering drug addict.  Albert Pujols is the most famous baseball player in Major League Baseball, but he is dogged by persistent rumors about steroid use.  After these guys, you have to be a baseball fanatic to know the other players.  Nelson Cruz, Yadier Molina, Ian Kinsler, Cris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson are great players, but no one cares about them.  They are never on TV around here (unless they play basketball), unlike their football or basketball brethren who are always on National Television.  By all accounts, C.J. Wilson is good guy, but I've seen him perhaps 2 times in my life.  I've seen John Beck and Christian Ponder more on the RedZone Channel.

We're not going to speculate about how to fix the problem, though, we're too busy watching Monday Night Football.

photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Pop Warner Coaching Philosophy

The other day, my seven year old G - in his first year of playing Pop Warner with his Dad as coach - asked me an intriguing question.

"Dad, why do you like to coach?"

Good question.  I always like watching the kids play sports and the wife might say I get too excited at wins and losses.  At the time, I think I spewed out some pablum about wanting to be involved with my children's lives and that coaching was the best way to do it.  I was trying to hide my initial, almost instinctive, response that by being coach, I can put my kids in the positions that they (and I) wanted.  But then I started thinking about it.  If the answer was as easy as the two reasons I listed above, then why do I cheer so loudly when one of the kids on my team strikes someone out or makes a good block?  Why do i have trouble sleeping at night worrying about some play calls?  Living vicariously through my children isn't a good answer either since I never played football or basketball in high school and only played baseball for a short time.  Living vicariously through my children suggests that I was trying to relive past glory.  But I didn't have past glory to relive - unless you're talking about that time when I hit two home runs in one inning when I was 12 against the best pitcher in the town growing up.  It was something more...altruistic.

But I digress.  When I signed up to coach football for my seven year old, I admit that my initial motivation was to put him in a position to succeed where he wanted, not where someone else wanted.  I didn't have any experience coaching football before and my experience playing consisted of pad less tackle football when I was 13 years old.  My left knee still hurts when it rains because of those football games.  But I wasn't intimidated, because after all, I know the rules of football and most of these 7-9 year olds don't.  And I'm not coaching the Crimson Tide, so the first three weeks went by pretty quickly, if not without help from Tylenol and Jamesons (both to calm my nerves after coaching a bunch of second graders).

But after an embarrassing loss at home in our first week, I realized that coaching kids in this sport is actually a lot different than showing up a couple of minutes before a little league game.  In team sports, preparation and work is more important than individual skill, so I made some adjustments to my own coaching philosophy.  Of course, I had a lot to learn about some of the fundamentals - about conditioning, offensive and defensive drills and walkthroughs.  And after some of those sleepless nights (I won't forget how awful I felt when one of the games ended with a last second touchdown and a lot of tears - no not mine), I've developed my own practice plan that has been introduced in bits and pieces this year and will be fully introduced next year.

Conditioning.  Stretching is extremely important.  After a lap around the field, stretching out for at least 15 minutes - including some dynamic stretching needs to happen.  5 minutes of agility drills should follow - including running backwards, side to side and karaoke.  For two hour practice, 20 minutes of conditioning is an absolute must.  I would need to do this too.

Offensive and Defensive Drills.  Every practice should have elements of offense and defensive drills.  Focusing on one over the other on a specific day prohibits the most important aspect of youth football playmaking - repetition.  30 minutes working on defensive drills - including angle tackling, shedding blocks, pursuit and form tackling should be followed up with 30 minutes of working on offense including center to quarterback exchanges, quarterback to running back exchanges, pass throwing and pass catching and form blocking.

Execution.  I am spending this time working on defense's execution (offense skeletons) working at three quarters speed.  No need to tackle anyone to the ground, just wrap them up and wait for the whistle.  After 15 minutes, switch to defensive skeleton and work on offense for 15 minutes.  Try to mix things up with thoughts on keeping your starting team together more often than not.  If you have the ability to work on an opponent's tendencies, work on those with this walkthrough.

Motivation, Games and Sprints.  Motivate the players at least once a week with a "chalk talk."  All of the kids like to hear how well they're doing after hearing all week how they can perform better.  Even in a criticism sandwich, there is still criticism and these kids aren't stupid.  Once a week do something fun.  A quick two hand touch game, maybe a tug of war or maybe a game of sumo.  Something to make practice fun.  If you practice more than two times a week, throw in some sprints at the end of the other practices.

On Game Day, make sure all of the coaches know what their roles are so you don't have two different coaches yelling in play calls (usually different play calls at that).  On game day, it is important to motivate the kids before, during and after game and make sure you tell the kids to root for each other.  This is their team too.  And as Bill Belichick said:  You work too hard during the week not to get excited when you make a good play.  And don't forget to always make attainable goals - score a touchdown, force a turnover and most importantly - have fun!  Don't talk about the game for 24 hours after they happen.

That is my brief coaching synopsis.  Now let's go have some fun.

photograph courtesy of

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Beast Mode Milwaukee Brewers Is Our Pick in 2011

I asked my nine year old son if he could name anyone on the Milwaukee Brewers.  C, who can rattle off the Red Sox starting nine in his sleep, could only name Prince Fielder.  When I posed the same question to my seven year old, he could barely name Prince Fielder - and probably only because he overheard me talk to his older brother.  When I asked my five year old daughter, she was able name Ryan Braun (although I whispered that name in her ear).  And here is my list of Milwaukee Brewers:

Prince Fielder
Ryan Braun
Zack Greinke
Yovani Gallardo (only because this "ace" go lit up by the Red Sox a couple of months ago)
Nyjer Morgan
Corey Hart
Richie Weeks?

Nyjer Morgan is in "Beast Mode"
I even watched the end of Game 5 of the NLDS and I still could not name the Brewers' closer who blew the save in the ninth inning.  Never heard of him in fact.  This team, short of a couple of famous players is a team mostly consisting of unknown or under-the-radar role players.  And I think they like it that way.

But here we are all rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and their "Beast Mode" to beat the Cardinals in the 2011 NLCS, with the festivities starting tonight.  I admit that G's favorite player is Albert Pujols, but when faced with the possibility that he wouldn't be able to play with his friends if he didn't root for the Brewers in this series, his mind was changed.  "Let's go Brewers!!" he yells, looking at me hopefully (Yes, you can ride your bike around neighborhood, now). 

The Brewers represent what we enjoy about sports - enthusiasm, hustle and having fun.  Traits that I try to instill in my own kids.  It looks like they are more than highly paid robots (We can watch Real Steel if we want expensive robots for entertainment.), it looks like they care.  Do the Brewers go a little overboard at times?  Yes, but better that than listening to the ancient Tony LaRussa tell us what's wrong with our own lives.  I do have to wonder though if anyone on this Brewers team knows who Ben Ogilvie, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount are.  Oh and one more thing - Cris Carpenter is one tough dude to like, honestly.

The Series is going to showcase some of the best hitters (Fielder, Pujols and Braun) facing up against some of the best pitchers (Carpenter, Greinke, Gallardo) in the National League.  It's going to showcase perhaps the craziest person in professional sports (Nyjer Morgan) against the same player he derisively called a woman on Twitter a couple of months ago (Albert Pujols).  There is no love lost between these two teams.  The possibility of a bench clearing brawl is high.

But quickly breaking it down, the Brewers and the Cardinals are nearly evenly matched.  Each team can easily go four deep in their rotations with comfort.  Each team has clutch power hitters at their disposal.  And each team has surprising spark plug hitters who hit .300 this season (Yadier Molina and Morgan).  The Brewers have homefield advantage and that might make the difference.  Greinke, Shawn Marcum and Gallardo going in 6 of the games won't hurt either.  Beast Mode in 6 games.

Not quite Harvey's Wallbangers, but not a bad nickname.

photograph courtesy of

Monday, October 3, 2011

NBA Lockout vs NFL Lockout And Our $100 Tickets

It took over three months, but the NBA Lockout has finally reached the JMR homestead.  Unlike the NFL Lockout which made us reach a fever pitch over the Spring and Summer - even leading this writer to compare the Players and owners to a pair of siblings, the labor problems besieging the NBA went hardly noticed here.  But when C's basketball tryouts, the questions were finally asked. 

"Dad, when can we go to a Celtics' game?"

"Not this year."  I answered matter of factly.  When C looked at me like I was telling another one of my awful jokes, I felt like I had to explain myself.  "The players went on strike and they don't want to play."  Now, despite being a business owner myself, I actually thought it was easier to explain the work stoppage as a strike, rather than a lockout. 

"They don't want to play ever again?  G asked me, as he glanced down at his Rajon Rondo t-shirt.

"Well probably not this year, but maybe next year. Sometimes workers get together and collectively decide that they won't do their work until they get paid more."  I then go on to explain that the same thing happened in the NFL a couple of months ago.  "But you know what?  A lot of players are going to be playing in China and in Europe, so we'll be able to see them play elsewhere."

"You mean we have to go to China?" C asks me, clearly not wanting to go that far to see his beloved Boston Celtics.  And I bet we'll see plenty of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on TV this year - even if it's on Dancing with the Stars or Regis and Kelly.

The issues are simple:  Basketball related income (BRI) for basketball players needs to be reduced from 57% to 46% of total revenues, The current soft salary cap (which basically means that there is no cap) will be turned into a hard salary cap, current salaries need to be reduced in kind by at least 10% and money has to go into escrow to ensure that the BRI remains stable.  There are other stupid issues that are used as bargaining chits for the larger issues.  Age limits, PED testing and extra drafts will be worked out.  I'm not going to bore you with the other details that I've learned about the NBA lockout.  Billy Hunter vs. David Stern, Billionaire owners vs. Millionaire Players.  It's the same refrain.

There are a couple of good things to come out of the Lockout.  Kobe Bryant will likely be out of the States for the year.  We don't have be witness to Chris Bosh's childish behavior.  And best yet, with all of his free time, LeBron James will likely do something really, laughingly stupid - to all of our collective enjoyment. 

But now, I have to yet again explain to my kids the sorry concept that grown men don't want to make money to play games.  The kids don't really care who is right and who is wrong in this labor dispute.  Ultimately, the two sides will agree and the Billionaires will remain Billionaires and the Millionaires will remain Millionaires.  Things will return to the status quo, again. 

And we'll be the ones stuck paying for the $100 tickets, again.

photo courtesy of

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Red Sox Aren't Going to Have a Coach Next Year?

Terry Francona is gone.  The only manager that the boys have ever known was fired yesterday.  Or maybe he quit.  I doubt we'll ever know...but we do know this.  Something happened in that Clubhouse.  The ultimate players' manager couldn't even keep this team together.  Kevin Youkilis is a putz.  Tim Wakefield is a putz.  John Lackey (perfect name, really) is a miserable soul who sucked Lester and Beckett into his vacuum of crap.  Daisuke and Buchholz are prima donnas.  You can keep going, Carl Crawford is clearly miserable.  Adrian Gonzalez is a jackass.  I wanted to get rid of J.D. Drew months ago.  Blah, blah blah.  Two pitchers preceded to divorce their spouses within days of the last game of the season.  And the Manager who could handle Manny Ramirez couldn't handle "The Dysfunctional Frat."  And now we'll experience the DeMarlo Hale Regime.  It's an opportunity, though. 

All of the defenders will say "Don't blame the players!"   It's Theo's fault.  It's Terry Francona's fault.  It's the management.  I think all of the above have to take a share of the blame.  The Clubhouse was clearly a mess.  The Manager does not have the kind of mentality to take control of an out-of-control clubhouse and the General Manager and Management decided to sign Lackey, Crawford, Drew and Daisuke.  But therein lies an opportunity.

If the team doesn't listen to the Coach, the team won't win.  Teaching moment?

"The Red Sox won't have a coach next year?"  My seven year old asks me. 

"No.  They'll have a Manager.  It just won't be Tito."

"Will you be coach, Dad?"  I shake my head, no.

"Dad, who's Tito?"  My nine year asks me.  But before I can answer him, the seven year old seems puzzled by my inability to manage the Red Sox.

"Why can't you be coach?  You're a good coach, Dad!"  Why, thank you G.  Now go run a lap and do 10 push ups.

"Dad!"  A little louder this time.  "Who's Tito?!?"  Terry Francona, I answer.

"Why did they fire him, Dad?"  When I explain that it was his job to win baseball games and when a manager doesn't win games he loses his job, we then get into a conversation about how the team wasn't playing well enough to win. 

"But they had the best team in the league!"  C explains.  But then just as he that he goes on.  "Well John Lackey sticks.  And so does Carl Crawford.  Actually, only Jacoby Ellsbury played good this year.  Is he the best player in the league?  They all looked so mad and so sad"  Losing focus...At least he didn't ask why I haven't lost my job since my team is 0-3.

"If the players stop listening to their coach, the team stops playing well and stops playing as a team.  No one is happy and no one learns anything."  OK, I am their coach most of the time.  A little bit of psychology at work here.

"I get it Dad.  You want me to listen to my coaches."  My nine year old is starting to get too old to fall for these kind of tricks.  I better dig a little deeper.  "I always listen to my coaches Dad.  I want to win too."  Maybe, I don't?

"Me too Dad.  I want to win too."  G points out.  "i always listen to my coaches."

Good.  Maybe all of my badgering is starting to set in. 

The managerial choices are not great.  Bobby Valentine, DeMarlo Hale, even Lou Pinella are out there looking for opportunities.  I think we need Dick Williams or Earl Weaver myself.  But so long as the boys see that teams that don't listen to their coaches play really poorly, that's more important to me.