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Simmons to leave ESPN; your thoughts


News broke friday that longtime ESPN writer Bill Simmons and ESPN are parting ways.

Simmons is kind of a lightening rod.  I know many people doesn’t really care for him or his stuff.  Personally, I’ve kind of drifted away from him over the past two years … not because I don’t like his stuff, but mostly because his focus area (the NBA more and more) is something I don’t really care about.  When he wrote more about baseball, about the Red Sox and Yankees during the early 2000s heyday of the rivalry, I was as big of a fan as anyone’s.  I still go to his podcast subscription first to see who’s on, and I really miss his mailbags and columns that he no longer has time to write.

Still, this news is kind of staggering.  Simmons is *the* reason huge numbers of people went to ESPN.  His columns were always the top draws on that website.  People talk about how Grantland is a “failure” … but then are nebulous with the measurements of what constitutes a “failure” on the internet.  No, Grantland doesn’t make the network millions of dollars; what website does?

I wonder what happens next.  I think it was clear that Simmons was done with the hypocrisy of ESPN management and demonstrated it pretty well with his latest suspension.  I think he was tired of being told what he could and couldn’t do on his podcasts (he’s been constantly fighting with editors over jokes and content), tired of being told who he could and couldn’t haveas guests (most famously, he was set to have President Obama on but for some reason ESPN nixed it, saying it was political … meanwhile Obama is on ESPN every year for the NCAA show; hypocritical).  Mostly I think he was tired of the double standards that ESPN has for opinion makers on its network; the same things that Simmons was suspended for have been blatantly done by other people with no repercussions.  You just can’t have double standards for personalities like that.  ESPN suspended Simmons for 3 weeks for challenging management, but when Stephen A. Smith questioned the role women have in their own attacks?  A slap on the wrist in comparison.  Skip Bayless says the same things that Simmons gets eviscorated for with zero backlash.

But where will he have the access that he had to the NBA that he had?  He *loved* the 30 for 30 stuff; that’s ESPN property.  I don’t know who “owns” Grantland but the PR implied that ESPN does by virtue of saying that “Grantland will continue publishing.”  So that creation is gone as well.  Would he just abandon all these paths he has forged and try something complete new (like when he went to Jimmy Kimmel to write for his late-night show)?

I think someone will use Simmons to really supercharge their online sports presence.  TNT holds part of the NBA contract so maybe a combo deal where does TV for TNT and then online for someplace that wants to compete against ESPN like a FoxSports.  Fox makes a ton of sense since they’ve never been afraid to push the line and have little street cred.

One thing seems for sure: Simmons is still king of the podcast realm and gets his stars to appear.  You can argue that’s because he was sponsored by ESPN, but his name leads the way now.

What do you guys think?  Do you even read his stuff?  Do you read Grantland?  Do you care?

Written by Todd Boss

May 8th, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Happy Thanksgiving 2014


thanksgiving_turkeybaseball via

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!

I am thankful for lots of things that are more important than arguing about rule-5 draftees and theoretical Nats trades: family and friends, good health, and the means to keep my family warm and fed.

But I’m also thankful for the great outlet for our little niche discussions, and I’m thankful for the great set of regular readers here who provide great commentary.  When I look back on some of the comment sections in the blog i’m amazed when I see 50 or 60 follow-ups, each providing thoughtful comments and making this the first page I generally bring up each day, to see who else has commented.

So go get some turkey, watch some football, and spend time with loved ones.

ps: this is my 800th post!  That’s a lot of baseball :-)

Written by Todd Boss

November 27th, 2014 at 9:49 am

Posted in Non-Baseball

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Off Topic: Did Emmert actually answer any of these questions?


Last week, embattled NCAA head Mark Emmert appeared on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” morning show.

Some idiot at ESPN thought it’d be a wonderful idea to solicit questions live for Emmert via twitter using the #AskEmmert hashtag.

What followed was hilarity.  As pointed out by three different outlets (blog AwfulAnnouncing), UsaToday, and, people went to full snark mode almost immediately.  Each of the three links here posted different collections of tweeted “questions,” but they were awesome.  My favorites (pulled from these various links):

  • “remember that time you mismanaged a $150 million building project at UConn so badly the governor ordered an investigation?”
  • “UCONN’s graduation rate is 8%. Are these really STUDENT athletes?”
  • “Why do athletic directors and coaches get bonuses based on player performance while the player gets nothing?”
  • “Can you explain amateurism and not paying players without using circular logic?”
  • “I run a non-profit, where can we apply to get free labor like you do?”
  • “When are you going to resign?”
  • “what’s it like to rule a organization of thousands of schools and millions of student athletes using “because I said so” as logic?”
  • “Why do student-athletes’ parents have to get permission from compliance office to take their kid’s teammate to McDonald’s?”
  • “hey, do you think we’re stupid, or do you really believe this stuff you say?”
  • “I once gave a football player some gum in my class. Who do I contact to have his scholarship revoked?”
  • “Do you think slavery would still be around if they called them “student farmers?””
  • “Did you fly on a private jet to explain why the NCAA can’t afford to give athletes more than a scholarship?”
  • “NCAA President says athletes are “taking seats from a paying student.” Wow.”

That last one was from highly-vocal NCAA critic Jay Bilas, joining in on the fun.

There were a ton of other funny questions … the above only lists the “serious” questions about Emmert’s organization.  But creativity points to others; see the above links for more.

All I can say is, wow.  I once heard a funny anecdote about the time that folksy NFL writer Peter King was mercilessly made fun of during a live Q&A session on social media (instead of getting football questions, he was hounded with “questions” about inane topics … you kind of have to read the chat session).  This is what happens when the entire internet lives behind a curtain of anonymity sometimes.

All I can say about Emmert’s Q&A session is this: man I would have loved to be in the room to see the color drain out of his face.

Written by Todd Boss

April 21st, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Non-Baseball

Happy Holidays!


Happy holidays to everyone who reads and (especially) participates here.  I really enjoy our conversations and I hope you do too.

I hope you and yours are well this holiday season.

Written by Todd Boss

December 25th, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Non-Baseball

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30 for 30 review: Big Shot

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(Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the film or if you don’t know the story).

We havn’t done a review of a 30-for-30 documentary in a while because, well, it had been since April since one was released.  Now there’s been a whole bunch that premiered this month, and we’re catching up.

Here’s some quick thoughts on Big Shot, the story of John Spano‘s incredible story of financial fraud and duplicity that enabled him to “purchase” and control the New York Islanders hockey franchise for a brief period in the mid 1990s.  This film was directed and narrated by Kevin Connelly, better known as the character “E” from the HBO show Entourage.  Connelly grew up on Long Island, is a lifelong Islanders fan, and had intimately followed this entire story during his childhood.

On the whole, I did not think this was one of ESPN’s best films.  I disagreed with Bill Simmons‘ effusive praise to Connelly when they appeared on his podcast The B.S. Report, though in fairness it could have been a case of “stroking the ego” of the star.  Connelly should have gotten a professional narrator; his voice overs were amateurish and lacked the proper cadence for a serious documentary.  The film was 1.5 hours, probably 30 minutes too long for the story that it intended to tell.  Even with an hour and a half, there are basic details on Spano’s wikipedia page that went uncovered.   On the good side, the fact that Connelly got Spano on film (freshly released from his second stint in federal prison for financial fraud) really helps this story; I think back to the 30-for-30 piece on Allen Iverson that never featured the star player and the film comes of lacking.  Also, the wide list of interviews the film shows (including basically every player in the drama, including the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) gives the film a lot of credit.  The podcast interview goes into some detail about this: Spano was very hesitant to do the interviews until realizing it was 30-for-30; had this been any other documentary he likelihood of Spano’s character getting completely trashed was high.

The story itself is amazing; Spano got an $80Million loan with almost no due diligence on the bank’s part.  $80 million.  Think about how much paperwork you went through the last time you bought a house or a car or a business loan.  And, it is amazing to think about this story and see how close Spano really came to pulling it off; he was within a couple of days of finding someone to make his first $17M payment, and you’d have to think with a year to make the next payment he could have found a way to continue the charade.  Also amazing to think is this: he *owned” the team; the papers were signed despite the money not showing up.  Its like the analogy in the film; if you sign over the title of your car to some other guy … that’s HIS car, whether or not you got any money for it.  Spano could have made this really, really ugly for the league when push came to shove, despite Bettman’s hollow statements that “the league never would have let” Spano continue to hold the team.

The funny thing is this; if you leave out the clear fraud, the phony documents, etc; this transaction was almost like an old school leveraged buyout.  You get loans covering nearly the entire purchase price of a company, using that same company as leverage, and then make the loan payments from the coffers of the newly acquired company.  Think about how Malcolm Glazer obtained control over Manchester United: a very similar deal.  He “bought” his portion with tons of loans, put those loans on the books of the club, and financed the payments on the backs of the club’s profits.  Spano himself was halfway to a completely leveraged buy-out already, and came pretty close to taking at least the first step towards the next phase.

The team has never come close to returning to its early 1980s glory years; it has just one division crown since 1985.  It hasn’t advanced in the playoffs since 1993, and in the last 15 years had streaks of 8 and 5 straight playoff-less seasons.  Whether that has anything to do with the ownership snafus, bad luck with players, or (more likely) due to difficulties working with Nassau county officials over the years (a fact only alluded to in the film) getting needed stadium upgrades remains arguable.  As for Spano (as detailed in his wiki page), he got out of prison and was soon back for repeated financial fradulent behaviors.

All in all; a great story.  But the documentary left a bit to be desired.


Written by Todd Boss

October 30th, 2013 at 10:25 am

Is this a media/political correctness over-reaction?


Is this really a racially insensitive statement, or a media overreaction?  Photo via

Is this really a racially insensitive statement, or a media overreaction? Photo via

I know that the whole “Redskins” name debate has dialed up in recent months.  Sometimes tacked on to that debate is the status of the Cleveland “Indians” moniker in general, and the racially insensitive logo (at least in some people’s eyes) in particular.

But is this picture really that bad?  Is this sort of reaction warranted here?

Are these guys really dressed up in “red-face” or are they dressed up more like a “clown-face” that happens to be red?  I mean, the team colors are “red,” as evidenced by the red lettering on their jersey.  I dunno.   I didn’t think twice about this picture until I saw the story repeated several times in my RSS feed today.  And my initial reaction is this: I didn’t think anything of it and certainly didn’t take it as insulting.  But then again I’m a) not an American Indian an b) generally cynical when it comes to the general over-reaction in today’s climate against anything that is funny, sarcastic or anything even remotely resembling a politically incorrect statement.

I mean, it isn’t as if they colored their faces like this:

Not good.  Photo via google images.

Not good. Photo via google images.


The two links that I posted happen to be from two websites that may be just trolling for readers.  One is the click-ad opportunistic BusinessInsider website; they often post incredibly argumentative headlines and lists of pictures that force you to click through 20 items to pad their hit counters.  The other is the USA Today, which has somewhat of a “stuffy” reputation in the sports reporting world for being overly “PC” in its columns and stances (see anything that Nancy Brennan has ever written or consider their relentless/continued coverage of everything Lance Armstrong when the other major sporting news outlets have long since let go of the coverage).  So perhaps I’m just getting caught up in these two website’s trolling activities and over-reacting myself.

What do you think?


Written by Todd Boss

October 3rd, 2013 at 2:29 pm

How much live action occurs in each sport? Ball-in-Play studies summarized


How much live action actually occurs in each major sport?

Editor Post-publishing Update: this was originally published in July of 2013.  Over the years I have updated this post with additional information, resulting in adjusted numbers from the original.  I’m always looking for more and better information and am all ears if you have links to these kinds of studies.


I’ve never been the biggest NFL fan, despite living in a distinctly football town here in Washington DC.  But in the past few years or so, slowly my patience for watching an entire NFL football broadcast has ended.  Notice how games used to be slated for 1pm and 4pm on Sundays?  Now they’re 1pm and 4:15pm, with seemingly all that extra time now devoted to commercials.  Every time there’s a time-out, a break in play, after every challenge, there’s more commercials.  My friends and I have a joke.  I’ll ask “Hey, what time is the 8:00 game?”  And instead of the answer being obvious … the answer is 8:15 or 8:30 or whenever they’ve now pushed the late sunday night game thanks to the 4:00 games running late (you know, since they  now start at 4:15 or 4:25 or whenever they’re slated to start).

Ironically, the same distinct lack of action complaint is easily seen in baseball broadcasts.  So I can’t be casting too many hypocritical stones against my football-following brethren (this is a Baseball-focused blog after all).

I got to wondering; just how many frigging commercials do they really show in NFL games these days?  This pursuit led to the larger issue: How often is the ball actually in play in an NFL game?  How often are the fans just sitting there watching crowd shots or replays or pictures of cheerleaders or head coaches looking constipated?

So I started looking far and wide for “Ball in Play” studies for the 5 major professional sports to compare and contrast the TV viewer experience.  Here’s what I’ve found (all sources are listed at the bottom and referenced inline).  For some sports (Hockey and Basketball) it is relatively easy to assume that, if the clock is running, there’s action.  For the others, with either a lack of a clock (Baseball) or significant periods of inactivity while the clock is running (Soccer to some extent but especially in Football) the details are harder to come by.

  • Baseball: Per the 2013 WSJ study, Baseball games feature 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action.  Baseball games have been increasing in length (thanks in part to the eighteen annual 4-hour marathons between the glacial Boston Red Sox and equally glacial New York Yankees) over the years.  But, the amount of action has stayed roughly the same.  A 1952 TV broadcast showed about 13 minutes of action but just 9 minutes 45 seconds of commercials. The latest WSJ study found that fully 42 minutes and 41 seconds of between-inning inactivity would be purely commercial time on TV broadcasts.  That means there’s nearly 5 times as many commercials now than 50 years ago.
  • Football: Per the WSJ 2010 study, NFL games feature about 11 minutes of action.  The amount of action in football games has been roughly the same since the early 1900s.  There was roughly 13 1/2 minutes of action in 1912, and slightly less in the 2010 study.  Other studies have shown that football generally ranges between 12-17 minutes of action.  Personally I tracked one quarter of an NFL playoff game  a few years ago with these numbers: in 50 minutes of clock time we saw exactly 250 seconds of action (4 minutes, 10 seconds) accompanied by no less than 20 commercials.  And this turned out to be a relatively “easy” quarter: one time out, one two-minute warning and two challenges/reviews.  It could have been a lot worse.  More recent studies have found that things are worsening for the NFL: WP’s Fred Bowen counted the ads in a 2014 NFL game and had seen an astounding 152 advertisements during the game.  152; that was more ads than plays from scrimmage.  Update for 2015: the early returns on the first few weeks of the season show a huge up-tick in penalties, which have slowed the game by four minutes from 2014 and average times are now at 3hrs 10minutes for games.
  • Basketball: NBA games average 2 hours and 18 minutes in actual time.  Working backwards (since the clock only runs when the ball is in play and we know there’s exactly 48 minutes of play time) we know that there’s 138-48 = 90 minutes of “down time” of some sort in a typical NBA game.  Not all of that is commercial time but all of it is inaction.  I cannot find any documentation of typical number of commercials so i’ve just split the difference between on-screen inaction and off-screen commercials in the table below.  If you’re a big-time NBA watcher and feel this isn’t fair, please comment as such.
  • Hockey: The Livestrong piece below (side note: why is Livestrong doing “ball-in-play” studies on Hockey?) quotes average NHL games being 2hours and 19minutes in the 2003-4 season.  Working backwards from this, you have three 20-minute periods and two 17 minute intermissions, which leaves 46 minutes of remaining idle time.  Given that the idle times in Hockey are not nearly as long as those in basketball, I’m going to estimate that about 2/3rds of that 46minutes is commercials.
  • Soccer: Per the website 2011 study, between 62 and 65 minutes of ball-in-play action is seen on average in the major European pro leagues per game.  For the table below i’ll use 64 minutes as an average.  The duration of pro soccer games is relatively easy to calculate: they fit neatly into a 2 hour window by virtue of its 45minute halves, 15 minute break and an average of 3 minutes added-time on either side of the halves.  45+45+3+3+15 = 111 minutes of a 2 hour/120 minute time period.  Thanks to a bit of fluff on either side of the game, you generally count a soccer broadcast to last 1 hour and 55 minutes.  In the table below i’ve assumed that a huge portion of the intermission is commercial; in fact it is a lot less since most soccer broadcasts have a half-time show and highlights.  So if anything, the # of commercials in soccer broadcasts is less than listed.  Post 2014 World Cup Update: FIFA estimates that the group stage games averaged 57.6 minutes of action per game (if i’m reading their stat page correctly).  I’ll use this as the number going forward, even though World Cup games might be a bit “slower” than your average pro soccer game due to the careful, tactical nature of most of the matches.

So, in summary, here’s how the five major sports look like in terms of Ball in Play and # of commercials the viewer is forced to endure in a typical broadcast:

Sport Clock Duration Amt of Action % of Action Amt of Commercial Time Est # of 30-second commercials # of commercials/hour
Baseball 2hrs 58mins 17mins, 58secs 10.09% 42.68 85 29
Football 3hrs 10mins 11mins 5.79% 75 150 47
Soccer 1hr 55mins 57.6mins 50.09% 19 38 20
Basketball 2hrs 18mins 48mins 34.78% 45 90 39
Hockey 2hrs 20mins 60mins 42.86% 30 60 26

From this you can clearly see that watching Soccer gives you the most amount of live “Action,” though cynics and soccer-haters would probably claim that a lot of that action is “dead action,” defenders passing the ball around and not the type of action you see in other sports.  I’m a soccer fan and would rather have this type of “dead action” than what we see in the NFL: one 3 second running play then more than 30 seconds of watching players stand around before running another 3 second running play.  Don’t be fooled; there’s plenty of dead action in other sports too that gets counted as “live action” here … players walking the ball up the court in slow motion for 10 seconds in Basketball, the dumping of the puck to the end of the ice to facilitate a line shift in hockey, etc.

Soccer is easily the most predictable of the five sports to plan a viewing experience around; you know for a fact that a regular-season/non-Overtime game is going to be over within 2 hours.  All the other sports can go into over-time and lengthen the time commitment.

Professional Football is at the bottom of all of these Viewer-experience measures: it is the longest broadcast, shows the least amount of game action and forces around 50 commercials an hour onto its viewers.  And the NFL is only getting worse; recent years have seen the introduction of new commercial breaks where none existed before (after a kickoff being the most ridiculous, but the mandated booth reviews at the end of halves now gift-wrap new commercial breaks to broadcasters at a game’s most critical time).

Thoughts?  If you have better information I’m all ears.  I’ve had very good suggestions to add to this data stuff like College Football, College Basketball and Tennis.  Perhaps some day with more research we’ll revisit.



Written by Todd Boss

July 17th, 2013 at 8:20 am

Why is Paul Pierce wearing a Washington Nationals hat?

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No complaints.  Just seems a bit odd :-)  He has (as far as I can tell) zero connections to Washington (born in Oakland, high school in LA, college in Kansas, entire NBA career in Boston).

Good pub for the team I guess.

Written by Todd Boss

July 8th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Non-Baseball

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….And we’re back


If you’re seeing this, we’re live at the new host.  Upgraded version of WordPress, more stable server (it is no longer hosted on a machine that literally is sitting on someone’s desk).

I lost a comment on my forkball article; apologies to Frank M.  (I only saw it at the last minute before the cutover).

Let me know if you see any issues.

Written by Todd Boss

June 17th, 2013 at 9:02 am

Posted in Non-Baseball

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System Maintenance Notice

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Hello all.

A quick note: we’re moving the blog today (June 15, 2013) to a new hosting provider that will give us a lot more stability and should effectively end the downtime issues we’ve been having.  The new host also has a better WordPress configuration which should allow us to do some more plug-ins, have better tracking, etc.

We’ll be back soon.  Thanks.

Written by Todd Boss

June 15th, 2013 at 8:29 am

Posted in Non-Baseball

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