XFL II

Already in 2019, professional football fans have already seen the AAF (Association of American Football) come and go.  The league’s on-field product was pretty good, but not good enough to stave off an abrupt ending to play prior to the end of its first (and only) regular season. 

A bankruptcy filing followed soon thereafter. 

What did we learn from the “Crash & Burn” AAF this year? 

  1. There are some die-hard fans that are willing to watch a less-than-NFL quality brand of football once the Super Bowl ends. 
  2. Unfortunately, there may not be enough of those fans willing to pay for tickets (even at $20 apiece) to show up in winter conditions (cold and rain) for a minor-league level quality of play.
  3. Don’t play football in cities which can’t fill-up at least half of the stadium.  Ever.  You need television viewers to see that fans of the team are supportive and having a good time.
  4. Don’t televise football games on networks (CBS Sports Network, NFL Network) which aren’t available on most cable and satellite providers.
  5. Expect (and prepare) to lose a ton of money in Year 1 and, likely, in every subsequent year of play thereafter.
  6. Define what your objectives are (a merger with NFL or a peaceful co-existence as the official developmental league for the NFL) in advance and do not lie to your fans about it beginning on Day 1. 
  7. Have all of your league’s funding (in cash and ready to spend) available from Day 1 and expect to lose three times more cash than you initially budgeted.

With all of those harsh lessons learned by the fledgling AAF this spring, it’s time to welcome back the XFL (Version 2.0) beginning the week after the NFL ends play in February, 2020.

What???

Yes, the XFL is returning to try a reboot after its own “One and Done” football season back in 2001. 

Yes, the XFL II will be owned and controlled by the same primary owner, Vince McMahon, who runs the professional wrestling company WWE.

Yes, the XFL (apparently) has plenty of cash as Mr. McMahon has cashed-out a lot of his WWE stock (upwards of $500 million).   My question is whether he has the stomach to see it all disappear in a heartbeat to bankroll the start-up costs to fund his new venture. 

Let’s now examine our “AAF Lessons Learned” questions above as it pertains to the XFL II:

  1. The original XFL (2001) averaged only 23,500 fans per game for games played during the winter and early spring.   The AAF’s average attendance was only about 15,000 per game.  Even though the AAF played in a few smaller markets and the XFL II, fans shouldn’t be expected to sit outside in wet and cold conditions.  I wouldn’t expect a significantly increase in local attendance with XFL II.
  2. What should be the average ticket price to charge fans to watch a winter-time minor-league football?  I think the XLF II will be hard-pressed to sell tickets for more than an average price of $30-40 per seat. 
  3. That said, will enough fans fill the seats to make the viewers at home believe that the on-field product is worth watching?  The XFL II is beginning with eight teams in seven current NFL cities.  On the east coast, there are teams in New York City, Washington DC, and Tampa.  On the west coast, there will be teams in Seattle and Los Angeles.  In the middle, XLF II will begin with teams in Dallas, Houston, and St. Louis (the only market without an NFL team right now).  I have a hard time believing that these NFL communities will support an additional season of minor-league football.
  4. This is the one area where the league benefits from having Vince McMahon as its fearless leader.  With a three year deal, XFL II games (Saturday and Sunday afternoons) will be telecast on ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports/FS 1.   The odd thing, though, is that the networks will not pay the XFL anything (that’s right – zero) for the broadcast rights as the league will apparently “sell” its own share of commercials in a barter-type broadcast arrangement.  From the networks’ perspective, the potential for losses are minimized while the upside is generous. 
  5. How much money will the league lose?  Let’s review the XFL of 2001.  According to reports, the league lost about $70 million during its first and only season.  Vince McMahon lost half of that amount and NBC (the 50/50 partner) lost the other half.  After the debacle of the AAF this spring, I suspect that the XFL II should be prepared to lose at least $100-150 million in Year 1.
  6. What are the goals for the league?  The only thing which the XFL II has said is that it does NOT want to become a developmental league for the NFL.  Got it.  Do they really want to go head-to-head with the NFL at some point?   The American Football League (AFL) went head-to-head with the NFL for ten seasons before a merger deal was worked.  This is quite unlikely as the NFL won’t plant another franchise in seven of the eight markets.  My best guess is that the league (if it survives) will need to be content as “football light” and hope that enough televisions viewers will watch and, in turn, allow the XFL to make recoup losses on the field via television revenues. 
  7. Though it is true that Vince McMahon has sold more than $400 million of his WWE stock, that doesn’t mean he has the willingness to lose all of that money in two or three years.  Other than his fantasy of grabbing his share of revenue from the billions of dollars generated by the NFL, he seems to be a prudent businessman.  Though the XFL II could syphon off less than 10% of McMahon’s net worth, I cannot see him feeding a loser for more than one season.

The XFL II is going to fight an uphill battle against the ghosts of the AAF and its own XFL-Version 1.

The league will have to prove that it has enough fans willing to show-up in person and plunk down their money to watch the games, enough fans willing to watch every week on television, and ownership willing to lose copious amounts of money for at least three seasons to establish credibility.

If the XFL II starts and completes two full seasons, I, too, will be quite surprised.

Sports Stars and TV ratings

Last night, the Golden State Warriors swept the Portland Trailblazers out of the NBA playoffs and will appear in their fifth straight NBA Finals soon.  As champions for three of the past four seasons, Golden State’s championship team should be quite familiar to the American television viewers by now.

However, television ratings for the NBA playoffs are down by about ten percent from previous years. 

What gives?

Could it be that LeBron James is missing from the NBA playoffs this year for the first time since 2005 and after playing in the last eight NBA Finals?

Maybe.  I guess the “LeBron factor” was higher than the NBA expected. 

Could it really be that hundreds of thousands of basketball fans will tune-in ONLY when America’s longest reigning basketball star is playing on television? 

Apparently so.

Last weekend, golf’s second major of the season, the PGA Championship, played to one of the smallest television viewing audiences in the past twenty years.   The venue was Bethpage State Park’s Black course, which is as difficult of a layout as you can ask for.

The winner of the event, Brooks Koepka, is the hottest golfer on the planet after winning for the fourth time in the past eight majors.  So, why did the ratings drop by 36% from last year’s PGA Championship?

Could the problem have been that Tiger Woods missed the cut and wasn’t participating this weekend in the final rounds? 

Could it really be that hundreds of thousands of golf fans ONLY tune-in when America’s longest reigning golf star is playing on television?

Apparently so.

Can you imagine what will happen to the NFL television ratings if the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints fail to make the playoffs this fall?  If that were to happen (but it probably won’t), there would be no Tom Brady or Drew Brees on television during the playoffs.

The NFL television ratings would definitely take a big hit.

Are there that many casual sports fans who only know (or like) LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees and won’t tune in to watch the sport without them?

Apparently so.

Let’s do a little test.  I’ll make you a SwampSwami unofficial wager – right now.

Assuming that Zion Williamson is drafted as the #1 overall pick in June’s NBA draft, I’ll wager that you will see the New Orleans Pelicans (or whichever team Zion ends up playing for) on ESPN and TNT more than times next season than you will see the Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Detroit Pistons on national television.

All four of those teams failed to make the playoffs this season, and all of them will add draft picks this June to help improve their squads.    

Why Zion?  The media has made “Zion” into a household name the past season.  Of course, the young man has loads of talent, a high energy, a winning smile, and a memorable first name.

But then again, so does Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.  Same for Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Clippers.     

Sorry, Draymond and Montrezl.  Though you played at well-known colleges (Michigan State and Louisville) and had solid college careers, you were both second round picks in the NBA draft. 

Zion, though, went to Duke, had nearly all of his basketball games shown by ESPN this season, and has been touted for the past year as the next “LeBron James”.

Maybe Zion will become a terrific professional basketball player.  However, Draymond Green already has three championship rings with the Warriors and Montrezl Harrell is in the running for the NBA’s “Sixth Man of the Year” for coming off the bench to average nearly 17 points per game  and 7 rebounds per game for the Clippers. 

You certainly cannot fault Zion Williamson for the hype and media adulation.  He is a talented basketball player who will make millions of dollars even if he rarely hits the floor in an NBA game. 

It is hard to define the so-called “It” factor in sports, but other successful athletes also don’t have to deal with the constant scrutiny of the media, either. 

Welcome into the very exclusive and select group called the “Television Sports Stars” club, Zion! 

Koepka and DJ – The Bland “Iron Byron” Golf Twins

With this weekend’s snooze-fest called the PGA Championship, I believe it is now safe to say that professional golf’s television ratings are in a world of trouble.

As Brooks Koepka started the final day with an unheard-of seven shot lead on Sunday at the Bethpage State Park – Black golf course, it would have taken an epic collapse (think “Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters”) to prevent him from winning his fourth major championship over the past two years.

Koepka bogeyed four holes in a row on the back nine on Sunday and, for a few minutes, saw his lead trimmed to one shot, but his closest competitor and close friend, Dustin Johnson, gave up two shots on the final three holes to hand the title to Koepka.

Though Koepka’s training buddy, Dustin Johnson, applied some minimal pressure on Sunday, DJ seems to have trouble closing the deal in golf’s majors.

With Koepka now winning 50% of the past eight golf majors, Dustin Johnson is now the owner of the “Second Place Slam” as he has finished in the runner-up spot in the past four marquis golf events.

These two guys spend time in the weight room together, on the driving range together, and are off-the-course friends, too. 

Sadly, both of these golfers share a bad habit of chewing tobacco, and, grossly, expectorating the stuff while the cameras are on them. Ugh.

They are both notoriously bland to watch and rarely provide golf fans any emotion while playing.  As New York golf fans shouted “DJ! DJ! DJ!”, Dustin Johnson rarely acknowledged the hearty support from the crowd.

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka admitted that he heard the DJ cheers and used it as motivation to snap-out of his bogey streak on the back nine. 

Koepka, whose arrogance/confidence makes him equally as boring to watch as Dustin Johnson, admitted that he plays best when he feels slighted in some manner.  Whether the issue (fans shouting a competitor’s name around him, for example) or something he keeps mentally filed away, Koepka apparently needs something to poke the bear and motivate himself.

“There’s always a chip,” Koepka said. “I think every great athlete has a chip.”

For Dustin Johnson, though, it looked like the fans’ adulation actually made him more nervous.  With the winds blowing 15-20 mph for the first time in the four-day PGA Championship on Sunday, Dustin Johnson briefly moved to 3-under par for the day before stumbling with two bogeys coming down the stretch. 

Koepka won the tournament by just two shots.  Ouch.

As a golf fan, I was hoping that Dustin Johnson would embrace the support from the boisterous patrons and rally into a most improbable victory.  Unfortunately, DJ continues to finish near the top but still has just one major championship (the 2016 US Open).

The CBS announcers called Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson the “Smash Brothers” as both golfers are known for their extremely long drives off the tee.  When professional golfers’ tee shots travel well over 300 yards and find the fairway, most golf courses are being reduced to pitch-and-putt games for guys like these.

No one will convince me that Koepka and DJ would necessarily outdrive players from past generations without the benefit of recent equipment changes which have reduced the amount of hook or slice spin from the face of the golf club onto golf balls which, themselves, are engineered to go straighter and fly longer. 

Golf has utilized a uniquely designed machine called “Iron Byron” for many years in order to replicate the golf swing and test golf clubs and golf balls.   

With the recent success of long-bomb specialists such as Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, the USGA and the PGA Tour should dial back or limit the technological advantages afforded to professional golfers and increase the punishment for missing the fairways.

Absent any scaling-back of golf equipment advances, then the first place to start would be to end fairways at 300 yards and increase the amount of rough the further the ball travels down (and off) the fairway.   

If golf doesn’t punish this generation of long-bombers soon, then golf might want to roll-out Iron Byron at June’s US Open to give Koepka and Johnson a run for the championship! 

At least that might be more interesting to watch!

Sweep-the-SwampCast! May 17, 2019

Welcome back to SwampSwami’s “Sweep-the-SwampCast!” podcast for this week!

Golf’s PGA Championship has moved from August into May and is underway this weekend at Bethpage State Park “Black” Golf Course located outside of New York City. We’ll talk about the tournament and see if Brooks Koepka will hold onto the lead this weekend.

We’ll also talk about the amazing Golden State Warriors of the NBA, college basketball recruiting, the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and take a peek at Saturday’s Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

To listen, please click on the button above. Better yet, subscribe to this and all of our podcasts via Apple Podcasts. It’s FREE – try it today!

Pelicans should replicate “Strength in Numbers”

As someone who once lived in New Orleans, your SwampSwami would like this commentary to be a special note to the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans and their management.

The Pelicans were given only a 6% statistical probability of landing #1 pick last night during the NBA’s annual draft lottery.  Though six other NBA teams had a higher probability of drawing the #1 position, the Pelicans literally came out of nowhere and now control the first pick in the NBA’s June draft.

This now means that the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Washington Wizards likely won’t be able to select Zion Williamson, the freshman sensation from Duke.

Sometimes being lucky beats being good, right?

Though it looked like Pelicans new General Manager David Griffin looked quite stunned with the lucky break (we’ll teach you how to do the Benson Boogie next time, David!), the people who love professional basketball in New Orleans and the Gulf South region were quite excited to hear the team’s good fortune.

The news is reporting that upwards of 2,000 requests for season tickets had occurred within hours of the team landing the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

Whether the late Mr. Benson pulled a few strings for the team or that lucky charm that David Griffin clutched had anything to do with the Pelicans’ lucky night, it’s now time to get serious about what the team should do.

Long before last night, the Pelicans’ had been dealing with the drumbeat that Anthony Davis, the team’s last #1 overall pick from 2012, has steadfastly told the team for months that he wants out of the Crescent City and the final year of his contract.

Suitors like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and New York Knicks were already lined-up like buzzards on top of the Smoothie King roof during the final months of this season. 

They’re still there, too.

First, SwampSwami thinks that the New Orleans Pelicans should look to the success of the Golden State Warriors and their continued winning with a “Strength in Numbers” motto.   The Warriors starters and bench players play hard on both ends of the court and, more importantly, freely share the basketball with any teammate who has the better shot. 

The lack of selfishness up and down the Golden State roster is why they are still playing basketball and Boston and Philadelphia have headed home after two rounds of the NBA playoffs this season. 

I believe the first order of business for the Pelicans should be to let the NBA know that Anthony Davis is available, but only if the price is right. 

That price should be a combination of high draft picks and young talented players who have shown a desire to play hard every night to help their team win.   The last thing New Orleans needs is to obtain more high school prima donnas who will want to take the next riverboat out of the CBD.

New Orleans isn’t (thankfully) one of the media-centric and star-studded cities where immature players can spend their checks and feed their inflated basketball egos.

I think that players from smaller colleges or metropolitan areas can make for a good fit in New Orleans.  There’s plenty to do, but not the same bright lights as found on the East and West coasts. 

When evaluating the current players being offered for Anthony Davis, the Pelicans would be wise to look for leadership and consistency in their output while in the NBA.  A history of injuries or pouting on the bench isn’t what the team needs as it seeks to replace one of the league’s best players who, unfortunately, has became one of the league’s newest crybabies this season, too.

The Pelicans need a roster full of players who will give their all every night and get along with each other.  Check and double check any players being offered by other teams and, regardless of their so-called level of “talent”, eliminate anyone who has a history of whining.

Second, I think the Pelicans would be wise to evaluate the possibility of what they might be able to get for this year’s upcoming #1 pick (Zion Williamson).  There is no doubt that the New York Knicks and their incredibly depressed fans (they were the statistical favorite for the #1 pick going into last night) might be willing to make a deal for their own pick (#3 overall) and much more for swapping picks with the Pelicans.

The same rules apply, though.  Only proven contributors without a history of whining need apply.

Though fans of the Pelicans may disagree with even considering the chance of trading the #1 pick (Zion Williamson), the objective for the team should be to build a better team and pocket some high draft picks for the future.

That’s what the Boston Celtics have done.  Despite the early exit from this year’s NBA playoffs, the Celtics’ incredible depth gives them a chance to withstand injuries of key players and will keep them a playoff contender for years to come.

Isn’t that what New Orleans basketball fans really want anyway?  The loyal sports fans in the area will go to battle with a team willing to roll-up their sleeves and play hard every night with a chance to win it all someday soon. 

Having “strength in numbers” has worked pretty well for the Golden State Warriors the past several years. 

The New Orleans Pelicans now control their own fate and have a rare chance to build a solid franchise for the next decade by making one or two key moves soon.

NBA Draft Lotto for Zion – “Do ya feel lucky”?

In New York City earlier today, there were real witches who were chanting “Zion Williamson” incantations outside of Madison Square Garden. 

Also in New York, a priest, a rabbi, and a shaman were seen offering prayers for the New York Knicks to win the #1 pick in tonight’s NBA draft lottery.

The winner of the first pick will have the chance to choose the first player in this June’s NBA draft.  Barring any injuries or arrests, Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson is expected to be that pick.

Williamson is a unique basketball talent.  At 6’7” and 285 pounds, he glides up and down the basketball court with the speed and agility of most guards.  He averaged nearly 23 points per game, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals per game in his only season at Duke. 

More importantly, Zion is fun to watch on the court and seems to enjoy the game more than most other college basketball players.  His smile and fun-loving nature make him even more coveted for struggling NBA franchises seeking a revival of fortunes.

The New York Knicks have been really, really bad as a professional basketball team for the past six years.   Out of the 15 teams currently playing in the NBA’s Eastern conference, the Knicks have finished 9th, 15th, 13th, 12th, 11th, and 15th for the past six seasons.

It’s easy to see why the largest city in the United States would be pulling out all of the lucky charm stops in hopes of receiving the #1 pick in the NBA draft.

But first, the city must be lucky enough to win the NBA’s annual draft lottery tonight.

The fourteen NBA teams who did not qualify for the playoffs this season will participate in this confusing annual event combining statistics and random luck.

Once upon a time, the NBA draft lottery gave equal chances to the 14 losers.  In that manner, teams would not be incentivized for losing the most games on purpose. 

Unfortunately, the whining began when the most woeful teams were even unlucky at the 1-in-14 chance selection for draft order positions.

The NBA then revised the annual draft lottery “game” to give a higher percentage chance to the teams which finished with the worst record.

In my opinion, this has caused even more disparity by teams throwing in the towel earlier in the year in order to (theoretically) improve their chances at receiving one of the top draft picks for next season.

I assume that the NBA felt the need to give each franchise and its fans some modicum of annual hope by allowing the League’s Biggest Losers to have one night of feeling important.

Now, the NBA has made the statistical chances the same for the teams which finished this season with the worst records in the league. 

In tonight’s NBA draft lottery, the worst team (New York Knicks) will have the same changes as the next-worst teams (the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns finished in a tie for 2nd/3rd worst records). 

According to the statisticians, each of those three teams has 14% chance of grabbing the top pick and a 52.1% chance of earning a top four pick in this summer’s annual player draft.   

If you are unfortunate team which was the last team (i.e. – the team with the “best” record that didn’t make the playoffs) in tonight’s draft lottery, your favorite team has a whopping 1% statistical chance of being selected for the top pick.

With thanks to the Boston Celticswebsite, below is exactly how the NBA draft lottery is performed (Note – please make sure a caffeinated beverage is nearby if you wish to successfully make it through the first paragraph without falling asleep):

Fourteen Ping-Pong balls, numbered one to fourteen, are placed in a bin. It turns out that there are exactly 1,001 possible four-ball combinations when you have a set of fourteen. Each team in the lottery has been assigned a set number of combinations of any four of the balls, for a total of 1,000 combinations. (The 1,001st combination belongs to no team.) The number of different combinations assigned to each team depends on that team’s record; teams tied at the end of the regular season split evenly the total combinations allotted to their two (or three) positions, with one team getting one more combination in the event the total is odd.

Then, an independent accountant, witnessed by a representative from each lottery team, draws four balls out of the bin, and whichever team is assigned that combination gets the first pick in the draft. (If it’s the 1,001st combination, the balls are replaced and drawn again.) After the first pick is determined, the balls are replaced, and the process repeated. If the new combination belongs to the team that already won the first pick, the balls are replaced & drawn again. The next different team whose combination is chosen gets the second pick, and then the whole process is repeated again for the third pick and fourth pick. After those four picks are set, the remaining teams are set to pick in inverse order of record, with ties being broken by a drawing that was held earlier in the season. The accountants mark down who gets each pick, and place a card bearing each team’s logo into an envelope bearing the number of that team’s pick. The envelopes are then brought out on stage, where they’re opened in front of a live TV audience, at which point we all find out where each team is drafting.

There you have it! 

Invariably, there will be at least one “surprise” team who will move up in the draft order and cause the unfortunate team who was bumped to cry “Foul!” and then complain to the officials.

Since this is the NBA, I guess we have grown used to hearing that the teams will complain about “fouls” to the officials on nearly every play. 

Why should tonight be any different? 

Sweep-the-SwampCast! May 10, 2019

In this edition, SwampSwami discusses the collapse of the Boston Celtics, the rise of the Milwaukee Bucks, and the hilarity surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. We’ll also talk about how instant replay just ruined another sport – horse racing! Finally, we’ll talk about a couple of professional athletes whose lives have been affected by alcoholism.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend! Remember to tell your Mom “I love you” while you still can!

This is our weekly audio-only version. Please click on the button above, or subscribe to Apple Podcasts. It’s FREE!

Take me Down to the Pawn Shop!

Major League Baseball attendance is off to a bad start in 2019.  Through the first month of the lengthy season (162 games – yawn), attendance for the thirty major league baseball teams is down a little more than 2%.

That doesn’t sound all that bad until you consider that there are only three teams showing a double digit increase.  Philadelphia (+46%), the Chicago White Sox (+12%), and the San Diego Padres (+10%) are all off to a terrific start at the gate.

However, there are a whopping eight major league franchises showing double digit drops in early 2019.  The biggest percentage loser thus far has been in Kansas City (-23%) closely followed by Toronto (-22%) with Baltimore (-17%), Minnesota (-17%), San Francisco (-17%), Houston (-12%), Miami (-12%), and the Los Angeles Angels (-10%). 

On the positive side, Philly’s big attendance gain is in large part from fans’ interest in seeing newly acquired star, Bryce Harper.   It doesn’t hurt that the Phillies are also in first place in the NL East.

On the negative side, MLB owners should be concerned that two of the biggest attendance drops are with teams currently leading their divisions (Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins).  The Tampa Bay Rays are leading the AL East, but home attendance is down 9% at only 13,351 per game early this year.

For the thirty teams in Major League Baseball, the overall attendance is still about 26,200 per game (down nearly 550 per game from last year at this time).  Though a 2% drop in overall attendance isn’t an indicator of impending doom, the trend is not good for a sport which continues to struggle building fan interest.

In 2017, the lowest average home attendance for every team was above 15,670 (Tampa Bay). 

Starting 2019, though, there are currently five MLP teams with home attendance lower than that mark.

Teams in Cleveland (15,585), Baltimore (14,704), Kansas City (14,397), Tampa Bay (13,351), and Miami (9,668) are off to a bad start this season.

As expected, Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is trying to paint a positive picture. 

“It’s a changing world out there,” Manfred said last week.  “Across sports, live [events] is something that generationally is a little different. We need to work really hard on making that live product, which is a different product than turning on the TV, as appealing as possible. I think clubs are investing and experimenting in different ways that over time will pay dividends in appealing to younger people.”

Generationally different?   I was born into the Baby Boom (i.e. “old guys”) generation and have found baseball games to be too lengthy for my entire life.

Here’s a quiz for you.  With the average major league baseball game taking over 3 hours in recent years, how long did baseball games last in 1920?

A:  2 hours, 33 minutes

B:  2 hours, 4 minutes

C:  1 hour, 47 minutes

The correct answer is “C”.  Baseball has doubled in the amount of time needed to watch a nine inning game over the past century.

In addition to the time needed to watch the game (which has been slothful for a long time now), the bigger issue is the cost to take a family of four to one single game.

With average ticket prices of nearly $30 per game, it costs an average family upwards of $200 to take in the ball game, park your car, buy a few beverages, hot dogs, popcorn, and a program.

At $200 about per baseball game, attending a single major league outing is more expensive than that same family might spend for other entertainment options of greater family interest and value. 

With 81 home games per season, MLB clubs depend on families living within their home markets to attend at least one home baseball game per season as well as snagging a large chunk of vacationing visitors during summer months. 

With competition from theme parks, water parks, blockbuster movie events, and other options, the price of attending a major league baseball game is making it a tougher sell for families trying to maximize their discretionary spending.

Choke City – 25 years later

Twenty-five years ago this spring, the Houston Rockets were playing Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the 1994 NBA Western Division semi-finals.

The Rockets, who were favored in the series, surprisingly lost both Game 1 and Game 2 at home by blowing fourth quarter leads.  After the team’s ugly Game 2 loss, the Houston newspaper featured the headline “Choke City” with a story about how the local team had wilted under pressure.

That Houston Rockets’ team eventually rallied to win the series over Phoenix four games to three.  In the NBA Finals, the Rockets found themselves down again three games to two but rallied to win games six and seven and collected the first of their two consecutive NBA championships. 

With the title, the same Houston newspaper published the headline “Clutch City” to denote the team’s ability to focus when the chips were down and win under extreme pressure.

Twenty-five years later, the Houston Rockets are again in the Western Division semi-finals of the NBA playoffs playing the Golden State Warriors.  This year, though, the home teams have won all four games.  Nobody in Houston is even thinking “Choke City” with the series tied 2-2.

In Boston, though, things are quite different.  The city, which had endured a long drought of championships from its baseball, football, basketball, and hockey teams, has seen great success with their sports franchises since the year 2000.    

The New England Patriots have won six of the past 18 National Football League Championships.  The Boston Red Sox have won baseball’s World Series four times, and the Boston Bruins have hoisted hockey’s Stanley Cup back in 2011. 

The Boston Celtics basketball team is known for its winning ways.  The Celtics have won the NBA title 17 times, but only one time (2008) since 1986 after the Larry Bird era ended. 

Boston’s sports fans have become quite proud of their recent championship successes.  This season, the expectations were sky high for the Celtics to return to the mountaintop of professional basketball again.

That’s because, at the end of last season, the scrappy Celtics had fought their way into the NBA Eastern Conference finals before finally losing to the LeBron James’ led Cleveland Cavaliers. 

This year, the Celtics would have all-star guard Kyrie Irving healthy again and add former Utah Jazz all-star forward Gordon Hayward into the line-up.  With LeBron James leaving Cleveland for the Western conference Los Angeles Lakers, it was easy to see why Boston Celtics fans were thinking that their beloved basketball franchise might be heading for another championship season.

Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics have just dropped two straight home games in Boston Garden the past week and now trail the surprising Milwaukee Bucks three games to one heading back to Milwaukee for Thursday night’s Game 5. 

On this website, I have provided my opinions on why I think Kyrie Irving has been a really bad fit in Boston.  Now, some of his Celtics teammates and many fans seem ready to pay for his moving van out of town, too.

After Monday night’s loss to Milwaukee, Irving, who shot a dismal 7 for 22 from the field and has gone 19 out of 62 in the past three games (all losses), told the media he should have taken even more shots than he did during Game 4 in Boston Monday.

Irving said, “For me, the 22 shots?  I should have shot 30. I’m that great of a shooter.”

Great shooter?   I don’t believe that a 31% field goal percentage equates to such an egotistical claim.    

Great shooters are not necessarily measured by points scored alone.  In the professional ranks, you need to be effective when it counts the most. 

I may have been considered a good shooter in high school, but I’m not an NBA player being paid $20 million per season to prove it when your team is in the second round of the playoffs. 

Kyrie Irving’s contract with the Boston Celtics could continue for one more season, but he has the right to ask for an early termination of his current contract this summer. 

Given the immature way in which Irving has handled himself in Boston for much of this season and now in the playoffs, a mutual parting of the ways seems to be quite likely.

Unless…

The Boston Celtics rally from a 3-1 deficit to win this series (a 5% statistical chance based on historical NBA stats), that is.   

More likely, though, that ugly moniker of “Choke City” may show-up again after a twenty-five year break after the self-proclaimed “Great Shooter” Kyrie Irving and the highly-hyped Boston Celtics fail to live up to fans’ expectations. 

Sweep-the-SwampCast! May 3, 2019

In today’s podcast only show, your SwampSwami takes a peek at Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby. With the favorite (Omaha Beach) out of the race due to a breathing problem, SwampSwami suggests another horse for the field!

We’ll also review the NBA playoffs, the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and learn about the brave professional golfer who finally unloaded about slow-play after enduring another 5 1/2 hour round of golf on tour last week.

Finally, we salute the passing of an actor who played one of our favorite movie characters over the last 40 years!

To listen, please click on the button above. Better yet, all of SwampSwami program are on Apple Podcasts! It’s free – try it today!