A Closer Look … Football-NFL-Playoffs-Records-Competition-Super Bowl Bound-

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with Anthony Newcombe

Let’s take a closer look …

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021 (#HNY)! 

We can finally pat ourselves on the back after taking more than a few big ones in the teeth throughout much of 2020.  However, I promise not to mention the “C” word (“Covid”) again today.  It will be the only time that word will have escaped mention in my A Closer Look… entries since last spring some time.  Let’s get to one of the few “survivors in sports” from last year – the entire NFL. Most owners, coaches, players and others emerged with delays and confusion, but no actual cancellations and a full season’s completed regular schedule.  Wow! That’s a mouthful!

TopicNFL Playoffs  

Category: Sports 

Issue:  Where is the upper brass of the league taking this thing? 

As you can imagine, this is hardly the first time I’ve had a conversation about playoff eligibility, league alignment, and whether (or not) teams should even be allowed to appear in the playoffs with a losing record.  I would like to get this on the record prior to this weekend’s bonanza of games meant to keep us all on our couches for its entirety.  Q: During a lockdown, where the heck else are we going to go?  Uh, is that Doordash?! 

Anyway, I’d like to begin by arguing I believe the addition of a seventh spot in each conference is an okay thing.  However, what I disagree with is when it is combined with the “divisional championship” system from the good old days. That’s when it becomes somewhat of a mess.  We are literally going to bid adieu to some teams with 10-6 records – while enabling the NFC East winner to host a game while not even sniffing a winning record.  No offense, but what did they do to deserve that?! To use the “S” word, it kind of “SUCKS!”  And speaking of the NFC East (no offense Texas) but, the Dallas Cowboys should have been moved outta there a long time ago.  We can’t have partial nostalgia and the rest disruption. Right?!

You know, I’m old enough to remember when the Seattle Seahawks played in the AFC West.  So, for NFL “purists” who choose to argue that Dallas, Philly, the football Giants, and yes, the newly titled Washington Football Team should remain in close divisional proximity, I say, POPPYCOCK!  If the league is going to make radical changes to its playoff schedule – and, I hear game #17 is coming soon to your football platter, we should also become comfortable with other logical changes likewise. 

Since I know you’re holding your breath for my suggestions (kidding), I recommend something like: BLOW UP the divisions completely and instead have each conference award 8 (yes, 8! Or, 9!) playoff spots to the best records in each conference. That gives half the teams in the league the opportunity to play in the postseason.  And it sets the table for plenty of revenue raising options for the upper brass in NYC and elsewhere.  Let’s face it, I would be embarrassed to hang a divisional championship banner in my mancave on the heels of a 5-11 season (or 7-9). Wouldn’t YOU?! C’MON MAN!   

Oh, and one other thing: let’s give the top two teams BYES again!  I think it’s shameful to overlook a 14-2 or 13-3 team just because the #1 team is 15-1.  Again, it’s great to incentivize the lower half of playoff contention, but let’s not cheat the consistent, rightful earners of the best records in the game while we do it, okay?! 

It’s not much, but it’s a start.  Let’s keep the ball rolling with some debate… 

Tell me what YOU think? 

A.N.  

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A Closer Look … Baseball, meet Covid

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with Anthony Newcombe

Let’s take a closer look

Topic: PLAY BALL!! (just don’t spit or argue…and get Covid tested often!!)

Issue: Can baseball players really refrain from spitting?! Or, arguing? Or …

I guess it’s a valiant effort to think we can “field” a troupe of MLB players and count on them to refrain from spitting before, during, and after a game. However, do you think it’s perhaps a bit far-fetched we can achieve such a lofty goal? 

I mean, these guys (I do know a little bit about them) have been “takin’ a dip,” “puttin’ in a chaw,” and otherwise hockin’ loogies since practically tee ball. In fact, I could tell you some stories about guys who filled up 2-liter soda bottles with the “after-sauce” of Apple JackSkoalCopenhagen, or … well, take your pick, big boy.  

The point is that a good argument can be made that spitting is just as (if not more) linked to baseball than both apple pie and hot dogs are to the American culture. Baseball players spit … period.  Even the ones who don’t chew tobacco.  It’s part of the game folks. 

To add insult to injury, players will also be commanded to “not argue” with the field umpires and be available for plenty of Covid testing. Baseball and testing?! C’mon, man! Did you see what happened during the (steroid era) 90s and early 2000s? Again, testing and baseball haven’t mixed too well in the past. Let’s just leave that argument for a different day. 

Okay, so even if we can clear the above hurdles, we must also understand that, in lieu of screaming and adoring fans, the stands will be filled with … cardboard cutouts of fans. Yes, I said it, cardboard! If ever there was a reason to spit on something, this may be it.  

In this technological age, couldn’t we have come up with something more life like? How about holograms that are programmed to behave like regular fans? Or how about cartoons of fans who drink gallons of beer, scream obscenities at the top of their lungs, and hurl batteries (and other unmentionables) onto the field – without provocation?  Sounds kind of fun, huh? 

Or, how about this? How about making the holograms, well, (fake) spit! That way, the players will feel more at home for the opener … wait a second, did the rules committee just tell baseballers that they can’t adjust their, uh, “pant legs” either?  What is this world coming to?!! 

What do YOU think? 

-A.N. 

Seriously though, stay safe my readers! 

A Closer Look …

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with Anthony Newcombe

Let’s take a closer look

Arena: Sports & Cheating

Topic: Why do we seem to care more today about cheating in sports?  

I know a little bit about professional sports. In fact, without getting too far into the weeds, let’s just say I practically grew up in professional locker rooms, dugouts, and on and off fields, diamonds, and courts. However, since this op-ed is about something else and not about me, let’s just dive right in and get to the bottom of the matter.  

Recently, we have been inundated (much more so than usual) with television/ radio shows, and online debates focusing on the issue of “cheating in professional sports.”  In them, pundits rave and rage about how horrible it is that the Houston Astros (allegedly) stole signs in order to win a World Series Championship in 2017. They go on to argue that these same Astros (allegedly) continued to cheat in subsequent years – and perhaps, even as recently as just last year.  

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