Onward to Valhalla

The great Bud Grant has died at the age of 95:

Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant, who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl, has died. He was 95.

Born May 20, 1927 in Superior Wisconsin, Harry Peter Grant Jr. played in the NBA, the NFL, and the CFL. He was the oldest living NBA champion, a member of the 1950 Minneapolis Lakers.

Grant later played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He coached the Blue Bombers from 1957 to 1966, taking the job at the age of 29. He won four Grey Cups with the Blue Bombers.

In 1967, Grant succeeded Norm Van Brocklin as head coach of the Vikings. Grant took the Vikings to Super Bowl IV, Super Bowl VIII, Super Bowl IX, and Super Bowl XI. He coached the team until 1983, retiring for a year and then returning after a disastrous 3-13 season under Les Steckel.

Grant, known for an always-stoic sideline demeanor, had a record of 168-108-5 in his NFL coaching career. He went 118-64-3 in the CFL. In all, he coached 466 games, winning 286 times.

For better or for worse, I owe my stoicism to Bud Grant. When asked once about my emotional imperturbability in the face of open hatred, I answered that as a lifelong Vikings fan, I no longer had any capacity for disappointment or tears in the face of defeat. I always admired how he could meet success or failure with stone cold equanimity, and how he refused to bow even before the bitter cold of the Minnesota winters.

One by one, our heroes are leaving us. May we be worthy of them.


The Decline of Europe

One very small example of how the decision to ostracize Russia is going to diminish Europe on the world stage:

The Russian chess body, which started the application process for the transfer in April 2022, joined the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) in a general-assembly vote which saw 29 delegates vote for the move, one delegate vote against, and six delegates abstain. The final transition is scheduled to take place officially on May 1.

This is the first time in history that a chess superpower has switched to another continent. Currently, Russia has 190 grandmasters listed by the FIDE, the most of any country in the world. Geographically, around 77 percent of Russia’s landmass is in Asia.

The influx of those highly rated Russian grandmasters to the Asian region may affect the chances of Asian players, such as those from China and India, to qualify for the World Championship cycle. However, this influx will also increase the quality of Asian chess competitions, which will benefit Asian players in the long run.

Such a change also means the 2023 World Chess Championship has become an intra-continental event rather than inter-continental one. China’s world No.3 Ding Liren will face Russian chess grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi, who is now sitting at second place in the world ratings by the FIDE, in the 2023 World Chess Championship after incumbent champion and world No.1 Magnus Carlsen decided not to defend his title.

Sure, it’s just chess, for now. But how long will it be before other sports follow suit? Quantity has a quality of its own. How long will it be before the big money begins to flow to Asia rather than to Europe? My expectation is that within 10 years, it will be the next Haaland, rather than the next Ronaldo, who will be signing for an Asian football club.

And based on the fact that this article is from Global Times, it is clear that the Chinese are very well aware of the long-term implications of this change of chess federations on the part of the Russian authority.


Whoring for the NFL

Mike Florio tries to float what has to be the dumbest, most disingenous defense of the defensive holding call that gifted the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs:

Four days after the Super Bowl, a surprising number of people continue to suggest that an instance of defensive holding should not have been called defensive holding.

The argument apparently was rooted in the reality that we all wanted to witness a more exciting finish to Super Bowl LVII, and that the foul called on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry allowed the Chiefs to bleed the clock, kick a field goal, and give the ball back to the Eagles with fewer than 10 seconds on the clock.

The argument definitely isn’t rooted in whether holding happened. It did. And, under the rules, holding definitely happened.

“It is defensive holding if a player grasps an eligible offensive player (or his jersey) with his hands, or extends an arm or arms to cut off or encircle him,” the rulebook states.

Or his jersey.

NFL Films has provided a much more clear angle of the fact that Bradberry did indeed hold the jersey of Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Bradberry admitted immediately after the game that he held Smith-Schuster, but that Bradberry simply hoped he’d get away with it. He didn’t. He shouldn’t have.

Why are people still insisting that the officials should have ignored a clear violation of the rules?

Why are people still insisting that the officials should have ignored a clear violation of the rules? The answer could hardly be more obvious. Because the officials had ignored it, and ignored similar violations, for the previous 58 minutes and 6 seconds. The more interesting question is this: why are Florio and other NFL-financed media whores are out in force defending the obvious and indefensible? The answer is because the thumb on the scale is becoming undeniable to even the average fan.

When casual observes like me can reliably and correctly identify which team will be the beneficiary of the referee’s calls before the first half of the first quarter is complete, the league has a problem. Unfortunately, instead of admitting that it has its officials put a thumb on the scale in order to a) keep televised games close and b) further the league’s favored narrative and either stopping the practice or defending its benefits, the NFL is choosing to try gaslighting its fans.

I, for one, am not going to argue that a 55-10 championship game, such as Super Bowl XXIV, is to be preferred in any way to the modern games with the thumb on the scale. It’s not an accident that so many regular season and playoff games are close these days; the phantom “roughing the passer call” against the Giants at the end of the game against the Vikings was as egregious as the officials stopping the clock on a non-existent substitution to permit Andy Reid’s challenging of a pass that had been complete.

Notice that Florio isn’t talking about that. Anyhow, the league should be informed that playing dumb is really not an effective defense in these circumstances.


Just Admit it Already

I was extremely skeptical that Damar Hamlin was alive and well from the moment of “his” appearance at the AFC divisional playoff game in Buffalo, in which “he” appeared to be too short and too slight to be the real Damar Hamlin. Now the smoking gun appears to have been found, which is Hamlin’s Pittsburgh tattoo that commemorates his collegiate career at Pitt.

The tattoo quite clearly isn’t there on the “Damar Hamlin” who appeared at the Super Bowl. I also suspect that the shades were being worn by the individual attending the Super Bowl because there is something observably different about the shape of his eyes. And while the blasphemous jacket both attracted attention and covered Hamlin’s arm tattoos, it appears someone forgot about the neck tattoo.

It’s not the first time. The media announced that Hamlin got a new hand tattoo in February, before the Super Bowl, after “conspiracy theorists” noticed that the individual who attended the AFC playoff game between the Bills and the Bengals on January 22, 2023 was missing the hand tattoos previously observed on the hand of Damar Hamlin.


Write More in the Book

This is a great article about Joe Montana that is more about aging, accomplishment, and legacy than it is about football.

“Every player in history wants to write more in the book,” Young says. “I think about that all the time.”

His voice gets softer.

“No matter how much you write,” he says, “you want to write more.”

“The day you retire you fall of a cliff,” he says. “You land in a big pile of nothing. It’s a wreck. But it’s more of a wreck for people who have the biggest book.”

It’s one thing to understand that there is always going to be someone bigger, smarter, faster, richer, more attractive, or more successful. One of my psychological advantages over the course of my life is that I always understood that and was entirely comfortable with it. I’ve never been the best at anything I’ve done; even on the various occasions that I was a champion my accomplishments were overshadowed by the previous champion or by my teammates.

My best friend is smarter. My brothers are better-looking. My bandmate is far more talented and has a much better voice. I wasn’t even the MVP of the conference-winning team for which I was the leading scorer and scored in every game. So be it. Things are precisely what they are, and all any of us can do is the best that we can. Comparisons with others are not only futile, they are irrelevant, because life outside the ring, the track, or the field is not a competition.

But the one desire that everyone who is successful shares is to write more in the record book. Throw one more touchdown pass. Score one more goal. Write one more book.

Unlike Joe Montana and Tom Brady, I can still do what I do. I’ve got about 15 more years to be at the top of my writing game. If I’m very fortunate, 25 more years. Hence my annual writing goal of 365,000 words per year, which as of yesterday was running at 121.5 percent of goal.


Mailvox: The Thumb on the Scale

A longtime reader emails his observations:

Two plays where the NFL put their thumb on the scale. One, taking away Devonte. Smith’s reception near the first half. If allowed the Eagles could have gone up by two scores at the half. Instead they got a field goal. And of course, the “holding play” on 3rd down with 1:54 to go.

Totally agreed, with the minor caveat that the first play actually involved two interventions, the first being the invented “substitution” call that permitted the officials to give Andy Reid a chance to challenge the call, which was then overturned despite the absence of clear visual evidence of a non-catch.

There was also an attempt to put a third thumb on the scale, but the Goddard catch was too obviously legitimate to risk overturning. The “holding” call was particularly egregious as the receiver was very little, if at all, impeded, and it literally handed the game to the Chiefs by giving them three more downs to run out the clock before kicking the field goal they would have kicked right away in the absence of the flag.

The purpose, however, was not to favor Mahomes over Hurt. It was to reward Kansas City for throwing the second half against Cincinnati in the AFC Championship game the year before. And while I had no doubt the referees would be favoring the Chiefs, I didn’t think a thumb on the scale would be enough to make up for the obvious superiority of the Eagles.

The headline from Pro Football Talk may be relevant in this regard: Patrick Mahomes: Past postseason failures give you a greater appreciation for winning this game

The non-appearance of the vaunted, near-historic Eagles pass rush against an injured Mahomes makes me wonder if we’ll see Philadelphia similarly rewarded next year. I certainly wouldn’t bet against them so long as Hurts is reasonably healthy. That timely fumble…

A second potentially relevant headline: Nick Sirianni: Failure will motivate us


The Thumb on the Scale

While I stopped subscribing to NFL Game Pass and playing fantasy football after the NFL went woke, I still watch all the playoff games. But one thing that made it easier to invest considerably less time in the sport that I’ve followed since childhood was the observation I’d made around the same time, which is that the NFL Commissioner’s office appears to have gotten more aggressively involved in influencing the end results than in previous decades.

While there were a few plays over the years that struck me as highly questionable, for the most part they appeared to be sporadic and generally free of any larger pattern. (See: Drew Pearson a) catching the ball out of bounds, b) pushing off in the 1975 Minnesota – Dallas game, and c) the two non-holding calls on both plays.) The approach has definitely changed, because it’s now become regularly recognizable which team the league would prefer to win the game by the end of the first drive by each team. Note that I said “drive”, not “possession”, because it’s usually impossible to learn anything from an initial three-and-out.

A lot of this year’s playoff games were really good. And the NFL isn’t dictating or scripting the games, it appears to be content to simply put a thumb on the scale, giving the preferred team a small advantage that is worth somewhere between 3 and 7 points in the end. This is an advantage that can be overcome fairly easily by a superior or very well-coached team, but in contests in which the “game of inches” description is apt, it tends to make the crucial difference. The usual reason for assigning the advantage is to help the inferior team and keep the games close, except in those cases when the league has a larger narrative to protect.

For example, in the conference championship games, it was immediately clear that the refs were favoring Philadelphia and Kansas City. I didn’t initially understand why, since the “Andy Reid Bowl” story didn’t seem to justify it, until I read this line from Peter King’s regular Monday morning column.

Historic game: It’s the first of the 57 Super Bowls with two starting Black quarterbacks facing off. Mahomes plays in his third for Kansas City, Jalen Hurts in his first for Philadelphia

And there’s the missing piece. The narrative drives everything.

Philadelphia had absolutely no need of the assistance, as even an excellent 49ers team couldn’t hope to overcome the loss of both its quarterbacks to injury. (The NFL really should go back to 14 game regular seasons and 10 teams in the playoffs. They won’t, but they should in the interest of the quality of the games.) But Kansas City needed every bit of the thumb-on-the-scale in order to eke out a 23-20 win over Cincinnati; the Chiefs also required a failed two-minute drive by the Bengals offense plus an incredibly dumb but 100-percent legitimate penalty by a Bengals linebacker in order to kick the winning field goal in regular time.

As strange as it might sound, recognizing this pattern of subtle intervention tends to make the sport a little more interesting to me, not less. Now it all makes more sense, and I find myself particularly interested in the first two drives, just so I can work out which team is going to get the benefit of the dubious calls at the important moments. Because it’s also observable that the referees attempt to cover what I presume is their league-ordered bias by making a dubious call or two in favor of the disadvantaged team late in the game if that will help make the game closer. See: the ridiculous roughing-the-passer call against the Giants at the end of the Minnesota – New York game.

Now, I can understand if die-hard fans of the game find this hard to believe. But so far, the hypothesis has not been falsified.

UPDATE: These penalty statistics are interesting, especially the comparison with the two previous games between Cincinnati and Kansas City.

  • 4-30, 2-11
  • 6-55, 4-35
  • 9-71, 4-55

The statistics are similar for the NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Philadelphia.

  • 11-81, 4-34

These discrepancies are particularly intriguing given the fact that the Bengals were the 2nd least penalized team in terms of yardage whereas the 49ers were the 12th least penalized team. The Eagles were 8th and the Chiefs were 20th.


They Know and They’re Scared

An NFL player sends his friend a damning request:

Today I received this message from a former NFL player

So many current & former players are scared of what this vax is doing to their friends & they’re not allowed to discuss it publicly

I promised him I would be his voice

But my God what is happening to us

This is horrible

You could see what the players on the field at the Bills-Bengals game were thinking: there, but for the grace of God, go I. And a lot of Americans are now beginning to realize what they have done to themselves, and worse, to their children. That’s why the government and the media are pulling out all the stops to save the Narrative.

But it won’t work. The truth will come out.


The Most Likely Scenario

Steve Kirsch consults a series of medical experts and reaches a logical and informed conclusion about the recent NFL incident.

There is a lot of speculation on the Internet about whether or not Damar Hamlin will recover from his injury.

I am very sad to report that this is unlikely.

While I very much hope that I am wrong about this, the evidence that is known is not favorable.

The medical experts I consulted believe that there is a high likelihood that Damar Hamlin was brain dead within 10 minutes after he dropped to the ground.

The primary reason for this conclusion is the 9 minutes of CPR. It is simply very rare for someone not to be brain dead at that point. Nobody I talked to has ever heard of such a case. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. It just means it is rare.

I assume that the reason no information on the unfortunate Mr. Hamlin has been released is because the hospital and the league know perfectly well that he has, for all intents and purposes, passed away. However, this is precisely the sort of highly public incident that the pro-vaxx forces have feared from the start, and they are now promulgating as much confusion and nonsense as they can in order to convince people to deny the evidence of their eyes and linking the young man’s sudden death to his vaccination status.

Now, perhaps this is not true and Mr. Hamlin will be released from the hospital tomorrow. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but Occam’s Razor suggests that reports of Mr. Hamlin’s death due to cardiac arrest will be delayed for a day or three as the Official Story is concocted in order to hide the fact that it was caused by an elevated heart rate + the adverse effects of the vaxx.