Category Archives: Sports

While My Qatar Gently Weeps

The World Cup could be played on a sandlot and still be a major event, watched by hundreds of millions of viewers, due to the quality of the competition and the skilled participants. But it is more than a sporting event. It is the Super Bowl of international team athletic contests with all the pomp, circumstance and distractions that make it more than a game. Which is why, throughout the competition, there have been reminders why the choice of Qatar as the site for FIFA2022 was a travesty.

Forget the FIFA governing body bribes. Or the 6,500 deaths associated with construction of the eight venues and visitor accommodations. Or the unfulfilled promises to those immigrant laborers who were able to survive the heat and accommodations. Or Qatar’s history of civil rights violations. Those have been well-documented. My focus is on the evidence which has emerged during the games.

#1: Empty Seats. The capacity of the eight newly-constructed venues range from 44,089 at 974 Stadium in Ras Abu Aboud to 88,966 at Lusail Stadium located in its namesake city. According to HUKOOMI.COM, the Qatar e-Government website, the “intended audience” includes visiting students, tourists and business owners as well as resident parents, business owners and employees. Keep in mind Qatar’s population is 2.9 million, not enough to fill the seats once, much less multiple times over the four week tournament.

Compare this to some of the venues announced for the 2026 World Cup co-hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada. Matches at the Meadowlands will be within close proximity to a metropolitan tri-state population of 19.8 million people. Similar numbers for Toronto, Mexico City and the other 13 sites ensure every seat will be filled even if the field is expanded to 48 or 62 teams, something which is under serious consideration.

#2: To ensure the pitch (playing surface) at each of the eight venues are both functionally and aesthetically up to FIFA standards, they have been overseeded with rye grass, a winter variant needed when the contest was moved from June/July to November/December to avoid the brutal summer heat of Qatar’s desert environment. Still, the pitches have been constantly watered and artificially cooled to ensure their consistently. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in complaints the surfaces are more slippery than in past years.

#3: Broken promises. Perhaps the most publicized reversal was the decision by Qatari officials, two days before the opening ceremonies, to ban alcohol consumption in and around the stadiums. This was contrary to the commitment made as part of Qatar’s bid to host the games in which they agreed to allow alcohol in designated stadium areas. AB InBev, Budweiser’s parent company, is the single largest FIFA sponsor and surely would have opposed the site selection if Qatar had been upfront about these restrictions.

Less reported was Qatar’s promise to provide kosher meals and access to prayer services for Israeli and other Jewish attendees. Claiming security concerns, the Qatari officials reneged on both commitments.

#4: Subsidizing foreign fan attendance. Concerned about lack of attendance by fans of the other national teams, Qatar created the Fan Leader Network Programme under which they promised to pay for airfare, lodging, match tickets and per diem for handpicked attendees from the 31 other nations represented at the tournament. In return, these anointed attendees were expected to “report any social media posts which were critical of Qatar.” (New York Times, 11/7/22) Following international press disclosure of the program, the Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body established in 2011 to oversee preparation and conduct of the games, suspended the per diem payments.

#5: Screening attendee apparel. Friday, Kevin Amirehsani and his sister Kiana were prevented from entering the Iran/Wales match until Kiana changed out of her “Woman. Life. Freedom.” t-shirt. Today, it was three Iranians–Saed, his wife Negin and friend Kiyarash–who were detained for wearing similar apparel. On Saturday, World Cup security demanded German soccer fan Bengt Kunkel and a friend surrender their rainbow colored armbands before they were allowed to attend the France/Germany match.

So much for delivery and legacy. The regime established by the Supreme Committee must have taken its game plan out of The Art of the Deal when it comes to contracts, Florida’s Stop Woke and Don’t Say Gay Acts when it comes to tolerance and Texas’ anti-abortion law when it comes to women’s rights. Who says the world doesn’t look to the USA for leadership? At least the autocratic world still does.


Yesterday, the government of Iran demanded the United States be expelled from the World Cup after the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) posted a picture on its social media sites of the Iranian flag sans the Islamic Republic logo, as it appeared during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The act was designed to show solidarity with protesters following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s “morality police” for refusing to wear a hijab.

One would hope the USSF could have been much smarter in finding a way to show support for the protesters. Does anyone honestly believe the USSF would be any less offended if the Iranians had posted the Union Jack as the USA standard to sympathize with Black Lives Matter protesters? If the USSF thinks it is appropriate to feature the flag of their pre-revolution monarch to “stick it to” the Iranians, why would it not be equivalent to question the legitimacy of the current U.S. government by displaying the banner of America’s own pre-revolutionary monarchy?

For what it’s worth.

LIV and Let Die

Call me Grandpa ESP, but there is only one thing I hope the powers that run professional men’s golf four major tournaments say to defectors to the Saudi funded LIV tour. GET OFF OUR LAWN. The same goes for sports reporters, most notably ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, who must be getting paid under the table by Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud to promote the rogue tour.

On Wednesday’s edition of “Pardon the Interruption,” Wilbon was virtually salivating over the prospect an LIV player might win the Open Championship. He described the possibility of an LIV champion as disruptive. And argued the combination of guaranteed money and the ability to still play in the majors will be hard for many PGA and European (now DP) Tour players to resist. Minus eligibility to play in the majors, even Wilbon believes the number of defections will decline.

It was obvious participants in the LIV were not welcome at the Open Championship being played at St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game. Two time Open champion Greg Norman, who has been part of LIV since its inception and is tasked with recruiting players, was not invited to the past champions’ dinner. Loyal PGA and DP players used time at their pre-tournament press conferences to label the defectors as “ungrateful” and “disrepectful of the game’s history and traditions.” More meaningful as this week’s event is the 150 anniversary of the Open Championship.

There is not much the powers behind the four majors–the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship–can do about the LIV Tour’s deep pockets. But they do control who plays in their tournaments and how they qualify. Members of the St. Andrews Royal and Ancient board, the governing body for the Open Championship, signaled they are looking at changes to the qualifying criteria in order to exclude LIV participants.

That may not be necessary. Most of the top players qualify for the majors based on their world golf rankings, calculated on performance in authorized tour events. This week, the LIV tour applied to the ranking organization to award points for LIV events. If consideration of the LIV application was a jury trial, the panel should return its verdict in record time. Consider the following.

Comparing LIV events to those sponsored by the PGA and DP Tours is not a case of apples and oranges. It’s more like automobiles and televisions. The former consists of 48 players competing over 54 holes. To win a LIV event, a player need only out perform 47 competitors over three days. Most PGA and DP events require the winner to excel over four days (72 holes) and best 153 other challengers.

Think of it this way. What if someone created a breakaway professional baseball league with 10 teams that play seven-inning contests over a season consisting of fifty games. Then claimed the division leaders have qualified for the World Series playoffs. Even the justices on today’s Supreme Court would describe the situation as “separate and unequal.”

Professional golfers tend to be Republican and ideologically conservative. Which makes it all that more surprising the LIV contingent is pushing this perversion of “affirmative action.” So what if we are not competing at the same level or under the same rules. We deserve to be admitted to your institutions of higher golf. Not because we are historically disadvantaged or destitute. Quite the opposite.

And do not be surprised when they take the PGA/DP Tours and major tournament sponsors to court claiming their livelihoods have been harmed. One thing you must admit. These guys play with larger than regulation sized dimpled balls.

For what it’s worth.

No We Khan’t

Always in search of the next entrepreneurial opportunity, I took note of two media trends that have dominated American television for decades. First is the remake of British TV shows for a domestic audience. Among the most notable are “American Idol,” hand carried to our shores by Simon Cowell following his success in the London-based “Pop Idol,” “The Office” modeled after Ricky Gervais’ hit of the same title, and “All in the Family,” a doppelganger of “Till Death Us Do Part.”

The second trend is the willingness to tweak a successful format as many ways as possible to make up for the lack of new ideas among the Hollywood and New York entertainment elite. Which brings me back to “American Idol” which has spawned a plethora of increasingly gimmicky and excruciating imitations. “The Voice.” “The Masked Singer.” “I Can See Your Voice.” “Sing On!” “Lip Sync Battle.” “Rhythm + Flow.” “Songland.” And the most recent “Alter Ego,” on which the performers don motion capture suits to become on-stage avatars.

Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan Opposes Trump's Immigration Ban - The New York  Times

Which brings me to my latest venture, a British version of the award-honored American series “Ted Lasso.” The creative twist? Instead of fiction, it is a pseudo-documentary in which the owner of a successful British football team buys an NFL franchise in hopes of a similar level of achievement. It stars Pakistani-born billionaire Shahid Khan who purchased the flailing Fulham Cottagers in 2013. Fulham was on the verge of relegation (demotion) from the Premier League (MLB equivalent) to the Championship League (AAA equivalent). Five years later Fulham was again promoted to the Premier League.

How did they do it? Khan hired his son Tony as Fulham’s director of operations, the NFL equivalent of general manager. He changed managers (read head coach) four times.

In 2009, Khan expresses interest in American sports and seeks the advice of Jerry Colangelo, former owner of the basketball Phoenix Suns and baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. In an interview with the New York Times, Colangelo states, “His interest was specifically football, but he may have mentioned baseball, too.” (Indecision about which sport one knows the least is never a good sign.) Two years later he makes an offer to purchase the Jacksonville Jaguars and receives approval of the sale by NFL owners in December 2011.

Confident the system he used to return Fulham to the Premier League would work in America, Khan appoints son Tony as “chief football strategy officer” (whatever that is) and brings in a new head coach Mike Mularkey (please, no Joe Biden jokes), the first of five such changes over nine years.

After five losing seasons, the 2017 campaign appeared to vindicate Khan’s ownership when the 10-6 Jaguars made it to the AFC championship game. Convinced he had conquered one more world, Khan turned to another “sports” venture, creation of All Elite Wrestling, a new professional wrestling circuit to compete with the McMahons WWE.

2017 proved to be an anomaly. Despite additions such as Urban “Khan: This time I got it right.” Meyer as head coach and overall #1 draft choice quarterback Trevor Lawrence, fans have suffered through four disappointing seasons with the last two at the very bottom of the NFL standings.

This is not the script Khan had written for his foray into western hemisphere athletics. So, at the end of season one, Khan considers pulling the Jaguars out of the NFL to establish a new league, All Elite Football modeled after AEW with stars like Trevor “Pretty Boy” Lawrence and Cam “The Enforcer” Robinson. That should produce a script Khan can relish.

If BBC does not think “No I Khan’t” communicates the premise, maybe they would prefer “Ted Losso.”

For what it’s worth.

To Phrase a Coin

What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?

Anton Chiguhr/No country for old men

Yesterday, for the Buffalo Bills, it was a chance to get to the pinnacle of professional football, Super Bowl LVI. And, if an overnight poll is accurate, I, like 80 percent of Americans, felt cheated and was ready to write a blog about the necessity of changing the league’s overtime rule. Letting the game end with Josh Allen sitting on the bench seemed as unsatisfactory as deciding the FIFA World Cup on penalty kicks.

However, that rush to judgement had the same value as the first draft of an angry email that is better left unsent. There had to be a reason the owners have not changed the rule even though it has been raised after other similar situations, the most memorable being the Kansas City Chiefs, last night’s beneficiaries, having been victimized in the same manner by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2019 AFC championship game. Surely one of the many pundits on ESPN or the NFL Network would make the case for maintaining the status quo.

Much of the analysis focused on the need for an overtime rather than the extra period itself. If only one of the two teams had played defense any time in the fourth quarter. Or the choice by Bills coach Sean McDermott not to put the final kick0ff in play to consume a few of the precious 13 seconds still on the clock.

When it came to the overtime rules themselves, advocates pointed to the fact there are 11 players on both sides of the ball. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon put it most distinctly, “When you lose the coin toss, go out there, play some damn defense and get the ball back for your offense.” But the more I thought about it, there are two other reasons to support the current rule which seemed to escape those who make their living parsing sporting events.

First, if the Bills had a chance to go on offense following the Chief’s opening OT touchdown, the outcome would not have changed. Both teams were scoring at will as evidenced by four lead changes and a tie in the last two minutes of regulation play. Yes, Allen most likely would have steered the Bills downfield and tied the game at 43-43. But does anyone really believe Patrick Mahomes, facing a winded Bills defense, would not have put the Chiefs in position to kick the winning field on the next series?

But the second reason may be the most important. Facing a seven point deficit, the trailing team is given an advantage counter to the dynamics of play under most other conditions. From the time their offense takes the field, they are given one additional opportunity to make each first down. The coach does not have to decide if he is going to punt or kick a field goal on fourth down. He is going to call a play whether it is fourth and one yard or fourth and 20. In contrast, the team that wins the coin toss does not have that luxury. For them, fourth down requires a decision. Can their defense hold the opponent if they punt or kick a field goal? Do they risk a fourth and short in their own territory if they doubt their defense will give them a second chance at victory? They are bound by the tactical decisions on which games are usually decided. Decisions that make Monday morning quarterbacking a sport in its own right.

Like most sports these days, football has evolved into a contest based on specializations. The days when participants play on both sides of the ball are a distant memory. Linemen are rotated depending on the situation. Teams like the New Orleans Saints have tested the concept of revolving quarterbacks. Special teams now have different punters and place kickers. For field goals, the regular center is replaced by a long snapper.

Keep the rule and let the coaches and players adapt to the situation. Maybe you develop a special OT defense with a different lineup. Just imagine the commentary this morning if McDermott had brought in his OT defense and stopped the previously unstoppable Mahomes with an innovative formation or pass coverage. No one would be calling for a rule change.

ObjectsInFilm: Object #18 - The Coin - No Country For Old Men (2007)

To do anything otherwise puts too much importance on the coin versus the players or the game. In the scene from which the opening quote is drawn, Anton Chugihr (Javier Bardem) tells a gas attendant, who is unaware Bardem’s character is a psychopathic murderer, to call the flip of a quarter. Not sure what is at stake, he chooses “HEADS” to which Chugihr looks at the coin and says, “Well done.” As he gets ready to leave the gas station, they have the following exchange.

Chugihr: Don’t put it in your pocket. It’s you lucky quarter.

Attendant: Where do you want me to put it?

Chugihr: Anywhere not in your pocket. Or it’ll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. [Long pause.] Which it is!

For what it’s worth.

The Oprah Bowls

If you think participation awards are only for youth sports, think again. This year there are 44 college bowl games including the playoff games. And with 125 Division-1 schools, approximately two-thirds of all college programs had their seasons extended one more month.

You know the arguments. On the negative side:

These shiny bits of plastic have been blamed for creating an entitled generation who learned to expect adulation for the unexceptional on the playing field and later in life.

Lisa Heffernan,, august 2015

On the positive side:

A participation trophy can be a symbol of the effort and time a person put into an endeavor or it can serve as a reminder or memento for a sport or activity. 

 Jordon Roos and Brad Strand, physcial and health education america, October 2021

As I tuned into what seemed like a 24/7 parade of bowl contests on ESPN, I wondered, “How valuable is a memento of a 6-6 team playing another 6-6 team in a stadium with more empty seats than a Milli Vanilli reunion concert?” Or as was the case at today’s TaxSlayer Bowl (aka Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville, 10-3 Wake Forest scrimmaged with 5-7 Rutgers (aka Texas A&M), and even students and alumni from the competing schools were few and far between.

Lewis Black

Once again the run-up to bowl season was more exciting than the games themselves. Who will play whom? Where will they play? Who will get snubbed? It reminded me of Lewis Black’s 2008 comedy tour, appropriately titled, “Anticipation.” He opens as follows:

This moment, which we are sharing together right now, I promise you, is as good as it is going to get. So, I think we should quit while we’re ahead. It’s been great. Let’s leave well enough alone. There is no moment better than this moment when we are anticipating the actual moment itself.

Lewis black, Anticipation, 2008

How do you make the best moment when it comes to college bowls even better? On the Sunday following the conference championship games, have Oprah Winfrey host the televised bowl selection program. I can hear her now as she points to the coaches in the audience. “You get a bowl bid! You get a bowl bid! Everyone gets a bowl bid!”

Best wishes for a happy, HEALTHY and rewarding 2022.

For what it’s worth.